Health issues resulting from asbestos exposure is one of America’s biggest travesties. Over 27 million Americans experienced exposure to asbestos during a seven-decade period. That ran from the 1920s when asbestos products became widely used until the mid-1980s when it was no longer possible to ignore or hide how dangerous asbestos fibers were to human health.
Asbestos litigation is currently the longest-running tort in United States civil law. Many asbestos exposure victims wonder if they have a case. Experienced mesothelioma attorneys can help people determine if they can pursue legal action.
How Are Mesothelioma Cases Evaluated?
Many people who are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases turn to the courts to have their case compensated. These diseases include life-threatening cases of mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis as well as other issues like pleural disorders caused by asbestos exposure.
Innocent victims of negligent asbestos product manufacturers and suppliers require help in litigating their case. Their first step in the legal process should be turning to a law firm specializing in asbestos litigation to have their case evaluated.
During case evaluation, lawyers determine if the victim has a valid case for claiming compensation for their asbestos-related disease. A case evaluation also concludes whether a claim will have a successful outcome.
A successful claim includes the actual monetary value placed on the client’s case. Attorneys who practice in the asbestos-related law field know what to look for in evaluations. They also know how to investigate a client’s background and uncover facts to prove their case.
Asbestos-Related Cases Evaluate Differently from Regular Cases
Asbestos litigation is different from regular personal injury cases. General legal practitioners usually aren’t equipped to deal with something as complex as asbestos litigation. This field has evolved through American courts to have special rules of its own. High volumes of asbestos lawsuits and compensation claims resulted in courts establishing unique procedures to streamline the workload.
Evaluation by an experienced asbestos lawyer ensures a client’s case is suitable for litigation as well as what particular compensation form is the best fit. While most personal injury claims result in a lawsuit approach for compensation, asbestos litigations have other remedial options. Complainants ultimately seek money to cover medical expenses, lost income and suffering.
Because asbestos cases are so prevalent but difficult to litigate, one of the first steps a skilled attorney takes is evaluating which form of legal action to recommend. This depends on the severity of the disease, the level of negligence causing it and how well documented the case facts are.
Asbestos-related compensation has these recourses:
- Lawsuit: Evaluating an asbestos case for filing a legal lawsuit takes time and a high degree of knowledge in this specialized field. Although asbestos-caused disease claims are technically personal injury claims, experienced lawyers know to evaluate them differently. Asbestos cases are not a one-time event where the cause and wrongful party are clearly identifiable. These lawsuits are based on establishing a pattern of wrongful behavior which can be attributed to a number of parties. Lawsuits are often filed in asbestos cases to commence an action intended to end in a negotiated settlement.
- Settlement: Approximately 95% of asbestos-related lawsuits result in a negotiated settlement. A proper case evaluation by an experienced legal team forecasts the likelihood of an out-of-court settlement where the defendant agrees to compensate the plaintiff at a reduced rate from what the initial claim stated. Almost always, the defendant is released from blame which is counterproductive to a plaintiff seeking punitive damages. Most parties reach a common ground where their risk is reduced by a lesser payout.
- Trust Funds: An asbestos-specializing lawyer will evaluate a client’s case for trust fund application. Rather than seeking compensation by a court-ordered verdict or negotiated settlement, skilled attorneys evaluate if a case qualifies for already established bankruptcy trust funds. This is a unique feature in asbestos litigation. When the mass of asbestos lawsuits started in the later 20th century, many asbestos companies filed for bankruptcy protection. Part of their restructuring required trust funds being established to compensate present and future claims. Careful case evaluation often determines if a client’s best course is accessing a trust fund.
- Administrative Compensation: Another evaluation avenue is applying for administrative compensation through workers’ compensation insurance or a government agency like the Department of Veterans Affairs. An attorney will evaluate if a claimant had asbestos exposure during military service. If so, lawsuits are usually non-effective. If case evaluation determines a worker suffered multiple exposures at different job sites, it may be nearly impossible to identify a particular defendant. Then compensation through insurance processes may have the best return.
Evaluating Medical History
A plaintiff’s medical history is crucial to establishing an asbestos-related case. That includes whether compensation is claimed by a lawsuit, reached in a settlement, provided by a trust fund or given through administrative agencies. A client’s family doctor will be one part of a case evaluation. Lawyers rely on medical specialists such as oncologists, pathologists, pulmonologists and radiologists.
Case evaluation takes in when asbestos exposure occurred and the time before disease symptoms presented. It’s vital to know the date when a disease was diagnosed. There is a limited period for filing a lawsuit and that time frame starts from the date of diagnosis. The time frame a patient has for filing a lawsuit is called a statute of limitations and it varies according to state jurisdiction. Some states have a 1-year limitation while others extend it out to 6 years.
Evaluating Asbestos Exposure Occurrence
Determining where a client experienced asbestos exposure is another vital piece in case evaluation. Often, clients know exactly when, where and what type of asbestos exposure they had. Evidence comes from employment records and coworker testimony. Individual products containing asbestos are identified and the manufacturers are known.
Other clients have a difficult time establishing where they suffered exposure and from what products. Many people worked multiple jobs where they may have been exposed to asbestos-containing materials. Not knowing specific details is challenging for lawyers doing a case evaluation. Most experienced law firms have databases or access to records establishing sites and products made from asbestos.
Evaluating Negligence in Asbestos-Related Cases
Evaluating the party or parties who supplied products causing a client’s asbestos-related disease is tough in some cases. Establishing they showed carelessness, recklessness or gross negligence can be tougher. Usually, the asbestos supplier will already be known and established as a previously negligent party. This makes litigation easier and gives a stronger case for compensation.
Experienced attorneys will evaluate their defendant’s track record and ability to compensate their client. Some negligent parties are still in business and have the resources available to properly settle with a plaintiff. Most of the big asbestos offenders have dissolved or established trust funds. Occasionally, a new defendant may surface. When this happens, your lawyer will evaluate them before deciding appropriate action.
Evaluating an Individual Plaintiff
The individual plaintiff or client’s personal situation forms a large part of the case evaluation. Lawyers specializing in asbestos litigation look at their clients as people, not commodities. Each person has a different story, background, and future.
These factors play into an overall case evaluation:
- Age of the individual and remaining life expectancy
- Past, present and future medical and support costs
- Number of dependents and their status
- Income loss over an entire period
- Specific disease type
- Whether exposure was first or second hand
- Prognosis and development stage
- Pain, suffering, and distress
- Lifestyle factors such as smoking and preexisting disease
- Complications from other diseases
- Application of punitive damages
- Case law and court precedents
Evaluating a Law Firm’s Ability to Represent an Asbestos-Related Case
Evaluating a law firm is critical to ensure you’re properly represented. If you’re considering legal recourse, the law firm you work with must have the skills to get you your rightful compensation.
Asbestos cases are specialized litigations. Attorneys need to be experienced in litigating asbestos cases and have a reputation for successful trial verdicts, negotiating settlements and knowing what compensation funds are available. They also need to be compassionate and understanding of their clients’ emotional states and individuality.
For more information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, contact our Justice Support Team today.