October 31, 2011

Asbestosis Law Careers

Asbestos, a mineral fiber that was once the material of choice for insulation in the construction of buildings because of its heat-resistant properties, has been linked to a variety of health concerns, including cancer. These findings have resulted in a large number of lawsuits by patients who believe that they or their family members were sickened because of asbestos exposure. These lawsuits have led to an increased demand for professionals in the legal field.

Civil Attorneys

The number of civil cases filed against construction companies and the companies who produced and sold asbestos products has led to a rise in demand for attorneys who practice the field of civil litigation. Attorneys who are skilled in the fields of personal injury and tort law are needed to represent both sides of an asbestos case. The petitioner needs an attorney who is well-versed in civil law to ensure that their rights as victims are represented, while the defendants in asbestos- related lawsuits depend on skilled defense attorneys to ensure that they are not held accountable for issues that are beyond their control. In order to practice law in any state in the U.S., a license to practice law must be obtained by passing an extensive law exam called the bar. These exams are typically given after several years of specialized legal education obtained through an accredited law school. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2008, the median salary for an attorney in the US was $110,590 per year.


Paralegals, also commonly referred to as legal assistants, are vital parts of a legal team who assist attorneys with various aspects in regards to legal proceedings. Paralegals are skilled professionals who are educated in the field of law, but who are not licensed to provide legal advice or representation. Attorneys who represent asbestos victims or their family matters, as well as attorneys who represent defendants in asbestos cases rely heavily on paralegals to perform a number of issues related to the case including interviewing and preparing witnesses, drafting petitions and assisting in the drafting of legal arguments. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May, 2008, the median salary for a paralegal was $46,120. Most attorneys require applicants who wish to apply for a position with their practice as a paralegal to hold a degree or certificate in paralegal studies

Legal Nurse Consultant

Legal Nurse Consultants are highly-skilled professionals who hold degrees in nursing and who have been educated in the legal field. Most Legal Nurse Consultants hold degrees as a registered nurse or nurse practitioner. Legal Nurse Consultants provide valuable assistance to the attorneys that represent patients or family members of victims of asbestos exposure by analyzing the medical aspects of the case and rendering their professional opinions in regards to the facts. According to research published by Payscale, the median salary for Legal Nurse Consultants as of August 2010, was $85,000 per year.

October 30, 2011

Regulations for Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is used widely in the construction, mining, automotive and electrical industries. Along with its use came health complications that went unnoticed for nearly two decades. Once these conditions began to emerge, government regulations were put in place to protect workers from exposure and offer the medical care that those with illnesses needed. These regulations have changed over time, and offered employees better protection in the dangerous industries in which they work.

Asbestos Catagories

Asbestos falls into two main categories, serpentine and amphibole. Serpentine asbestos is a fiber that has a long wavy appearance, usually very snake-like. It is more likely to break into long thin pieces. Nearly 90 percent of asbestos is serpentine asbestos. Amphibole asbestos, on the other hand, is composed of fibers that are straight and long. This category includes amosite (brown), crocidlite (blue), anthophyllite and actinole asbestos. Both of these categories of asbestos are harmful when inhaled.


While asbestos fits into two categories, serpentine asbestos breaks into two further types, bonded and frible. Frible asbestos is in the form of powder, or can be easily crushed or crumbled into powder by hand when it is dry. This powder makes it much easier to inhale, causing future health problems.

Bonded asbestos is difficult to damage by hand and most generally is found as asbestos cement sheets, in roof tiles and vinyl flooring. Bonded asbestos is also popular in electrical components as it has a hardening effect.


Asbestos is most often found in construction or electrical work, causing a threat to workers. The most common locations for asbestos of both categories are in thermal insulation that wraps around boilers and heating pipes. Construction materials such as cement sheeting, roofing felt and vinyl flooring are common uses of asbestos.

With the increase in high rise building, asbestos has been used as a fire retardant between floors and in fire doors as well as used in schools and hospitals as acoustic insulation between floors. Most household exposure comes from paints, sealers and coatings as well as vehicle brake linings clutch plates and home vehicle maintenance.

