Asbestos-related diseases and the statute of limitations

What is a "statute of limitations"?

Perhaps you've heard of the legal term "statute of limitations." As the name implies, a statute of limitations controls the maximum period of time within which a claim must be filed. Such statutes vary from state to state, and by the type of subject matter or injury (for example, contract, tort, and the like). With very few exceptions, if you wait too long after the statute starts to run, the deadline to file a claim passes, and you can no longer sue the parties responsible for your loss or injury.

When does the statute start?

Generally, a personal injury claim (that is, a claim where you are physically and/or mentally injured by the actions of another) generally must be filed within a fixed period of time, the time period beginning on the date when the accident or injury occurs. Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related claims, however, differ from general personal injury claims. The statutes of limitations for such claims usually start when a person is diagnosed, after which a claimant has two to three years to file a claim, depending on the state.

The difference between these two types of claims is due to the nature of the illness. Asbestos-related diseases often do not appear until sometime after a person is exposed to asbestos, sometimes up to two or more decades after exposure.

North Carolina law

The North Carolina statute of limitations for a personal injury suit is three years. This means that a victim of an asbestos disease has three years after he or she has been diagnosed ( not three years after he or she has been exposed) to file a damage claim. If the person has died from the disease, then his or her family has two years after the death to file a wrongful death action. North Carolina also provides for what is called "joint and several liability," which means that if more than one person or company is responsible for injuries, then each of these multiple defendants absorbs an apportioned share of financial responsibility.

Legal and medical activity

There has recently been quite a bit of asbestos legal activity in North Carolina, much it involving Aqua Chem, a heat and processing manufacturer that has facilities in North Carolina dating back to 1943. Asbestos insulation and valve seals were part of assembly-line process for years.

Also, textile and pulp mill activity help rank North Carolina thirteenth among all states in asbestos related-deaths, according to a 2001 survey, as reported in Asbestos News. The survey found 503 asbestosis deaths from 1979 to 2000, and between 534 and 917 mesothelioma deaths. A 2005 report found an additional 390 mesothelioma deaths from 2001 to 2005.

Conclusion

Given the relatively high figures mentioned above, and the relatively short period in which to file a claim (even considering the fact that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until diagnosis), if you suspect that you are suffering from an asbestos-related disease, it is extremely important, not only to get medical help immediately, but to contact an experienced asbestos litigation attorney to pursue your legal remedies and to get you the compensation you deserve.