For decades, asbestos was used in a wide variety of commercial, industrial, construction and military applications. After asbestos had found its way into numerous materials and products, medical professionals realized the dangerous nature of asbestos and its ability to cause serious and life-threatening illnesses like mesothelioma and asbestosis.
The government began restricting the use of asbestos in the 1970s. By that time, countless people had been exposed to asbestos through work, military service, and even in their own homes. Even today, unacceptable levels of asbestos are still finding their way into products. Recently, Johnson & Johnson saw the recall of its baby powder and various cosmetics after those products tested positive for asbestos.
These exposures have triggered many kinds of asbestos-related medical illnesses. These conditions require extensive and expensive medical treatment and often result in an untimely death, even with the most advanced medical care.
The law recognizes liability of asbestos manufacturers for the damages and harm caused by asbestos materials and asbestos-containing products. Have you suffered an illness caused by asbestos exposure? If so, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost earnings and lost quality of life.
Establishing a manufacturer’s liability for damages from asbestos exposure can prove to be an incredibly complex task. Considerable engineering and medical expert testimony can be needed to establish liability. You need a law firm with extensive experience and a track record of success in helping clients recover fair and full compensation for their asbestos-related disease.
We have handled cases for more than a thousand North Carolinians who have been exposed to asbestos in the last 25 years. Contact the Greensboro asbestos lawyers at Ward Black Law today. You can talk to one of our knowledgeable attorneys about your case and learn more about your legal rights and options at no charge.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a heat-resistant mineral that is composed of soft, flexible fibers. It comes in six recognized types. Asbestos provides highly effective resistance to electricity, heat, and corrosion.
Asbestos was used for decades as an insulator in numerous industrial and consumer products. It was incorporated into cloth, paper, plastic, spray, and cement products to increase their strength and ability to hold heat. Asbestos was also used in residential and commercial construction projects for roofing, flooring, sheetrock, siding, and ceilings. Block and performed half rounds were used to insulate high-temperature processes, such as around steam pipes. Unfortunately, asbestos fibers can crumble and break off, creating asbestos dust. That dust, when inhaled or ingested, can permanently trap the fibers inside the body.
Inside the body, asbestos can cause inflammation, scarring, and damage to the DNA of cells, resulting in a number of illnesses. One of the most serious is the cancer of the covering of the lung called mesothelioma. Other asbestos diseases include lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer, asbestosis, and pleural plaques.
Asbestos-related diseases generally take decades after exposure to develop. The risk of contracting these diseases increases with exposure to intense concentrations of asbestos, or exposure to any concentration of asbestos over a long period. Asbestos accumulates in the body with every exposure. There is no known way to reverse the damage it causes.
How Have People Been Exposed to Asbestos?
Asbestos was used in numerous consumer and industrial products for decades. It can still be found in some products today. People have been exposed to asbestos in many different environments, including:
- At work – Most cases of asbestos arise from exposure to asbestos fibers at work. Workers were regularly exposed to heavy concentrations of asbestos in industries such as manufacturing, construction, electrical trades, plumbing trades, and power generation.
- In the home – As an excellent insulator, asbestos was often incorporated into the construction of many homes. For example, it was used in siding, floor tiles, joint compound for sheetrock, and roofing materials. That put the people living in those homes at risk of exposure. In addition, families of workers regularly exposed to asbestos often suffered from secondary exposure when those workers brought asbestos fibers home on their work clothes or in their vehicles unknowingly. The most dangerous asbestos dust is invisible to the naked eye. Asbestos fibers could linger in the home and be inhaled or ingested by members of the family. Even a hug for dad as he came home from work could be a dangerous exposure to asbestos dust.
- In the military – The use of asbestos materials and asbestos-containing products was widespread throughout the military until the 1970s. Service members were exposed to duties that involved construction or maintenance of heavy equipment, such as power generators or ship engines. Barracks and ship interiors contained many asbestos products, exposing the occupants. Heavy concentrations of asbestos and asbestos-containing products were used in those applications.
- Through products containing asbestos – Even where people were not directly exposed to asbestos minerals, they could still end up inhaling or ingesting asbestos. Many products contained asbestos or were made of asbestos-containing materials. As these products were used, broken, or thrown away, asbestos fibers could easily break off, float through the air, and be inhaled or ingested by people nearby.
Diseases Caused by Asbestos
- Mesothelioma – Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers your internal organs (called the mesothelium). Mesothelioma is categorized based on what part of the mesothelium is affected. Most cases of mesothelioma affect the tissue around the lungs and are classified as pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma ranks among the most aggressive and deadly forms of cancer. Although multiple treatments have been tried, most mesothelioma patients succumb to the disease.
- Lung cancer – Asbestos fibers that get trapped in the lungs greatly increase the risk of developing lung cancer, particularly for persons who have smoked. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths globally, particularly when cancer metastasizes, or spreads to other parts of the body. Whereas mesothelioma is a cancer of the covering over the lung, lung cancers are found inside the tissue of the lung itself. Treatments focus on reducing symptoms and increasing the longevity of life.
- Laryngeal cancer – While most people think about the dangers of inhaling asbestos fibers, most exposed people also swallowed microscopic asbestos particles as they worked. Asbestos also is a known cause of cancer of the larynx, the part of the throat under the voice box.
- Ovarian cancer – Recent studies have shown that asbestos exposure is implicated in causing cancer of the ovaries in women. Many women have used talcum powder such as baby powder or shower powders for feminine hygiene, unknowingly exposing themselves to asbestos, which can be found in talc products.
- Asbestosis – Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by prolonged exposure to and inhalation of asbestos fibers, Symptoms usually don’t begin to manifest until years after the first exposure. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe. With continued exposure and as the disease progresses, the asbestos fibers in the lungs cause further scarring of the lung tissue. The lungs may become too stiff to expand and contract normally, making breathing difficult.
