With thousands of people filing a mesothelioma lawsuit over the past few decades, asbestos litigation has become one of the most expensive and intricate types of lawsuits in the history of United States court cases. The majority of asbestos claims are made up of plaintiffs who have been diagnosed and are suffering from malignant mesothelioma or other diseases after prolonged exposure to asbestos in the workplace. In other instances, a wrongful death lawsuit is filed on behalf of the victim by loved ones in the event that the asbestos illness causes death before the victim could seek compensation.
Over $30 billion is currently available in trust funds for victims of asbestos-related diseases. We invite you to fill out our form today for a free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information about top mesothelioma lawyers in your area, how to get paid in 90 days, how to file an asbestos trust fund claim, and much more.
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What Are the Steps In Filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit?
1) Gathering Important Documents
You and your asbestos attorney will start by gathering any and all pertinent information and documentation that will help you to prove your case. Typical information consists of:
- your past employment history
- your medical history and reports
- the medical expenses that you’ve incurred since the beginning of your illness (including travel expenses to medical appointments, prescription costs, tests, therapy, home accommodations for medical reasons, etc.),
- documentation of asbestos in the workplace
- documentation of physical disabilities and activities you can no longer do
2) Pre-litigation Stage
Before attorneys file a complaint, they go through a pre-litigation stage in which they’ll try to negotiate and settle with the defendants before submitting your case to the court.
If a settlement isn’t reached during the pre-litigation stage, your attorney will then file a complaint, also known as a written complaint. A complaint is a document submitted to the court that describes the basic information on your lawsuit, legal references that substantiate your claim, the names of other parties involved, and what your desired outcome is.
Keep in mind that other parties involved may be one person or company, or several people or companies. Once your complaint is submitted, it will get the process rolling in the court of law. The defendant or defendants involved will receive notification letting them know that you have filed a lawsuit against them. They’ll also receive a copy of the complaint and will then have a certain amount of time to file a response, usually 30 days.
If the defendant(s) fails to respond, the court may enter a judgement against them, which results in a default decision in your favor. At this point, your attorney will be able to provide you with information regarding the damages you’re entitled to.
3) The Discovery Phase
Lawsuits almost always have a discovery phase. During the discovery phase, the defendant’s attorney will typically try to rebuff your case and look for evidence that their client did not cause your illness. It’s your attorney’s job to gather as much evidence as possible, as previously mentioned, in order to prove your case.
Because of the complexities involved during this part of the procedure, the discovery process may take several months or more to complete, making it the longest part of the process. Both sides are afforded the opportunity to investigate the other side’s information and position regarding the case. Both sides are also allowed to ask questions, review your medical and work history, and take part in depositions.
During the discovery phase, you’ll find out the likelihood of the case going to a trial vs. it ending in a settlement. For example, the defendant’s attorney may see that the evidence against their client is so overwhelming, whether through medical documents that supports the case, past work history of the plaintiff, history of asbestos use from the defendant’s company, and more, that they know the best option is to settle the case. At this point, the defense may decide to negotiate a settlement instead of rebuffing the substantial evidence. If this happens, the discovery phase will be shortened significantly.
4) Settlement or Trial
If your lawsuit can be settled between your attorney and the defendant, then a trial will be waived once a settlement amount is agreed upon. It’s difficult to predict the exact settlement amount as each case differs and comes with its own wide array of different variables.
Most settlements amounts factor in:
- lost wages
- medical expenses
- the length of time you’ve lived with the illness
- the severity of the illness
- mental and emotional suffering
- physical discomfort
- case costs, including filing fees.
Studies suggest that between 80 to 90% of personal injury cases will settle.
You can usually expect to receive your payments on a monthly basis as opposed to a lump sum, as most compensation amounts for mesothelioma cases are substantial.
If your case goes to trial, depending on the laws in your state, you may or may not have to appear. Your attorney will be able to provide you information pertaining to the laws in your state. Once the trial starts, both sides will be provided the opportunity to present evidence, examine witnesses, and provide information in order to convince the jury that their client is in the right.
The length of trial will depend upon witnesses, medical documents, and how complicated your case is. However, the trial phase is usually shorter when compared to the discovery phase.
After presenting evidence on both sides, the plaintiff and defendant’s attorneys will both have the opportunity to sway the jury via closing arguments. Closing arguments give both sides a final chance to reiterate why the verdict should go in their favor.
Once the jury has rendered a verdict, the trial phase is over. You’ll then learn if you have lost or won your case. If you win your case, you’ll be told the exact amount of damages owed by you from the defendant.
You can typically expect to start receiving payments within a few months if you win your case, although disbursements times will vary according to state. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the defendant does have the legal right to appeal the court’s decision, which will ultimately end up prolonging your payments. Again, your attorney will be able to explain the appeals process and how it applies to your particular case.
What Are Some Common Mesothelioma Lawsuit Myths?
