Individuals exposed to asbestos fibers are at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Exposure was widespread up until the 1980s, when the dangers of exposure were officially recognized by the federal government. Unfortunately, by that time, many individuals had already been exposed to dangerous levels of fibers. As a result, there have been many asbestos-related claims against the manufacturers and employers that were responsible for causing exposure to victims.
Danger of Asbestos
Asbestos contains microscopic fibers that, when disturbed, are released into the air where they can be breathed into the lungs. They may remain in the lungs for several years (in some cases, even decades) before any damage is detected. Exposure to these fibers has been linked to the development of cancer, including mesothelioma. The cost of treating these diseases or conditions is often quite significant. As a result, victims frequently turn to lawsuits against those responsible for their exposure to recover damage awards that can help pay for medical expenses.
Asbestos Class Action: Should I Join a Class Action?
A class action lawsuit involves a group of people collectively filing a claim against a defendant. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of a group of people who are “similarly situated.” This means that a group of plaintiffs all have similar injuries caused by shared circumstances that raise the same legal issues. The court determines whether the similarities are sufficiently close enough and whether forcing all of the plaintiffs to file separate lawsuits would be overly burdensome.
An individual may be asked to join in a class action lawsuit if it is thought that the individual is similarly situated to the other plaintiffs. If this happens, the individual may elect to join the class action, but this will eliminate his or her ability to file an individual lawsuit against the defendant for the same injury. Alternatively, the individual can elect to “opt out” of the class action, which preserves his or her right to pursue an individual claim at a future date.
Due to the large number of claimants in a class action lawsuit, the result is typically a settlement agreement. This may be highly desirable for an individual who does not want to go through the expense and duration of a trial. However, joining a class action can also have negative consequences. For example, whether through a settlement or success at trial, the award will be divided among all of the claimants in a class action. Because of this, an individual, if successful, often ends up with a larger award by filing an individual claim than if they joined a class action. Before deciding whether or not to join a class action, it is important to consult with an attorney in order to protect your legal rights.
Exposure to asbestos fibers can result in devastating diseases such as mesothelioma and other cancers. If you believe that you have developed a disease due to exposure to asbestos fibers, speak with an experienced attorney today. At the Throneberry Law Group, we provide compassionate representation to victims of asbestos fiber exposure.