Mesothelioma Lawyer Costs

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Being diagnosed with mesothelioma is devastating news. First, denial sets in. Then there’s fear, anger and despair. And somewhere thereafter, comes the debilitating worry about cost. However, specialized mesothelioma lawyers at national law firms will charge no fees to take on your case, and will only get paid if they secure compensation for you.

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Mesothelioma Litigation Costs Explained

Worry is a terrible state. Mesothelioma patients worry about their survival. They worry about undergoing treatment, the effect on their family and the cost of medical expenses, along with the loss of income. It’s understandable for someone to worry when they’ve been told they have an incurable disease brought on decades earlier by exposure to asbestos from negligent product manufacturers.

But one thing mesothelioma victims don’t have to worry about is paying a law firm to litigate a lawsuit on their behalf. Mesothelioma lawsuits run up legal expenses in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Attorney's Fees

Specialized mesothelioma attorneys deserve to be compensated for their time and expertise. But, that should never come out of their client’s pocket.

No credible and ethical law firm charges up-front fees or periodic billing during mesothelioma litigation. That’s not how the business works in mesothelioma or other asbestos-caused disease lawsuits. Mesothelioma suits have been filed in every federal and state civil court jurisdiction since the 1980s. Many claims ended with a court verdict, a negotiated settlement or accessing bankrupt asbestos company trust funds.

Billions of dollars have been awarded to damaged claimants. And no client represented by a leading American mesothelioma law firm has ever been charged before their case completed. That’s because the civil justice system in mesothelioma cases works on a contingency fee basis.

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Contingency Based Fees

A contingency refers to the fortuitous chance of an uncertain event or outcome. No experienced attorney specializing in mesothelioma litigation would remotely guarantee their client would win a lawsuit. It’s a gamble or chance at best to run a full trial and letting a judge or jury decide the outcome. Few clients would ever agree to pay a law firm on the speculation of a favorable verdict in something as complex as a mesothelioma case. The cost of losing would be unacceptable, never mind unaffordable for the vast majority of people.

Mesothelioma cases are a special type of personal injury lawsuit. They depend on the plaintiff identifying a defendant asbestos product manufacturer or supplier who negligently allowed the plaintiff to be exposed to asbestos fibers. The plaintiff has to prove they developed mesothelioma from the defendant’s careless actions. Often, many years have passed from the time of exposure to the time mesothelioma symptoms present.

Law firms specializing in mesothelioma litigation are well-capitalized and can afford to operate on a pay-it-forward basis. They don’t get paid until a case is settled and only then take a percentage of the settlement as their legal fee. This is called working on a contingency.

Contingency work is standard practice for many civil court cases, including almost all mesothelioma suits. This payment method developed because it was in the best interest of the administration of justice. Courts encouraged lawyers to work for a contingency as this allowed everyone access to the justice system regardless of their personal financial situation. Contingency fees prevented large corporations like asbestos companies with deep pockets to smother the little guy with legal bills.

With a contingency agreement, the plaintiff does not incur any costs whatsoever from their personal funds. All costs are incurred by the law firm until a settlement is reached. Only then are legal costs deducted from the settlement award. If a trail finds in favor of the defendant, there is no award and the law firm doesn’t get paid. Essentially, they’ve spent months or even several years working on the case for nothing.

Costs Incurred in a Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Law firms incur many separate costs during a mesothelioma lawsuit. All of these have to be paid along the way as individuals can’t be expected to wait for the case outcome in the hope they might be paid.

These are some of the many hard costs incurred by a law firm when litigating a mesothelioma suit.

  • Court Costs: All federal and state civil courts have incidental costs charged to the plaintiff and defendant. These include filing and response fees, document processing and transcript services. Costs incurred to run the justice system such as court time and support staff wages are absorbed by the taxpayer.
  • Attorney Salaries: Although contingency fees are collected by the law firm company, individual attorneys working on a mesothelioma lawsuit need to be paid regularly. Most law work is billed by the hour and absorbed by the firm until the case is settled.
  • Staff Wages and Benefits: Law firms employ a number of staff such as paralegals, researchers, understudies and clerical workers. Not only do these support workers require bi-weekly wages, they usually have expensive benefit packages.
  • Professional Witnesses: Mesothelioma lawsuits revolve around the medical and physical evidence associated with the individual circumstances. Most important evidence is introduced through expert witnesses who are highly-paid professionals. It’s common for expert witnesses to command $200 or more per hour.
  • Private Investigators: Much of the legwork in mesothelioma lawsuits is carried out by private investigators retained at the law firm’s expense. While not commanding the pay that expert witnesses do, private investigator time can be a good part of the overall case expense.
  • Depositions: Almost all mesothelioma lawsuits go through the discovery phase before reaching a settlement payout. Regular witnesses aren’t paid for their deposition time. However, professional recorders and interpreters are a cost incurred by the plaintiff.
  • Incidentals: There are many small or incidental expenses consumed in preparing and trying a mesothelioma suit. Costs for travel, lodging and meals are part of an investigation. Ultimately, these expenses are deducted from the eventual settlement disbursement.

Disbursing Lawsuit Settlements

Law firm contingency fees are fairly uniform for mesothelioma cases. Typically, fees average 33-40%. Every ethical mesothelioma attorney will be transparent about how their firm disburses compensation settlements. That includes how applicable taxes are deducted and distributed to the government.

There are two methods of settlement disbursing:

  1. Costs Deducted From Settlement Amount: Deducting hard costs from the overall gross settlement is the most favorable for the plaintiff, as the law firm’s contingency percentage is taken from a lower amount.
  2. Subtracting the Fee from the Remaining Settlement Amount: The other method has the firm taking their fee from the gross amount and then deducting hard costs from the balance with the remainder being paid to the plaintiff.

Retaining a Mesothelioma Lawyer

Every experienced law firm specializing in mesothelioma litigation will be up-front with their clients about what costs are involved in a lawsuit. The assigned attorney will lay out what to expect for an eventual payment provided the settlement results in the plaintiff’s favor. They’ll also be clear about their contingency fee percentage and how it’s disbursed from the gross settlement.

For more information on pursuing justice for your mesothelioma diagnosis, contact our Justice Support Team today.

Author:Stephanie Kidd

Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network

Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie Kidd works tirelessly as a dedicated advocate for the vulnerable and underrepresented. Stephanie worked as a copywriter for an agency whose focus was communicating safety procedures on construction work sites. With her extensive background in victim advocacy and a dedication to seeing justice done, Stephanie works hard to ensure that all online content is reliable, truthful and helpful.

Last modified: June 4, 2019

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  3. Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, “Trial Lawyers – A Report on the Asbestos Litigation Industry”, Retrieved from http://www.triallawyersinc.com/pdfs/TLI-ASBESTOS.pdf Accessed on 23 January 2018
  4. Martindale-Nolo Research, “How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Charge?”, Retrieved from https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/personal-injury/average-compensation-and-duration/how-much-does-a-personal-injury-charge.html Accessed on 23 January 2018
  5. Journal of Economic Perspectives, “Asbestos and the Future of Mass Torts”, Retrieved from http://econweb.ucsd.edu/~miwhite/asbestos-jep-final.pdf Accessed on 23 January 2018
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