People who develop mesothelioma from asbestos exposure have the opportunity to seek compensation from the manufacturers of the asbestos product. There are a few different ways someone can pursue legal action for asbestos injuries, but each type of case process must be initiated before the running of a claimant’s statute of limitations.
Statutes of limitations act as deadlines for filing claims in court. Each state has a set of statutes of limitations, and they will differ depending on the type of claim at issue. Symptoms of mesothelioma do not develop for many years after exposure. Some people will not notice cancer symptoms until 20 or more years later. For this reason, potential mesothelioma claimants generally do not have to worry about their statutes of limitations expiring before they are aware of their illnesses.
However, after receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma, a person’s time to file a legal claim begins running. Because every state has unique laws regarding filing deadlines, each claimant’s statute of limitations will depend on where he or she lived at the time of diagnosis (and potentially where he or she lived or worked at the time of exposure) and the date when he or she was diagnosed.
In addition, if a claimant is deceased, and his or her family is filing the legal action, the statute of limitations will be different. The filing deadline will usually be calculated from the date of death, rather than the date of diagnosis. It is essential for victims to work with experienced mesothelioma and asbestos injury attorneys to be sure their statutes of limitations do not expire.
Class action lawsuits are legal actions in which many people are part of the one lawsuit that has only a few named plaintiffs. People wishing to bring a class action lawsuit must meet specific requirements before a court will “certify” the class and allow the action to proceed.
While mesothelioma and asbestos lawsuits have roots in class action litigation, this type of claim is no longer an option. Claims must be presented individually so that a court can evaluate the specific facts and injuries at issue in each person’s case. This is actually a better way to ensure receipt of fair compensation, as opposed to a class action in which most people are not personally involved in the legal proceedings.
An option many people pursue when they have mesothelioma claims is filing a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the asbestos product, the company that installed the asbestos product, or the company that mined the asbestos. In a personal injury lawsuit, the person who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma will file a claim in court through a lawyer. The claimant will need to be able to present proof of the following:
- His or her exposure to asbestos — at work, in the military, at home, second-hand exposure from a family member;
- Proof of the duration of exposure;
- A diagnosis of mesothelioma from a licensed medical provider;
- Information about how mesothelioma has affected his or her life — physically, emotionally, financially.
If the victim dies of mesothelioma before the lawsuit is filed or during the course of the lawsuit, his or her family can file the action or continue an action that has already been initiated. The family members will need to present the same types of proof and further show evidence that their loved one’s death was caused by mesothelioma from asbestos exposure. The family members will then be entitled to compensation awarded for the claim, in accordance with an order from the court.
Because of the onslaught of asbestos claims during the last several decades, many asbestos companies filed for bankruptcy. People cannot collect compensation from bankrupt and dissolved companies by way of standard personal injury suits. However, the courts overseeing asbestos companies’ bankruptcy proceedings did not want to leave future victims with no options for recourse against otherwise responsible parties. Therefore, trust funds were created to ensure compensation for victims who were exposed to asbestos made by companies now bankrupt.
The trusts were often created in the names of bankrupt asbestos companies, but they are not actually run by these companies. They are run by neutral trustees who have a duty to ensure claimants receive appropriate compensation.
To file a trust claim, a person must be able to meet specific criteria, including the establishment of his or her exposure to the bankrupt company’s asbestos. If the subject company did not have any hand in the relevant asbestos product, the trust does not have an obligation to pay out any money to that claimant. Other criteria will be specific to each trust but will usually include some parameters on a timeframe of exposure and medical history. Successful claimants will be compensated from the trust based on a predetermined percentage of the total case value.
Most viable mesothelioma claims settle before reaching a trial. These cases have already been extensively litigated, so the parties usually do not need to wait to see how a judge or jury will decide another case. Frequently, mesothelioma cases can be assessed and negotiated before a trial date.
A claimant who is able to show proof of the necessary elements in his or her case has a high likelihood of receiving a significant sum of money. The amount of money in each person’s case will depend on the facts and circumstances of his or her claim. Mesothelioma claimants are entitled to seek compensation for all of the following damages:
- Costs of medical care related to mesothelioma diagnostics and treatment
- Wages and income lost because of mesothelioma, including lost earning potential
- Compensation for physical and mental pain and suffering caused by mesothelioma and asbestos exposure
Cases with greater damages will likely be compensated at higher amounts. Many settlements and awards in these cases have stretched into the millions. To ensure the best chances of recovery, potential claimants should be sure they hire attorneys who are familiar with mesothelioma litigation and who have experience successfully litigating these claims to settlement.