- Pleural plaques – Pleural plaques are often the first type of asbestos damage seen on X-rays or CT scans of the lungs. Plaques are generally hardened tissue of the covering of the lung, called the pleura. Plaques are often not disabling but can be if they cover a large area of the lung. While pleural plaques don’t become cancerous, they are a clear indication of extended exposure to asbestos.
- Pleural effusion –Pleural effusion is a disease involving the build-up of excess fluid on the tissues surrounding the lungs. Those tissues normally contain small amounts of fluid and serve to facilitate the process of breathing. Pleural effusion has many different causes. Exposure to asbestos is one of the rarer causes. Sometimes individuals have fluid continue to accumulate in the pleura. These are called “recurrent pleural effusions” and can be indicative of mesothelioma.
Compensation for Victims of Asbestos
If you’ve suffered a disease or illness caused by asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and damage. Compensation could include:
- Ongoing and future medical expenses and other out-of-pocket expenses related to your treatment
- Lost wages, for the time your disease or illness causes you to miss from work
- Lost earning potential, if your illness or disease has disabled you from being able to work
- Pain and suffering, or the physical and emotional anguish and distress brought about by your illness or from the treatments needed for that illness (for example, the negative side effects of chemotherapy)
- Lost quality of life, including the years of life you may lose to your disease, along with the inability to enjoy activities
Compensation for those damages could come from several sources:
- Asbestos bankruptcy trust funds – Asbestos bankruptcy trusts include funds set up by hundreds of companies who filed bankruptcy over the past few decades. Those bankruptcies were due, at least in part, to asbestos-related liability. Persons who develop asbestos-related diseases due to products manufactured by these companies must turn to these funds to recover compensation. However, even if a plaintiff can prove a claim against a company that took part in the bankruptcy trust, the trust funds typically only pay cents on the dollar for the company’s liability. There are, however, billions of dollars in these asbestos trusts. That money is dedicated to paying individuals with asbestos diseases with appropriate proof of disease and exposure. Examples of companies that have declared bankruptcy and an asbestos claimants trust has been established to pay victims include Johns-Manville, Owens-Corning, Pittsburgh Corning, and WR Grace.
- Asbestos settlements and litigation – When solvent and operating companies bear liability for a person’s asbestos-related disease, the injured party can pursue a claim directly against the company. These claims often trigger fierce settlement negotiations and litigation over the company’s liability. Those companies may claim that an injured party cannot prove the company contributed to the injured victim’s asbestos-related disease. Highly experienced asbestos attorneys can address these defenses in the appropriate case.
- Workers’ comp benefits – People who were exposed to asbestos on the job and developed illnesses, as a result, may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. North Carolina law provides benefits for lost wages and medical bills in some cases as well as compensation for a spouse or next-of-kin in the case of the death of an exposed person.
- SSD and veterans’ benefits – Many asbestos-related diseases are considered to be totally disabling medical conditions. As a result, affected individuals may be entitled to file a claim for Social Security Disability benefits. Persons whose asbestos exposure primarily occurred during military service may be entitled to file a claim for benefits with Veterans Affairs. VA benefits can include monthly payments and a lifetime right to receive health care from any facility in the VA network.
The Process for Asbestos Disease Claims
If you believe you may be entitled to compensation for your damages and suffering due to an asbestos-related disease, the process for pursuing your claims to compensation will generally include:
- The initial consultation – We’ll review your case to help you understand your legal rights and options. We will also explore your rights to compensation and the steps that may be involved in your case.
- Investigation of asbestos exposure and medical records – We’ll gather evidence and work with medical and financial experts to prove fault. We will also establish your injuries and damages.
- Filing your claim with responsible parties and insurance companies.
- Negotiating for settlements – We will aggressively negotiate with the insurance companies to ensure that you receive maximum compensation.
- Taking your case to court – If it becomes necessary to go to court, we’ll file the complaint with the court and advocate vigorously for your full and fair compensation.
Bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of asbestos claims do not go to trial. Many claims are resolved through claims processes without litigation of any kind.
Other claims are resolved before going to court or trial when the parties reach a settlement. Every case is unique, and your case will depend on your circumstances.
Time Limits for Filing an Asbestos Disease Claim
Could you have an asbestos-related disease? If so, you have a limited period, known as the statute of limitations, in which to file claims for your injuries and damages.
Under North Carolina law, the statute of limitations on a personal injury claim arising from asbestos exposure is generally three years from the date you were diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.
Under North Carolina law, claims for workers’ compensation benefits must generally be filed within two years of diagnosis.
If you and your family have a loved one who has died due to a disease or illness caused by asbestos exposure, the statute of limitations on a wrongful death claim in North Carolina is generally two years from the date of your loved one’s death.
If you fail to file your claims within the statute of limitations in your case, the court can permanently dismiss your claims. You or your family will lose the right to seek compensation if claims are not filed in time. An experienced asbestos attorney can help you understand the timetables in your particular case free of charge.
Talk to an Experienced North Carolina Asbestos Attorney Now
If you have a potential asbestos disease like cancer or asbestosis anywhere in North Carolina, we will be glad to explain your rights at no charge by phone, online, or in person. Time may be running out on your right to seek compensation for your injuries and damages. You may need to move quickly to secure important evidence to prove your case.
Contact Ward Black Law in Greensboro, North Carolina today. We will provide a free, no-obligation case evaluation with one of our knowledgeable asbestos attorneys. We have more than 25 years of experience in getting compensation for North Carolinians who have had mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis. We’ll discuss the details of your claim, and you can learn how our firm can help you secure the financial recovery and justice you deserve.