Asbestos exposure can lead to serious and often fatal illnesses such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. If you or a loved one has developed an asbestos-related illness, you may be eligible to file an asbestos lawsuit. The experienced attorneys at Sieben Polk Law Firm will explain your rights and evaluate your options to pursue compensation for your asbestos-related illness.
If you’ve been exposed to asbestos and developed an illness, you may wonder, “Can I Sue for Asbestos Exposure?” The most effective way to determine if you can sue for asbestos exposure is to contact a personal injury lawyer with extensive experience handling asbestos-related cases. When you turn to Sieben Polk Law Firm in Eagan, Minnesota, our team of dedicated asbestos attorneys will evaluate your case and inform you of your legal options.
Can I Sue for Asbestos Exposure?
Asbestos is a mineral fiber naturally occurring in rock and soil. It is resistant to corrosion and heat, making it a popular commercial material for decades. However, asbestos exposure is dangerous to humans. When a person breathes in asbestos fibers, they can become lodged in the lungs and remain there for years.
Repeated exposure to asbestos fibers can cause them to accumulate in the lungs, resulting in lung tissue inflammation and scarring. This has been linked to the development of many serious respiratory illnesses, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural disease, and lung cancer. It has also led to ovarian cancer and laryngeal cancer.
The well-established connection between these illnesses and asbestos exposure often means victims have strong compensation claims. If a physician has diagnosed you or a loved one with an asbestos-related disease and you know the asbestos-exposure source, you may be eligible to sue.
Legal Options for Asbestos Exposure Victims
Asbestos-exposure victims—or their surviving loved ones—may file either a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Many victims suffer long-term health complications. You may file a personal injury lawsuit for past and future losses if you’ve developed an asbestos-related illness.
Asbestos-exposure victims often die from their asbestos-related illnesses. For example, the average five-year survival rate for mesothelioma—a type of lung cancer thought to be caused almost entirely by asbestos exposure—is only 12 percent. If you lost a close relative to mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you could file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf.
The Asbestos Lawsuit Process
The first step in pursuing an asbestos-exposure legal claim is to contact an attorney with a successful reputation in asbestos lawsuits. During an initial consultation, the attorney will carefully evaluate your case details and ask about your exposure and illness to determine whether you have a viable claim.
If you decide to proceed with a lawsuit, your attorney will gather evidence to support your claim and file a complaint on your behalf.
The complaint is usually followed by a discovery period, where your attorney and the liable party’s attorneys will exchange information, evidence, and testimony.
After discovery, the parties will likely attempt to reach a settlement agreement. Your attorney will handle these negotiations. If the other party refuses to offer a fair settlement, your case will likely proceed to trial. A judge or jury will then decide whether to award you compensation for your losses and, if so, determine the award amount.
Statute of Limitations
Asbestos exposure claims are subject to filing deadlines known as statutes of limitation. If you fail to file your claim within the deadline, you may be unable to pursue compensation. Exceptions may apply in certain circumstances, but it’s best to err on the side of caution and contact an experienced asbestos lawyer as soon as possible.
Each state has its own statute of limitations for asbestos exposure claims. Minnesota’s statute of limitations for asbestos-related injuries involving negligence is six years under Minn. Stat. § 541.05. If your case involves a defective product, the doctrine of strict liability applies, and the deadline is four years. In either case, the countdown begins on the date you knew or should have known that your injury is related to asbestos exposure.
If your case involves an individual’s death from asbestos exposure, Minnesota’s wrongful death statute of limitations will apply instead. Under Minn. Stat. § 573.02, wrongful death actions have a three-year filing deadline. The clock starts on the date of the individual’s death or when a clear connection between the disease and asbestos exposure appeared, whichever came first.
What Evidence Is Needed for an Asbestos Exposure Case?
Your asbestos exposure case is only as strong as the evidence supporting it. To bring a viable claim, you must have proof of your initial asbestos exposure and how your disease progressed.
