The Importance of Timing in Making an Asbestos Claim

Employees injured on the job are usually bared from filing a claim against their employers because they are fully compensated under the Louisiana Workers Compensation Act. However, while the act provides for most injuries, it does not provide for all. Whether or not your injuries are covered by Workers Compensation requires a look at recent Louisiana statutes.

In the case of employee’s claiming injuries due to asbestos exposure, Louisiana’s Workers Compensation Act can may be tricky to pinpoint. Because asbestos usually manifests itself years after initial exposure, deciding which statute applies, and thus which injuries are covered, may be difficult. The time at which a claim arises is usually measured from the injury producing event, that is in this case, the initial exposure to asbestos. The injury producing event, in addition to providing a timeline for a cause of action, also determines the law controlling the event. Laws are amended and changed over time, so the date of asbestos exposure actually determines which statute will be applied to the injury claim.

In 1996, Royce Thomas filed a claim against his former employer, Anco Insulations (“Anco”). He claims that his job, from 1968 to 1971, exposed him to large quantities of asbestos, and he contracted lung cancer and asbestosis as a result of the exposure. His employer challenged the claim, alleging that the injuries were covered under workers’ compensation. This is where the importance of the injury producing event becomes evident. Royce claimed that his lung cancer and asbestosis were related to pre-1975 exposure to asbestos. Under Louisiana law at that time (pre-1975), asbestos was not a substance covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Therefore, Royce had a valid cause of action because the injury producing event occurred at a time when asbestos, and lung cancer for that matter, were not injuries covered by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act.

Determining the injury producing event is very important to a claim, especially one involving asbestos or mesothelioma. Had the asbestos exposure occurred after 1975, Royce Thomas’ would have been bared from filing a claim against Anco because the statute was amended to include asbestos, and he therefore would have been entitled to complete relief under Workers’ Compensation.

Cases involving asbestos exposure also lend themselves to debate over the root cause of the injury. In the above case, Mr. Thomas claimed that his injuries were caused by asbestos exposure, a substance not covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The employer, however, argued that Thomas’ lung cancer was actually caused by asbestosis, a disease explicitly covered by the Act. [Note: Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory medical condition that effects the lung tissue]. Determining the injury producing event, whether lung cancer was caused by asbestos exposure or asbestosis, can help a court decide whether the injured party has a right to relief under Workers’ Compensation or not.