Facts About Mesothelioma

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare, incurable form of cancer that has only one known cause; exposure to asbestos. Exposure to asbestos often happens in the workplace where products containing asbestos such as insulation, pipe and block were once very common. When products containing asbestos are cut, chopped, or even dropped, they release a fine dust of asbestos fibers. When these fibers are inhaled, they can become lodged in the mesothelium, the lining that surrounds the lungs, the stomach, and the heart. Over time, these embedded fibers can lead to mesothelioma.

The period of time between exposure to asbestos and the appearance of symptoms of mesothelioma can be up to 20 years and in some cases as long as 50 years. Mesothelioma is very difficult to diagnose because early symptoms resemble symptoms of many, less serious conditions. As a result, most people have advanced mesothelioma by the time they are diagnosed and their chances for long-term survival are vanishingly small.

To help victims of mesothelioma and their families, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals created a Mass Litigation Panel to develop a Case Management Order (CMO) to prioritize mesothelioma cases. Mesothelioma and asbestos related lung cancer cases receive priority. Several hundred seriously injured and dying claimants have received compensation as a result of the CMO over the years.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral mined out of the ground that is often combined with other products because of its strength and heat resistant properties. It is used in the manufacture of insulation, fire protective clothing, gaskets, cements, brakes, floor tiles, joint compounds, and many other products. Products containing asbestos were utilized in a wide range of industries from the turn of the last century until the mid-1970s, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued regulations to limit the use of asbestos.

Where was asbestos used?

Asbestos was used by the chemical, glass, and steel industries, as well as in shipyards, power plants and railroads. Workers from these trades as well as pipefitters, boilermakers, electricians, and carpenters were exposed to asbestos on the job. As a result of asbestos-containing dust carried into homes on work clothing, the families of these workers were also at risk of exposure to asbestos.

Did companies know asbestos dust was harmful?

There is evidence that some companies that produced asbestos-containing products knew of the dangers of asbestos as early as the 1930s, but these companies provided no warnings about the dangers of asbestos for decades.

How can asbestos affect my health?

Inhaling asbestos dust can cause several diseases including mesothelioma, asbestosis, non-malignant pleural disease, lung cancer, and other forms of cancer. These diseases usually do not appear until years after exposure.

How do people learn that they have mesothelioma?

The most common symptoms of mesothelioma are dry cough, fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, weight loss, and respiratory complications. Because these symptoms are common to so many other ailments, many people are not correctly diagnosed with mesothelioma until they are at stage III cancer or later.

If a doctor says that I have mesothelioma or asbestos related lung cancer, do I need a lawyer?

Yes. At a minimum, you need legal advice. Harvit & Schwartz has extensive experience working on mesothelioma claims and we can provide you with a comprehensive review for free.

Is there a deadline for filing a lawsuit?

Yes. Every state limits the amount of time after an event that a lawsuit can be filed. In West Virginia, the courts have set up an expedited system for mesothelioma and asbestos related lung cancer cases.

What If I die before my case is resolved?

If you die while your lawsuit is pending, your estate will act in your place and any award will be divided among your survivors. Your family may also be able to file a wrongful death suit.

Can I get workers compensation benefits?

If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos cancer you may be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits. The attorneys at Harvit & Scwartz have extensive experience in handling West Virginia worker’s compensation cases. We can review your case to determine if a claim can be filed. We can also determine if you are entitled to additional benefits based on your employer’s knowledge about the dangers of asbestos when you were exposed. If you die before your case is resolved, we can seek compensation for your widow and dependents.

How do I pay to file these claims?

Harvit & Scwartz works on a contingency fee basis. This means that we only get paid if and when you get a settlement check. You do not pay out-of-pocket expenses during the process. If you win or receive a settlement, we receive a percentage of your compensation.