If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today for a complimentary consultation. You could be entitled to substantial compensation from the company that exposed you to asbestos and caused your disease. Choosing an experienced mesothelioma attorney will greatly increase your chances for compensation. Call us today.
Because of the nature of asbestos exposure, many companies knowingly put their workers and families at risk, so mesothelioma victims and their loved ones need to be aware of their legal rights. While filing a mesothelioma lawsuit may seem to be rather intimidating, doing so can help the victim to obtain the money they deserve.
This article describes everything you need to know about filing a mesothelioma lawsuit in 2018 and beyond. If you have any questions after reading this information, please contact a mesothelioma attorney for more information.
Deciding to File A Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Making a decision to take legal action such as a mesothelioma lawsuit after a serious health diagnosis is a tough decision. You are having to balance medical treatment decisions with settlement negotiations and potentially a long trial.
However, when a mesothelioma patient is facing a huge pile of medical bills as they struggle to pay for drugs, treatment and hospitalization, they may not have a choice. They also are probably out of work and not able to earn the living they once did. These many financial burdens may make it essential to file a mesothelioma lawsuit against the company that exposed you to asbestos.
Patients with mesothelioma that stems from exposure at work may want to file a suit or claim because it is possible their employer put them at risk of injury or death, and may have even known about it. Other patients may want to file a mesothelioma lawsuit against the company that manufactured the products containing asbestos fibers. Every person who has been affected by asbestos and a mesothelioma will want to understand their legal rights before making the decision to take action.
Proving Asbestos Exposure
To file a successful asbestos exposure and mesothelioma lawsuit, there needs to be a definitive diagnosis of the disease. This usually is done with a pathology report and a biopsy. If you were already diagnosed with mesothelioma, this information should already be in the possession of your doctor. Talk to an attorney about the type of evidence that is needed for your particular case.
Must Have Conclusive Proof
Any legal action for your mesothelioma hinges upon proving you were exposed to asbestos. An experienced Mesothelioma lawyer can help you to collect this evidence, which can include your employment information and Social Security records. You and some of your current or former co-workers may need to give a deposition to describe what your work conditions were like, what jobs you had, and whether there were materials containing asbestos on the job site.
Once you have the evidence of asbestos exposure, it is time to determine how you want to proceed legally.
Options to File Mesothelioma Lawsuit Claim
There are several ways you can file a mesothelioma claim. These include
- Traditional lawsuits/personal injury claim
- Wrongful death claim
- Asbestos trust fund claims
- Workers’ compensation claims
A military veteran that was exposed to asbestos during their service could be eligible to file a disability and healthcare claim through the US Department of Veterans Affairs or VA.
Option 1 – Traditional Lawsuit
Medical problems related to asbestos exposure, such as mesothelioma, are often due to the negligence of a corporation, or the company’s failure to warn workers of the hazards of asbestos exposure. Some organizations also fail to invest in proper equipment and training for workers to prevent asbestos exposure.
Filing a lawsuit against the organization or organizations that caused your asbestos exposure could result in substantial compensation for your injuries, including medical costs, pain and suffering and lost wages.
There are two sorts of mesothelioma lawsuits: wrongful death claims if you lost a loved one to mesothelioma, and personal injury lawsuits. Your mesothelioma attorney will be well versed in the legal options you have. He can guide you through the process to file your mesothelioma claim.
After you talk to your attorney, you may find that filing a lawsuit gives you the best chance to receive a high level of compensation for your injuries. The majority of mesothelioma lawsuits settle out of court before the trial begins.
Option 2 – Personal Injury Claim
You can file a personal injury claim for damages after you are diagnosed with mesothelioma by a medical professional. Some of the damages that you can receive in an asbestos or mesothelioma claim are:
- Medical costs: Mesothelioma victims usually have hundreds of thousands of dollars of past and future medical expenses. The company that caused your asbestos exposure may be required to cover most or all of these costs.
- Lost wages: If you are still working, you may be eligible for compensation for work that you have lost and may lose in the future.
- Pain and suffering: Mesothelioma is a painful cancer, and you may be able to be compensated for physical and mental pain and suffering.
- Loss of intimacy: People who are seriously ill may not be able to have the same kind of relationship with their spouse or partner. Or, your loved one may have passed away. In both cases, you may be able to obtain compensation for this loss of intimacy.
A mesothelioma attorney can find out if other expenses could be covered under a mesothelioma claim. It is vital to save all medical and financial documents regarding your illness for this reason.
Option 3 – Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death mesothelioma lawsuit is different from a personal injury case. This legal action is submitted by a loved one of the person who died from the lung cancer. Surviving family are not just facing the emotional loss of their loved one. They also may have to deal with financial devastation because of the high medical bills, and the terrible burden of lost income.
You can file a wrongful death claim as a family member if your loved one dies from asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. If the original plaintiff on the personal injury lawsuit dies due to mesothelioma, family members can often step in as the plaintiff. If the claim was not actually submitted, they could file a wrongful death claim instead on behalf of their loved one.
