Each year, millions of workers in the U.S. are seriously threatened by exposure to silica dust at their jobs, including thousands who build countertops out of engineered stone. People who work in the construction industry or with construction materials may be exposed to silica that is released into the air while they work. This places workers at risk of developing a disease called silicosis, lung injuries, and different types of lung cancer. If you have been diagnosed with a lung injury or silicosis from silica exposure at your job, you need to talk to an experienced lung injury and silicosis lawyer in San Jose as soon as possible at the San Jose Personal Injury Attorneys. We can help you to navigate through the legal system and to potentially recover maximum compensation for your losses.
What is silica?
Silica is a crystalline mineral that is a large component of rocks and sand, including granite and sandstone. It is a lung carcinogen and is known to be a cause of silicosis, which is a terminal lung disease. Workers may be exposed to silica when they manufacture many different products, including kitchen countertops, bricks, tiles, and concrete. When tiny particles of silica are released into the air, the workers may inhale them. Silica particles in the lungs can cause extensive lung scarring that worsens over time.
Since silica is so abundant, it has been used for thousands of years. Many people have been exposed to silica dust. Millions of workers inhale silica in mining, construction, and other industrial occupations. Inhaling silica dust can cause an irreversible, debilitating, and potentially fatal disease called silicosis as well as several other types of cancer and health conditions.
What is silicosis?
Silicosis is a disease in which fibrous scar tissue and nodules form in the lungs. Silicosis was first recognized in 1700 by Bernardino Ramazzini, an Italian physician who recognized that stone cutters shared some common symptoms. More than 200 years later, Dr. Alice Hamilton connected the disease to the dust that granite cutters inhaled. Her work led to an awareness of the risks of silica exposure.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces laws that protect workers from silica exposure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that an estimated 101 workers die each year in the U.S. from silicosis.
Symptoms of silicosis
The symptoms of silicosis may appear within weeks of the exposure or not show until decades afterward. As scarring of the lungs happens, the symptoms become evident. One of the first symptoms that you might experience is a persistent cough that develops over time. Silicosis occurs in three types with symptoms at different levels of severity.
Simple or chronic silicosis is a type of disease that appears from 10 to 30 years after the exposure to silica dust. It affects the upper parts of the lungs and may cause extensive scars. People with this form of silicosis may experience breathlessness that resembles COPD. Chronic silicosis can be a simple or complicated silicosis. Doctors distinguish between the two types with chest radiography. Simple silicosis may present with labored breathing or be asymptomatic. It can be difficult to differentiate between it and emphysema because of the similarity of the symptoms. Complicated silicosis includes symptoms of difficulty breathing, a productive cough, general malaise, and weight loss.
Accelerated silicosis is a type of silicosis that happens within five to 10 years of exposure to a large amount of silica dust in a short time. The symptoms of scarring and inflammation progress much faster than they do in chronic or simple silicosis.
Acute silicosis typically develops within 10 years of a high level of exposure to silica dust. In this form of the disease, the lungs may fill with fluid and become very inflamed. The victims will experience severe breathing problems and low levels of blood oxygen. They will also experience severe weight loss, a fever, and coughing.
How silicosis develops
Silicosis develops when tiny particles of silica become trapped in the air sacs of the lungs. The silica damages the lining of the air sacs, leading to scarring. In some cases, the silica may cause progressive massive fibrosis in which there are severe scarring and lung stiffening, making it difficult to breathe.
When silicosis is diagnosed, a doctor may talk about hearing wheezing or crackling when he or she listens to your lungs. If you have silicosis, you will also have a higher risk of developing lung cancer, tuberculosis, and chronic bronchitis. Over time, the capacity of your lungs will decrease. This means that most people who live with silicosis will eventually need oxygen support to assist with breathing.
Silicosis claims can be difficult since many involve substantial amounts of time from the exposure to the development of the disease. Many companies may try to blame the disease on an intervening event, which will make it important for you to get help from an experienced silicosis attorney to investigate your case and pinpoint the cause of your illness.
Workers who develop silicosis from their jobs are entitled to file claims for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits may pay for their medical bills, rehabilitation costs, therapy, and related medical costs. Workers who are unable to return to their jobs may also recover payments to replace a percentage of their lost income.
When the exposure to silica was caused by the negligent actions of a third party, the worker may file a lawsuit against the third party and a claim for workers’ compensation benefits from the employer. This may enable the worker to recover compensation for his or her noneconomic losses as well as the economic losses.
Silicosis may also be misdiagnosed. This happens because doctors might believe that occupational diseases are rare and may be unaware of the patient’s work record. Some doctors believe that technological advances have helped to prevent silicosis, making it not an issue for workers.
A proper diagnosis of silicosis is crucial. When a correct diagnosis is delayed, your symptoms may progress faster and cause your condition to be worse. You should tell your doctor about your work history and the fact that you have been exposed to silica. If you are diagnosed with silicosis, contact a lung injury and silicosis attorney in San Jose at the San Jose Personal Injury Lawyers for help.
Handling insurance companies
It is common for companies to try to deal with workers who have developed silicosis directly. The companies might send initial offers to settle the claims. You should never accept an initial offer. In most cases, these offers are unreasonably low. The companies extend them in the hope that you will accept it. If you sign a settlement agreement, your ability to ask for more money to pay for your treatment will be foreclosed. You should not sign any document from an insurance company or agree to give a statement until you have retained an attorney. The lawyer can review any offer that you receive to ensure that it is fair and reasonable.
Contact the San Jose Personal Injury Attorneys today
Silicosis is a preventable disease when companies provide their workers with the proper equipment. Companies that do not provide adequate protective gear to their workers should be held accountable for the damages that result. If you have been diagnosed with silicosis, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a lung injury and silicosis lawyer in San Jose by filling out our online contact form or contact the San Jose Personal Injury Attorneys for a free consultation by calling us at 408.217.1778.