How are people exposed to asbestos?

When asbestos products were installed, repaired, maintained, renovated or removed, the asbestos was scraped, cut, sanded, or mixed with other products, such as cement. These processes created asbestos dust, which was then breathed in by workers. Asbestos dust remains airborne for weeks, affecting those who worked directly with asbestos, as well as those who simply worked nearby. When an area is swept, the dust is stirred up and airborne again. One cloud of dust contains millions or billions of asbestos fibers.

Who is at risk for asbestos exposure?

Many different workers were exposed, including factory workers, pipefitters, miners, auto mechanics, roofers, railroad workers, gas mask manufacturer workers, shipyard workers, plumbers, metal workers, machinists, mechanics, electricians, and powerhouse workers. See a list of companies. Some people who were exposed cannot recall how it happened, but a careful review and thorough examination of their job history and lifestyle can reveal how and where exposure happened. Duration and intensity of exposure are two important factors relative to asbestos related diseases.

Asbestos exposure has also affected family members of workers who brought asbestos dust home on their clothing, skin, hair, and shoes. Secondhand exposure is called para occupational exposure.

As early as the 1920s, the companies who made asbestos products were aware of the dangers they created. However it wasn’t until the 1980s that asbestos products were banned in the United States. During the time period when asbestos was used, there were known alternatives to asbestos and yet these companies chose to continue to recklessly sell and use asbestos products until they were banned by the government. The companies did not inform workers about the dangers and continued to profit from the use of asbestos, and as a result, many Americans were exposed to asbestos without their knowledge and became ill and died as a result.

Could I have been exposed to asbestos in my home?

Exposure to asbestos at home usually occurs when renovation or repair work is done, or when you are in contact with other family members who work in an asbestos environment. Asbestos is so toxic that small particles on family members’ clothing, skin, hair, or shoes can cause asbestos-related illnesses in family members that come in contact with it.

Most building products that are manufactured today do not contain asbestos, but asbestos was commonly used prior to 1970. Home products such as joint compounds, wallboards, gaskets, fireproofing, pipe coverings, cement, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, and boiler insulation often contained asbestos. Anytime these products are mixed, sprayed, sanded, grinded, sawed, cut, or removed they can result in exposure. Exposure to these airborne fibers can cause an asbestos-related illness 15 to 50 years later.

What Diseases Are Caused by Asbestos Exposure?

  • Mesothelioma – There is a latency period of approximately fifteen to fifty years between initial exposure to asbestos and the development of this deadly disease.
  • Lung Cancer – Workers exposed to asbestos are five times more likely to develop lung cancer than people who have not been exposed. Smokers who are exposed to asbestos are at an even higher risk for lung cancer.
  • Asbestosis – Inhalation of asbestos fibers causes scarring of lung tissue. The scarring impairs the lungs’ elasticity, which makes it difficult for them to exchange gases inside the body. The result is an inadequate amount of oxygen in the blood which leads to shortness of breath. There are different degrees of asbestosis, ranging from mild to severe. The disease is also sometimes called diffuse interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, or pneumoconiosis.
  • Pleural Disease – The pleura is the thin membrane that lines the inside of the chest cavity and outside of the lungs and which allows the lungs to expand and contract. Asbestos exposure can cause this lining to calcify, or harden. Thickened areas are called pleural plaques. A person with pleural disease is at risk for developing more serious asbestos-related diseases.
  • Other Cancers – Asbestos has also been associated with many other cancers, including cancer of the throat and stomach.

May I still file a case if I’m a smoker?

YES. Smoking is not a cause of mesothelioma or asbestosis. Only asbestos exposure can cause these illnesses. Asbestos and cigarette smoke can work together to cause lung cancer and smoking can increase your chances of developing lung cancer.

What are my legal rights if I have an asbestos-related illness?

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness, you can bring a legal claim against the companies that manufactured, sold, distributed, or installed asbestos. Even if you are unable to pinpoint how you might have been exposed or what asbestos product you were in contact with, Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC, can use its extensive investigatory information and records to help determine what caused your illness. We can find the documents and witnesses that will prove you were exposed to asbestos. You have a limited amount of time to file a claim, so it is important to contact us as soon as possible.

How does an asbestos case progress?

An attorney will meet with you to discuss your case. He or she will talk with you about your case and take a medical and occupational history. Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC, will only take your case if we believe that there is a reasonable likelihood that your case will have a successful outcome.

We will have you sign documents that allow us to represent you and to obtain records on your behalf. We will then research your case and file an individual legal claim on your behalf against the manufacturers, distributors, sellers and/or installers of asbestos. We do not file class action lawsuits; instead, we handle each case individually. You cannot sue your employer over asbestos, but you can pursue a worker’s compensation case (click here for more information about this).

Once the suit has been filed, we must wait for the defendants to respond, which usually takes one month. The next phase in the case is discovery, at which time evidence is organized to prove that the defendants are responsible for your condition. You will testify at a deposition and answer questions about your health, background, and employment.

Some defendants may settle the case without a trial and it will be up to you whether or not to accept any offers. We will advise you throughout this process. If a defendant should refuse to pay you and your family a reasonable compensation, your case will go to trial. You will need to testify in court and we will bring in experts and other witnesses to help prove your case.

Our experienced trial attorneys will handle your case from start to finish. The case will usually be resolved within one year. Throughout the process our main concern is you, your health, and your family. We will do everything we can to accommodate you and make sure you are comfortable, including arranging depositions at your own home if necessary.

Often by the time a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma, he or she is extremely ill or has passed away before a lawsuit can be brought. If the victim is unable to testify, we work with family members to put together the facts needed to prove the case. We also use our well developed resources and experience in this area to help assemble the information needed to prove a claim. If a victim has passed away, a case can still be filed through the victim’s estate and on behalf of his or her family.