My employer claims that compensation for the asbestos exposure I suffered will be taken care of if I just sign a waiver. Should I do this?
UPDATED: February 24, 2020
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Absolutely not! Presumably, the waiver somehow limits your damages or limits your employer’s liability and exposure. Your employer may have the best intentions of completely taking care of you . . . now. But if you sign that waiver, your employer can change his or her mind at any time in the future. And then when you try to get additional damages, your employer can hide behind the waiver that you voluntarily signed as proof that it does not have to do anything more for you.
That said, courts often overlook waivers of liability if it appears that the person who signed it did not have any bargaining power – such as in the case of a waiver that you sign so that you can get into an amusement park. You had to sign the waiver or you could not go to the park, so you did not really have the ability to bargain about whether you would sign the waiver or what it would say. In this case, however, your employer will argue that you were not being threatened with termination in order to get a signed waiver and therefore, the court should find that you knowingly waived your rights to future compensation and the company will not owe you anything further. You would argue, conversely, that the implication of not signing the waiver was that you would be fired and that you did not have any bargaining power. This argument can be bolstered if you know of any employees who did not sign the waiver and were terminated.
Furthermore, if your employer is bought out by another company, that company will most certainly point out that its liability is limited by the waiver and refuse to follow through on what you were promised. For example, if you are working for Company A now and you sign this waiver and Company A is later bought by Company B, Company B may come back and say that you have already been compensated by Company A so you will not receive any further compensation. Also be aware that many companies, when they purchase a company, specifically refuse to accept liability for any outstanding cases that the company being bought is involved in. So Company B could come back to you and say that you have to find the principals of Company A and get compensation from them because Company B is not liable to you for anything.
This is one situation that you need to consult with an attorney who deals with asbestos cases. You need to make sure that you do not do anything that may prevent you from asserting your rights to damages from your company or any other company who may be involved in your asbestos exposure. Your attorney will help you determine all the possible liable parties and what you need to do to prove your case, and your attorney will work to settle your case fairly, if possible, or present it to a jury so that you receive the amount of damages that you deserve.