A naturally occurring mineral, asbestos has been used for centuries due to its fire resistant properties and utility as an insulator. However, since the time when the material was first used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, it has been suspected that asbestos causes serious illnesses among those handling it.
While the use of asbestos became widespread during the Industrial Revolution, by the mid-1960s it became very clear that exposure to the carcinogenic mineral could cause a number of deadly diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the tissues surrounding many of the body's internal organs.
As such, asbestos litigation has become a necessary means for workers who were unknowingly exposed to the dangerous mineral and went on to develop one of these illnesses later in life. Such instances of asbestos litigation are becoming increasingly common around the world as the symptoms of many of the illnesses may not appear until decades after the person is initially exposed to the material.
Some of the major industries in which workers have been unknowingly exposed to the carcinogenic material include construction, auto maintenance, shipbuilding, roofing and insulation, according to the National Cancer Institute. Many employees in these fields have opted to go the route of asbestos litigation in order to garner the compensation they deserve from their former employers who acted negligently.
Additionally, asbestos litigation can be critical for a worker's family for a number of reasons. Firstly, since asbestos-related diseases are often not curable because they are diagnosed at such late stages, a person's family may be forced to endure the emotional pain as well as a financial loss if the person ultimately succumbs to the illness.
Likewise, it has been demonstrated that asbestos exposure can occur indirectly through family members coming in contact with the carcinogenic material. In some cases, the worker returns from the job and the family is indirectly exposed through his or her clothing, causing them to develop one of the deadly diseases down the road. In such cases, an asbestos attorney can be critical in pinpointing exactly when and where the exposure occurred and who was technically at fault in the matter.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), there are a number of steps that employers are required to take to ensure that their workers are not subjected to asbestos exposure on the job. These measures include constantly monitoring the air quality in asbestos-containing buildings, providing personal protective equipment and medically examining workers when legal limits of the carcinogenic substance are reached.
Often times, however, these blue-collar workers do not receive the treatment and protection that they are required to have, and this is where asbestos litigation enters the picture. During the asbestos litigation process, a person's co-workers are often invited to testify about the adverse conditions in the workplace. Additionally, such litigation can determine which parties are directly (as well as indirectly) responsible for the exposure to the carcinogenic material and the subsequent development of an asbestos-related disease. Fighting this battle can ensure that a person's loved ones are taken care of financially in the worst case scenario.
A significant number of people can likely benefit from asbestos litigation now and in the future, as the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 107,000 people around the world die each year as a result of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.