How is a case prosecuted by Bergman Draper Ladenburg Hart?
Our goal is to get our clients the best possible recovery as quickly as possible. To do this, it requires some understanding of the evidence needed to successfully prosecute a claim, and the legal process generally. Though each case has unique circumstances and may require different strategies, the following is intended to give you a general framework for how this firm conducts an asbestos case.
The law provides two avenues of recovery in an asbestos case. The first is for an injured person to bring a personal injury liability suit against different companies that were negligent in causing the injuries. The second is a wrongful death suit. This allows certain surviving family members to recover for the death of their family member due to the negligence of a third party. All states provide these avenues of recovery, though particular aspects of each state’s law may vary. However, all states do set limits on the time in which one may bring a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Therefore, if you believe you or your family member may have a viable asbestos claim, it is very important to contact an attorney as soon as you are aware of it so that the attorney may file the case. Otherwise, the statute of limitations may end up barring the claim.
Factually, an asbestos case requires an injured person to prove two things. First the person must prove that he or she has or had an asbestos related illness. Second, the person must show that the company from which he or she is seeking to recover exposed him or her to products that contained asbestos or failed to warn the person that the asbestos in their presence was hazardous. The link between asbestos, asbestosis and cancer has been known for decades. Thus, much of our investigation on a given case will focus on the products and the places where you, or a family member, were exposed. It will also require the active involvement of family members and friends to assist us in locating potential witnesses and co-workers. We will conduct interviews and visits with you and request certain detailed information about your family, work and medical histories. We may take the deposition of you or a family member.
Because of the negligence of many companies that knew about the hazards of asbestos decades ago, recent years have seen several companies file for protection from asbestos suits under bankruptcy laws. When this occurs, the companies usually end up providing compensation to injured persons or their families through a bankruptcy trust funded with company assets. Our firm is very familiar with how these trusts work and have been asserting claims to them for many years. Part of the compensation that we will be able to recover for you or your family will come from asserting claims to these trusts.
For other companies, we will negotiate directly with them outside of court in order to obtain the best possible settlement from them. In the event that the settlement offered is not adequate, we retain the right to sue the company on your behalf in order to recover fair compensation.
Finally, there are some companies through which a lawsuit is the only avenue in which we can obtain a fair recovery. We file lawsuits against those companies and prepare the cases for trial. Our goal is to have these companies pay fair compensation outside of a trial, but we always retain the option of going to trial in order to recover for you or your family. Typically, settlement negotiations occur during a court ordered mediation about six months before trial and then, if the case cannot be settled in the mediation, right up until trial. Most cases do settle, but at times a trial is necessary.
Refer to our Litigation Process and Bankruptcy Process for more detailed information.
What is asbestos and why is it dangerous?
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is mined out of rock. Due to its heat resistant qualities, asbestos was used extensively in industry and on board ships for thermal insulation. Asbestos was also used as a binder in numerous drywall and cement products.
Asbestos is not dangerous in its inert form. However, when it is cut or disturbed, asbestos releases millions of microscopic fibers into the atmosphere. These fibers, when inhaled deep into the lung, can cause irreversible injury to humans.
How do I know if I have an asbestos injury?
Bergman Draper Ladenburg Hart limit our practice solely to individuals who have been diagnosed with a serious asbestos disease. The three major asbestos diseases that have been recognized by the medical community are mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Millions of individuals have been exposed to asbestos during their work lives and most never develop serious asbestos diseases. If you have been exposed to asbestos, you need to closely monitor your health and be sure to tell your doctor about your exposure during your regular physicals. Refer to both Symptoms and Diagnosis under our Resources section for more detailed information.
What types of treatments are available if I am diagnosed with an asbestos related disease?
Many options are available depending on your preference. These options are available with more detailed information in the Resources section.
How are people exposed to asbestos?
Asbestos exposure occurs when asbestos fibers are released into the air. For example, this often occurs when thermal insulation such as pipe covering is either cut with saws during installation or when it deteriorates or is disturbed. Asbestos cements and fireproofing release fibers when they are mixed and when the dry mixture is scraped. Joint compound releases fibers when it is mixed and when it is sanded. Fibers are released from asbestos siding and asbestos cement pipe when it is cut with a power saw. Boilers release asbestos fibers during installation and major repair and gaskets give off fibers when they are scraped from pipe flanges.
