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Mesothelioma Lawsuit Explained

If you have been exposed to asbestos and contracted a serious and deadly illness like mesothelioma or asbestosis because of that exposure, you need to know that you have legal options for seeking justice and compensation. Contact a mesothelioma lawyer or asbestos lawyer immediately to find out what those options are and to decide which is best for your future and for your family and any dependents.

As a victim of asbestos exposure you may be able to take advantage of an asbestos trust fund to receive compensation, but but for some people an asbestos lawsuit may be a better choice. In some cases an individual may be able to benefit from both. Only a trained and experienced lawyer who has worked on asbestos cases before can help you make the right decision that will give you the best chance of getting justice and getting compensation.

Asbestos-Related Illnesses

Asbestos is a natural mineral that sheds airborne fibers when disturbed. These tiny, sharp fibers can be inhaled or ingested without realizing it has happened.  If you were exposed to these fibers over years or decades, most likely at work, you are at risk for a number of related illnesses. The deadliest of these is mesothelioma, which is a rare and aggressive type of cancer that attacks the tissue surrounding the lungs.

The exposure to asbestos could also trigger lung cancer, which is not as rare as mesothelioma, but which can also be painful and deadly. Asbestosis is another illness caused by asbestos exposure. It is an uncomfortable and progressive lung condition that is incurable. It causes inflammation and scarring in the lungs that makes breathing difficult and painful. No treatments can reverse the damage or cure it.

Asbestos causes these illnesses when the fibers that are accidentally inhaled or ingested lodge in the tissues of the body. In some cases those fibers may migrate past the airways and cause mesothelioma in the lining of the abdominal organs, or more rarely around the heart or the testicles. Asbestos exposure most often in the workplace, and thousands of people were put at risk for decades before 1970s regulations were placed on the use of asbestos and training for how to work with this dangerous mineral.

Starting a Mesothelioma Lawsuit

The process of starting and following through with a mesothelioma lawsuit can be complicated, difficult, and time-consuming. Know what you’re getting into, and find an experienced lawyer to do the difficult work for you along the way. The laws can be confusing and mistakes are easy to make if you don’t have this expert guidance.

Finding an Asbestos or Mesothelioma Lawyer

In order to file an asbestos or mesothelioma lawsuit you need to first find an experienced lawyer to get you started. Laws relating to asbestos exposure vary by state and can be complex. You need an expert in this area of law, not a general lawyer. The statute of limitations also varies by state, so you need to make sure your lawyer can help you file a lawsuit in time. The lawyer will do most of the work for you and will take several steps to make your case.

Developing Your Case and Filing the Lawsuit

Your attorney will begin right away gathering pertinent information to build a case, but the time it takes to get all the necessary documents together depends on each individual. Your lawyer will be able to do some investigative work to determine what company or employer caused the exposure that triggered your illness, but he or she will also need your input. Be prepared to provide your legal team with as much information you can that is relevant to the case. With all the information in place your lawyer can file the lawsuit.

Defendant Response

Once the information is gathered and the lawsuit filed, the defendant will be given a chance respond to the claims you are making. Defendants are allotted a certain amount of time to respond, typically 30 days from the time they learn of the lawsuit, but this varies state to state.

The Discovery Phase

If the defendant does not respond, you win your case by default, but this is unlikely to happen. In most cases the defendant will respond, and this triggers the discovery period. Both your legal team, with your assistance and input, and the defendant’s legal team, will investigate and gather more information and evidence. This is done to build a case either to prove or disprove liability.

At this point many lawsuits filed over asbestos and mesothelioma proceed to a settlement stage. Here your lawyer will represent you in trying to negotiate compensation from the defendant. Only if the settlement cannot be agreed upon will your case go to trial, where a judge and jury will hear your case and make a decision on compensation.


Most mesothelioma and asbestos cases never go to trial. Lawyers on each side are typically able to reach an agreement without going through the courts. On average it takes 18 months to reach a settlement agreement, in which both sides determine and agree upon a fair amount of compensation for the victim. The actual time can vary depending on individual factors of a case.


