Lung Damage From Engineered Stone Manufacturing in Texas (Silicosis)

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There has been a recent spike in illnesses and deaths which have been linked to household countertops made from “engineered stone.”  Because these countertops often contain high quantities of a mineral called “silica,” people who work with or around these materials are at risk of being exposed to dangerous silica dust.  People are now left wondering how dangerous these materials are, as well as what legal options may be available to those who have suffered some form of injury or illness.  This article will discuss the effects of these materials, as well as what legal options may be available.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with silicosis, the attorneys at Zinda Law Group may be able to help. Call today at 512 246 2224 for a free case evaluation. If we don’t win your case, you won’t owe us anything.

What is Silicosis?

Nature, Cause, and Types

Silicosis is a serious form of non-curable lung disease.  The condition can be caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, which is a mineral found in sand, rock, and mineral ores.  Over time, the ingestion of silica can cause damage to a person’s lungs (for instance, scarring) which can eventually result in difficulty breathing.

In general, there are three types of silicosis:

  • Acute: Symptoms can manifest as early as two weeks after exposure to a large amount of silica or silica dust. Symptoms can last up to two years.
  • Chronic: Symptoms may not manifest for up to years or decades after exposure to low or moderate amounts of silica or silica dust. Symptoms may be mild at first and worsen with time.
  • Accelerated: Symptoms may manifest five to ten years after heavy exposure to silica or silica dust. Symptoms will worsen quickly.

Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of silicosis can appear as quickly as a couple of weeks after initial exposure to silica dust.  Short-term or rapid onset symptoms may include:

  • Repeated or nagging coughing
  • Build-up of phlegm or mucus
  • Difficulty breathing

Alternatively, many years or even decades can go by before symptoms begin to manifest.  Symptoms which could take a while to develop may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden fever
  • Swollen legs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased risk of other cardio-pulmonary conditions

Because silicosis is a serious disease that can develop rapidly or progressively, it is important always to be alert and aware of your own health, particularly if you work in an industry that involves silica or silica dust.

Diagnosis

Silicosis can be diagnosed in several ways.  Examples of diagnosing methods may include:

  • Chest X-Ray: Checks lungs for scars
  • Chest CT Scan: Checks lungs for scars
  • Lung Tissue Biopsy: Lung tissue sampled for signs of silicosis
  • Bronchoscopy: Checks for lung damage
  • Sputum Test: Evaluates lungs for silicosis and other lung diseases

Employer Responsibility for Lung Damage

If you have sustained an injury or illness due to the nature of your job, it may be possible to pursue compensation by suing for employer negligence.  Employer negligence is often alleged in personal injury cases, typically when an employee is hurt or suffers some type of illness, such as silicosis.

To prove a negligence case against an employer, the employee must be able to establish that: (1) the employer owed a duty of care to the employee, (2) the employer breached that duty of care owed to the employee, and (3) actual injury was caused by the employer’s breach of the duty.

Employer negligence can be shown in several ways.  In silicosis cases, this is often accomplished by showing that the employer negligently trained or negligently supervised its employees.  For instance, if an employer failed to properly train its employees with respect to how to handle engineered stone, the employer may be liable for negligent training.  If an employer failed to conduct routine safety checks, or if the employer failed to provide adequate safety gear, the employer may be held liable for negligent supervision.

Because worker’s compensation may hinder a person’s ability to file a lawsuit against his or her employer, you may want to consider consulting with a personal injury in order to seek advice about how best to proceed with an employer negligence claim.

Silicosis Compensation

The compensation that may be available following a diagnosis of silicosis may depend on whether a personal injury lawsuit can be initiated.

