Mesothelioma is one of those terms that we’ve all heard a million times on tv or in advertisements, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who could explain what it actually is.
The illness is a reality for many people, and it’s likely that if you or a loved one has it, it’s a result of long-term exposure to asbestos. That means it’s probably not your own fault that you’ve gotten sick. The failure of a landlord or property manager has resulted in your serious illness.
These are times to move forward with a mesothelioma lawsuit. You will have a case, and winning the case could ease your financial troubles in this difficult time. We’ll discuss mesothelioma in detail and fill you in as to how you can move forward with legal action.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma, first and foremost, is an aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelia directly attacks the mesothelium.
The mesothelium is a thin membrane that lines all of our bodies’ organs, as well as providing protection for a couple of other cavities within the body. The essential function of the mesothelium is to provide a protective barrier for our organs that also allows the necessary fluids to move freely among them.
Having a healthy mesothelium protects us from a number of diseases and infections, and allows our organs to function properly. Mesothelioma is most commonly associated with the malfunction of the mesothelium in the lining of the lungs and the pleural cavity.
The pleural cavity is a small space between membranes that surround the lungs. Its essential function is to provide lubrication for the lungs as they expand and contract while we breathe. It is for this reason that mesothelioma patients often have extreme difficulty breathing.
The lack of lubrication prevents the lung from functioning normally, and this side effect exists on top of underlying cancer symptoms.
Why Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma
Asbestos used to be extremely common in construction and home repair. A number of materials, such as paint and insulation, contained asbestos because it was strong, fire-resistant, and great for insulation. When separated from its health effects on humans, asbestos is an extremely useful material.
Part of asbestos’ strength comes from the fact that its fibers are tiny and jagged. This structure binds extremely tightly and holds materials extremely well. Part of this is the fact that the fibers are roughly 500 times smaller than a strand of human hair and difficult to destroy.
The trouble with asbestos is that the strength of those fibers, while great for our construction materials, outmatches the strength of the lining of our lungs. Those tiny fibers latch themselves onto the outer layer of our lungs, making their way into the epithelium.
When a smoker quits, their risk of disease slowly reduces over time because their lungs have time to metabolize, or remove pollutants, and move forward. Unfortunately, asbestos is so strong that our lungs are not able to metabolize them.
That means that exposure to asbestos is permanent, and the fibers stay with us. The lung’s reaction to asbestos fibers is inflammation. While inflammation is serious, the true damage comes from the reaction that our DNA has to asbestos.
Asbestos fibers actually cause damage to our DNA. In the presence of asbestos, mutations in our DNA arise that cause mesothelium cells to divide exponentially faster than they would otherwise. The growth is, in a sense, uncontrollable.
These over-reproduced cells quickly turn into a tumor. Tumors are another one of those things that are well-known but ill-understood. A tumor is essentially just an overgrowth of cell tissue that can either be malignant or benign.
Mesothelioma tumors are malignant. As time moves forward, overgrowths of cells called mesothelial plaques begin to spread about the mesothelium, eventually spreading to most of the outer layer of the lungs. While lungs are the primary source of mesothelial cancer, it is possible to get mesothelioma in any of the body’s internal organs.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
You may be experiencing mesothelioma if you have a shortness of breath, paint in your chest, or bloody mucus material coming from your lungs. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms you should get a check-up as soon as possible.
The diagnosis usually starts out with a basic x-ray or CT scan. Doctors will look at your lungs to see if there is thickening of the lung’s outer membrane or air in the pleural space between the lungs.
If your lungs show any sign of mesothelioma, especially an overgrowth of cell tissue, the doctors will take a biopsy of those cells. A biopsy is essentially the action of taking cells from a specific location on the body and testing them for the presence of a disease.
If your mesothelial cells show the presence of a mutation and damaged DNA, it’s extremely likely that you have mesothelioma.
When mesothelioma is caught early, there is a far better chance of the patient recovering. Unfortunately, though, the cancer is very resilient and fast-moving. By the time that most people are diagnosed, cancer has spread from the lungs to multiple organs.
The treatment that a patient will go through depends heavily on the stage that the mesothelioma is in. The treatments usually contain a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Estimates show that the costs of mesothelioma are extremely high as well. The first year alone is estimated to cost you upwards of 60,000 dollars.
If You’re Worried…
You may be wondering if you’ve been exposed to asbestos in your lifetime. You certainly have. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to develop mesothelioma, though.
The latency period for mesothelioma is extremely long. A latency period is the amount of time between a person’s exposure to a harmful substance and the moment that they start showing symptoms of a disease.