Asbestos pipe insulation was used extensively on military and civilian ships and many of our clients were exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy or Merchant Marine or working in shipyards. Asbestos products were also prevalent in power plants, pulp and paper mills, oil refineries, aluminum plants, steel mills, chemical plants and other industrial facilities. Large steel frame buildings used fireproofing on the steel girders and residential and commercial structures often used asbestos containing siding and joint compound.
Can I sue for an asbestos injury even if I never personally worked with asbestos?
Dr. Irving Selikoff, one of the foremost researchers in the field, once observed that “asbestos does not respect job classifications.” He meant that the fibers that cause asbestos diseases are invisible and travel throughout the work area. Just because you never worked with asbestos does not mean you were never exposed.
The lawyers at Bergman Draper Ladenburg Hart have represented hundreds of sailors, plumbers, electricians, ship scalars, painters, riggers, carpenters, janitors, sheet metal workers, millwrights and other trades who never personally worked with asbestos but suffered from serous asbestos diseases. We have also represented spouses and family members who were exposed to asbestos indirectly from washing their husband’s or father’s clothing.
Who is responsible for my asbestos injury?
Under the laws of Washington and Oregon, every company that manufactured an asbestos product to which you were exposed is potentially liable for your asbestos injury. Thus, in prosecuting an asbestos lawsuit, one of the biggest challenges is identifying the manufacturers of the asbestos products to which you were exposed. Bergman Draper Ladenburg Hart has detailed product identification information on hundreds of job sites in Washington, Oregon and Alaska as well as hundreds of Navy vessels. Even if you do not know the manufacturers of the asbestos products that you worked around, we can probably identify some of the products to which you may have been exposed based on the job sites where you worked.
What are the products that contained asbestos?
Although asbestos was used extensively through the mid 1970s, most manufacturers did not reveal the asbestos content of their products. Asbestos was used in pipe covering and block as a thermal insulation. It was also used in fireproofing that was sprayed on steel girders and other metal surfaces. Until the mid 1970s, most joint compounds that were used to fill the gaps between sheets of drywall used asbestos as a binder. Asbestos was also used in many refractory and high temperature cements that was trawled or sprayed between bricks or onto metal surfaces. Many gaskets contained asbestos as well as most boilers that were manufactured before 1980. Finally, asbestos cement or “transite” pipe was extensively used in sewer and water systems from 1940s through the 1970s. Refer to the Asbestos Products list under our Resource section for a complete list.
Why are the asbestos companies responsible after so many years?
Although the dangers of asbestos were well-known in the medical community by the 1930s, asbestos was manufactured and used in industry and construction until the mid 1970s. These companies understood that there was a lot of money to be made distributing asbestos products and were confident that the illnesses would develop so long after the individuals were exposed to their products that they would never be held responsible.
Under the laws of Washington and Oregon, each company that manufactured an asbestos product that you were exposed to is legally responsible for your injury. In some cases, the companies that distributed and installed the asbestos products at your job sites are also liable. In every case, we assert a claim for negligence based on the fact that the asbestos manufacturers knew or should have known that they were distributing a hazardous product. We also assert claims for strict product liability based upon the defendant’s manufacturing and distribution of an unreasonably dangerous product and failure to warn of this danger. For a list of many of the companies responsible, refer to the Companies listing under our Resource section.
How do I choose an asbestos lawyer?
The lawyer-client relationship is a partnership and the client must be comfortable with his or her lawyers for the relationship to succeed. Clients should always talk to several different law firms before making a final selection. Below are suggested questions to ask and issues to consider:
- Where are you located? Would my lawyers have to travel such a long distance to meet me at my home that personal communication would be costly or difficult?
- How many years have you handled mesothelioma cases?
- What percentage of the firms lawyers work on mesothelioma cases?
- Does your law firm do the actual legal work on mesothelioma cases, or do you refer them to other law firms? If you do work on mesothelioma cases, will you work on all aspects of my case? If my case, or any portion of it, will be referred to another law firm, which firm?
- Are your lawyers licensed to practice in and familiar with the courts and the law in the state where I live?
- Do your lawyers have a proven track record in winning mesothelioma cases at trial, should my case not settle out of court?
- Do your lawyers have a successful record in the appellate courts, should my case be taken up on appeal?
If you have any questions regarding anything within this asbestos FAQ or want a free consultation call 888.647.6007