Asbestos is a natural mineral and a 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 illnesses. Mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly cancer is one of these illnesses, and asbestosis is another.
Asbestos fibers may also migrate past the airways and cause damage and disease in other parts of the body. Mesothelioma may form in the lining of the abdomen or more rarely around the heart or the testicles.
Asbestos exposure often occurs in the workplace. Thousands of people experienced exposure and were 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 complex. Rely on an experienced lawyer to help you make the right decisions along the way. The laws can be confusing and mistakes are easy to make.
Finding an Asbestos or Mesothelioma Lawyer
For the best chance of winning your case, you need a lawyer or law firm with relevant experience and asbestos knowledge. The laws governing asbestos and personal injury are 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 information. They will begin an investigation to determine what company caused the exposure that triggered your illness. They 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 has been filed. Defendants get a certain amount of time to respond, typically 30 days from when they learn of the lawsuit.
The Discovery Phase
If the defendant does not respond, you win your case by default. In most cases the defendant will respond and trigger the discovery period. During this period both sides continue gathering information.
Most lawsuits go from discovery to a settlement negotiation. This is when your lawyer negotiates on your behalf for a fair amount of compensation. 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. It takes 18 months on average 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. It’s impossible to predict what the jury’s decision will be, but there are some benefits of trials. One is that the company or companies who caused your illness can be exposed publicly. Also, if successful, the award amount is usually higher.
Asbestos trials can take 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 process and will work for the best outcome.
Choosing an Asbestos Lawyer
Selecting a good legal team is essential for improving your chances of a successful lawsuit. 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. 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 has also won 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 a lawsuit finish. 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 as well as for pain and suffering and loss of companionship.
The main reason to file an asbestos or mesothelioma lawsuit is to recover monetary damages. Getting justice and 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 hospice. You can also claim compensation for emotional suffering, physical pain and suffering, and other less tangible costs of sickness.
Examples of Successful Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Although every case is different, past lawsuits involving asbestos can give you an idea of what you might expect in your own case.
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 with 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. 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 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 payment delays. 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.