Mesothelioma Wrongful Death
Family members of those killed by the actions of others can file wrongful death lawsuits. For family members whose loved ones died as a result of asbestos exposure, including mesothelioma, wrongful-death lawsuits can be filed against at-fault companies. This allows close family members, including husbands, wives, parents and children, to bring civil legal action as a result of negligence or an intentional act.
Over 58 companies have established asbestos trusts to compensate mesothelioma victims and their families. These at-fault companies knowingly exposed their workers to asbestos which is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer. These corporations chose profits over the health and safety of their employees and they need to be held accountable.
There is a limited amount of time a family member has to file a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations can differ from state to state and is determined by the asbestos exposure location.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Any person acting as the representative of the decedent’s family can file a wrongful death claim. The executor or administrator of the will typically files the lawsuit, but other close family members also have a right to file a claim. Those who can file a wrongful death lawsuit include the following:
- Immediate family – This includes spouses, children and parents of unmarried decedents.
- Distant family – Including grandparents, siblings and cousins in some cases.
- Domestic and life partners – The surviving partner in an unmarried couple with a domestic connection may be eligible.
- Anyone who would suffer financially – Some state laws allow for wrongful death suits from those who suffer a loss due to the death.
Contact us to find out if you are eligible for compensation.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Process
State laws govern the details of wrongful death lawsuits but there are issues and procedures that are common to all. Generally, only close family members, such as husbands, wives and children, can file wrongful death lawsuits. Only an experienced mesothelioma attorney can move the process along quickly and successfully.
- Filing a complaint – For the initial complaint, the plaintiff, who is the person who is pursuing the lawsuit, files the reason for the claim against the defendant, or person or company being sued. The defendant has a set period of time to respond to the claims. This is typically up to 30 days. Before a lawsuit is filed, your attorney may try to settle your case.
- Discovery – In this phase of a lawsuit, both the plaintiff and the defendant gather information pertinent to the case. This may include a formal set of written questions, called interrogatories, and face-to-face questioning, called depositions. Attorneys can issue subpoenas to gather important documents or items pertinent to the case.
- Pre-trial motions – Before a jury is picked and the trial opens, attorneys from both sides meet in the courtroom before the judge to hash out details of the case. These legal arguments, also called motions, are aimed at settling details that include disputes that attorneys cannot privately settle. In some cases, attorneys will try to convince a judge one side should win without a trial.
- Settlement – During the discovery and pre-trial motion period, attorneys on both sides try to work out a settlement agreement that is acceptable to both parties. Many courts require attorneys to meet for mediation before the case is schedule for trial in an effort to avoid a courtroom battle.
- Trial – In a civil trial, a judge and/or jury (depending on the state and location of the trial) will decide if the plaintiff is at fault for the death. Witnesses are questioned, documents are presented and items are entered as evidence. If the verdict is a win for the plaintiff, the judge and/or jury will determine the final financial award and other details of the judgment.
- Appeal – The plaintiff and defendant are entitled to appeal the case, or have another court review the case and outcome. In an appeals court, judges and other legal representatives will determine if there was any significant legal error that nullifies the previous verdict.
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Settlements vs. Verdicts
In a wrongful death legal claim, lawsuits can be settled in one of two ways – either both sides agree on an amicable settlement for the injured party or a judge and/or jury makes the decision. In the case of asbestos exposure, many companies settle cases before trial due to overwhelming evidence of negligence and general misconduct.
- Settlement – A settlement is an out-of-court resolution to a case between disputing parties. Often in cases of asbestos-related negligence, companies settle a case before discovery beings and the court goes before a judge. A settlement is guaranteed financial compensation for your case. Settlements are also typically a private communication between both parties.
- Verdict – A verdict is a final decision by a judge and/or jury based on evidence presented during the trial. A winning verdict proves a preponderance of evidence, or more than 50 percent of the evidence, in favor of the plaintiff’s claims. The trial process can take years to complete after an initial claim due to possible appeals and other legal proceedings. In most instances, the court cases become part of the public record.
Average Settlement Amounts
Mesothelioma settlement amounts vary widely based on a number of factors that include amount of personal hardship and level of liability. Settlement amounts are generally private information, but Mealey’s Litigation Report found that average settlement amount is about $1.4 million. Examples of recent settlement awards include:
- A New York boilermaker received a $3.7 million settlement after being diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer.
- A New Jersey construction worker’s family was awarded a $2.1 million settlement after he died as a result of mesothelioma.
- A Missouri woman received $10 million after she was exposed to asbestos in a county courthouse.
- Bates, C. and Mullin, C. Mealey’s Litigation Report: Asbestos: Show Me The Money. Retrieved from http://www.bateswhite.com/media/pnc/5/media.285.pdf
- FindLaw. “What Does it Mean to Settle a Case?” Retrieved from http://litigation.findlaw.com/legal-system/what-does-it-mean-to-settle-a-case.html