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Navy Seamen Asbestos Exposure

Experienced Legal Counsel for Navy Veterans/Seamen in Brooklyn, Manhattan & More

For much of the 20th century, U.S. Naval ships were built with materials containing asbestos. This flame retardant was hailed for its ability to protect seamen in case of fire on the open water, but little was known about the dangers of asbestos exposure until the late 1970s.

Naval records indicate that asbestos was not only used in some ship parts, but was common from bow to stern in things such as insulation materials, piping, boilers, deck covering, paneling, blocking materials, capacitors, hydraulic assemblies, and other parts. Naval seamen who have served aboard these ships are at an increased risk for asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Our nation’s seamen who have been diagnosed with one of these illnesses deserve the attention of an uncompromising asbestos exposure attorney.

If you have served as a Naval seaman and are now facing an asbestos-related illness, please contact The Williams Law Firm, P.C. or call (855) 575-6376 today to schedule a free consultation with our New York mesothelioma lawyer.

How an Asbestos Exposure Attorney Can Help

When you hire an attorney with experience handling asbestos cases involving the military (and the Navy in particular), you receive access to exceptional resources that can help you build a case. Your lawyer will explore all potential outlets for financial compensation for you, from a workers’ compensation case or asbestos trust fund claim to a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in New York. 

A lawyer will take care of the legwork of your claim while you focus on your health and wellness. An attorney can collect evidence, hire experts, collect witness statements, negotiate with insurance companies and file a lawsuit on your behalf. A lawyer can also handle any challenges that come your way. If your employer’s insurance company refuses to pay your claim, for instance, your lawyer can head to trial to demand justice.

POST-NAVAL EXPOSURE

The Navy stopped using asbestos in ships in the 1970s, but a number of the vessels containing asbestos materials remained in service for years afterward. While the Navy has taken action to remove asbestos from its ships, older materials may become more brittle with age and put workers at risk of asbestos being put into the environment if proper safety guidelines are not followed.

Because asbestos on ships from the 1940s through the 1970s was ubiquitous, it is highly likely that anyone who worked in or on any part of a U.S. Navy vessel even as late as the 1990s has been exposed to the asbestos particles known to cause mesothelioma and asbestosis. Most asbestos-related diseases have a long latency period, or the time between the date of asbestos exposure and the first signs of illness. This means that someone who was exposed to asbestos in the Navy in the 1900s may only now be noticing related health problems.

Who is Most at Risk? 

Asbestos was largely used in shipbuilding activities before its carcinogenic properties were made known. The ability of asbestos not only to resist heat but also corrosion made it a highly lucrative material to use in the construction of Naval ships. Asbestos was used in the U.S. Navy more than in any other branch of the military. Anyone who served in the Navy could be at risk of illnesses and diseases related to asbestos exposure.

Those at the highest risk of occupational asbestos exposure in the Navy held certain positions or came into contact with asbestos materials more often than others:

  • Asbestos-containing materials: boiler gaskets and coating, pipe insulation, felt wrappings, mechanical pumps, valves, hydraulic assemblies, deck tile, paneling, packing materials, adhesives, deck covering materials, cables, bedding compounds, and thermal materials.
  • Types of ships: aircraft carriers, auxiliary ships, armored cruisers, light cruisers, guided missile cruisers, warships, destroyers, destroyer escorts, minesweepers, Navy frigates, ammunition freighters, cutters, escort carriers, patrol boats, oilers and tankers, merchant marine ships, landing craft, hospital vessels, and submarines.
  • Types of Naval workers: boiler technicians, machinists, pipefitters, fire control technicians, engine room technicians (“enginemen”), pump room technicians, below-deck sailors and engineers, electricians, hull maintenance specialists, gunnery and magazine technicians, plumbers, panel installers, welders, and firefighters.

