An estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people in the United States die each year as a result of illnesses caused by asbestos exposure. A fatal illness known as mesothelioma causes more than 2,000 of these deaths, and about 1,200 more result from a combination of mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Mesothelioma, while a relatively rare disease, is most often caused by asbestos exposure and it is always fatal. Those suffering from the illness are often individuals who were exposed to asbestos on the job, as the material was commonly used in dozens of industries just a few decades ago.
If you or your loved one were exposed to asbestos in the workplace and have since been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there may be compensation available to help recover the expenses and profound impacts that you have incurred due to your illness. Read on for more information. For inquiries about your legal rights and options, contact our Florida Mesothelioma Lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman today for a consultation.
What Does Asbestos Do?
As explained by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), asbestos is a name used to describe a group of naturally occurring mineral fibers known to be resistant to heat and corrosion that were widely used in hundreds of thousands of workplaces across Florida and the rest of the nation in the mid-twentieth century. The mineral fibers included in the asbestos are chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, actinolite, and any of these chemically treated or altered materials.
Some of the common ways that asbestos was used in this country are:
- Insulation in pipes
- Floor tiles
- Building materials, including attic and wall insulation, textured paint, and patching compounds used on walls and ceilings
- Heat-resistant fabrics
- Vehicle brakes and clutches
Workers in industries that use these products, such as those working in manufacturing, construction, and vehicle maintenance and repair, found themselves exposed to asbestos. In addition to workers, others often become exposed to asbestos during demolition projects of buildings or building features that contain asbestos.
Some of the most common workplaces in Florida in which workers have been exposed to asbestos include:
- Shipyards: In the past, asbestos was commonly used in the construction and repair of vessels.
- Power plants: Power generation companies used asbestos in their facilities to protect them against heat and electricity.
- Agriculture: Asbestos exposure can occur in agriculture areas due to the presence of the fibers in soils, as well as within the processing activities with certain crops such as sugar.
- Oil platforms: The oil and gas industry often used asbestos in their wells to prevent damage from these highly flammable operations.
Asbestos is now well-recognized as a health hazard and the use of it in the U.S. is regulated by OSHA as well as by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Though asbestos fibers are impossible to see with the naked eye, these fibers—when breathed in by workers—can not only cause a buildup of scar-like tissue on the lungs, known as asbestosis, but can also result in mesothelioma and/or lung cancer.
Exposure generally only occurs when the asbestos-containing material becomes disturbed or damaged. However, there is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure, and all of the various mineral fibers included in its name are capable of causing mesothelioma.
Because it can take anywhere from two to seven decades for a person to develop mesothelioma, more than 3,000 new cases are being diagnosed each year although asbestos was regulated in the U.S. since 1971 and the U.S. curtailed its production of asbestos in 2002. Men are far more likely to develop the disease than women are, and the average age for people receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis is 69. Around 30 percent of all individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma are U.S. military veterans. Navy veterans are most impacted, due to the prevalence of asbestos-containing materials in shipyards.
Preventing Exposure to Asbestos
While asbestos is a federally regulated substance and the government has made an effort to prevent exposure, there are things that you could do to limit the exposure to you and your family to this dangerous material and the severe illnesses it can cause.
Some of these include:
- Take time to learn about the soils in your geographical area and whether there is asbestos in your area.
- Wet the ground outside before gardening or letting your children play in it. Remember that asbestos is naturally occurring and is found in some types of rocks. Asbestos can be released into the air if these rocks are disturbed. Wetting them down with water will prevent the airborne fibers from finding a home in your lungs.
- Drive slowly on unpaved roads to prevent asbestos fibers from being released into the air.
- Support local ordinances that aim to reduce the amount of dust that is created at construction sites.
- Cover existing gardens or yards with asbestos-free soil that will trap the asbestos and prevent the fibers from becoming airborne.
- Avoid walking or visiting old building sites with visible waste as asbestos-containing materials may be present and exposed.
- Avoid touching any materials found in your home that may contain asbestos. This includes old pipe insulation, textured ceilings, damaged floor tiles, and vermiculite attic insulation.
- If you are planning to do extensive home remodels, have an asbestos professional survey your home for potential hazards before you begin work.
- If you live in an area where asbestos is naturally occurring or you have been working at a job site that contains asbestos, take care to use doormats and to remove your shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in asbestos dust.
- Keep windows and doors closed during windy days or when there is construction taking place nearby.
Having Your Home Inspected for Asbestos
One of the primary sources of current exposures to asbestos occurs when homeowners decide to renovate their older homes. In previous generations, asbestos was readily used in building materials and many of those materials still exist. If the inspector does find asbestos in your home, he or she should provide you with a listing of the materials and locations in the home where the asbestos is present, as well as any recommendations on protecting or removing the materials.
