Can I Sue for Asbestos Exposure? The Asbestos Lawsuit Process
Cohen, Placitella & Roth
Mar 15, 2023
Have you or a loved one been exposed to asbestos fiber and been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness, you probably have many questions; it is normal to wonder what happens next and what your options are. Given the potential health and financial impact associated with asbestos related illnesses, individuals exposed to asbestos also ask “Can I sue for asbestos exposure? And if so, who?”
Asbestos lawsuits can be straightforward in some ways and highly complex in others. The first step in succeeding in this litigation is to hire a lawyer with experience handling these types of lawsuits. Your lawyer should have a strong knowledge of the medical issues involved as well as the industries in which asbestos was used and the legal issues that arise in these cases. In addition, a lot depends on the state where you file the mesothelioma lawsuit as the law impacting asbestos lawsuits vary in different states.
If a qualified physician has diagnosed you with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or another asbestos lung cancer and you know where the asbestos exposure occurred, you may be able to file a lawsuit. If someone you love has died of an asbestos-related disease, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. This guide will help you understand the process of filing suit.
The Asbestos Lawsuit Process
Mesothelioma is a deadly form of lung cancer. Those who have mesothelioma, were almost certainly exposed to asbestos at some point in their life, possibly years or decades in the past. Asbestos is known to cause an array of other diseases as well. To succeed in an asbestos lawsuit, the person exposed – the plaintiff – needs to establish evidence that they exposed to asbestos or an asbestos containing product, that they have been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease and prove the damages that have been caused by that disease.
How an Asbestos Lawsuit Works
Every case of asbestos exposure is unique, and so is every asbestos claim. However, there are some elements that are the same across most cases.
For an asbestos lawsuit to have merit, you need to have been harmed in some way. If you have mesothelioma, this harm is obvious. But you also need to be able to prove how that harm happened and that someone has caused it. In an asbestos lawsuit that means proving when and how your asbestos exposure occurred.
The Process of Filing a Claim for Asbestos Exposure
While every mesothelioma litigation case is unique, there are a few important steps you should take as soon as possible after your diagnosis. The first and most important step is to contact an experienced asbestos law firm. An experienced asbestos lawyer can help you evaluate whether you have a legitimate claim and guide you through the process of litigation.
After initiating an asbestos lawsuit, litigation may take some time as collecting and developing evidence can be complicated and time consuming. In terms of litigation, most lawsuits progress in the following way:
- Your attorney will work with you to collect necessary documentation and evidence proving your exposure to asbestos, your asbestos related disease and the impact on you and your family;
- A “complaint” will be filed in the appropriate court. A “complaint” is the legal document that normally initiates a lawsuit;
- Your lawyer and the defendants’ lawyers will seek discovery – that is seek information about your claims and the defenses being asserted. This discovery is both documentary – including medical records, corporate records – and includes testimony under oath, what are known as depositions.
- The parties exchange expert discovery as well – that is reports or testimony of medical and safety experts who support either your claim or the defendants’ positions.
- One objective of the discovery process aside from assuring fairness at trial is to provide the parties with all of the information they need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their cases to help them decide whether they want to try to negotiate a settlement. And so, at the conclusion of the discovery process, the parties will often attempt to reach a settlement. If no settlement can be reach, the matter will proceed to trial.
What’s Expected of You If You Decide to Pursue a Case
Asbestos lawsuits of all types require the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) to be an active participant throughout the process. While an attorney can handle a lot of what happens on your behalf, you will need to be able to work with your lawyer to respond to discovery requests, attend your deposition and provide as much evidence as may be required to prove the elements of your case including medical bills, employment history, and more. Your treatment and employment records are necessary to show that you have been harmed by your asbestos exposure, as well as prove where the exposure occurred.
In any court case, it is critical to be honest and upfront with your lawyer and with the court. Your attorney cannot fight on your behalf without first knowing all the facts of the case.
Evidence Needed for an Asbestos Claim
The outcome of any lawsuit depends strongly on the evidence available. The more evidence you bring to your case, the more likely you will be to succeed in it.
Evidence Needed for an Asbestos Claim or Lawsuit
The two primary types of evidence that you will need to provide when filing an asbestos claim are proof of your injury and proof of your asbestos exposure. Proving your injury involves collecting medical records and testimony from the doctors who have treated you. Proving your exposure may be more difficult since it likely occurred years or even decades before your case. And so your lawyer will want to know your employment history and speak with your co-workers, union or other sources of information about your work and possible exposure to asbestos.
