Every year, scores of asbestos companies settle lawsuits with asbestos-cancer patients because the companies want to avoid the bad publicity that comes with a public trial. A mesothelioma settlement means victims get immediate access to compensation for their injuries. The settlement can be used to pay for medical and household expenses and provides long-term financial stability for the victim and family members.
A mesothelioma settlement is a sum of money that has been accepted by both parties (victims and the at-fault companies) in place of a trial. Settlement amounts vary depending on individual case circumstances. The average settlement could be worth millions of dollars.
How Are Settlement Amounts Determined?
One of the leading factors for determining a settlement award is the patient’s ability for gainful employment. In many cases, mesothelioma patients can’t work or earn money because they are focused on treatment. Other factors taken into consideration include:
In addition to the starting points for settlement negotiations, other factors impact settlement amounts. Since every settlement negotiation is different, some elements may be more relevant than others.
- Work history – Victims must have a history with the company in question or its products. The victim’s work history must be documented (via paycheck stubs or income tax information) and/or corroborated by witnesses (former coworkers).
- Jurisdiction – Each state has rules regarding product liability, negligence and wrongdoing. States also have evidence requirements and time limits to file a lawsuit, called statute of limitations. Each requirement individually can impact settlement amounts.
- Evidence of negligence – During pre-trial discovery and depositions, the plaintiff’s attorney typically uncovers proof of the defendant company’s negligence. In many cases, companies knew about the dangers of asbestos exposure but chose to hide the information from employees. Many companies decide to settle lawsuits instead of making these facts known to the public.
- Evidence of disease – Mesothelioma patients must undergo a series of medical tests before a diagnosis. Physicians document the test results to provide evidence of the disease.
What is the Settlement Process?
A mesothelioma settlement is a legally binding financial agreement that provides funds to injured asbestos victims from negligent companies. The initial stages of litigation follow this pattern:
- The plaintiff and lawyer work together to identify companies liable for the victim’s asbestos exposure. The attorney, working with the plaintiff, files the claims. The claims are either denied or a settlement is offered.
- If the settlement amount is not acceptable, the plaintiff and lawyer will begin the discovery process to uncover evidence for a possible trial.
- Even during a trial, a new settlement offer may be extended. To avoid the stress of a trial, plaintiffs can accept the settlement at any time.
After a mesothelioma lawsuit is filed, the courts generally fast-track the litigation because patients have urgent medical and financial needs. After the initial stages of the litigation, including discovery and depositions, attorneys from both sides discuss possible settlement terms.
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Factors Affecting Settlement Amounts
As a starting point for determining a settlement, attorneys on both sides consider several factors:
- Asbestos-disease diagnosis – Patients who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are given more consideration regarding settlement amounts due to the severity of the disease and the long-term impact on the patient’s life and family.
- Treatment costs and medical expenses – Since mesothelioma cancer is such an aggressive illness, most patients must undergo costly treatments that may not be covered by insurance. Attorneys consider treatment costs during settlement negotiations to ensure patients have enough money to pay medical bills.
- Place and duration of asbestos exposure – Dozens of companies ignored warnings from experts about the dangers of asbestos and instead put thousands of workers and their families at risk for exposure. Since the widespread corporate deceit has been uncovered, victims may be eligible for larger settlements.
- Lost income and increased debt – Since mesothelioma treatment can be demanding and strenuous, many patients take sick or unpaid leave from their jobs, which may ultimately end in lost wages that can have a trickle-down effect on household finances. Lost wages and potential lost income are taken into account during settlement negotiations to ensure victims and their families have needed funds.
Why Companies Agree to Settle?
Many, if not most, companies that used asbestos would rather settle asbestos lawsuits out of court. Some of the reasons include:
- Settlement offers usually cost the company less – Trials are expensive, and at-fault companies don’t want to spend money on a trial they may lose. If the defendant company loses, they could face a massive jury award and be required to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys fees in addition to their own.
- Trials are bad for their image – Defendant companies want to avoid the spotlight of a
trial because it will make them look bad. Company leaders don’t want the company’s negligent behaviors to
be rehashed in open court.
- Simplicity when facing thousands of lawsuits – Some of the larger asbestos manufacturers have scores of pending lawsuits, making it nearly impossible to take each to trial. Settlement offers are easier for these companies in the long run.
- Plaintiffs can no longer pursue legal action against the company once they agree to a settlement – Settlement agreements commonly prohibit the plaintiff from pursuing further action against the at-fault companies.
Settle or Go to Trial
In most cases, negligent companies are eager to reach an agreement that provides an ample financial settlement. But when a settlement amount is lower than expected, mesothelioma victims must decide if they want to pursue a trial. When faced with this decision, consider the following:
- A settlement provides a guaranteed sum that can be used for any expenses.
- A settlement is legally binding, so companies are obligated to pay.
- Trials can be time-consuming, expensive and emotionally draining.
- If a trial outcome finds in favor of the company, victims will not receive any compensation.
- If the trial finds in favor of the victim, the company can appeal the verdict, which can take months or years. During this time, victims will not receive any financial compensation.
Are Mesothelioma Settlements Taxable
Like so many other IRS rules, the rules regarding settlements are somewhat complicated. The IRS usually does not tax compensation from personal injury cases, so mesothelioma settlements are not subject to federal or state taxes. However, other types of payouts associated with settlements, like compensation for lost wages or punitive damages, may be subject to taxation.
