The How, Who, When and Why of Mesothelioma Litigation
Mesothelioma litigation makes up a highly specialized area of the law that concerns injuries from asbestos—a dangerous carcinogen (i.e. cancer-causing substance). With more than 3000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed annually in the U.S. alone, it’s no surprise that so many law firms dedicate themselves exclusively to cases involving asbestos-related damages.
The following article answers four very basic questions about the litigation of personal injury claims connected to asbestos exposure:
Who? Law firms and lawyers that specialize in mesothelioma litigation are generally considered to be the legal experts on asbestos and its resulting illnesses. Because asbestos claims involve many highly technical aspects relating to the medical science of mesothelioma and other related illnesses, attorneys who handle these cases should be both educated and experienced in relevant topics.
Why? Several thousands of victims suffer from mesothelioma annually, resulting in costly medical bills for cancer treatments, medications and hospitalization. Additionally, many of these individuals are also hit with lost wages from not working due to illness. Such expenses cause a significant burden for victims and their families.
What’s worse is that the deadly exposure that made them ill could likely have been prevented. By holding the negligent entities—generally asbestos manufacturers or their remaining trusts—responsible, victims can recoup some of their losses and lessen the burden on their loved ones.
When? Very strict laws of timeliness, called statutes of limitations, govern mesothelioma litigation and vary from state to state. These statutes impose deadlines on how long a victim has to file a lawsuit, after being diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness. Some states allow a window of as many as six years, while others restrict to only one. A chart of each state’s specific statutes of limitations can be found here.
Because victims have a limited amount of time in which they may file their claim and pursue a settlement, it is crucial that they secure legal representation and begin the process as soon as possible.
Settlements can take anywhere from months to years, depending on several factors. One of the most influential is whether or not the case goes to trial, which typically lengthens the process considerably. Most cases settle before ever reaching this point.
How? After retaining an attorney, the next step towards mesothelioma compensation is to provide all pertinent information about the illness and manner of exposure. Once verified, all of this information must be documented and compiled as evidence. With their attorney’s guidance, victims can then choose the court or courts in which to file. The attorney does this on their behalf.
A process server will be hired to deliver notice of the lawsuit to the defendant. Once served, the defendant has a set amount of time to respond—generally, no more than one month. Unless the defendant concedes fault (which is unlikely), both parties will next undergo the discovery process, during which both sides gather information from one another regarding their respective cases.
If a settlement is not reached prior to the set trial date, the mesothelioma litigation case will be presented to either a judge or jury, who will then determine its fate.