Troy E. Walton
Personal Injury Attorney
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Important Facts About the Mesothelioma Lawsuit Process
- While every case is different, there are seven main steps in a mesothelioma lawsuit — finding a lawyer, preparation, filing, discovery, deposition, negotiations, and either a trial or settlement.
- Experienced lawyers handle the process for people who do not have experience with legal claims.
- Most mesothelioma lawsuits end in a pre-trial settlement between the victims and the responsible companies.
- Understanding the mesothelioma case timeline is essential to getting compensation quickly and holding the at-fault companies accountable.
Timeline for a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit is one of a few legal options available to people with mesothelioma, which is a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. During the 20th century, companies promoted the use of asbestos and sold the substance to other companies for commercial use. This led to exposure for U.S. residents, especially workers in manufacturing, mining, construction, shipbuilding, and military service.
While each mesothelioma case is unique, most follow the same steps. The process may take a few years, but most cases settle and are resolved quickly:
- Find a lawyer – This first step is probably the most important, as victims of asbestos exposure will choose a lawyer specializing in mesothelioma and asbestos cases to represent them in the legal process.
- Preparation – Attorneys help determine the source of asbestos exposure and prepare the case for filing.
- Filing – The mesothelioma claim is filed in the state(s) related to the case.
- Discovery – Attorneys evaluate the available evidence for exposure to asbestos, such as work history.
- Deposition – The victim records a video testimony used in the case process.
- Negotiations – Attorneys from both sides privately negotiate a settlement amount to avoid a trial.
Finding a knowledgeable mesothelioma lawyer is the first and possibly most important step in the process. The first question to ask when looking for an attorney is whether they have extensive experience handling mesothelioma and asbestos cases.
National asbestos law firms with lawyers who specialize in mesothelioma litigation are the best option for handling the case process effectively and reaching a beneficial resolution for people affected by mesothelioma. Look for a mesothelioma firm with award-winning lawyers who have been representing victims of asbestos exposure for many years.
After finding and selecting a lawyer to work with, they will guide people with mesothelioma cancer through questions regarding their personal, medical and occupational history as they relate to exposure to asbestos. This will help the attorney link certain jobs the victim had, places they lived, or other parts of their life to the presence of asbestos.
Record all medical expenses, physical discomfort and any disabilities you or a loved one has incurred due to mesothelioma. Your lawyer will help you determine the most relevant aspects of the legal case.
Once the plaintiff’s asbestos exposure and other relevant details have been determined, their lawyer will pinpoint which state(s) the lawsuits will be filed in. National mesothelioma law firms have lawyers licensed to file cases in multiple states.
During the discovery process, the top mesothelioma lawyers will gather all relevant evidence, key witnesses, industry experts and medical experts to support the victim’s case. Lawyers for the defendant(s), or the companies accused of negligence, will try to prove their innocence by also gathering relevant evidence, witnesses and experts. This is when the lawyer builds a strong case for the victim.
Depositions are sworn testimony taking place in an out-of-court setting and can be substituted for in-court testimony. The testimony is recorded and can be transcribed into a written testimony used later in court.
This is a valuable option for people diagnosed with mesothelioma, who might not be physically able to go into a courtroom and testify in their trial. Additionally, depositions are an option for victims to provide testimony outside of the courtroom if they do not want to attend due to the public nature of trials. They are also beneficial to patients who are in the end stages of mesothelioma, as they now have the opportunity to provide a recorded testimony in case they pass away before their trial begins.
Since depositions do not take place inside the courtroom, you can record it from your home. Your lawyer will figure out a place and time that best fits your schedule and physical capabilities.
The final step in the mesothelioma lawsuit timeline is either reaching a settlement agreement with the defendants or proceeding to trial. If both parties can agree on a mesothelioma settlement amount, the case will not proceed to a trial. If not, which is rare, then the court will set a court date, and the case will proceed to trial, likely ending in a verdict from the judge or jury.
If the case goes to trial and results in a verdict favoring you or a loved one, the at-fault companies will most likely appeal the verdict. This unfortunately prolongs the mesothelioma compensation payout timeline for you and your family, which is another reason why settlements are often preferred.
Why Go Through the Process for a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Ultimately, starting and completing the legal case is the only way to provide justice for innocent victims of asbestos exposure.
Many companies that manufactured and sold asbestos knew of the health risks — and did not disclose these risks to the public. These asbestos companies prioritized their profits over the health and safety of their workers and consumers. Due to this corporate greed, approximately 2,500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United States.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer with a low survival rate: the 5-year survival rate is estimated to be just 11%, and the average survival is 1-2 years. The cancer has taken many lives – leaving voids in families – and impacted people’s quality of life as they go through treatment and endure side effects while fighting the disease.
These companies that manufactured and sold asbestos despite knowing it was harmful are financially responsible for how mesothelioma affects victims and their families. While a lawsuit cannot get rid of the cancer, prevent side effects, or bring back a loved one who has passed away, filing a case can provide justice for victims by holding the responsible companies accountable.
