Asbestos was a popular material used for buildings and even home appliances until it was restricted heavily for causing life-threatening diseases. Since then, companies who used the material have dealt with court cases from employees, residents or customers exposed to asbestos. Although standard liability policies may exclude asbestos, you can find add-ons if your industry faces exposure.
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Insurance for asbestos liability can cover a broad range of situations where a person may be involved with asbestos. Covered situations include both direct and indirect exposure, insured by:
Workers’ compensation. If your employees work around asbestos or work in asbestos removal, workers’ compensation may cover their illnesses or injuries as a result. They may carry out work as part of demolition, transporting and disposing of asbestos.
Pollution or environmental liability. You can get covered for others’ exposure to asbestos from your business’s activities. For example, someone may inhale asbestos particles while your workers renovate a building, causing health issues.
How do I know I have asbestos liability coverage?
Any business can assume they don’t have protection for asbestos exposure unless they buy specialized coverage. Although workers’ compensation may cover employee-related illnesses, workers may not report claims under this policy. Asbestos illnesses can take years to show symptoms, making workers’ compensation more difficult to claim.
What does pollution liability insurance cover?
If you purchase pollution liability coverage, you can get reimbursed for these costs:
Cleanup and removal — You may need professional help to remove asbestos safely and thoroughly from buildings and workspaces.
Court settlements — When workers or the general public face illness or another danger from asbestos, your business could pay steep fines for pain, suffering or negligence.
Lawsuit defense — You’ll need legal advice to minimize the effects of an asbestos-related lawsuit.
Medical expenses — Those who experience serious illness need reimbursement for their medical care.
What businesses need insurance for asbestos liability?
Any business that expects to handle asbestos should consider adding this coverage, especially those working around construction or insulation. This may include workers involved in the following activities:
Architects and designers
Disaster rescue and recovery workers
Health and safety experts that may identify asbestos
Landlords or building managers
Licensed asbestos removers
Manufacturers that still use asbestos in any products
Roofers, electricians, plumbers
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How can asbestos liability affect my business?
Because asbestos was widely used in the past, you, your employees or your customers might still encounter it on a regular basis. You face a high chance for asbestos lawsuits if you work in one of the industries above. Asbestos lawsuits go as far back as the 1960s and settlements have increased over the years for several reasons.
One reason stems from the myriad of businesses going bankrupt from asbestos-related lawsuits. This puts pressure on active businesses to shoulder extra liability previous businesses couldn’t pay. Overall, cases may run in favor of those suing you.
What should I watch for when insuring asbestos liability?
Asbestos liability could lead to further consequences if you’re not watching for important details:
Failing to inspect building or report asbestos — You may face charges for negligence if your business didn’t inspect buildings potentially using asbestos. Consequences may increase for those who failed to report dealing with asbestos.
The aggregate limit on your liability policy — Legal fees and compensation costs get protection up to a certain limit. Your business may bear responsibility for any excess costs.
Indirect businesses can still get sued — Courts may hold your business responsible for handling asbestos indirectly, such as selling the material or renting out buildings with asbestos.
Your business may need a license — Many states require you to hold certain licenses or complete training for handling and disposing of asbestos.
How is asbestos dangerous to human health?
The main risk with asbestos is that it leads to several serious health conditions like:
Asbestosis refers to the lungs’ scarring and stiffening from breathing in asbestos fibers. It’s an incurable, progressive disease where airways get so inflamed that oxygen can’t pass into the bloodstream. Difficulty breathing progresses to chest tightness, dry cough and changes to fingernails and skin tone.
However, people who worked around high amounts of asbestos suffer this disease most often, such as asbestos manufacturing or mining. The disease is rare under current regulations that limit workers’ contact.
People face a higher chance of developing lung cancer from breathing in dust particles from asbestos. The dust may irritate, scar or inflame the lungs and eventually lead to cancer over time. This risk increases even more for smokers.
Breathing in asbestos fibers can irritate and inflame the pleura, the membrane that lines multiple organs. This rare cancer typically grows and spreads before a patient presents with symptoms. Small levels of exposure can trigger cancer, and the risk perseveres throughout a person’s lifetime.
Asbestos particles can inflame the lining of the lung, causing it to thicken and fill with fluid. Some pleural diseases show few signs and symptoms, while others lead to shortness of breath and chest tightness.
If your company works around or handles asbestos regularly, you might be liable for harm or illnesses caused by asbestos fibers getting released into the air. Keep in mind that a standard business liability policy might not cover any of that responsibility. Consider adding pollution or environmental liability to your business insurance policy.
Frequently asked questions about asbestos liability
Because exposure to asbestos can lead to serious consequences, claims may include the following:
Pain and suffering
Reduced life expectancy
Past and future loss of earnings
Past and future cost of medical treatment
Multiple parties may face responsibility for failing to protect people from the dangers of asbestos. Former employers, asbestos manufacturers and owners or managers of the site where asbestos was present may need to get involved in lawsuits.
A business that fails to comply with safety and health regulations may see fines in the hundreds of thosuands of dollars. They may be fined by the Occupational Health and Safety or other health organizations after failing a routine or investigative health inspection. These fines may not include legal defense and court settlement costs.—
Sarah George is a writer at Finder who unravels complicated topics about insurance, business and finance. She's been wordsmithing for nearly five years, after earning an English education degree. Her insurance know-how has been featured on CarInsurance.com. You can usually find Sarah sipping hot tea and talking through movie plots in her downtime.
You’ll likely benefit from a business owner’s policy, plus you may need other coverage.
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