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Filing for Asbestos-related Compensation on Behalf of a Family Member

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on September 12th, 2017

For the better part of the last century, asbestos was thought of as the miracle mineral by a wide range of industries, which would employ it for the manufacturing of over 5,000 different consumer products. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, approximately 174,000,000 metric tons of asbestos were produced from 1900 to 2000 worldwide.

Despite having a clear knowledge of the health hazard, companies did not cease asbestos use and even went as far as manipulating study results to downplay the dangers of exposure before their employees, who were becoming increasingly sick. By 1978, when asbestos consumption began declining substantially courtesy of EPA's awareness raising and OSHA's stricter workplace regulations, over 11 million U.S. workers would have been exposed to this carcinogenic mineral on the job.

Nowadays, very few companies use asbestos and exposure is no longer a cause for concern. However, the unprecedented exploitation of asbestos, which went on for nearly 100 years, continues to result in dire repercussions, as over 12,000 new cases of asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma are diagnosed annually throughout the U.S. The Environmental Working Group estimates that 1 in 125 American men who die after the age of 50 loses his life to a disease caused by asbestos exposure. Since these illnesses are latent for 10 to 50 years, the number of asbestos victims is expected to remain steady until well into the next decade.

The Importance of Filing an Asbestos Claim on Behalf of a Family Member

A mesothelioma or lung cancer diagnosis takes a heavy toll on both the sufferer and their family, as diseases arising from asbestos exposure tend to be very aggressive, progressing at a fast pace, as well as very debilitating, affecting day-to-day life tremendously. Understandably, family members will go to great lengths to make sure they receive quality medical care and effective treatment, often pushing aside financial matters. Nevertheless, although the health of your loved one will naturally come as a top-priority after diagnosis, taking legal action is also important and can even benefit their wellbeing.

As cancer treatment is quite expensive and their insurance plan may not cover everything, caring for a victim of asbestos exposure is bound to impact your budget sooner or later. The compensation you can easily recover from asbestos trust funds on behalf of your family member will be an invaluable resource in this regard. Not only will it entirely cover their medical expenses, but it may also help them afford experimental treatments available only in a clinical trial, which often lead to incredible prognosis improvement.

Since many of us also have a loved one whose life was dramatically hindered by occupational asbestos exposure, we are well-aware that struggling with diseases such as mesothelioma can be very exhausting physically, as well as emotionally. Unfortunately, the majority of asbestos victims are unable to pursue financial compensation themselves due to their poor health. For this reason, if you have a family member who developed a disease as a consequence of workplace asbestos exposure, we wholeheartedly encourage you to contact Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. and initiate the legal process for their benefit.

Our Lawyers Will File Your Family Member's Claim with Asbestos Trust Funds

In 1987, the infamous asbestos manufacturer Johns Manville set up the first asbestos trust fund so that the company could be granted bankruptcy protection, as it could no longer compensate the increasing number of former employees injured by asbestos exposure. Shortly after, more and more liable companies followed Johns Manville's example, having to establish their own asbestos trust funds as a requirement for entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Over recent decades, asbestos trust funds have become the primary source of financial compensation for people harmed by occupational asbestos exposure and at the moment, there are 60 asbestos trust funds operating in the U.S. with approximately $30 billion available.

Filing a claim with asbestos trust funds is without a doubt the most convenient way of recovering compensation for injuries related to occupational asbestos exposure. Unlike a lawsuit, the process requires no litigation and is significantly faster - most people receive compensation within one month to one year from the moment their asbestos claim is submitted. Moreover, if multiple asbestos companies are at fault for a person's injury, they can file a claim with each one's asbestos trust fund, regardless of the number. A percentage of the entire sum of money a claimant is eligible for will be paid out by every asbestos trust fund, depending on the financial resources it has.

The Importance of Working with a Legal Professional

While the process of seeking compensation from asbestos trust funds is considerably easier to navigate than a lawsuit, gathering sufficient evidence to support the asbestos claim, preparing the necessary documents which must accompany it, as well as deciding on the most advantageous claim review, are very complex aspects only a legal professional can properly handle. A lawyer specialized in asbestos cases and their legal team will efficiently take care of everything, from collecting additional proof to support the claim to making sure the asbestos victim will recover the maximum amount of compensation possible.

