When an individual learns he or she has mesothelioma, the news can be quite devastating. Asbestos-associated disease can take 30 to 40 years or even longer to develop and cause symptoms. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer related to asbestos exposure. It is important to contact a mesothelioma law firm as soon as possible after diagnosis, because filing a legal claim is a time-sensitive matter.
Asbestos-related disease claims are not one-size-fits-all. Most personal injury lawyers do not have experience in defending mesothelioma victims or legal claims relating to asbestos exposure. For this reason, it is essential for the victim and/or survivors to reach out to a lawyer with an asbestos litigation background before taking next steps. The right lawyer will effectively guide the victim and his or her family members through the litigation process. The mesothelioma attorney will discuss what the client-plaintiff should expect after filing a lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations: Time-Sensitive Claims
Every state limits the time the victim has to file a legal claim after receiving a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis. Mesothelioma lawsuits are time-sensitive. The mesothelioma attorney understands the importance of filing the claim before the state’s expiry of the statute of limitations.
In some cases, the plaintiff-client may have a choice of several states in which to file the legal claim. The attorney will thoroughly evaluate the potential case and help the client to select the most favorable court.
Mesothelioma Legal Claim
After the client hires legal counsel, the mesothelioma attorney will file the case and manage resulting details. The client should anticipate what happens during the litigation process.
First, the client’s attorney and the opposition defendant’s attorney will participate in discovery and fact gathering. Then, depositions occur. Afterwards, opposing counsel will discuss potential settlement of the case.
The experienced attorney always prepares for a trial, even if the case is likely to settle before the trial begins. Should a trial occur, witnesses will testify and a verdict will be reached. In some cases, an appeal will be filed and the timelines of legal process will be extended.
When the client decides to file a legal claim, the mesothelioma lawyer acts as a guide. While each client’s case is unique, there are a series of common steps related to all asbestos-associated lawsuits:
#1: Information Gathering and Preparation
The lawyer gathers information about the plaintiff’s prior exposure to asbestos and the development of illness to assess potentially liable parties. The lawyer must also consider the court in which to file the lawsuit.
Some clients are eligible to file the legal claim in several courts. The experienced litigator uses facts and laws to build a solid mesothelioma case.
#2: Filing the Legal Claim
The next step requires the plaintiff’s attorney to file the written complaint with the court. Filing the claim initiates the legal process. As the case moves ahead, the complaint is presented in the court’s required formats. The information required by the court must be provided.
An experienced litigator is familiar with the local court rules and specific issues that tend to present in asbestos claims. He or she uses prior experience to best present the plaintiff’s case.
#3: Exchange and Responses
The mesothelioma lawsuit is likely to have more than one defendant, and each receives a copy of the legal complaint. Defendants have the opportunity to respond to the complaint in writing. In a large percentage of cases, any years have passed since the plaintiff was exposed to asbestos.
The originally responsible business may be owned by another company or may have failed. The plaintiff’s attorney takes time to identify and locate the liable party or parties and to provide the necessary parties with the written complaint. The attorney carefully orchestrates the service to these parties.
When all defendants are served with copies of the legal complaint, each has time to answer. This response period is usually 30 days. Most defendants do not admit liability or fault. They are likely to categorically deny the legal claim and hire defense counsel to fight it.
#4: Defensive Counter-Claims
Plaintiffs should be prepared for defensive behavior after the claim is filed. Defendants are likely to place all blame on the victim
They are likely to allege that:
(1) The plaintiff’s bad personal habits, such as cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, or drug use caused current health problems;
(2) The plaintiff’s family history shows that many relations have serious health issues; (3) The plaintiff’s job provided multiple asbestos exposure opportunities through the years;
(4) The plaintiff has received an inaccurate diagnosis or has not seen a board-certified practitioner;
(5) Plaintiff’s counsel did not file the legal claim correctly or did not file the claim within the time limit;
(6) The plaintiff was also exposed to asbestos and/or additional dangerous chemicals or substances at home;
(7) Survivors do not have proper status to file a wrongful death claim on the deceased victim’s behalf; and
(8) Plaintiff’s current physical condition is unrelated to previous asbestos exposure.
Defendants are likely to argue that the complaint is invalid and counter-claim that another business is responsible for exposing the plaintiff to asbestos. They may even claim that the plaintiff’s cancer is unrelated to asbestos at all.
Plaintiffs should not dwell on these defensive statements. The stakes in a mesothelioma or other asbestos-related lawsuit, such as asbestosis or lung cancer, are high. Defendants may pay millions of dollars to settle a claim and, if the case is tried in court, total compensation and damages may run into eight figures.
These experienced litigator is not surprised or worried by these responses. The plaintiff’s attorney anticipates them. He or she then answers each defendant in writing.
#5: Discovery and Evidence Collection
Both plaintiff and defendants’ lawyers collect information about allegations of the legal claim. Each side asks the other to respond to a series of written questions, provide documentation, and depose witnesses.
Information collected at this stage will be used as trial evidence exhibits. The discovery period may take months. If the plaintiff is quite ill, the experienced mesothelioma litigator will ask the court to speed discovery process.
Defendants’ attorneys search for proof that someone else is responsible for the plaintiff’s condition. They are likely to ask probing questions about personal topics, including the plaintiff’s medical history, employment, and personal life. They are likely to ask for information from friends and family, physicians, and work associates.
