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Opinion | How is COVID-19 affecting toxic exposure claims?

Gregory A. Cade

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The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading rapidly throughout the country, with nearly 850,000 cases of infection, out of which over 5,300 took place in Alabama. While everyone is vulnerable to contracting the novel coronavirus, there are certain groups of people who have a higher risk of contracting the virus, such as veterans and former industrial workers. Because the majority of these demographics are elderly and struggling with underlying diseases, most of which developed as a consequence of toxic workplace exposure, they are more susceptible to infection with the new virus, as their respiratory and immune systems are highly damaged.

Who Should Undergo An Asbestos Screening?

Asbestos screening is a medical examination that specialists will conduct to determine whether or not asbestos fibers are present in the lungs. It usually takes around 2-3 hours and it doesn’t require any invasive procedures such as biopsy as the presence of asbestos fibers can be seen through a physical examination, a chest X-ray, blood work, and pulmonary function tests.

Veterans who served in the military before 1980 were exposed to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral which is a known human carcinogen. Exposure to asbestos involves one inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers from the air, fibers which will subsequently attach themselves to various organs in the body, particularly the lungs. Over the years, asbestos fibers gradually cause inflammation and tissue scarring, which may, in turn, give way to a disease such as lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, asbestosis, or mesothelioma. It is worthy of note that it takes between 20 and 50 years for a disease to emerge following asbestos exposure, which is why only recently have veterans begun to receive awful diagnoses. However, asbestos is not the only toxic agent veterans were exposed to during their service. They also came in direct contact with dangerous chemicals and substances such as Agent Orange, mustard gas, lead, benzene, depleted uranium, and silica dust. Considering the health risks and possible outcomes that COVID-19 raises for this group of people, it’s advisable that pursuing a claim for compensation should be done sooner rather than later.

Approximately 70% of veterans who served in the military during the last century end up developing a disease as a result of toxic exposure. The new virus targets mainly the respiratory system, which means that veterans are at increased risk of contracting it since their lungs and airways are compromised. Furthermore, they are also considerably more susceptible to developing serious health complications, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, heart failure, and brain damage if they fail to receive immediate medical attention. The chances of veterans with underlying diseases of losing their lives to coronavirus infection are very high, as 80% of deaths occur in people over the age of 60. Until now, 13% of veterans have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

Former industrial workers are another group that is very prone to contracting the new virus since they were also exposed to hazardous agents on the job during the last century and are now suffering from chronic diseases as a consequence. Approximately 50% of people who worked in industries such as constructions, power generation, chemical, textile, oil refining, and boiler manufacturing struggle with a disease. Similarly to veterans, most former industrial workers also have chronic lung diseases, as they handled asbestos regularly while they were performing their job. Nevertheless, they were also exposed to other hazardous agents, including wood dust, silica dust, and mica dust, all of which were proven to cause terrible diseases of the lungs. Consequently, former industrial workers are also very vulnerable to infection with coronavirus, as their respiratory system, as well as their immune system, is compromised.

Why is Asbestos Screening Important and How Does COVID-19 Affect Screenings and Claims

It is important to know that, if you were exposed to toxic agents in occupational settings and came to develop a disease as a result, you have the right to seek financial compensation from the liable parties. There are environmental firms that specialize in assisting with claims to people injured by toxic exposure. Those firms can help you file a claim with asbestos trust funds, and, if you are a veteran, an additional one with the VA, to recover the money you deserve for your physical and emotional distress your disease is causing you. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, it is highly recommended to reach out to a law firm who specializes in this area of practice if you are a veteran or a former industrial worker who struggles with a disease as a result of toxic exposure, as your chances of contracting the new virus are high.

If you were exposed to toxic agents while serving in the military or on your job and suspect you have a lung disease, you should undergo testing to find out whether asbestos fibers are present in your lungs, which, if they are, will qualify you for recovering financial compensation. Even if you already have a diagnosis, it is a good idea to seek a second opinion, as misdiagnosis occurs very frequently when it comes to diseases caused by asbestos exposure or other toxic agents. As the symptoms of diseases which stem from asbestos exposure are similar to those of more common health conditions, such as pneumonia, it is difficult for inexperienced medical professionals to differentiate between the two. This is the primary reason why misdiagnosis is so common among veterans and former industrial workers.

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If you are a victim of asbestos exposure, taking legal action as soon as possible is crucial during the coronavirus epidemic, as your chances of contracting the new virus are very high. It is important to note that smokers with a history of toxic exposure can still qualify for compensation. In the regrettable event you pass away due to infection with coronavirus, it will be very difficult for your family to recover compensation on your behalf. Therefore, you should contact a medical expert who specializes in asbestos exposure cases so that you will be assigned a correct diagnosis, following which you can recover the compensation you are entitled to.

Though the campaign initiative Asbestos Fibers Local No-Cost Screenings & Eligibility, Environmental Litigation Group P.C., offers asbestos screenings free of charge to people with a history of asbestos exposure. These screenings will accurately determine if the fibers are in your lungs or not, many times a second opinion from us leads to early diagnosis, hence better treatments and prognosis for the patient. If you live within driving distance of Birmingham, Alabama, you can benefit from the expertise of medical specialists who will examine you to determine whether you have asbestos fibers in your lungs. In the unfortunate case that asbestos is present in your body, it’s advisable to file a claim with the asbestos trust funds of the companies whose products you were exposed to, as well as with the VA, if you are a veteran, to obtain the financial compensation you deserve.


