Asbestos lawsuits constitute the largest single tort in the history of the nation. There have been more lawsuits filed over asbestos personal harms, asbestos product liability and asbestos wrongful deaths than in any other category or class of civil litigation. The numbers that are thrown around are staggering, and all seem to be estimates: 800,000 suits filed, 100-plus companies bankrupted, $200-plus billion in claims paid out. The only facts that are clear in asbestos litigation are that it is still going on because people are still developing malignant mesothelioma. And there are still more than enough lawyers to go around. How then, to select representation that works for you?
What Makes A Good Lawyer?
The simple answer to this question is experience. But what experience is crucial? There are several areas where knowledge of the mesothelioma legal landscape is critical; if for no other reason than plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma do not have a lot of time remaining to them to pursue litigation or any other earthly goal.
- A mesothelioma attorney must be familiar with the state laws where his client resides as well as the current trends in the selection of state courts for these cases. Some jurisdictions have developed reputations for being pro-defendant or pro-business. Others have become known for being sympathetic to people who are ill with an asbestos related disease.
- Recently, virtually all mesothelioma cases that are not filed in federal court have been filed in California or Illinois. It takes a knowledgeable attorney to understand the reasons for these tactics and an attorney who has the licensing to practice in the most advantageous court.
- Many mesothelioma cases are filed in federal court today; there are some districts that are more popular than others for mesothelioma cases in federal jurisprudence as well. Many districts have designated a judge to manage the asbestos case docket alone. Your mesothelioma & asbestos lawyer needs to be able to decide if a federal jurisdiction is favorable in your case, and if so which one; moreover, that attorney must be licensed to practice before the federal bench as well.
- Case law is constantly changing the rules that make for a successful mesothelioma compensation claim. Medical proof requirements have tightened in several jurisdictions due to fraud on the part of some unscrupulous attorneys and doctors. The evidence in your case must match up with the requirements of the jurisdiction where it is being filed.
- A mesothelioma attorney must be familiar with the trust funds that have been established by major corporations who have used this mechanism to settle asbestos liabilities as a step in emerging from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. There have been several settlements in the last three years, resulting in new trust funds to be added to the list. Filing a claim with a trust fund is a different procedure than filing a lawsuit; your attorney should know which is the better choice based on possible returns and the health condition of his client.
What Does A Good Lawyer Cost?
Most attorneys in this field work on a contingency basis. A potential attorney will conduct a thorough interview and inspection of medical records prior to taking on a case; there should be no charge for this consultation. Most mesothelioma clients are older, with limited resources. Attorneys in the field are accustomed to being paid with a portion of the settlement that they obtain through the trial process or through managing claims with the asbestos trust funds. That percentage is usually a fixed rate, possibly subject to the amount of work involved in preparing the case. Like all fee for service arrangements, it should be subject to discussion if not negotiation. In any case there should be no charge to you prior to obtaining a mesothelioma settlement.
Financial Compensation for Asbestos Victims
A personal injury civil suit covers compensation for a wide range of impacts that injury or disease may have. A defendant found guilty of causing harm – such as asbestos exposure leading to illness – may be held responsible for medical costs up to the date of the court decision and settlement, and for estimated future medical costs as well. In some asbestos cases defendants have been held responsible for illness that may develop in the future.
Lost wages are compensated for under the rules of personal injury or product liability. If you are unable ever to work again, compensation for future losses are figured in as well. There can be compensation for physical and emotional pain, for loss of physical or social functionality, and for loss of the ability to maintain a spousal relationship. There are formulas for pain and suffering compensation, but often it depends on the empathy of the jury as well. Finally, the responsible defendant is required to pay your legal costs.
Mesothelioma Statute of Limitations
There are most certainly deadlines involved in the filing of any personal injury or product liability suit. There are statutes of limitation in every state for mesothelioma lawsuits, usually amounting to two or three years from the point that the harm has occurred. Because of the extraordinary latency period for mesothelioma cancer, the concept for “discovery” of the harm has essentially been ruled to mean the date of diagnosis. That concept has come to various court jurisdictions with varying rapidity and in some cases there have been exceptions. Once again, it is a matter of working in a jurisdiction where a statute of limitations won’t be strictly interpreted to favor the corporate defendant, and the medical meaning of “diagnosis” won’t be subject to challenge.
As with personal injury actions there are statutes of limitation for wrongful death suits, ranging from one to five years or more. A family who has lost someone to an asbestos disease has a limited period of time to file a wrongful death suit seeking compensation for the loss of a loved one. In some cases where a statute has run in the state where the plaintiff resides, the attorney will file the action in another state – the state where the asbestos exposure occurred, for example – if the statute of limitations has not run on such a filing. Sometimes this tactic works and sometimes not; what is important is that your mesothelioma attorney be aware of the options.
There are also deadlines for federal court actions and for filing claims with many of the asbestos trusts. An experienced mesothelioma attorney should have thorough knowledge of all of these benchmarks.
Mesothelioma Attorneys, Good Resources
Mesothelioma is a rare and lethal disease but like all diseases, progress is being made in and research. Many mesothelioma attorneys are familiar with the medical advances, with the more successful treatment regimens and with the personnel who have become known for their work in the field. Recent developments such as the Anderson Center at the University of Texas or the recent developments at Brigham and Women’s, a Boston medical center affiliated with Harvard Medical School.
There are sixty four cancer centers in the U.S. recognized by the National Cancer Institute for their dedication to cancer research and treatment that have become centers for federally funded research as well. The health of a client is as important to a mesothelioma attorney as it is to the client’s doctor. The best attorneys in the field know where the thoracic surgeons, the radiotherapy experts and the best cancer clinics are to be found.