Asbestos exposure in the workplace has been described as the worst American industrial accident ever — for good reason. Asbestos was used in a broad variety of industries — electrical power generation, building materials, and automotive manufacturing and repair among them — over many decades, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Due to the latency of mesothelioma (a lung disease caused by asbestos), illnesses happening now are due to exposure as long as four decades ago.
Asbestos diseases (mesothelioma and asbestosis in particular) and their relationship to workplace exposure are well proven, and the companies that made products containing asbestos are well established as being at fault. Companies with large liability due to their use of asbestos have filed for bankruptcy protection from lawsuits, concurrently establishing settlement trust funds to provide compensation to victims without incurring the costs of litigation.
However, these trusts fall short in covering all costs created by asbestos diseases. The oldest such trust, created by Johns-Manville Corporation in 1982, has paid less than 10 cents on every dollar initially offered in its original benefit schedule.
Fortunately, mesothelioma and asbestosis victims can still sue through the tort system, meaning a traditional lawsuit is still allowed. Through individual-case litigation, it is possible to recover for losses related to medical care, lost wages and the emotional impact of these very serious illnesses. Victims and their families should be aware of other mesothelioma facts:
Mesothelioma is not tried in class action suits because the conditions and effects of asbestos exposure and resulting illnesses vary greatly between individuals.
If the person with mesothelioma has died, the spouse and direct heirs and dependents — usually children — are entitled to sue.
In California, the statute of limitations requires that you initiate your lawsuit within one year of learning of your diagnosis.
Dealing with a potentially fatal condition is difficult enough to manage.