Nothing can possibly make up for the pain, suffering and loss caused by someone else's greed and disregard for life in the name of profit. That said, the law provides remedies that allow you to seek compensation for your own financial losses and expenses, as well as for your pain and suffering. It may also allow you to ask the court that those who caused your pain and suffering be punished.
Torts, Defendants and Plaintiffs
Tort is a term which refers to that area of the law dealing with personal injury. You may have heard the term "tort reform" on television or read something about it in the papers. Through "tort reform," corporations who wind up as defendants in liability cases are trying to limit the amount they are required to pay in compensation for the pain and injury they cause to others.
One such effort was Senate Bill 852, which would have set up a federal trust fund against which asbestos victims could file claims. Described by the bill's sponsor, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), as a "bill to create a fair and efficient system to resolve claims of victims for bodily injury caused by asbestos exposure, and for other purposes," SB 852 was actually intended to protect corporate interests. The bill was defeated in a bi-partisan vote on 14 February 2006.
In June of that same year, a coalition of 47 corporations that included CertainTeed, Owens-Illinois, General Electric, Ingersoll-Rand, Union Carbide, and Amchem Products filed a motion in federal court, asking that thousands of pending asbestos suits be dismissed. The motion was made on the grounds that certain doctors had refused to answer questions regarding their diagnoses. These doctors were also unwilling to have patient x-rays examined in court. In the opinion of these corporations, this gave cause to question the validity of such diagnoses.
To be fair, many of the diagnoses in these cases had been performed in mass screenings that had been funded by attorneys in an attempt to recruit clients. The validity of diagnoses made on the basis of these "screenings" has been brought into question in some cases.
As a plaintiff, you can help your attorney build a solid case by making sure that you are thoroughly examined and diagnosed by an experienced, qualified physician which may include an oncologist as well as your primary care physician. The diagnosis should include a biopsy but may also include a CAT scan as well as x-rays. There should be no room for doubt when evidence of your illness is presented in court.
The mesothelioma lawyer who represents you should have solid experience in determining compensation for mesothelioma in addition to all other aspects of tort law as it relates to asbestos illnesses.
Compensation for malignant mesothelioma varies from case to case. Whether or not punitive damages are awarded, the cost of medical care and the amount of lost income, among other factors, may affect the amount of any value the claim may have.
Sometimes the attorneys on both sides will make an effort to come to an out-of-court mesothelioma settlement, meaning that the defendant agrees to pay a definite amount now rather than risk having the judge or jury award a larger amount at the trial's conclusion. While such compensation may be smaller than a jury award, it can spare you the time and discomfort of litigation - which can and often does proceed for months, if not years and it guarantees a payment; there are no guarantees in trials. In the end however, the decision is yours. Your attorney may recommend that you accept a settlement, but you are under no obligation to do so.
If your attorney has taken your case on a contingency basis - meaning s/he and his/her firm receives a percentage of the award or settlement, which is usual practice - s/he will be entitled to recover any fees and expenses before you receive any monies due. In most instances attorney's fees are around 40%. In addition, s/he and the firm have likely incurred substantial expenses in the course of gathering evidence, which also come out of the award. An experienced attorney will have taken these fees and expenses into consideration when determining compensation; however, be aware that legal proceedings can have an element of unpredictability; there is no practical way for any lawyer to know what his/her fees and expenses will finally come to beyond a reasonable estimate.