If you have a family member who held down a high-risk job involving asbestos exposure with one of the following diagnoses, we strongly encourage you to contact our attorneys, who will gladly assist you with filing a claim on their behalf:

  • mesothelioma
  • lung cancer
  • asbestosis
  • other non-malignant pulmonary condition, such as pleural plaques or diffuse pleural thickening
  • other forms of cancer which might be related to asbestos exposure, such as colorectal cancer or esophageal cancer

Documents Necessary to File a Claim

Before starting to prepare your family member's asbestos claim for submission, we will ask you to provide our lawyers with the following:

  • employment records, as evidence of having worked for one or multiple asbestos companies
  • medical documents to support their asbestos-related diagnosis, such as X-rays or pathology reports
  • social security records from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • military records, if applicable

Our legal experts will subsequently begin conducting extensive research to discover additional information with respect to their work history, whose inclusion in the asbestos claim might result in substantially more compensation. Since we will take care of the most challenging and time-consuming aspects of the process, you can rest assured that your loved one will be able to continue focusing on their health in the meantime. Having personally witnessed family members struggling with the terrible aftermath of asbestos exposure, we genuinely understand what you are going through. We will not shy away from going to great lengths to achieve the most favorable outcome for you and hold the wrongdoers accountable for their neglectful actions.

Seeking Compensation Immediately After Diagnosis Is Critical, as Time Is Limited

From a legal point of view, the situation of a former worker who develops a disease as a result of occupational asbestos exposure constitutes a personal injury case. The statute of limitations refers to the timeframe during which the harmed individual can pursue financial compensation from the party at fault and applies to all types of personal injury cases. Since a disease ensues from asbestos exposure several decades later, the statute of limitations becomes effective starting with the moment of diagnosis. Depending on where you live, it ranges between 1 and 3 years. If you intend to take legal action after that period of time elapses, you will not be able to proceed, since you no longer have a right to compensation.

Even though filing a claim with asbestos trust funds does not entail litigation, the statute of limitations applies nonetheless. Therefore, if you have a family member whose life was affected by workplace asbestos exposure, please do not postpone seeking financial compensation on their behalf. The longer you wait, the higher the risk of losing eligibility is. While a lawyer with vast experience can indeed speed up the process to a great extent, there is a lot of work going into preparing a claim for submission. Contacting a law firm specializing in asbestos litigation immediately after your loved one is diagnosed is essential and will also give your attorney enough time to carefully attend to every important aspect of the process.

What Happens If the Claimant Passes Away Before the Legal Process Is Completed?

In the regrettable event that your loved one passes away before their asbestos claim results in financial compensation, you or another family member can step in so that the legal process can go on. Eventually, your family will receive money from the asbestos trust funds the claim was filed with, in monthly installments. A lawyer whose expertise focuses primarily on asbestos exposure cases is once again invaluable, as they will promptly take care of the technicalities to make sure compensation will be paid out to the claimant's survivors instead.

The family member who can benefit from the financial compensation the original claimant was eligible for depends on the legislation of each state. In general, the following relatives have the legal right to collect compensation following the claimant's death:

  • children (biological, adopted, as well as stepchildren)
  • spouse or life partner
  • parents and grandparents
  • other individuals who were financially dependent on the claimant

If a Victim of Asbestos Exposure Who Did Not Take Legal Action Passes Away, Their Family Can File a Claim

It is not uncommon for people who suffer from asbestos-related diseases to avoid seeking financial compensation during their lifetime, either out of fear of a never-ending, exhausting legal process or due to poor health. Thus, many asbestos victims pass away without benefiting from the money they deserve, while the companies responsible for their distress are never held liable. However, their survivors can recover some of the compensation they would have been eligible for by filing a wrongful death claim. The reason why a wrongful death claim will result in a lower sum of money pertains to the number of damages it is meant to cover.

Unlike asbestos claims, which provide victims of exposure with compensation for lost wages, physical suffering, and emotional distress, the aim of wrongful death claims is to help family members with the following:

  • Economic loss. Since the asbestos victim is no longer alive, their financial contribution to the family will cease. This aspect also includes the cost of the medical treatment they had been receiving during their lifetime, as well as funeral expenses.
  • Non-economic loss. Although money can never replace the presence of a loved one, the compensation family members receive from a wrongful death claim is also meant to offer a little solace for the loss of consortium or companionship.

Because treatment and medical expenses are now excluded from the aspects financial compensation is meant to cover, they will accordingly be deducted from the sum of money which results from a wrongful death claim. Consequently, the amount of compensation will be smaller than what the victim would have received had they filed a claim themselves.

How Much Time Do Family Members Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death claims also have a statute of limitations, which often entails a shorter timeframe than asbestos claims filed by the injured person. Family members have between 1 and 3 years to seek compensation on behalf of a victim of asbestos exposure who passed away. As the legal process is even more complex in this case, since the victim is no longer around to provide information concerning their former employer and to explain how exactly they were exposed to asbestos on the job, the assistance of a lawyer is truly vital.

Losing someone dear to a disease such as mesothelioma or lung cancer is undoubtedly extremely overwhelming and can easily turn your life upside down. Seeking financial compensation may understandably be the last thing on your mind during these difficult moments. Nevertheless, we would like to remind you that filing a wrongful death claim with the help of our attorneys requires minimal involvement on your part. We will gladly dedicate our endeavors to helping you in the hope that the compensation we can recover on behalf of your loved one is going to ease at least your financial situation.