The issues of mold and its effects on humans have drawn increasing interest and litigation in the past 20 years. Due to increased interest and worries about mold’s possibly toxic effects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have gathered extensive information about those issues. The CDC maintains a dedicated web site about mold at CDC mold prevention and protection recommendations, providing the latest information about different types of molds, their effects on health, suggestions for mold prevention and recommendations for protection against the harmful effects of existing mold.
The ideal is to prevent the growth of mold and guard against the potential expense of mold.
First, since mold thrives on moisture, you should lower humidity and prevent condensation by: using air conditioners, fans and dehumidifiers; inspecting plumbing fixtures and appliances for possible excess moisture and repairing them if necessary; venting appliances – such as clothes dryers – that produce moisture; insulating cold water pipes; inspecting your home’s roof, gutters, walls and cellar for leaks and moisture accumulation and cleaning/repairing them if necessary; avoiding wet carpeting and drying/removing it if necessary; quickly cleaning up and eliminating the source of any moisture that could “feed” mold.
Secondly, use products combatting/inhibiting mold, such as: mold-killing cleaners, mold-inhibiting primers and paints. These 2 steps alone require vigilance and possibly a great deal of work to successfully combat mold.
Third, check the insurance covering the premises (homeowner’s, landlord’s or renter’s insurance, for several examples) to see whether and to what extent mold issues are covered. Many policies specifically exclude mold issues, though your agent can tell you whether those issues might be covered under another provision of your insurance. You might consider purchasing a specific rider for mold issues, depending on whether such a rider is offered, the extent of the rider’s coverage and the expense.
If mold is already present, you should take steps to protect yourself from its harmful effects and remove it.
First, you should avoid breathing the mold spores by using approved respirators (N-95).
Secondly, you should avoid contact with the mold by wearing rubber gloves reaching the middle of your forearms.
Third, you should keep the mold spores from reaching your eyes by wearing goggles without ventilation holes.
Fourth, you should remove the mold by cleanup and remediation, ideally with the assistance of a company that specializes in cleanup and remediation. Increased interest in mold issues has resulted in a burgeoning number of mold cleanup/remediation companies, so you should have several options with the assistance of online reviews/complaints by others who have used these companies.
Fifth, you must remove mold-feeding moisture and its source. Even after mold cleanup/remediation, your problem will not be solved unless/until your moisture problem is solved.
Mold’s health effects, property value effects and cleanup/remediation can all be expensive. Where do you find the necessary funds?
First, consult/retain a lawyer who specializes in mold claims. He/she can discuss your insurance/suit options with you.
Secondly, with your lawyer’s assistance, some or all mold issues may be covered by your insurance. The proliferation of mold claims caused many insurance companies to specifically exclude coverage for mold; however, mold is sometimes still covered if it results from a sudden, accidental “peril” that is otherwise covered. A bursting water pipe, for example, may result in mold, in which case mold cleanup/remediation may be covered because the insurance company is technically covering damages for the bursting water pipe. Note, however, that mold resulting from longstanding neglect and/or moisture exposure will not be covered.
Third, with your lawyer’s assistance, you might sue for personal injury or property damage. Homeowners and commercial building owners typically bring these cases against insurance companies to enforce existing coverage or against contractors for construction defects. Renters who are harmed by their exposure to toxic mold can bring suits against their landlords for property damage, personal injuries and other directly related expenses, such as the renter’s moving expenses.
Fourth, if you are an employee who has been sickened by exposure to mold at your workplace, you might successfully seek worker’s compensation. As you can see, different avenues can be pursued for mold claims, depending on your and others’ relationship to the property and insurance considerations.
DO’S AND DON’TS
DON’T be intimidated by the process or the people.
DO review the CDC’s information about mold types, effects, suggestions for prevents and recommendations for protection at CDC mold prevention and protection recommendations.
DO prevent mold growth and guard against potential expense by:
a. Preventing/removing moisture;
b. Using products to combat/inhibit mold;
c. Check insurance coverage and possibly purchase a rider for mold issues.
DO address existing mold by:
a. Avoiding breathing the spores;
b. Avoiding physical contact;
c. Preventing mold spores from reaching your eyes;
d. Mold cleanup/remediation;
e. Removal of moisture and its source.
DO seek funds for dealing with mold and its effects by:
a. Consulting/retaining an attorney who specializes in mold claims;
b. Seeking insurance coverage if available;
c. Suing for personal injury, property damage and/or construction defects;
d. Applying for workmen’s compensation, if appropriate.
By Kathy Catanzarite
[Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither HandelontheLaw.com, or any of its affiliates, shall have any liability stemming from this article.]
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.