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Is Your Employer Liable for Asbestos Exposure?

On Behalf of | Sep 15, 2018 | Workers' Compensation

Asbestos exposure at work can be a terrifying thought. The fact that just a few breaths inhaling the fibers could mean so much suffering as much as 20 years down the line is just something that most people don’t want to consider. It seems natural that if you are exposed to asbestos, your employer should be held responsible, but employer responsibility for it is quite the controversial topic.

Who is Responsible for Asbestos Exposure?

As asbestos exposure is covered by worker’s compensation law, the structure itself does not allow the employee to sue their employer over their exposure to it. While this protects the employee from all the ways that employers used to prevent them from covering their injuries, it also protects employers from huge lawsuits.

However, while worker’s compensation protects the employer in the case of asbestos exposure except in the most egregious cases of gross negligence, it does not protect any third-parties. If a manufacturer, supplier, or contractor was involved in facilitating your asbestos exposure, they are not protected under worker’s compensation law, so the employee may wield a lawsuit against them.

Secondary Asbestos Exposure

While there are many states that still allow for employer liability in terms of negligence, what about secondary exposure? Secondary asbestos exposure is a term used to describe exposure to asbestos through another person who was exposed. As the microscopic fibers can cling to clothing, they can easily be transferred to the air around other people. However, while exposure liability to direct exposure is still widely argued, most states no longer allow the employer to be held liable for secondary exposure. However, if the individual has knowingly exposed themselves to asbestos and knowingly didn’t take proper precautions to protect others, they open themselves up to legal action.

What to Do If You have Been Exposed to Asbestos At Work?

If you have been exposed to asbestos at work, the unfortunate reality is that there is no way to prevent an asbestos-related illness from developing aside from not being exposed in the first place. However, there are several proactive steps you can take to vastly improve your chances of beating an asbestos-related illness if it develops.

While most asbestos illnesses don’t manifest until 20 to 50 years down the road, the sooner you catch them, the better it will be. If you have been exposed, you should go the extra length to engage in regular check-ups with a physician as well as ask them if they would recommend pulmonary function monitoring. Some physicians may recommend you wait a few years to begin this, but that should be your choice.

If you begin to manifest symptoms that something is not quite right with your respiratory system, such as coughing, chest pain, or shortness of breath, even if it is just a cold, you will want to visit a doctor. If an asbestos illness has manifested, you may want to consider switching to an asbestos specialist to get dedicated treatment.

However, the question is, who will pay for all this? If it has been confirmed that you were exposed to a significant amount of asbestos, you may have some options available to you. In most cases, worker’s compensation likely won’t cover you until you present the symptoms of an asbestos illness. However, if that does happen, you may be able to get funds to cover not only your current medical expenses, but coverage for any past tests that were aimed at detecting asbestos damage.

Even if you aren’t yet presenting symptoms, if you have been exposed to asbestos and believe you are entitled to some worker’s compensation, you should contact a worker’s compensation attorney to discuss you options.