If you or a family member is diagnosed with mesothelioma or another deadly, asbestos-related disease, it is well worth your time to reach out to a qualified mesothelioma attorney with the experience and expertise to help you receive the maximum compensation due to you. Since every case is unique, the amount that you could receive through a settlement or a verdict at trial depends on many factors.
This page provides information about the lawsuit process as well as some additional details to help you make an informed decision when seeking out a lawyer who specializes in mesothelioma lawsuits.
5 Facts About Asbestos Lawsuits
- Personal injury lawsuits related to asbestos are the longest-running “mass tort” litigation in American history.
- The majority of mesothelioma legal cases are settled out of court without ever going to trial.
- The number of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related claims has continued to increase rapidly in recent years.
- Non-traditional companies and products that contain asbestos, such as cosmetic talc, are increasingly at the center of new lawsuits.
- Mesothelioma trust funds contain more than $30 billion in assets to cover payouts of settlements and verdicts from mesothelioma disputes.
Types of Mesothelioma Lawsuits
There are two primary types of actions that can be filed with respect to mesothelioma: personal injury and wrongful death. Which type of complaint gets filed depends on whether the mesothelioma victim is still alive and who is filing the lawsuit.
Upon receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis (or a diagnosis of some other asbestos-related disease), you can file a personal injury lawsuit. Given the length of time that diseases like mesothelioma can take to manifest (usually several decades or more), it can be hard to figure out exactly where the asbestos exposure that led to the disease occurred. Therefore, it’s important to contact a mesothelioma lawyer right away after your diagnosis to get the process started so that you don’t lose your legal rights to compensation due to expired statutes of limitations.
If, unfortunately, a victim passes away before being able to file a complaint, family members may be able to file a lawsuit on his/her behalf for wrongful death. As with personal injury, wrongful death claims also have a statute of limitations – although in some states, wrongful death statutes are much shorter than personal injury statutes.
If a loved one has died of mesothelioma, you should be sure to contact a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss your rights and initiate the legal process of filing a claim. It can sometimes take longer to research medical and occupational histories of deceased mesothelioma victims, since family members may not always be aware of where their loved ones lived or worked in decades past.
When to File
The length of time that you have to file a mesothelioma lawsuit – known as the statute of limitations – varies from state to state, and it depends on which type of complaint (personal injury or wrongful death) is being filed. If you don’t start your lawsuit within the appropriate timeframe, you could lose all rights to any compensation you might otherwise receive.
Generally, the clock starts ticking from the date of diagnosis (for personal injury) or the date of death (for wrongful death). For a state-by-state list of lawsuit filing limits, see our Mesothelioma Statute of Limitations table.
While every mesothelioma lawsuit is different, there is a succession of steps that every case will need to follow.
Step 1: Free Consultation
Before filing a lawsuit for your mesothelioma diagnosis, we will meet with you for a free consultation to talk about the various parts of the process. This will give you an opportunity to ask any questions you might have or go over any concerns about the legal process.
This free consultation gives us an opportunity to understand more about the way that you or your loved one might have been exposed to asbestos. We’ll also discuss your medical history, including your diagnosis, with respect to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
Step 2: Research Work & Medical History
Once the initial consult is completed and you choose to pursue a lawsuit, our experienced mesothelioma lawyers will start collecting data to help build your case, including:
- Medical reports from facilities where you (or your loved one) were treated for mesothelioma
- Employment history, military service records, union membership, and other documents that support your employment history
- Statements from witnesses such as co-workers, family members, friends, and product-identification specialists
All of this information will help us build your case to make it as strong as possible.
Step 3: Asbestos Trust Recovery
Once we have collected all the necessary information, we will investigate the possibility of receiving compensation through an asbestos trust fund. These trust funds are created by companies who have previously admitted liability for asbestos-related damages, and if your situation matches one or more trusts’ exposure criteria, it’s possible you will be able to receive remuneration quickly.
Our attorneys are very familiar with asbestos trust requirements, and we have successfully submitted many claims on behalf of our clients who qualify.
Step 4: Other Recovery Options
Not every company that makes or has made products containing asbestos has a trust. Therefore, after evaluating the potential for compensation through asbestos trust funds, we will also assess whether your case may merit an action against any companies who have not yet fully admitted their asbestos liability. Over the course of one to two months, our attorneys will look at the various options available and provide guidance about the best course of action based on your individual case.
Step 5: Choosing the Complaint Venue
Before filing a complaint, it’s extremely important to choose the most appropriate venue. Which venue is best for your lawsuit can be affected by a number of different factors, such as:
- Calendars and scheduling concerns
- The process timeframe
- Settlement and verdict history
- Local and state laws
Mesothelioma lawsuits may be filed in any forum where a client has lived, worked, or served in the military. There are also a number of “open forum” states that may allow filing, if no other suitable venue is readily available.
Step 6: Filing the Lawsuit
Once the venue is determined, we will file a formal complaint on your behalf. The complaint will detail a number of legal causes of action against the asbestos company (or companies) that are likely culpable in causing or contributing to the mesothelioma diagnosis at the heart of the suit. The number of defendants (companies) named in the initial complaint will depend on both the type of mesothelioma that the victim was diagnosed with and the amount of exposure that person experienced.
Step 7: Discovery Phase
Upon filing the lawsuit, the legal process will move to the discovery phase, where lawyers on both sides will present information in an effort to either support the complaint (plaintiff) or undercut it (defendant). During this period, both sides will file various motions, usually with the intent of trying to reach some kind of financial settlement before the case goes to a full trial.
