Generally, lawsuits seeking compensation on behalf of mesothelioma victims are either personal injury suits brought by a mesothelioma victim, or a wrongful death suit brought by the victim’s family after the victim has passed away. Compared to other forms of mesothelioma compensation, lawsuits can result in higher amounts of compensation, but lawsuits also take more time to play out.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits vs. Personal Injury Lawsuits
The primary difference between wrongful death lawsuits and personal injury lawsuits is the person (or group of people) who files the lawsuit. In a wrongful death suit, a mesothelioma victim’s family files the suit on behalf of the deceased victim’s estate. In a personal injury suit, a still-living mesothelioma victim files the lawsuit on their own behalf. Additionally, though, the types of mesothelioma lawsuits differ in terms of the types of damages that may be available.
Wrongful Death Mesothelioma Lawsuits
In a wrongful death lawsuit, a deceased mesothelioma victim’s family sues an asbestos company responsible for their loved one’s exposure to asbestos, seeking damages related to their family member’s death. The lawsuit can be filed by family members on their own behalf, and / or on behalf of the deceased victim’s estate.
The types of damages that are available in wrongful death mesothelioma lawsuits not only compensate for past medical bills, funeral expenses, and lost income from the victim’s life, but also for losses suffered by their family members, including loss of lifestyle, loss of consortium, and emotional damages associated with their loved one’s mesothelioma.
Personal Injury Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Personal injury mesothelioma lawsuits are brought by a mesothelioma victim while they are still alive, seeking to recover medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering costs, and other expenses incurred due to asbestos exposure and a resulting mesothelioma diagnosis. Sometimes, if a mesothelioma patient passes away while they have a lawsuit pending, their personal injury lawsuit can be converted to a wrongful death action.
Other Types of Mesothelioma Lawsuits
In addition to personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits, there are other types of mesothelioma lawsuits that do not arise very often, but nonetheless do occur: class action lawsuits and multi-district litigation lawsuits.
Mesothelioma Class Action Lawsuits
A class action lawsuit is when one plaintiff or a group of plaintiffs files a lawsuit on behalf of a much larger group of people, called a “class.” Class actions require all of the plaintiffs in a class to have similar injuries and similar exposures to asbestos, but in cases where one company was responsible for exposing a large number of people to asbestos, they can be efficient ways to structure the lawsuit.
However, each individual plaintiff can decide whether to join the class action or to pursue their own case as an individual. In some cases, suing an asbestos company as an individual may be a better option. If you receive notice to “opt in” to a class action related to asbestos exposure, you should reach out to an experienced mesothelioma lawyer to discuss whether you should opt in or initiate your own legal action. Sometimes, opting in without consulting a lawyer may affect your other rights to compensation.
Multi-district Litigation in Mesothelioma Cases
Sometimes, when many lawsuits of a similar type and involving similar parties are filed across the country, the federal judiciary will direct the lawsuits to be consolidated into a “multidistrict litigation,” or an MDL, which allows motions that apply to multiple suits to be decided at the same time, thus avoiding duplicative work by judges. While MDLs are convenient for judges and defendants, they can sometimes raise issues for plaintiffs, who may encounter difficulty arguing their individual case on its own specific facts.
Currently, the MDL handling most of the mesothelioma and asbestos-related cases in the country is proceeding in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The MDL was formed in 2006 as MDL 875, In re Asbestos Products Liability Litigation, and since then, almost 200,000 cases have been consolidated within the MDL. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer will be well-versed in this MDL, as well as others proceeding across the country, and can accordingly advise you as to how your case may be affected by the MDL process.
Eligibility for Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Generally speaking, anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma resulting from exposure to asbestos is eligible to file a mesothelioma lawsuit. However, a lawsuit requires documentation and evidence, meaning that you will need to have paperwork to back up your claim.
In most cases, successful plaintiffs have medical records that prove their mesothelioma diagnosis, employment records or other records that can back up their exposure to asbestos, and documentation to support their damages, such as medical bills, pink slips from job loss, and travel records.
Statutes of Limitations in Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Statutes of limitations are laws that set deadlines on how soon a lawsuit must be filed after an injury occurs. Unfortunately, in many asbestos cases, plaintiffs are affected by statutes of limitations due to a lack of knowledge about the cause of their condition. While exposure to asbestos is generally known to be the primary cause of mesothelioma and related conditions, mesothelioma victims may not be aware that they have avenues for legal recourse.
The specific length of any given statute of limitations depends on the state in which a lawsuit is filed. In most states, the statute of limitations in personal injury cases lasts for either one or two years, and the clock begins running on the day of a mesothelioma diagnosis. In wrongful death cases, the deadline is also usually one or two years, and begins running on the day of a mesothelioma victim’s death.
