Pursuing Compensation for Victims of Asbestos

Every day, New York workers expose themselves to the inherent dangers of asbestos. This dangerous chemical was once commonplace in the construction industry and led to numerous individuals contracting a deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Today, we understand the risks of long-term exposure to asbestos and how serious a mesothelioma diagnosis can be, but many workers receive new diagnoses each day. Not only is this disease incurable, but it also comes with astronomical costs that can devastate any family in New York. But there are options available for victims to pursue compensation for their diagnosis.

At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, we understand that the costs associated with contracting mesothelioma are high, including medical procedures, doctors’ care, lost wages, and pain and suffering. That is why our legal team is dedicated to pursuing compensation on behalf of victims of asbestos exposure, as well as their families. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a tumor in the lining of the lungs or the abdomen, the New York Mesothelioma attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, can help you obtain the compensation you deserve. We offer every potential client a free consultation so that we do not add to your financial burdens. To learn how we can help you in a mesothelioma claim, call (212) 986-7353 to schedule an appointment and discuss your case.

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What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, the lining of the abdominal cavity, and the lining around the heart. This disease develops over a long period of time and as a result of long-term exposure to asbestos. If you only briefly came into contact with asbestos, it is unlikely that you will develop cancer. However, most people with malignant mesothelioma are exposed to asbestos on the job, which means they may have been breathing in this dangerous substance on a daily basis. Others may have been unknowingly exposed to it at home, school, or their place of business, and steadily developed cancer without even being aware of it. Even antiques, such as old clothing or silverware, can contain trace amounts of asbestos that can slowly lead to a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Mesothelioma has a very long latency period, ranging from 15 years to 40. Even people who may have been exposed to asbestos 50 years ago are now being diagnosed with this form of cancer. Even in early diagnosis, doctors are only able to mitigate the spread of the cancer and make the patient as comfortable as possible. Mesothelioma is almost always fatal.

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Common Causes of Malignant Mesothelioma?

Considering the number of deaths that can be attributed to mesothelioma, it is important to consider the risk factors. Exposure to asbestos, the primary risk factor, could mean you were in close contact with any of the following materials:

  • Roofing and siding materials, such as felts
  • Wall and ceiling materials such as sprayed coating used on ceilings from 1935 to 1978
  • Textured paints and spackle
  • Insulation board
  • Flooring materials, such as tiles containing asbestos fibers and mastic adhesives
  • Pipe and boiler insulation
  • Fire and heat resistant clothing, such as aprons, gloves, and hoods.

Because asbestos is often found in construction materials, older buildings are known to have large quantities hidden within the walls and infrastructure. This is why, if a landlord or tenant discovers asbestos in a building, strict protocols must be followed. First, the building must be inspected by a trained professional who can properly identify if there is a risk of asbestos exposure. Then, if they do find that the asbestos can be disturbed, meaning tenants or workers can breathe it into their lungs, then the property owner must take proper steps to have the building safely renovated.

Sadly, the danger doesn’t stop there. Workers who handle renovations can also be exposed to asbestos if a construction company does not provide proper safety equipment, including masks. These renovations are best taken slowly to avoid causing a build-up of asbestos in the air, but many companies choose to rush these projects. This can put a worker at a serious risk of contracting mesothelioma.

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Primary Risk Factor

Individuals who contract mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos regularly, often at a job site where they worked closely with the hazardous material. U.S. citizens have been exposed to asbestos since the 1940s when the shipbuilding business was flourishing. In New York in particular, Staten Island was the site of various asbestos mines dating back to the 19th century, and many of these materials were used in the insulation of New York’s many buildings. Factories, shipyards, power plants, and construction sites all had a high chance of exposing workers to asbestos until the city clamped down on the industry with strict asbestos regulations. However, there is still a major risk of exposure.

Within New York, the major industries that have shown a risk of asbestos exposure over the years include:

  • Shipbuilding
  • Manufacturing and factories
  • Construction
  • Textiles
  • Metalworks
  • Chemical processing

Those exposed also include workers doing demolition, drywall removers, construction workers and carpenters, firemen, cleaners, and workers in the automobile industry. In addition, numerous individuals were exposed to asbestos following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the collapse of the Twin Towers, including rescue workers and those who helped clear debris. Currently, the World Trade Center Health Program (WTC) recognizes mesothelioma among the cancers covered by the program and the program is designed to last until 2090 to provide treatment for later diagnosis.

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Detecting Mesothelioma Cancer

How much the asbestos affects the individual depends upon how much material the person was exposed to (dose), how long the exposure lasted (duration), and the nature of the asbestos fibers themselves (asbestos makeup).

