Were You Exposed to Asbestos? You Could Be Entitled to Compensation

The dangers of asbestos exposure are well known. Asbestos mining began over 4,000 years ago, although the widespread economic use of asbestos did not begin until the beginning of the 19th Century. Asbestos quickly became a staple in the manufacturing process due to its favorable physical properties and affordability.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral that is cheap, fire-resistant, and great for insulation. It is composed of thin, fibrous crystals, with each strand comprising millions of tiny fibrils. These microscopic fibrils can be released into the air due to various processes, such as abrasion. The prolonged exposure and inhalation of these fibrils is associated with mesothelioma, malignant lung cancer, and asbestosis. The United State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies six different types of minerals as “asbestos” and further classifies the mineral as a carcinogen to humans.

If you or someone you love was diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness or disease after prolonged exposure, you could be entitled to financial compensation. The asbestos industry has long known of the dangers of asbestos, yet it did nothing to warn the public or pull asbestos-containing products until the 1970s. This negligence has led to countless illnesses, injuries, and deaths—and the responsible parties should be held accountable.

To learn more, contact The Dixon Injury Firm online or call us at (314) 208-2808 for a free consultation with one of our St. Louis asbestos exposure attorneys.

A Brief History of Asbestos Use in the United States

Early civilizations used asbestos to strengthen their building materials and other items, such as earthen pots. In the early 19th Century, the favorable properties of asbestos found their way into countless commercial uses. In the U.S., asbestos was often combined with other building materials, such as concrete or woven into mats, due to its natural resistance to heat and fire.

In the United States, asbestos has been historically used for sound absorption, insulation, automotive parts, electrical casing, plastics, cigarette filters, textiles, cloths, fireproofing and prevention, and much more.

One of the first commercial uses of asbestos was lining steam engines in 1828. During World War II, asbestos was widely used in the shipbuilding industry, exposing millions of workers and other individuals to the carcinogen. The large number of uses for asbestos made it one of the most widely used building materials of all time.

Doctors as far back as 1800s acknowledged the respiratory problems disproportionately suffered by those working with asbestos. It was noted as far back as AD 61 that slaves working in the mines around asbestos would become ill. The first modern day case of asbestosis was reported in 1924, although the condition had claimed countless lives before this point without an official name.

Throughout the mid to late 1900s, investigations into the deaths of workers regularly exposed to asbestos reveled traces of the fibers in the lungs of the victims. However, it was not until the 1970s that the scientific evidence linking asbestos exposure and several deadly diseases became widely recognized by the scientific community.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a ban in 1977 on certain commercial uses of asbestos. Over 10 years later in 1998, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a ban on almost all products containing asbestos. However, the 1998 ban was soon overturned by a New Orleans Court.

Today, asbestos can still be used in the United States if the total amount used is less than 1% of the entire product. Asbestos continues to be used in brake pads, cement piping, roofing, and car clutches, among other products.

Asbestos exposure has been linked to a variety of illnesses and conditions, including:

  • Asbestosis: Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory lung condition that results from prolonged inhalation and retention of asbestos fibers in the lungs. Asbestosis is regarded as an occupational lung disease because it is generally found in workers who are exposed to the fibers over long periods of time.
  • Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive and deadly form of cancer. Malignant mesothelioma typically targets the membranes of the lungs and abdomen. An estimated 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.
  • Lung Cancer: Lung cancer, the second most common form of cancer across the U.S., can also be caused by exposure to asbestos.

How The Dixon Injury Firm Can Help

At The Dixon Injury Firm, we understand that many victims cannot afford to pay for the services required to fight these large companies while they also struggle to pay their medical expenses or replace the lost wages of a deceased loved one. Because of this, we offer our services with a guarantee that there is no fee unless we win your case. In addition, we offer free initial consultations to help you determine if you have a case.

Our St. Louis asbestos attorneys are committed to offering personalized legal advice and will do everything in their power to recover maximum compensation on your behalf. We are available 24/7 to assist you.

