If you are diagnosed with an asbestos induced disease such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, etc. the first thing you should do is to consult an genuine and experienced mesothelioma lawyer immediately. As mesothelioma and asbestos related lawsuits are time sensitive, consulting a lawyer will help you decide whether you should file a mesothelioma lawsuit at all and if yes, when you should do it. If after consultation you decide to go ahead and file a lawsuit you should be self aware of what stages a typical mesothelioma lawsuit has and how can you contribute to the success of your case.
A typical mesothelioma lawsuit has these stages:
- Case development
- Filing of case
- Responses by defendants
- Information gathering about claims
- Settlement or trial
- Payment (in case lawsuit is won)
Case development Stage
This is the first stage where your mesothelioma lawyer spends time with you to understand the case by gathering basic information about your medical condition, work history, etc. This also involves potential defendants against whom lawsuit will be filed. Another important decision taken is where (which court) you should be filing your lawsuit to ensure your best interest.
Before even any of the above are done, your mesothelioma lawyer will ask you to review and agree the contract between you and him for the case. This contract has details of what services will be provided by the lawyer, what fee will be charged, what is expected from you and disclaimers if any. This document should be reviewed by you thoroughly before signing. As it forms basis of your relation with your lawyer.
Filing of the case
Once the court where you will be filing your lawsuit is decided, based on the information provided by you the lawyer will file a complaint. This is a legal document and provides details of your claims and reasons why you believe the defendants have caused disease / injuries to you. It also specifies how much compensation you are seeking from the defendants.
Response by the defendants
The copy of the complaint you have filed is then provided to the defendants. This sometimes is not as easy as it sounds primarily because asbestos exposure related disease takes a lot of time (decades) to surface and during this time the company you are filing complaint against might have been sold, shut shop, gone bankrupt etc. Thus it takes time to identify the right people and serve them with the notice.
Defendants are then provided with 30 days to consult their lawyers and reply to the complaint filed by you. It is rare that a defendant will say that they were at fault. In most cases they deny the claims and disagree. You do not need to panic here as it is very normal. Defendants use many reasons to deny the validity of complaint common ones being – you were not exposed to asbestos in their premises, etc. some defendants have even gone to the extent of saying that claimant condition is not because asbestos exposure (this is where genuine medical reports and record are helpful). These responses are they replied by your mesothelioma lawyer.
Information gathering or Discovery stage
This is the stage where lawyers of both side collect information regarding the case. This is an involved exercises, documents are exchanged, questions are answered, etc.
Typically defendant lawyers will ask a lot of your personal information – work recodes, health records, habits, consulting doctors, reports, treatments and in many cases access to your family and co-workers. You will also be required to participate in videotaped deposition where you will be required to take an oath before you answer questions posed by defendant lawyers. You need not worry about deposition as your mesothelioma lawyer will make sure you are aware of probable questions and their answers in advance.
Just like defendants lawyers, a good mesothelioma lawyer will also make sure that he will ask relevant questions and request documents from the defendant.
In many of the mesothelioma cases, defendant's lawyer offer a money to settle the case so it does not go for the trial. There are various ways this can be approached – one can be by accepting the money and close the case and the second can be going for the trial. Even during this stage your mesothelioma lawyer may try to discuss with defendant's lawyer and negotiate the deal.
In case there is no settlement reached your will case go for trial. The trial process can vary based upon where the case was filed. In many cases you will not be required to appear in the court and your lawyer should be able to do all the work. The trial process can take some time, typically a few months but it can be accelerated based on the health condition of the claimant. A typical trial process includes selection of a jury and opening statements by lawyers of both sides. This is followed by presentation of evidence and witnesses by both parties. Based on all this information and facts the jury gives its verdict. If the verdict is in your favour, defendants generally pay within a few months of the verdict.
Law gives a right to the defendants to appeal against the court verdict. In this case the payments to you will be delayed till the verdict of the next court comes.
If you are diagnosed with disease caused by asbestos exposure make sure that you contact a good lawyer as soon as possible. A monetary help can go a long way in ensuring good medical care for you and providing financial assistance to your family.