Lawyers experienced in mesothelioma cases can help simplify the mesothelioma lawsuit process for victims by doing most of the work. For people diagnosed with mesothelioma or the surviving family of someone with mesothelioma – people who have been affected by companies that disregarded their health – there are numerous benefits to working with a law firm specializing in mesothelioma cases.
Benefits of Filing a Lawsuit with an Experienced Asbestos Lawyer
A successful settlement or trial can result in financial compensation for:
Pain and suffering
Overcoming Hesitations of Filing a Lawsuit
Many people struggle with the idea of pursuing legal action for their mesothelioma cancer because they don’t want to be viewed as that type of person. They also struggle with the stress of their cancer diagnosis and making decisions regarding treatment, their will, and their overall quality of life. Therefore, the notion of filing a lawsuit might seem secondary to other priorities.
The truth is people who have been hurt by asbestos manufacturing companies should take legal action to hold the manufacturers accountable. It’s their legal right and they are entitled to compensation. If brave people do not pursue justice in the court system, then companies are more likely to continue unethical practices that lead to thousands of innocent deaths per year.
People affected by mesothelioma also should not wait to start their case. A law called the statute of limitations puts a time limit on when people can take legal action. Each state has its own statute of limitations for asbestos legal cases, and the law is usually 2-4 years from whichever comes first between the time of diagnosis or the date of the victim’s death (applies to wrongful death lawsuits).
Clarifying Misconceptions About Mesothelioma Lawsuits
There are many misconceptions about mesothelioma lawsuits, ranging from how they work to the likelihood of success. Mesothelioma has a long latency period, taking anywhere from 20-50 years for symptoms to appear from the first instance of exposure to asbestos. Many people doubt how successful a lawsuit could be after such a long amount of time has passed.
Four other misconceptions about mesothelioma cases include:
- “Legal cases are a lengthy, stressful process” – This is not true. Most claims settle out of the courtroom or go through asbestos trust funds, which can often be an efficient process. Lawyers also handle most of the work and protect victims from the stress of a lawsuit.
- “The plaintiff must travel for meetings and court dates” – This is not true. The top mesothelioma lawyers will always travel to the claimant’s home or a convenient location for meetings and to potentially record the deposition, if needed.
- “A mesothelioma lawsuit cannot be filed if the victim does not know who is responsible” – This is not true. Top asbestos lawyers can determine the responsible parties and where to file the case. The top law firms have the resources to figure out how and where people were exposed to asbestos and which companies are responsible.
- “U.S. military veterans must file lawsuits against the military or government” – This is not true. Veterans make up 33% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, and they should seek justice for the asbestos exposure that occurred during their brave service. Veterans with mesothelioma who choose to take legal action would file asbestos lawsuits against the asbestos manufacturers, not the military. They can receive VA compensation from the government for their asbestos disease, but this is a benefit provided by the government similar to health care, not a form of legal compensation.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, learning about your legal options can help you make the right decision for your family. Getting maximum compensation can provide financial security for you and your loved ones. Financial compensation may also increase your access to beneficial mesothelioma treatments to improve your prognosis.
Mesothelioma Guide can offer a free case evaluation and connect you with an experienced lawyer who can help you begin the mesothelioma case process.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Mesothelioma Lawsuit Process
What are the steps in a mesothelioma case?
There are at most five steps in the legal proceeding for a mesothelioma lawsuit:
- Finding a lawyer — Connecting with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer to take on the case
- Preparation — Determining the cause of the cancer
- Filing — Formally starting the claim in the court system
- Discovery — Evaluating the evidence
- Deposition — Recorded testimony to be used in trial
- Negotiations — Discussing a potential settlement
- Trial — Ending in a jury verdict
How long do mesothelioma cases take?
The length varies based on whether you go for a settlement or a verdict. Settlements for mesothelioma lawsuits resolve the case quicker, and verdicts go through a full mesothelioma trial. Verdicts also usually involve appeals from the losing party, so the case process can last a few years. This is why most people with mesothelioma and their attorneys prefer settlements.
What is the most important step in mesothelioma legal cases?
The most important part of the process is the first part: finding an experienced mesothelioma attorney. The legal help you choose to represent your case could determine how fast you receive compensation or whether you receive your deserved compensation amount. Choose an experienced lawyer who can prove your case in court or negotiate a favorable settlement.
Sources & Author
- Risk Factors for Malignant Mesothelioma. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html. Accessed: 03/22/19.
- Asbestos Verdicts & Settlements: January 2017 – December 2017. Lexis Legal News. Retrieved from: https://www.lexislegalnews.com/articles/28330/asbestos-verdicts-settlements-january-2017-december-2017. Accessed: 03/20/19.
- Study Finds Settling Is Better Than Going to Trial. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/08/business/08law.html. Accessed: 03/22/19.