In some cases manufacturers or suppliers of asbestos products have gone into bankruptcy and compensation must be obtained through a bankruptcy trust process. In the case of an asbestos trust claim, the burden of proof may be lower in some respects because the company has already been found liable for exposing people to asbestos.
Eligibility Requirements for Filing an Asbestos Claim
When filing an asbestos lawsuit, there’s more to consider than just the strength of your case. Every state has different requirements when it comes to the statute of limitations. This period is generally between one and three years within which a lawsuit must be filed. If you do not file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations period governing your claims, you will be ineligible to file your claim after this time expires.
The rules concerning the statute of limitations vary state to state. However, in many states the clock often begins as soon as you receive a diagnosis of asbestos disease. Many states also have a separate statute of limitations for family members of an exposed person to file a wrongful death claim within a certain period after the person’s death. In all cases, you need to consult with a mesothelioma lawyer and begin the process of learning your rights as soon as possible.
Diseases Caused by Asbestos That You Can File For
Asbestos exposure can be responsible for a lot of diseases. Many of these diseases are only caused by asbestos exposure, so proving the link between exposure and injury is straightforward.
Some of the most common asbestos diseases include:
- Laryngeal cancer
- Pleural disease
- Non-mesothelioma lung cancer
Types of Asbestos-Related Lawsuits
If you file a lawsuit for your exposure to asbestos products, the type of suit will change based on your case’s circumstances.
Asbestos Lawsuit Options
There are several types of mesothelioma claims, and the process for each one is different. In an individual lawsuit for personal injury or wrongful death, you go up against the entity that caused the asbestos exposure. This may end in a settlement or a trial.
If the company that exposed you to asbestos has already been proven liable, you may be able to file a trust fund claim. Asbestos bankruptcy trusts sometimes have a lower burden of proof than lawsuits do, and they are useful if the company has gone out of business, but they generally come with lower recoveries.
Types of Compensation That Can Be Recovered in an Asbestos Claim or Lawsuit
There are two primary types of compensation you can recover in a mesothelioma lawsuit. The first is economic damages, which includes things like lost earning potential, or past or future medical expenses associated with your asbestos exposure. The second form of damages are for more intangible losses like pain and suffering and loss of life’s pleasures. In some cases, a plaintiff may also be eligible to recover punitive damages, which are meant to punish defendants for intentional or reckless conduct.
What to Expect When You File an Asbestos Lawsuit
Every asbestos exposure and mesothelioma case is different, and every exposed person has unique circumstances. A lot depends on the facts of your case. When and where were you exposed to the asbestos-containing product? Does the company responsible for your asbestos exposure have the resources to handle an extended court case? A dedicated attorney can explain the process to you step by step.
What to Expect with a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Asbestos litigation doesn’t look like the court dramas you’ve seen on television. Whether a case ends in a settlement or a trial, a lot goes on behind the scenes. Your legal team will find and interview expert witnesses, examine medical records and negotiate with the defendant’s lawyers.
How Long an Asbestos Claim Takes
Court cases and settlements can often take months or years, and this is especially true when medical issues are at stake. Judges can sometimes expedite cases if required. This happens occasionally in mesothelioma cases since a person with lung cancer has a vested interest in finishing the case quickly.
What Amount of Compensation You Can Expect
There is no hard-and-fast rule that says “this type of case can expect this kind of compensation.” With any court case also comes the risk of losing. Compensation can vary greatly depending on the facts of the case (such as whether it’s for asbestos-related illness or wrongful death) and the defendant’s ability to pay.
You may be able to receive compensation for a variety of damages, including lost wages, the cost of medical care, and even pain and suffering in some cases.
Filing Your Asbestos Lawsuit
Cohen, Placitella & Roth Law Offices take on—and win—the fights that others think can’t be won. Our team of lawyers has earned a distinguished reputation for achieving life-changing outcomes by combining decades of experience, tenacity and fresh strategic perspectives to each case we undertake. We champion and seek justice for our clients guided by a shared goal of doing what’s right and making a positive lasting impact on their lives.
If asbestos exposure has changed your life, call us at (888) 560-7189 or contact us online today for your free case evaluation.