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Asbestos Exposure Injury

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a term for a group of silicate minerals.  Silicate is naturally occurring and has been used for decades in insulation and other construction materials for its ability to resist heat and its strength. Asbestos can be fairly harmless and studies have shown ingestion hasn't produced injuries. However, once Asbestos fibers are disturbed, such as during construction, the fibers become airborne and are easily inhaled by anyone around it, often causing injury to the lungs.

Asbestos is comprised of microscopic fibers that can readily become airborne and breathed in. Due to their shape, asbestos particles have a tendency to stick to tissues in the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system. Asbestos fibers are too tough for the immune system to break down and eliminate. Over time, the fibers cause inflammation and scarring that can ultimately lead to various illnesses, tumors, cancer and mesothelioma.

New York State has one of the highest fatality rates throughout the United States associated with asbestos exposure. From 1999 to 2017, over 15,200 victims lost their lives to illnesses associated with exposure to asbestos, which included 11,320 who passed away from lung cancer, 2,830 people who died from mesothelioma and 1,124 from asbestosis.

What Types of Injuries Are Common?

Asbestos has been known to cause numerous health risks, such as chronic respiratory illnesses and cancer. Often an individual harmed by asbestos exposure has a poor prognosis because it can take up to 50 years from the point of asbestos exposure for symptoms to develop and early stages of asbestos-related diseases are generally difficult to diagnose. Because Asbestos is a crystal, it easily tears into the lungs causing scarring making it difficult for the lungs to process air. Typical injuries are:

  1. Asbestosis: Breathing in asbestos fibers is known to cause this degenerative respiratory ailment, which consists of the formation of scar tissue plaques on the linings of the lungs. As a result, breathing becomes more problematic because oxygen and carbon dioxide cannot pass in and out of scarred lungs without difficulty. Typically, asbestosis occurs in people who have elevated exposures over a long period, but symptoms may not appear until years later. Asbestosis is the most common cause of pneumoconiosis-related deaths and is known as a precursor to mesothelioma.
  2. Pleural disease: This non-cancerous lung disorder causes alterations in the membrane surrounding the pleura and lungs, such as fluid accumulating around the lungs, the forming of localized deposits of collagen, the pleura growing thicker and leading to fibrosis or even part of the pleural fibrosis rolling into the lungs. These pleural irregularities are found in as many as 60% of asbestos workers and are also common in family members of workers. The disease causes a person's lung functioning to be much less efficient.

Exposure to asbestos can also cause larynx and ovary cancer. Furthermore, recent studies imply asbestos exposure may cause cancer of the stomach, colorectum and pharynx. Exposure to asbestos can also increase the risk of developing other types of cancer including:

  1. Lung cancer: Exposure to asbestos is known to exacerbate lung cancer. Studies have found that approximately 4% of lung cancer cases are related to asbestos. Asbestos exposure related lung cancer typically causes a malignant tumor to infringe and obstruct the air passages of the lungs. Additionally, asbestos exposure combined with smoking tobacco products exponentially increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
  2. Mesothelioma: Is a rare but extremely aggressive, fatal cancer of the membrane that covers the lungs and chest cavity, the membrane surrounding the abdominal cavity or the membranes bordering other organs. People suffering from pleural mesothelioma commonly experience shoulder and chest pain and a dry cough.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a disease caused by exposure to high levels of asbestos. The disease occurs when cells that protect the organs of a person's body begin to spread to other parts of the body and cause damage to tissues and organs.  

What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

The symptoms of mesothelioma can be deceptive but serious. These symptoms can include shortness of breath, weight loss and abdominal pain. Many individuals with mesothelioma don't detect there symptoms until many years after being exposed to asbestos. 

Who Is at Risk for Mesothelioma?

There are many individuals that run a risk of being exposed to asbestos. These occupations include mining, construction, mill workers and demolition workers, among others. Anyone that has been exposed to high concentrations of asbestos could be at risk. 

How Do I Determine If I've Been Exposed to High Amounts of Asbestos?

This is a delicate question and there are many factors. These factors include: 

  • The length of exposure to asbestos
  • The concentration of asbestos
  • Whether your employer took any preventative measures, such as breathing devices

Can I Still File a Claim Even If the Statute of Limitations has Run Out?

Most individual's symptoms don't arise until many years after being exposed to asbestos. By then, the statute of limitations often has already expired.  But most states don't start counting the statute of limitations until you discover that you're ill. So, if you've discovered that you have mesothelioma recently you still may be able to bring a cause of action. 

What Type of Compensation Can I Expect?

A person that has mesothelioma can be compensated in a variety of ways. These include: 

  • Damages for past and future medical care
  • Damages for pain and suffering
  • Damages for emotional trauma
  • Punitive damages

Should I Consult a Personal Injury Attorney?

Long term exposure to Asbestos is typical of injury victims. Asbestos inhalation can take 10-40 years to develop into an injury. With that long of a latency period, problems such as statutes of limitation and finding the responsible persons are common to Asbestos related claims. Another problem is that your state's laws may put a time limit on how long you can wait to make a claim. Asbestos injuries can be difficult to identify and offer unique legal challenges. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you determine what rights you have under your state's laws. A personal injury lawyer can also represent you in court and file any necessary paperwork.