Asbestos was widely used across the globe because of its useful properties such as strength, insulation capabilities etc. But when it was realized that it is harmful for human health, the situation changed. In last few decade many countries have banned the use of asbestos and many others have limited its usage.
With new evidence and cases coming, it became clear that asbestos was cause of many deadly disease including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Many of these cases indicated the diseases was caused as proper precautions were followed (say in an asbestos mine or in asbestos factory) or in some cases due to illegal use of the metal. This lead to filing of lawsuits against companies.
After these significant number of such cases of asbestos related disease started surfacing, US government took steps to curb such incidences by partially banning asbestos and also putting guidelines of how people who have suffered can be compensated. Many are of the opinion that US laws concerning asbestos and related compensation benefits are not adequate. The first point is regarding partial ban on the metal, which is well known to be deadly (there are countries, especially in Europe where there is complete ban on asbestos and its products). Secondly, the compensation system and guidelines are considered to be inadequate by many. Claimants are compensated in limited amount for loss of life, pay and sickness. many find this compensation system far more rigid and stringent than for other diseases, for example in case of coal miners.
Asbestos related Acts / Laws
Clean Air Act of 1970
This could be considered as one of the first step towards understanding asbestos hazards. This law identified asbestos as a pollutant, first step towards creating more elaborate laws and stronger agencies to monitor them. This law is being followed by various US agencies, such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to protect interest if US public against asbestos exposure. This law has been amended several times.
Toxic Substances Control Act of 1979 (TSCA)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was assigned power by TSCA to regulate existing hazardous chemicals and compounds. EPA based on this issued a rule which banned most of the asbestos based products in USA. This rule was challenged and then was passed in much weaker condition banning a few products and leaving many still to be used.
Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986
The purpose of the law to ensure schools across the US do not pose any asbestos related threat to students. This was a genuine issue as schools buildings constructed before 1980s had asbestos in various forms and thus could have posed threat to students studying there. This law requires all schools to regularly inspect their buildings for asbestos related issues. They are also required to submit plans to limit the exposure and abatement of asbestos if need be.
Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994
As more and more people started to claim compensation for asbestos related health issues, companies filed for reorganizing their assets so that they can survive from the present and future liabilities. The act allowed firms which had significant exposure to asbestos liabilities to file for bankruptcy in light of potential future claims. But this was against public interest as then how would workers and others would claim compensation. Thus later on through amendments, such companies had to create asbestos bankruptcy trusts to settle future claims arising from asbestos related health hazards.
There were many acts which were put on the table but were never passed, such as Ban Asbestos in Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act of 2008 , America Act 2007, Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act of 2007, the FAIR Act 2006, , etc.
What to do if you have asbestos related disease?
If you have discovered you have an asbestos induced disease, this the first thing you need to do is to contact a good lawyer dealing with asbestos / mesothelioma related cases. There are several specialized law firms and lawyers dealing with such cases who can guide you well on how to go about the case. Another important point is need to act fast because there is a limited time in which you should file a case once you are detected with mesothelioma. If that time limit is crossed you cannot file it.
An experienced lawyer will also be able to guide where to file your case as mesothelioma related can be filed in more than one state. Thus location of filing also becomes critical.
How to find a good lawyer for asbestos related cases
A good lawyer plays a very important part in success of your claim. Thus choosing one is important based on resources you have at your disposable. Simple things you can do to identify a good one:
- Every case filed is different and might require some prior experience, for example a case fought against a manufacturing firm will be different from that of a mining one. Thus when you select a lawyer make sure you ask if he had an experience of handling cases of that kind before and their results.
- If possible talk to connect to people who have filed such cases in past and collect tips from them
It is unfortunate that one has to suffer for negligence of others may it be mining firms, manufacturing firm or services companies. There is no monetary compensation possible for lost lives and emotional and physical pain caused due to such diseases but it is strongly advised that everyone should fight for their rights and claim compensation against this wrong doing.
Asbestos laws in US are not as strict as they are in Europe where asbestos bas is much stricter. But it is indeed much better than developing and other economies where there is no restriction on asbestos usage at all.