It can be difficult to treat and comes with potential financial strain as you need to be able to cover medical bills and expenses, especially if you are out of work because of it. This is when pursuing litigation against the company or companies who caused the issue can be incredibly helpful.
Mesothelioma cases are entirely preventable, meaning they are caused by the accidental or willful negligence on behalf of producers and manufacturers of asbestos products, or by the companies and industries that use them. This negligence costs so many their comfort, wellness, and financial security, so it is important to pursue action when you have the ability.
There are two main forms of litigation you can pursue in light of a mesothelioma diagnosis.
- Personal Injury: If you have been exposed to asbestos at your workplace, as a consumer, or in any other form, you are entitled to file a personal injury claim against the company or companies who have wronged you. They have a responsibility to put in regulations, safety precautions, warnings, or to cease the use of asbestos products in order not to harm employees or consumers. If you have inhaled asbestos in your workplace or come in contact due to purchasing a product, that company is liable to compensate you for your injuries. A personal injury lawyer will be able to vet your case, help gather evidence, file a claim, fight for or negotiate your claim, and get you the compensation you are looking for. Compensation in these cases goes directly to the mesothelioma patient.
- Wrongful Death: If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of a company in regards to asbestos safety, you may be able to seek financial compensation for your deceased family member. These forms of compensation will typically be to cover medical bills left, burial or funeral costs, and even the loss of wages. In the case of wrongful death claims, the family will receive the settlement as the individual is deceased.
These compensation packages can be hefty and typically can range in the one to two million range.
Why File a Claim?
Treatments, medicines, transportation, and lodging to and from cancer centers, can all add up over time. It is hard enough having to battle mesothelioma, but to be battling your financials while you’re out of work due to illness only makes the situation more stressful.
Filing a claim is essentially trying to claim money that is owed to you as a victim of asbestos exposure. You were not aware of the exposure risks, or your company didn’t take the risks seriously and you ended up hurt. This means the company is liable and they owe you for their negligence. If you don’t have insurance that can cover your treatments, it can be even more financially draining.
Filing a claim can help you afford these expensive medical procedures and needs as well as leave your family with a stable financial future should you pass on.
How To File Asbestos Litigation
Firstly, you’ll want to choose your lawyer very carefully. There are personal injury lawyers who specialize in asbestos and mesothelioma cases and want to help you. You want someone experienced as they will be integral in helping you file a claim and can help you talk over your options. Whether that is talking through trust funds, speaking with companies directly, or building an actual case to take to trial, they can help you through it all.
From there, your attorney will research all about your exposure. They will want to know the details of how you came in contact with the asbestos, for how long, and in what quantity. This can help them determine how much you should be seeking out of a settlement. They will also ask you to provide testimony and will typically ask your doctors if they can provide one as well relating to your official medical diagnosis. This will be vital evidence when it comes to working on your claim.
They will then help you determine what is the best course of action for you whether it be a personal injury lawsuit, or in the case of a deceased loved one, a wrongful death claim. Documentation is incredibly important to filing these claims so try to keep track of everything you have on the subject matter.
From there they will officially file your suit for review. Depending on whether or not it is a fair settlement, your lawyer may recommend that it is wise to simply take the settlement rather than completing a trial. This could be due to many reasons, but negotiation is key.
Filing a mesothelioma suit takes a lot of time and effort, but your eligibility might hang in the balance if you don’t know your filing rights. You will need plenty of documentation on your exposure, work history, and your employment records in general if those are needed. If you have enough detailed claims of what has happened you may very well have a clear-cut path to getting what you deserve.
If you are a family member or loved one of the victim, you may be able to file for a wrongful death suit. This can pay off medical bills, funeral expenses, and even your own loss of wages if you’ve had to take care of the deceased throughout their battle with mesothelioma.
If there was a bankrupt company that caused your asbestos exposure, your lawyer can help you file a claim with a trust fund instead so you can get the compensation you need. Depending on your eligibility, veteran status, and other factors you may be able to receive medical insurance or disability as well. If you were a veteran who was exposed while on the job, you might not be able to sue the government but you can often sue the companies who led to your exposure.