Attorneys skilled in mesothelioma litigation help asbestos victims and their families understand the complicated process of settlements and taxes. Contact us today for more information.
Notable mesothelioma settlements for asbestos exposure victims
- July 2018: The widow of a former auto mechanic who died as a result of asbestos exposure accepted a financial agreement in a case against multiple defendants, including General Electric, Honeywell International and ABP Induction. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
- December 2018: More than 2,000 Texas chemical workers and their families were awarded an additional $140 million settlement to resolve asbestos exposure claims.
- January 2017: A judge approved a $23 million settlement for 1,087 people exposed to asbestos at the W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana.
Notable mesothelioma trial verdicts for asbestos exposure victims
- June 2019: A Florida man and his wife were awarded $70 million after he was exposed to asbestos during his work using biopharmaceutical equipment.
- May 2019: A U.S. District Court in North Carolina upheld a nearly $33 million jury award to the widow of a man who died from asbestos cancer. The case was initially tried in 2018 and appealed to district court.
- February 2019: An Arkansas federal jury handed down an $18.5 million verdict to the family of a man who was exposed to asbestos while employed as a mechanic in the 1970s. The man was diagnosed in 2001 and died in 2012. In the initial trial, the jury found against Honeywell, and the company appealed the case to federal court. After seven years, the company was ultimately found responsible.
Speak With a Financial Navigator
If you are unsure how to proceed through the settlement process or need more information, speak to a patient advocate today. These patient advocates are available to help you understand your options and guide you through the process. The last thing you should be worrying about after a cancer diagnosis is the legal hoops in front of you. Speak with someone today!
What is a mesothelioma settlement?
- Defined as a private agreement between two parties that provides financial compensation to the injured plaintiffs.
- Typically occurs before or shortly after a trial begins, eliminating the need for time-consuming legal proceedings.
- The final decision about accepting (or rejecting) a settlement is decided by the mesothelioma patient (or surviving family members).
- Settlements are considered a contract between the at-fault company and the injured party. Due to the legally binding agreement, the at-fault company is required to pay the settlement amount.
- Many asbestos companies start settlement negotiations with a low offer. Skilled asbestos attorneys negotiate better settlement deals for victims and their families.
What is a mesothelioma trial verdict?
- When both parties cannot reach an agreement about the financial settlement, a trial could occur.
- In a trial, both parties argue their cases to a judge or a jury. The legally binding decision will determine if a company is responsible for the victim’s injuries.
- If a company is found liable, the judge or jury may award the victim the following: compensatory damages (for lost wages, medical treatments, pain and suffering and loss of consortium) and punitive damages (financial compensation awarded based on negligence and the at-fault company’s willful disregard for safety).
- Mesothelioma victims who are ill may be able to avoid attending the proceedings.
- Trial verdicts typically award higher sums over settlements. However, if the judge or jury decides in favor of the company, the injured victim receives no compensation.
What are the differences between asbestos settlements and trial verdicts?
- Settlements, on average, take a shorter amount of time than trials, which can be particularly important for patients needing funds for medical treatment or living expenses.
- Settlements offer a guarantee of compensation, while the results of a jury trial may depend on several factors.
- Trials may offer more lucrative financial compensation for mesothelioma patients with solid evidence of exposure and disease.
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- FindLaw. “Settlement or Trial?” Retrieved from https://corporate.findlaw.com/business-operations/settlement-or-trial.html
- Courthouse News Service. “Montanans Settle Asbestos Mine Cases for $23 Million.” Retrieved by https://www.courthousenews.com/montanans-settle-asbestos-mine-cases-for-23-million/
- LexisNexis. “Mealey’s Toxic Tort/Environmental – Florida Jury Awards Couple $70 Million In Asbestos Case.” Retrieved by https://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/mealeys/b/newsheadlines/posts/mealey-s-toxic-tort-environmental—florida-jury-awards-couple-70-million-in-asbestos-case
- HarrisMartin Publishing. “Fla. Jury Awards $70 Million at Conclusion of Asbestos-Containing Brake, Clutch Trial.” Retrieved by https://harrismartin.com/article/24671/fla-jury-awards-70-million-at-conclusion-of-asbestos-containing-brake-clutch-trial/
- Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “$18.5M awarded over fatal asbestos exposure at central Arkansas brake shop.” Retrieved by www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/jan/31/18-5m-awarded-over-fatal-asbestos-expos/
- Business Insurance. “Court upholds $33M jury award in asbestos death case.” Retrieved by https://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20190503/NEWS08/912328266/Court-upholds-$33-million-jury-award-in-asbestos-death-case-Finch-v-Covil-Corp
- Pennsylvania Record. “Trial pushes settlement of widow’s Philadelphia asbestos lawsuit; Husband was a mechanic.” Retrieved by https://pennrecord.com/stories/511500597-trial-pushes-settlement-of-widow-s-philadelphia-asbestos-lawsuit-husband-was-a-mechanic
- MarketWatch. “Arbitrators’ Award Boosts Asbestos Case Settlement to $178.5 Million for Refinery, Chemical Workers.” Retrieved by https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/arbitrators-award-boosts-asbestos-case-settlement-to-1785-million-for-refinery-chemical-workers-2018-12-05