Showing that you suffered an asbestos-related disease is fairly straightforward. Medical records, including medical imaging scans, blood tests, pathology reports, and doctor’s notes, can help prove that you were diagnosed with an illness linked to asbestos exposure.
Proving you were exposed to asbestos can be trickier, especially if it occurred several decades ago. Your asbestos or mesothelioma lawyer must gather clear evidence showing where and how the exposure occurred.
They may gain this evidence by drawing from databases of asbestos products and exposure sites, contacting former co-workers and other witnesses to testify about your exposure, or obtaining internal documents showing that the at-fault parties were aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure. They may also gather written statements about the asbestos products you worked with and their exposure sites. Employment records can further support your claim.
Eligibility Requirements for Filing an Asbestos Claim
The basic eligibility requirements for filing an asbestos claim are as follows:
- You or a deceased loved one must have been exposed to an asbestos product.
- You or a deceased loved one must have been diagnosed with a medical condition with an established causal relationship to asbestos exposure.
- Your case must fall within the statute of limitations when filing.
Diseases Caused by Asbestos That You Can File a Claim For
Several diseases have been linked directly to asbestos exposure. If you have been diagnosed with any of the following diseases, you’ll have the best odds of successfully obtaining compensation:
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Pleural thickening
- Pleural effusion
- Hyaline pleural plaques
This isn’t a complete list, and you may be able to file for compensation for other diseases in certain circumstances. For example, some diseases have a possible—but not definitive—relationship to asbestos exposure. These illnesses include pharyngeal cancer, stomach cancer, and colon cancer.
If you were exposed to asbestos and have suffered an illness without a clear cause, an asbestos lawyer can evaluate your situation and determine if you have an asbestos exposure claim.
How Is Liability Determined in Asbestos Exposure Cases?
Asbestos-exposure claims are based on another party’s responsibility for the asbestos-related illness. An asbestos exposure claim may be based on negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty.
Negligence is the most common liability theory in personal injury and wrongful death actions. To prove a negligence claim, your case must establish the following elements:
- Duty: The at-fault party, or defendant, owed the person exposed to asbestos—known as the plaintiff—a legal duty, such as providing a safe workplace according to labor standards.
- Breach of duty: The defendant violated their duty by failing to meet a reasonable standard of care.
- Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
Damages: The plaintiff suffered harm from their injury.
Defective product cases are based on strict liability. If you cannot prove negligence, you may be able to build a case on a strict liability theory. The elements of strict liability are similar to those of negligence, but there is a key distinction.
To file a claim under strict liability, you don’t need to prove that the defendant acted unreasonably. Instead, you only need to show that the defendant breached their duty by selling, manufacturing, or retailing an inherently dangerous product.
Breach of Warranty
Some asbestos exposure cases involve the breach of an implied or express warranty. A breach of warranty occurs when a seller or manufacturer guarantees that a product is safe and fit for its purpose when it’s not.
When the guarantee is unwritten or unspoken but assumed, this may constitute an implied breach of warranty. An example of this type of breach occurs when a manufacturer sells a cancer-causing product that buyers assumed was safe. On the other hand, an express warranty is an explicit guarantee about a product’s condition. For example, if a manufacturer states that its asbestos-containing product is safe, it may be liable for breach of express warranty.
Who Can Be Held Liable in an Asbestos Exposure Case?
Before filing an asbestos exposure claim, you and your attorney must identify the liable parties.
Combinations of Defendants
Many asbestos exposure cases involve multiple liable parties, often because a victim was exposed to asbestos at several different job sites throughout their career.
Certain industries, including construction, frequently use asbestos-containing products or regularly expose workers to contaminated buildings.
Employers must provide safe working conditions and warn workers about asbestos dangers. If an employer fails to take proper safety measures, they may be liable for any resulting asbestos-related illness.
Most employees are covered under workers’ compensation and may be ineligible to file a lawsuit against their employer. However, exceptions exist in certain circumstances.