You should never attempt to remove possible asbestos-containing materials on your own. Instead, call an asbestos inspector to come and collect samples of the materials to test them. If asbestos is discovered, then hire a federally licensed contractor to remove it.
If you are selecting a contractor, here are some things you should know:
- Avoid a conflict of interest. Your asbestos inspector should not be connected in any way with the contractor you hire for your asbestos replacement project.
- You should only hire a contractor who is licensed by the government to perform this work. The contractor’s license demonstrates that he or she has been properly trained in the safe removal of asbestos-containing materials.
- Ask the contractor to provide his or her safety procedures to you in writing.
- Ask the contractor that you are considering to provide you with references who have received similar services.
- Be aware that there are contractors who will remove the material incorrectly, leave some materials behind, and still charge a substantial fee for their labor.
Federal Regulations Pertaining to Asbestos
The EPA issued regulations regarding the use and abatement of asbestos.
Those regulations include:
- The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act: This law requires local educational agencies to inspect public school buildings to identify asbestos-containing materials, prepare abatement plans, and perform response actions to reduce asbestos hazards.
- The Asbestos Information Act: Intended to provide transparency to the public on the use of asbestos, this law requires manufacturers to report asbestos-containing products to the EPA.
- Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Reauthorization Act: This law was a reauthorization of a 1990 act that provides loans and grants for schools needing asbestos abatement and also increased the number of training hours required for those performing abatement projects on all commercial buildings, in addition to schools.
- Restrictions on Discontinued Use of Asbestos Rule: This federal rule strengthens the EPA’s ability to rigorously review a list of products that contain asbestos and are no longer on the market in the U.S. before they can be sold again here.
- Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools Rule: This rule, in response to the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, requires non-profit private schools including charter schools and schools affiliated with religious organizations to also inspect their buildings for asbestos, develop an abatement plan, and perform response actions just as public school officials are required to do.
- EPA Asbestos Worker Protection Rule: This rule extends worker protection requirements to state and local government employees who perform asbestos work who were not previously covered by OSHA’s asbestos regulations.
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA): Also known as the Superfund, this law was enacted to address abandoned hazardous waste sites in the U.S. Asbestos is designated as a hazardous substance and waste sites containing asbestos can qualify for Superfund designation.
Other agencies also have asbestos regulations, including OSHA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
Florida Laws Concerning Mesothelioma Caused by Asbestos Exposure
Florida officials regulate the use of asbestos and the safe abatement of asbestos found in buildings and products across the state. Additionally, the state has a law providing for legal claims from individuals who were made ill from asbestos exposure.
Initially intended to streamline the process of legal claims related to asbestos exposure and limit the claims that can be made by workers against successor companies, the Asbestos and Silica Compensation Act was put in place to:
- Give priority to true victims of asbestos and silica, which the law defines as claimants who can demonstrate actual physical impairment caused by exposure to asbestos and silica.
- Preserve the rights of claimants to pursue compensation if they have become impaired due to exposure.
- Provide the state court with the ability to supervise and control asbestos and silica litigation.
- Conserve the resources of the defendants to allow for the compensation of those who have been harmed by asbestos and silica exposure while securing the right to similar compensation for future claimants.
Florida requires legal claims from plaintiffs who have suffered mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure to file their claims in court within four years of receiving the mesothelioma diagnosis. For family members of individuals who have died from mesothelioma, the time limit to file a wrongful death mesothelioma lawsuit is within two years of their loved one’s death from mesothelioma.
Who Is Eligible to Seek Compensation?
According to Florida’s law, individuals are eligible to seek compensation if:
- The claimant lives in the state or the asbestos exposure that is a significant contributing factor to the claimant’s illness occurred in the state.
- The claimant submits to the court, along with the complaint, a written report, and supporting test results that show that the claimant’s illness meets the requirements of the law. The claimant must also submit his or her address and contact information, as well as the specific location(s) in which the exposure occurred.
- The claimant who is seeking compensation following a diagnosis of cancer of the lung, larynx, pharynx, or esophagus is not a smoker.
- Evidence that demonstrates that ample time has passed between the exposure and the diagnosis. This is known as the latency period. Cancer generally takes some time to form. If a person was exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with mesothelioma a week later, the cancer was almost certainly caused by another factor.
While this is not an exhaustive list of the requirements for filing a claim, in determining whether you qualify, you must meet these general criteria. Filing a mesothelioma personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is just one method of recovering damages caused by your asbestos exposure. Depending on the facts of your case, there are other options, including seeking VA benefits if you are a veteran who was exposed to asbestos during your military service, or a workers’ compensation claim if you were exposed to asbestos on a job site.
