What is Mesothelioma Claims in United States
According to US mesothelioma and asbestos laws, victims of asbestos exposure may be entitled to a claim or compensation depending on the nature and severity of their infection. A mesothelioma claim is a legal proceeding that allows individuals to receive compensation for developing mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a terminal condition caused by asbestos exposure. It often necessitates expensive cancer treatments, travel costs (for medical appointments), and caregiver costs not covered by health insurance. Since mesothelioma claims are often filed by people exposed to asbestos, they are also known as asbestos claims.
Asbestos exposure is a significant risk factor for developing mesothelioma. Most times, mesothelioma victims get exposed to asbestos in the workplace. Some occupations at risk of such exposure include construction and insulation workers, oil refinery and power plant employees, railroad, shipyard, steel mill workers, telecommunications installers, and turbine mechanics. However, exposure can also occur outside of the workplace. Spouses and children of persons with asbestos-related jobs could inhale asbestos particles from work clothes. Over time, such contact may lead to life-threatening diseases (such as mesothelioma).
Notwithstanding, the bulk of mesothelioma cases can be linked to corporate negligence, as companies who manufactured or distributed the product failed to warn the public that asbestos is a carcinogenic substance. Since mesothelioma is essentially avoidable, claims are intended to hold negligent companies accountable for someone's suffering. Corporate entities that may be held liable for asbestos exposure include asbestos mining firms, suppliers of raw asbestos fibers, manufacturers of asbestos goods, and contract companies that install or repair items containing asbestos fibers. Employers and property owners who fail to disclose the presence of asbestos to their employees or on their properties may also be held accountable.
Mesothelioma claims allow affected parties to seek financial restitution. This compensation can cover medical fees and other expenses incurred due to the illness.
Eligibility Requirements for Filing a Mesothelioma Claim
A mesothelioma patient or loved one must fulfill some requirements to get financial compensation. The following are the primary criteria that determine a person's eligibility to file a mesothelioma claim:
- Evidence of illness: The individual must have medical documents proving a mesothelioma diagnosis. A board-certified physician must sign these documents.
- Proof of asbestos exposure: The person must show a relationship between their sickness and an asbestos product manufactured or sold by the at-fault party.
- Statute of limitations: The person must file the claim in the appropriate state within the given period (the statute of limitations). Otherwise, they may relinquish the right to claim damages.
Types of Mesothelioma Claims
There are several types of lawsuits that mesothelioma patients and their families can pursue. The suitable claim depends on the facts of a case (for example, whether the exposed individual is living or not) but may include any of the following:
- Personal injury claims
- Wrongful death claims
- Veterans claims
- Mesothelioma trust fund claims
Personal injury claims
A personal injury claim can be filed in civil court in any U.S. state, but each state's civil law governs the process. This claim is often filed by a patient who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma; however, family members can pursue the claim on the patient's behalf. Medical costs, lost income, loss of company, and pain and suffering are examples of damages that the court might award to the claimant. The court may also award punitive damages (monetary damages imposed to prevent future wrongdoing).
Wrongful death claims
The family of a person who died from mesothelioma can bring a wrongful death claim. Spouses, children, parents, legal trustees, legal heirs, and other dependents are among persons who can file this claim. Wrongful death claims can provide financial assistance for outstanding medical bills, funeral costs, and lost income. It can also provide financial stability for families.
Veterans' disability benefits are available to people exposed to asbestos while serving in the military and diagnosed with mesothelioma afterward. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reviews and manages claims concerning military asbestos exposure. However, unlike other mesothelioma claims, a VA claim is not a lawsuit, and those who file this claim are not suing the federal government. Since the United States government recognizes that persons who worked with asbestos while serving run the risk of developing mesothelioma, the benefits received by veterans with mesothelioma are non-taxable.
There are several types of VA benefits for veterans with mesothelioma, such as:
- Disability Compensation. This is a non-taxable benefit provided to persons injured while serving in the military or who got ill due to their service. It compensates veterans for the time they missed from work and the money they lost due to mesothelioma.
- Veteran Affairs Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC). This supports family members of veterans who died while on active duty or in training. It also offers compensation to veterans who died later due to disabilities sustained while serving in the military.
- Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). This benefit is also known as aid and attendance pay. It is provided to veterans, spouses, family members, and parents or family caregivers to help with the ongoing care costs for military-related impairments.
Asbestos or mesothelioma trust fund claims
Following the inflow of claims brought against corporations that exposed people to asbestos, numerous U.S. companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. However, under US Code Chapter 11-Bankruptcy 524(g), these companies were required to set aside large sums of money in trusts to compensate present and future victims of asbestos-related diseases, as these persons fell ill because of a bankrupt company's actions. Hence, the establishment of asbestos trust funds.
