WHO IS AT RISK?
Those who are at the greatest risk of developing mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure have generally worked in certain occupations. There is also evidence that those who lived in the same household with individuals who were regularly exposed to asbestos over an extended period may also be at risk of developing illness due to particles entering the household on the skin, hair, clothing, and shoes of exposed workers. In the 1940s, millions of Americans in the following trades may have been exposed to airborne particles due to their jobs:
- asbestos mining and milling
- asbestos textile manufacturing
- asbestos removal
- drywall removal
- automobile mechanics
In addition to workers who were exposed to asbestos in the 19th and early 20th centuries, individuals who were involved in the rescue, recovery, and cleanup at the 9/11 World Trade Center attack site are at risk for developing asbestos-related ailments. However, because it may take 10 to 40 years for symptoms of asbestos-related diseases to appear, these individuals will need to be monitored closely for decades. With exception of those exposed during the World Trade Center efforts, workers today are at a much smaller risk of developing health conditions caused by asbestos exposure due to government regulations and improvements in workplace safety.
RISK FACTORS FOR DEVELOPING ILLNESS
While all asbestos is considered hazardous, researchers believe some types may specifically correlate with certain diseases. Several studies suggest “amphibole” forms of asbestos may be more likely to cause mesothelioma because the fibers remain in the lungs longer. The amount of asbestos to which an individual is exposed, duration of exposure, size, shape, and chemical makeup of asbestos fibers, and source of exposure also have an impact the development of illness. Asbestos-related disease risk is especially high among smokers as well as those who have preexisting lung disease.
FILING A CLAIM IN FLORIDA
In 2005, Florida passed the Asbestos and Silica Compensation Fairness Act to establish a higher threshold for plaintiffs to cross when filing suit for an asbestos-related illness. In certain cases, the plaintiff must present “prima facie” evidence, or evidence that is sufficient to prove the claimant’s case, prior to proceeding to trial. In addition, the claimant’s ailments must also meet certain medical standards. If the plaintiff’s mesothelioma lawyers do not provide sufficient pretrial evidence, the case is dismissed. However, non-smokers who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and other cancers of the lungs, larynx, pharynx, or esophagus following asbestos exposure are not required to present prima facie evidence before trial.
IMPACT ON DEFENDANTS
In an effort to limit the size of payouts plaintiffs may receive, Florida does not award punitive damages, compensation intended to discourage bad conduct, in asbestos-related cases. Prior to the Asbestos and Silica Compensation Fairness Act, Florida imposed strict liability on all parties who were in the chain of distribution of a defective product. Under the current law, a Melbourne or Titusville defendant who sells, but does not manufacture, asbestos is may only be found to be liable if 1) the seller failed to use reasonable care and proximately caused harm to the plaintiff, 2) the product failed to comply with an express warranty ad caused the plaintiff’s injury, and 3) the seller engaged in intentional wrongdoing.
Florida’s legislative actions indicate a clear objective to limit plaintiffs in recovering compensation for asbestos exposure. Therefore, it is imperative that individuals who believe they may have developed mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related illness contact a Melbourne mesothelioma attorney as soon as the first symptoms crop up. With the help of a an experienced personal injury lawyer, injured plaintiffs can better protect their and rights receive the compensation they deserve.