What to Do If Exposed to Asbestos at Work

Asbestos is a dangerous mineral that can cause cancer and other cell mutations in humans. Exposure to asbestos at any level could lead to serious health complications, illnesses, and diseases. Although the federal government banned the use of asbestos in goods back in 1989, many buildings, materials, and equipment may still contain harmful levels of this substance. If you work or used to work in construction, clothing manufacture, or the automotive industry, you are especially at risk of harmful asbestos exposure. The steps you take immediately after realizing exposure are important.

Report to Your Employer

The day you realize you may have suffered asbestos exposure, report your suspicions to your employer. Your employer needs to know about the hazard if it still exists on the property. New York workers’ compensation laws also mandate that you notify your employer of any work-related injuries or illnesses within 30 days. Prompt reporting can fulfill your duties as an injured worker, and retain the possibility of filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Most workers do not realize they have experienced asbestos exposure until years after the event. Asbestos does not cause any immediate symptoms, even if particles have lodged in the lungs or other internal tissues. Instead, the particles will remain unnoticed in the body for years, until eventually causing a tumor or other serious health problem. You may not recognize asbestos exposure for 10 to 50 years after it happens. At this point, you can skip the step of reporting it to your employer and move straight to filing a claim.

Go to the Doctor

No matter when you believe asbestos exposure occurred, see a doctor and explain what happened. A doctor could give you advice on how to avoid asbestos exposure in the future, and monitor you for early signs of a health problem if you believe you breathed any in. Although no cure exists for mesothelioma – a terminal cancer relating to asbestos exposure – treatments are available to increase quality of life and life expectancy. If you have other health problems, such as asbestosis, treatments can reduce your discomfort and decrease the odds of serious infections. Keep copies of all medical records, treatment plans, and hospital bills.

Be Aware of Signs of Mesothelioma

If you have reason to believe you could have asbestos particles in your system, learn the signs and symptoms of common related illnesses such as mesothelioma. Early diagnosis of a related disease could improve your odds of survival.

  • Respiratory problems
  • Pain in the chest or stomach
  • Dry coughing or wheezing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness

Schedule annual physical exams and explain that you are at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. Routine X-rays and blood tests could help you come to a more timely diagnosis. Knowing the warning signs can expedite diagnosis and treatment.

Speak to a Lawyer

Workers’ compensation may seem like the clear solution to an asbestos issue if you experienced exposure at work. Yet this might not be the right choice for your claim. Your employer may no longer exist if exposure happened decades ago. Furthermore, a workers’ comp claim has benefit limits that may not be enough to fully compensate you for serious losses. Other legal options, such as a personal injury claim, could be more appropriate depending on the circumstances, and result in better compensation for damages.

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Lost quality of life
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of consortium
  • Lost wages

You or a loved one could be eligible to recover for all of these losses and more in the face of negligent asbestos exposure. The U.S. government has an asbestos trust fund in place to compensate victims whose employers cannot pay their damages. Do not write off your right to file a claim until you have spoken to an attorney. Discussing your case with an NYC mesothelioma attorney can reveal all your options for financial restitution in NYC.