Mesothelioma and Workers Compensation
Mesothelioma is usually a job-related cancer. In this country, asbestos-related illnesses are one of the main causes of job-related deaths and costs. Thousands of workers have been affected by it and many of them have turned to the workers’ compensation system.
Workers’ Compensation Legalities
Those who have been exposed to asbestos can choose to go down the legal route and opt for workers’ compensation. However, it is vital that you seek proper legal advice before you do this. This is because, in certain states, filing for workers’ compensation means that you will no longer be able to file a lawsuit against the employer.
History of Worker’s Compensation
Workers’ compensation was put in place to make sure that if employees sustain an injury in the workplace, they should not suffer any financial loss. It came in place during the 1920s, before which the only option to employees was to sue their employer. Thanks to these laws, employees no longer had to prove negligence on the part of the employer and take them through lengthy and expensive lawsuits. Just 10 years after these laws came into effect, the first claims for occupational lung diseases started to come in. All states now have workers’ compensation laws in place, which provide injured employees with a number of benefits, as well as with rules and regulations on how to claim these.
Benefits that may be included under workers’ compensation laws are:
- Replacement income through permanent or temporary disability payments
- Medical care
- Vocational rehabilitation if appropriate, meaning help is available to find a new type of job
Each state has its own laws in place, and how these are administered vary significantly. Usually, however, a fixed compensation is paid, and the statute will determine how much a worker is entitled to. This is based on the injury that the worker had sustained.
It is also important to understand that replacement income does not equate to the worker’s original income. Additionally, there are significant limits placed on it. They can be applied for by the family of the worker, in the event that the injury had resulted in death.
Employers are required to make insurance payments to protect them from payments made for job-related injuries. Usually, the employee will have to write a report on how the injury was sustained and what the results of the injury was. They will then be given a claim form, which the employer has to submit to its insurer and to the state board.
Protection for Employers
The main goal of workers’ compensation laws is to protect employees, but they also provide protection for employers. This is because it means that the employee can, usually, no longer file a lawsuit against their employee. When the workplace injury is asbestos-related, such as mesothelioma or asbestosis, it is even more important to seek legal counsel, not in the least because most people do not find out they have the disease until between 10 and 50 years after exposure.
Workers’ Compensation and Mesothelioma
For someone who has suffered from asbestos exposure, a number of options exist. These include:
- A claim under workers’ compensation
- A law suit against the employer
- A law suit against the asbestos manufacturer
- A class action lawsuit, if other people have also been exposed
When people file for workers’ compensation for an asbestos-related injury, they inevitably give up the right to sue their employer. They may, however, still sue the asbestos manufacturer. This is known as a ‘third party claim’. Usually, an employer can receive a workers’ compensation reimbursement if a third party claim is filed. This is another reason why it is important to seek legal advice, as there is a chance that any money that is awarded can be cut because some of it must be returned to the employer.
Workers’ compensation itself means that money is recovered from the employer, and not from the asbestos manufacturer. Additionally, there are some types of employees are unable to receive compensation through their job. Independent contractors, for instance, are usually not eligible for workers’ compensation. Some small employers can also be exempt. Hence, before anything, you should also consider contacting your state board in other to find out what the status is for your personal claim.
Be Wary of Time Constraints
Workers’ compensation claims are a type of lawsuit. As such, they have to be filed at a specific period of time. Each state has guidelines in place that dictate the statute of limitations, and whether or not someone is eligible to file. This can be problematic for the case of mesothelioma, because the cancer has a very long latency period. An additional difficulty is in the nature of workers’ compensation laws. Compensation is usually based on the salary at the time of injury, the age of the injured party, and the job. Because of the long latency period, most of those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma no longer have that same job or income, and are certainly not the same age.
For many people, the better option if they are diagnosed with mesothelioma is to file a lawsuit. However, this is not a given. Again, different states have different laws in terms of how much compensation can be awarded, and it may be less than what they would receive with workers’ compensation. This is unlikely, however, because a lawsuit may also include suffering, pain, and other punitive damages.
A workers’ compensation claim is not about blame, and that is the big difference between these claims and lawsuits. However, filling a claim won’t guarantee that a financial benefit is provided. It does almost inevitably guarantee, however, that a lawsuit can no longer be filed. If, at any point, there is a dispute, or if the outcome of filing a claim is not as you had expected it to be, then you may encounter difficulties in terms of appealing against that decision.
This is another reason as to why you should seek legal advice first. Furthermore, legal professionals may also help to point you towards financial help such as that provided by the Veterans Administration, various government disability programs, asbestos bankruptcy trust funds, and more. Do not make any type of decision in terms of what you want to do until you have done that, as you will only get the chance to make this decision once, unfortunately.