People diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma are victims of companies who put profits ahead of people’s health. In many cases, companies were aware of the risks of asbestos yet continued to expose workers to hazardous conditions. As a result, thousands of people have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. These victims are often entitled to compensation for their asbestos disease. Because of the prevalence of these cases, asbestos litigation is currently one of the most ubiquitous types of torts in the US. By some estimates, there have been over 600 thousand plaintiffs and 6 thousand defendants in asbestos cases. As a result, there are numerous lawyers and firms who specialize in asbestos litigations and even some which specialize in mesothelioma specifically. In order to get the most compensation, it is crucial that you should the right asbestos lawyer for your case.
The most important quality you will want to seek in your lawyer is experience with asbestos cases. Asbestos litigation differs greatly from other types of personal injury claims in numerous ways, particularly in that mesothelioma has such a long latency period. Your asbestos lawyer will need to establish a direct link between your asbestos disease and asbestos exposure – which is not always easy because mesothelioma can occur 50+ years after exposure. An experienced asbestos lawyer will have resources on hand, like databases of thousands of asbestos locations, which can help locate your point of exposure.
Even though most asbestos litigations are settled out of court, it is crucial that you choose an asbestos lawyer who has asbestos trial experience. