Durante siglos, comenzando con los antiguos griegos, los constructores utilizaron asbesto para estructuras ignífugas, y porque era extremadamente duradero, efectivo y, quizás lo más importante, barato.

For many employers, cost is not just an overriding concern – it is the only thing that matters. Other concerns, like worker safety, are not on their radars. Asbestos use didn’t taper off in the United States until the 1980s. Pretty much any structure built before then probably contained asbestos, mostly for cost purposes.

As outlined below, many of the workers who installed asbestos in the 1970s and 1980s might just now be showing some signs of enfermedad relacionada con el asbesto. Even if the workers’ compensation claims deadline passed months, years, or decades earlier, asbestos illness victims, like mesothelioma victims, usually still have options under workers’ compensation.

Life-changing benefits are available in these cases. But insurance companies don’t just give these benefits away. In fact, workers’ compensation insurance companies often fight asbestos claims tooth and nail. Unless victims have aggressive legal representation, there’s basically no chance they can out-argue the insurance company’s lawyers.

Presentar un reclamo

The first step in claiming workers’ compensation for asbestos exposure is filing that claim. 

Usually, job injury victims must immediately notify their supervisors in writing. This requirement typically isn’t a problem in fall and other trauma injury cases. But it could be a significant problem in toxic exposure and other occupational disease claims. 

That’s especially true in asbestos exposure claims. Asbestos can cause a variety of malignant diseases that take a while to appear, including cancers like mesothelioma. In fact, mesothelioma’s latency period could be up to seventy years.

Other asbestos-related illnesses include breathing diseases, like asbestosis and bronchiolitis obliterans (also known as “popcorn lung,” which acquired its name from the build-up of scar tissue in the lungs, though not necessarily from asbestos in popcorn ceiling testing). Much like mesothelioma, these breathing disorders have long latency periods. So, by the time victims realize they are sick, their conditions are difficult or impossible to treat.

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of heart-lung cancer that’s exclusively connected with asbestos exposure. 

Un workers’ compensation immediate reporting requirement usually isn’t an issue in asbestos exposure, thanks to the discovery rule. Victims don’t have a legal obligation to launch claims until:

  • Son plenamente conscientes del alcance total de sus lesiones, y
  • They link their injuries to a defendant’s wrongful conduct, or in this case, a work environment.

La exposición ocupacional al asbesto es una de las fuentes más comunes de lesiones por asbesto.

Assume Jimmy worked as a builder on the World Trade Center in 1972. No one knows how much asbestos was in the Twin Towers, but workers may have used several tons of this toxic substance. Jimmy’s doctor tells him he has cancer in 2022. In 2027, Jimmy stumbles across an op-ed about asbestos in the World Trade Center.

Most likely, Jimmy still has a workers’ compensation claim in 2027. The claims deadline didn’t pass in 1972 or even 2022.

Beneficios disponibles

If Jimmy worked in the World Trade Center following its construction and he inhaled an asbestos fiber, he must probably file a negligence claim against his then-employer to obtain compensation for his injuries. This compensation is available if he proved negligence, or a lack of care. But workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance. Injured workers need not prove negligence, recklessness, or anything else to obtain the following benefits:

  • Lost Wage Replacement: In temporary disability claims, workers’ compensation usually pays two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage (AWW) for the duration of that temporary disability. The AWW includes regular and irregular cash and non-cash compensation. Asbestos illnesses are often permanently disabling or even fatal. In these cases, workers’ comp usually pays a lump sum based on the amount of lost future compensation.
  • Medical Bill Payment: The medical bills in a disability claim often exceed the lost wages. The average injury-related hospital bill is over $55,000. Frequently, group health plans exclude injury-related costs. Workers’ comp pays all reasonably necessary medical bills. That category includes all expenses from the first moment of EMT care to the last day of physical therapy. This benefit also applies to transportation, medical devices, prescription drugs, and other ancillary medical expenses.

En algunos casos, las víctimas de lesiones laborales pueden demandar fuera del sistema y obtener una compensación adicional por su dolor y sufrimiento, angustia emocional y otras pérdidas no económicas. Los escenarios comunes incluyen empleadores que intencionalmente o por imprudencia envían trabajadores a áreas infestadas de asbesto o empleadores que no brindan equipo de protección.

“Providing equipment” means more than making such equipment available. Employers must also train employees in its use and explain its importance.

Asbestos exposure victims might have other options as well. An asbestos trust fund claim is one example. Many asbestos providers went bankrupt under the weight of illness claims. Federal courts forced these companies to set up a victims’ compensation fund as a condition of their bankruptcy. In many ways, trust fund claims are like workers’ compensation claims. Establishing cause is usually the most important step.

Cause in a workers’ compensation claim usually means a work-related connection. 

Contamination sources are very difficult to trace. 20,000 asbestos fibers can fit between Abraham Lincoln’s chin and nose on a U.S. penny. It only takes one fiber to cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other diseases. This one fiber could come from almost anywhere.

Typically, the burden of proof in a workers’ compensation claim is a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. To see how this works, let’s return to the above example and change the facts a bit.

Assume Jimmy’s work project was in the South Tower. However, he walked past the North Tower several times a day, mostly on his way to work during lunch, and on his way home from work. If he picked up a North Tower fiber, workers’ comp probably wouldn’t apply.

However, Jimmy spent more time in the South Tower than he did in the North Tower. So, it’s more likely than not that he inhaled a fiber while he was on the job.

By the way, inhaling a fiber isn’t the only way to get sick. These fibers are so small that they could pass through any opening, like a pore or a tear duct. Asbestos fibers can also absorb directly through the skin.

Aproximadamente este mismo pensamiento se aplica si la víctima tiene una condición preexistente o coexistente que contribuye a una enfermedad o lesión relacionada con el trabajo.

Assume Mary, who is a construction worker, has a bad knee because of an old sports injury. She falls at work and, because of the bad knee, her injuries are much worse than they would have been otherwise. Mary is probably entitled to maximum workers’ comp benefits. She must simply prove that her job injury aggravated her pre-existing condition, instead of the other way around. Mary’s lawyer would most likely partner with an independent doctor to provide the necessary evidence in court.