Asbestos Exposure Lawsuits and Liability
If you have developed an illness from exposure to asbestos, you may have a claim for damages. This is true, even if you didn't discover the disease until much later. Thousands of Americans have become sick or even died due to asbestos exposure.
The first thing you or your family member need to do is see a doctor. Once you receive medical attention for your asbestos-related illness, you must determine the party responsible for your condition.
In asbestos litigation, courts typically decide liability for injuries caused by asbestos exposure under product liability law. A product liability case arises when someone is injured when they use or are exposed to a dangerous product. Lawyers prove liability based on one of three theories:
This article will discuss each theory in greater detail below. This should give you some direction in your asbestos lawsuit against manufacturers of asbestos and other responsible parties. You can also visit Findlaw's Asbestos Basics page for a general overview.
Asbestos Manufacturers and Sellers' Responsibilities
The courts hold product manufacturers liable for injuries their products cause. This is true for asbestos manufacturers and companies using asbestos in their products. If you or your loved one becomes sick with an asbestos-related disease after using one of these products, you may have a legal claim against the manufacturer and seller.
You should contact an asbestos lawyer who can review your claim and determine if you can sue under tort law. If so, you may receive significant compensation for your asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, or other lung disease.
When a company manufactures or sells a product, it creates two types of warranties: implied warranties and express warranties. Implied warranties promise that a product is not only safe but that it will perform its intended purpose.
In an asbestos exposure case, you can sue for a breach of an implied warranty under your state's implied warranty statutes. Your personal injury lawyer will find these laws in your state's commercial code.
An express warranty is in writing. For example, many companies make claims about their product to convince people to buy or use them. If that claim later turns out to be false, people who purchased or used the product can file suit.
Imagine that a supplier states a particular asbestos product is safe when the product is, in fact, unreasonably dangerous. The supplier may be liable to people who relied on their false statements and got sick after using their product.
Most tort cases require the plaintiff to prove negligence. Negligence requires that you prove the following four things:
- The defendant had a legal duty to provide a safe product
- The defendant breached that duty
- Their breach caused an injury
- The injury resulted in damages to the plaintiff
Fortunately, in cases where a supplier's negligence may be difficult to prove, courts have developed an alternate theory of liability that allows plaintiffs to recover damages. That alternative theory is strict product liability.
If you become sick after using a product that contains asbestos or asbestos fibers, the manufacturer or supplier may be strictly liable for your damages.
Like negligence, strict product liability theory requires the plaintiff in an asbestos lawsuit to prove the following four things:
- A strict duty to supply a safe product
- A breach of that duty
Strict liability differs from negligence in two key ways. First, under a strict liability theory, the duty extends to commercial suppliers that manufacture or sell the dangerous product. Second, under a strict liability theory, the plaintiff does not need to prove negligence. The fact that the product was dangerous or defective is enough to establish a breach of the supplier's duty.
Finding Evidence of Asbestos Exposure
One of the problematic things about asbestos claims is that it can take years, even decades, to find out you're sick. Some of the asbestos lawsuits people file today revolve around asbestos exposure that occurred many years ago.
One of the issues your personal injury or mesothelioma lawyer will face is proving that you were exposed to asbestos. For example, if you had occupational exposure while working in the shipyards or a boiler room in the 1980s, it may be difficult to prove that you were exposed to asbestos while on the job.
Many claimants must rely on other cases filed by people who worked or lived in the same location. For example, some people who filed mesothelioma claims must introduce evidence from other cases to prove they were exposed to asbestos.
Your mesothelioma attorney will have to hire experts to help prove your claim.
Finding Evidence of Your Illness or Mesothelioma
Not only do you have to prove that you were exposed to asbestos, but you must also prove causation. It's not enough that you lived or worked in a building laden with asbestos, nor is it enough to demonstrate that you worked with products that sickened other asbestos victims.
You will need medical proof that you are suffering from an asbestos-related disease. The best way to do this is to submit evidence that your doctor diagnosed you with one of the following illnesses:
- Lung cancer
- Lung disease
- Respiratory illnesses
There are several types of mesothelioma. Your doctor will document which type you have. They may also testify that occupational asbestos exposure caused your injuries. There is ample evidence that discusses the dangers of asbestos. The fact that laws prohibit the use of asbestos will also serve as solid evidence in your personal injury lawsuit.
One issue mesothelioma patients encounter is that it has been so long since they were exposed to asbestos. This is because there is a latency period for asbestos-related illnesses.
Proving Causation of Asbestos-Related Injuries
Of the four elements in negligence and strict product liability asbestos cases, causation is often the hardest to prove. In most lawsuits, defense attorneys will first attempt to present scientific reports and studies to dispute that asbestos caused the alleged injury.
There is usually a substantial amount of time between exposure to asbestos and the appearance of an injury. Defendants may use this to argue that exposure to another toxic substance or a product manufactured by someone other than the defendant caused their illness.
Therefore, to prove causation in an asbestos lawsuit, you must show that the asbestos-containing product caused your injury. You must also demonstrate that you were exposed to a quantity large enough to cause the harm claimed in your lawsuit. Finally, your attorney must show that you weren't exposed to some other toxic substance or product that could have caused the injury.
Find an Asbestos Attorney To Help With Your Case Today
It is difficult to know if you have been exposed to asbestos since the symptoms of asbestos and mesothelioma often take several decades to appear. However, you can still file an injury claim for damages.
Your asbestos attorney will demand that the defendant compensate you for some or all of the following:
- Medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- Loss of enjoyment with your loved ones
- Lost wages
- Lost future income
- Pain and suffering
It is rare for plaintiffs in a mesothelioma lawsuit to demand punitive damages. Judges typically don't grant punitive damages in mesothelioma cases. This is even true for asbestos-related wrongful death cases.
One thing your attorney must do is negotiate the statute of limitations issue. Every jurisdiction limits how long you have to file your lawsuit. For example, the New York statute of limitations for personal injury is three years. California and New Jersey give plaintiffs two years to file suit.
If you become sick due to asbestos exposure and need help determining fault, have an experienced injury attorney evaluate your claim. They will communicate with the insurance companies on your behalf. They will also conduct any depositions needed to prove your case. An experienced attorney can provide legal advice and handle all aspects of your case.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.