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Filing a claim for asbestos-related diseases after the death of a loved one

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on October 08th, 2017

If a family member has passed away from an asbestos-related disease, it is still possible to claim compensation on his or her behalf within one to three years from the date of death. A claim can be filed regardless of whether the sufferer initiated a legal request for compensation before he or she passed.

Former asbestos manufacturers have known for a long time that exposure to the toxic fibers of asbestos can lead to serious diseases for which there is no known cure. Exposing workers to asbestos qualifies as a wrongful act. Therefore, legally speaking, the case of a former employee who develops an illness due to asbestos exposure on the job is a personal injury case.

The family members of people who pass away as a consequence of asbestos diseases also have legal rights. Families can continue the claim their husband or father already started or they can file wrongful death claims that can help:

  • Cover the cost of medical expenses
  • Cover the value of lost income and benefits
  • Cover the cost of funeral and burial expenses
  • Cover the value of lost support and services
  • Recover damages for emotional distress

Family members can continue asbestos trust funds claims if the claimant dies

If you lost a family member to an asbestos-related disease, first and foremost, our thoughts go out to you and your family. You may feel completely overwhelmed, but it's important to know that you may be entitled to compensation that will help you cover the cost of medical and funeral expenses.

Because the majority of U.S. asbestos companies entered bankruptcy protection due to the overwhelming number of lawsuits that started being filed against them after the 1980s, nowadays, asbestos trust funds represent the primary source of compensation for victims of exposure and their families. Unlike a lawsuit, filing a claim with asbestos trust funds requires no trial and is a significantly more convenient way of recovering financial compensation.

While the person diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease is alive, he or she receives the amounts awarded through such an asbestos trust fund claim. In the event the asbestos victim dies during the legal process, the claim becomes a part of their estate.

To continue a claim, family members have to get an estate open and a personal representative appointed. The first decision the surviving family members have to make is whether to pursue with the asbestos claim or not. This depends on what funds are available for the payout and if it's feasible for the family to open the estate.

The personal representative typically is an immediate family member, such as a spouse or child, but the person does not have to be a blood relative. After the estate is open, legal decisions are taken by the estate representative.

Family members can file a wrongful death claim even if the asbestos victim didn't start a claim before he or she died

Family members may also have the option to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate but only as long as the statute of limitations has not run out. Usually, they can seek compensation on behalf of a loved one who passed away as a result of workplace asbestos exposure within 1 to 3 years from the date of death.

To file an asbestos wrongful death lawsuit, family members need to meet certain criteria. An estranged family member or an acquaintance of the asbestos victim cannot come forward and claim compensation. The people who are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit are:

  • Wives, husbands or life partners
  • Children, including stepchildren and adopted children
  • Parents and grandparents
  • Siblings
  • Someone financially dependent on the deceased

As a wrongful death claim is still an asbestos case, and these can be complex, a lawyer can best extensively research it. After the investigation concludes, if the attorney makes an official legal recommendation to pursue the claim, the next part of the process is information gathering. The lawyer will collate as much information as possible on the asbestos victim's work, medical, and personal history and file the wrongful death claim.

The laws on filing a wrongful death differ between states. This is another reason why it's advisable to speak with an experienced asbestos lawyer about submitting a claim.

Widow allowed to sue asbestos manufacturer

A recent case involving a wrongful death asbestos exposure claim is that of Thomasina Fowler of Bloomfield, New Jersey, who filed against Union Carbide Corporation after her husband, Willis Edenfield, was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in October 2010. The man was exposed to asbestos for approximately 40 years while working in a chemical plant that manufactured asbestos-containing adhesives. Union Carbide Corporation had supplied the facility with raw asbestos for 12 years.

Since mesothelioma has a very aggressive progression, Edenfield passed away only 3 months after diagnosis. Due to the fact that her husband's death was so sudden, Fowler did not have the opportunity to find out relevant information regarding his occupational asbestos exposure. Accordingly, Union Carbide Corporation took advantage of this aspect, stating that there was no proof of the man's direct contact with the carcinogen, and the court initially agreed.

The plaintiff did not just claim that asbestos was present inside the building her husband was working in, but also that Edenfield would touch asbestos on a daily basis. Furthermore, some of his former co-workers testified that he used to scoop asbestos and store it into bags. Indeed, evidence that Union Carbide provided over 40,000 pounds of asbestos during the 12-year period was subsequently found. All this new information changed the original ruling and allowed the trial to go on.

Legal help for families and loved ones

If you lost a loved one due to mesothelioma or another asbestos cancer, don't delay. By consulting our lawyers today, you can achieve the compensation you deserve. Call us or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. The support of a lawyer specialized in asbestos litigation is essential, since the victim is not around to provide valuable information anymore, which makes the legal process even more complex and challenging.

If one of your immediate family members or someone you were financially dependent on lost their life to occupational asbestos exposure, we encourage you to contact one of our attorneys, who will provide you with permanent legal assistance and file a wrongful death claim on your behalf. While we are aware that nothing can replace the presence of a loved one, we will dedicate our efforts to helping you achieve at least the financial comfort you deserve.