How Does an Asbestos Lawsuit Begin?
If you or a member of your family has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-caused lung cancer, or another asbestos-related disease, you may want to consider filing an asbestos lawsuit. Because of the clear connection between the negligent use of asbestos by US industries and mesothelioma, many people have filed lawsuits and won compensation for their injuries.
The first thing you can do to help make your asbestos lawsuit a success is to hire the best asbestos attorney you can find, one with a great deal of experience in filing asbestos lawsuits. The next thing you can do is to learn about the process so you can best help your lawyer make your case.
Collect Your Asbestos Lawsuit Documents
In order to file an asbestos lawsuit on your behalf, your attorney will need proof of your diagnosis and the state of your health, as well as the cost of your medical treatment so far. In addition, your attorney will need to know your work history, to determine where you may have been exposed to asbestos. Top-notch asbestos law firms employ experienced investigators. An investigator will use your background information to gather evidence about where you were exposed to asbestos.
If this seems like an overwhelming amount of work, especially as you are coping with a severe illness, don’t worry. A good mesothelioma attorney will go over everything with you and will be able to help gather the documents you need for your asbestos lawsuit.
Beginning Your Asbestos Lawsuit
Before beginning the formal litigation process, your attorney may approach representatives from some of the corporations responsible for your asbestos-related disease. Some parties choose to enter into settlement negotiations with the most well respected mesothelioma attorneys before a lawsuit is filed, to avoid the time and expense of going to court. Instead some corporations ask us NOT to sue them so they can settle without wasting money on their lawyers.
If any of the parties have set up an asbestos trust fund, your attorney will initiate the trust paperwork. The corporations with asbestos bankruptcy trusts can’t be named in an asbestos lawsuit. They have already admitted their liability for exposing people to asbestos and have set aside money under court supervision to compensate those who become ill with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
The parties who don’t agree to compensate you will be named in your asbestos lawsuit. Your lawyer will draft a complaint, which states the facts of the case and identifies all the parties in the lawsuit.
Your lawyer will file the complaint and get a summons from the court to serve on the parties named in the suit. These parties, now called the defendants, must file an answer with the court within 30 days. If any of the defendants do not respond to your lawsuit within the required time, your lawyer can seek a default judgment against that party. After a default is entered, your attorney will pursue that party for compensation.
Defendants always respond by denying that they are liable for exposing you to asbestos. Some may argue that your illness is caused by other factors, such as smoking. This push back is a normal part of the litigation process. An experienced asbestos attorney will have heard all these arguments before and will know how to respond to them.
Asbestos Lawsuit Discovery
The next phase of your asbestos lawsuit is called the discovery process. During this phase, both your attorney and the attorneys for the defendants will ask for documents and other evidence about the case. The defense will want copies of your medical records. Your asbestos lawyer will ask for information about the use of products containing asbestos at different places where you worked or lived, who sold them, and what they knew.
Part of the discovery process is taking depositions. Depositions do not take place in a courtroom, but they are sworn testimony recorded by a court reporter that may be used in court during the trial.
It is likely that the defendants will ask for your deposition. This may sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Your lawyer will work with you beforehand to prepare you to testify and will be right by your side every minute. If your health is failing, the deposition is a chance to record your account of your asbestos exposure and illness. Later on, if you are unable to come to court to testify at trial, a recording of your deposition may be played instead, and will become evidence.
The discovery process can take several months. At times, you may feel that your lawsuit has stalled and that nothing is happening. For much of this time, however, your legal team will actually be hard at work. They will be combing through the documents received from the defendants through discovery, looking for evidence to bolster your asbestos lawsuit.
Will Your Asbestos Lawsuit Settle or Go to Trial?
Television likes the drama of the courtroom, but most people who get sued do not. Most lawsuits end with a settlement before trial. Asbestos lawsuits are no different: more than 90% end with a settlement and never go through trial.
The discovery process plays a big part in settlement negotiations. If the documents received through this process show that a defendant knew about the hazards of asbestos exposure and did nothing to protect you and others, that party is unlikely to win at trial. They may choose to settle with you to avoid the cost of trial, as well as the embarrassment of having their misconduct exposed.
If you are offered a settlement by one or more of the defendants in your asbestos lawsuit, your attorney will negotiate the settlement amount and will help you assess whether the offer is fair. The advantage of settling is that you will receive compensation much sooner than if your case goes to trial. If you win at trial, a jury may award you more money than you would get from a settlement. There is no guarantee, however, of winning at trial, or getting more than what was offered, so settlement may be a good idea.
Seek advice from an experienced asbestos attorney as soon as you are able. That is the best way to get your asbestos lawsuit off to a smooth start and heading to a good result.