What is Asbestos Law?

Understanding asbestos and your legal options

By Super Lawyers staff | Last updated on October 13, 2022

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If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness, you may want to consider your legal options. If a loved one has died from one of these illnesses, you also have legal options. It can be overwhelming to navigate the law while dealing with devastating medical information, so an experienced lawyer can be a benefit as you take your next steps. The following is designed to help you understand asbestos-related diseases, asbestos regulations and asbestos waste and the legal options available to you. If you choose to hire a lawyer, this can be a resource as you consider your questions.


Asbestos-related injuries are a popular topic of television commercials, but you might find yourself wondering what asbestos and asbestos-containing products are, whether you could have been exposed and what you should do next. You will want to gather as much information as possible about your diagnosis and where you may have been exposed.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is flexible and can be pulled into a fluffy material. The use of asbestos and asbestos materials is generally a part of construction materials. It is heat resistant, so it was commonly used for insulation and fireproofing. There are two types of asbestos fibers: serpentine and amphibole. These two types are equally dangerous, though it is sometimes easier for the body to flush out serpentine fibers because they are long and curly. On the other hand, amphibole fibers are straight and short, easy to inhale and more likely to lodge in organs and tissues.

Why is it Harmful?

Asbestos is harmful because the body has difficulty removing the fibers. As the fibers build up, they can cause damage to the cells in the body. Airborne asbestos can also cause lung cancer and mesothelioma—a form of cancer that is caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure. The health effects of long-term exposure can take up to 40 years to appear, which means you may not even realize you’re in a dangerous environment. If you think you might have been exposed to asbestos, you might consider visiting a doctor. The asbestos particles cannot be removed, but you may be able to slow the effects.

Where Was I Exposed?

Asbestos was a popular building material for many years. It was used in naval ships and most construction projects between the 1930s and the 1980s. It’s generally safe to be around asbestos if the fibers are contained, which means that people who work with asbestos are the most at health risk for exposure as they frequently disturb the fibers. Examples of professions at risk include:
  • Asbestos miners
  • Mechanics
  • Electricians
  • Railroad or shipyard workers
  • Construction workers and workers removing asbestos from older buildings.
What Are My Legal Options? If you have been exposed to asbestos, your most likely legal path will be to bring a personal injury claim. In these cases, you will likely sue the company that produced the materials that caused your injury. Your case will likely be based on negligence, which means you will be asserting that the company did not exercise a reasonable amount of care. You will also want to consider applying for social security disability after a mesothelioma diagnosis. Because this carcinogen moves quickly, your case is likely to be expedited. If you were exposed at work, you may also qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. In some jurisdictions, following one legal path may preclude you from others, so you might find it beneficial to speak with an experienced lawyer about your options. If you are the spouse or heir of someone who died from asbestos exposure, you might be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.

Common Questions

Below are some common questions you might want to consider when meeting with an attorney for the first time.
  1. What should I do after being diagnosed with mesothelioma?
  2. How do I know when or where I was exposed to asbestos?
  3. Can I join a class action?
  4. What kind of compensation is available to family members of someone who died from mesothelioma?

Finding the Right Attorney for Your Needs

It is important to approach the right type of attorney—someone who can help you through your entire case. To do so, you can visit the Super Lawyers directory, and use the search box to find a lawyer based on your legal issue or location. To help you get started, you may want to consider looking for a lawyer who practices asbestos law.

Why Should I Talk to a Lawyer?

It is important to seek legal advice as soon as you are diagnosed with any harmful effect of asbestos exposure because the diagnosis often marks day one of the statutes of limitations. To be successful, you will need to produce proof of your injury or illness and identify where you were exposed. Your lawyer can help you get copies of your medical records and interview any medical providers. Your lawyer can also help you identify where you were exposed and who you can hold liable. A lawyer will be able to anticipate potential problems with your case and advise you on how to approach them. Your lawyer will also keep track of deadlines and file all the paperwork with the necessary courts and agencies, giving you one less thing to worry about.

What do I do next?

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