The statute of limitations is the biggest reason why you should not wait to consult with an experienced mesothelioma attorney as soon as you or a loved one receives a mesothelioma diagnosis. However, even if you believe you may be out of time to file a lawsuit, you should still consult an attorney. There may be workarounds or exceptions to the statute of limitations in your state, and you may even be able to file your mesothelioma lawsuit in a different state to take advantage of a friendlier statute of limitations. Lastly, there are mesothelioma compensation sources that do not require the filing of a lawsuit at all, including asbestos trust funds and veterans claims.
A mesothelioma lawyer from a law firm with a national presence can assist you in evaluating statutes of limitations and in finding the best outcome possible for you and your family.
Where can I file a mesothelioma lawsuit?
You might be surprised to learn that you do not have to file a mesothelioma lawsuit in the state where you currently live. In fact, for a person who has moved around a lot, or for a person who lived in one state and worked in another, there may be multiple states where their mesothelioma lawsuit can be filed. Those states may include:
- The state where you live
- The state in which you worked during exposure to asbestos
- The state where the asbestos company defendant is located
- The state in which you were exposed to asbestos, if you traveled for work
- A state where you used to live while you were exposed to asbestos
Each state in the country has its own set of laws and regulations, and it may be strategically advantageous for you to file your mesothelioma lawsuit in one state instead of another.
An experienced mesothelioma lawyer and law firm with nationwide experience will have an understanding of the laws in multiple states, and can in turn advise you on where you should file your case for the best chance at the best possible outcome.
What to Expect in a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
If and when you and your attorney decide that a lawsuit is the best path forward in pursuing compensation for you or a loved one due to your exposure to asbestos, you may be wondering what to expect. Lawsuits can sometimes take more than a year to play out, but the following is a list of how the process generally works.
Select an experienced attorney and reach out to schedule a consultation.
Choosing the right attorney is perhaps the most important step in beginning a mesothelioma lawsuit. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer with access to resources and a national network of tools will be best positioned to pursue your compensation claim aggressively and without restrictions as to where your case is filed.
After selecting an attorney, you should reach out to set up a free consultation. During the consultation, you and your prospective attorney will discuss the specifics of your case, and the attorney may be able to provide a loose indication as to what your options are and whether you should pursue a claim for mesothelioma compensation.
Gather the evidence.
After you decide to begin a working relationship with your attorney, the two of you will work together to gather all of the evidence that may be useful in your case. Essentially, useful evidence consists of any and all documentation that supports your diagnosis of mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos. You may be asked to provide medical records, employment records, travel records, and more. If you are unable to locate these records, your attorney may be able to assist you in obtaining copies or tracking them down. The investigation may also involve interviews with family members, friends, and co-workers to assist in identifying all possible sources of asbestos exposure.
Assess your options.
With all of the available evidence gathered, your attorney will be able to advise you as to what your options are. If you have enough evidence to pursue a lawsuit, and if you are willing to spend more time making your claim, a lawsuit may be the best option. Otherwise, if you are looking for faster compensation, or if a statute of limitations has restricted your ability to file a lawsuit, your attorney may be able to provide you with other options for mesothelioma compensation beyond filing a lawsuit.
Begin the lawsuit.
If you choose to file a lawsuit, the case begins with the filing of a complaint in court. Following that, a process called discovery starts, which essentially means collection of evidence. You and your lawyer will be asked to provide documents to the defendants, and you will be allowed to ask the defendants to provide documents to you. In some cases, you may be called to testify at a deposition, and your lawyer may begin assembling witnesses and experts to testify on your behalf at trial.
Resolve the case through a verdict or settlement.
Lawsuits end in one of two ways: settlement or verdict. Settlements occur when one or both sides decide that it may be in their best interests to compromise, and the defendant agrees to pay an agreed sum of money in exchange for the plaintiff dropping the case. Verdicts occur when a case goes to trial, and a jury decides whether or not a plaintiff is entitled to compensation, and if so, how much. In some ways, trials can represent a risk, as verdicts are often larger than settlements, but juries are also unpredictable.
An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can assist you in weighing these options when deciding whether to seek a settlement or take a case to trial. At the end of the day, the decision whether to settle a case rests entirely in the plaintiff’s own hands.
Bailey & Glasser, LLP Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Bailey & Glasser, LLP is a national law firm with extensive experience in litigating mesothelioma cases. We understand the devastating nature of a mesothelioma diagnosis and the ways in which the disease impacts every part of a family’s life. Because of that understanding, our mesothelioma lawsuit practice is driven by a strong sense of justice.
To the fullest extent possible, we’re ready to assist our clients in obtaining compensation for the injuries they may have suffered due to exposure to asbestos. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.