Workers’ compensation claims refer to a claim filed by an employee against the employer for on-the-job asbestos exposure. In the case of asbestos, this claim is filed mainly for compensation for health problems related to exposure. However, workers’ compensation is a complicated minefield, which requires finesse and understanding of the process to navigate properly. 

For instance, by filing for workers’ compensation, a person essentially waives their right to file a lawsuit against their employer. That means it’s important to work with a competent, qualified, and experienced asbestos lawyer who can help clients understand the nuances and read in between the lines to get the compensation they deserve before closing off alternatives.


If you may have been exposed to asbestos, even when you were a child, speak to your healthcare provider about tests and screening to help detect the presence of asbestos fibers and asbestos-related diseases.

History of Workers’ Compensation and Asbestos

The history of asbestos with regardings to exposure risk and the compensation associated with this would make a conspiracy theorist’s day. By the early 1900s, there was evidence proving that asbestos could cause illness and eventually lead to death. However,  it was considered a “miracle mineral” and, thus, the profits associated with it were enormous. Therefore, companies decided to ignore the blatant evidence they had and instead sweep documentation under the rug. The status quo was maintained until the mid-1980s when the risks became widespread knowledge and they could no longer be ignored.

Asbestos company doctors were advocating for workers’ comp but companies ignored the issue in favor of profits. The use of asbestos was a major driving force behind the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, so one can imagine just how many people were exposed by the time workers’ comp was institutionalized. For a clearer understanding of just how serious the risk of asbestos was, one should know that it was the first industrial material regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after it was founded in 1970.  The fact that asbestos-related conditions have a very long latency period before symptoms manifest makes the matter even worse.

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Issues Affecting Workers’ Compensation for Asbestos Exposure

There are many factors to consider when seeking worker’s compensation. Some of these follow:


One of the most critical factors to keep in mind when filing for workers’ comp is time. Before issuing compensation, a company will try to ascertain whether a claimant’s injury was present within a specific timeframe. Each state has different guidelines that govern eligibility for asbestos exposure workers’ comp, and depending on one’s medical condition, they may qualify (or fail to qualify) for funds without having to present tangible proof. For instance, mesothelioma has a higher latency period compared to other asbestos-related conditions and may not fall within the set timeframe required.

Amount of compensation

There is a set maximum for workers’ compensation payouts. Even including punitive damages, the money offered by workers’ comp may not be sufficient to cover medical bills and lost wages. Punitive damages are money awarded by the court in cases where the employer lied or hid evidence about the danger that caused harm to the employee. But, of course, a lawsuit must be filed in order to seek these damages, and not all plaintiffs are awarded punitive damages.

“The overall evidence suggests there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.”

Source: National Cancer Institute (NIH)1


Before being awarded worker’s compensation, one must usually prove that the asbestos exposure happened while on the job and that exposure definitively caused the health issues experienced. Both of these criteria are difficult to prove, especially in cases where the case is made decades after exposure, which is common.

Work records can be used to prove that an individual was working at a particular site with proven asbestos exposure or using products that contained asbestos. Similarly, medical records can be used to show that the health problems were the result of asbestos exposure. However, this usually requires the patient to fall into specific symptomatic criteria or show definitive evidence of on-the-job injury.

The Helsinki criteria can be used to evaluate whether an individual developed an illness due to exposure. It shows that patients of Asbestos Related Lung Cancer (ARLC) who, on average, are older than 72 years, are more likely to be diagnosed as a result of incidental screening programs, and plaques are the most prevalent diagnosis.

Second-hand asbestos exposure (Secondary Asbestos Exposure)

Even the workers’ families were affected due to secondhand exposure—asbestos fibers are extremely durable and can cling to skin and clothing, traveling great distances with those directly exposed.

Asbestos fibers have no taste or smell, and can be microscopic, so you may not realize you were breathing them.

Unfortunately, many workers’ families and other household members were exposed to asbestos as well, as asbestos was brought home daily in neighborhoods across the U.S. on work-clothing

This is often known as secondary or second-hand asbestos exposure (or domestic / household family asbestos exposure). In studies of asbestos disease, 1 in 5 cases of asbestos exposure were caused by secondary asbestos exposure.2

But spouses and children can also receive a share of the $30 Billion in asbestos trust compensation if they were exposed to asbestos brought into the house or family vehicle by a worker.

Second-hand exposure

Workers’ compensation for asbestos exposure doesn’t cover second-hand exposure. It can only be used for direct exposure in an employer-employee dynamic. Fortunately, victims of second-hand exposure may qualify for asbestos trust funds. Asbestos trusts provide more compensation and are faster and easier to handle, in general.

