If you lost a loved one due to exposure to asbestos, you may be eligible to file an asbestos claim as a family member. Losing a loved one to an illness such as mesothelioma can be devastating in more ways than one. Pursuing a legal remedy for wrongful death could enable your family to receive the closure, answers, justice, and financial compensation that it needs to move forward.
Do You Need to Hire an Attorney?
Filing an asbestos claim or wrongful death lawsuit might be the last thing you wish to deal with while you mourn the loss of a loved one. However, taking prompt legal action is important if you wish to protect your family’s rights. You may lose the option of seeking justice for your loved one if you miss your deadline to file. Navigating a complex asbestos claim after a relative’s death is easier with assistance from a mesothelioma attorney.
An attorney with experience handling asbestos and mesothelioma claims can guide your family through the legal process from start to finish, making sure you receive answers to your questions and the assistance that you need along the way. An attorney can hire experts, conduct a comprehensive investigation of your case, collect evidence, negotiate with an insurance company, and go to trial on your family’s behalf (if necessary). Your attorney will do what it takes to improve the odds of your asbestos case’s success.
How Much Does an Asbestos Attorney Cost?
If you are undecided on whether or not to hire an attorney due to the perceived cost, look for a law firm that operates on a contingency fee basis. This payment arrangement means your lawyer will work on your case at no cost to you personally. The attorney will only charge if and when the law firm obtains financial compensation on your behalf. If no money is recovered for your loved one’s death, you won’t pay. If your asbestos claim is successful, your lawyer will charge his or her fee as a percentage of the overall settlement or verdict secured.
What Is Wrongful Death?
An asbestos or mesothelioma claim after the tragic death of a loved one can take the form of a wrongful death lawsuit. The exact definition of wrongful death varies from state to state, but it is typically a death caused by the neglect, default or wrongful act of another person or party. Neglect is the failure to exercise ordinary care, while default is an omission. A wrongful act can refer to a careless, reckless, wanton or intentional act that injures or kills someone else.
A wrongful death claim is a type of civil lawsuit brought by the deceased person’s (decedent’s) surviving family members and/or estate. It seeks financial compensation for losses suffered by the decedent and his or her family. It aims to hold one or multiple defendants accountable for causing or contributing to the victim’s death. In an asbestos claim, it seeks compensation from the party/ies that exposed the decedent to asbestos and caused his or her fatal illness.
There are important similarities and differences between a wrongful death claim and a standard mesothelioma lawsuit. A wrongful death claim is typically brought by surviving family members or the administrator of the decedent’s estate rather than the victim himself/herself. The damages (financial compensation) that may be available can also differ; a wrongful death suit may reimburse survivors for their expenses rather than only paying for a victim’s losses. A separate set of laws also apply to wrongful death cases.
Do You Have a Case?
Regardless of whether you wish to file a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death claim for harmful exposure to asbestos, you will need the basic elements of a case. These remain the same whether you are suing for a loved one’s death or your own illness. If you are basing your claim on the legal doctrine of negligence, you must have the four essential elements of this tort.
You may have grounds to file an asbestos claim with the following elements:
- Duty of care: a legal or ethical obligation to exercise a certain level of care based on what is normal, correct, or accepted for the situation.
- Breach of duty: an act or omission that violates the defendant’s required duty of care.
- Damages: specific losses suffered by the plaintiff, such as bodily injury, illness, medical bills, or wrongful death.
- Causation: a causal link between the breach of duty and the death of the victim; the death would not have happened were it not for the defendant’s negligence.
It may be possible to base your asbestos claim on a doctrine other than negligence in certain circumstances. A breach of warranty claim, for example, may be brought against the manufacturer of an asbestos product for failing to fulfill its promise to protect consumers from unreasonably dangerous items.
Asbestos and Fatal Diseases
Asbestos exposure has been linked to many serious diseases and illnesses, including a terminal type of cancer known as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelial tissues, which protect areas of the body such as the lungs, chest, heart, abdomen, and pelvis. It is an aggressive form of cancer with no known cure.
The prognosis for a patient who is diagnosed with mesothelioma is typically poor. The average life expectancy is around 12 to 21 months with treatment, according to the National Library of Medicine. Despite advances in treatment options for patients with mesothelioma, the five-year survival rate is currently around just 10 percent.
Asbestos exposure is also connected to lung cancer, ovarian cancer, esophageal cancer, and other types of cancers. In addition, a victim of asbestos exposure could develop chronic conditions such as asbestosis or pleural plaques that elevate his or her chances of developing mesothelioma in the future.
How Many Lives Does Mesothelioma Take Per Year?
Mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer. According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12,431 people died of mesothelioma from 2015 to 2019. To put this in perspective, the number of deaths from all types of cancer in this five-year period was 2,991,903 – meaning less than 0.42 percent of cancer deaths were due to mesothelioma. However, even one death from this preventable form of cancer is too many.
