Tapping into a state or federal workers’ compensation system is one legal option for people who were exposed to asbestos at work. These systems can be difficult to navigate, and many workers’ comp claims result in only modest amounts of financial help.
That’s why a better legal option for asbestos exposure compensation is a mesothelioma lawsuit. In fact, a KCIC industry report shows 4,251 lawsuits were filed over occupational asbestos exposure in 2017.
You should consult with a qualified mesothelioma attorney if you are considering filing a workers’ compensation claim for asbestos exposure or an asbestos lawsuit.
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Workers’ Compensation vs. Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Filing a workers’ compensation claim with an employer and filing a lawsuit against an asbestos manufacturer involve different processes, durations and varying financial compensation outcomes.
It’s important to understand the nuances of each legal option before making a decision.
Workers’ Comp Claims Have Stricter Time Constraints
Like lawsuits, workers’ compensation claims must be filed within an established time frame after an injury occurs. Each state has its own set of guidelines that dictate eligibility.
Although most cases of mesothelioma are caused by occupational exposure to asbestos, not all people with mesothelioma are eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. Because of its long latency period, mesothelioma is not typically diagnosed within the time frame allotted for a workers’ compensation claim.
In addition, most former workers diagnosed with mesothelioma are no longer employed at the job site where their exposure occurred.
Asbestosis patients may be more likely to qualify for this option because of the disease’s shorter latency period.
Lawsuits May Provide a Broader Range of Compensation
The amount of compensation available through an employer is often modest compared with potential litigation recoveries. State laws usually fix the maximum amount of workers’ compensation available for a particular injury.
The workers’ compensation process is nonadversarial, meaning claims are not designed to assign blame.
On the other hand, jury verdict awards may include punitive damages and compensation for pain and suffering. This can substantially increase the total amount of compensation, even if a lawsuit is settled out of court.
Workers’ Compensation Claims Are Often Disputed
The outcome of a workers’ compensation claim is influenced by individual circumstances. Merely filing a claim does not guarantee financial benefits.
If a dispute arises with your claim or you are unhappy with the outcome of your workers’ compensation hearing, you may be able to take it up with the state workers’ comp commissioner or in a court of appeals.
Remember, asbestos compensation and financial assistance may also be available through asbestos bankruptcy trust funds, government disability programs or the Veterans Administration. Consult a qualified attorney for legal advice.
History and Purpose of Workers’ Compensation
Before the 1920s, workers had to sue their employers to receive money for work-related industries. Most states enacted workers’ compensation laws in the 1920s. By the 1930s, many workers with occupational lung diseases began seeking compensation for their illnesses under these laws.
Today, every state has a workers’ compensation system. These laws create a framework for providing a number of benefits to injured employees. They also establish procedures for claiming the benefits.
Potential workers’ compensation benefits include:
- Medical care
- Temporary or permanent disability payments (replacement income)
- Assistance finding another job (vocational rehabilitation) if appropriate
Laws vary by state, and workers’ compensation programs are administered by state boards. Payments typically include a fixed amount of compensation. The amount of compensation is usually spelled out in the state law and based on the type of injury.
Replacement income provides only partial compensation for lost income and is usually subject to certain limits. Families of deceased workers may apply for benefits.
Employers are generally required to maintain some form of insurance coverage to cover job-related injuries.
An injured employee is usually required to report in writing any work-related injuries to the employer. The employer then must provide the worker with a claim form. The employer is responsible for submitting the form to the local board office and to its insurer.
Issues with Workers’ Compensation
Although workers’ compensation laws were created to provide benefits to eligible employees, they were also designed to protect employers from lawsuits by placing limits on compensation.
The federal government and a handful of states rely on government sources to fund workers’ compensation claims. Most states fund their compensation budgets exclusively through the private sector or through private carriers, which compete with state-run funds.
Because of substantial underwriting losses, private carriers have favored cutting back the scope of workers’ compensation programs during the past two decades. Some states in recent years increased private competition to reduce program costs for employers.
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U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). Division of Federal Employees' Compensation (DFEC).
Retrieved from: http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/
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Retrieved from: http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/regs/compliance/ca-11.htm
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Last Modified April 2, 2019