Litigation Filing by State
Depending on your individual case, you may be able to file a mesothelioma lawsuit outside of your state. State laws vary regarding the statute of limitations and other rules for filing so you’ll want to do your research on regulations for claims in your state or the state you are filing in.
For most states, you have a few years from the point of official diagnosis to file. In a few states though, you only have one year to file a claim. This is called a statute of limitations.
Process for a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Your lawyer will initially vet you and your case to see if it is viable to make a claim. They will do their research into your medical history, work history, and take testimony from you and from your doctor regarding your asbestos-related illness. They will then determine if your claim should be filed against one or more companies and help you with the filing process.
They will submit a claim with the courts in order to start the process. If you are looking for a settlement, they will send your claims to the companies you’re wanting to receive compensation from. You will then either wait for a response, and preferably a quick and easy settlement, or if they do not respond or deny your claim you may be able to take your case to trial. If the company has gone bankrupt, your attorney will lead you through the process of filing with a trust fund.
These companies who have received your claim will have thirty days with which they can respond to you. Your attorney will handle any denials and start working to get you your settlement.
Some of these arguments from companies may be things like:
- Your exposure did not happen only at work but happened in other environments that they weren’t responsible for.
- The history of disease or illness in your family is significant enough to release them from responsibility.
- If you are someone who has a history of smoking or drinking, that has a more significant impact on your health than asbestos exposure and is really at fault for your problems.
- Your work history shows you have worked at other facilities where asbestos exposure occurred and was far more significant.
The initial offer for settlement won’t typically be very high, but your attorney will argue on your behalf for a fair amount. Most companies will be willing to negotiate to avoid a lengthy trial. If they feel they aren’t at fault, they may want to fight using the process.
Both your lawyer and the company’s lawyer will start doing their research for the case if it is going to be taken to trial. They will get documentation, written statements, and conduct interviews. This process may take months upon months, but if you are incredibly sick your attorney will attempt to push ahead litigation to get you what you need quicker. They will speed up the courts to try to help you before your condition truly worsens.
At this stage in the process, there may be settlement offers made. The offer may be significant enough that you decide to settle, or you may deny it and have your attorney renegotiate for you. Settlements may vary from the kind of verdict you would get if you decide to continue to trial. Sometimes settling is worth it, while in other cases it might be more beneficial to continue on to trial. Having a lawyer who is knowledgeable and trustworthy can help give you the best advice.
Mesothelioma trials are quite rare, as most claimants and companies will want to settle quickly without the lengthy court process. The process may be long or short depending on your individual case so some may try to settle quickly in order to avoid trials.
If the company isn’t happy with the verdict it may file an appeal but only has a short window with which to file.
- What is the typical length of an asbestos lawsuit?
- This varies greatly depending on several factors. If the victim is in poor health, the process may be expedited so that a settlement or verdict can be reached quickly. If the victim is still healthy enough to endure the process, it may be a few months or more. Companies tend to try to keep the process going at a slower pace in hopes that the victim will simply settle for whatever is given to them, but a good asbestos lawyer provides you advice and so you can be comfortable and get what you need as compensation.
- Will you need to travel for your case?
- Your attorney may think that another jurisdiction may benefit you better, but usually, your entire case can be conducted from the comfort of your lawyer’s office without any need for travel.
- What will a good mesothelioma lawyer cost?
- You will typically not be charged by most mesothelioma lawyers unless a settlement is reached or your case is won. A percentage of your settlement or verdict will be paid to your lawyer if and only if you win it.
- What will you likely be paid out?
- Every case has a different outcome, but you should expect that your settlement will be based upon your history and the severity of your diagnosis. Patients with mesothelioma may ultimately get more money than other asbestos-related illnesses.
- Would a class-action suit benefit me more?
- These are uncommon and aren’t typically something that most patients pursue. Your lawyer will advise you if your suit qualifies for a class-action suit, rather than an individual one.
