Anytime you have an asbestos-related illness such as mesothelioma, you are entitled to money from the company or other entity that was responsible for your condition. You need to find a mesothelioma attorney as soon as you receive your diagnosis so that you can get a settlement for your medical expenses, lost wages and funeral expenses.
Filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Lawsuits are generally time sensitive. This means that there is a limit as to when you can file a successful lawsuit against the liable entity before the statute of limitations expires. Normally the lawsuit is filed in the state in which you were exposed to asbestos, so you’ll need to find an asbestos attorney that has a license to file a lawsuit in that state. The regulations in each state vary, so you will need to find out your options for filing a lawsuit as soon as possible. Your attorney should be able to evaluate your case and help you decide which entity and in which state the lawsuit should be filed.
Fortunately, you won’t need to file the lawsuit yourself. All you need to do is find a qualified mesothelioma lawyer who will file the case in court. Lawsuits involve first filing the claim, then receiving a response. After the response, there is a discovery phase in which both parties unveil the information regarding your asbestos exposure.
If your case settles out of court, your attorney and the entity’s attorney will decide on a settlement amount. If the settlement amount cannot be reached to the satisfaction of both parties, the case will go to a jury trial. The jury will determine if you have a case and how much money you should receive, if any.
You should expect that your lawyer will help you at every stage in the process. Each person’s case is unique, but they generally follow roughly the same legal process. Your attorney will do most of the work for you, although he or she will require input from you in order to determine your state of health, your life expectancy and when you were exposed to asbestos.
- The Preparation Step — In the beginning, your attorney will collect all the information necessary to determine if you have a claim. This includes medical records, as well as a history of your past employment. It usually takes between 20 and 50 years after the exposure to asbestos to come down with an asbestos-related illness like mesothelioma. The lawyer will evaluate the information you provide and find out which court should be the recipient of your claim. Sometimes, more than one court will receive your claim.
- The Filing Step — Your attorney will need to file a written complaint at the courts within the jurisdiction that the asbestos exposure occurred. This written complaint begins the entire legal process you will be going through. The written complaint does not have to be filed by you; it is your attorney’s responsibility to do this. Your attorney should know the statute of limitations in the state you are filing the claim and how to file asbestos claims with the court system.
- The Response Step — The defendant or defendants in your lawsuit will get a copy of the written complaint and hire their own lawyers. They have a chance to respond to your complaint by gathering their own information regarding your employment and your health history. After receiving the complaint, the defendant usually has about thirty days to respond to the lawsuit. Most of the time, the defendant will deny that they are responsible for your illness and will blame it on something else. Be prepared for this, as this is just a part of the legal process.
- The Discovery Step — In the discovery stage, the attorneys will collect the information necessary to process the lawsuit. You may be asked questions about your illness and your asbestos exposure by the defendant’s attorneys. Usually there will be written questions, but sometimes you will have to undergo a deposition where you verbally tell the defendant and your lawyer about your medical history and occupational history. You may be asked to provide information on a video tape. The discovery process often takes several months, but this step can be shortened if you are extremely ill. The defendant’s attorneys will hunt for other reasons why you might have developed mesothelioma. They will ask you questions about your other employers and your health habits, such as whether or not you are a smoker. The defendant may ask questions of your co-workers, your doctors, your family and anyone else related to the case. During the discovery stage, your attorney will help you prepare for the rest of the lawsuit by asking you the typical questions that the defendant’s attorneys will ask you at a deposition or in the trial, if it comes to that. Your attorney will have the opportunity to ask questions of the defendant during this phase as well.
- The Settlement Step — You may not have to take the case to a jury trial. The attorneys from the defendant may decide the case is too risky to take to trial and offer you a sum of money to settle the case. The attorneys will battle back and forth in order to arrive at a settlement that is satisfactory to both parties. If no settlement can be decided upon, the case will go on to trial.
- The Trial Step — Usually this means having a trial in front of a jury who will decide if you are owed money and how much you should receive. On occasion, the trial will just be held in front of a judge who will decide on the case. In either case, it usually means you will personally have to go to court and testify as to your illness and your occupational history.
- The Appeal Step — Regardless of who wins the case, there may be an appeal in which another court is asked to make sure all of the legalities of the case were handled correctly. There is a short period of time before an appeal can be filed, usually between 30 and 160 days. If the higher court upholds the ruling of the lower court and you are owed money, this is when you will receive financial compensation for your mesothelioma cancer.