First Regulations

Asbestos was widely used in the 50's, 60's and 70's. By the 70's the ill effects of asbestos were starting to emerge, and standards were needed. In 1972, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) first set a standard. This was measured by acquiring air samples from the working environment. The first regulated permissible exposure limit (PEL) was issued at two fibers per cubic centimeter of air in an eight-hour period. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE), constant air monitoring and employee training was also enacted at this time.

In the 80's, it was clear that this measure had not been enough. Further study was completed by OSHA and a new standard was set. Air quality had to be increased and exposure limited to .2 fibers per cubic centimenter of air in an eight-hour period. Included in this revision was an increase in specific PPE's, engineering controls and strict regulated areas of use.

Improved Regualtions

In 1989, OSHA banned all new uses of asbestos, although those in use before that time could continue. The asbestos standards, know as a General Duty Clause were to see another revision soon afterward. In the 90's, OSHA again after continued study revisited the asbestos regulations. The PEL was lowered to .1, rather than the .2 of a decade earlier. Other regulations were kept in place, such as PPE, engineering controls and specific training for employees.

Added to the engineering controls were administrative actions that would help reduce the exposure for employees. These actions limited workers exposure time and provided showers for workers. Adding vents to the workplace and isolating the affected areas also assisted in controlling the workers environment and making it safer.

Asbestos is a widely used

Asbestos is a widely used material for building construction, but its microscopic fibers are hazardous to human health. Asbestos exposure has been associated with several diseases of the lungs, including a rare form of lung cancer. Since 1992, the Texas Department of Health has legally regulated asbestos-containing materials, and their removal.

Scope of laws

The Texas asbestos laws apply to "all buildings which are subject to public occupancy, or to which the general public has access," as well as to all individuals involved in work that may disturb or remove asbestos-containing building material (ACBM).

Prior notification by building owners

Building proprietors must inform, in writing or documented oral communication, anyone performing maintenance or demolition work of the presence and location of asbestos-containing materials before starting any asbestos-related building work.

Licensing requirements

Individuals engaged in asbestos-related work must be officially licensed by the state. The law also requires any licensed worker to keep his license on his person while performing asbestos-related work, and to display it on request to employers or officials from the Texas State Department of Health.

Exclusion for private residences and apartment buildings

Private residences and apartment buildings with four or fewer units are excluded from state asbestos rules.

Right of inspection and investigation

The Texas Department of Health retains the right to inspect or investigate any individual working on asbestos-abatement projects. State inspectors are not required to give advance notice or get the permission of workers at an asbestos site.

Abatement practices and procedures

Certain practices are established for asbestos-abatement work. Asbestos-contaminated areas must be separated by "impermeable barriers" and all openings to adjacent areas be sealed. Movable objects must be removed to a separate area. A sealed, secure worker decontamination room, "consisting of a clean room, shower room, and equipment room" is to be constructed. Prior to being removed from the site, extracted ACBM must be wetted and fully encapsulated to prevent any possible escape of asbestos fibers..

Asbestos litigation is a...

An asbestos lawyer is a personal injury lawyer who specializes in asbestos litigation. Asbestos litigation is a personal injury lawsuit that deals with exposure to asbestos. Exposure to asbestos can result in mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis or other asbestos-related illnesses. People who were exposed to asbestos sue employers, asbestos manufacturers, and others responsible for their exposure, and an asbestos lawyer represents them. Many of these cases are large class action cases, which means multiple plaintiffs sue one company. 

According to the EWG Action Fund, as of 2002 approximately 730,000 people who were exposed to asbestos had sued, and more people were estimated to continue suing. Asbestos lawyers have had a very promising career with asbestos lawsuits, as EWG Action Fund states that asbestos litigation has been the longest running mass class action lawsuit(s) in United States History. Over $70 billion dollars had been paid out to lawyers and clients as of 2002.

Type of Law

Asbestos litigation is tort litigation. This means an asbestos lawyer must be a civil litigator. Civil litigation involves suits brought by one or more plaintiffs against other people or the government. It is different from criminal litigation, in which government representatives try people for crimes with the purposes of imposing criminal penalties. Civil litigators, like asbestos lawyers, sue to try to recover money or other damages for their clients.

