Prior to the mid-1970s, asbestos was widely used as an insulation material (asbestos containing gaskets, packing, brakes, insulation or other products) and fire retardant. Workers in certain industries became exposed to this dangerous mineral and developed asbestosis, a chronic lung disease caused by breathing in asbestos fibers. Asbestosis can increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with asbestosis, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for medical expenses and other damages caused by your disease.
Our firm has more than 45 years of experience representing asbestosis victims nationwide.
We have obtained significant compensation recoveries on behalf of our clients, including former shipyard workers in Norfolk and other nearby areas.
Partner Donald Patten has helped thousands of individuals exposed to asbestos file lawsuits in state and federal courts since 1968 and has represented clients in multi-jurisdictional asbestos-related bankruptcy cases. He has been selected in the Best Lawyers of America for 19 consecutive years and Super Lawyers for 15 consecutive years. He has also been awarded the highest “AV” rating by Martindale-Hubbell.
No face-to-face meetings are required with our lawyers and an initial consultation is free. There are no fees to investigate your case and no fees while we work on your case.
Why Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Those who hire experienced lawyers often recover substantially more compensation than those who do not. This may be especially true with cases involving asbestos-linked diseases. Pursuing a personal injury case for asbestosis is complex and requires an extensive investigation and detailed knowledge of asbestos litigation.
At Patten, Wornom, Hatten & Diamonstein (PWHD), we have successfully consolidated over 1,000 lawsuits on behalf of those with asbestos-related diseases, developed the first national settlement program with the asbestos industry and obtained the first punitive damages jury verdict against the asbestos industry. Our multi-million-dollar verdicts have been listed in the top ten verdicts for Virginia.
“Bobby Hatten and his partners, they continued to fight and to seek justice at every turn for us.”
– Linda, PWHD client
Our lawyers understand the difficulties experienced by asbestosis victims and their families and are committed to fighting for fair compensation. We are prepared to gather medical records, review employment history and obtain any other evidence to show a known history of exposure to asbestos.
A Hampton Roads asbestosis lawyer from our firm is ready to help prove that your employer knew or should have known about the inherent risks of inhaling asbestos dust particles and fibers.
Learn more about your potential legal options in a free initial consultation. If we determine that your case has merit, we charge nothing up front for legal representation.
How Do I Know I Have a Viable Case?
Since every case is unique, our attorneys need to review your situation in detail to determine if you are eligible to take legal action. You may have viable case if you have been diagnosed with asbestosis by a doctor or specialist and are actively seeking treatment for pain management.
However, one of the biggest challenges is being able to establish when and where you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos. This is because it can take several decades for asbestos fibers embedded into the lungs to cause asbestosis, mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.
Fortunately, our lawyers have decades of experience investigating these cases. We have helped many individuals who worked in a variety of industries with a high risk of asbestos exposure. We know how this harmful mineral was used in many products and pieces of machinery because of its resistance to heat and corrosion, such as asbestos containing gaskets, packing, brakes, insulation or other products.
In the shipbuilding industry, asbestos was used to insulate boilers, incinerators, hot water pipes and steam pipes. Asbestos fibers would tend to build up in these ships and other inadequately ventilated areas, which led to exposure for many workers. Shipyards where asbestos exposure may have occurred include Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Newport News Shipyard.
Only after reviewing your circumstances is our firm able to discuss the forms of compensation that may be pursued. Do not hesitate to reach out as soon as possible. We are available 24/7 to take your call.
Who is Able to File an Asbestosis Lawsuit?
Anyone who worked with asbestos-containing products or in any industry with a high risk of asbestos exposure and developed asbestosis may be able to file an asbestosis lawsuit.
Even those who were not working directly with asbestos-containing products, but worked with others who did, could be eligible due to occupational asbestos exposure.
If a worker unknowingly brought home any fibers on his or her hair, skin or clothing, the wives and children of these workers could have been in contact with this dangerous substance. Women who washed their husband’s contaminated work clothes and breathed in asbestos may be able to take legal action. Lawsuits are often filed by asbestosis victims or their surviving family members.
Should you or a loved one be too ill to come to our office and meet with a Hampton Roads asbestosis attorney from our firm, we are ready to come to you. Give us a call to learn more about your rights and options.
Other Ways to Pursue Compensation
It is a common misconception that the only way to pursue compensation is by filing an asbestosis lawsuit. There are other options that our attorneys at PWHD could discuss in a free legal consultation.
Most personal injury cases are settled outside of court and asbestosis claims are often resolved through settlements with asbestos trust funds. These trust funds were created after some companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after being inundated with asbestosis lawsuits.
Companies in and around the Virginia area that were forced to set up funds to compensate victims and families of asbestos exposure include, but are not limited to:
- Babcock & Wilcox Company
- Burns & Roe Enterprises, Inc.
- E. Thurston & Sons, Inc.
- Johns Manville
- Kaiser Aluminum
- Porter Hayden Company
At time of writing, approximately $30 billion is being held in 60 active asbestos trust funds.
