Many people suffering now with mesothelioma, or who have passed away because of this terrible disease, were the victims of unsafe working conditions. Too many workers were exposed to harmful asbestos for years on the job in construction, in the military, in shipyards, and in other settings, without understanding or being aware of the risks. Decades after inhaling the fibers of asbestos in the air on the job, some of these workers were diagnosed with mesothelioma.
For victims of asbestos exposure and subsequent mesothelioma, no amount of compensation can reverse the damage done. Mesothelioma settlements can help, though. Settlements may be awarded through negotiations between lawyers or through juries when cases go to trial. If you are living with mesothelioma, or lost a loved one to this cancer, a settlement may be a possibility.
Asbestos, Mesothelioma, and the Victims
Asbestos was used in so many industries and put a lot of workers at risk for being exposed to it. Until the mid-1970s, when regulations were put in place to limit its use and to require safer workplace environments, asbestos was heavily used in construction, shipbuilding, and other industries. Workers who were around this mineral were most often not aware of the risks of inhaling the fibers.
Asbestos is a carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer. When someone inhales the fibers, they can get lodged in the lungs or other tissues in the body and cause damage that over decades leads to cancer or other illnesses. The cancer of the pleural tissue in the lung is the most common form of mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, and it causes terrible symptoms and is mostly incurable.
Many people who develop mesothelioma are considered victims because they were exposed to asbestos either without being aware of it or without knowing that there were risks associated with it. Because of its long latency period, many people worked for years around asbestos and then were only devastated with a diagnosis at 60 or older. Even family members of people who worked around asbestos were put at risk. Workers unknowingly brought fibers of asbestos home on their clothing and exposed family.
What is a Mesothelioma Settlement?
A settlement is a legal resolution between two legal parties, often resulting in a monetary award to one side. It starts with a mesothelioma victim who turns to a mesothelioma lawyer to begin a lawsuit against the responsible party. This could be the person’s employer or past employer, or a company that manufactured asbestos-containing materials that were used on the job and caused exposure.
Most of these mesothelioma lawsuits never go to court. The lawyers on either side negotiate a settlement agreement out of court. If, however, the two sides cannot agree on a fair settlement amount to be awarded to the victim, the case may go to court. Here, each side will argue the case and either the judge or a jury can choose to award a settlement amount.
Working with a Mesothelioma Lawyer
If you are hoping to get a settlement over mesothelioma, the first thing to do is to find a knowledgeable, experienced mesothelioma lawyer. This expert in the laws surrounding asbestos and mesothelioma can get the process started for you, make a strong case for your settlement, and advocate on your behalf. Your legal team will do all the work of trying to negotiate a good settlement, and if it fails, of litigating in court to win you a jury- or judge-awarded settlement amount.
Types of Compensation
The defendant in a mesothelioma settlement case may be charged with paying either compensatory or punitive damages, or both. Punitive damages refer to compensation that the defendant is forced to pay as punishment, and to demonstrate to other potential offenders, that putting people at risk of asbestos exposure is costly. Punitive damages punish defendant, but also deter others from harming people in the future.
Compensatory damages are those amounts that are awarded to compensate the victim for losses and suffering. For someone seeking a mesothelioma settlement, compensation may include amounts that cover past and future medical expenses, lost wages, lost future earnings, physical pain and suffering, and emotional trauma. For the loved one of someone who passed away from mesothelioma, the compensation may include amounts to cover lost income for dependents, emotional pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.
Factors Effecting Mesothelioma Settlements
In attempting to win a settlement from a defendant, whether through negotiations out of court or through litigation, there are several factors that can influence whether the settlement is reached and how much it is. Part of this is related to the liability of the defendant. The mesothelioma lawyer must make a case that the employer or manufacturer was liable in causing the victim to be exposed to asbestos.
Other factors include how much that exposure to asbestos negatively impacted the victim’s life, how much income was lost as a result and the extent of physical and emotional suffering caused by the exposure. The state in which the claim is filed can also impact a settlement; different states require varying degrees of evidence of liability. Whether the victim smoked or had other health problems can also contribute to the amount awarded.
Settling out of Court vs. Going to Trial
If you are filing a mesothelioma settlement claim, you will have to choose whether you want to take an amount offered during an out of court agreement or to let your legal team take it to trial. The latter can be risky because you must abide by the decision of the court. Your lawyer can give you advice on what to do, but ultimately the choice is yours. Many mesothelioma patients choose to settle out of court because trials are lengthy and time is limited when living with this disease.
Examples of Mesothelioma Settlements
There are many examples of settlements won by victims of asbestos exposure. Some of these cases went to trial and were jury-awarded; these are the cases that are most likely to make the news. However, most mesothelioma awards are won in out of court settlements. An example of a large, newsworthy settlement was awarded by a judge in Libby, Montana in 2011. The case involved over one thousand miners who were exposed to asbestos and the judge-awarded settlement divided among them was $43 million.
A mesothelioma settlement is an important way that victims of asbestos exposure get needed compensation, but also justice. Most people who develop this disease were exposed to asbestos without being warned of the risks or the presence of the material. They were truly victims and are therefore owed compensation. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, find the right lawyer who can help you win a settlement to help cover your costs and compensate you for being ill.
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