Statute of Limitations for Mesothelioma Lawsuits
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you must have been exposed to asbestos at some point in your life. More than likely, this exposure occurred some decades ago. This may make you believe that you will no longer be able to file a Mesothelioma lawsuit to recover any losses you suffered because the statute of limitations usually starts running at the point of injury. Due to the long latency period of mesothelioma, however, the rules have had to be changed for this. That is not to say that there isn’t a statute of limitations, but rather that it starts running at a different point in time, usually the point of diagnosis. That being said, it is vital that you seek legal advice as soon as you have a diagnosis so your options can be discussed and so that you do not miss the deadline.
Types of Statutes of Limitations
Every state has a statute of limitations on personal injury. This statute, in a way, applies to people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. The difference is that the moment at which the clock starts ticking is very different for mesothelioma, but the amount of time that is available to you may remain the same. If you don’t file within that time period, you will lose out on your entitlement to receive any form of compensation, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Another important consideration is who is filing the claim. Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer with a very poor prognosis. It is not uncommon, therefore, for people to not have the strength or the time to file a suit during their lifetime. It is possible for their surviving relatives to file a claim on their behalf but, again, they will be limited by a statute of limitations.
In actual fact, two types of statutes of limitations exist that are relevant to mesothelioma cases.
1. Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations
In normal personal injury cases, the clock starts ticking on the day the injury was sustained. This is impossible with mesothelioma, as some people don’t realize they have it until several years after their exposure. Hence, it has been decided that, for asbestos-related illnesses, the clock will start ticking on the day of the diagnosis. The time limit, however, can be very short. For instance, in California and in Tennessee, the statute is just one year.
This highlights, once again, how important it is to seek legal advice as soon as possible. A good Mesothelioma lawyer will be able to determine whether or not the time has already been exceeded or, if it hasn’t, how long a plaintiff still has to file a claim. The lawyer will also be able to expedite the situation as much as possible, so that the deadline isn’t missed due to technicalities.
2. Wrongful Death Statutes of Limitations
Wrongful death cases can be brought forward by the surviving loved ones of a mesothelioma victim. In this case, the victim has died and has not be able to start, or at least complete, a legal action for compensation. In these cases, a statute of limitations also exists and it is very important for the relatives of the deceased to be aware of this. The clock starts to tick on the day the person has died. In the majority of cases, personal injury statutes of limitations and wrongful death statutes of limitations are the same. However, there are also some states, including Florida and New York, in which the statute of limitations is significantly shorter than that of a personal injury case.
There are reasons why wrongful death cases often take longer than regular cases, however. For instance, they may not have known that any asbestos exposure had taken place. It can be a lengthy process to compile lists of workplaces and residences, and to determine whether or not asbestos was present in those locations. Again, it is vital to speak to a qualified attorney who specializes in these types of cases in order to make sure you don’t miss the time limit.
Which Statute Is Applicable?
A considerable difficulty you may come across, and one that your lawyer should be able to help you with, is which state’s statutes are applicable to you. A number of factors are of influence in this, including:
- Where you currently live and where you have lived in the past
- Whether the military bases or job sites were located when you were exposed to asbestos
- Where the company that is liable in this case is based
There are a number of states that have ‘immediate’ trial provisions for people with asbestos-related illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. For instance, in New York City, trial clusters have been set aside specifically for asbestos cases in both April and October. Because mesothelioma patients are terminally ill, this increases the likelihood of them being able to survive through their trial.
Statutes of Limitations by State
With regards to the statute of limitations for personal injury cases:
- A one year (from diagnosis) statute exists in California, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
- A two year statute exists in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
- A three year statute exists in Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington DC, and Wisconsin.
- A four year statute is in place in Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
- In Missouri, the statute is five years.
- Maine has one of the longest statutes of limitations, standing at 6 years, as does North Dakota.
- With regards to wrongful death, the statutes also differ:
- The statute starts from death, and is just one year in California, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
- In Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming, it is two years from death.
- Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington DC, and Wisconsin it is three years.
- Florida and Minnesota have a four year from death statute in place.