Trials usually take longer than settlements and can ultimately end in no compensation for the victim. However, one advantage of a trial is that the company or companies who caused your illness can be exposed publicly. Also, the award amount is typically higher in a successful trial than in a settlement. In general, asbestos trials can take anywhere from a year to several years. If you’re extremely ill, however, a judge may speed up the trial process. Most victims of mesothelioma try to avoid a trial because it is in their best interest to get a resolution as soon as possible.


Both sides have the right to appeal following a trial if they are not satisfied with the outcome. This can hold up the process of getting compensation, but an experienced asbestos attorney understands the appeals process and will work diligently for a positive outcome.

Choosing an Asbestos Lawyer

The first and most important thing you will do in filing an asbestos lawsuit is selecting the best lawyer or legal team. You need a lawyer who has actual experience working with asbestos victims. The laws regulating these cases are different in each state and can be complicated. Someone who knows the ins and outs of the laws can give you the best chance of success in your lawsuit. The right lawyer will also know about trust funds and if the company you are suing has already set up funds for people like you.

As you choose between available mesothelioma lawyers willing to take your case, make sure you ask about references and testimonials. You want to see that your lawyer not only has experience, but also a proven track record of winning cases for clients. You want a lawyer that other clients were satisfied with and that makes you feel comfortable about your chances. Also important is to choose someone you feel has your best interests in mind and makes you feel comfortable.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Unfortunately, because of the length of the legal process and the aggressive nature of mesothelioma, victims of asbestos exposure don’t always live long enough to see the end of a lawsuit or settlement claim. In these cases, the surviving families may choose to file a wrongful death asbestos lawsuit or continue with the current claim.

A wrongful death suit is a claim that a loved one’s death was caused by negligence on the part of a person or company, in this case likely an employer or manufacturer of materials containing asbestos. A wrongful death lawsuit can provide compensation that helps the family cover outstanding medical bills and funeral expenses, but that also provides for pain and suffering and loss of companionship.

Lawsuit Compensation

The main reason that most people file an asbestos or mesothelioma lawsuit is to get monetary compensation. Seeking justice and an acknowledgement from the person or company that made you sick is also important, but being ill with these serious conditions costs more money than most people have. Winning compensation means money doesn’t have to be a worry, and you can focus on treatment and family.

If you are seeking compensation for an asbestos illness you can ask for money to cover your medical bills for treatment, any future medical bills you expect to have, and to cover the costs of ongoing care, including therapy and hospice care. You can also claim compensation for emotional suffering, physical pain and suffering, and other less tangible costs of being ill.

Examples of Successful Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Every case is different but past lawsuits involving asbestos can give you an idea of what you might expect in your own case. For instance, a large settlement was awarded in a jury trial in Arizona in 2016 over a case of mesothelioma and asbestos exposure in the military.

A retired civilian worker in the U.S. Navy developed and died from mesothelioma after working in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. He worked on repair and maintenance of equipment like gaskets and valves that contained asbestos. His lawyers successfully showed that when he died a year after being diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 73 it was because of that workplace exposure.

The jury in this wrongful death lawsuit deliberated for just four hours before returning with a settlement of $17 million for the family of the deceased worker. The settlement included $9 million in compensation and $8 million in punitive damages. The responsibility for paying the settlement was split between the U.S. Navy and two manufacturing companies that made the asbestos-containing materials.

In Charleston, South Carolina, multiple plaintiffs are making a case against the Charleston Naval Shipyard, which ceased operations 20 years ago. Investigators found that residents near the shipyard were experiencing higher rates of mesothelioma than the nationwide average. About 29 people per year have died in the area because of asbestos exposure.

The unusual nature of the case and the large number of people affected resulted in a law was passed to allow for expedited hearings. This was supposed to ensure that more victims would get compensation sooner through lawsuits. Victims and their families have been getting compensation, but there are still lags that delay payments by years. Many of the plaintiffs have died before their cases were heard.

By filing an asbestos lawsuit you are making the point to get justice and to hold responsible companies accountable for how they harmed workers. A lawsuit is important for these reasons but also for getting the funding you need to cope with your illness. Be sure that you start your lawsuit with an expert by your side and in a timely manner. Statutes of limitations vary by state but all limit the time you have to make your case.

Page edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.

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