As civil litigators, asbestos lawyers must understand how to file lawsuits on behalf of their clients. They must appear in court to make arguments on behalf of their clients and/or negotiate with the defendant to try to settle a claim on their clients behalf. In addition to appearing in court, asbestos lawyers have to do legal research and investigative work. This may involve proving that their clients were exposed to asbestos or that their clients actually suffered damages as result of the exposure.


Asbestos lawyers must graduate from law school and take the Bar Exam in the state they want to practice in. While there is no requirement that an asbestos lawyer specialize in personal injury litigation in law school, many asbestos lawyers did either specialize or participate in law school programs that provided them with time in courtrooms, such as moot court or working in clinics to get experience representing clients.
Many asbestos cases are handled by large law firms, as a result of the size and complexity of asbestos litigation. Large law firms tend to hire attorneys who had good grades in law school and who went to prestigious law schools.

Class Action Litigation

The vast majority of asbestos litigation is in the form of class action litigation. This means that instead of one victim suing separately, many victims get together and sue one company together. This can result in the company being more likely to settle. However, in order to be in a class action, the "class" or group of victims must be certified by the judge.

An asbestos litigation attorney may be responsible for finding a number of victims to be part of a class. They may also be hired by an individual who wants to join a class action, and they can work in conjunction with the "lead attorney" on the class action, to help represent their client as part of this group of victims.

Fees and Payment

Like most personal injury attorneys, asbestos lawyers are usually paid on a contingent fee basis. This means that instead of getting paid an hourly fee or getting money up front, they are paid a portion of the amount that their client wins in court or gets in a settlement.

If an asbestos lawyer is representing a class or group of plaintiffs, the lawyer still get a percentage of the total settlement for all plaintiffs involved. If several lawyers are working on a case together, the "managing attorney" who coordinates the asbestos class action litigation may also get a management fee. When there is a large class action with many victims who were exposed to asbestos, the contingent fee can be a very large sum of money. The average contingency fee is 30% of a settlement.

Possible Legal Changes

Asbestos reform legislation has been proposed to help stop companies from going bankrupt or being crippled by asbestos class actions. Potential asbestos attorneys need to be aware that asbestos litigation reform could change the nature of the asbestos law career. Under the proposed Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2005 (FAIR), the government is proposing that companies create a trust fund to pay reparations to asbestos victims, instead of allowing victims to sue each company individually. If this provision is accepted (as of 2009, this law has not been passed into law), then asbestos attorneys would no longer be able to file large mass class action suits to recover damages for their clients as a result of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos Defense Attorneys

An asbestos attorney can also defend the corporations and manufacturers of the asbestos. This type of defense work can involve disputing claims of people who claim they were exposed. This may involve investigation and looking back at old work records. Asbestos defense attorneys may also negotiate settlements with plaintiffs attorneys in order to minimize the potential financial risk to a company that might result from a jury verdict.

October 28, 2011

Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act

he Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act is one of many pieces of legislation proposed to handle claims filed by individuals affected by asbestos poisoning. Issues surrounding victims' rights and fair compensation have made it difficult for legislators to negotiate terms that suit the victims and the manufacturers of asbestos products.

Asbestos Poisoning

Asbestos poisoning results from inhaling asbestos fibers over long periods of time. These fibers are microscopic in size and can easily become lodged inside the lungs and air passageways, according to Asbestos News. Workplace exposures in industries that manufacture asbestos pose the greatest health risk. Asbestos poisoning is a known cause for lung-related conditions, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and respiratory disorders. Unlike other toxin-related diseases, symptoms of asbestos poisoning can take anywhere from 20 to 40 years to appear. Because of the serious health effects involved, individuals affected by asbestos have a legal right to compensation for previous workplace exposures.

Compensation Act

The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act was first proposed in 1999 as a means for addressing the multitude of lawsuits being filed by individuals affected by the asbestos manufacturing industry, according to Asbestos News. The intention was to create a federally based office through which asbestos-related lawsuits and claims would be handled. Individuals would have to meet a certain set of medical criteria in order to be eligible for compensation. The Compensation Act also sought to set up a fund from which all eligible asbestos claims would be paid.