Contact us today at (314) 208-2808 to schedule a free initial consultation.

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High-Risk Occupations

Many people do not realize that they are at a high risk of being exposed to asbestos until it is too late. Unfortunately, it is only after receiving a diagnosis for an asbestos-related illness, such as asbestosis or mesothelioma, that an individual may realize he or she worked in a high-risk occupation.

Throughout the 19th Century, workers in the following industries have historically been at a high risk of being exposed to asbestos:

  • Shipyard workers
  • Mechanics
  • Navy services members
  • Seaman
  • Pipe fitters
  • Engineers
  • Miners
  • Electricians
  • Drywall and insulation workers
  • Boiler and machine technicians
  • Construction workers
  • Drywall tapers
  • Railroad workers
  • Firefighters
  • Commercial heating and cooling installers

This is only a partial list of the various occupations in which workers were regularly exposed to asbestos fibers. The widespread use of asbestos has placed millions of people in harm’s way.

If you were exposed to asbestos and are suffering from mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis, you could be entitled to reimbursement for your harms and losses—and our St. Louis asbestos lawyers can help. Reach out to us today to learn more.

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that, on average, has a two-year survival rate. The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Treating this form of cancer often requires surgery, chemotherapy, and medication, which can be expensive and challenging for victims to cope with.

Mesothelioma can take as little as one or two months to appear or as long as 30 to 40 years after the initial exposure. Some cases report mesothelioma diagnoses 70 years after exposure. This long period of incubation often results in the disease progressing to a late stage by the time it is discovered. However, early detection can provide additional time for more treatment options.

Types of Mesothelioma

There are three main types of malignant mesothelioma:

  • Pleural Mesothelioma: This is the most common type of mesothelioma, representing approximately 75% of all cases. Pleural mesothelioma affects the soft tissue lining surrounding the lungs. Asbestos exposure is responsible for almost all reported cases of pleural mesothelioma.
    • Symptoms: While some people may not experience any initial symptoms, common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include raspy cough, coughing up blood, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, painful breathing, lumps under skin, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, or pain in the lower back or rib area.
    • Life Expectancy: The life expectancy for those who are affected by pleural mesothelioma is less than 18 months; however, some victims live much longer.
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma develops in the protective membrane surrounding the abdomen, heart, lungs, and testicles. As the second most common form of malignant mesothelioma, it is reported to make up 10 to 20 percent of diagnosed cases.
    • Symptoms: While some individuals do not experience any early symptoms, others report diarrhea, constipation, bowel changes, swelling or pain in the abdomen, feeling full, night sweats, fever, anemia, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss.
    • Life Expectancy: Most doctors treating peritoneal mesothelioma project life expectancy at under one year. However, new cutting-edge treatments are helping extend survival rates, and 25% of those diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma survive three years after diagnosis.
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma: Representing one percent of malignant mesothelioma cases, pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart and is the hardest to treat. The treatment is so difficult because of the location of the tumors. Removing tumors so close to such a vital organ is extremely dangerous. Men are affected by this type of mesothelioma at twice the rate of women.
    • Symptoms: Pericardial mesothelioma is known for its late-stage detection stemming from a lack of initial symptoms. Reported symptoms include irregular heartbeat/palpitations, chest pain, heart murmurs, cough, night sweats, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing even when lying down or at rest.
    • Life Expectancy: Most of the patients (50 – 60%) suffering from pericardial mesothelioma pass away within six months of being diagnosed. However, there are certainly cases in which the victim can live much longer. Early detection is imperative with all forms of cancer and allows for more treatment options.

Mesothelioma Diagnosis & Treatment

Mesothelioma is diagnosed via a skin tissue biopsy. A doctor will remove a small sample of the affected area and a pathologist will examine the sample under a microscope. At this point, a diagnosis can be made. Unfortunately, this process usually comes after a routine checkup reveals something that causes concern, and by this point, the cancer may have progressed significantly. This can limit treatment options and reduce the patient’s life expectancy.

