If you approach a general practice lawyer, the answer to this question is an unqualified no. Most lawyers will refer to legal precedents that created workers’ compensation laws and tell you that you cannot sue your employer for injuries received on the job. This is absolutely correct in most cases, but there are times when it is not only legal for you to sue your employer, but it is the correct course of action. In the case of asbestosis there are very specific circumstances where this is true.
When Can You Sue Your Employer for Asbestosis
You must be able to prove that your employer acted either intentionally or with egregious conduct that directly led to your injury. This would mean proving that your employer knew that there was friable asbestos in the work area and either did not inform you or provided you with ineffective protection against exposure. If your employer did provide you will protection that failed, it is more likely that you will be able to sue the maker of the respirator than your employer.
Even if there is no intentional or egregious act, in some states it is still possible to sue a current or former employer if the exposure to asbestos happened before the implementation of workmen’s compensation law. These cases are usually filed against asbestos manufacturers or installers.
In addition, in the rare case that your employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, you may be able to sue in civil court or collect money from a state fund.
Can You Sue Based on Exposure to Asbestos?
Unless you have been diagnosed with asbestosis or another asbestos-caused disease, there are no grounds for litigation. If the judicial system allowed people to sue based on the fear that they might someday in the future get a disease, the implications would be earth shattering. This is a hard pill to swallow for some people who have been exposed.
Since asbestosis doesn’t start to show symptoms until 10 to 50 years after exposure, it might be a long wait. If you have been exposed, you should keep records of when you were exposed, how often, and if you can, determine how much asbestos was in your work environment. Take pictures of anything you can and date them. This could all be very important evidence should you develop an asbestos related disease.
When Should a Lawsuit Be Filed?
There is a statute of limitations on asbestosis cases. It varies from state to state, but the clock almost always starts ticking as soon as a positive diagnosis is given. In some states the statute is as little as one year. So, if you have been diagnosed, contacting an experienced mesothelioma and asbestosis lawyer should be one of the first things you do. Our firm, Bergman Draper Oslund, primarily handles mesothelioma cases but will in rare circumstances take on an asbestosis case.