Is it Possible to Have a Mesothelioma Case Before Diagnosis if You Know You’ve Had Heavy Exposure to Asbestos?

Posted on 03-28-2016 by
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Mesothelioma is cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), its main cause is exposure to asbestos.  Malignant mesothelioma is rare, with approximately 3,000 new cases diagnosed every year.  In fact, the ACS reports that most people exposed to asbestos do not develop the disease, even after significant asbestos exposure. If you have not been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there is no certainty that you ever will be.   Consequently, unless you are diagnosed with mesothelioma  by a qualified physician, you do not have a legal claim , even with heavy exposure in your past.   The same holds true with lung cancer and asbestosis.


A lawsuit requires an actionable injury


Mesothelioma symptoms can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure to develop.  Unfortunately, the increased concern and worry you may feel about whether you might develop mesothelioma is not the kind of injury that a lawsuit can compensate for.  Under the law, you must have sustained an actual injury before you can file a lawsuit.  In this context, actual injury means a mesothelioma diagnosis. [1]


Other asbestos-related illnesses


Note, however, that malignant mesothelioma is not the only disease caused by asbestos exposure.  The online Mesothelioma Guide describes a variety of other illnesses related to asbestos.  These include:


  • lung cancer;
  • asbestosis (a noncancerous lung infection that progresses slowly and causes breathing difficulty); and
  • pleural thickening, or Asbestos-related pleural disease.



Additionally, as the American Cancer Society explains, the symptoms of mesothelioma may be easily mistaken for more common, minor illnesses.  In some cases, these symptoms may be ignored for months, delaying a mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment.  If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should see your doctor without delay:


  • pain in the side of the chest or lower back;
  • shortness of breath;
  • cough;
  • fever;
  • excessive sweating;
  • fatigue;
  • weight loss;
  • trouble swallowing;
  • hoarseness; or
  • swelling in the face or arms. 


Statute of limitations in mesothelioma cases


The statute of limitations is a legal rule that limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after you have experienced an injury.  In most personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is straightforward and is triggered when a person is harmed.  For instance, in an auto accident case, the time limit for filing an action begins to run when the accident happens, or at the latest, when you see the doctor for a diagnosis of your injuries.  Mesothelioma cases are more complicated, however, because of the long latency period (that is, the long time between exposure and development of symptoms). 


Although the precise time period for filing a lawsuit varies from state to state, it begins when you are diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness.  In some states, you may have as little as one year from the time you are diagnosed in which to file a claim. It is therefore important to consult an attorney as soon as possible following a diagnosis.  An attorney can review your diagnosis and the history of your asbestos exposure, as well as other risk factors that might have increased your susceptibility to the disease.  Furthermore, an attorney can help you recover all the compensation to which you may be entitled.


Consult a knowledgeable attorney in your area


If you have been exposed to asbestos, even if you are not yet experiencing symptoms, it is recommended that you see a doctor periodically for continued evaluation. Mesothelioma cases are complex and time sensitive. If you are experiencing symptoms of or have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, consult a lawyer experienced at handling mesothelioma and asbestos litigation promptly for an evaluation of your case.

[1]  Fear of cancer may be an element of damages for cases involving nonmalignant conditions such as asbestosis and asbestos-related pleural disease. The compensability of such damages vary from state to state.

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