The data shows that there’s a slight variation in the latency period for men and women, with women having about four extra years before symptoms show. Still, the period for men is roughly 48 years, and the period for women is 53 years. You need to have a very long-term, heavy exposure to asbestos before you get the disease.
Most cases come from the presence of asbestos in the home. The disease is far more likely to occur in people from the United States because of our use of asbestos in building materials.
Taking Action With a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
If you’ve recently found that you or a loved one has contracted mesothelioma, you should immediately identify the source of the asbestos. In many cases, as we’ve mentioned, the presence of asbestos is the failure of a landlord or property manager.
The type of claim that you file will depend on whether or not the mesothelioma patient is still alive. When the person is alive, you will file for a personal injury lawsuit. When they are deceased, you will file for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Personal Injury Lawsuits
A personal injury lawsuit should be filed by the affected person after they receive a medical diagnosis. This suit will be filed against the company or person responsible for the presence of asbestos in the relevant area.
You must have a relevant argument as to why the illness was caused by the company that shows a clear correlation.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
This claim will be filed by the surviving family members of the mesothelioma patient. These claims must be backed up by a relevant connection to the disease and the company at fault.
These lawsuits are made in an effort to help patients and their families recover financially from the huge hit of mesothelioma treatment. You should seek legal assistance in your efforts to take action.
There are a lot of situations in which wrongful death lawsuits could be filed. If you’re suspicious in any way about a loved one’s death, especially if it has to do with medical practice, you should consider taking legal action.
The Process of Filing a Lawsuit
The first step that you should take is to consult with a qualified lawyer. Seek out lawyers who have experience with mesothelioma cases, and, further, have won those cases.
Make sure you find a person who you get along well with because you will be dealing with them heavily for as long as the lawsuit takes to run its course. Make sure they seem honest, knowledgeable, and forthright with their thinking and discourse.
Once you find the right lawyer for you, you should expect that lawyer to do a good deal of research pertaining to your case. That means looking into the fine details of the situation that exposed you to asbestos.
Things like building materials, employment records, knowledge of timeframes and changes in the law, and more. Additionally, this person should understand your medical history. Not only should they have a good understanding of your mesothelioma records, but they should take a look at your prior medical history too.
The next thing to do is assess the value that you could receive from the company’s asbestos trust. A lot of companies that worked heavily with asbestos started to get an incredible amount of lawsuits after their workers’ latency periods began to close.
Companies under that kind of fire can file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This exempts them from being subjected to lawsuits. In the absence of lawsuits, these companies fund trusts with money that goes to mesothelioma cases.
Many companies do not have enough money in their trusts to pay out the full claims, so they offer percentages in many cases. On average, trusts pay out around one-quarter of the value of the claim. They don’t pay out the full value in order to deal with the predicted claims of the future.
There are alternative ways to get compensation, though. This is mostly relevant in cases where the company does not yet have an asbestos trust fund.
Filing the Lawsuit
Once the lawyers have determined a venue to file the suit in, they will introduce a formal complaint.
This complaint should cover the primary causes that you are taking legal action, giving specific reasons and showing the validity of your case. There’s a chance that there are even multiple defendants put in question, and the formal complaint will put all relevant parties into the picture.
After this point, lawyers on both sides of the argument will work to find information that supports their side. This side usually involves a number of motions that are aimed at settling the dispute before it goes to trial.
In many cases, the goal is to save time and money by settling for a dollar amount. Most cases are solved this way. There’s still the chance, however, that it will go to trial.
When Your Case Goes to Trial
A trial is especially difficult because it’s paired with the reality of cancer. These trials can go on for longer than expected, and it’s recommended that you prepare for an emotionally taxing experience.
Make sure that your team of lawyers is experienced in asbestos cases. This will minimize the chance of costly and time-consuming errors preventing the case from getting settled.
The length of your trial will depend on a couple of things. It matters how many plaintiffs are filing, how many defendants are involved in your claim, whether or not you are one of many people filing similar cases, and a few other things specific to the case.
Each case is different, so it’s impossible to have a definite time-frame. On average, asbestos cases take somewhere between two weeks and two months. That being said, the process could go on for over three months.
That is the trial itself– more time is needed for the pre-trial research, consultation, and the discovery period. All of those things will take different amounts of time, depending on the specifics of the case.
Need an Attorney?
Filing a mesothelioma lawsuit is a huge decision, and you should work with a professional throughout the whole process. The last thing you need is the intense stress of dealing with legalities while more pressing family matters are at hand.
If you’re looking for any assistance in a mesothelioma case, contact us and we would be happy to help with anything you need.