Personnel such as Merchant Mariners, navy personnel and other seafarers may have suffered exposure to asbestos while working aboard navy vessels.
Merchant Marines and the Threat of Asbestos: Hazards of Navy Vessels and Asbestosis
In the 1960s, asbestos was a substance that was “used in every ship that left our country’s (U.S) ports. It was considered a ‘miracle’ material because it did not burn, was hard as a rock and could be used virtually anywhere” according to the article “Asbestos becomes a Menace” written by Lisa Finnegan.
But asbestos was later discovered to be a “menace” to health, and exposure to the substance was linked to the cancer mesothelioma.
In fact, almost one-third of merchant marine seaman “who passed away during World War II as a result of their occupation were not killed overseas by enemy fire or any other act of war.
More than 100,000 thousand dedicated merchant mariners died many years later from illnesses like mesothelioma and lung cancer, caused by exposure to asbestos” according to Asbestos.com. The situation for current mariners who contract the illness is also dire.
For victims who contract the disease due to work-related exposure to asbestos, once the diagnosis of mesothelioma is made, the victim’s focus shifts from medical aspects of treatment to the legal aspects of payment for treatment and financial compensation.
The sufferer must concern himself/herself with lawyers and receiving money for care out of necessity.
The reason that the shift in focus is necessary is that asbestosis (and related mesothelioma) is a chronic condition; this means that the disease doesn’t have a cure.
The individual who contracts asbestosis must live with the signs and symptoms for the rest of his/her life; the lungs suffer permanent damage, and lifetime treatment means a lifetime of expenses.
Work-Related Exposure to Asbestos
The ill-effects of asbestos exposure may not become evident for decades, and the individual with asbestosis may not show any signs and symptoms of exposure for years. The cause may be several years removed from the effect. This complicates the process of proving that one’s sickness was caused by work-related exposure.
According to a Mesothelioma.com article about mesothelioma and veterans of the armed forces, “the government is not held responsible for the asbestos-contaminated materials that were manufactured by various companies.”
Therefore navy personnel, federal employees, and members of the Military Sealift Command (civilian Mariners who serve aboard U.S. navy vessels) who suspect that their illness was caused by work-related exposure to asbestos, must file a lawsuit (and seek compensation) against the company that produced the asbestos, not the government entity that they worked for.
Monetary Compensation Necessary to Pay for Lifelong Treatment
As the ailment lasts a lifetime, the individual suffering the effects of asbestos exposure (asbestosis, mesothelioma) must arrange for enough financial support to meet the expense of a lifetime of care and treatment.
Getting compensation is a virtual necessity. And getting the diagnosis of mesothelioma, although difficult, is only the first major challenge for the mariner or navy personnel who contract asbestosis or mesothelioma in the course of performing their duties aboard a ship.
As a result of the difficulties faced by individuals seeking compensation for asbestos-related illnesses, some attorneys have established practices devoted to asbestos litigation and asbestos lawsuits.
Some merchant marines who worked aboard navy ships, suffered exposure and contracted mesothelioma from the inhalation of asbestos dust are battling years-long battles in court to receive monetary compensation.
For the Merchant Mariner, seaman, sailor, or other seafarers who may have been exposed to asbestos dust during maintenance of the ship the following advice is offered:
Diagnosis of Mesothelioma and Determining that it is Work-Related
Get a thorough medical examination and inform the physician of your concerns during the exam; the diagnosis of asbestosis is a difficult one for the physician to make and requires follow-up exams.
Establishing medical documentation of signs, symptoms, and getting a medical diagnosis is a major part of presenting a case for work-related asbestos exposure. Regular check-ups and an ongoing relationship with a healthcare provider are also important.
After the diagnosis, the individual who suspects that his/her illness is work-related must convince the asbestos manufacturer that his/her mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure.
Establishing this link can be challenging, and it is one reason that so many must resort to litigation to receive financial compensation for this work-related injury. Conduct research and personal interviews, finding a competent lawyer to present your case are important.
In the case of military veterans and personnel who worked aboard navy vessels on the government’s behalf, because the government cannot be sued the individual must instead seek compensation from the asbestos manufacturer. An experienced asbestos lawyer is often consulted to do battle with such multi-million dollar corporations.
Financial Compensation for Asbestosis
The Merchant Mariner, navy personnel, or other seafarers who suspect an illness related to shipboard asbestos exposure should consult a lawyer who specializes in cases of mesothelioma and asbestosis caused by work-related exposure.
Representing oneself in the process of demanding compensation is a difficult proposition, especially for the individual who must wage a court battle against a multi-million dollar corporation, thus the proliferation of asbestos lawyers and asbestos litigation.
Personnel who worked aboard navy vessels were at exceptional risk for inhalation of asbestos dust. These individuals need to be scrupulous about their health as the ill effects of exposure may take years to manifest.
Because asbestosis is a chronic illness that requires lifetime treatment, the affected individual is forced to seek monetary compensation and attorneys that specialize in asbestos lawsuits.
All Merchant Mariners, navy personnel, and personnel who have performed maintenance aboard ships need to be aware of the dangers of asbestosis and realize that signs and symptoms may take years to develop.
- Finnegan, Lisa. “Asbestos Becomes a Menace.” Occupational Hazards, Volume 60 Issue 7 Pages 53-54. 1998
- Ehstoday.com; Seven Decades of Safety: Asbestos Becomes a Menace; Lisa Finnegan
- Tabers Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary (20th Edition). Philadelphia, P.A.: F.A. Davis. 2005.
- med.navy.mil; Navy Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) Program Manual for Forces Afloat.
- Asbestos Exposure in Military Branches & Wars. Asbestos.com
- Mesothelioma – Marine Veterans