Arriving at a Negotiated Settlement
Negotiating a settlement is a complex legal maneuver requiring a skilled legal team. Most judges encourage lawyers for plaintiffs and defendants to cooperate and reach a settlement that is fair for both sides. This saves expensive public court time, speeds up the legal process and lets both sides move on with other priorities.
To understand how an asbestos-case settlement works, it’s necessary to look at the entire tort litigation process. Each step requires diligence and documented evidence.
Asbestos-case lawsuit litigations proceed this way:
- Step 1: Lawyers work with injured people to research and document their case history. This includes where asbestos exposure occurred, when it happened, the amount and type of exposure, the resulting injuries, the degree of manufacturer negligence, previous case precedents and assessing the value of compensation claims.
- Step 2: Lawsuit claims are filed in a court with the right jurisdiction for the case. This depends on the state where exposure occurred, where the claimant resides and where the defendant’s business operated. Asbestos lawsuits can filed by living people or their relatives in a wrongful death suit.
- Step 3: In the pretrial stage, lawyers collect and present evidence. It’s also common for witnesses to testify. No decision on liability or compensation is made. Each party’s case strength is tested.
- Step 4: The trial phase is where decisions get made. All evidence is placed before a jury or, in some cases called a bench trial, a judge acts alone in deliberating outcome.
Negotiated settlements can happen anywhere along the four-step process. However, once a trial verdict is reached, settlements are no longer possible.
It’s a risky situation for both defendants and plaintiffs to let the court process decide their fate. Therefore, most litigations conclude with both sides reaching a settlement before a verdict. Sometimes, it’s on the courthouse steps right before starting a trial.
While a trial is usually the final say, appeals sometimes occur. If the opposing side successfully appeals your case, you could receive nothing.
Negotiating a compensation settlement takes knowledge, patience and persistence. Civil litigation is a transparent process that exposes all the relevant facts. That’s fundamental to the justice system and vital to reaching a fair settlement.
Some factors disclosed in the settlement process include:
- Degree of Personal Injury: It must be shown that asbestos exposure caused serious harm. Exposure without injury is a thin reason to seek compensation. On the other hand, severe, life-threatening impairments like mesothelioma or lung cancer can result in large settlements.
- Total Economic Loss: Medical expenses, lost income, spouse and child dependency, pain, suffering and legal costs are calculated and become part of a final settlement amount.
- Claimant Age: The claimant’s reasonable remaining life expectancy is an important factor. Settlement amounts are less when the disease is advanced, as opposed to claimants who could be earning an income.
- Medical Causation: Personal lifestyle issues contribute to settlements. Smoking is a big factor, as are pre-existing diseases that exacerbate asbestos-related illnesses.
- Jurisdiction: Settlements vary according to legal jurisdictions. Some states lean towards higher compensation awards than others. They also have different criteria and encouragement for parties to settle.