Asbestos laws and litigation can be complex. On this page, we’ve provided answers to some of the most common legal questions related to mesothelioma and asbestos. Please note that every individual case is different. To discuss specific questions or concerns with a qualified legal professional, sign up for a free consultation.
When should I get a mesothelioma lawyer?
If you have recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or if a family member recently passed away because of mesothelioma, you should contact an experienced attorney who specializes in asbestos litigation to help you understand your legal rights and discuss the various types of compensation you may be eligible to receive.
Laws that limit the amount of time for filing a mesothelioma claim (known as statutes of limitations), are the reason it is important to contact an experienced attorney right away. It can take some time to research the details that are necessary in order to build your case. Therefore, initiating a working relationship with an attorney as soon as possible is essential in helping you receive the compensation you are entitled to as quickly as possible.
I lost a loved one to mesothelioma years ago. Can I still file a legal claim?
Each state has a different set of rules limiting the amount of time you have to file a mesothelioma claim. These rules, known as statutes of limitations, can range anywhere from one year to six years, depending on the state where you decide to submit your complaint. In some states, there are also different deadlines for personal injury claims (filed by the person diagnosed with mesothelioma) and wrongful death claims (filed by survivors after a mesothelioma victim has passed away).
The good news is that, generally, victims of asbestos exposure can file a claim in any state where they have resided, worked, or served in the military. Consider, for example, someone who currently lives in California but was exposed to asbestos while stationed at a naval base in Florida. California only has a personal injury statute of limitations of 1 year after diagnosis; however, Florida has a personal injury statute of limitations of 4 years after diagnosis. Therefore, that person might still be able to file a claim in Florida, even if they had missed the deadline for filing in California.
Even if the statutes of limitations have passed to file a lawsuit, you still may be able to receive financial assistance in one or more other ways:
- Trust funds set up by companies that have already admitted liability for asbestos exposure
- VA benefits if you served in the military
- Workers' compensation
To understand all of your filing options and the associated deadlines involved, contact a lawyer who is knowledgeable about laws and regulations related to mesothelioma.
What if I don’t know where/how I was exposed to asbestos?
One of the first things a great mesothelioma legal team will do is to review your personal history with you. They will ask about where you have lived, worked, attended school, traveled, served in the military, and other related factual details. They will also help you gather documentation to provide more details about each of these segments of your history, including employment records, union membership, military service records, etc.
Based on these details and documents, it is usually possible to determine where and how someone may have been exposed to asbestos by comparing your personal history to a list of known exposure sites and asbestos companies.
What if I’ve never worked for an asbestos company but still have mesothelioma?
Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more common that people who never worked at an asbestos company are developing mesothelioma. Exposure can happen in any number of places, including:
- Nearby mining or manufacturing facilities
- Naturally occurring asbestos deposits
If you have a family member who has worked at a company that produces or uses asbestos products, you could even be at risk of second-hand exposure. For example, as a little girl Heather von St. James was exposed to asbestos dust brought home on her father’s jacket from a factory, and she developed mesothelioma in her mid-30s due to that exposure.
Since the only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, if you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, then asbestos exposure must have occurred at some point in your lifetime. A lawyer with experience in mesothelioma cases can help you discover where that exposure occurred and hold the responsible parties liable.
The asbestos company where I worked has gone bankrupt or been bought by another company. Is it too late to get compensation?
Starting in the 1970s, after the link between asbestos and mesothelioma was identified a decade earlier, companies began to go bankrupt due to the high numbers of lawsuits being brought against them for personal injury and wrongful death. As a result, U.S. bankruptcy courts started requiring companies to set up asbestos bankruptcy trust funds (“asbestos trusts”) to pay both current and future claims brought against them.
Currently, there are approximately 60 different asbestos trusts that have been established to pay claims for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Each trust has its own exposure criteria and procedures, so having an attorney who has successfully negotiated with asbestos trusts in the past is the best way to receive compensation.
In cases where an asbestos company has been bought by another company, it may be possible to bring a lawsuit against the parent company for damages its subsidiary was responsible for in the past, if an asbestos trust fund does not already exist. Talk to a qualified lawyer to determine whether filing a legal complaint is the best way to receive compensation.
Will I need to travel if I file a lawsuit?
Asbestos attorneys understand that mesothelioma patients often have difficulty traveling, whether due to medical problems, appointments, or other concerns. With that in mind, conscientious mesothelioma lawyers will generally travel to the patient to conduct interviews, gather documentation, and perform other related tasks relevant to the case.
As your legal representative, a mesothelioma lawyer will also appear in court on your behalf, which means you will typically not need to travel in such instances. Even if you are not present in court, you will still retain full control over your legal rights, and your lawyer will be obligated to follow your instructions.
How long will it take to receive compensation if I file a claim?
Every individual case is different, so unfortunately there is no way to tell exactly how long it might take to receive compensation from a particular claim. It can take months just to gather the appropriate information and documents necessary to simply file a claim. Once the claim is filed, the timeframe to reach a settlement or, if you go to trial, receive a jury award may range from months to years.
An experienced mesothelioma lawyer will be able to provide a realistic idea of how long it may take for you to receive compensation once they know the details of your case. However, it should be understood that the actual timeframe for receiving compensation is an estimate and may be subject to change over the course of the legal proceedings.
How much compensation can I receive?
The actual amount you can receive for a mesothelioma claim depends on a wide variety of factors:
- Residence, employment, and military service locations
- Current age, age at exposure, age upon receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis
- The specific asbestos materials or products involved
- The amount of pain and suffering endured as a result of the disease
The final compensation amount will also take into account the amount of money spent due to a mesothelioma diagnosis, including:
- Lost wages from unemployment
- An inability to support dependents
- Medical expenditures for diagnosis and treatment
- Treatment-related travel costs
- Funeral arrangement expenses (for wrongful death claims)
To make sure you receive the highest level of compensation entitled to you, it is important to keep an organized folder with all of your bills, receipts, and other statements of payments or expenses related to your disease and/or exposure.
How much does it cost to file a mesothelioma lawsuit?
If you hire a reputable law firm, there will be no up-front costs to file a mesothelioma lawsuit. In the vast majority of cases, mesothelioma lawsuits are handled on a contingency fee basis. This means that you will not have to pay anything unless and until you receive compensation owed to you.
Furthermore, experienced lawyers know how to keep costs down, making it more efficient and ultimately better for clients because clients receive a larger amount of compensation than if they went through a less experienced law firm. If you do not have to go to trial, expenses will typically range between 3 – 5% of the total compensation amount.
Who gets the final say on whether to settle or go to trial?
The client always has the final say with regard to accepting or rejecting a settlement. This is done by formally agreeing, usually with a signature, to accept a settlement offer before any money is awarded.
Get Answers to More of Your Legal Questions About Mesothelioma and Asbestos
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with or passed away from mesothelioma, you can get a free consultation from a law firm that has successfully acquired compensation for many clients in the past. You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-336-0086 to learn more about all the options for financial assistance available to you.