Making a Claim for an Asbestos-related Injury
There are few topics that can strike fear in everyone’s heart like the possibility of exposure to asbestos. Not only can the person who directly inhales asbestos-laden dust become more susceptible to developing lung cancer, mesothelioma and other respiratory ailments, the families of exposed individuals also face health risks because it is possible for them to inhale the dust left on the clothes of the exposed individual. Those exposed and their families quite understandably want to hold someone accountable for the damaging effects of asbestos, which typically means filing a personal injury lawsuit against a manufacturer or other parties responsible for the hazard. Firefighters in Orlando are facing this situation after working in a building filled with asbestos for several weeks. The firefighters were ordered to clear the building in preparation for a training exercise, but the department did not inform them about the presence of asbestos or require them to wear protective gear. The health conditions caused by asbestos exposure usually do not manifest for years, making it more difficult to demonstrate an injury, but it is still certainly possible to prove a claim.
Florida law requires every person suing based on exposure to asbestos suffer an actual injury. Thus, mere exposure is not enough to file suit. The exposure must be a significant factor leading to the development of a condition associated with asbestos. The claimant must obtain a report from a physician outlining the person’s occupational and exposure history and smoking history to determine the probable cause of the present respiratory conditions. The doctor must conclude the connection between asbestos and the person’s health issues are most probably related; a conclusion that asbestos is “consistent with” or “compatible with” asbestos is insufficient to maintain a claim. Further, at least ten years must pass between the first exposure and a cancer diagnosis, and smokers suing for asbestos-related injuries will have a higher burden of proof to show a direct connection between asbestos and a respiratory cancer, which means more medical tests and more conclusive results.
A person injured by asbestos can file suit in Florida if he/she is a Florida resident or the exposure to asbestos the claim is based on happened in this state. Every asbestos claim must include reports and test results demonstrating asbestos caused the person’s injury, and the defendant receives an opportunity to dispute the sufficiency of the medical evidence. If a court determines the medical evidence submitted does not show very strong connection between the asbestos exposure and cancer, the claim will be dismissed, but the claimant can re-file at a later date with new or additional medical evidence. In addition to identifying information, each asbestos claim must include very detailed information about the exposure itself, which means anyone claiming an injury from asbestos must do a lot of legwork before a claim is even compiled. Specifically, the claim must contain:
- the exact location of each exposure;
- the beginning and ending dates of each location where exposure occurred;
- the occupation and name of the employer of the exposed person at the time of each exposure;
- the specific condition or conditions related to asbestos; and
- supporting documentation.
Asbestos claims, like any claim for medical injury, are highly technical and fact specific, which means finding a personal injury lawyer experienced with medical claims, is crucial to success. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado handles a wide range of personal injury cases and is available to assist you with recovering for your injury. Contact us today for a free consultation.