Some of the parties that may file a wrongful death claim for mesothelioma include the following:
- Husbands, wives and children, mothers and fathers, sisters or brothers
- People who were financially dependent upon the deceased; this can vary by state
A Mesothelioma lawsuit may be filed by one or more of these loved ones for the following compensation:
- Medical bills from doctors, hospitals, rehabilitation, prescription drugs, chemotherapy and more.
- Lost income: Many mesothelioma victims were the primary breadwinner in their household. Their death leaves a huge financial hole in the lives of the surviving family. Some families end up losing their home and declaring bankruptcy without a mesothelioma lawsuit settlement.
- Funeral expenses: Some families go into debt to pay for the funeral expenses of their loved one. This is especially upsetting when the person’s illness may have been caused by the negligence or willful actions of a former employer.
- Pain and suffering: Mesothelioma is a very painful cancer and is usually fatal. People with this horrible disease usually suffer a lot. This suffering weighs heavily on the family. You may be entitled to compensation for both your and your loved ones’ pain and suffering prior to death.
- Loss of consortium: The partner or spouse of the deceased may receive compensation for the loss of their intimate partner.
Option 4 – Asbestos Trust Fund Claim
In the past several decades, many companies that exposed workers to asbestos declared bankruptcy for any number of reasons. Filing bankruptcy does not necessarily mean the company is actually out of money. Rather, many asbestos companies that declare bankruptcy do it so they can reorganize and improve their financial stability. In some situations, courts in these bankruptcies have ordered mesothelioma compensation funds to be created, also known as trust funds.
These funds are designed to give compensation to patients who have been affected by mesothelioma or a related cancer. An attorney who is specialized in asbestos diseases can assist in determining if the company or companies responsible for your mesothelioma have trust funds set up.
Option 5 – Workers’ Compensation Claim
Each state has its own workers’ compensation laws. Some of the laws can change from year to year. If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma or another disease related to asbestos, you might be able to file a workers’ compensation claim to pay your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
However, it is important to know that being eligible and being compensated are different from each other. The board for workers’ compensation in your state can give you more information.
Personal Injury Lawsuit = Higher Compensation
While some people who suffer from mesothelioma can file for workers’ compensation, a personal injury lawsuit usually will give you more compensation. Before you decide to file a workers’ compensation claim, you should talk to an experienced attorney to determine if a lawsuit is a better option for you.
In many cases, mesothelioma attorneys will not file a claim against the company you worked for, unless that company produces asbestos. Rather, attorneys will often file lawsuits against the companies that manufacture products that contain asbestos.
Veterans Benefits and Mesothelioma Claims
People who served in the US military have more risk of developing mesothelioma because of the high levels of asbestos that were used in constructing ships, barracks, boilers, pipe coverings and more. Those who were in the US Navy, especially the ones who worked in shipyards, are at highest risk.
Veterans may be able to file a claim with the VA to obtain compensation for injuries and illnesses that came from military service. These veterans can seek and receive disability compensation, healthcare from the VA and compensation for indemnity.
Class Action Lawsuits for Mesothelioma
Another option for obtaining compensation for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma is a class action lawsuit. Class action lawsuits for mesothelioma and asbestos started in the late 1960s. It was at this time that people first were aware of the health hazards that came from asbestos exposure. Since that time, judges have started to use class action lawsuits to manage the sheer number of asbestos claims, of which there have been millions.
Class Action Lawsuit – Large Number of Similar Plaintiffs
In the US justice system, class action lawsuits are often used to resolve disagreements that involve plaintiffs with very similar injuries and the same defendants. A class action lawsuit is a suit where a group of people bring a complaint to the court. These lawsuits are filed against the defendant by more than one plaintiff on behalf of a group of people who are in a similar situation.
State and federal courts have their own rules for class action lawsuits. Usually, to have a class action lawsuit, the group needs to share similar injuries that have been caused by circumstances that they all share that bring the same legal issues. If the particular court decides there are enough similarities and that separate suits would be too much burden, it will then certify the group is a class and will let them litigate their case as one.
It Is Your Choice
If you receive a request to join an asbestos class action, you should remember you have the choice to join the class or not so that you can file your own lawsuit. In a class action case, an out of court settlement is likely. Any settlement that is obtained will be divided among all of the plaintiffs.
This can be desirable for patients who do not want to get involved in a trial. But it can be very challenging to get many plaintiffs and defendants to agree on these complicated legal issues. If the parties do reach an agreement on a mesothelioma class action settlement, the court still needs to approve the terms.
Class Action or Individual Lawsuit?
Remember that class action members in a mesothelioma case do not have as much control over the case as a single plaintiff. Attorneys who do class action lawsuits are representing the interests of many plaintiffs who are affected by mesothelioma.
Attorneys who represent individual clients are more able to focus on the individual needs of that one client. If you have a mesothelioma claim, you may wish to have more control over your case and may decide against joining a class action. However, this is a subject to go over with your attorney so that you can make the best decision.
