Mesothelioma is a form of cancer and is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, a little mineral that lodges in the lining of the lungs and abdomen. It’s not uncommon for 20-50 years to elapse between the date of exposure and the time that mesothelioma might develop. It’s usually at advanced stages when diagnosed, and most often found in men who have worked at jobs where they were inhaled or were otherwise exposed to asbestos fibers. Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, there’s a poor prognosis.
Mesothelioma litigation gained public awareness in the 1970s when cases were filed against large industries by individuals seeking compensation for asbestos-related medical conditions. After many years now, it’s indisputable that a significant number of companies either knowingly or negligently exposed their employees to asbestos. Most of the evidence against the companies have already been well established in court cases throughout the country during the history of litigation against them. Asbestos claims and lawsuits have driven many of the companies into bankruptcy, but a prerequisite to obtaining bankruptcy relief now is the establishment of a trust fund from which people can be compensated for asbestos-related health conditions. About 60 of these trust funds now exist. Each is managed by a board of trustees. Some of the trust funds still retain large sums of money with which to compensate affected claimants. Others have been severely depleted to where claims carry significantly less value.
Filing the mesothelioma claim
The affected individual’s mesothelioma claim is filed with the appropriate trust. All documentation and medical records are then reviewed by the trust. If the claimant is found to be suffering mesothelioma caused by the company, it will pay compensation. Asbestos-related diseases are rated from Level 1 to Level 8. The highest rating obtains the highest compensation. Funds paid from the trusts are paid on a first in first out basis. Assuming a valid claim exists, the sooner it is filed, the sooner it will be evaluated, and payment offer made consistent with the level the trust believes the affected person to be at. Due to streamlining of procedures, claims can often be settled in a year, but those settlements are generally at a lower value than that of a successful jury verdict. Attorney fees and very expensive costs of litigation often prompt the claimants in the serious stages of the illness to settle their claims directly with the trusts, though.
The statute of limitations
The long period between the date of exposure and date of discovery of mesothelioma complicates asbestos litigation. A person could have been exposed in 1980, but they might not have been diagnosed with mesothelioma until 2013. Most states have a one to a three-year statute of limitations on injury claims. If an injured person fails to file their claim within the period of the applicable statute of limitations, they’ll be forever barred from raising it in the future. Because of these statutes and the latency of asbestos-related illnesses, a special statute of limitations rules has been implemented in asbestos-related cases. Even with these special statute of limitations rules, it sometimes continues to be raised as a successful defense.