A settlement is one form of compensation that mesothelioma patients or their families can receive to help pay for expenses related to treatment, lost income, and related items. Other types of compensation include jury awards, workers compensation, veterans benefits, and asbestos trust funds.
Key Points about Mesothelioma Settlements & Verdicts
- Settlements help mesothelioma patients and their families pay for treatment and other expenses.
- Other compensation includes verdicts, veteran’s benefits, worker’s compensation, and asbestos trust fund payments.
- Settlement amounts depend on various factors: exposure, diagnosis, expenses, etc.
Typically, a settlement comes as part of the litigation process, after an individual has filed a legal claim against an asbestos company or trust fund. In jury trials, a verdict will be determined only if the parties do not reach a settlement agreement. Settlements and verdicts are distinct from veteran’s benefits and worker’s compensation, which are entitlements based on an individual’s employment history.
Mesothelioma Settlement vs. Verdict
There are two ways to resolve a mesothelioma lawsuit: settlement or verdict. A brief description of each resolution is provided below.
Whether a mesothelioma case is resolved through a settlement or verdict depends on a variety of factors, including:
- Timeliness – Settlements typically are paid right away, whereas a verdict award may take years to acquire as the case goes through appeal after appeal.
- Cancer Progression – Individuals with late-stage mesothelioma may accept a settlement to that will help them pay for needed cancer treatments now.
- Strength of Evidence – Asbestos companies may wish to go to trial rather than offer a settlement if they believe that a mesothelioma victim cannot make a good case.
- Compensation Amount – For mesothelioma patients who have solid evidence, they may wish to take the case to a verdict in the hope of receiving greater compensation.
- Risk Aversion – Some mesothelioma patients may wish to accept a settlement for a guaranteed amount rather than risk getting nothing from a jury verdict.
Is a Settlement Right for Me?
In determining whether you should accept a asbestos settlement offer, here are a few additional points to consider:
- Although jury verdicts often result in larger compensation amounts, there is no guarantee that a jury will rule in your favor – there is a chance you could end up with no compensation.
- Settlements are legally binding agreements, meaning that the company have to pay you the amount agreed upon.
- If the company fails to abide by the terms of the settlement, your lawyer will be able to seek a court order requiring them to pay.
Ultimately, only you and your loved ones can decide whether accepting a settlement offer or holding out for a jury verdict is right for you. However, an experienced mesothelioma lawyer can provide advice based on your individual case that can help you make the determination.
See Whether a Settlement or Verdict is Right for You
Mesothelioma Settlement Time Frame
Mesothelioma patients have to consider three separate time frames when seeking a settlement:
- Latency Period: It takes 10 – 50 years for mesothelioma to develop, and getting diagnosed early often improves prognosis.
- Statute of Limitations: You only have between 1 – 6 years after diagnosis to file a lawsuit, depending on which state you live in.
- Trial, Motions & Appeals: While a trial itself may only take a few weeks or months, it can take many years for all of the various legal maneuvers and appeals to be completed.
Unfortunately, many asbestos companies will drag out the process as long as possible, hoping to find a way to get the case dismissed or that the mesothelioma victim will accept a low settlement offer. Time is not on the side of mesothelioma patients, however, who often have short life expectancies and are in need of money sooner rather than later to pay for treatments and other expenses.
Mesothelioma Settlement Amounts
One of the first questions many mesothelioma patients and their families ask is: How much can I get from a settlement?
According to a recent Mealey’s Litigation Report, the average amount of money received by plaintiffs in asbestos-related lawsuits was $7.4 million (not including verdicts for the defense). However, the average settlement for mesothelioma lawsuits can depend on where the case is filed. For example, one study showed that by consolidating cases in New York, mesothelioma patients and their families have been able to increase the amount of compensation they receive over the national average. This is why choosing the right venue for your lawsuit is so important.
Largest Mesothelioma Verdict Ever
The largest mesothelioma jury verdict ever recorded is $250 million, awarded in 2003 to retired steelworker Roby Whittington after he filed a lawsuit against U.S. Steel. Facing years of ongoing appeals, however, Whittington settled with his former employer for “‘substantially less’ than $50 million” (actual amount undisclosed) after the verdict.
The actual amount you could receive from a mesothelioma settlement is determined by a lot of different factors.
- Place and duration of asbestos exposure
- Mesothelioma diagnosis
- Diagnosis and treatment costs
- Lost income/expected income
- Legal venue
- Other related expenses
A good mesothelioma lawyer will be able to help you figure out how each of these factors apply to your specific situation.
Mesothelioma Settlement Process
There are four main steps in the settlement process for mesothelioma claims.
Research: Gather all of the documentation you have showing your eligibility (see above). This can take a long time, so it’s important to start right away. Your lawyer will help you gather the information you need.
Filing: Once you have the information to back up your claim, your lawyer will prepare and file your claim in a court of law. Your lawyer will help you choose the venue (state or federal court), type of claim (personal injury or wrongful death), and defendants.
Pretrial Motions and Discovery: Before a trial begins, both sides will submit a number of motions and engage in sharing of information relevant to the case (known as “discovery”). A settlement may be offered before ever going to trial.
Trial: If the case goes to trial, each side will present evidence before the court. At any time, the parties may agree to a settlement; however, once a verdict is reached by a jury or judge, the case can no longer be settled.
Negotiating a settlement is a complex and often frustrating process. Therefore, it is important to hire an experienced lawyer who understands how to negotiate properly, and who will not be fooled by the tricks asbestos companies try to play to pay lower amounts than they should. Your lawyer can advise you on whether a settlement offer is worth considering and when it may be better to hold out for a better offer or verdict.
Other Types of Mesothelioma Compensation
In addition to seeking a settlement or verdict as part of a lawsuit, mesothelioma patients or their surviving family members may be eligible for other types of mesothelioma compensation as well.
Eligibility requirements are different depending on what type of compensation is being sought. Specific criteria will depend on the court where the legal action occurs, which asbestos trust a claim is filed with, and military service or employment history.
- Diagnosis of mesothelioma confirmed by a qualified doctor.
- Medical records showing diagnosis and treatment expenses
- Employment, union, or related records indicating work at a known asbestos worksite
- Asbestos products/materials you were exposed to
- Similar details about other exposures that may have occurred at home, school, or elsewhere
- Military records showing your years and locations of service
- Any other records that show your work, military, or asbestos exposure history
The more evidence you can provide of your exposure to asbestos, the better chance you have of receiving compensation to help pay your expenses.