Mesothelioma Lawsuit Explained
If you have ever been exposed to asbestos and contracted a serious illness like mesothelioma or asbestosis, you have legal options for getting justice and seeking compensation. Contact a mesothelioma lawyer right away to find out what those options are and to decide which is best for your future and for your family.
As a victim of asbestos exposure you may be also be able to take advantage of an asbestos trust fund to get compensated. For some victims, an asbestos lawsuit may be a better choice. In some cases, using both is appropriate. Only a trained and experienced lawyer who has worked on asbestos cases before can help you make the right decision and the best chance of getting justice and compensation.
Asbestos is a natural mineral that is extremely harmful to human health. It is made up of tiny, sharp fibers that break off and trigger exposure. Inhaling or ingesting these fibers can lead to internal damage and later illnesses. Mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly cancer is one of these illnesses.
Exposure to asbestos can also cause lung cancer and asbestosis, an uncomfortable and progressive lung condition that is incurable.
In some cases asbestos fibers may migrate past the airways and cause damage and illness in other parts of the body. Mesothelioma can form this way in the lining of the abdominal organs or more rarely around the heart or the testicles.
Asbestos exposure most often occurs in the workplace. Thousands of people were put at risk of being exposed and developing asbestos-related diseases decades before 1970s regulations curbed the use of this harmful mineral.
Filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
The process of starting a mesothelioma lawsuit is complicated. Rely on an experienced lawyer to help you take the right steps along the way. The laws can be confusing and mistakes are easy to make without this expert guidance.
Finding an Asbestos or Mesothelioma Lawyer
You need a law firm or attorney well-versed in the complicated laws regarding asbestos exposure and illnesses. Laws differ by state, and the right lawyer will help you make sense of them and take the necessary steps to file and get a good outcome from a lawsuit.
Developing Your Case
Once a law firm takes your case, they will begin gathering information. The time it takes to get all the necessary documents together depends on each individual. Your lawyer will investigate 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.
Response from the Defendant
The defendant will have a chance respond to your claims once the information has been collected and the lawsuit filed. Defendants are allotted a certain amount of time to respond, typically 30 days from the time they learn of the lawsuit.
The Discovery Phase
If the defendant does not respond, you win your case by default, but this is rare. In most cases the defendant will respond and trigger the discovery period. Both your legal team and the defendant’s legal team will investigate and gather more information and evidence to build cases.
Most lawsuits filed over asbestos and mesothelioma proceed to a settlement. 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.
Most mesothelioma and asbestos cases never go to trial. Lawyers on each side are usually able to reach a settlement agreement without going through the courts. On average it takes 18 months to reach a settlement, in which both sides agree upon a fair amount of compensation for the victim. The actual time varies depending on the individual factors of a case.
Trials usually take longer than settlements. It is impossible to predict what the jury’s decision will be. One benefit of a trial is that the company or companies who caused your illness can be exposed publicly during a trail. Also, the award amount when a case goes in favor of the plaintiff is usually higher than in a settlement.
In general, asbestos trials can take anywhere from a year to several years. If you’re extremely ill, a judge may accelerate the process. Most victims of mesothelioma try to avoid a trial because it is in their best interest to get a resolution quickly.
Both sides have the right to appeal following a trial if unsatisfied with the outcome. This can delay getting compensation, but an experienced asbestos attorney understands the appeals process and will work diligently for a positive outcome.
Choosing an Asbestos Lawyer
Selecting the best legal team is essential for improving your chances of winning a trial or settlement. You need a lawyer who has actual, proven experience working with asbestos victims. The laws regulating these cases are different in each state and are complicated.
Make sure you get references and testimonials. It is important 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 good about your chances.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Unfortunately, victims of asbestos exposure don’t always live long enough to see the end of a lawsuit or settlement claim. This is because of the length of the legal process and the aggressive nature of mesothelioma. In these cases, the surviving families may 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. This type of lawsuit can provide compensation to cover medical bills and funeral expenses, but that also provides for pain and suffering and loss of companionship.
The main reason that most people file an asbestos or mesothelioma lawsuit is to seek monetary damages. Getting justice and an acknowledgement from the person or company that made you sick is important, but the financial costs are major. Winning compensation means money doesn’t have to be a worry and you can focus on treatment.
If you are seeking compensation for an asbestos illness you can seek money to cover your medical bills for treatment, any future medical bills you expect, and for any other 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 sickness.
Examples of Successful Mesothelioma Lawsuits
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 asbestos exposure in the military.
A retired civilian worker in the U.S. Navy developed mesothelioma and died after working in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. He worked on equipment repair and maintenance, handling 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 awarded $17 million to 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 supplied asbestos-containing materials.
In Charleston, South Carolina, multiple plaintiffs are currently making a case against the Charleston Naval Shipyard, which ceased operations 20 years ago. Investigators found that the neighborhood near the shipyard had 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 new law in South Carolina. It allows for expedited hearings 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 a point to get justice and to hold companies accountable for how they harmed workers. A lawsuit is important for these reasons. They are also for individuals and 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 Written by Rod De Llano, Esquire
Page edited by Dave Foster
- Cornell Law School. Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Negligence.
Retrieved from: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/negligence
- Jackson, G., (2016, March 25). Charleston Asbestos-Related Deaths are HIgher than State, National Average.
Retrieved from: https://www.postandcourier.com/politics/charleston-asbestos-related-deaths-are-higher-than-state-national-average/article_73ddc512-a131-56cb-bf29-dda24104ebd8.html
- $17M Award in Asbestos Death of Navy Civilian Employee in Arizona. (2016, April 22). Insurance Journal.
Retrieved from: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/west/2016/04/22/406255.htm
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