There are statutes of limitations and so as soon as you find out your diagnosis of mesothelioma or a related illness, you should start working towards filing litigation. These statutes can be anywhere from a year to five after your diagnosis so you need to learn what the limitations are in your individual state.
The statutes of limitation are in place to help victims actually receive the compensation they deserve even though it takes time for mesothelioma and asbestos-related illnesses to manifest in the body. It can take decades for the illness to appear and start causing trouble for victims, so the statutes were placed so after a diagnosis is made they can start seeking litigation.
This was established by the Clean Air Act of 1970, which put limitations on asbestos use as well as other toxic chemicals and materials for industrial and manufacturing use. Other countries around the world have put a full ban on asbestos use and manufacturing in the last few decades, but several still remain as high producers. China, India, and Russia are just a few of the countries that still regularly utilize asbestos.
In 1964, doctors began to realize that asbestos could wreak havoc on the body and attempted to warn others of the risks. Unfortunately, workers had been showing symptoms of mesothelioma and other illnesses for years and most companies were already aware that asbestos exposure caused these illnesses. Companies had been covering it up for years and intentionally putting their workers and consumers at risk simply because asbestos was cheap and abundant.
Literature began being spread around that any company or individual who would intentionally use a material like asbestos that would cause harm to workers or consumers should be held responsible for the exposure. This was the first foot in the door towards asbestos laws and litigation. Courts began to side with victims rather than companies in light of the discoveries that asbestos caused harm. Companies did not warn their workers or put safety precautions in place, which made them liable for damages.
The first asbestos lawsuit was filed in May 1969, but it did not favor the victims and instead released the companies from their responsibility. By October 1969, as cases of mesothelioma grew and were due to the same companies responsible, these lawsuits were found to be in favor of the victims.
Since 1970, laws have been put in place to regulate the use and asbestos exposure. Companies are now required to warn their workers and to provide safety precautions for them to keep them from getting sick. The EPA and OSHA are also greatly responsible for regulating these and companies can be fined for violating their regulations.
Especially considering the 2020 pandemic, most lawyers are allowing telecommute meetings with their at-risk clients. Everything is enabled to be virtual and remote so that patients with mesothelioma can remain safe and well while still fighting for the compensation that they need.
As we move further towards sustainability and environmental consciousness, we may see laws and regulations soon put in place to help prevent exposure even further. Many companies have already entirely ceased the use of asbestos, but older institutions and the ones still enabled by the government like chloralkali plants are still utilizing asbestos in their day to day practices.
Asbestos-related litigation has made huge strides in the last few decades, making it far more accessible and helpful for patients to start working towards the compensation they need to cover their medical expenses and pay for damages. We have seen a rise in mesothelioma cases as the former use of asbestos as a primary material in most manufacturing, production, construction, and other industries, has started to finally manifest in workers and consumers who were exposed.
The recent Johnson and Johnson case for one was due primarily to the exposure of children to the asbestos-ridden talc in baby powder and has caused issues with ovarian cancer and other diseases. Recently, over one hundred million in settlements were paid out to victims and there are still suits going on to help others who have been affected by their baby powder products.
Some have gone bankrupt and their money is now entirely in trust funds that help payout present and future suits. Others may opt for settlement in order to stave off long lawsuits and the risk of bad press. Most companies want to save themselves from being exposed and canceled for these exposure risks, so they try to settle everything as quietly as they can.
If you or a loved one believe they have been the victim of one of these exposures, you have options available to you. Firstly, you should keep up with regular medical checkups to ensure that any symptoms that arise can be quickly addressed. Catching mesothelioma and related illnesses early will give you the highest chance of longevity and can help you manage your symptoms with minimal discomfort. If you have been formally diagnosed with one of these illnesses you should seek litigation as soon as possible.
Make sure you review your state’s statutes of limitations, ensure that you have all your medical records, and work records on file to be presented to a lawyer. Seeking out a mesothelioma attorney is important as some of them will be able to help your case more than others would.