Receiving a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma can be quite devastating, since there is essentially no cure for this disease. While treatment of the disease in its earlier stages can help prolong life for more than five years, the prognosis tends to be much shorter. Since the costs of treatment can be quite high, it is a good idea to explore any legal options one might have to help offset medical expenses and lost income.
Mesothelioma is typically caused by a long term exposure to asbestos, and this usually occurs in the work place. Since 1977, it has been public record that some corporations have known of the hazards of asbestos, but suppressed the information. In other cases, the corporation simply did not know of a hazard, but should have.
The first lawsuit involving the effects of asbestos exposure occurred in 1929. While there are no extensive records involving this case, it was the first to put a focus on the dangers of asbestos. In 1970, the Clean Air Act was introduced and the Environmental Protection Agency declared for the first time that asbestos was a pollutant, yet did not enforce a ban. In 1982, facing 16,000 lawsuits, the Johns Manville Corporation filed for bankruptcy. Documents in court indicated that company officers at Manville had knowledge of the hazards associated with asbestos exposure, but suppressed this information from their employees. At the time, this was the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history. Following Manville's bankruptcy, many other manufacturers soon followed suit due to the growing number of lawsuits.
As recently as 2010, a Los Angeles woman collected a settlement over $200 million due to negligence regarding asbestos. Several other high profile cases have resulted in significant awards in the last several years.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, then it is a good idea to hire an attorney who has experience in dealing with mesothelioma lawsuits. In many cases, legal precedent and case law will favor the plaintiff. However, it is often that these cases may be drawn it over a period of years. The purpose of these lawsuits is to improve the financial condition of the patient and his/her family, particularly if they are the primary breadwinner of the household.
Malignant mesothelioma cases tend to have a higher success rate than non-malignant conditions such as asbestosis. While this is a positive, it is still necessary that the litigant have all documents in order prior to filing the lawsuit.
The first step is to be sure that all medical records are in order. The defense will go out of its way to show that your illness was not caused by any actions of their client. They will scour your medical records and insurance claims to cast any doubt that asbestos exposure caused your illness by suggesting it may have been your own actions in some way. The reason they do this is because mesothelioma is caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure, and many plaintiffs walk away from the lawsuit with a favorable ruling and compensation.
With this in mind, it is imperative that your diagnosis of mesothelioma was from a qualified physician such as an oncologist or cancer specialist. The diagnosis should include chest X-rays, CT scan and a biopsy. The medical records should show beyond a reasonable doubt that your diagnosis is mesothelioma, and you had no prior knowledge of the condition prior to the diagnosis.
Since time is of the essence due to the poor prognosis of many patients diagnosed with mesothelioma, the next step is to immediately hire a qualified attorney. Once you have found such an attorney, they will need all your medical documentation to file a formal complaint with the court. This complaint will then be delivered to each defendant named in the complaint.
Typically, the attorney for the defendant will file an immediate motion to have the complaint dismissed. However, an attorney experienced in such cases will leave little room in the complaint to allow the court to dismiss the case. To help be sure that this is the case with your complaint, your attorney may ask you for specific information regarding your job, your job title, the specific asbestos product that may have been handled in your work place, contact information for co-workers, and signed releases that will allow your attorney to review your medical records.
After the defendants receive the complaint, the will respond, or otherwise risk a default judgment. Once they respond, the discovery phase of the lawsuit begins, and both sides will gather, organize and analyze evidence by reviewing records, interviewing witnesses, etc. Knowledgeable experts may be hired to offer testimony and sworn depositions may be conducted. All evidence and witnesses are then available to the plaintiff and defendant. At some point, you, the patient, may be interrogated by the defense attorneys. This may come during the discovery phase, and again during the trial.
No matter the outcome, and no matter the potential for a favorable judgment, anyone diagnosed with this awful disease should seek legal counsel. As mentioned, the treatment costs are high, and if the prognosis is unfavorable, it may help the family deal with the fateful outcome in a better light. Mesothelioma is a dreadful disease where the primary cause has been asbestos exposure in the work place. Therefore, any patient diagnosed with this disease should seek compensation for themselves to help offset the high costs of treatment and loss of income.
Scott Connolly provides information regarding the causes, symptoms and treatment of the disease as well as information regarding the legal issues surrounding asbestos. For more information, visit here