California is the site of several shipyards, marine repair facilities, power plants, mining operations and oil refineries where workers may have been exposed to asbestos. California is also home to some of the nation’s largest asbestos deposits. Asbestos exposure can cause severe health problems, including mesothelioma cancer, a disease for which there is no cure.
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Over the past decade, California lawmakers responded to these occupational and environmental asbestos risks with a number of laws, regulations, safety standards and programs aimed at reducing exposure. Included in the regulations were new certification requirements for contractors and consultants who handle and remove asbestos in thestate.
California was not alone in proposing and adding asbestos regulations in recent years, although some states like Texas, Ohio and Georgia, added a layer of laws to combat a climbing number of asbestos-related claims.
As the national awareness about asbestos and its hazards grew and lawmakers enacted tougher regulations of the mineral, California concentrated its efforts on limited exposure. For instance, one asbestos-related regulation, Title 8, mandated employers take specific steps to ensure proper air quality and that they document all levels of potential exposure.
California school districts and institutions of higher learning also adopted new codes. State colleges and universities, acting independently, pushed through their own standards of abatement and exposure under state law. The University of California Santa Cruz in 2001 agreed to keep asbestos related records - exposure records, respiratory fit testing records, abatement records - for 30 years. It also set forth training for abatement and set certification standards.
In addition to implementing asbestos safety measures, California has long been one of the leading jurisdictions for asbestos lawsuit filings. Early asbestos lawsuits were generally filed in areas, including California, where significant numbers of workers had been exposed to asbestos. In the 1970s and 1980s, California was one of four states that accounted for more than 60 percent of state asbestos case filings. By 2000, the majority of asbestos filings occurred in a handful of other states, such as Texas.
Not all of these new case filings resulted in verdicts (e.g., they were dismissed or settled). However, from 1993 through 2001, California was among five states that accounted for 65 percent of asbestos trials that ended in verdicts.
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Since 2000, some states with a significant amount of asbestos lawsuits began enacting laws to limit new filings. California has not enacted similar laws. Meanwhile, some of the state's courts have reportedly experienced increases in the number of asbestos case filings by both in-state and out-of-state claimants each year.
Although California has not enacted some of the reform laws that have been popular in other states, its courts have taken other measures to manage large asbestos caseloads and expedite claims by extremely ill patients. For instance, a "fast-track" scheduling approach allows cases of terminally ill patients to go to trial in 120 days. In addition, at least some judges actively encourage the parties to resolve cases quickly through trial or settlement.
If you are suffering from an asbestos-related illness, it is best to speak with a qualified mesothelioma attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you file a claim for compensation for your injuries in California or another state, as appropriate. Keep in mind that California and other states limit the amount of time you have to file your case. Because the life expectancy of many mesothelioma sufferers is so short, time is important.
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