The United States banned the use of asbestos years ago, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a chance of exposure. That’s because the material is still found, within older buildings especially. While most cases of asbestos exposure are associated with construction workers, builders, and other people who work around buildings or ships that may still have asbestos in them, this is not always the case. In fact, spouses of those workers or homeowners who live in older properties could be exposed too.
No matter the case, if you have been exposed to asbestos or you have either mesothelioma or asbestosis, then you do have legal recourse. You can seek damages for your injuries.
Statute of Limitations
All personal injury cases have a statute of limitations, which means you only have a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit. This is designed to keep people from filing 20 or 30 years after an incident. However, laws in asbestos cases are different. That’s because it can take between 10 and 40 years after asbestos exposure for mesothelioma to develop. If the usual statute of limitations applied, then people would run out of time, despite finding out much later when they are diagnosed with a debilitating condition.
The statute of limitations in asbestos exposure cases is based on the time period after the diagnosis of mesothelioma. And these laws can vary. Usually, you will have between one and five years to file a lawsuit after your diagnosis. It is vital to hire an experienced attorney to make sure you don’t miss that window, however. That’s because in some states, you only have one year. That year could go by very quickly.
If you developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, you will very likely receive damages for your injury. However, the actual amount of the damages can vary drastically on a number of different factors.
• If the company shut down or went bankrupt, then the court probably set aside a certain amount of money for these cases. Depending on how long it has been, there could be plenty of money, or there may be very little left.
• The actual extent of the injury will have an impact on cash settlements and jury verdicts as well. Several things will be factored in, including degree of pain and suffering due to the illness.
• Finally, the type of case could have an impact on compensation amounts too. Cases that are settled are quicker, but usually involve less money. Cases that go before a jury tend to take longer, but usually result in more money.
Determining whether or not to settle often comes down to time. People who need the money very quickly to cover bills and expenses may find themselves agreeing to a settlement. All in all, though, settlements usually range between one and five million. After attorney fees and court costs, victims can expect to walk away with around two thirds of the settlement amount.
Affording an Attorney
Many people who have been exposed to mesothelioma may worry that they will not be able to pay an attorney to handle the case. However, this is a non-issue. Mesothelioma attorneys work on a contingency. This means they do not get paid until the case has been decided. There are different factors that determine how much that contingency fee will be, but it usually ranges between 25% and 40% of the actual damages awarded. There are some situations where a cap will be put on the contingency fee percentage. For example, the victim’s trust fund may indicate that the fee can be no more than 25% of the damages.
Remember that you are in a bargaining position when it comes to hiring a lawyer for this type of case. Do not sign a contingency fee agreement until you are satisfied with the fee agreed on between you and your potential attorney.
When the Company Is Facing a Criminal Case
Depending on a number of factors, such as state laws and specific negligence, there is a chance that the company that exposed you to asbestos could face criminal charges as well. For example, if they knew that asbestos existed and didn’t follow safety procedures (like training you and other employees on proper handling of asbestos) then they could be brought up on criminal charges. This, of course, would not apply if you were exposed to asbestos decades ago when it had not yet been banned.
If the company is brought up on criminal charges, this doesn’t mean you will receive damages from that case. Your situation is still considered personal injury, and that means that to receive any damages, you must file a civil case. The criminal charges will be handled separately and could result in fines, or even jail time. Your civil case will focus on making sure you get the damages to cover your medical bills, lost wages, etc.
The most important thing to remember about asbestos exposure is that it doesn’t cause damage right away. The tiny asbestos fibers find their way into your lungs, embed, and result in mesothelioma years in the future. Even if you have been exposed to asbestos and you seem fine right now, this doesn’t mean you will be in the future. The moment you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is vital that you seek a civil lawsuit with the help of an experienced attorney. Filing quickly is a must to avoid missing out on the statute of limitations, which once expired, would take away your rights to a suit completely.
If you had a loved one who died from mesothelioma, you can still bring a case as the next of kin. This would be wrongful death and can still result in damages being awarded to you. Even spouses who were exposed to asbestos on clothing or shoes can file a civil case if they develop mesothelioma. These suits are not just limited to people who came in direct contact with the material, but anyone who was exposed to it in a variety of different ways.