In most cases, the lawsuit will never reach the next stage of the legal process. Instead, most complaints will be settled before getting to trial. On the rare occasion that a mesothelioma lawsuit does go to trial – which will only happen with your consent – our attorneys have the experience, knowledge, and competence to see it all the way through.
Key Steps in the Lawsuit Process
Free Consultation Discuss legal process; answer questions
Research Work & Medical History Build your case
Asbestos Trust Recovery Assess eligibility to acquire compensation from companies via an established asbestos trust fund
Other Recovery Options Assess eligibility to acquire compensation from companies that have yet to establish an asbestos trust fund
Choosing the Complaint Venue Decide what venue will provide the best outcome for your lawsuit
Filing the Lawsuit File a formal complaint
Discovery Phase Try to reach financial settlement before the case goes to a full trial
What to Expect During a Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit can be emotionally taxing, especially if any part of the process goes on longer than anticipated. The best way to avoid or deal with unexpected complications is to have a team of dedicated attorneys who specialize in asbestos litigation. Additionally, simply familiarizing oneself with the steps involved in a lawsuit may help a mesothelioma victim and/or family member to prepare mentally for any challenging situations that may arise throughout the course of the process of filing a lawsuit.
“How long will my lawsuit take?” is a common question asked by many mesothelioma victims and their families, especially given the dire prognosis of the disease. Unfortunately, it’s a question that cannot be answered up front, as the length of the legal procedures tied to the lawsuit can depend heavily on several different elements, including:
- How many plaintiffs are filing
- How many defendants are named in the complaint
- Whether the case is consolidated with other similar cases
- The number and type of pretrial motions that are filed
- Complexity of the facts that need to be determined
- Scheduling and availability of all the parties involved
- The current docket load in the chosen venue
A study of consolidated cases in New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) showed that asbestos trials can range anywhere from 11–113 days, with an average of 11–38 days per plaintiff — and that doesn’t include the weeks or months of consultation, research, and discovery that happens before the trial. Lawsuits that are settled without going to trial may be shorter, but the duration can still vary greatly based on the factors above.
Behavioral and Medical Counterclaims
At trial (or even before), the defendant may try to blame your medical diagnosis on things that let them eschew any responsibility. For example, companies may try to assert that your mesothelioma or asbestos disease was related to other factors, such as:
- Unhealthy behaviors such as drinking, smoking, or using illegal substances
- Exposure to asbestos somewhere other than identified, such as at home or a different workplace (for occupational asbestos exposure)
- Genetic problems or a family history of predisposition for mesothelioma or other forms of cancer
- The accuracy of your medical diagnosis or the qualifications of the medical professional who diagnosed you
Having all of these aspects of your life questioned again and again may cause anxiety. However, the good news is that you don’t have to respond to these assertions yourself. An attorney who has experience handling mesothelioma litigation will be able to skillfully address these counterclaims.
When faced with the prospect of being held liable for damages related to asbestos, many defendants may also attack the manner in which your complaint was filed. This includes, but is not limited to:
- That the time limit afforded by the statute of limitations has expired
- Other technical problems with the petition, even if it is filed within the right timeframe
- Problems with the venue chosen or reasons why a different venue is more suitable
- Your authorization to file on behalf of someone who has died from mesothelioma
When handled by an established law firm that has diligently researched your case, these types of counterclaims are rarely successful.
Choosing an Effective Lawyer
When it comes to helping you get the compensation you deserve for your mesothelioma claim, no decision is more important than choosing the best mesothelioma lawyer. Here are the most essential qualities to look for in an asbestos attorney:
- History of past settlements and success at trial
- Broad knowledge of asbestos, mesothelioma, and related topics
- In-depth understanding of the laws, rules, and regulations governing asbestos litigation
- Hard-working personality with a dedication to resolving your case in a beneficial manner to you
- Compassion for the situation you and your loved ones have experienced
- Willingness to let you make the final decision without pressuring you into any course of action
The Cost for the Best Mesothelioma Lawyer
It might seem like having the best lawyer to try your asbestos lawsuit would be expensive. In reality, you and your family will pay absolutely nothing unless your lawyer succeeds on your behalf and you receive compensation as part of a settlement or jury award.
The law firm you choose should have no desire to be an additional financial burden for you or any of its clients. The only goal of the best mesothelioma lawyer you decide to hire should be to help you receive remuneration for the drastic toll asbestos and mesothelioma have taken on you and your family.
Contact Experienced Mesothelioma Attorneys
As outlined above, the first step to filing your mesothelioma lawsuit is to request a free consultation. You can also learn more about the financial assistance that is available to you by calling us toll-free at 1-800-336-0086.Sources
Ableman, PL. The Time Has Come For Courts To Respond To The Manipulation Of Exposure Evidence In Asbestos Cases: A Call For The Adoption Of Uniform Case Management Orders Across The Country. Mealey’s Litigation Report: Asbestos. April 8, 2015.
Ableman, PL, Kelso PR, Scarcella MC. The Consolidation Effect: New York City Asbestos Verdicts, Due Process And Judicial Efficiency. Mealey’s Litigation Report: Asbestos. May 6, 2015.
Bates CE, Mullin CH. Show Me The Money. Mealey’s Litigation Report: Asbestos. December 3, 2007.
Van Gelder SE, Linton AM. Non-Traditional Asbestos Litigation: New Products And Industries In The Crosshairs. Mealey’s Litigation Report: Asbestos. November 19, 2014.