Let our attorneys help you understand the options that are available to you. Contact us today.
Mesothelioma Caused by Asbestos Exposure
One of the most serious consequences of asbestos exposure is an incurable illness called mesothelioma. If you or your loved one have been diagnosed with this disease, there is compensation available to reimburse the out-of-pocket costs associated with treating your disease, as well as the profound impacts that the illness has on your life. Read on for more information about mesothelioma.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare and incurable cancer that affects the cells that make up the mesothelium. The mesothelium is a membrane that protects several organs in the body, including the lungs, abdomen, and heart. Up to 80 percent of individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma have a history of significant asbestos exposure, making that the major risk factor for acquiring the disease.
Other factors that are believed to increase the risk of mesothelioma are:
- Secondary asbestos exposure, which generally occurs when an individual who was exposed to asbestos through his or her occupation inadvertently carried the fibers home on the skin or clothing. These fibers then become airborne in the household environment and expose family members to the risks.
- A genetic predisposition to the disease. Many individuals who are exposed to asbestos will not develop mesothelioma. Those who do often have an inherited mutation of one of the tumor suppressor genes, BAP1, CDKN2A, and NF2.
- In rare cases, the cause of mesothelioma is unknown. There could have been asbestos exposure that the individual was unaware of, as well as the possibility of other causative agents such as radiation, exposure to certain chemicals, or viruses.
While there are several different forms of mesothelioma, 85 percent of individuals in the U.S. who are diagnosed with the disease have the pleural form, which affects the lining of the lungs.
Other forms include:
- Peritoneal mesothelioma, which develops in the mesothelium that lines the stomach. This is the second-most frequent type of mesothelioma to develop, accounting for about 10 percent of cases in the U.S.
- Pericardial mesothelioma, which develops in the lining that protects the heart.
- Testicular mesothelioma, which develops in the lining that surrounds the testes.
Mesothelioma develops in the following steps:
- A person inhales tiny, airborne asbestos fibers.
- The fibers become lodged in the mesothelium surrounding the lungs, stomach, heart, or testes.
- These embedded fibers cause damage to the mesothelial cells, resulting in inflammation.
- Over time, tumors form in the damaged cells of the mesothelium.
Mesothelioma often produces symptoms such as:
- A dry, chronic cough.
- Shortness of breath.
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
- Pain in the chest or abdomen.
- A mass on the chest wall or unusual lumps of tissue.
- Fluid around the lungs.
- Fever or night sweats.
- Muscle weakness.
These symptoms are often confused with other, less deadly illnesses, which can delay diagnosis in the early stages. The prognosis when diagnosed with mesothelioma is very poor. Most individuals with this disease have a life expectancy of under two years, despite several treatment options being available. As with other forms of cancer, mesothelioma is defined in stages, with the first stage being less serious and offering the most treatment options.
The stages are as follows:
- Stage 1: The cancer is localized to the mesothelium of the pleura (lungs) or other organs. Individuals diagnosed with this stage of mesothelioma have a median life expectancy of around 22 months. Because Stage 1 mesothelioma often does not produce any symptoms, it is generally discovered by accident when the doctor performs a diagnostic imaging scan such as a CT or X-ray for an unrelated reason. Often, this stage of mesothelioma is mistaken for pneumonia,
- Stage 2: Cancer has spread to a single organ and the lymph nodes. Stage 2 mesothelioma offers a median 2-year survival rate of 28 percent. The average life expectancy for this stage of the disease is 20 months.
- Stage 3: The tumor is extensive and cancer has spread to the chest wall, abdomen, and cardiac cavity. The patient’s median life expectancy after being diagnosed with stage 3 mesothelioma is around 18 months. This is the most common stage of diagnosis, and symptoms of this stage of the disease’s progression generally include frequent coughing, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.
- Stage 4: The tumors have spread to distant organs throughout the chest, abdomen, neck, and bones. Those diagnosed with Stage 4 mesothelioma have a life expectancy of around 14 months. In this stage, patients may experience severe breathlessness, coughing, unexpected weight loss, weakness, high platelet counts, and low red blood cell counts. Treatment options at this stage are very limited, with chemotherapy often being the only option to reduce the tumors and improve the quality and length of life.
How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of mesothelioma consists of several steps, including:
- The presence of symptoms associated with this disease, which a patient will normally mention to his or her doctor during a regularly scheduled exam. It is important to remember, however, that mesothelioma (particularly in the early stages) often presents with few or any symptoms. The disease can be “accidentally” caught through diagnostic imaging tests that were performed for another reason.
