What to Expect When Filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer, is almost always linked to exposure of asbestos. Those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma can often recover significant money damages through lawsuits, but it's important to understand how the process works and how long you have to sue.
Who is Responsible for Damages Related to Mesothelioma?
The company that manufactured the asbestos or the company that installed it may be responsible for the damages. In some cases, an insurance company or a special trust may be held liable for the damages.
What's the Statute of Limitation on Mesothelioma Lawsuits?
The statutes of limitations on mesothelioma lawsuits varies, depending on the state. Typically, this form of cancer takes 10-40 years to develop. Most states give people between one and five years after diagnosis or discovery of mesothelioma to file a lawsuit.
In states like Tennessee, California and Louisiana, the statute of limitations is just one year from diagnosis, so it's important for victims to file suit as soon as they discover the disease.
In cases where the victim dies, spouses and other heirs typically have one to three years after the date of death to file a wrongful death suit.
Each case must be filed individually, as every person's prognosis and medical history is different.
How Much Can Victims Recover in Damages?
Mesothelioma victims have a high chance of recovering substantial monetary damages in lawsuits, but it's nearly impossible to estimate the size of the award.
In some cases, a jury has awarded victims millions of dollars in damages. In other cases, victims have settled for comparatively little compensation.
A large percentage of the companies that manufactured or installed asbestos have either gone bankrupt or closed down over the years. In turn, the courts have required companies to set up large funds to compensate future victims of mesothelioma. Some funds still have a substantial amount of money left, so some victims are awarded the full value of their claims. In other cases, funds have depleted and far less money is available. Settlements must be rationed when funds are nearly depleted.
The size of the fund is just one part of the equation here. The victim's prognosis and case will also be taken into account. A few factors that will be considered include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
These are the three main factors (outside the size of the fund) that are considered when putting a dollar value on a case.
Another consideration is time. Victims who settle quickly often walk away with significantly less than those who wait to have their lawyers present the case to a jury.
Victims often choose to take the quick settlement because they can receive their payment in as little as a year, whereas a trial can take years to arrange. Time is something mesothelioma victims do not have.
All things considered, mesothelioma victims often walk away with settlements in the $1 million to $5 million range. When medical expenses, court costs and attorney fees are subtracted, victims usually get about two-thirds of the awarded damages.
How Long Do Mesothelioma Cases Take?
The majority of asbestos cases are settled outside of the courtroom. Some victims receive their payment in as little as a year after filing suit. If the case goes to trial, it may take two years or more to receive the awarded damages.
Due to the short life expectancy of mesothelioma victims, court rules in many states fast track these lawsuits to help victims get the compensation they're entitled to.
Most cases involving mesothelioma are handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning that the victim pays his or her lawyer a percentage of the awarded damages. Contingency fees are typically between 35% and 40% of the damages recovered.