Mesothelioma Lawsuit Explained
If you have been exposed to asbestos and received a diagnosis of a serious illness like mesothelioma or asbestosis, you have legal options for getting justice. You can also seek compensation. Contact a mesothelioma lawyer immediately 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 also be eligible to file a claim with an asbestos trust fund to recover damages. For some victims, an asbestos lawsuit may be a better choice. Some victims can benefit from both. 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 and a known human carcinogen. It is made up of tiny, sharp fibers that, when disturbed, may cause 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, and asbestosis is another.
In some cases asbestos fibers may migrate past the airways and cause damage and disease in other parts of the body. Mesothelioma may form in the lining of the abdominal organs or more rarely around the heart or the testicles.
Asbestos exposure often occurs in the workplace. Thousands of people were unknowingly exposed and put at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases decades before 1970s regulations curbed the use of this harmful mineral.
Filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
The process of filing and winning a mesothelioma lawsuit is complicated. You need to 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.
Finding an Asbestos or Mesothelioma Lawyer
To have the best chances of winning your case, you need a lawyer or law firm with experience and expertise in the laws over asbestos exposure and personal injury. The laws can be different in each state and difficult for lay people to understand.
Developing Your Case
Once a law firm takes your case, they will begin gathering related information. Your lawyer will conduct an investigation 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 relevant information you can.
Response from the Defendant
The defendant will have a chance respond to your claims once the lawsuit filed. Defendants are given 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. Most often the defendant will respond and trigger the discovery period. Both your legal team and the defendant’s legal team will gather more information to build a case.
Most lawsuits at this point will proceed to a settlement negotiation. This is when your lawyer represents you in a discussion of the defendants paying you a fair amount of compensation for the harm caused. If an agreement cannot be reached, your case goes to trial.
Most mesothelioma and asbestos cases never go to trial. Lawyers on each side are usually able to reach a settlement agreement for compensation outside of the courts. On average it takes 18 months to reach a settlement, with both sides agreeing on a fair amount of compensation for the victim.
Trials usually take longer than out-of-court settlements. While, it is impossible to predict what the jury’s decision will be, there are some benefits of trials. One is that the company or companies who caused your illness can be exposed publicly during a trail. Also, the award amount 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 choose to 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 after a trial. This can delay your access to compensation, but an experienced asbestos attorney understands the appeals process and will work diligently for the best outcome.
Choosing an Asbestos Lawyer
Selecting a good legal team is essential for improving your chances of winning a trial or a reaching a settlement. You need a lawyer who has proven experience working with and winning for asbestos victims. The laws regulating these cases are different in each state and are complicated, which means you cannot rely on a general lawyer.
Make sure you get references from past clients. It is important to see that your lawyer not only has experience, but also a proven track record of winning cases for other victims. You want a lawyer that other clients were satisfied with and that helps you feel confident about your chances.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Unfortunately, victims of asbestos exposure don’t always live long enough to see the result of a lawsuit. In these cases, the surviving families may file a wrongful death asbestos lawsuit or continue with the ongoing claim.
A wrongful death suit is a claim that a loved one’s death was caused by negligence. This type of lawsuit can provide compensation to cover medical bills and funeral expenses. It can also provide for pain and suffering and loss of companionship.
The main reason to 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 of this disease are big. Winning compensation means money doesn’t have to be a worry and that you can focus on treatment.
If you are seeking compensation for an asbestos illness, you can request 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. Just remember that every case is different.
A retired civilian worker in the U.S. Navy developed mesothelioma and died after working in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. He handled gaskets and valves that contained asbestos while working in maintenance and repair. 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 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 suing the Charleston Naval Shipyard, which closed 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 from asbestos exposure.
The unusual nature of the case and the large number of people affected triggered a law change 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 harming their 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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