Typical Case Process
Though all lawsuits are different, most asbestos cases progress in a similar manner. Once you've decided to proceed with an attempt to obtain compensation for your asbestos-related injuries, the process should be similar to the one outlined below.
Filing - The first step in your asbestos lawsuit - after you've met with your attorney and he/she's determined that you indeed have a viable case - is the filing of a petition or complaint with the court. This is done by the attorney. The complaint outlines the case, identifies all defendants, and alleges the wrongful actions of each defendant and how those actions affected you - the plaintiff. Filing just takes a few minutes but preparing the complaint may take several weeks or even months.
Responses - After the petition is filed, each defendant typically has about 30 days to respond to the complaint and present an answer to the court. Typical responses by defendants might include allegations that the statute of limitations has expired.
Discovery - As the name suggests, discovery is the process by which each side learns facts about the other side. For example, the defendants' attorneys may ask to interview the plaintiff in an attempt to discern their liability.
Setting of a Trial Date - How quickly your case comes to trial will largely depend upon the availability of the court. It may be several months before a date is chosen. However, a growing number of jurisdictions are putting a "rush" on mesothelioma cases that involve a plaintiff who is still living.
Settlement offers - Sometimes, defendants decide that it is not in their best interest to allow a case to go to trial. In those instances, the plaintiff may be offered a monetary "settlement". Any settlements will be presented to your lawyer who will, in turn, present them to you - the plaintiff - and advise you on whether he/she believes it is in your best interest to accept the settlement or wait for the trial. A large percentage of asbestos cases are settled before they go to trial.
Trial - If you can not reach a settlement with the defendant(s), the case will proceed to trial. Trials typically take one to two weeks, depending on the number of defendants, witnesses, etc. You may or may not take the stand to testify on your own behalf.
In all, a typical case can take months to years, depending on its complexity. An experienced mesothelioma attorney can probably give you a fair idea of just how long your particular case may take to come to settlement.
Last modified: December 27, 2010.