1. Compensation in tort lawsuits take quite a bit of time. Most mesothelioma lawsuits end in settlements, which means that you will likely receive you money promptly, sometimes in as little as 90 days. Also, with the addition of trust funds from numerous different companies, you may qualify for an expedited review so that you can get your compensation as soon as possible.
2. If an employer or an asbestos manufacturer went out business, there is no party left to sue. Even if the responsible party sold the company, there are normally stipulations in which the new company must take over pending or future lawsuits. If the party went bankrupt, there is a good chance they have set up an asbestos trust fund to compensate people who file against them.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
It’s important to note that there are generally two different types of mesothelioma-related lawsuits: personal injury or wrongful death. A wrongful death lawsuit occurs when a family member files on behalf of someone who has died from their asbestos-related illness. A personal injury claim on the other hand, is filed on behalf of yourself if you have an asbestos-related illness or behalf of a family member who is too ill to personally file the case.
Although wrongful death is similar to a personal injury claim in that it involves asbestos-related illnesses, people who file wrongful death lawsuits may be eligible for damages that aren’t available in personal injury claims. For instance, funeral expenses and emotional suffering due to losing a loved one are generally honored.
Furthermore, damages for loss of consortium, loss of mentoring and guidance to minor dependents, and loss of financial care to dependents are also generally honored in wrongful death cases.
Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death
Statute of limitations for wrongful death differ from personal injury claims. In some states, the statute of limitations may be as short as one year, whereas other states may offer two or three years.
In addition, some states’ statute of limitations starts during the “date of discovery,” meaning if a physician misdiagnoses a patient, yet it was discovered years later that the patient actually passed away from cancer, the statute of limitations begins on the date that family discovered the real reason for the victim’s death.
What Are Class Action Lawsuits?
Class action lawsuits are rarely filed by asbestos victims, but they’ve been known to happen every now and then. These types of cases occur when a group of people file lawsuits together, alleging the same complaint as each other. In general, mesothelioma class action lawsuits are filed by people against companies who exposed them asbestos after knowing the dangers, but not informing the plaintiffs. Defendants can include manufacturing companies, shipbuilding companies, construction companies, mining companies, and more.
What Are the Lawsuit Time Limitations?
It’s important to file your lawsuit as soon as possible. These cases are time-sensitive and each state has its own statute of limitations. It’s important to look up your state’s statute of limitations or if your case is filed out-the-state, the statute of limitations for the state where your case is filed. State laws typically give plaintiffs one to five years to file the lawsuit, starting from the time the asbestos-related illness was diagnosed or from the time the illness was discovered.
If the victim of the asbestos-related illness has already passed away, the spouse, dependents, and/or heirs usually have one to three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim. Again, the time limit to file will vary according to state.
History of Important Lawsuit Landmarks
Although mesothelioma is still considered a relatively rare disease in the medical world, it has been 50 years since the first mesothelioma lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit, filed in 1969 by industrial worker Clarence Borel, became the legal turning point for victims of asbestos-related disease, as it gave victims a way to be compensated from their injuries after Borel won his case against the Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation.
Numerous memorable events preceded and followed the first asbestos, which has further helped victims and their loved ones have the ability to seek the damages they are entitled to, including:
1963-1965 Asbestos Medical Findings
Between 1963 to 1965, three physicians, Drs. Churgg, Hammond, and Selikoff, proved beyond a doubt that asbestos exposure was linked to damaging diseases. Dr. Selikoff, a general medicine physician in Paterson, New Jersey, was asked to treat members of the Asbestos Workers Union in the early 1960s. Shortly after, he noticed that a myriad of workers were suffering from mesothelioma, a disease that was and is still considered extremely rare.
In 1963, Dr. Selikoff, after extensive research, published his findings on the link between mesothelioma and asbestos in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Chugg and Dr. Hammond published similar findings, which prompted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enforce workplace safety regulations in regards to asbestos for the first time ever.
In 1965, Dr. Selikoff published what has become known as his most well-known findings of asbestos. Entitled “Biological Effects of Asbestos,” it was published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
1965 Tort Laws
In 1965, the The American Law Institute of The Restatement of the Law of Torts published section 402A, which states that any party “who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is liable for the harm caused by that product to the consumer or end user.”
Although it doesn’t include harm that comes after people have been warned of the dangers of a product, when courts made the decision that asbestos manufacturers had the obligation to inform people of the dangers of their product, a large amount of mesothelioma lawsuits followed.
1969 to Present: Lawsuits More than Triple
After the success of the first asbestos-related lawsuit and the positive medical findings that asbestos is linked to life-threatening illnesses, the amount of mesothelioma cases has more than tripled, totaling a little over 700,000. The amount of manufacturers and companies have also significantly increased. Currently, more than 10,000 companies have been named in asbestos lawsuits, and the numbers are expected to grow.
Where Can I Get Legal Assistance with My Lawsuit?
Fill out our form to get our free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information on the leading asbestos and mesothelioma attorneys in your area. If you need additional assistance, feel free to contact us toll-free at 800-793-4540.