Gregory A. Cade is the main attorney at Environmental Litigation Group P.C. He has a degree in Industrial Hygiene which he has used as an advantage in his fight to help victims of occupational toxic exposure for over 20 years.

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Gregory A. Cade is the main attorney at Environmental Litigation Group P.C, where he dedicated over 20 years to helping victims of occupational exposure to asbestos and other toxic chemicals.

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Economy

New unemployment claims continue to drop

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There were 11,692 unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, down from 17,439 the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

Seventy-six percent of the claims from July 26 to Aug. 1 were related to COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. That compares to 89 percent the week before.

New claims increased over the first half of July but declined in the second half.

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Economy

Alabama Power is returning $100 million to customers

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Public Service Commission approved a plan Tuesday to credit Alabama Power Company customers on their October bills. The move returns approximately $100 million to Alabama Power Company customers.

“Putting money back into the pockets of hard-working Alabamians is one of the ways we can help on the road to recovery,” Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said on social media. “Alabama Power to refund $100 million to customers.”

The typical Alabama Power customer will receive a $25 credit on their October bill. The newly approved credit is on top of a 3 percent rate reduction that customers are already enjoying in 2020. This previous rate cuts and the October credit amount to about $300 million in savings for Alabama Power customers this year.

“We appreciate the commission voting today to expedite this credit for our customers,” said Richard Hutto, Alabama Power’s vice president of regulatory affairs.

The global economic collapse due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt people across Alabama. It has also dramatically lowered fuel costs for Alabama Power Company’s plants.

A typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month is expected to receive a credit of $25. Customers who use more energy will receive a larger credit. Customers who use less power receive a smaller credit but had a smaller bill to begin with. Adjustments to fuel costs are typically calculated at the end of the year, with savings passed to customers beginning in January, but due to the economic downturn and pandemic-related job losses, Alabama Power and the PSC are rushing that money to Alabama families and businesses.

“Many of our customers have been hurt by COVID-19. We hope this credit will provide some additional relief at this difficult time,” Hutto explained.

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The 3 percent rate reduction, that took effect in January, was based on earlier estimates of lower costs for fuel and other expenses for 2020. The rate reduction alone equates to about a $4.50-per-month reduction for the typical residential customer.

“Our employees are working every day to keep costs low while providing industry-leading reliability for our customers,” Hutto added.

Alabama Power said in a statement that their total retail price is below the national average and has been for decades. When adjusted for inflation, the price customers pay for electricity is lower today than it was 30 years ago.

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Alabama Power has been assisting customers in other ways during the COVID-19 outbreak. Since the start of the pandemic, the company has suspended disconnects and late payment fees for customers hurt by the coronavirus.

Cavanaugh is seeking another term as president of the Commission.

“It is crucial that we have strong pro-jobs conservatives supporting President Trump’s agenda at all levels of government,” Cavanaugh said on social media.

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Economy

Payroll Protection Program deadline has been extended to Saturday

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, this week reminded business owners that the deadline to apply for the Payroll Protection Program, knowns as the PPP, has been extended to Saturday.

“The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application deadline was recently extended to Saturday, August 8,” Roby wrote in an email to constituents. “Do not forget to fill out your application if you are a small business that has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.“

The PPP was a loan program administered by the Small Business Administration. It was part of the bipartisan CARES Act to address the economic collapse caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic and the forced economic shutdowns, which were implemented in the early months of the public health emergency in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel strain of the coronavirus and allow public health agencies and health care systems time to build up testing, contact-tracing and hospital bed capacity.

The PPP loans are 1 percent interest loans available through the SBA. If the business uses the money to make payroll and pay standard operating expenses then the loans will be forgiven. Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease. The loan forgiveness form and instructions include several measures to reduce compliance burdens and simplify the process for borrowers.

The PPP has been very popular, so much so that that program ran out of money just weeks after Congress passed it. Congress had to go back and provide more funding for the PPP.

Businesses can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.

Senate Democrats are meeting with the Trump Administration, Senate Republicans and House leadership on a compromise plan for a fifth coronavirus relief package. A big point of contention has been the size of the total package. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, supports a $3.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill while Republicans prefer a more modest $1 trillion relief bill. The two sides are expected to continue to negotiate through Friday in an attempt to reach a compromise before the August recess.

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Roby is serving in her fifth term representing Alabama’s 2nd congressional district. She is not seeking re-election.

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Economy

State’s unemployment claims slowed last week

Last week saw the lowest number of new claims since the week-to-week number first spiked from 1,824 to 10,982 when the lockdown started in mid-March.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The number of unemployment claims in Alabama slipped last week after increasing through the first half of July.

There were 17,439 claims filed from July 19 to 25, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. Of those, 15,461, or 89 percent, were COVID-19 related.

Claims soared at the start of the pandemic in late March, hitting a weekly high of 106,739 in the first week of April. The rate of new claims declined sharply in May, with each week counting under 30,000 claims.

Since then, the number has decreased somewhat steadily. Claims rose several thousand over the course of this month, from 19,058 in the week ending July 4 to 23,678 in the week ending July 18.

Last week saw the lowest number of new claims since the week-to-week number first spiked from 1,824 to 10,982 when the lockdown started in mid-March.

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