For almost a century, asbestos was a material most commonly used in construction, manufacturing and shipbuilding because it is cheap, fire retardant, and also is highly resistant to electricity. It was also used in thousands of products and can still be found in houses, apartments buildings and other facilities built before the 1980s. Many members of the public and workers in a variety of jobs were exposed to asbestos during this time period.
The danger of asbestos was identified by the medical community in the 1920s and is the result of asbestos fibers becoming airborne, inhaled, and lodged in the lungs, even penetrating tissues. Unfortunately, many of those exposed to asbestos have developed a deadly condition called Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer that is caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos. It affects the thin, protective membrane surrounding the lungs, heart and abdominal cavity. An estimated 3,000 cases annually are diagnosed in the United States.
While asbestos is not yet banned in the US, it is regulated as a result of the Clean Air Act of 1970 with many uses forbidden under the TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act). In 2010, the use of asbestos to line automotive brakes was effectively banned beginning in 2014.
Lawsuits on behalf of those exposed to asbestos and afflicted with mesothelioma were first filed in the 1970s with litigation continuing today. These are complex cases with a certain burden of proof to establish not only the extent of the disease but also the causal link. Because the disease can be latent for as many as 20-50 years (present but without recognizable symptoms), this can involve extensive investigation to document the originating source. Sadly, due to this extremely long latency period, mesothelioma is often fatal within a year of diagnosis. Many cases are classified as Wrongful Death suits filed by the family on behalf of the decedent.
While every case is unique, the average trial award for an asbestos and mesothelioma case is $2.4 million. The highly respected Mealey’s Litigation Reports estimates the average settlement amount to be between $1 million to $1.4 million, although all settlements are confidential.
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