- A detailed medical and work history, including information regarding known asbestos exposure from a worksite or secondary exposure through having a family member who was exposed to asbestos in a work environment. Any immediate family members who have suffered from mesothelioma will also be noted, as certain inherited genetic mutations can increase the risk of developing the disease.
- Clinical testing and workup: During this phase, diagnostic imaging tests such as CT or PET scans will be used to view the organs to detect tumors.
- A biopsy: The diagnosis of mesothelioma can only be rendered after a biopsy of the affected area has been performed. A biopsy procedure involves extracting some of the cells from the area and studying them in the lab to detect abnormalities that indicate the presence of mesothelioma. Biopsies can be performed through several different methods, involving either general anesthesia (the patient is asleep during the procedure) or local anesthesia (the patient is awake for the procedure but the area where the procedure is being performed is numbed).
- Staging: Once a patient has mesothelioma, additional evaluations will determine the progression of the disease and assign a stage to it. The stage of mesothelioma helps to inform the available and most effective treatment options.
What Are the Treatment Options for Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is incurable. However, treatments can help remove or shrink tumors and can improve the patient’s quality of life and extend his or her life expectancy. As previously noted, the treatment options available are generally more plentiful in the early stages of the disease. Unfortunately, many mesothelioma patients are not diagnosed until the later stages of the disease, when symptoms appear.
Possible treatments for mesothelioma include:
Surgery. Surgery in the early stage of the disease might remove the tumor before cancer spreads. However, surgery in the late stages may alleviate the discomfort and complications to the organs that are posed by the development of tumors.
Some common mesothelioma surgeries include a pleurectomy, which is the removal of the mesothelial lining of the lung and chest cavity; an extrapleural pneumonectomy, which is the removal of one lung as well as the lining of affected organs; and a pleurocentesis, which drains excess fluid from the lung to make breathing easier for late-stage mesothelioma patients.
Because surgery itself offers several potential complications, including reactions to the anesthesia, blood clots, and infection, a patient’s overall health will generally be heavily considered in the evaluation of whether this mode of treatment is appropriate.
Chemotherapy. Regardless of the stage of the mesothelioma, chemotherapy is almost always used in treatment to kill the cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying. Systemic chemotherapy provides the cancer-killing drugs via intravenous (IV) application, while intraoperative chemotherapy involves a surgical procedure in which the drug is applied directly to the affected tissue, producing fewer harsh side effects.
Unfortunately, the side effects of chemotherapy are quite severe and can involve:
- Loss of the ability to focus and multitask, as well as memory loss.
- Hair loss, due to the drug’s targeting of fast-growing cells in the body that include hair follicles.
- Low blood cell counts resulting from the treatment killing red blood cells while trying to kill cancer cells.
- Mouth sores result from an inflammatory reaction to the treatment in the mucous lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Nausea and vomiting as the drug circulates through the bloodstream.
Radiation. Radiation is often used in concert with chemotherapy to shrink tumors and prevent cancerous cells from spreading. This procedure is often performed before surgery, but can also be used for palliative care in the latter stages of the disease.
This treatment also produces numerous side effects, including:
- Skin issues, including redness, dryness, and itching that appears as a sunburn. This typically appears in the area where the radiation was applied.
- Difficulty swallowing and shortness of breath.
- Scarring in the lung from the procedure.
- Cough, fever, and fullness in the chest.
- Fatigue. Many patients suffer fatigue from radiation and this side effect can last for several months after the procedure takes place.
- Dry mouth, inflammation of the oral cavity, and loss of taste.
- Hair loss. Patients often experience a loss of body hair in the area where the radiation was performed.
Clinical trials. Clinical trials are often available to test the efficiency of new or experimental procedures in the hopes of finding a treatment that provides more options for patients suffering from mesothelioma. These trials actively recruit patients and are often suggested by physicians for patients who are unable to participate in traditional forms of treatment or who have not achieved success through other treatments.
These trials often last for several months to years, depending on whether the participating patients are seeing positive outcomes. The trials come with risks, including unexpected reactions and side effects.
The Impacts of Mesothelioma
As difficult as mesothelioma is to diagnose and effectively treat, it is an even more difficult disease to live with. The grim prognosis often leaves ill patients scrambling to tie up life’s loose ends and ensure their loved ones are properly cared for while simultaneously undergoing treatments that produce harsh side effects. Many mesothelioma patients who are still within working age are required to take an extended leave of absence from their jobs. Treatments tend to be expensive without the benefit of insurance and financial assistance.
Mesothelioma is not only difficult for the individual who is diagnosed, but also for family members who are faced with their loved one’s diminished life expectancy and must also help the individual with daily care and transport to medical appointments as the disease progresses or during the difficult periods of treatment. Hospital stays are expected to address issues caused by the disease, and those who return home generally require a tremendous amount of assistance.
