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Federal asbestos law would limit litigation, handcuff victims

For many years now, it's been common knowledge that the use of asbestos products was harmful -- and potentially fatal -- for anyone who came into contact with the material. As thousands in North Carolina and the rest of the country contracted mesothelioma and other lung conditions related to asbestos exposure, many explored their legal options and took action to recover the physical and financial damages they sustained.

Now, however, there is an effort in Congress to change the rules surrounding asbestos-related personal injury lawsuits. Not long ago, a House committee passed the Furthering Asbestos Calim Transparency Act, which affords asbestos companies more leverage in legal claims.

As many companies began to pay out for asbestos and mesothelioma claims, they established trusts to administer any future financial rewards. However, if the legislative measure is passed, the asbestos companies will have the ability to request information from the trusts at any time. Observers worry that this will divert trusts' "limited resources," which could "slow the process of paying claims."

Beyond the increased powers for asbestos companies, victims or their loved ones aren't given additional support by the bill. Victims and their attorneys may be limited in their ability to information that could be valuable to their claim.

Above all else, the process to pursue asbestos injury claims should be fair. The reason so many claims have been filed over the years is that companies used asbestos with the knowledge that it's harmful and didn't provide any warning to workers or others exposed to it. This negligence created pain for many families, so it's important that those affected receive the support they need.

Source: The New York Times, "One-Sided Bill on Asbestos Injuries," June 19, 2013

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