Workers’ Comp Options for Asbestos Exposure Victims

LungsSometimes, workers who are simply doing their job get placed in harm’s way. In some cases, even the employers were unaware that their workers were at risk. This is especially true when certain products and materials used in standard construction are later found to be harmful.

Unfortunately, asbestos was used as a widespread insulation and heat-retarding product for many years until it was linked to multiple diseases, such as asbestosis, asbestos-related cancer, and mesothelioma.

Workers in North Carolina who have been diagnosed with one of these asbestos-related occupational diseases may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, getting an insurance carrier to willingly recognize that fact is virtually impossible to accomplish. In almost all cases, the claims are denied and it is a long and complex process to receive just compensation. Rhine Law Firm, P.C., offers victims decades of experience when it comes time to file a workers’ comp claim, and especially one for asbestos-related disease.

Attorney M. Reid Acree, Jr., has been certified by the North Carolina State Bar as a specialist in workers’ compensation law. Over the past two decades, he has handled thousands of asbestos-disease claims on behalf of workers and their families. A single call to (910) 501-2474 can schedule your consultation with Reid to determine your eligibility for monetary and medical compensation.

What Are the Asbestos-Related Diseases?

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by breathing asbestos fibers. Prolonged exposure causes lung tissue to scar and reduces the function of the lungs. The severity of the disease will vary depending on the length of the exposure, but in most cases, the disease does not present itself until many years after the initial exposure (usually 20-30 years later). Symptoms include shortness of breath, dry but persistent cough, loss of appetite, loss of weight, and pain or tightness in the chest. The disease is diagnosed by radiology and a visit to a pulmonologist.

Asbestosis is not lung cancer, but asbestos exposure greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Why is that? Well, asbestos is a carcinogen, which means that it can cause cancer. The risk factor for a worker who is commercially-exposed to asbestos is five times greater than the general population, who are not so exposed. The risk is even greater if you were a smoker. Many people think that they cannot have lung cancer related to asbestos exposure if they also smoked cigarettes. This is not true! The two carcinogens, when combined, result in a 55 times greater chance of the worker getting lung cancer as a result of both the asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking. (That’s not 55%, but 55 times the risk!)

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the thin tissue that covers most internal organs called the mesothelium. This form of cancer is aggressive, and while there are treatments available, for most victims a cure is not possible. The most common areas affected by mesothelioma are the lungs and the abdominal organs. Symptoms of mesothelioma in the lungs include chest pain, painful coughing, shortness of breath, lumps of tissue under the skin in the chest area, and unexplained weight loss. Symptoms of mesothelioma in the abdominal region include pain, swelling, and lumps of tissue in the abdomen area, as well as unexplained weight loss. This form of cancer is normally not diagnosed until the late stages when treatment is not practical. In most cases, treatment is focused on increasing comfort rather than achieving a cure. The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.

If you or a loved one has asbestosislung cancer, or mesothelioma, call Rhine Law Firm, P.C., and speak with Reid to see if your condition qualifies you for benefits.

Filing a Successful Claim in NC

One of the keys to having a successful workers’ comp asbestos-disease claim in North Carolina is filing against the correct business or company that employed you and exposed you to the hazards of asbestos.

  • In order to be able to even file a claim for asbestosis, the victim must have worked around or with asbestos-containing products in North Carolina for at least 30 days within a seven consecutive month period.

You must file against the last company where you were exposed, but often, where the last exposure occurred is in dispute. Therefore, you should file the claim against all companies that exposed you to the hazards of asbestos. The accumulation of 30 days worked does not matter. You could have worked two days a week for 15 weeks; you could have worked 30 straight days, or any combination to reach 30 days in a single seven-month period.

Some of the common materials known to contain asbestos include, but are not limited to:

  • Asbestos insulation
  • Block insulation
  • Pipe insulation
  • Pipe covering
  • Asbestos millboard
  • Asbestos cement
  • Asbestos floor tiles
  • Asbestos ceiling tiles
  • Drywall compounds containing asbestos
  • Asbestos “mud” or paste placed around angles, of pipes, valves and other equipment
  • Roofing felt
  • Asbestos shingles
  • Asbestos wall board
  • Asbestos gaskets
  • Asbestos brakes
  • Asbestos clutches
  • Asbestos tape around boiler doors
  • Asbestos gloves
  • Asbestos blankets and aprons

The most common means of inhaling asbestos is during the process of cutting, fabricating, removing, or replacing any products that contained asbestos and by breathing asbestos-laden dust.

Work With a North Carolina Workers’ Comp Specialist

When you begin working with the team at Rhine Law Firm, P.C., we will help you to understand the process involved in filing a workers’ compensation claim as well as what you can expect to receive in terms of a benefit payout. Some factors that could influence your monetary recovery include the duration of your exposure, the severity of your illness, and, believe it or not, the amount of money you were earning while you were employed.

In addition to a potential recovery from a self-insured employer or a workers’ comp insurance carrier, we can advise you of other resources available to you, such as product liability claims or asbestos trust funds. Our goal is to ensure that the totality of your recovery will compensate you for current and future medical bills, lost wages, and provide peace of mind for you and your family. The product liability and trust benefits may even compensate you for pain and suffering as well as the emotional trauma caused by your asbestos-related disease.

To learn more about your options associated with a workers’ comp claim for asbestos exposure in North Carolina, contact Rhine Law Firm, P.C., at (910) 501-2474 to schedule a consultation with Reid Acree, an experienced NC workers’ comp lawyer.