The New Face of Mesothelioma: Trends in Legal Claims

Asbestos and subsequent mesothelioma can be devastating to victims. The silent killer, asbestos particles, can lay at wait in lungs and other tissue for up to 50 years. Given the long dormancy period, asbestos related legal claims have ebbed and flowed over the years since the peak of asbestos use in the United States around 1973.

The nature of legal claims being made has changed over time. Although, technical numbers show a peak of claims being filed at 16,000 per year in 2005 in comparison to the current rate of 2,000 per year, the liability battle is far from over. At the time when claims were on an escalator up to the filing high, plaintiffs who may have been exposed but demonstrated no injury to date were a part of the action.

Today, plaintiff pools are much more tailored to those experiencing actual symptomatic injury. This sort of litigation shift is positive because it means that the people who are hurting the most from asbestos injury are also candidates for the best payout. At the same time, the new model of seeking plaintiffs who have already contracted mesothelioma, does not preclude people who were previously suing in the years of 16,000 claims. It merely means they need to wait.

Some parties argue that they need compensation now, before symptoms appear, because they live in constant fear of contracting the cancer. And there is nothing wrong with that argument, but companies are struggling to meet the payouts. Therefore, prioritizing the availability of legal recourse for those with present injury may be the fairest method to handle the asbestos catastrophe.

Exposure to asbestos particles for a significant amount of time, about two weeks, leads to mesothelioma for approximately one in 20 people. The common group of victims includes workers who dealt directly with asbestos materials in their line of work. However, their family members have also begun to develop mesothelioma. In 2005, a Minnesota mother had a lung removed as a result of asbestos exposure from particles on her father’s work clothing.

The mother’s story may be similar to those of many emerging mesothelioma victims. She welcomed her father home on a nightly basis with a giant hug. Sometimes as a child she would slip on his oversized jacket for the chilly trek outside to feed pet bunnies.
At the time the behavior was innocent and adorable, in retrospect it was unfortunate.

The victim clearly remembers the white dust that always coated her father’s clothing when he returned home from work. Who knew that very dust would translate into lung cancer of a loved one because it contained asbestos particles? In the past workers were exposed during installation of asbestos coated products, now a new wave of workers and bystanders could be exposed during removal procedures.

Although preventive measures combat airborne mesothelioma hazards, it is impossible to be sure that removal does not stir up at least some airborne activity. Recently, parents of New York school children have been making a stand against school district officials who are allowing asbestos removal to take place during the school year.

According to the New York Daily News the district says they will only do removal during non-school hours but it is unclear how this would abate an airborne problem.
The truth about the safety of removal procedures won’t be known for years, until exposed individuals do or do not develop mesothelioma. In the meantime, companies who dealt with asbestos products must continue to ramp up funding to pay the victims.

The ways to get fiscal compensation are also changing over time. Initial companies targeted by big lawsuits have either been run into bankruptcy or converted into a trust style payout plan. With the trust system, the government essentially agreed to allow companies to set aside large sums of money in trust accounts to be held specifically for payouts to asbestos victims.

Some victims get trust money through an attorney and others are finding new and creative avenues to sue and recover big bucks. As a result many large companies are constantly upping the amount of money earmarked for mesothelioma related expenses. For example an insurer recently increased the money set aside for asbestos claims from $65 to $75 billion dollars!

The trend to set aside money means that any victim of asbestos exposure and lung disease should contact an attorney to proceed with legal recovery. If you or a loved one suffers from lung illness as a result of asbestos you should contact an experienced asbestos lawyer to seek legal aid.

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