Mesothelioma claims are a way for mesothelioma patients and their loved ones to get financial compensation to cover expenses, medical bills and other fees associated with an asbestos-related diagnosis. The two primary types of mesothelioma claims are personal injury claims and wrongful death claims.
After filing a mesothelioma claim, compensation can be recovered in a variety of ways. Commonly, money is recovered from asbestos trusts and through settlements with asbestos companies. However, some claimants decide to pursue a mesothelioma lawsuit or veterans’ benefits.
Types of Mesothelioma Claims
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of malignant mesothelioma, also leading to asbestosis and other asbestos cancers. As a result, patients and their surviving family members file asbestos claims to gain compensation for expenses, pain and suffering and much more.
There are two types of asbestos and mesothelioma claims that can be filed. Which type of claim you file depends on whether you were diagnosed with mesothelioma, or if you are filing on behalf of a loved one that has passed away from the cancer.
Personal Injury Claims
A personal injury claim can be filed by someone who has recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma. With personal injury claims, the person directly affected by the disease is claiming that compensation is needed for reasons such as:
- Medical expenses incurred during mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment, including future treatment
- Lost wages or other income, including expected future income
- Pain and suffering experienced because of an asbestos-related disease
Personal injury claims can typically be filed wherever the patient resided, worked or served in the military.
Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death claim is filed by the mesothelioma victim’s family after their loved one has passed away. In this case, the family members sue to receive compensation related to the loss of their beloved. This can include:
- Loss of expected income due to the untimely death
- Medical costs incurred during mesothelioma treatment administered before the deceased’s passing
- Funeral expenses
The specific claims available to family members may vary from state to state. To fully understand your legal options, it’s best to discuss with an asbestos attorney.
Filing Asbestos Claims
There is a detailed legal process to filing an asbestos-related claim. To receive compensation, there are many details that need to be worked out to build your case. Your mesothelioma attorney will perform most of the research, allowing you to focus on your treatment journey. Key pieces of information that they will look for include:
- How you were exposed to asbestos
- How long the exposure occurred
- How the exposure has affected your health, quality of life and ability to work
It can be difficult for a patient or loved one to pinpoint details of exposure, especially when working or living at multiple places where exposure was possible. Secondhand exposure is also a possibility, as asbestos dust was brought home frequently on the clothing of workers dealing with asbestos-containing materials.
Whether you know how you were exposed, or if the method of exposure is unknown, it’s best to speak with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer to determine the strength of your case. In many cases, a lawyer can determine potential exposures to help get you compensation.
If considering filing a mesothelioma claim, it’s crucial to understand deadlines. The statute of limitations sets a deadline by which a claim must be filed. Statutes of limitations vary based on state and by the type of claim that you’re filing. Experienced mesothelioma law firms work nationwide and understand the requirements of each state.
How Mesothelioma Claims Are Paid
Patients and loved ones may be eligible for one or more types of compensation. When filing a claim, your lawyer will outline your financial options with you to determine the best route for your specific case. Common ways that asbestos claims are paid out include through asbestos trusts, lawsuits, veterans’ benefits and workers' compensation.
As the dangers of asbestos became well-known, many companies admitted their liability or filed for bankruptcy. In order to continue paying out current claims and future claims, many companies were required to establish asbestos bankruptcy trusts. Each fund has a certain amount of money and is managed by trustees to compensate patients and families for asbestos-related claims.
Currently, there are approximately 60 asbestos trusts in the United States. As long as the claimant meets any required trust fund criteria, there is no limit on how many trusts they can make a claim against.
If an asbestos trust fund doesn’t apply to your case, another option is filing a mesothelioma lawsuit. The two types of mesothelioma claims that are filed in preparation for a lawsuit are personal injury claims (by the patient) and wrongful death claims (by surviving family members).
Claims can be filed against one or more defendants. After going to court, if the judge or jury rules in your favor, a compensation amount is determined and awarded. In most cases, asbestos lawsuits don’t make it to court, and instead, both parties reach a settlement.
FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE For Mesothelioma Victims
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- Compensation for Veterans
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Once you file a mesothelioma claim, the defendant can offer a settlement. Typically settlements result in less compensation than if the case goes to trial, allowing asbestos companies to pay less. However, there is a chance that they won’t be found liable, and lawsuits can be extremely lengthy, taking longer to payout.
If a settlement is offered, your lawyer can best advise the advantages and disadvantages of accepting. It’s ultimately up to the claimant whether or not to accept or deny the settlement. Negotiation is also an option, which will be done by your attorney. If the settlement is denied, the case moves forward to trial.
One of the jobs with the highest rates of occupational exposure is veterans of the U.S. Armed Services. Naval shipyards frequently used asbestos for its durability and fireproofing qualities, exposing many and putting them at risk to developing mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos cancers.
Individuals who were exposed to asbestos during their military career are likely to qualify for veterans’ benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. To qualify, the individual must not have been discharged under dishonorable circumstances and must be able to show that exposure did occur during the time of service.
Filing a claim for medical benefits through the VA is a different process than filing a legal claim against an asbestos trust or a company. Through the VA, veterans may receive disability payments if the majority of their exposure occurred during active duty, with special payments going to veterans who are housebound or bedridden due to their illness. Veterans who qualify can also receive treatment at VA hospitals.
Spouses of veterans who die due to service-related disabilities, such as mesothelioma, may also receive a monthly benefit known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
The Workers’ Compensation Act allows individuals to recover money for general exposure to asbestos during employment experiences. In some cases, you may be able to recover money even after you’ve retired from your job, which is important due to the long latency period of mesothelioma.
As with filing claims against trusts or companies, the statute of limitations for workers’ compensation claims varies from state to state and depends on whether the claim is filed by the person diagnosed with mesothelioma or, if that person has passed away, by their family.
Author: Jennifer R. Lucarelli
Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their FamiliesRead about Jennifer
Reviewer: Linda Molinari
Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer AllianceRead about Linda
Dixon L, McGovern G and Coombe A. Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts: An Overview of Trust Structure and Activity with Detailed Reports on the Largest Trusts. RAND Institute for Civil Justice. 2010.
Searcey D, Barry R. As Asbestos Claims Rise, So Do Worries About Fraud. The Wall Street Journal. March 2013.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans Asbestos Exposure.