What Legal Options Exist for Veterans With Mesothelioma?
Asbestos is a human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) and the only known cause of mesothelioma, a rare cancer that affects the mesothelium (the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen). The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission restricted the use of asbestos in some products in the 1970s, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned any ‘new use’ of the material in 1989. But asbestos is still used in some products in the U.S., as well as overseas.
Each year, more than 3,300 patients are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the U.S., and nearly a third of those patients — around 30 percent — are military veterans.
Veterans and Mesothelioma
Former service members are especially at risk of developing mesothelioma because asbestos was used by the military on bases and in ships, submarines, vehicles, and aircraft. Many veterans went on to work in industries with a high likelihood of asbestos exposure after their service ended, such as construction, factory and industrial work, or aircraft or vehicle maintenance. Some also became first responders (such as police officers, firefighters or EMTs) — another group of professionals with a heightened risk of exposure to the deadly mineral asbestos.
If you are a veteran or former service member who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may want to apply for veterans benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These may include disability benefits and reimbursement for medical costs for living veterans, or survivor benefits (also called ‘dependency’ or ‘indemnity compensation’) for family members of veterans who have already passed. However, most veterans are also eligible to pursue legal action against the asbestos companies responsible for their exposure and resulting illness. Legal options for veterans with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or other asbestos-related diseases include personal injury lawsuits, wrongful death lawsuits, and asbestos trust fund claims.
How to File a Legal Claim
If you are a veteran who developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure during military service or on the job, you are likely entitled to financial compensation from one or multiple asbestos companies. Note: You will not be pursuing legal action against the U.S. military itself. It was the asbestos companies’ responsibility to alert the military about the dangers of asbestos and avoid exposing America’s service members and workers to this deadly mineral.
The idea of taking legal action may seem intimidating, but an experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you with the process and ensure that you receive the largest settlement possible. In the majority of cases, your mesothelioma attorney will travel to you to ask questions and take your statement. Although it may take time to resolve your claim and receive your financial compensation, it’s unlikely that you will need to travel or ever enter a courtroom.
To begin the legal process, your lawyer will file a claim against the company or companies that made the products responsible for your asbestos exposure. It’s important to do this as soon as possible after diagnosis since each U.S. state has a set time frame (known as a statute of limitations) during which a mesothelioma claim must be filed. There are two kinds of mesothelioma lawsuits:
Personal injury lawsuit
Patients who get mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos file this type of claim. Personal injury lawsuits provide money for current and future medical care, recovery of lost wages, and compensation for additional pain and suffering that occurs as a result of the illness.
Wrongful death lawsuit
Family members file wrongful death claims after the death of a loved one from mesothelioma. This type of lawsuit may cover past medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral expenses.
Asbestos trust funds
If the asbestos company responsible for your or your loved one’s asbestos exposure no longer exists, your lawyer will file a claim against an asbestos trust fund instead of a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Asbestos trust funds are established when an asbestos company goes out of business and files for bankruptcy. They are set up to ensure future mesothelioma patients and their families receive compensation. Currently, there are nearly 60 asbestos trusts in the United States, with an estimated $37 billion set aside for mesothelioma patients.
Workers’ compensation insurance (sometimes referred to simply as ‘workers’ comp’) is mandatory for all U.S. businesses and provides financial compensation for employees who are injured or become ill on the job. Workers’ compensation claims can help mesothelioma patients recover lost wages and money for medical expenses.