In addition to the physical difficulties of this disease, a mesothelioma diagnosis creates emotional difficulties, from end-of-life decisions to anger about the asbestos exposure that caused the illness in the first place. Mesothelioma patients and their families are encouraged to seek professional help in dealing with these emotions as well as to participate in support groups to meet others who are struggling with similar issues.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and are undergoing treatment, a mesothelioma attorney can help you obtain the compensation you need to alleviate the financial burden that this disease places on patients and their families. Contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman for more information about how to recover damages related to your disease.
FAQs About Mesothelioma
If you or your loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you undoubtedly have a lot of questions about the disease and your ability to obtain the compensation that can help defray the expenses of treating it. Here are answers to some of the questions our mesothelioma clients most frequently ask us.
What options do I have for obtaining compensation following my mesothelioma diagnosis?
There are several options for recovering damages related to your mesothelioma diagnosis, the expenses your illness has caused, and the impacts your illness has had on your life.
Among these options are:
- A personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the party responsible for the asbestos exposure that caused you to develop mesothelioma.
- Asbestos trust funds. Many of the companies who exposed their workers to asbestos have since declared bankruptcy. As part of their bankruptcy filing, these companies were required to organize funds that will fairly compensate employees for their illness.
- VA benefits. If your military service exposed you to asbestos, claimants can seek coverage of medical expenses and other benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Workers’ compensation. Because of the long latency period between exposure and illness—often several decades—most individuals suffering from mesothelioma are not eligible to recover lost wages and medical expenses through workers’ compensation. However, your lawyer will explore all of the options available for you to determine which ones apply to your case.
- Social Security Disability Insurance. Many individuals who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma have received disability pay and other benefits by filing an expedited claim through Social Security Disability.
Does anyone actually survive mesothelioma?
Around 10 percent of all patients diagnosed with mesothelioma will still be alive after five years. The survival rate of any individual case depends on the stage at which the cancer was diagnosed, as well as other factors such as age, overall health, how possible it is for surgeons to resect the tumor, and how well the patient responds to treatment. The survival rate for Stage 1 mesothelioma, after five years, is 20 percent. At Stage 2, this rate declines to 12 percent. Those with Stage 3 mesothelioma (the stage at which most cases are diagnosed) have a five-year survival rate of about 8 percent.
What do I need to prove to receive compensation through a mesothelioma lawsuit?
To file a mesothelioma lawsuit in Florida, you must prove that you are diagnosed with a physical impairment (mesothelioma) as the result of asbestos exposure or that your loved one died of the disease that resulted from asbestos exposure. You must provide specific locations where this asbestos exposure occurred. You must show that you have received your diagnosis within the last four years or that your loved one died of diagnosed mesothelioma within the past two years.
Once you have met the general criteria for a mesothelioma lawsuit, you will be required to demonstrate your damages, including economic damages as well as the emotional impacts you have incurred as a result of the disease.
How long do mesothelioma lawsuits take?
Most mesothelioma lawsuits are settled before trial. That said, the timeframe involved in receiving compensation depends on several issues, including the time it takes to gather the evidence needed to prove your claim and the time provided for negotiations. Because the survival rate is so low with this disease, courts will often fast track the process so that the claims are heard promptly.
Why is mesothelioma more common in men than in women?
Asbestos was present in many industries during a period of time when far more men than women were in the general workplace. Further, asbestos exposure commonly occurred in male-dominated industries.
Can patients with mesothelioma go into remission?
Yes, some mesothelioma patients go into remission, which is the point when the disease is not active and no tumors are detected. Remission is most likely to occur in patients who were diagnosed in the early stages and have surgery to resect the tumor. While remission is certainly considered a positive outcome with this disease, it is not a cure. Mesothelioma can return at any time after apparent remission. The patient needs to continue attending his or her mesothelioma medical appointments and be tested regularly for recurrence.
Are there other causes for mesothelioma besides asbestos exposure?
The vast majority of mesothelioma cases are the result of direct asbestos exposure. Some individuals also develop mesothelioma after secondary exposure, which generally results from living with someone who worked around asbestos and transferred the substance to their home on their skin and clothing. In some cases, the exact cause of mesothelioma is unknown, but suspected causes include exposure to similar mineral fibers, exposure of unknown origins, a genetic predisposition to the disease, or a virus.
Doesn’t smoking cause mesothelioma?
Smoking cigarettes does not cause mesothelioma. However, smoking can increase your risk of developing the disease due to the damage that smoking causes to the lungs. It also can worsen the patient’s prognosis after the disease is diagnosed.