Common Sources of Asbestos Exposure
Preventing deaths from mesothelioma starts with avoiding asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a group of six silicate minerals that are found in certain types of rock and oil. Due to properties such as resistance to heat, electricity and corrosion, asbestos was a popular ingredient used in the manufacture of a variety of consumer products. Although the country regulated asbestos starting in 1989, thousands of products had already been made using this carcinogen. Unfortunately, this means many people are at risk of being exposed to asbestos even today.
Using, touching or being around certain products that contain asbestos may have contributed to the wrongful death of your loved one. If any product that contains or was contaminated by asbestos gets disturbed, it could lead to a victim inhaling asbestos dust.
- Fire-resistant cloth
- The gear used by firefighters
- Building and construction materials
- Paper products
- Cement products
- Friction products
- Automobile parts
Talc products, such as baby powder and many makeup products, may also be contaminated with asbestos, as talc and asbestos are often found close together in mines. If a product manufacturing company has gone bankrupt, it may still be possible to file an asbestos trust fund claim for compensation for the death of a loved one.
Workplaces and High-Risk Occupations
One of the most common settings for asbestos exposure is the workplace. Certain occupations have a high risk of asbestos exposure due to the use of asbestos-containing products. Construction, for example, puts workers at risk of coming into contact with asbestos materials such as cement, insulation, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, roofing shingles, siding, and adhesives. If these materials are disturbed in a renovation, demolition or repair project, unprotected construction workers could be exposed to asbestos.
Other high-risk workers include firefighters, first responders, shipyard workers and shipbuilders, power plant employees, manufacturing facility workers, auto mechanics, and military service members. If your deceased loved one was exposed to asbestos at work, your family may have grounds to hold his or her employer liable (financially responsible) for negligently failing to protect workers. A workers’ compensation claim may be available to pay death benefits to surviving family members even without proof of negligence.
Commercial Buildings and Residences
Another potential source of asbestos exposure is in the building materials used in the decedent’s place of work or residence. The National Cancer Institute states that while any amount of asbestos exposure is dangerous, the risk of an asbestos-related illness is highest in people who are exposed to it on a regular basis. Living or working in a building that contains asbestos could put residents/workers at risk of exposure – especially if they were not protected by the property owner during construction projects. These deaths could result in premises liability claims against negligent property owners or landlords.
How to Navigate Your State’s Wrongful Death Laws
Before you can file a wrongful death claim, you must know and obey your state’s related laws. Otherwise, your family could make an error that hurts your chances of obtaining financial compensation. Each state has unique statutes regarding asbestos claims and wrongful death lawsuits.
In general, you or your attorney will need to navigate the following types of laws:
- Filing eligibility – only certain people or parties are permitted to file wrongful death claims. In most states, this is the victim’s surviving family members, but this right is sometimes restricted to only the decedent’s personal representative.
- Deadline or statute of limitations – you must file your claim within your state’s time limit or risk losing the right to seek compensation. This deadline varies from one to six years from the date of the decedent’s death, depending on the state.
- Damage caps – some states have limits on the amount of financial compensation that is available to a grieving family, known as damage caps.
In addition to these wrongful death laws, your family will need to navigate rules specific to asbestos and mesothelioma cases. This may include special deadlines or statewide asbestos regulations. Contact an attorney that is licensed to practice in your state for more information about how to bring an asbestos claim for the death of a loved one where you live.
What Damages Are Available for an Asbestos Wrongful Death Claim?
The value of a wrongful death claim can vary considerably from case to case. Your family and/or the decedent’s estate could recover financial compensation for both economic and noneconomic losses with a successful asbestos claim.
The damages available may include:
- Medical bills leading up to the death
- Palliative or end-of-life care
- Hospital or hospice bills
- Reasonable funeral and burial costs
- Your loved one’s pain and suffering
- Your family’s mental anguish and grief
- Loss of the decedent’s household services
- Loss of consortium
- Attorney’s fees and legal costs
Any financial compensation received in a wrongful death asbestos case may be distributed to the estate or among beneficiaries according to the state’s rules for intestate succession. This often includes the surviving spouse, child, parent, and/or siblings.
How to Prove Your Case
One of the elements that a wrongful death asbestos claim shares with a personal injury lawsuit is the burden of proof. This is the need to prove the claim that is being made. It rests with the plaintiff or filing party in an asbestos claim. You or your lawyer must meet the burden of proof by demonstrating that the defendant is at fault for your loved one’s death based on a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the defendant is more likely to be at fault for the death than not.
Proving a mesothelioma case starts with documenting your loved one’s illness. Your family will need to have a detailed account of possible asbestos exposure sites, such as where your loved one worked. This can help you pinpoint the cause of his or her fatal illness and make for an easier legal process. You should also document his or her medical journey with copies of medical records, letters from doctors and mesothelioma specialists, x-rays and scans, treatment plans, and the death certificate. It is never too early to start documenting a case of asbestos exposure.
Questions About Filing an Asbestos Claim After the Death of a Loved One? Contact Us
You most likely have numerous questions after losing a loved one to a devastating asbestos-related illness. The attorneys at Bailey & Glasser, LLP can use years of experience and knowledge handling asbestos and mesothelioma cases. We can help your family understand its rights and legal options during this difficult time. Request a free case consultation today. Call (866) 871-7971 or contact us online.