Legislation & Litigation

Helping a Loved One Prove Asbestos Exposure

Written By:
Aug 10, 2012
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Written By: Karen Marshall,
August 10, 2012

Two weeks ago I mentioned two ways caregivers can help their loved ones during the process of a legal case. The first way was helping to keep records.

Another way is by helping a loved one establish their exposures to asbestos.

But the fact is, you don’t have to be an official caregiver to help. Often friends and family who don’t necessarily play an active, daily care-giving role have information that can help show when or where the plaintiff was exposed to asbestos.

Establishing Asbestos Exposure

To make an asbestos personal injury claim, a plaintiff must establish that he or she was exposed to asbestos. It generally takes decades before symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases appear.

Sometimes the diagnosis comes as a complete surprise because the plaintiff didn’t know that they were exposed to asbestos hazards. Friends and family can help a plaintiff take a trip down memory lane to remember when they were exposed to asbestos.

Here are some tips if your loved one or his attorney asks for help:

  • Consider whether your loved one has worked in any high risk occupations or locations. Steel mill workers, electricians, shipyard workers and even teachers and hairdressers are examples of high-risk occupations.
  • Keep in mind that he or she may have been exposed to asbestos on jobs that you don’t necessarily consider high risk. So another good place to start is by looking at places where your loved one may have worked for more than six months. Many people who are at high risk for mesothelioma were regularly exposed to asbestos on the job for than six months. (However, it doesn’t necessarily take that long to be exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos. For instance, 9/11 first responder Deborah Reeve was exposed to asbestos fibers at the World Trade Center site. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2004 and died just two years later.)
  • Sometimes people are exposed to asbestos in places that may surprise them, like churches, schools, government buildings or even at home. For instance, Nancy Lopez was exposed to asbestos while working at a courthouse. Barbara Navarro was exposed to asbestos at church as a child. So ask your loved one if they recall being around construction or demolition projects that may have exposed them to asbestos fibers.
  • Also remember if your loved one experienced any natural disasters. Asbestos is such a widely used building material that it poses a serious health hazard after an earthquake, flood, hurricane or tornado. That’s why proper care must be taken during clean-up efforts. But sometimes it’s not and people are injured by asbestos exposure.

Your loved one may not need help remembering these things. But related details like dates and the names of landlords, contractors responsible for abatement work, and co-workers may be very useful.

For instance, Ronald Clineff’s family had no idea that he had developed mesothelioma before dying. When his son ran into his father’s former co-worker, he learned that several people who worked at the same plant had developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Know What You’re Doing Before You Do It

Remember that your loved one’s attorney will thoroughly investigate the exposure history. It’s not helpful if you misstate facts or remember them incorrectly.

Those types of mistakes can come back to hurt your loved one’s case in court. So before you try to help, first talk to your loved one and his or her attorney about the best way to be of assistance.

In an upcoming post, we’ll offer more tips on helping during depositions and at trial. Meanwhile, contact a Patient Advocate if you have general questions about caring for a mesothelioma patient.

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