Filing a mesothelioma claim is an overwhelming and intimidating process for most plaintiffs, but the process itself is fairly predictable due to years of active mesothelioma litigation. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare, mentally and emotionally, and eliminate some of the stress.
Keep in mind that many asbestos defendants and their legal teams have years of experience fighting mesothelioma claims within the legal system. They will use many tactics against you to try to reduce or eliminate the need to make a payment. It’s their job. Listen to your own mesothelioma attorney and just take each day one step at a time.
Here’s what may occur after you file your mesothelioma case:
1. The defendants will try to deny your claims
Defendants never admit fault. It’s upsetting to see people deny your mesothelioma claim or blatantly lie, but it’s also to be expected. The defendants will try to say that absolutely anything but their negligence caused your illness.
Part of this process will also include discrediting you and trying to prove that you don’t have a claim. Your personal life and history won’t be off limits, as the defendant’s legal team will try everything they can to get the case thrown out quickly and early.
2. You will be asked to provide records and answer questions
Next, you will be asked to prove yourself. You will need to provide your medical records, work history and any other records the defendant requests. They will use these records to try to prove that your illness was caused by something else.
You may also undergo discovery and deposition interviews. These interviews may be video-recorded and used later in court, so it’s important you dress as if you are going to trial. Your attorney may schedule trial interviews to help you prepare for the interview style and types of questions you will be asked.
Discovery interviews are comprised of open-ended questions that attorneys will use to uncover potential flaws in your story. The defense attorney will take notes throughout this interview and then follow up on your answers afterward. They may contact people you know, past employers, and anyone else who they think may help discredit your story.
Deposition interviews are a little more intense. The defendants are given only one chance to perform a deposition interview so they will ask you all their questions within one interview. You may feel attacked or even confused by some of the questions, but try to remain composed and collected.
3. You may be offered a settlement
Trial is a risky process. Neither side can ever guarantee an outcome, which is why the vast majority of mesothelioma cases are settled before they reach court. In fact, your mesothelioma attorney may tell you right from the beginning that a settlement is your objective.
The defendants will offer you a settlement if they think you have a chance of winning before a judge or jury. However, this doesn’t mean you will win, as courts are known to be fickle. Denying a settlement means you may be in trial for years and walk away with nothing at all. This gamble is the inherent risk of going to court and is the reason why so many mesothelioma plaintiffs settle in advance.
Take some time to consider whether you want to accept the settlement amount. Your attorney may also be able to negotiate a higher amount, within reason, but negotiations don’t always work out. Now is a good time to talk to your attorney about your options and the implications of a settlement, and take time for honest self-reflection.
4. You may go to court
If a settlement is not reached before trial, your case will go to trial. Each state has different processes and procedures for trial, and you will need to rely on your attorney to help you navigate through the entire process.
Keep in mind that you may not have to go to court. It will be up to both your attorney and the defense attorney to determine whether your presence is helpful to their case. If not, the defendants may use your discovery and deposition tapes may, or the trial may rely solely on other testimony and evidence.
At the end of the trial, if the judge (or jury) rules in your favor, you will be awarded a settlement amount. These settlements are sometimes in the millions of dollars. However, if the court rules in favor of the defendant, you won’t be awarded anything at all.
5. Your mesothelioma attorney will support you along the way
Filing a mesothelioma claim is an emotionally challenging process, but your mesothelioma attorney is there to support and guide you.
Your attorney will help you:
- Build your case
- File your mesothelioma claim before the statute of limitations
- Gather documents, records and reports
- Prepare answers to the defendant’s questions
- Understand the implications of a settlement
- Represent you in a trial
If you work with an experienced mesothelioma attorney, he or she will help you prepare for each step and provide you as much guidance as possible.