Mesothelioma and the Statute of Limitations

chicago mesothelioma calendarMany people today have heard of the dangers of asbestos exposure in the home or workplace. The most serious of asbestos-related diseases may be mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive form of cancer affecting the lining of the lungs and abdomen. Exposure to asbestos is the primary cause and risk factor for mesothelioma.

Companies Continue To Put Employees At Risk

The dangers of asbestos exposure have been well known for over eighty years. Despite this knowledge, many companies continued using it extensively in products and workplaces well into the 1970s. These corporations ignored the deadly nature of asbestos for decades, willfully putting the safety of their workers and the general public behind these companies’ own profits.

One of the hallmarks of mesothelioma is that the disease remains latent in the body for a long time before a doctor can definitively diagnose it. Mesothelioma can lie dormant in the body for anywhere from 10 to 50 years, with most latency periods being between 30 to 45 years. Because of the extended latency period, many victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases (such as lung cancer) are older individuals.

Like most civil actions, asbestos-related mesothelioma cases must be filed within a certain time frame, before the expiration of the statute of limitations.  In a typical Illinois automobile crash, for example, a lawsuit for injuries suffered in that crash must be filed within two years of the crash.

Understanding the "Discovery Rule"

Obviously, asbestos-related mesothelioma cases present different challenges because the disease can lay dormant in the body for decades before it can be diagnosed. State legislators recognize these issues and as a result, many states, Illinois included, follow the “discovery rule.” This means that the clock for the statute of limitations does not start until the plaintiff knew or should have known that she had an asbestos-related disease and knew or should have known that the disease was caused by exposure to asbestos or asbestos-containing products. In Illinois, plaintiffs have two years from this discovery to file a lawsuit. As a late filing can bar you from recovery, it’s important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible after diagnosis. It can take several weeks or months to draft a complaint and acquire the records necessary for filing. In addition, an attorney may not have enough time to help you with your case if you wait until the eve of the statute before setting up an appointment.

In Illinois, plaintiffs have two years from this discovery to file a lawsuit. 

In July 2015, the Illinois legislature and then-governor Pat Quinn helped level the playing field for some asbestos-related mesothelioma victims by extending the deadline to file for plaintiffs who are exposed to asbestos during construction projects. Under the new law, the deadline in these construction asbestos exposure cases has been extended to ten years from the date of discovery. As the Illinois bill’s sponsor aptly said when the bill was signed into law, “the deadly diseases caused by asbestos exposure know no statute of limitations, so it’s fitting that our law is finally catching up to medical realities.”

Speak to a Mesothelioma Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please feel free to contact Shannon Law Group. We are happy to sit down with you and discuss your legal options with you.

 

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