Anyone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any asbestos-related disease should consider filing a lawsuit for financial compensation. The funds not only provide economic stability, they send an important message to asbestos corporations about their negligence and unethical practices.
In pursuing legal action, it is important for mesothelioma victims and their families to understand the process and have experienced legal representation throughout the case.
Your attorney should explain each step to you and how you will be impacted. Contact us now to be connected to the leading mesothelioma attorneys in the nation.
How to File?
While each case is different, general steps apply to all cases. The steps for filing an asbestos lawsuit include:
- Preparation and Evidence Gathering
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Before filing a lawsuit, mesothelioma patients and their attorney should meet to discuss goals and objectives. This allows patients and their families to ask important questions about the process and attorneys to learn more about the situation.
During the initial consultation, attorneys often ask questions about the patient’s medical history and asbestos exposure. Attorneys will likely want to review medical files and employment records. Initial consultations are usually free.
Preparing and Evidence Gathering
Attorneys begin the process of a lawsuit much like detectives seek to solve crimes. They gather evidence about the exposure and subsequent disease. This includes learning about the victim’s work history and other pertinent facts. Victims are asked to turn over any information that may help attorneys uncover details about the at-fault companies.
In preparing for a lawsuit, attorneys often question the patient’s former coworkers to learn more details about the exposure and determine if more than one company can be culpable in the case.
Filing a Written Complaint
A lawsuit starts as a written complaint, called a pleading, which is drafted by your attorney and filed in court. The pleading factually states the legal basis for the lawsuit, including specific details about the asbestos exposure and extent of disease. Mesothelioma lawsuit pleadings are focused on the asbestos manufacturers that failed to post warnings about the dangers of exposure.
Attorneys file lawsuits in the clerk of court’s office, so plaintiffs do not need to be present. Each jurisdiction has different rules for filing pleadings.
At this point, the patients and their families are considered plaintiffs, and the mesothelioma companies are defendants.
Once the lawsuit has been filed and documented with the court clerk, each of the defendants receives a copy of the lawsuit.
Since asbestos-related diseases take decades to appear, the original companies may no longer be in business or may have filed bankruptcy. Attorneys who exclusively handle asbestos cases have many resources to track down the appropriate defendants to ensure they answer the legal claims.
Most defendants deny the claims, argue the complaint is not valid or say the disease was caused by another company’s negligence.
During this, the longest phase of the pretrial proceedings, attorneys on both sides gather information to be used in trial. In some cases, the discovery phase can take months, but judges often hasten mesothelioma cases to ensure they are resolved quickly, particularly in the case of gravely ill patients.
As part of the discovery phase, attorneys for the plaintiff and defendants call depositions, which are question and answer sessions conducted under oath for the purposes of learning more information related to the lawsuit.
Depositions often take place in attorney’s offices and may be audio and video recorded. In preparing for a deposition, plaintiffs and their attorneys review questions in advance.
Typically several people are involved in depositions, including attorneys from both sides and a court reporter. Depositions, which can sometimes take several days, can be conducted in locations that are more convenient for the plaintiffs, including hospital rooms or home.
In addition to plaintiffs and their family members being deposed for the case, friends, co-workers and the plaintiff’s physicians may also undergo questioning. Executives and high-ranking officials involved in the defendant company will also be subject to depositions.
It is important to note plaintiffs are never left alone during this crucial step in filing an asbestos lawsuit. Your attorney will be involved in each step to ensure the process follows the letter of the law.
Before the case ever goes to trial, the defendant usually offers financial compensation in an effort to stop the legal proceedings.
Defendants prefer settlements because they avoid costly public trials. A settlement also provides a quick end to what could be a protracted legal proceeding.
In reviewing a settlement offer, the plaintiff’s attorney can advise if the offer is reasonable or if the offer should be further negotiated. If an amicable settlement agreement is not reached, the trial goes forward.
The process of the trial largely depends on the jurisdiction. In some cases, it includes a jury that will make a final decision. In other cases, the judge makes the end determination.
During the trial, evidence and testimony will be presented. Often, the plaintiff does not have to appear in court. Instead, plaintiff attorneys keep plaintiffs informed of the events.
If the decision is ruled in favor of the plaintiff and there are no appeals, payments will begin within weeks of the trial.
Defendants have between 30 days and 90 days to file an appeal of the trial outcome. The appeal delays financial compensation, but defendants must post a bond that equals the trial award amount to guarantee compensation will be available immediately if the appeal is denied.
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- White, Michelle J. “Asbestos Litigation: The Problem of Forum Shopping and Procedural Innovations, and Potential Solutions.” Retrieved from http://econweb.ucsd.edu/~miwhite/Manh-Inst-talk.pdf
- Mealey’s Litigation Report. Asbestos – show me the money. Retrieved from http://www.bateswhite.com/media/publication/59_media.285.pdf