Because of the complex issues surrounding workers' rights, environmental health and consumer rights, any legislation involving asbestos poisoning requires input from several government branches. Areas of government that affect asbestos legislation include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Lawsuit claims filed against the manufacturing industry has resulted in multiple bankruptcies and lost jobs. According to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the number of companies sued as a result of asbestos-related diseases totals more than 8,000.


The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act--developed by House Representative Henry Hyde in 1998--included 11 points that have remained central to the ongoing debate concerning asbestos litigation, according to Asbestos, a mesothelioma resource site. These points address the known health risks associated with workplace exposures, the need for an organized system for litigating these case, and the lack of criteria for determining whether a claimant qualifies for compensation. The actual passage of the 1999 bill never took place because of controversies surrounding victims' rights and eligibility criteria for claimants.

Claims Criteria Act

Modifications to the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act were made in 2003 and 2005 in an attempt to address the discrepancies that prevented the initial bill from passing. The Asbestos Claims Criteria and Compensation Act of 2003 sought to establish private financing for a national trust fund from which asbestos victims would be compensated, according to Asbestos News. This act also incorporated a strict set of medical criteria for eligible claimants. Attempts to pass this version of the bill were also unsuccessful.

Injury Resolution Act

The modifications made in the 2005 proposal sought to set up funding on a federal level to try to resolve discrepancies encountered with the 2003 proposal. According to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2005 proposed a $140 billion national trust fund with the provision that plaintiff attorney fees would be capped at 5 percent. This bill also incorporated the medical criteria requirement. In this instance, no legislation was passed because of controversies surrounding caps on attorney fees as well as the medical criteria requirement.

What Is Insurance Defense Litigation?

Insurance litigation is a branch of civil law that involves the legal proceedings and disposition of insurance-related matters. Insurance litigation is primarily composed of disputes between insurers and policy holders, and in that capacity, encompasses everything from asbestos litigation to discrimination in the workplace. Insurance litigation is one of the largest areas of civil practice not only in the U.S., but across the globe, and it continues to grow every year.


Insurance defense firms primarily focus on defending insurers through indemnification, such as when a policy holder causes a motor vehicle accident. Insurance defense also covers disputes over liability and obligations, such as when an insured party files a claim for an incident not covered under the policy. Insurance defense covers a wide area of practice; just about any area that offers civil liability insurance is covered under insurance litigation defense.


Indemnification is the transfer of liability from one party to another. When a driver causes a car accident, for example, he transfers his liability for the monetary damages he has caused to his insurance company. The insurer then contracts with an insurance defense attorney, who represents the driver at the insurance company's expense. In exchange for indemnification, the driver pays the insurance company a regular premium to help offset the cost of his claim.

Coverage Disputes

A coverage dispute is an argument over what an insurance policy actually covers. This can happen when an insured party files a claim for an incident that is not explicitly covered by the policy, when there is a conflict over the verbiage of the policy, when the insured has exceeded his policy limits or when an insured files a claim for an incident that is explicitly excluded from coverage. Less often, coverage disputes may arise from disagreements over which insurer is liable in a primary/secondary insurance scheme, when there has been a lapse in coverage due to a clerical error on the insurer's part or when the insurer believes there is fraud or exaggeration on the insured's part.

Practice Areas

Insurance litigation defense encompasses many different forms of civil liability, and thus offers a number of practice areas. The most common areas include auto accidents, homeowners insurance, workers' compensation and personal injury cases (such as slip-and-falls, defamation and mold exposure). Other practice areas include asbestos (mesothelioma) litigation, medical and professional malpractice, labor and employment, admiralty, environmental, governmental, toxic torts, product liability and professional negligence.


Despite the name, insurance litigation defense entails very little litigation. The primary goal of insurance defense is to settle every claim before the matter reaches the courthouse. Litigation is a very long and expensive process, sometimes lasting as long as 10 or 15 years before reaching a resolution, and insurance companies need to keep their overhead low to afford the claims they receive throughout the year. Because of this, insurance defense litigation focuses on settling claims whenever possible for as little as possible. An exceptional defense litigation attorney may actually appear in court only a handful of times throughout his or her career.