How is an Asbestos Settlement Different from a Trial Verdict?
A settlement is a legal agreement that provides monetary damages to the plaintiff who has filed a lawsuit. It is negotiated without taking a lawsuit to trial. Hiring an experienced lawyer to begin a lawsuit against the responsible party in asbestos exposure is the first step in working toward a settlement.
There are several important differences between a settlement and getting a verdict in a mesothelioma lawsuit:
- Settlements are reached without going to trial in a courtroom.
- Settlements are agreed upon between defendants and the legal team for the asbestos victim.
- A verdict is given by a jury in court.
- A verdict can be appealed.
- Compensation amounts are typically higher in a verdict.
- The victim usually gets compensation from a settlement sooner than from a verdict.
- A trial with a verdict is necessary if both sides fail to reach a settlement agreement.
Can I Get More from a Settlement or a Trial?
Many companies and asbestos trusts are prepared to reach a settlement to avoid a costly and lengthy trial. The average settlement for a mesothelioma case is $1 million to $1.5 million. The exact amount you can expect to receive depends on individual factors.
Amounts awarded in trials are usually higher, around $2.4 million on average for asbestos cases. But, trials take more time, cost more, and do not necessarily end in a win for the victim.
Do I Need a Mesothelioma Lawyer to Get a Settlement?
A lawyer is not technically required to seek a settlement, but you will want to work with an expert mesothelioma lawyer for the best outcome. The right lawyer should have proven experience working on asbestos cases and helping other victims.
With the right lawyer on your side, you have the best chance of reaching a fair settlement with the negligent company. Your lawyer will do most of the work, but it is your role to provide personal information that will help build a strong case. You will need to share your medical records, work history, and any military experience.
How Do I Get a Mesothelioma Settlement?
The process of getting a settlement begins with hiring the right lawyer. Your lawyer will then go through a multi-step process, hopefully ending in a monetary award without the need to go to trial:
- Gathering information and filing a claim. Your lawyer will investigate your exposure to asbestos, the companies involved, and your illness and then file a claim against all appropriate defendants.
- Defendant response. The defendants then have a chance to respond to your claim. They will most likely deny any liability.
- Discovery. With the response received, each side in the lawsuit can begin the discovery phase. Both investigate your claim and gather more information to build a case.
- Settlement negotiations. When each side has all the information it needs, they can begin negotiating for a settlement.
Only if the defendants refuse to offer a settlement, or both sides cannot agree on a fair amount, will the lawsuit go to trial in court.
What Kinds of Compensation Can I Get?
The defendant in a mesothelioma settlement case may be forced to pay one or more types of damages:
- Punitive damages are paid as a form of punishment for negligent actions. This shows other companies that putting people at risk of asbestos exposure is costly and discourages further exposure and harm.
- Compensatory damages are for the expenses associated with living with mesothelioma. Examples are costs for treatment and travel to treatment. These damages can also cover future expected expenses and intangible costs like emotional pain and physical suffering.
The loved one or dependents of a victim of mesothelioma who has already passed away may also receive compensatory damages. These may include the costs of funeral expenses, lost income that dependents relied on, loss of companionship, and emotional suffering.
What Factors Affect a Mesothelioma Settlement?
There are several factors that go into agreeing on a settlement amount:
- The degree to which the defendant is liable or negligent
- The severity of the plaintiff’s illness and disabilities and the cost of medical care
- The degree to which asbestos exposure impacted the plaintiff’s life
- The impact on the family of the plaintiff
- The financial costs 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 and monetary support in wrongful death cases
Should I Settle or Seek a Verdict?
If you are filing a mesothelioma claim, you will have the opportunity to choose whether you want to take an amount offered during an out of court settlement agreement or whether you would rather take a chance in a trial. The latter is risky because you may not win and may miss the chance to recover damages.
The choice is ultimately yours, but your lawyer will be there to give you expert advice. Most patients choose to settle out of court because it is easier and less stressful and because trials take longer. A trial also poses the risk that you will get no compensation at all.
Examples of Mesothelioma Settlements
Most cases involving mesothelioma and asbestos end in settlement agreements. The amount that is awarded to the victim in these cases depends on many different individual factors. Some notable settlements include fairly large amounts:
- In Libby, Montana in 2011, a judge-awarded a $43 million settlement to a large group of plaintiffs. The victims included thousands of miners and residents exposed to asbestos through a vermiculite mine near their homes.
- In another 2011 case, a jury awarded victim Nancy Lopez a $10 million settlement in a Missouri circuit court. She worked at the Jackson County courthouse, which contained asbestos. She died in 2010 from mesothelioma.
- The wife of a former steel worker in Illinois received a $250 million settlement in 2005. Her husband’s former employer, U.S. Steel, was found responsible for his exposure. The former employee, 70-year-old Roby Whittington, received a diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma in 2001, after decades of asbestos exposure on the job.
- In 2016 a California jury awarded the victim of mesothelioma and asbestos exposure $18.07 million. Philip Depoian’s illness was found to be related to being in his father’s barber shop as a child. Talc supplier Whittaker Clark & Daniels was found liable.
- The Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City settled a class action suit for $80 million in 2016. The victims were courthouse employees exposed to asbestos during renovations to the building in the 1980s.
- In 2018 Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America were ordered to pay $117 million to asbestos victim and New Jersey resident Stephen Lanzo. Lanzo developed mesothelioma after decades of using talcum powder.
A legal settlement is an important way that victims of asbestos exposure get much-needed compensation. They also get the satisfaction of justice for the harm caused to them. 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 Written by Rod De Llano, Esquire
Rod De Llano was born and raised in Laredo, Texas. He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Economics, and earned a law degree from the University of Texas. After working for an international law firm for several years, Rod formed a law firm dedicated to representing persons injured by exposure to asbestos products. For over 20 years, Rod has fought for persons diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. His clients have recovered over $1 billion over the years.