Today, while victims can no longer sue bankrupt asbestos companies, they can obtain a settlement by filing a claim with a trust. Persons who can file include:
- Workers exposed to asbestos through their employer
- Workers that used products containing asbestos
- Household members exposed second-hand
- Individuals exposed through the environment
- Family members who lost a loved one to mesothelioma
Why File a Mesothelioma Claim
Mesothelioma claims seek justice for victims within the civil court system. Ordinarily, asbestos-related illnesses bring about considerable medical expenses and other costs, all of which must be paid by a victim, who will unlikely be able to work because of their disability. As such, filing a claim is often a victim's only option to reduce the financial burden associated with a mesothelioma diagnosis or death.
Mesothelioma claims also prevent future wrongdoings by making negligent parties responsible for their conduct. Not only will those responsible ensure that they do not repeat the same mistake, but others will also take precautions to ensure that something similar does not happen to them.
Anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma may be able to file a claim. Those who lost a family member to mesothelioma may also be eligible to seek compensation. When pursuing a claim, either as a patient or the survivor of a patient, it is vital to have proof of a mesothelioma diagnosis and proof of asbestos exposure. Hiring a mesothelioma lawyer is often advised in these cases, as a lawyer can help determine the validity of a claim.
How to File a Mesothelioma Suit: The Process
A mesothelioma lawsuit is initiated against a liable entity (the defendant) by an aggrieved party (the plaintiff) in civil court. In such lawsuits, defendants are the parties (persons or companies) being sued, whereas plaintiffs are the individuals filing the case. Civil court processes in the United States are often handled less formally than criminal court processes.
Overall, the steps involved in filing a mesothelioma claim include:
Hiring a lawyer
Hiring an experienced mesothelioma attorney is critical to obtaining a favorable outcome in a case. An expert attorney can assess the most efficient way to collect compensation for an injury or loss. An attorney can also:
- Properly manage the case
- Maximize the compensation given to the client
- Determine where to submit the claim
- Ensure that the documentation to be submitted is completed correctly
- Ensure the claim is filed on time
Finding supporting evidence
After retaining legal counsel, the plaintiff can work with their attorney to find facts regarding their asbestos exposure. Credible information helps build a strong case. This includes:
- Documentation from a medical professional proving the mesothelioma diagnosis.
- Records confirming that the plaintiff was employed by a defendant named in the claim.
- Financial documents indicating financial troubles as a result of the illness.
After gathering the essential paperwork, the plaintiff and their attorney can explore their legal options for compensation. The attorney will go through several compensation alternatives with the plaintiff and assist them in determining which type of claim is most appropriate.
Filing the claim in the appropriate jurisdiction and court
The lawyer will file the claim on the plaintiff's behalf at the proper court. Such claims are typical civil complaints, which detail the plaintiff's facts, legal theories, and request for relief. Plaintiffs in a civil action can seek monetary damages (money to compensate them for injuries suffered) and an injunction (a court order that prohibits or forces the defendant to do something).
The defendant will be notified about the lawsuit, and settlement talks may occur before the case is heard in court. The plaintiff or their attorney can negotiate the highest possible compensation by opting for a settlement. However, if a mesothelioma claim goes to trial, a judge or jury will decide how much compensation the plaintiff will receive.
How Long Does Filing a Mesothelioma Claim Take
In individual states across the country, laws called "statutes of limitations" limit how long an aggrieved party has to file a mesothelioma claim and when the cause of action accrues (i.e., when the clock starts ticking). For instance, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim begins to run the day an individual receives a mesothelioma diagnosis. Meanwhile, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim begins to run the day a mesothelioma patient's death is listed.
Generally, the time limit for bringing a mesothelioma claim ranges from one year to a few years, depending on the state.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Mesothelioma Settlement?
It may take years to acquire a jury verdict in a mesothelioma lawsuit and more time to collect compensation, but defendants may offer to settle before going to trial in return for the dismissal of the lawsuit.
Out-of-court settlements are usually a faster means of receiving compensation, as it may be possible for a plaintiff to be compensated within a year. However, several factors determine if a defendant will offer a settlement. For instance, a defendant may decide that settling a lawsuit is less expensive than partaking in a full trial. They may also prefer to pay a certain amount of compensation instead of risking defeat at a trial and being liable for an unknown sum.
When entering settlement negotiations, it is prudent to have a skilled attorney negotiate on one's behalf, as the legal professional can accurately weigh the defendant's offer against the facts of the case and advise on whether to collect the settlement or go to trial.