If asbestos within any ship was disturbed, such as during repairs or daily activities, the fibers could be inhaled or ingested by Naval seamen. Close quarters and poor insulation put workers at an increased risk, as did the lack of protective masks and safety procedures concerning asbestos, such as wetting the material to prevent asbestos dust from entering the air. In addition, the family members of Naval seamen were at risk of secondary exposure from asbestos fibers being carried home with military members on their clothing, skin and hair.

What Are Your Rights as a Navy Veteran or Seaman?

Federal law gives maritime workers the right to seek financial compensation for injuries due to asbestos exposure on the job. It is the Jones Act, otherwise known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Under the Jones Act, navy veterans are able to sue for damages outside of those defined in maritime law. Below is important information regarding this act:

  • APPLIES TO ANY SEAMAN WHO SUFFERS INJURIES ON DUTY OR AS A RESULT OF THEIR JOB
  • PROVIDES FOR THE RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL AND POSSIBLE DAMAGES
  • CASES ARE CLASSIFIED AS A DISTINCT SEGMENT OF U.S. COMMON LAW AND PERSONAL INJURY LAW
  • SHIP OWNERS ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR AWARDED DAMAGES
  • NEGLIGENCE IS OFFICIALLY CLASSIFIED AS A BASIS FOR LEGAL LIABILITY

Under the Jones Act, you may have the right to bring a lawsuit in the state court or federal district court for your exposure to asbestos in the Navy. If there is evidence that your employer knew or reasonably should have known about this risk and done more to protect you, you may qualify for compensation.

Symptoms of Asbestos-Related Diseases

Being exposed to asbestos can result in a wide range of potential health problems and illnesses. A worker may develop mesothelioma, for example, which is a terminal type of cancer that forms in the protective lining around the organs (the mesothelial tissues). Asbestosis, lung cancer, ovarian cancer and other diseases are also possible. 

You or a loved one may have an occupational disease due to asbestos exposure in the Navy if you notice any of the following symptoms: 

  • Dry, persistent cough
  • Respiratory problems or trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Clubbing of the fingers or toes
  • Lumps that form beneath the skin of the chest
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden weight loss

The symptoms experienced will depend on the type of illness, the stage of its progression and the individual patient. If you notice any potential signs of an asbestos-related disease as a veteran or Naval seaman, visit a doctor or specialist. Diagnosing your condition early can give you the best possible treatment options and prognosis. 

How to File a Claim Under the Jones Act

 If you wish to file a claim for asbestos exposure in the Navy under the Jones Act, start by contacting an attorney. An attorney can help you with each step of the legal process. Filing a Jones Act claim in New York first requires obtaining all relevant information, records, documentation and reports. This may include an official accident report, your medical records detailing a diagnosis and an opinion from an asbestos expert.

Once you have gathered all relevant evidence, you and your lawyer can fill out and file all the necessary paperwork to initiate a claim. As long as you spent at least 30 percent of your working time aboard a ship or vessel – including a docked vessel – you are defined as a seaman. If you became ill due to occupational exposure to a hazard, you may qualify for compensation through the Jones Act.

After you bring a claim, the burden of proof rests with you as the plaintiff. This means that you or your lawyer must prove the elements of your claim. The burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, or the “more likely than not” standard. An attorney can help you provide proof of your employer’s negligence to establish the grounds for your claim. A lawyer with experience in maritime law and Jones Act claims can guide you through this process.

FIGHT ALONG SIDE SOMEONE WHO CARES ABOUT YOUR SITUATION

There is an added complexity to cases involving Naval seamen and asbestos-related illness in that they involve the VA and other veterans’ service groups. Joseph Williams is a dedicated New York asbestos exposure attorney who is prepared to stand up for your rights and stand by your side through every part of your claim to help you get the full compensation you deserve.

ATTORNEY WILLIAMS IN HONORED TO SERVE CURRENT AND FORMER NAVY SERVICEMAN AND WOMEN LIVING IN MANHATTAN, THE BRONX, AND SURROUNDING BOROUGHS OF NEW YORK CITY. CONTACT THE WILLIAMS LAW FIRM, P.C. TODAY!

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