Asbestos victims and their families are eligible to receive financial compensation even if decades have passed since the initial exposure. The court system has developed rules and procedures to keep companies and manufacturers accountable to the people they injured.
When filing a mesothelioma lawsuit, victims often choose to work with asbestos lawyers who understand the complexities involved in the cases. Because dozens of companies knowingly withheld information about the dangers of asbestos exposure and the connection to mesothelioma, asbestos attorneys work tirelessly to uncover the facts.
In addition to exposing critical information related to cases, asbestos lawyers also file the necessary paperwork and do the necessary legwork. Their work provides victims the time and peace of mind they need to undergo treatment and fight the disease.
The financial support that comes as a result of a mesothelioma lawsuit or claim can be life-changing. Financial awards can provide victims and their families with money for specialized treatments and living expenses that would not have otherwise been accessible.
Types of Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Asbestos-cancer victims and their families can seek compensation through four primary types of mesothelioma lawsuits – personal injury, wrongful death, class action and multidistrict litigation. Each type follows distinct legal processes and may have different outcomes.
Asbestos litigation can begin while a patient is undergoing treatment in the form a personal injury claim or in the event of the patient’s death as a wrongful-death lawsuit. Class-action lawsuits and multidistrict litigation may also be used to get patients and their families the financial assistance they deserve. All asbestos-exposure lawsuits are subject to statutes of limitations based on individual state laws.
Mesothelioma Personal Injury Lawsuit
In mesothelioma personal injury cases, attorneys prove a company’s liability for the victim’s injuries. When victims win the case, a judge (or jury) awards damages or financial compensation for injuries, pain and suffering.
Recent awards: A California man who worked closely with asbestos-containing products at D.W. Nicholson Corp was awarded $3 million in 2019.
Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Lawsuit
When a death is a result of negligence, the surviving family members have the right to file a civil wrongful death lawsuit. In mesothelioma cases, wrongful death lawsuits are filed against negligent asbestos companies.
Recent awards: In 2019, the family of a South Carolina man who worked at a polyester fiber plan and died of mesothelioma was awarded a $14 million jury settlement.
Mesothelioma Class Action Lawsuit
When a group of people with similar injuries and case circumstances file a lawsuit together, the resulting class action can ultimately represent hundreds or thousands of victims. Most mesothelioma lawsuits are not handled in this fashion. Instead, victims usually opt for individual or multidistrict litigation.
Recent awards: About 2,300 Southeast Texas chemical plant, shipyard and refinery workers diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases between 1985 and 1987 were awarded $178 million in 2018. Only about 70 victims remained alive at the time of the award.
Mesothelioma Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)
When large numbers of individuals file similar lawsuits (based on similar facts and circumstances), the courts handle the cases together. MDL proceedings allow multiple plaintiffs to pool their resources and coordinate efforts, decreasing the amount of money and human resources spent on the case.
Recent awards: MDL 875 in the Eastern Pennsylvania District of the United States District Court includes nearly 187,000 mesothelioma cases as of 2019.
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Mesothelioma Lawsuit Process
While every mesothelioma lawsuit is different, they all follow a similar process. Knowing the process can help ease the burden that comes with uncertainty:
Step 1 – Schedule a free consultation with an asbestos lawyer
Speaking with an expert mesothelioma attorney provides the victim and family members with information critical to the next steps. At the same time, the attorney can learn important facts that will provide clues for researching the case. In the consultation, asbestos victims can detail information about suspected occupational exposure, diagnosis and anything else pertinent to the case. Our expert mesothelioma attorneys always provide free consultations and do not charge any fees until the case is successful.
Quick Tip: Write down questions before you go to the attorney and bring a trusted friend or family to the consultation. Ask that person to take notes.
Step 2 – Build your case
With information from the consultation, attorneys begin to collect information. This process, called discovery, helps attorneys make a connection between the victim’s disease and the asbestos exposure. Needed information includes:
- Employment history
- Military records
- Medical documentation (showing proof of illness)
- Witness statements (from co-workers, family members, friends and others)
- Documentation that links the victim to the at-fault companies
Attorneys will ask the victim and family members to jog their memories for any information that may be associated with the case.
Quick Tip: Ask friends and family if they remember anything from the time. Use social media (like Facebook) to find former co-workers or their family members to get more details about possible exposure.
Step 3 – Consider trust settlement options
Mesothelioma lawyers will explore all options for financial recovery, including compensation from asbestos trust funds. The funds, established by companies that have admitted liability for asbestos injuries, allow victims to receive quick compensation. Experienced mesothelioma lawyers can match victims with the appropriate trust funds.
Quick Tip: Find out from your attorney why some clients prefer trust settlements and why the financial agreements might provide better compensation.
Step 4 – Review other legal options
When an at-fault company has not established a trust fund, asbestos exposure attorneys will file lawsuits on behalf of the victim. The lawsuit will detail the exposure, injuries and victim and witness information. In most cases, companies do not want the publicity that comes with an asbestos lawsuit and will offer a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, a mesothelioma attorney consults with the client to determine if a trial is in the best interest. Attorneys only proceed with a full trial with the victim’s consent.
Quick Tip: Never neglect medical treatment while pursuing a mesothelioma lawsuit. Trust your attorney to handle the details of the case.
