Asbestos insurance claims still lurking – and evolving

Posted by John Cofini on Thu, May 22, 2014 @ 02:16 PM

For decades, the link between asbestos exposure and serious health issues has been well known. And asbestos litigation – the largest mass tort in U.S. history – isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

It’s been nearly 40 years since the first asbestos personal injury lawsuit was filed, and litigation continues to evolve with new types of plaintiffs and new categories of defendants. It’s no longer just about asbestos-related pulmonary disease. Cases involving malignancies such as mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer now dominate the courts, with settlements often in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The targets of lawsuits have evolved too. While the volume of claims against manufacturers that once used asbestos material in their products has leveled off, existing trust funds are stretched to the limit and bankruptcy filings are on the rise among bigger companies, so plaintiffs are more frequently targeting smaller companies and peripheral defendants.

Could you be in the crosshairs of an asbestos lawsuit?

Exposure to asbestos is still common, even necessary in some industries. In fact, over a million people in the U.S. are exposed to significant amounts of asbestos in the workplace every day, according to OSHA. If your business is involved in demolition and construction, shipbuilding, mining, heating and cooling repair, automotive repair, or other work that involves exposure to asbestos, you could easily be at risk of getting caught up in litigation.

Even your insurance company could be at risk

According to Fitch Ratings, Property & Casualty insurers in the U.S. have averaged about $2 billion a year over the last five years in losses related to asbestos exposures. The actual number of claims filed annually is declining, but with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos-related lung cancer now dominating claims, payouts are much higher. Insurance industry reserves for future asbestos losses could be deficient by as much as $9 billion as of the end of 2013.

It’s clear that asbestos litigation continues to be a very real threat to businesses and insurers alike. So what can you as a business owner do to reduce your chances of getting caught up in an asbestos lawsuit? You can start by making sure your workers are protected.

Protect your employees – protect your business

Depending on your industry, here are some steps you can take to protect your employees from mesothelioma and other asbestos related health problems: 

  • Training for employees who work with and around asbestos
  • Properly ventilated workspaces
  • Monitoring of employees for asbestos exposure levels
  • Warning signs and instructions in areas where asbestos-related work is performed
  • Protective clothing like gloves, foot coverings, face shields, and goggles
  • Protective equipment like respirators
  • Showers and other post-exposure precautions
  • Medical exams for workers who are exposed to high levels of asbestos

Most of these safety measures are covered by OSHA regulations, so you may already be legally obligated to take these steps.

And don’t forget – you need the right kind of New York business insurance coverage to protect your operations. That’s where the experts at BNC Insurance and Risk Advisors can help. As New York’s construction insurance experts, we can source superior protection for your business exposures. Request a complimentary New Jersey or New York insurance quote here or download our construction case study six pack.


Tags: construction insurance, New York construction insurance, new york business insurance, risk management, asbestos insurance claims