Image of a warning sign labeled "contains asbestos"

When many people think of asbestos exposure, they think of older homes with popcorn ceilings, dated vinyl flooring, and outdated attic and wall insulation.

Thankfully, asbestos was phased out of new construction by the mid-1980s, but countless people are still exposed to it every day when they go to work. That’s because asbestos is still legal when used in many industrial applications.

People who work with or around asbestos face serious risks. If they develop asbestos-related injuries or illnesses from their job, they may not know what to do or what rights they have to pursue compensation.

If you or someone you love was harmed by asbestos because of exposure at work, here’s what you need to know.

Workers Can Get Workers’ Comp Benefits If They Can Prove Their Exposure to Asbestos Resulted in Harm

Asbestos-related health problems are covered by workers’ compensation benefits in South Carolina. As with any work-related injury or illness, workers who are harmed by it must be able to prove their exposure happened at work during the course and scope of their employment and not at home or another location where asbestos might be present.

Because asbestos can be found in many places, proving where they were exposed isn’t always easy. Workers often have stronger cases against their employers if they can prove they came into direct contact with asbestos during the course of their job, especially if they weren’t provided with or trained on how to use protective equipment and safety gear to minimize their risks.

What Health Problems Are Associated with Asbestos?

Asbestos is dangerous because it can break down into tiny particles that can be inhaled by people who are near it. Once inhaled, it can become embedded in their lungs. People with asbestos in their lungs face serious health risks, including:

  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen, and heart
  • Asbestosis, a life-threatening progressive disease of the lungs

All three of these conditions can result in huge medical bills and months or years of lost wages, as victims often become unable to work due to their illnesses. Many workers who develop asbestos-related lung problems become permanently disabled due to the damage it causes to their lungs.

What Job Sites Are Associated with Asbestos Exposure?

Workers in many types of jobs and occupations can be exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos, including people who work in retail stores and offices. However, certain job sites are more likely to result in asbestos exposure than others:

  • Shipyards—Asbestos was a major component of shipbuilding in previous decades. While it’s no longer used in the shipbuilding process, it’s still found in many shipyards, putting workers who are near it or who come into contact with it at risk.
  • Power plants—Asbestos was also a major component of items manufactured for use in power plants throughout South Carolina. Many of those power plants still have items and components that contain asbestos, which means worker exposure is a possibility.
  • Paper mills—Paper mills are a common occupational source of asbestos exposure, as it was used heavily in the development of paper products in previous decades. Although paper mills are required to reduce workers’ exposure to asbestos, the process is incomplete at many facilities.
  • Military bases—As with other occupational sites, military bases no longer use asbestos in the construction of new buildings. However, it’s still present in older buildings on many military bases, which means that civilian contractors can be at risk of exposure.
  • Construction sites—Construction workers building brand new construction are typically safe from asbestos exposure, but workers who are completing repairs or renovations on existing structures may be at risk if those structures contain asbestos in their insulation, ceilings, flooring, paint, or other building materials.

How Long Do You Have to File for Workers’ Comp for an Asbestos-Related Injury?

Asbestos-related injuries and illnesses take time to show up. In fact, it’s common for people to not develop mesothelioma until many years or even decades after their initial asbestos exposure.  South Carolina Worker’s Compensation claims will be subject to time constraints in accordance with applicable statue of limitations It is imperative to your potential claim that you speak with legal representation as soon as possible after you have been made aware that your illness resulted from exposure to asbestos.

Although South Carolina’s statute of limitations for filing a workers’ compensation claim is two years from the date of the injury or illness, this limitation is subject to change for illnesses with a long latency period such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Regardless of how much time has passed since potential exposure to asbestos and an asbestos-related injury or illness, victims should get legal representation as soon as they become aware their illness may be related to asbestos exposure at work to protect their rights to compensation.

Contact Our South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers for a Free Consultation

Unfortunately, many victims of asbestos no longer work at the companies that employed them when they were exposed to it. Due to the length of time between exposure to diagnosis, many companies may no longer be in business when their former workers are finally diagnosed.

Because of that, asbestos-related workers’ compensation claims are often centered around asbestosis, which has a much shorter period between exposure to illness. But no matter what illness you were diagnosed with, it’s important to seek the opinion of an experienced lawyer if you were harmed by asbestos.

At Joye Law Firm, we handle both asbestos-related workers’ compensation cases and defective product lawsuits against manufacturers of products containing asbestos. If you or a loved one were harmed by asbestos, contact us right away. We’ll determine your best option for getting compensation. Contact us today for a free case review.

About the Author

Ken Harrell joined Joye Law Firm in 1994, and has been the managing partner since 2006. With 30 years of experience, he protects the rights of injured South Carolinians, including cases involving workers’ compensation, car accidents, and defective products. Ken also leads the firm’s referral practice, helping to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation. He is a past president of South Carolina Injured Workers’ Advocates, and has served as the co-chairman of this organization’s legislative affairs committee for 12 years.

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