Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure. In most cases, this exposure could have been prevented. Lawsuits are filed against the people responsible for a person’s exposure. Most lawsuits never make it to trial. Most defendants pay out-of-court settlements.
Filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Lawsuits are time sensitive. This means that there is a limit as to when you can file a successful lawsuit. Normally the lawsuit is filed in the state in which you were exposed to asbestos. You’ll need to find an asbestos attorney who has a license to file a lawsuit in that state. The regulations in each state vary. Your attorney can find out which state (or states in some cases) the lawsuit should be filed.
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.
Here are the steps of a typical mesothelioma lawsuit:
Most cases settle out of court. This happens when your attorney negotiates a dollar amount that the defendant is willing to pay. If the settlement amount cannot be reached, the case will go to trial.
A jury will determine if you have a case and how much money you should receive. It’s important to note that a favorable trial verdict is not a guarantee. If you receive an unfavorable verdict, the last option is filing an appeal. The defendant can also appeal if you win your verdict.
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 the work for you.
Most attorneys recommend taking an out-of-court settlement. That’s because you guarantee that you and your family get a sum of money by settling out of court. There’s no guarantee you will receive compensation if your case goes to trial.
Preparing Your Case – Step 1
In the beginning, your attorney will collect all the information necessary to determine if you have a claim. This includes medical records and a history of your past employment and military service. It also includes creating a detailed asbestos exposure history. Even if you aren’t sure where your asbestos exposure came from, your lawyer will help you. Top mesothelioma law firms have resources to determine when and where asbestos exposure happened and for how long.
Your 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 military isn’t responsible for your disease. It was the manufacturers who were aware of the dangers of their asbestos products. It’s true that army engineers called for asbestos in hundreds of military applications. But it was the asbestos companies that supplied the deadly substance while knowing the risk.
Filing the Complaint – Step 2
Your attorney will need to file a written complaint with the courts within the jurisdiction that the asbestos exposure occurred. This written complaint begins the entire legal process. Your attorney will use the information gathered in preparation to write your complaint.
The Response – Step 3
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. 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. It is a typical part of legal strategy for defendants in any lawsuit.
Discovery and Collecting Evidence – Step 4
In the discovery stage, the attorneys will start collecting evidence from the asbestos companies. At the same time, the defendants will begin collecting their own evidence. 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. Depositions are used to collect evidence. During a deposition you tell the defendant and your lawyer, in words, about your medical history and occupational history. You may be asked to provide information on a video tape. Your attorney will prepare you to answer any potential questions at the deposition.
The legal system doesn’t place many restrictions on what kind of evidence can be collected during discovery. “It must be generally relevant in some way although, technically, courts will allow the parties to ask for anything that is reasonably calculated to lead to discoverable evidence,” according to a LexisNexis Legal Newsroom article.
The discovery process may take 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. The defendant may ask questions of your co-workers, your doctors, your family and anyone else related to the case.
Settling a Mesothelioma Lawsuit – Step 5
It’s highly unlikely you will have to take the case to a jury trial. By most estimates, over 90 percent of lawsuits settle out of court. The attorneys from the defendant may decide the case is too risky to take to trial. In this case they will 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.
Mesothelioma Trials – Optional
In this step, the case goes to trial in front of a jury who will decide the outcome of the case. If you win, the jury will decide 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 both cases, you may have to go to court and testify as to your illness and your occupational history.
The goal of taking your case to court is getting a favorable verdict. The verdict is a decision by a judge or jury on who won the lawsuit. Your lawyer is only likely to let your lawsuit go to trial if there’s no doubt that you will win. Your lawyer may aim for a jury verdict if the defendant has a history of losing cases. Or they might go to court if the settlement offered by the defendant is offensively low. No matter the situation, it is ultimately your decision whether or not the case goes to trial. You can always take the safe route and settle for a guaranteed sum of money.
Appeals – Optional
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.
Should You File a Mesothelioma Lawsuit?
Nearly all mesothelioma patients are victims of corporate neglect. Evidence clearly shows that companies hid the dangers of asbestos from its employees and the public for decades. If you have mesothelioma you should talk to a lawyer about your situation. They can determine if your asbestos exposure history is sufficient to file a winning lawsuit.
Things you should look for in an attorney:
- Offers free consultation about your case.
- Works on contingency fee (you only pay if you get a settlement)
- Has your best interest in mind, from treatment to family
Good mesothelioma lawyers will review your situation and decide which kinds of claims to make. In many cases, mesothelioma patients are eligible for payment from an asbestos trust fund. Find out if there’s trust fund money for you right now.