Many people who were, or think they may have been, exposed to asbestos are worried about the risk of asbestos related disease. Asbestos related diseases– chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asbestosis and mesothelioma are serious, debilitating and oftentimes life threatening and fatal conditions. Many other people already know they have an asbestos related disease but are unsure of their rights to compensation for medical and related costs of their condition.
Filing an Asbestos Claim
Asbestos related disease cases are filed in state courts and each state has a law requiring claims to be filed within a certain period of time after a diagnosis– usually between one year and three years. Because time is required to investigate and evaluate a case in order to determine the nature and extent of asbestos exposure and what companies or businesses were responsible, commencing the process should not wait until the time limit has nearly expired.
Asbestos Lawyers and Law Firms
Most law firms and lawyers experienced in mesothelioma and other asbestos related disease claims provide their services on a contingent fee basis. This means that they only earn a fee if they are successful in obtaining compensation for the claimant. In addition, they will fund the costs of the litigation including the cost of investigating and verifying a claim and preparing it for filing.
Investigating Asbestos Claims
In most jurisdictions the claimant’s employer is not named as a defendant because workers compensation laws shield them from liability for lawsuits brought by their employees. This fact requires investigation to determine the companies responsible for manufacturing, installing or maintaining the asbestos-containing products to which the claimant was exposed. In some cases the source of exposure will be clear and relatively easy to establish. Other cases will not be so clear cut and will require significant investigation to find sufficient links between asbestos companies and the claimant’s work history.
When the responsible parties have been determined, experts consulted, and medical conditions evaluated and confirmed, the attorneys prepare a complaint and file it in state court. The defendants usually have thirty days to respond after which a hearing is conducted to discuss motions and establish a litigation schedule.
The Litigation Process
The next phase of the litigation process is the discovery phase during which each side is given the opportunity to gather evidence from whatever sources it can find including subpoenaing documents, filing interrogatories and taking depositions and other statements.
In almost all cases the court will encourage the parties to enter into negotiations to see if an agreed financial arrangement can be reached without the need to go to trial.
Asbestos Court Trials
If the case is not settled then it is presented to a jury, which will hear the evidence and render a verdict either finding one or more of the named defendants liable and assessing damages to be paid, or finding insufficient evidence to establish liability.
Getting Legal Help
Whether you already have an asbestos related disease, or were exposed to asbestos but have no symptoms, or think you may have been exposed to asbestos, you should contact a qualified attorney to discuss your situation and your rights to compensation. Contact your local or state bar association for referrals to attorneys who are qualified and experienced in litigating claims for asbestos related disease.