The plaintiff routinely agrees to participate in depositions by defendants’ counsel. The deposition process may be lengthy (a few days) or quite short (several hours). The plaintiff is not required to travel to a deposition most of the time.
The mesothelioma lawyer prepares the client’s responses to opposing counsel’s written questionnaire and documentation requests. He or she usually prepares the client for the deposition. For instance, the litigator will encourage the client to answer only the questions asked in short sentences. The attorney will also attend the deposition with the client.
Similarly, the plaintiff’s attorney will demand defendants’ depositions and documents concerning the defendants’ negligent disregard for the plaintiff’s health by previously exposing him or her to asbestos.
#6: Settlement Discussions
Asbestos-related trials are frequently precluded by settlement offers. Defendants are likely to offer money to settle the case before the trial begins.
The plaintiff’s attorney must bring all settlement offers to the client. He or she cannot make the decision to accept a proposed settlement. After discussing an offer of settlement, the lawyer will negotiate with opposing counsel to obtain a better result.
It is difficult for even experienced litigators to predict how much compensation the client will receive before the claim is filed. Variables include the plaintiff’s diagnosis and prognosis, medical history, defendants named in the claim, the court in which the lawsuit is filed, proof of the employer or consulting client’s negligence, and a host of additional factors.
Historically, most mesothelioma lawsuits settle before the case goes to trial. Some cases are tried in court. A judge and seated jury hear the case, reach a verdict, and award compensation and punitive damages.
The plaintiff’s settlement and damages are frequently aligned with the cost of medical expenses, lost income, unpaid bills, and physical and emotional pain that occur in patients with mesothelioma. Ultimately, cases built on facts and laws of the courts in which they are tried are strong cases.
A diagnosis of mesothelioma is not a guaranteed compensation victory for the plaintiff. The legal skill and experience of the mesothelioma law firm are essential keys to achieving fair compensatory awards and damages for injured victims.
The plaintiff’s current physical and mental condition, diagnosis, prognosis, and defendants’ liability must be communicated to the court in order to achieve the best results.
The trial process depends upon where the claimant’s lawsuit was filed. In some areas, it is non-essential for the plaintiff to physically appear in the courtroom. Plaintiff’s previous depositions, sworn statements, documentation, and other materials may be used in his or her stead.
If the plaintiff wins the lawsuit and defendants do not appeal, compensation payments are likely to begin within months of the trial.
Defendants have the right to appeal when the plaintiff wins the trials. Since defendants must file the appeal within a certain period, frequently 30 to 180 days, the plaintiff’s access to financial awards is delayed.
Defendants are required to post a type of collateral called a bond for the trial award amount while the appeal is heard.
If defendants lose the appeal, the plaintiff starts to receive compensation payments. If the defendants were successful in overturning the verdict, the award amount to the plaintiff is reduced or eradicated.
However, the appeals court begins with the condition that the facts known to the trial jury and judge are true. The appeals court can consider if the trial judge properly applied current law to the plaintiff’s case. Defendants’ attorneys may argue that legal errors were made in the previous trial.
The appellate court can opt to order a new trial or simply correct the identified error. For instance, defendants’ attorneys might show that the principal award and payments schedule contain computation errors.
The plaintiff’s attorney stands with the client or survivors during the appellate process until a final resolution is reached.
Legal Process and Expected Timeline
A mesothelioma patient may be in poor health. In many instances, the court will expedite legal process to accommodate the plaintiff’s needs. Without medical urgency, the time needed to file the legal claim and collect evidence usually takes several months or more.
Because defendants are in no hurry to pay the plaintiff’s claim, they will attempt to delay process. An experienced litigator for the plaintiff will do everything possible to quickly resolve the lawsuit. After the lawsuit is filed, the mesothelioma lawyer handles each step to enable the client to focus on family and health matters.
The court’s location can also determine the legal process timeline. Plaintiff’s attorney will make recommendations about the most favorable court for the case. If the lawsuit is filed in a state other than the one the plaintiff currently resides, the plaintiff will not need to travel there.
The mesothelioma law firm will take care of every detail and visit his or her client as needed to manage the case to successful completion.
Survivors and Mesothelioma Lawsuits
If the plaintiff’s health is poor when the original legal claim is filed but dies before it is resolved, the plaintiff’s loved ones may have the right to assume roles as plaintiffs.
In other instances, family members file wrongful death legal claims against the liable parties. The resolution of a wrongful death claim can assist dependent family with the deceased’s medical bills, nursing care, funeral arrangements, and lost income. The victim’s family may also receive financial compensation for emotional distress and suffering.
In most states, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed within 12-24 months after the victim suffering from asbestos-related illness passes away.
Importance of the Right Mesothelioma Attorney
The choice of the injured mesothelioma victim is possibly the most important decision he or she will make regarding the lawsuit. If the victim was previously employed by a corporation that is no longer in business, trust funds may have been established to assist in paying injured workers’ medical bills and patient care expenses.
The chosen litigator should be knowledgeable and experienced about these trusts and can assist the client in preparing and filing a claim. Since more than one defendant may be liable for the client’s suffering, the mesothelioma attorney is familiar with and performs research about asbestos manufacturers. Before filing the lawsuit, the lawyer helps the client to identify all potentially liable parties.