Statute of Limitations and Timeline
Anyone diagnosed with asbestos cancer can file a lawsuit against the companies responsible for the exposure and disease. However, time is of the essence. Most states limit the number of time victims can file a lawsuit against the responsible companies. In the court system, the statute of limitations (or amount of allowable time to file a lawsuit) only begins after a diagnosis or death. Any delay in filing a lawsuit puts people living with asbestos cancer at jeopardy of losing an opportunity for compensation.
For each type of mesothelioma case, the countdown clock for the statute of limitations begins at different times:
- Personal injury – For personal injury asbestos cancer claims, the statute of limitations begins after a diagnosis.
- Wrongful death – For wrongful death mesothelioma claims, the statute of limitations starts immediately after the patient’s death.
- Special circumstances
If a mesothelioma patient initiates a personal injury claim but dies before it is settled, family members can file a wrongful death claim instead.
The statutes of limitations vary widely by state and type of lawsuit filed (personal injury or wrongful death). In general, statutes of limitations range from one to six years after diagnosis and one to three years after death. Among the extremes:
- Maine and North Dakota allow claims to be filed up to six years after diagnosis and two years after death.
- Kentucky and Louisiana only allow claims to be filed for a year after diagnosis or death.
Choosing a Mesothelioma Lawyer
A mesothelioma attorney provides a critical link between the victim and financial compensation from at-fault companies. While hiring an attorney is not required when seeking compensation, a specialized mesothelioma attorney can make the process smoother and easier. With so many attorneys to choose from, making the decision can be confusing. Consider this:
The asbestos-disease connection spans decades, and attorneys who have experience in asbestos cancer litigation understand the complexities involved in the cases. Experienced mesothelioma lawyers win cases.
Never pay upfront
The leading mesothelioma attorneys work on a contingency basis, so they will not take any up-front money. They only get paid when they win your case. If an attorney wants a retainer for your asbestos-cancer case, consider it a red flag.
Seek an advocate
Mesothelioma attorneys who know how to make effective legal arguments and aggressively advocate for their clients win cases. Hire an attorney who has the victim’s best interests in mind.
How to Find the Best Law Firm
Many of the leading mesothelioma attorneys work with premier law firms nationwide. Since these firms have stellar reputations with strong financial backing, the attorneys have the best resources at their fingertips. The leading firms work on a contingency basis and strive to minimize stress on clients.
When researching law firms, mesothelioma victims should find out the following:
Details about the firm
Learn about the firm’s history and what it stands for. Ask what kind of cases the firm takes on and why.
Asbestos-cancer litigation outcomes
Ask how many mesothelioma cases the firm has handled, including lawsuits and trust fund settlements. Find out about the case results and the amount of time they took.
Client communication practices
Find out how the firm communicates with clients and what type of information is conveyed. Mesothelioma victims deserve a law firm that believes in regular client communications.
Questions to Ask the Attorney
Finding the best attorney is essential, so ask the right questions:
- Why should I hire you?
- What is your history with asbestos litigation?
- How many support staff will be working on my case?
- What resources do you use to determine my exposure history?
- Are you affiliated with national mesothelioma organizations?
- Will I need to travel to pursue my claim?
- How much is my case worth?
- Describe some of the firm’s most recent mesothelioma lawsuit victories.
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Samuel Meirowitz is a member of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers.” Mr. Meirowitz was named a “Rising Star” in 2013 & 2014 by Super Lawyers and then a Super Lawyer every year since 2016. In 2013, Mr. Meirowitz obtained what is believed to be the first multi-million-dollar asbestos verdict seen in more than two decades in a New York federal court. In that highly contentious matter, Mr. Meirowitz was able to convince the jury to hold a boiler manufacturer responsible for 60 percent of the $3.8 million awarded, despite the defendant’s attempt to escape all blame by pointing fingers at the plaintiff’s employer and the U.S. Navy (in which the plaintiff admirably served from 1966-70 during the Vietnam conflict). This verdict was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.Learn More
- Nolo.com. Time Limits for a Personal Injury Lawsuit: Watch the Statute of Limitations. Retrieved from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/time-limits-personal-injury-lawsuit-watch-the-statute-limitations.html
- American Bar Association. Personal Injury. Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/law_issues_for_consumers/personalinjury/
- Bodus, Tom. “El Centro resident wins $3 million asbestos verdict.” Imperial Valley Press. Retrieved from https://www.ivpressonline.com/news/local/el-centro-resident-wins-million-asbestos-verdict/article_1aec6560-7393-11e9-b7c4-4f4a9542c44e.html
- Appeals Court upholds $14M judgment against Spartanburg Celanese plant. Go Upstate.com. Retrieved from https://www.goupstate.com/news/20190215/appeals-court-upholds-14m-judgment-against-spartanburg-celanese-plant
- Suy, Phoebe. “Settlement brings major asbestos case to a close.” Beaumont Enterprise. Retrieved from https://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Settlement-brings-major-asbestos-case-to-a-close-13450916.php
- Landers, David. “Proving Wrongful Death in a Civil Case.” Nolo.com. Retrieved from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/proving-wrongful-death-civil-case.html
- U.S. District Court. MDL 875 Asbestos Products Liability Litigation. Retrieved from https://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/MDL/MDL875/MDL-875.mar31.2019.pdf
- American Bar Association. How Do I Find a Lawyer? Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/public-information/how-do-i-find-a-lawyer-/