The symptoms of mesothelioma are also common to less significant illnesses/conditions. If your doctor is unaware of your contact with asbestos, mesothelioma may not be considered in a diagnosis of these symptoms. Symptoms of mesothelioma may include the following:

  • Problems with swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of weight
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting (peritoneal mesothelioma)
  • Pain and swelling in the stomach area
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent cough
  • Palpitations

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Know the Types of Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma affecting the heart’s lining is the least common type of mesothelioma cancer. Approximately one-third of all patients with mesothelioma have peritoneal mesothelioma in the abdominal cavity. Two-thirds of all patients who have contracted mesothelioma as the result of being exposed to asbestos have pleural mesothelioma. The pleura surrounds the lungs and lines the chest cavity. Mesothelioma cancer is cancer of the lining, not the actual lungs themselves. According to the American Thoracic Society Documents, asbestos fibers inhaled on the job cause most cases of mesothelioma.

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What Are Some Mesothelioma Treatment Options?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2,000 and 3,000 mesothelioma cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Due to the seriousness of this disease, anyone who was exposed to asbestos should notify his or her doctor whether or not symptoms have appeared. Options for treatment of mesothelioma include the following:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy (Immunotherapy uses the body's own immune system to fight the cancer.)
  • Photodynamic therapy (This therapy makes use of light frequencies to activate photosensitizing drugs and kill abnormal cells.)

Individual treatment programs depend on how advanced the cancer is (the stage), cancer location, to what extent the cancer has spread, and the patient's age.

Of course, the final decision regarding mesothelioma treatment is up to the patient and to his or her family.

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Clinical Trials

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you already understand there are treatments available to extend your life and improve its quality, but there is no cure. The stress of the illness can be eased a bit by joining a support group and sharing common experiences and problems with those who truly understand the condition because they or their family member suffer from mesothelioma. You may also consider becoming part of a clinical trial where new drugs and treatment methods are being tested. There you may discover more treatment options than you knew existed.

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Obtain the Compensation You Deserve

A mesothelioma diagnosis is a very serious matter. You may be worried about how you contracted this disease, when you were exposed to asbestos, and what you can do about your future. Medical care for asbestos is available, although it can be expensive and will only mitigate your symptoms. In addition, you may be worried about who is going to take care of your family and what support you can leave them. However, you may have several options.

Following the strict regulations laid down on both a state and federal level against the asbestos industry, many companies were required to set up asbestos trust funds in order to apply for bankruptcy. As such, there are several funds across the country that still have significant funds to this day for patients to claim access to. While these funds are not unlimited, it is estimated that there is at least $30 billion left in the 60 that remaining.

If you have contracted mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, you can file for compensation from one of these funds depending on how you were exposed. These funds are available to anyone who was exposed to asbestos while on the job, while using asbestos-related products, or is a family member of an individual who was exposed.

In addition to these trust funds, you may also be eligible to file a personal injury claim or wrongful death claim against the company that exposed you or a deceased loved one to asbestos. In addition, if you were exposed on a job site, you may also be eligible for workers’ compensation, but this will bar you from filing a personal injury claim.

However, there are statutes of limitations, or deadlines to file, that you must abide by. For patients diagnosed with mesothelioma, you have two years from the date of your diagnosis to file for compensation. For family members filing wrongful death claims, the statute of limitations is three years. There may be some exceptions if you do miss the deadline, but this is not a guarantee, and you should speak to an attorney first to determine all of your options.

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Common Questions You May Have About a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Has a cure been found for mesothelioma?

No known cure exists; only treatments are available to slow the progression of the disease and to ease symptoms.

How much time can pass between my exposure to asbestos and the onset of the disease?

You may have experienced no symptoms for 30 years or more.

Are there any support groups for those diagnosed?

Yes, the National Cancer Institute has resources to help cancer patients find support groups.

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Work with a Compassionate Legal Team

Have you recently received a mesothelioma diagnosis? The New York mesothelioma attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, & Halperin, LLP, are there to help you through your medical and legal challenges. We are familiar with the latency period of mesothelioma, and we are experienced at helping individuals and families of those affected by the disease. If you bring your case to us, we will clearly outline all the legal options you have for receiving compensation, whether it involves a claim against a company that exposed you to asbestos or compensation through an asbestos trust fund. In addition, if you have lost a loved one to mesothelioma, we can explain your rights to compensation. Please call (212) 986-7353 for an appointment to discuss your case with a NY personal injury attorney.

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Additional Information