Average Wrongful Death Settlements for Mesothelioma: What to Expect in a Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Suit
By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ Oct 15, 2022
By William L. Kuzmin, Esq.
After a struggle with mesothelioma, death can leave loved ones with more than grief. On top of funeral costs and other final expenses, medical bills are a common extra burden for families. However, for some families, a successful wrongful death lawsuit could help offset these costs by allowing reimbursement for financial damages as well as emotional pain and suffering.
Studying average mesothelioma settlements can provide useful information on the range of potential settlements and verdicts. But keep in mind that every case is unique, and average wrongful death settlements for mesothelioma won’t always reflect your situation. Still, a skilled and experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help ensure you get full and fair financial compensation.
Minimum Wrongful Death Settlement for Mesothelioma
If you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, you may be asking if filing a wrongful death lawsuit is worth the time and effort. Taking a look at the lower limits of claims like these can help you make your decision.
Who Can Receive a Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Settlement
The person responsible for filing the claim is the estate representative, typically named in a will. This may be a surviving spouse, a child, or another close family member or friend. If there is no will, the court will choose a representative.
Often, when a personal injury lawsuit is filed after a person dies, there are two separate claims. One claim is for wrongful death. A claim for wrongful death is usually brought by family members of the deceased plaintiff, such as a spouse or child. The spouse or children of a deceased plaintiff can be considered wrongful death beneficiaries.
Eligible wrongful death beneficiaries can potentially recover individual damages for their personal losses. The second claim that is usually brought up after a person dies is called a survival claim. A survival claim is a claim that belongs to the estate of the deceased plaintiff. Concerning survival claims, settlement goes to the estate rather than the representative.
This means heirs divide the survival claim award in the same way they divide other assets. If a mesothelioma patient has already filed an asbestos lawsuit but passes away before it resolves, family members can amend the claim to include both a wrongful death and survival claim. A new statute of limitations begins upon a patient’s death, even if the original statute of limitations has expired.
However, the discovery rule may not apply to wrongful death claims.
The Lowest Mesothelioma Settlements on Record
Like other personal injury cases, potential recoveries for wrongful death and survival claims will vary depending on the underlying facts. In cases with limited evidence establishing a defendant’s liability or limited medical evidence proving that a plaintiff’s death was caused by asbestos, settlements and verdicts can be smaller due to the weakness in the proofs. Because the amount of a settlement or verdict will vary depending on the strength of the evidence developed during litigation, families of mesothelioma victims must retain a skilled and experienced mesothelioma lawyer.
Types of Mesothelioma Claims That Apply to a Wrongful Death Case
Lawyers can amend any type of mesothelioma claim to include a wrongful death claim if a victim passes away before the case comes to an end. In addition, family members can initiate a wrongful death and survival claim after a plaintiff dies. However, these cases will require an official mesothelioma diagnosis as well as evidence that the negligence of one or more guilty parties led to asbestos exposure.
Maximum Wrongful Death Settlement for Mesothelioma
The average settlement for mesothelioma cases can vary depending on numerous factors. Factors that will influence the amount of a settlement include the strength of the underlying evidence, the nature of the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, economic loss, and even the jurisdiction in which the claim is filed. Some states have legal caps on damages that reduce settlement and verdict amounts. You may need to adjust your expectations to the maximum in your area.
The Highest Mesothelioma Settlements on Record
The highest wrongful death verdicts are often in the millions of dollars. However, while juries may award high amounts, defendants may appeal and have the amount reduced. In addition, settlements out of court are often lower than jury-awarded compensation.
One example of a significant wrongful death verdict was a $15 million award given to the family of a mesothelioma victim. The jury awarded it to the family of a New Jersey construction worker. The average high settlement would be between $2 million and $7 million.
Types of Mesothelioma Claims That Get The Highest Settlements
You may receive a higher settlement if your claim includes the following:
- Multiple responsible parties
- Employers that violated OSHA regulations
- Minor children and dependents
- A higher degree of pain and suffering
Examples of Mesothelioma Claims That Got The Highest Settlements
One notable example of a high settlement occurred in Illinois. There, a woman named Jean Holmes died of mesothelioma after secondary exposure to asbestos fibers while laundering her husband’s clothes. The jury awarded $2.6 million to Holmes’ children. They received this high award partly because responsible parties did not warn Holmes of the dangers of asbestos fibers.