Manufacturers of Asbestos and Asbestos-Containing Products
Asbestos was a common material for construction and industrial projects for many decades. Asbestos manufacturers often knew about the hazards of asbestos exposure but failed to warn the public. While asbestos manufacturing has significantly slowed since the 1970s, the United States has not banned the material’s use.
Additionally, some manufacturers in other industries continue to develop asbestos-containing products, including talc products and other everyday household items.
Companies that manufacture asbestos or use it in their products may be liable for resulting asbestos-related injuries, especially if they fail to warn consumers about the risks.
Mining companies took advantage of natural asbestos sites in Minnesota and other states throughout the 20th century and into the early 2000s.
The mining process released airborne asbestos particles, putting both mine workers and nearby residents at risk. Many companies exacerbated exposure risk by failing to take proper safety measures. Individuals exposed to asbestos from mining activity can possibly file a claim against responsible mining companies.
Owners of Asbestos-Contaminated Properties
Although asbestos is no longer used in construction materials, countless asbestos-containing properties still stand. If a Minnesota property owner is performing work on an asbestos-contaminated property, they must take careful measures to minimize exposure risks to employees, tenants, and other individuals. In many cases, they also must post warnings in areas where asbestos may be present. Failure to take these precautions may result in liability to the property owner.
What Compensation Am I Eligible for if I've Been Exposed?
Asbestos exposure can leave victims and their loved ones with substantial physical, emotional, and financial damages. The primary goal of an asbestos exposure claim is to seek compensation for your losses from an asbestos-related illness.
How Is Asbestos Liability Compensated?
Damages available in asbestos liability personal injury claims may include:
- Past and future medical expenses for the diagnosis and treatment of the illness
- Lost wages due to the victim’s inability to work
- Lost earning capacity if the victim is unable to work in the long term
- Travel expenses for treatment
- Pain and suffering
When someone dies due to their asbestos-related illness, additional damages may be available to their surviving loved ones. This restitution may include funeral and burial costs and lost financial support from the deceased.
Mass Torts and Class Action Lawsuits
Asbestos has harmed many people across the United States, and a single defendant could potentially hurt dozens, if not thousands, of people. Asbestos exposure victims have pursued mass tort or a class action lawsuit.
A mass tort action is a grouping of individual lawsuits against the same defendant for the same alleged act. These cases may reach settlements on a case-by-case basis.
A class-action lawsuit, on the other hand, is a single lawsuit in which one class member represents a large group of plaintiffs with similar damages from the same defendant. However, class action lawsuits have not been filed in asbestos cases since the 1990s.
An asbestos attorney can help you determine if this type of lawsuit suits your situation.
Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts
Even when liability is clear, it may not be possible to file an asbestos or mesothelioma lawsuit against a company that has filed for bankruptcy protection. Fortunately, asbestos bankruptcy trusts exist to cover these companies’ liabilities.
An asbestos bankruptcy trust is a legal entity that can compensate victims for their losses when a liable company files for bankruptcy. If you have a claim against a bankrupt asbestos company, an attorney can decide whether you’re eligible to file an asbestos trust claim and identify the appropriate bankruptcy trust.
Sieben Polk Law Firm is Minnesota’s only law firm that handles asbestos and mesothelioma cases. Our team of skilled lawyers has recovered more than $840 million for our clients.
Some of our most noteworthy settlements and verdicts include:
- $5,000,000 for a retired pipe fitter in a lawsuit against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing equipment and defective protective masks
- $4,600,000 for a retired certified public account who spent one summer in the 1950s working as an asbestos insulator
- $4,000,000 for an individual who developed mesothelioma after working with an asbestos-containing pipe covering
- $2,000,000 for a brewery power plant turbine operator who developed mesothelioma
- $1,200,000 for a former Air Force and Minnesota Air National Guard mechanic who sued manufacturers of the asbestos-containing components he encountered on the job
- $1,000,000 for the family of a woman who died of mesothelioma in her 50s after being exposed to asbestos in high school
These results demonstrate our commitment to our clients and our exceptional legal skills. Let us put these skills to work on your behalf.