Filing Toxic Exposure Claims During the COVID-19 Pandemic. How Does it Work?

You may be entitled to asbestos compensation. Find out if you are eligible.

The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply influenced every aspect of our lives and will probably continue doing so for months to come. As it continues to spread at a fast pace throughout our country, we cannot help but ask ourselves what the future holds and what is going to happen if we get infected.

This anxiety, these questions, the fear of the unknown are all normal reactions to what is happening right now. While some might have already experienced war, recession, epidemics and even hunger, some are just now facing the reality of how fragile the human being actually is, of how fast we can lose what yesterday we took for granted. However, we are all noticing how lucky we are that despite all the gloom that has unexpectedly covered the entire world, we still have all this information and technology that helps us support each other while we get through this.

But while this crisis is keeping the headlines right now, we must not forget that there are still thousands of people discovering that they suffer from a serious illness every day. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year, over 4,000 people will receive a cancer diagnosis daily, with almost 2 million new cancer cases in total until the end of the year. Many of these patients are and will be former industrial workers or veterans who have served in various branches of the military and have been exposed to toxic agents. For them, this period is even more difficult as this virus has the potential to be even more dangerous than cancer itself. This is why it’s advisable to file a claim for worker’s compensation sooner rather than later.

What Are the Eligibility Conditions for Occupational Asbestos Exposure Claims?

Between 1940 and 1980, numerous manufacturers have exposed their workers to carcinogenic toxic agents—knowingly or unknowingly. In part, this was because they did not offer efficient protective gear and because some were not even well-informed on just how harmful these agents can be for human health. Some have intentionally concealed evidence that their use of toxic agents was putting workers at high risk for developing serious diseases.

The most dangerous and commonly used agent was asbestos, which is linked to various diseases—including lung cancer as early as 1920. However, its use wasn’t federally regulated until the 80s. Numerous industries have used enormous amounts of asbestos during that period because of its extraordinary fire and water-resistant properties and the fact that it was pretty cheap to use. Power generation, constructions, textiles and chemical are among the industries where it was most commonly used, whereas the U.S. Navy is notoriously known for having used over 300 different asbestos products in pretty much all of the ships.

Although it was largely used for insulation, in the past, an estimated 5,000 different consumer products contained asbestos in the U.S.—including building products such as ceiling tiles, roofing materials, and cement to auto parts, pumps, generators and even paint. Some of the occupations with the highest risk of exposure are asbestos products manufacturers, auto-mechanics, boiler workers and technicians, insulators, oil rig and refinery workers, shipyard workers, construction workers and textile mill workers.

By now we know that asbestos is a dangerous human carcinogen that can lead to various forms of cancer or other lung diseases that can develop within 20 to 50 years after the first exposure. Statistics have shown that over 20 percent of former industrial workers and 30 percent of veterans now struggle with lung disease or other serious health issues as a consequence of asbestos exposure.

Any former industrial worker or veteran exposed to asbestos can be eligible for claiming compensation. The primary condition for it entails having received a medical diagnosis in the last three years. The diagnoses can include lung cancer, asbestosis or other asbestos-related cancer that can be connected to the past occupation. Second, there needs to be proof of the existence of asbestos fibers inside the lungs, and for this, an asbestos screening process is necessary.

What Does an Asbestos Screening Consist of and Why Is It Important During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

For former industrial workers and veterans who have been exposed to asbestos in the past, getting screened is an important step not only in obtaining eligibility for compensation, but it can also help discover a disease in its early stages and therefore prologue their lives.

Many asbestos-related diseases do not start showing any signs until they reach an advanced stage, which can give patients fewer chances to beat the disease. Considering the current situation and the threat that the COVID-19 pandemic is posing, it’s more important than ever to get screened and discover early on if there are any asbestos fibers present in the lungs.

A screening is a non-invasive medical consultation (this means that there is no need for a biopsy) which lasts around two to three hours and consists of a series of tests: a physical examination, a chest X-ray, blood work and pulmonary function tests. As asbestos-related diseases are very often misdiagnosed, it’s important to carefully choose the medical specialist conducting these tests and disclose to them all the information regarding past exposure to asbestos or any other toxic agent. This can considerably help in getting an accurate diagnosis is necessary to fulfill the eligibility criteria for compensation.

Are Workers Compensation Claims Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Victims of asbestos exposure can qualify for multiple types of compensation; however, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations from the moment you receive your diagnosis. The statute can vary between three months and three years.

For the purpose of filing an asbestos claim, victims need to provide information such as medical records which state the diagnosis, employment records, identify the asbestos products used while on the job, and work-related activities which released the asbestos fibers in the air. Many companies that have exposed their workers to asbestos have established trust funds for the specific purpose of offering compensation to the suffering victims. However, there are other ways to obtain compensation such as a lawsuit, filing a claim with the VA, Social Security Disability Benefits or Worker’s Compensation Benefits.

In the unfortunate case that a victim loses his or her life during the pursuit of a claim or a lawsuit, family members can continue the legal process and receive compensation. More than that, family members who were subjected to secondary asbestos exposure can also obtain financial compensation

At this time, legally, there have been no changes affecting the process of filing asbestos or any other type of toxic exposure claim. Despite the fact that law firms have also closed their offices, most of them are continuing their services online and working hard in order to expedite the process of obtaining compensation especially for those who are most vulnerable and susceptible to catching the virus and suffer an unfortunate outcome.

Taking into account the risks that the novel coronavirus is raising for former industrial workers and veterans, it’s advisable to take action as soon as possible in order to ensure that rightful compensation can be obtained. It is much more difficult for family members to recover compensation once a patient has passed. It should be notable that smokers may also be eligible for compensation if they have a history of toxic exposure, so it’s extremely important that they also seek medical consultation.

Gregory A. Cade is the principal attorney at Environmental Litigation Group P.C. He has dedicated over 20 years of his life to helping victims of occupational exposure to toxic agents and actively supporting the Alabama community through initiatives such as the no-cost asbestos screening campaign which offers the possibility to get all the necessary tests which determine the presence of asbestos fibers in the lungs, for free.

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