Treatment options for mesothelioma depends on the stage of the disease, or the extent to which the cancer has spread throughout the body. Treatment options include surgery to take the cancer out of the body, radiation therapy to kill the cancerous cells, and chemotherapy drugs to fight the cancer. Other treatment options include symptom management and hospice care.

How Was I Exposed to Asbestos?

It is possible to be exposed to asbestos in nearly innumerable ways. Given the many uses of asbestos, workers from all walks of life came into contact with it throughout the 1900s. Asbestos was among the most popular building materials for almost 100 years and was used in countless aspects of construction and manufacturing. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety has reported that more than 75 various occupations in the United States have been credited with exposing workers to asbestos.

Additionally, asbestos was commonly found in the following products and at the following jobsites:

  • Drywall
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Flooring tiles
  • Paint
  • Cement
  • Insulation
  • Power plants
  • Schools
  • Chemical plants
  • Oil refineries
  • Navy shipyards
  • Metal works plants

Asbestos was also used heavily in nearly all branches of the military. The most common military-related asbestos exposure was through ship, vehicle, and aircraft insulation. Asbestos was widely used in battleships, submarines, destroyers, aircraft carriers, frigates, and other vehicles. Veterans continue to represent a large portion of new mesothelioma and asbestos-related illness diagnoses each year, with The National Institute for Safety and Health estimating that 30% of all mesothelioma cases involve U.S. military veterans.

Secondary Exposure to Asbestos

Many people are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases without ever having worked directly with it. This indirect exposure is still every bit as dangerous and affects women and children at higher rates than men. Workers coming home covered in asbestos would often expose their wives and children to a large amount of asbestos dust. This dust would cover furniture and clothing and be passed directly onto families without their knowledge.

Indirect asbestos exposure was more prevalent years ago when workers were still actively using asbestos as a building material without knowledge of its dangers. However, asbestos exposure can take many years before producing respiratory illnesses, and victims continue to surface with secondary asbestos exposure claims today.

Asbestos Lawsuits & Settlements

The first person to hold an asbestos manufacturer liable for injuries caused from asbestos exposure was Clarence Borel. Sadly, Clarence did not survive until the end of his case, but his successful effort did cleared the path for countless victims to seek recovery for their asbestos-related illnesses.

As time passed, the enormity of the asbestos crisis became known. From 1982 to 2002, those filing asbestos lawsuits went from 1,000 to more than 700,000, and the number of companies being sued increased from 300 to over 8,000. To date, over 10,000 companies have been affected, and countless companies have sought protection under bankruptcy laws.

The lack of federal asbestos guidance has left it up to the states to deal with asbestos lawsuits. Numerous companies have also established billion-dollar trust funds for asbestos victims in order to help provide reimbursement for the harms and losses caused from exposure.

Types of Mesothelioma Lawsuits & What to Expect

Mesothelioma lawsuits come in two forms: personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits. These lawsuits seek to hold the victims’ former employers or the companies that manufactured asbestos/asbestos-containing products responsible.

In some situations, mesothelioma lawsuits can be brought through a workers’ compensation claim. In addition, veterans exposed to asbestos while in service may be entitled to veterans’ benefits.

In order to bring a successful mesothelioma lawsuit, you will need to prove the following:

  • You/your loved one suffered an injury
  • The injury was a result of someone else’s negligence
  • You/your loved one suffered a loss/losses as a result of the injury

Mesothelioma has only one known cause: asbestos. Therefore, the person bringing the lawsuit must prove exposure to asbestos even if it occurred decades ago. Once this link is established, your St. Louis mesothelioma lawyer can compile all of your harms and losses that resulted from this exposure in order to determine how much your asbestos case is worth. Damages may include medical expenses, future treatment expenses, lost wages, suffering, inconvenience, and more.