Many people suffering with the type of cancer known as mesothelioma, or who have passed away because of this terrible disease, were diagnosed after working under unsafe conditions out of their control. Workers exposed to harmful asbestos for years on the job in construction, in the military, in shipyards, and in other industrial settings, without understanding or being aware of the risks, are now paying the price.
Decades after inhaling ingesting asbestos dust on the job, some of these workers were diagnosed with mesothelioma. Many of them are now fighting for settlements to get fair compensation for the high costs of living with this devastating disease. The average mesothelioma settlement amount is around $1 million to $1.5 million, but the exact amount any victim can get depends on individual factors.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma Victims
Asbestos was used in many industries and as a component of lot of different materials for several decades. Too many workers were put at risk for being exposed to it and suffering internal tissue damage as a result. 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 were generally not aware they were exposed or of the risks of working with asbestos.
Asbestos is known to be a human carcinogen, a substance that can cause cancer in people. The most common type of cancer diagnosed as a result of asbestos exposure is pleural mesothelioma. It is deadly, aggressive, and difficult to diagnose; most victims don’t know they have it until decades after they were exposed to it. This kind of cancer affects tissue around the lungs and causes symptoms like difficulty breathing, coughing, and chest pains.
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. 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. In some cases residents of neighborhoods near facilities that used asbestos were also exposed.
Mesothelioma Settlements Explained
A settlement is a legal resolution between two parties, often resulting in a monetary award to the individual who first brought the lawsuit against a defendant. The process of getting a settlement begins with a mesothelioma victim who turns to an experienced 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.
These lawsuits rarely go all the way to a court trial. Instead they are typically resolved in settlement discussions between the two parties’ legal teams. If the lawyers on both sides can negotiate an agreement for compensation, the case does not need to go to trial.
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 or to decide in favor of the defendant.
Working with a Mesothelioma Lawyer
If you or someone in your family needs financial assistance to cover the costs associated with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses, it is important to work with an expert mesothelioma lawyer. This professional should have experience working on asbestos cases and be expert in asbestos laws in the state in which you will be filing.
When you find the right legal team to work with, they will do what it takes to negotiate a fair settlement. Your role is to provide all necessary information that will help your team develop a strong case. This includes sharing medical records, work history, and any military service. The more open you can be with your lawyer, the better chance they have of winning a settlement for you.
Types of Compensation
The defendant in a mesothelioma settlement case may be forced to pay a settlement that includes compensatory damages, 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 defendants but also deter others from harming people in the future.
Compensatory damages go to the victims to cover a variety of types of costs they have or expect to have in the future because of the illness. For someone seeking a mesothelioma settlement, this 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.
What Affects a Mesothelioma Settlement?
There are several factors that go into deciding a settlement amount, whether it is agreed on before trial or awarded by a judge or jury:
- How liable the defendant is
- The severity of the plaintiff’s illness and resulting disability
- The degree to which asbestos exposure impacted the plaintiff’s life or the family
- The exact costs the plaintiff incurred as a result of being sick
- Emotional suffering of the plaintiff or family
- Whether or not the plaintiff smoked
- Individual state laws
- Loss of companionship or monetary support in wrongful death cases
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 settlement 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 with this disease.
Examples of Mesothelioma Settlements
More mesothelioma and asbestos cases end in settlements than go to trial. It is quicker to get compensation this way. While everyone’s case is different, and individual factors influence settlement results and amounts, it can help to see what other victims have been able to win in their settlements:
- In Libby, Montana in 2011, one the most well-known mesothelioma cases, the presiding judge-awarded a $43-million settlement to a group of plaintiffs. The victims were thousands of miners and town residents exposed to asbestos through a nearby vermiculite mine.
- In another 2011 case, victim Nancy Lopez was given a $10 million settlement verdict, approved by a Missouri circuit court judge. According to court documents, Lopez worked at the Jackson County courthouse in St. Joseph, Missouri, while it was littered with asbestos. She died in 2010 from malignant mesothelioma. Lopez was part of a class action mesothelioma lawsuit brought about by numerous Jackson courthouse employees who were also exposed to asbestos. The total mesothelioma settlement for the class action suit was $80 million.
- The wife of a former steel worker in Illinois received a $250-million settlement in 2005. U.S. Steel, the company her husband worked for, was ordered to pay the amount. The former employee, 70-year-old Roby Whittington, was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2001, after of decades of asbestos exposure on the job. It’s one of the largest mesothelioma settlement awards given out for a single plaintiff.
A settlement is an important way that victims of asbestos exposure get needed compensation. They also get justice from the recognition by a company that was negligent. Most people who develop mesothelioma 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.
Page edited by Dave Foster
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