If you have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace resulting in an occupational disease like mesothelioma or asbestosis, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation – or you may have a third-party lawsuit against the individual or corporations responsible for your exposure.
What is asbestos and are workers still exposed to it in the workplace? When can you file a workers’ compensation claim for asbestos exposure in the workplace?
Workers’ Compensation for Asbestos
At one time, asbestos was seen as a miracle product that was flame resistant – throughout the past century, it was used in all kinds of construction materials and other products.
Then people started getting sick, and, despite the efforts of some companies to hide the harmful effects of asbestos, it became clear that asbestos causes serious and often deadly illnesses including asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Asbestos can still be found in workplaces today It is still used in some automobile parts, roofing materials, and other construction materials, and can be found in homes, commercial buildings, schools, and factories across the country.
If you suspect that you have been exposed to asbestos, it is critical that you get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. It can take years, or even tens of years, before the symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses or cancer are diagnosed, and it often leads to life-threatening illnesses like asbestosis or mesothelioma.
SC Workers’ Compensation Covers Asbestos Exposure in the Workplace
Workers’ Compensation in SC covers occupational diseases. SC Code Section 42-11-10 says:
“Occupational disease” means a disease arising out of and in the course of employment that is due to hazards in excess of those ordinarily incident to employment and is peculiar to the occupation in which the employee is engaged. A disease is considered an occupational disease only if caused by a hazard recognized as peculiar to a particular trade, process, occupation, or employment as a direct result of continuous exposure to the normal working conditions of that particular trade, process, occupation, or employment. In a claim for an occupational disease, the employee shall establish that the occupational disease arose directly and naturally from exposure in this State to the hazards peculiar to the particular employment by a preponderance of the evidence.
This means that if you are diagnosed with a disease caused by asbestos exposure like asbestosis or mesothelioma, and the disease resulted from exposure to asbestos at your workplace, workers’ compensation insurance should pay for your medical expenses, permanent or temporary disability, or, in the worst-case scenario, death benefits to your family.
What is Asbestos and is It Still Found in Workplaces?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is highly resistant to heat and corrosion. Because of these properties, it was (and still is) used in insulation, flooring, and other building materials. It is also used in auto parts like brakes and clutches.
According to OSHA, asbestos exposure in the workplace today is most common during the demolition or construction of items that contain asbestos or during the manufacture of asbestos products:
Heavy exposures tend to occur in the construction industry and in ship repair, particularly during the removal of asbestos materials due to renovation, repairs, or demolition. Workers are also likely to be exposed during the manufacture of asbestos products (such as textiles, friction products, insulation, and other building materials) and during automotive brake and clutch repair work.
The use of asbestos has decreased in recent decades, but it is still used, and workers are still being exposed to it on their jobs…
What is Mesothelioma – Is it Different from Asbestosis?
Asbestos exposure in the workplace can lead to two primary illnesses, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Although they are different, both attack the lungs, and both are deadly.
Both diseases are caused by repeated exposure to asbestosis fibers, which can travel through the air when insulation or other asbestos products are disturbed. The fibers become trapped in the lungs or other tissue, the body’s immune system causes inflammation to remove the fibers, and, over time, the inflammation causes damage and scarring on the lungs or other tissue.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, chest cavity, or abdomen and can also damage other organs in the chest cavity including the heart. Mesothelioma is difficult to treat, and the average life expectancy is one to two years.
Asbestosis is a hardening of the lungs caused by scarring from asbestosis fibers. The scarring makes it more difficult to breathe and can cause oxygen deficiencies and other respiratory problems that worsen over time.
Exposure to asbestos in the workplace can lead to other occupational illnesses as well, including:
- Lung cancer,
- Pleural thickening,
- Pleural effusion,
- Atelectasis, and
- Pleural plaques.
Workers’ compensation claims in SC are no-fault and can only be brought against an employer by an employee.
Depending on the victim’s circumstances, however, they may also have a lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor, seller, or another third party for personal injury or wrongful death for negligence, strict liability, or breach of implied warranties.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, COPD, or any occupational disease caused by exposure to asbestos or chemicals in the workplace, you may have a workers’ compensation claim and you may have a lawsuit for compensation from the responsible parties.