Defenses to Mesothelioma Lawsuits
One cannot predict how a company will respond to a mesothelioma lawsuit. But history suggests that most organizations will try to fight the claim vigorously with high-priced attorneys. Some of the most common defenses to mesothelioma lawsuits include these categories:
- The filing of the legal paperwork was incorrect or incomplete; this makes hiring an experienced mesothelioma attorney critical.
- Family member is unqualified to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Wrong legal venue is chosen. Choosing the correct court to hear the claim is vital.
- Claim is outside the statute of limitations. As the plaintiff, you or your loved one must prove that the legal action was filed within a certain period of time after the illness was discovered – typically two to four years.
Personal and Health
- Plaintiff had previous health problems
- The plaintiff engaged in smoking, drinking and drug abuse that contributed to the condition
- The plaintiff has a family history of mesothelioma or a related cancers
- Genetic issues may have caused the disease
- The exposure to asbestos was caused by another organization or source
- Diagnosis of mesothelioma is incorrect or inaccurate
- Asbestos exposure was not the cause of the disease
- Plaintiff is not telling the truth
Successful Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Being seriously ill with mesothelioma can make it stressful to confront aggressive counterclaims from the defendant. But understanding the common defenses employed in these cases will help you and your attorney to put forward the strongest argument. In recent years, there have been multiple, successful mesothelioma lawsuit verdicts as the consequences of long term asbestos exposure continue to unfold.
According to Mealey’s Litigation Report, the average mesothelioma lawsuit award is $2.4 million. The typical settlement in a mesothelioma case is between $1 million and $1.4 million, with many settlements being paid by more than one defendant.
Recent mesothelioma verdicts and settlements of note have been in these states:
- California: In 2010, a Los Angeles jury awarded more than $200 million in punitive and compensatory damages to a woman named Rhoda Evans. The woman got mesothelioma from the heavy lawyers of asbestos dust her husband brought home on him in the late 1970s.
- Mississippi: Thomas Brown was awarded $322 million in an asbestosis lawsuit in 2001. He was an oil field worker in the late 1970s who mixed drilling mud that contained asbestos. The lawsuit was won against the company Union Carbide.
- Missouri: A circuit court judge in 2011 approved a settlement of $10 million to victim Nancy Lopez. The employee of the Jackson County, MO courthouse was exposed to deadly asbestos fibers during a construction project that was done by US Engineering Company. Two co-workers later filed a class action lawsuit against the county that settled for $80 million.
- Illinois: US Steel was ordered in 2005 to pay $250 million to the wife of a steel worker who died from mesothelioma. US Steel came to a post-verdict settlement that was not disclosed. This case was rare in that it settled after a trial verdict.
- New Jersey: The wife and family of Mark Buttitta, who died of mesothelioma in 2002, received a $30 million verdict in what is thought to be the biggest mesothelioma verdict in the state’s history. He is believed to have brought asbestos home on his work clothes while employed at General Motors parts warehouses.
- New York: A former boilermaker was awarded $3.7 million after he developed cancer from asbestos exposure, Also, a man in 2006 who was a former brake specialist got a $25 million settlement from Daimler Chrysler. He was exposed for years to asbestos fibers in brake dust. Another verdict in New York was won for $75 million for Marlena and Ed Robaey, who were exposed both at work and home.
- Montana: This state is the home vermiculite mines from which asbestos is produced. There were two major payouts made recently. The first was in 2011 for $43 million that covered 1,300 miners and their loved ones. The other was a class action lawsuit that awarded $25 million to 1,000 people in January 2017.
Duration of Mesothelioma Lawsuit
How long a mesothelioma lawsuit will take varies. It depends upon many factors, including, whether the case settles before trial. Other factors affecting the timeline are:
- How many plaintiffs are filing
- How many defendants are subject to the suit
- How long it takes to collect research and evidence
- Court schedule and load
- Which venue the action was filed in
Statute of Limitations for Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Mesothelioma lawsuits are different than other personal injury claims where the clock starts to tick at the moment of injury. With asbestos and mesothelioma, it is challenging to determine when and where the injury occurred; a diagnosis often comes decades after the first asbestos exposure.
Due to the longer latency period, many state courts have made exceptions about the statute of limitations for mesothelioma claims. A statute of limitations refers to the amount of time you have to file a claim. For someone who was exposed to asbestos, this period of time usually starts once you are diagnosed with a cancer related to asbestos. An experienced mesothelioma attorney will ensure that your claim is filed before the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Some plaintiffs may be able to file a lawsuit in more than one state. This depends upon where the companies are located that were responsible for your asbestos exposure. Talk to a qualified attorney for more information.
Contact a Mesothelioma Attorney Now
Mesothelioma is a preventable and very painful cancer. It is usually fatal. Time is of the essence. Please contact one of our experienced mesothelioma attorneys today for a complimentary consultation.