Why are people being diagnosed with mesothelioma decades after asbestos exposure?
Mesothelioma is a disease that can take between 20-70 years to develop. Research indicates that there is really nothing an individual can do after being exposed to asbestos—particularly a high level of exposure over a long time. Even after the asbestos exposure ends, the risk it poses for developing mesothelioma is lifelong.
Can I file a mesothelioma lawsuit due to asbestos exposure even if I have not been diagnosed with mesothelioma?
No. Many people who are exposed to asbestos do not ever develop mesothelioma. Because of this, Florida’s mesothelioma law establishes that there must be proof that the individual suffered actual physical harm to seek compensation, rather than compensating individuals who have not yet suffered harm.
If my asbestos exposure occurred during military service, should I file a personal injury lawsuit against the military?
No. Generally, personal injury lawsuits are filed against the company that produced the asbestos. However, the military may be an option for compensation and assistance through the VA program.
Are there any new treatments for mesothelioma?
Clinical trials are being conducted for new mesothelioma treatments and most experts agree that all mesothelioma patients, regardless of the stage of their disease, should enter one of these trials to have the opportunity to receive a treatment that is better and more effective than traditional methods.t
Some of the recent clinical trials for mesothelioma include:
- New chemotherapy drugs or combination drugs.
- Photodynamic therapy, which involves injecting a light-activated drug into a vein. This drug spreads throughout the body but the highest concentration collects around cancer cells. A few days later, a light is inserted into the chest by a tube, causing a chemical change that results in the drug killing the cancerous cells.
- Targeted therapy drugs. One of the problems with chemotherapy is that it can produce extreme side effects. With targeted therapy, drugs are formulated to zero in on only the cancerous cells, while leaving healthy cells intact.
- Immunotherapy drugs that bolster the body’s immune system, enabling it to fight the cancer more effectively.
- Alternating electric fields, also known as tumor treating fields. With this treatment, a portable device that generates electrical fields is used in concert with chemotherapy as an option for individuals who are not appropriate candidates for surgery.
My loved one died as a result of mesothelioma from asbestos exposure. Could I receive compensation?
Yes. If you lost your spouse, a parent, or other biological relative on whom you are wholly or partially financially dependent on mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, you could seek to recover damages through a wrongful death claim. This is a legal claim filed in civil court within two years after the death.
Some of the damages that can be recovered in a mesothelioma wrongful death claim include:
- The value of support and services provided by the decedent to his or her survivors.
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and protection.
- Funeral and cremation or burial expenses that a surviving family member paid for directly.
Are mesothelioma settlements taxable?
No. According to the Internal Revenue Service, mesothelioma settlements and court awards are not considered income and are, therefore, not taxable. The exception to this is the award of punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages that are not related to the expenses and impacts incurred by the claimant, but rather are awarded to punish the defendant for particularly reckless behavior. Because the damages are not directly related to injury or illness, they are taxable. Additionally, individuals who claimed medical expenses as a tax exemption before receiving a settlement or award generally will need to repay that exemption on their returns for the year in which the award was provided.
How do asbestos trust funds work?
It is estimated that there are around 60 active trust funds in the U.S., with around $30 billion available for victims of asbestos-related diseases and their loved ones. Each of these trusts establishes different eligibility criteria, with all of the trusts requiring proof of prior asbestos exposure, diagnosis, and time between exposure and diagnosis.
Receiving compensation through a trust fund is generally a four-step process:
- The claim is filed.
- The trustees review the claim.
- The claim is validated and assigned a monetary amount. Expedited claims generally provide a predetermined amount of funding, while individual and extraordinary claims differ depending on the facts of each case and amounts can be negotiated.
- Payment is offered and the claimant has a set amount of time to either accept or decline the offer.
Does asbestos exposure cause other health issues besides mesothelioma?
Yes. In addition to mesothelioma, other diseases and conditions that are caused by exposure to asbestos include:
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Pharyngeal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Colon cancer
- Bile duct cancer
- Pleural effusions
- Peritoneal effusions
- Pericardial effusions
- Pleural plaques
Why do I need to hire an attorney to pursue compensation for my mesothelioma diagnosis?
Mesothelioma is a serious illness and fighting through the treatment involved is going to require your focus and energy. Seeking compensation through one or more of the options for mesothelioma claims is also a time-consuming process that requires time and energy, which is one of the many reasons for seeking the assistance of an experienced Florida mesothelioma lawyer.
Some of the services an experienced mesothelioma lawyer can provide for you include:
- Information on the various options for obtaining compensation and guidance as you decide which option is right for you.
