Mesothelioma is a complex and deadly cancer that has been directly linked to exposure to asbestos-containing materials. The National Institute of Health has estimated that 11 million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978, as asbestos was once used in many products, including insulation, floor tiles, door gaskets, soundproofing, roofing, patching compounds, fireproof gloves, ironing board covers and even brake pads.
More than 2,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year, most commonly in adults between the ages of 50 and 70. The incidences of mesothelioma increase with age, due to a 25-to-50-year latency period experienced by most patients. This latency period refers to the time between initial asbestos exposure and when a doctor definitively diagnoses the cancer. In fact, the shortest possible latency period is 10 to 15 years. The length of the latency period depends on a number of factors, including the duration and intensity of asbestos exposure, the patient’s gender and the actual type of mesothelioma.
Because of the long latency period involved, mesothelioma cases present unique challenges. Developments in case law have placed greater emphasis on identifying co-workers who can both identify the products the client was exposed to and provide testimony regarding the duration and frequency of exposure. Further, many of the primary Defendants in asbestos litigation are now in bankruptcy and claimants are being left with no further recourse than to seek payment through a bankruptcy trust. Finally, a client’s time from actual diagnosis to death is typically very short – about 12 to 18 months. During this short period, it is crucial to identify the product the client was exposed to, file the lawsuit and make the client available for deposition to memorialize her testimony.
Despite these challenges, asbestos litigation will most likely continue in the United States. This is due in large part to the long history of asbestos use in the United States. Mesothelioma litigation will continue to evolve as older Defendants seek bankruptcy protection and new Defendants are identified. As a result, it is important that patients diagnosed with mesothelioma immediately associate with a law firm with the resources and experience to tackle such challenging cases. Lawyers in our firm are currently handling several mesothelioma cases. For more information about this topic, contact Mike Andrews, a lawyer in our Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, at 1-800-898-2034 or by email at Mike.Andrews@beasleyallen.com.
Source: The Mesothelioma Center at www.asbestos.com
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