Factors That Affect the Amount of a Wrongful Death Settlement
Wrongful death claims follow the same process as other types of settlements. If the case proceeds to court, juries must analyze the specific situation to determine how much to award. As a result, many factors could affect the amount of your final wrongful death settlement.
What Juries Consider When Determining the Amount of a Mesothelioma Settlement
The top factors that affect a mesothelioma settlement in a wrongful death case include the following:
- The deceased person’s age
- The deceased person’s treatment and expenses
- The deceased person’s pain and suffering
- The strength of the evidence
- The impact the treatment and loss had on surviving family members
To expand, a wrongful death recovery allows for similar recoveries available in standard personal injury actions. For instance, lost wages are recoverable in both wrongful death and standard negligence claim. But wrongful death claims also take relationships into account and allow the family of a deceased plaintiff to pursue their recovery.
For instance, if the deceased was a caregiver to a child, the child may recover damages in compensation for losing their caregiver.
What Juries Don’t Consider When Determining the Amount of a Mesothelioma Settlement
Juries will not always penalize you for lifestyle choices. For example, smoking can make mesothelioma symptoms worse but will not necessarily alter the outcome for people diagnosed with mesothelioma. The mortality rate for smokers diagnosed with mesothelioma and nonsmokers diagnosed with mesothelioma is not that different.
Therefore, a history of smoking will not necessarily affect the final settlement amount as long as asbestos was the cause of lung cancer. In addition, while age and occupation history influence the settlement, other demographics like gender or race should not. Finally, juries do not necessarily distinguish between primary exposure and secondary exposure—meaning victims do not have to work directly with an asbestos company to qualify for mesothelioma compensation.
How Circumstances of Exposure Can Affect Settlement Amount
If exposure happened during military service, the settlement amount could be affected by a veteran’s claim. These claims are available to family members of deceased veterans who passed away from mesothelioma as well. In this case, families may receive monthly compensation, a pension, and up to $2,000 to cover funeral expenses.
If the victim had asbestos exposure due to the conduct of a now-bankrupt company, the number of people who make mesothelioma claims could impact the settlement. Often, settlement money for bankrupt companies comes from asbestos trust funds. If multiple people make claims at the same time, the percentage you receive could drop significantly.
Veteran’s claims and asbestos trust fund claims are not the same thing as a mesothelioma lawsuit; you can pursue multiple sources of compensation at one time.
How to Get the Highest Possible Wrongful Death Settlement for Your Mesothelioma Case
You need several types of evidence to file a strong wrongful death case involving mesothelioma. First, you must prove that the defendant was wrongfully exposed to asbestos and died of mesothelioma. The stronger the evidence developed during litigation, the higher the likelihood of a full and fair settlement or verdict.
Providing Evidence of Costs
Your wrongful death claim should cover both funeral expenses and unpaid medical expenses. Evidence of these costs includes the invoice from your funeral home and receipts from other out-of-pocket purchases like flowers, a headstone, and a casket. Medical records and bills are also excellent evidence of the costs incurred by asbestos lung cancer.
Hospital bills will be your most substantial evidence, but health insurance statements, pharmacy receipts, and other medical invoices are also helpful. The more specific your list of expenses, the higher your settlement amount will be.
Providing Evidence of Lost Wages and Other Costs
In a wrongful death and survival lawsuit, the deceased’s estate can recover damages for lost wages. To prove lost wages, a skillful mesothelioma attorney will normally secure several years’ worth of pay stubs, bank statements, and tax returns as evidence of the lost wages. With this evidence, expert witnesses like economists and actuaries can calculate the total amount you deserve.
You may also factor in lost benefits such as healthcare, workers’ compensation, or a pension. Calculations can also include the value of a homemaker. You can receive damages for lost childcare, cooking, laundry, and other household work.
Other Evidence to Present
Financial compensation is also available for noneconomic losses. Your mesothelioma lawyer will not ignore your mental pain and suffering—such as facing the loss of companionship, care, and love. However, proving noneconomic losses isn’t always straightforward.
You may provide family photos and even social media posts that highlight your emotional losses. Journal entries from before and after the claim also make excellent evidence of these types of losses.
Where to Get Help with Your Claim
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit for mesothelioma can be overwhelming, but there is help available. The best way to get the highest mesothelioma settlement possible is to contact an experienced lawyer. The clock may already be ticking, so don’t hesitate to reach out today.