- A valuation of your case based on the severity of your injury, your prognosis, the expenses you face, and the impacts you have endured as the result of your asbestos exposure and mesothelioma diagnosis.
- A thorough understanding of the processes involved in the various funding options: personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit; mesothelioma trust funds, VA benefits, and Florida’s workers’ compensation program.
- Assistance in collecting and organizing all of the documentation required to prove your claim.
- If you’re filing a lawsuit, your attorney will file your claim in the proper jurisdiction within the statutory time limit.
- If you are seeking compensation through a trust fund or seeking benefits through the VA or workers’ compensation, your attorney can assist you with the application process.
- Skilled negotiation to obtain a settlement on your behalf.
- Representation in all appellate hearings if your application for benefits is denied.
- Assistance with collecting your settlement, awards, or delayed benefits that you are entitled to receive.
For more information on how an attorney can assist you with your case, contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman today.
What to Do If You Were Diagnosed With Mesothelioma?
Being diagnosed with an incurable condition is a traumatic experience. Perhaps you have long known about the dangers of asbestos and have been wondering when the consequences of that exposure would catch up to you. Perhaps you were not aware of the profound impacts that working around asbestos would have on your life decades after the exposure took place. Whatever your circumstances, there are some important things to do after you receive your diagnosis.
Seek Treatment for Your Disease
The most important thing you can do after receiving your diagnosis is to attend all of your medical appointments and seek treatment that can help you fight the disease.
Your doctor will determine which mesothelioma treatments are right for you, based on:
- The stage of your illness: Mesothelioma takes many years to develop. However, in the later stages, the disease often progresses quickly and aggressively. Many symptoms do not show up until the disease has already spread through the affected organs when mesothelioma is more difficult to treat.
- Your overall health: Stage 1 and Stage 2 mesothelioma treatment often involves resection of cancerous tumors from the mesothelium, which is the lining of the lungs and other organs. However, if you are not healthy enough to survive the risks of a surgical procedure or your mesothelioma was not diagnosed until Stage 3, this treatment option is often not available,
- The options you have already tried: Many times, an individual will not respond to a specific prescribed treatment, such as chemotherapy. There are several options available to individuals with all stages of the disease, and there is no way to know what the unique response of an individual to any treatment will be. Your doctor will likely encourage you to try a different treatment in the hopes of finding the one that provides better results for you.
Because the treatments for mesothelioma often carry heavy side effects such as fatigue, nausea, and other issues that can make managing your daily routine difficult, it is important to have a support system of family and friends to assist while you not only deal with the treatments but seek the compensation you need to help with your expenses as well.
Start Collecting Evidence
If you are planning to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, an asbestos trust fund, one of the state or federal benefit programs such as Florida workers’ compensation, the VA disability program, or Social Security Disability, you will be required to prove certain elements of your case, including:
- The dates and specific locations where you were exposed to asbestos. This can be demonstrated by pay stubs or other work records relating to the company you worked for when the exposure occurred. If your mesothelioma was the result of secondary exposure caused by a family member working around asbestos fibers and then later bringing those fibers into your living environment on skin and clothing, you should gather documentation to show that family member’s employment. In many cases, testimony from another individual who knew you worked near asbestos may be satisfactory.
- The date of your mesothelioma diagnosis, and any information about the stage of the disease when you were diagnosed.
- The treatments that you have already experienced as well as additional treatments that you will need in the future.
- If you are filing a wrongful death lawsuit due to the loss of a loved one to mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, you will need to supply the above information about your loved one’s exposure to asbestos, diagnosis of mesothelioma, and the date and cause of death.
Your attorney will let you know what other documentation you need, depending on which funding option you are pursuing, and can also help you in gathering and organizing this information.
Consider the Options
Several funding options are available for individuals who have received a diagnosis of mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos or the family members of individuals who have died of asbestos-related mesothelioma.
These options include:
- Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. These lawsuits are filed in civil court and seek to prove someone else’s negligent actions caused physical harm. The effects of asbestos exposure have been well known for many decades. However, asbestos continued to be manufactured and shipped to Florida and other regions. Lawsuits are generally filed against the asbestos producers.
- Asbestos trust funds. Many of the companies involved in producing asbestos products have gone out of business but have been required as part of bankruptcy proceedings to provide funding for individuals who suffer physical harm as a result of those products. There are dozens of asbestos trust funds that you may file a claim against. Your attorney can advise you of the trust fund options that are available in your case and can help you evaluate which trust(s) would offer the most value in your case.
- VA benefits: Asbestos was widely used on military bases and in military operations, resulting in a large number of mesothelioma cases. While lawsuits are not generally filed against the military as a result of this asbestos exposure, the military can be a source of medical treatment and disability benefits from those suffering from mesothelioma. An attorney can provide you with more information about how to access these benefits.
