Asbestos may seem like a thing of the past, but there are 3,000 new mesothelioma cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Mesothelioma is one of the most serious diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, but there are others. Many of the companies that manufactured asbestos in the 1930s to the early 1980s went bankrupt as a result of lawsuits. However, because asbestos was not banned and it has a long latency period before developing a disease, trust funds were set up to pay for future asbestos-related claims. Today, there are approximately 60 active asbestos trust funds with an estimated $30 billion available for claimants.
Exposure to asbestos can result in both malignant and non-malignant disease in the lungs and in other areas of the body. Asbestos involvement of the pulmonary system is known as Asbestos-Related Lung Disease or ARLD. Non-malignant ARLD includes asbestosis (pulmonary fibrosis due to asbestos), pleural thickening, pleural plaques (build-up of calcified collagen in the lungs), pleural effusion (fluid in the lungs), and rounded atelectasis (abnormal lung folds). Mesothelioma, an aggressive subtype of lung cancer, is the classic malignant pulmonary disease caused by asbestos. Other malignant ARLDs include non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. The risk of developing several ARLD cancer types is substantially increased in patients who smoke tobacco. In addition to lung cancer, asbestos exposure also has been linked to cancer of the ovaries and larynx.
The latency period for asbestos-related diseases can be as long as 50 years. As a result, there are many claimants who were exposed decades ago developing disease decades later. The fastest way to obtain compensation is by filing a claim with the asbestos trust fund set up by the company responsible for the injury. The amount paid is based on the severity of the diagnosis and the value assigned to that type of disease. The scheduled values are based on how much compensation the company paid to asbestos claimants before filing for bankruptcy.
In order to recover, claimants must submit their work history, medical records, radiology studies (“B-read”), and a physician statement to support the causal relationship between the exposure to asbestos and the diagnosis. Expert witnesses are crucial to establishing the viability of the claim. Relevant experts typically include Pulmonologists who deal with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the respiratory tract including the trachea, bronchial tree, and lungs. Oncologists and Internal Medicine specialists with experience in ARLD are also helpful. They can provide a report on the nature and severity of the disease. However, other experts may also be needed to give an opinion on the claimant’s level of exposure and causation. Medical Toxicologists are experts in the treatment of poisoning, drug overdose, and exposure to toxins or biological agents. Occupational and Environmental Medicine (“OEM”) specialists focus on the diagnosis and treatment of work-related illness, injury, and toxic exposures. Both can provide valuable insight on asbestos exposure.
If you need an expert witness in an asbestos-related claim, Elite Medical Experts can help you find nationally recognized university experts in Pulmonology, Oncology, Toxicology and Occupational Medicine. Please contact us to discuss your case.