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What Is Asbestos and Mesothelioma Law?

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral used in insulation and fireproofing materials. The Romans used asbestos because it was easy to mine and shape into many forms. The Romans also knew about asbestos-related diseases.

Since the Clean Air Act of 1970, regulatory agencies have restricted or banned asbestos-containing products. Asbestos companies are the subjects of an increasing number of health-related lawsuits. Doctors linked asbestos exposure and a deadly lung cancer known as mesothelioma as early as the 1940s.

Following the near-total ban on all forms of asbestos in 1989, the number of mesothelioma cases required the creation of asbestos trust funds to pay the claims. This article briefly reviews the history of asbestos and mesothelioma claims and what to do if you need a mesothelioma lawyer.

Asbestos and Mesothelioma Legal Issues

Mesothelioma and asbestosis are lung diseases caused by long-term exposure to asbestos fibers. Most asbestos victims worked in particular fields before 1989, mainly:

  • Shipyards and maritime industry, where asbestos was widely used in a spray-on form as insulation
  • Military and military manufacturing. Asbestos had many applications, including flame retardant materials, liners, and engines
  • Automotive manufacturing and repair
  • Asbestos mining and processing
  • Building implosion and demolition

After the 9/11 Twin Towers collapse, there was a renewed focus on asbestos law when the disaster exposed first responders to airborne asbestos dust.

Asbestosis and Mesothelioma Exposure

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors the use of asbestos. Since the Clean Air Act of 1970, the EPA has continued to limit the use or import of asbestos into the United States. The U.S. bans all forms of asbestos as of March 2024.

Asbestos exposure continues because brakes, insulation, fireproofing, and other asbestos-containing substances remain on the market and in use. Mesothelioma and asbestos cases are primarily personal injury and toxic tort claims. Most plaintiffs settled their class action or mass torts cases.

Plaintiffs who want to file a mesothelioma lawsuit need an experienced mesothelioma attorney. The lawyer must know how to tie a mesothelioma diagnosis to asbestos exposure and work in or near products containing the substance. Most asbestos lawyers agree that a single exposure or casual contact is insufficient to sustain a personal injury lawsuit.

Terms to Know

  • Asbestos — A toxic substance used in applications like building materials and insulation as a flame retardant
  • Mesothelioma cancer — a type of cancer caused by long-term exposure to asbestos. It shows up in the victim's lungs and abdomen.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — The federal agency that oversees pollutants and toxins in the environment
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) — A federal agency concerned with workplace safety and health precautions
  • Product liability — Responsibility imposed on anyone responsible for a product entering the stream of commerce. Product liability is also called strict liability

For more legal definitions, visit the FindLaw Legal Dictionary.

Other Considerations When Hiring an Asbestos and Mesothelioma Attorney

Asbestos litigation is time-limited. Like all personal injury claims, asbestos-related claims are subject to state statutes of limitation. You have a limited time to file a legal claim even if you have a valid lawsuit. In most states, the statute of limitations ranges from two to six years. The statute of limitations starts, or "runs," from the date a doctor diagnoses you or your family member with an asbestos-related disease, not from the date of exposure.

Mesothelioma, like all cancers, takes many years to develop. A related disease, asbestosis, is characterized by scarring of the lung tissue. It may not appear for many years. For this reason, mesothelioma victims may be seriously ill or have died before getting an accurate diagnosis. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit begins once a cause of death is determined. Family members can still file an asbestos lawsuit after their loved one has died.

The legal process for proving a mesothelioma-related injury or death is complicated. You will need proof that asbestos caused the disease and proof of all medical expenses. Your attorney needs:

  • Medical bills, invoices, and test results
  • Your work history, job titles, and job duties
  • Any military history, if you are making a VA claim

Be as complete and honest with your attorney as possible. Your asbestos attorney is on your side and needs all available information to get you financial compensation.

Trust Fund Claims

Because of the number of mesothelioma settlements, many former asbestos producers and manufacturers filed for bankruptcy. To continue paying the claims, the debtor companies petitioned Congress for permission to set up special mesothelioma trust funds to ensure payouts for future claims. More than 60 trusts have over $60 billion in managed funds, and companies are still joining the trust list.

The trust funds do not guarantee mesothelioma compensation for all patients. Your attorney must still prove your case meets the requirements. When you begin legal action, you should look for attorneys who understand the trust fund claim process and know how to maximize your claim. The attorney should understand how state laws work with federal laws and your state's statute of limitations for your claim.

Most mesothelioma law firms work on a contingency basis. You should not have to pay anything out of pocket for your claim. The best mesothelioma lawyer does not necessarily have the biggest ad or the most clients. Ask for a free case evaluation before committing yourself.

If you have an asbestos-related illness, contact an asbestos and mesothelioma attorney immediately to preserve your rights and explore your legal options.


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