A board of trustees established by the courts manages each trust. Their duty is to determine how much to allocate in compensation. Our Hampton Roads asbestosis attorneys are ready to help file a claim on your behalf. We know how to accurately value your claim to pursue maximum compensation for you.
PWHD successfully obtained the first asbestos verdict in Virginia against Johns Manville, an American corporation that was one of the largest asbestos manufacturers worldwide. This corporation was also the first to set up an asbestos trust fund in 1987, which set a precedent for other companies.
Eligibility Criteria for Asbestos Trust Funds
Workers exposed to asbestos by their employers, people who used asbestos-containing products, and family members who lost a loved one from asbestos exposure may be eligible to file a trust fund claim.
The main criteria often used for determining eligibility for an asbestos trust claim include:
- When the asbestos exposure occurred
- Where the exposure took place
- Proof of an asbestos-related disease
- Information or evidence of the asbestos products exposed to
- Statute of limitations for filing a claim
Our lawyers could help you collect the supportive evidence needed, such as medical documentation proving your asbestosis diagnosis and describing the extent asbestos has contributed to your disease, a statement by your doctor confirming the diagnosis, witness affidavits and employment records.
Compensation That May Available for Asbestosis Victims
This is dependent on several factors, including the type of medical treatment you have undergone and other out-of-pocket expenses. Generally, the forms of compensation that may be available include:
Asbestosis can cause a number of symptoms that require treatment. Most victims often develop lung cancer and must undergo surgery, radiation and chemotherapy to help treat the cancer. The cost for such treatment can quickly add up. Our attorneys are ready to help you obtain compensation to cover:
- Medical tests to help pinpoint a diagnosis
- Appointments with doctors or specialists
- Radiation therapy and chemotherapy
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Surgeries to remove excess fluid in the lungs
Loss of Wages and Future Income
Symptoms of asbestosis can impact your ability to work for some time. You may not be able to continue to work in the same capacity as before or work at all. Victims often miss a large amount of work because they are undergoing treatment or are physically incapable of performing their job for weeks or months.
You may be eligible for to recover compensation to make up for any loss of wages you have endured as well as compensation to help make up for future loss of income you would have earned if not ill.
Pain and Suffering
It is difficult to put a value on the pain and suffering you may be experiencing due to your disease. However, you may be eligible for compensation for your pain and suffering.
This could include physical pain and suffering, such as chronic breathing difficulties that lead to fatigue and mental pain and suffering, such as depression, anxiety and stress.
If you are taking legal action on behalf of a loved one who passed away from asbestosis, our lawyers are prepared to work to recover compensation in a wrongful death case, which may include:
- All medical care he or she received
prior to death
- Lost financial support, including insurance and retirement benefits
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
- Sorrow and mental anguish
- Loss of care, comfort, guidance and companionship
Although no amount of compensation can change what happened, it may help ease the financial burdens associated with this disease.
To learn more about compensation recoveries, we encourage you to visit our “Frequently Asked Questions” page.
Liable Parties for an Asbestosis Diagnosis
Employers and manufacturers of asbestos products are both parties that could be held liable for an asbestosis diagnosis.
Victims and their legal representation must prove that employers knowingly subjected them to asbestos exposure without warning of the dangers of such exposure. This includes not providing the necessary protective equipment, such as eyewear, respirators, rubber boots, disposable gloves and coveralls.
In a case against a manufacturer, it must be proven manufacturers who decided to use asbestos as a raw material when creating products for mass distribution knew or should have known of the risks involved.
Industries Most at Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos was used in thousands of products across many different industries in the U.S. It was an ideal mineral to use particularly in the shipbuilding industry because of its resistance to heat and corrosion. It was also a good insulator and was easy to install.
“Those companies that made the products that contained asbestos, have hurt so many families. Mine included.”
– Ralph, PWHD client
Hundreds of asbestos-containing materials were used in ships, from bow to stern, until the mid-1970s when the health risks associated with asbestos exposure became known by the public. The Norfolk Naval Shipyard, one of the oldest existing shipyards in the country, has a long history of using asbestos materials.
Common areas containing asbestos included the engine and boiler rooms, mess halls, navigation rooms and sleeping quarters. Having to construct, overhaul and repair vessels in such close quarters with poor ventilation has caused many Virginia shipyard workers and their family members to develop asbestosis.
Types of shipyard workers who may have since contracted an asbestos-related disease include:
- Marine surveyors
- Naval architects or designers
- Quality control inspectors
- Structural fabricators
Additional shipyards in and around Norfolk that could have exposed workers to asbestos include the Horne Brothers Shipyard, Colonna Shipyard, Metro Machine, Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Company and the Newport News Shipyard, one of the largest private shipyards in the world.