- Social Security Disability Insurance. The social security payments you made during your years of work allow you to apply for disability benefits after your mesothelioma diagnosis, and your attorney can assist you in the application process for receiving these payments as well as the appeals process if your application is denied.
- Workers’ compensation: Because mesothelioma often has a latency period of several decades, most people are no longer employed by the company where they worked when they were exposed to asbestos, making this option unavailable in a lot of cases. However, your attorney will study the facts of your case to ensure that you are aware of all of the funding options available to you. If workers’ compensation is an option, your attorney can help you with the process of obtaining those benefits.
You might simultaneously pursue some of these options. Receiving assistance from one option might dramatically affect how much you receive from other options. Your attorney can provide you with a fuller understanding of which options will complement each other to provide you with the maximum compensation available.
Speak With a Florida Mesothelioma Lawyer
Just as a delayed diagnosis of your disease can result in the loss of some of the treatment options available to you, delaying speaking with a mesothelioma lawyer can also limit your options. A mesothelioma personal injury lawsuit in Florida must be filed within four years after your diagnosis, and to recover damages related to your loved one’s death from mesothelioma, you must file a mesothelioma wrongful death lawsuit within two years after the date of death. Failure to observe these deadlines generally results in the court declining to hear the case.
Not only will beginning the legal process right away help preserve your funding options, but in some cases, it will also allow your attorney to seek to expedite the proceedings to provide this compensation as soon as possible.
Things to Look for in a Mesothelioma Lawyer
Mesothelioma lawsuits and assistance with the application or claim procedures of other funding sources is work that is done by a personal injury lawyer. However, not all personal injury lawyers handle this type of case or have the specific experience that is needed to guide mesothelioma clients through the complex legal process. Most personal injury lawyers provide a free consultation to prospective clients.
This is a time for you to ask your legal questions and share the details of your case so that the attorney can guide you through the funding options you can pursue. It is also a time for you to evaluate the attorney and determine if this is the individual that you want to work with you on your case.
Some of the things you should look for when selecting a personal injury attorney to assist you include:
- Experience with handling mesothelioma cases. During your free consultation, consider asking for references from the attorney of past mesothelioma clients or their family members who can share with you their level of satisfaction with the attorney’s services.
- A firm understanding of mesothelioma, the treatment options, the prognosis, and the funding sources available for individuals with this type of cancer.
- Knowledge of past asbestos cases and the factors of those cases that influenced the outcome.
- A strong network of medical and legal specialists that can help prove the elements of your case and provide expert testimony if needed.
- Compassion for you and your family and a willingness to explore all options to help you obtain the compensation you need.
Services Your Lawyer Can Provide
Many people are tempted to navigate the legal process on their own to avoid the costs of hiring an attorney. This is often a mistake, as the process of filing a claim or applying for any type of funding is energy and time exhaustive if you do not have training or experience in these processes, particularly if you are also dealing with the enormity of your health issues at the same time. A personal injury lawyer can provide services that will make this process much easier.
These services include:
- Guidance about the funding options available to you and the legal process of filing a mesothelioma personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
- A valuation of your case based on the profound financial and emotional impacts that mesothelioma causes.
- Timely filing of your legal claim in the proper jurisdiction.
- Assistance in gathering and organizing the evidence to prove your claim.
- A network of other attorneys who specialize in mesothelioma lawsuits and mesothelioma experts across the nation, to provide the best service for clients, regardless of where they are located in the U.S.
- A thorough review of your case, to determine who is liable for the asbestos exposure that made you ill.
- Skilled negotiations to obtain a fair settlement offer on your behalf.
- Candid discussions with you on the pros and cons of accepting any settlement offer so that you make the right decision for you.
- Representation of your case at all pre-trial conferences and hearings.
- In lieu of a fair settlement, litigation. This includes the preparation and delivery of opening and closing statements, the presentation of evidence, and the examination of witnesses.
- Assistance in collecting your settlement or award.
- Further representation if the defendant in your case appeals the court’s judgment.
Mesothelioma in Florida? Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman Can Help
The legal team at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman is committed to serving our mesothelioma clients in Florida and others who have suffered personal injuries. We have experience in mesothelioma cases, including legal claims resulting in either litigation or a negotiated settlement, asbestos trust funds, and the claims or application processes involved in other benefit programs. We provide free consultations for prospective clients, and we also work on a contingent fee basis.
Because of the time constraints of your disease and the processes involved in obtaining compensation, talk to a mesothelioma lawyer right away at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman to protect your right to this compensation.
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman at (833) 700-MESO  or by contacting us online.