Because silicosis may be classified as an on-the-job injury, legal remedies for individuals stricken with the disease can take the form of worker’s compensation claims.  In worker’s compensation claims, the employee may be entitled only to “economic” damages.  Economic damages are those which can be added up and calculated.  Examples of economic damages may include:

  • Lost wages;
  • Lost earning capacity;
  • Medical bills;
  • Future medical expenses

On the other hand, if a personal injury lawsuit against the employer is filed, an employee may be able to seek compensation for all the damages that he or she can establish.  In contrast to worker’s compensation claims, the damages available in a personal injury lawsuit may include both economic damages and “non-economic” damages.  Non-economic damages are intangible losses whose value is subjected to evaluation by a jury.  Examples of non-economic damages may include:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Loss of consortium

Therefore, determining the types and forms of compensation that may be available requires assessing the facts of your case in order to determine whether a personal injury lawsuit can be pursued.  A consultation with a personal injury attorney may be able to help you determine whether you can pursue legal action against your employer or former employer.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been diagnosed with silicosis or believe that you are at risk of developing the disease, you may want to consider consulting with a personal injury attorney.  A personal injury lawyer may be able to help in several ways.

Gathering Important Information and Providing Advice

First, the attorney may want to meet with you in order to gather important facts about your situation. In doing so, the personal injury lawyer may ask important questions such as:

  • Where you work;
  • How long you have worked there;
  • What safety measures your employer has in place;
  • When you first noticed symptoms;
  • Whether you have received any medical treatment; and
  • Whether any of your co-workers have experienced symptoms

Once the attorney is familiar with your situation, the attorney may be able to provide legal options and legal advice.  Such advice may help you determine what steps you can take moving forward.

Utilizing Resources

An attorney may also be able to utilize his or her resources to build your case.  For instance, an attorney may be able to review your employer's policies, guidelines, and procedures to determine whether the employer was negligent in any way.  If the employer failed to implement safety measures or refused to offer protective equipment, the employer may have acted negligently.  An attorney may also be able to interview witnesses to determine whether proper procedure was followed.

Advocating On Your Behalf

Should you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit, an attorney may be able to advocate on your behalf.  For instance, an attorney may negotiate with your employer or the employer’s insurance company in settlement discussions.  If the case happens to go to trial, an attorney may represent you and your best interests in a court of law.

How To File a Claim for Silicosis

If you wish to pursue compensation for the injuries and losses sustained following a diagnosis of silicosis, you may need to file a civil lawsuit against the employer whose negligence caused your injuries.  Listed below are several steps that describe the claim-filing process.

1. Contact an Attorney

If you have decided to pursue legal action, your first step should be to contact an attorney.  An attorney may be able to help you determine whether legal action against your employer or former employer can be pursued in the first place.  If this is found to be the case, the attorney may then want to gather all the facts regarding your situation.  Based on these facts, the attorney may then provide legal advice and propose your best options moving forward.  If a lawsuit can be filed, the attorney may act on your behalf by initiating the process of filing a formal lawsuit.

2. Investigation

The investigation phase of a silicosis claim involves the attorney continuing to collect crucial facts and evidence which may be able to help establish fault on the part of the employer.  For example, the attorney may review important documents such as company records, company guidelines, and employee handbooks.  This investigation is done in order to determine whether the employer was negligent in any way when supervising or training its employees and staff.  The investigation process may also involve accounting for your total damages, such as the total cost of your medical bills and lost wages.

3. Negotiation and Settlement

Before a silicosis claim reaches a trial court, it is possible that you will have the option of accepting a settlement from your employer or your employer’s insurance company.  At this stage, the attorney may act on your behalf by strategically negotiating a settlement amount with the opposing parties.  During negotiations, the attorney may emphasize the severity of your situation in order to seek fair compensation.

4. Trial and Litigation

If it is not in your best interest to accept a settlement offer from your employer, your silicosis claim may end up being litigated in a court of law.  At the trial stage, the attorney may be able to advocate on your behalf, constructing a case that has been built and designed to establish that your employer should be held legally accountable for your injury and losses.

Call Zinda Law Group Today

Zinda Law Group attorneys understand that silicosis sufferers can be left with severe mental and emotional suffering on top of their physical injuries. You don’t have to face this difficult time alone.  In addition, we believe that injury victims shouldn’t have to worry about being able to afford representation, which is why you pay nothing unless we win your case.

If you have contracted silicosis from engineered stone manufacturing or some other hazardous workplace, contact Zinda Law Group for a free case evaluation by chat, web form, or phone call at 512 246 2224.

Meetings with attorneys by appointment only.