Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer caused by inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers. Asbestos was commonly used in a number of industrial capacities for decades, exposing many thousands of workers to the deadly substance. Today, lawsuits against the manufacturers of asbestos products for failing to protect workers from the dangers of asbestos are ongoing. This is particularly relevant in Ohio, which is one of the top 10 states for deaths due to asbestos exposure. If you’ve been exposed to asbestos or have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, what are your options?
Ohio’s Mesothelioma Claim Law
Ohio is one of the most active states for asbestos-related litigation. Unfortunately for claimants, many asbestos manufacturers are facing bankruptcy due to the large number of legal claims against them. That means there may be no money with which to pay the victims of mesothelioma. Ohio’s asbestos litigation has also been plagued by large numbers of frivolous claims, which soak up resources and make it more difficult for truly sick people to get compensation.
In 2004, Ohio lawmakers reworked the law surrounding asbestos-related claims to address these issues. The new law limits who can file a claim and who can be sued over claims relating to asbestos.
Who can sue?
In order to file a claim for asbestos-related compensation in Ohio, you must be able to demonstrate actual physical impairment. That means you can’t file a claim if you’ve been exposed to asbestos but haven’t suffered any side effects. Plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma will be able to file claims without further examination. Plaintiffs who have other injuries will have to prove that asbestos was a “substantial contributing factor” in the injury.
Substantial Contributing Factors
In order to pass the substantial contributing factor test, you’ll need to show that your exposure to asbestos was a major cause of your injury. The court will look at your history of exposure, including where, how frequently, and for how long you were exposed to asbestos.
In addition to showing that the asbestos exposure was a substantial contributing factor to your injury, you’ll need to prove that the asbestos that you were exposed to was actually manufactured or provided by the defendant. In other words, you’ll have to track down the correct asbestos manufacturer, contractor, or other company.
Who can you sue?
There are several possible defendants in an asbestos case. First, you may be able to sue the manufacturers of the product that you were exposed to. However, note that many of the producers of asbestos products have gone out of business or merged with other companies. Ohio law limits the liability of these “successor” companies to their total value at the time of the merger or acquisition, meaning they may have already paid out their entire liability and you won’t be able to claim anything. Whether you can make a claim against them will depend on the specific company you’re suing.
In addition to suing the makers of the asbestos products, you may be able to sue the owner of the property on which you were exposed to asbestos. This is most relevant in cases where you lived or worked in a building that contained asbestos. You’ll have to prove that the owner of the property either knew or should have known that asbestos levels were unsafe. You may also have to show that the owner of the property intentionally violated asbestos safety standards. In general, you won’t be able to sue a property owner if you worked to install or remove asbestos-containing material on that property.
Finally, you may be able to sue your employer if you worked with asbestos-related products, although this is a difficult claim. Claims of this sort are typically handled through the workers’ compensation system. If you wish to sue your employer outside this system, you face a patchwork system of laws that limits your employers’ liability. There have been a number of successful suits against employers in asbestos cases in Cuyahoga County.
An asbestos claim will fall under one of three main categories: personal injury, wrongful death, and workers’ compensation.
Personal injury lawsuits are claims against parties who caused an injury. Typical personal injury lawsuits in Ohio must be filed within 2 years of the injury – that’s called the “statute of limitations.” In asbestos cases, however, the statute of limitations is extended. You have 2 years to file after you learn that you have been injured by exposure to asbestos. In other words, you have 2 years after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related injury.
A wrongful death claim is a lawsuit filed by the family members of a person who suffered fatal injuries due to the actions of another party. In the case of asbestos exposure, the family members of a person who lost the battle with mesothelioma may choose to file suit. A wrongful death suit in Ohio must be filed within 2 years of the death.
If your asbestos exposure occurred in the course of your employment, you may claim compensation through the workers’ compensation system. In order to make such a claim, you’ll need to notify your employer and get full documentation of your work history and your medical treatment. The compensation to which you’re entitled will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of your illness, your age, your wages, and more. Note that you can still claim workers’ compensation benefits for asbestos-related injuries even after you’ve retired.
In certain cases, companies that either produced asbestos-containing products or exposed their employees to asbestos-containing products have been ordered by the court to set aside money for those injured by their actions. Speak to a local mesothelioma attorney to learn if you qualify to claim part of one of those settlements.
What to Do
The first step in dealing with your mesothelioma is to get treatment as soon as possible. Remember to keep detailed documentation of all of your medical care. Next, contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney to discuss your options. The best plan of action for you depends on your unique situation. Our experienced mesothelioma attorneys can help you understand your options and fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and consultation.