Statute of limitations

This limits the amount of time that can pass before a person files for workers’ compensation. Immediately after diagnosis of an asbestos-related condition, a claimant should consult with their asbestos lawyer for advice on whether it’s appropriate to file for workers’ compensation or pursue other alternatives instead. Keep in mind that the statute of limitation starts from the date of known injury. In wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations begins immediately after the date of death of a loved one.

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Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation Claims

There are several alternatives to seeking worker’s comp funds. Here are just a few:

Asbestos litigation

Asbestos litigation involves filing a lawsuit for negligence and/or failure to warn. The premise is that if a person is not aware of the dangers of something, they cannot consciously avoid the risk. This applies to direct exposure from working at asbestos companies or with asbestos products. It can also apply in cases of second-hand and third-hand, or tertiary, exposure. Asbestos litigation falls under civil law and covers healthcare costs including ongoing care, lost wages and opportunities, and physical and mental pain and suffering including the fear of developing cancer, as well as wrongful death. Asbestos litigation generally yields much higher payouts than workers’ compensation claims and may include punitive damages where necessary. However, statute of limitations applies to most cases.

Asbestos bankruptcy trusts 

An asbestos trust is a fund set up by an asbestos company after filing for bankruptcy to pay compensation to victims of asbestos exposure. It is usually more straightforward than asbestos litigation or workers’ comp claims. The underlying requirement is that an individual proof they qualify for funds, after which they are awarded compensation based on a payment schedule, the type of asbestos-related disease incurred, and the payment percentage of the trust.

“Generally, those who develop asbestos-related diseases show no signs of illness for a long time after exposure.”

Source: National Cancer Institute (NIH)3

The Bottom Line on Asbestos and Workers’ Compensation

Workers Compensation may be available for asbestos exposure on the job. But there are other claims as well that can be faster and provide higher compensation for occupational asbestos exposure. 

Workers’ compensation is a viable compensation method for workers who were directly exposed to asbestos while on the job. However, it’s always best to consult with an experienced asbestos attorney before filing for workers’ comp to determine whether this is the best route or an alternative option exists. 


For Justinian C. Lane, getting compensation for asbestos victims is personal.

Justinian’s grandparents and his father all worked with asbestos in their younger years and died from asbestos-related cancers in their later years.  

At the time of each of their deaths, no one in Justinian’s family knew that they were eligible to file an asbestos lawsuit and to seek compensation from the asbestos trusts.

Because no one in Justinian’s family knew their options, they never received any compensation for the death of their loved ones. 

If you believe that you or your family member’s injury was related to asbestos exposure, you could be entitled to significant compensation.

This is money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being. 

There are also asbestos trusts that offer compensation much more quickly and easily (without filing a lawsuit.)

If you’d like help with filing a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], or call or text us at (833) 4-ASBESTOS (427-2378) or (206) 455-9190. We’ll listen to your story and explain your options. And we never charge for anything unless you receive money in your pocket.

In addition to legal claims, veterans disability, social security and employment protection like workers compensation, FELA and The Jones Act for maritime workers, there are asbestos trusts that have been set up to compensate those harmed by asbestos without having to file a lawsuit.

There is no risk or cost to speak with one of our staff about your asbestos litigation. There are no fees unless you receive money.

If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, check out our website and YouTube page for videos, infographics and answers to your questions about asbestos, including health and safety, asbestos testing, removing asbestos from your home and building, and legal information about compensation for asbestos injuries.

Introducing the largest database of asbestos information on the planet.

W.A.R.D., which stands for the Worldwide Asbestos Research Database, helps clients to narrow down when and where they may have been exposed, as well as which products may still contain asbestos. W.A.R.D. will also help indicate compensation types and how much a person may be entitled to.

Scholarly Reference: Guidotti TL. Apportionment in asbestos-related disease for purposes of compensation. Ind Health. 2002 Oct;40(4):295-311. doi: 10.2486/indhealth.40.295. PMID: 12502232.
1 National Cancer Institute (NIH), Asbestos Fact Sheet.
2 Tompa E, Kalcevich C, McLeod C, Lebeau M, Song C, McLeod K, et al. The economic burden of lung cancer and mesothelioma due to occupational and para-occupational asbestos exposure. Occup Environ Med 2017; 74: 816-22.
3 National Cancer Institute (NIH), Asbestos Fact Sheet.