Aside from the shipbuilding industry in Virginia, other occupations most at risk of asbestos exposure are:
- Boiler mechanics
- Car mechanics
- Construction workers
- Factory workers
- Industrial workers
- Iron workers
- Oil refiners
- Phone company workers
- Power plant workers
- Railroad employees
- Steel mill workers
What is Asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by breathing in asbestos fibers. The tiny, toxic fibers can become trapped in the lungs, causing irritation and scarring of the lung tissue.
Asbestosis is also a progressive disease, which means it becomes worse over time. Symptoms usually do not manifest until many years after exposure and can range from mild to severe, depending on how long you were exposed to asbestos and the amount you inhaled.
Symptoms of Asbestosis
It can take between 10 and 40 years after asbestos exposure for asbestosis symptoms to manifest.
Some of these symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath
- A persistent, dry cough
- Loss of appetite, causing weight loss
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Clubbed fingers and toes
- Extreme tiredness or fatigue
- Pleural effusion (fluid in the lungs)
- High blood pressure
Asbestosis often remains undiagnosed until it has significantly damaged the lungs, scarring the lung tissue and making it stiff and unable to expand normally. This is what causes the coughing and crackling sound when breathing. It is also harder to breath because less oxygen is being delivered to the blood.
Is There a Cure for Asbestosis?
To date, there is no cure for asbestosis. Severe asbestosis can lead to respiratory failure and eventual death, but there are several treatment options available to help slow down the progression of the disease and help relieve symptoms.
Since this disease is like other types of pulmonary fibrosis, confirming an asbestosis diagnosis requires detailed medical and work histories in addition to extensive medical testing.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, many asbestosis victims can live with the disease for a decade or more. However, being diagnosed with asbestosis can also put you at high risk of developing lung cancer or even mesothelioma in the future.
Difference Between Asbestosis and Mesothelioma
Asbestosis and mesothelioma are both incurable diseases caused by asbestos exposure and share some symptoms, but that is where the similarities end.
The main difference is that asbestosis is not a type of cancer and is limited to the lungs and respiratory tract. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that develops primarily in the lining of the lungs and abdomen.
The average life expectancy for someone diagnosed with asbestosis is also much higher than with mesothelioma. An asbestosis victim can live for many years or decades compared to 12 to 21 months after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
How an Asbestosis Diagnosis is Confirmed
Asbestosis is difficult to diagnose for many reasons. Symptoms such as a persistent cough or shortness of breath could be attributed to asthma or pneumonia. It is only after ruling out more common illnesses that a doctor would refer someone to a lung specialist or pulmonologist for additional medical tests.
During the diagnostic process, the doctor will first use a stethoscope to listen to the lungs for a possible crackling sound when breathing. The doctor may then order certain breathing tests to be performed, such as a pulmonary function test to determine how well the lungs are functioning and the use of a spirometer to measure the amount of air the lungs can hold and the time it takes for air to move into and out of the lungs. A chest X-ray and a CT scan of the chest may also be performed.
To confirm an asbestosis diagnosis, signs of tissue scarring must be evident in imaging scans and lung function tests must be consistently abnormal. However, without medical and work histories to support asbestos exposure, a doctor or specialist may attribute the scarring in the lungs to pulmonary fibrosis or interstitial lung disease. Air pollutants and some autoimmune diseases can even cause tissue scarring.
Treatment Options for Asbestosis
Unfortunately, asbestosis is irreversible, but there are palliative treatment options to help provide symptom relief, pain management and slow the progression of the disease. These treatments include:
- Medications – A variety of medications can help thin lung secretions and open up the airways to make it easier to cough and relieve chest pain. Antibiotics may be prescribed to help treat or reduce the risk of infection after surgery and pain medications may be prescribed to provide symptom relief.
- Supplemental oxygen – Extra oxygen from a portable tank may be used to help with breathing and getting more air into the lungs.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation – For those experiencing chronic breathing difficulties and inability to perform daily activities even with medication, this program helps provide breathing techniques.
- Surgical procedures – A thoracentesis may be performed to drain excess fluid from the lungs to help release pressure in the lungs and make to easier to breath.
- Lung transplants – In the most severe cases, a lung transplant may be needed as a last resort to help extend and improve quality of life. Extensive screening is done to assess chance of success.
Call Our Hampton Roads Asbestosis Attorneys for a Free Consultation
PWHD has represented many victims diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases nationwide, obtaining millions of dollars in compensation for shipyard workers, industrial workers and Navy veterans in state and federal courts. Partner Robert Hatten has secured the some of the largest verdicts in Virginia, including verdicts of $25 million and $10 million.
Eight of our attorneys have also been selected to the Super Lawyers list based on peer recognition and professional achievement. With more than five decades of experience in asbestos litigation, we are here to provide the legal assistance you need. An initial consultation is completely free and confidential.
You are under no obligation to take legal action. We also charge no upfront fees while working on your case. Contact our firm anytime, 24/7.
Our office located at 12350 Jefferson Ave, Suite 300 is about 10 minutes from the Riverside Regional Medical Center. We are ready to come to you, at home or at a hospital, if it is necessary.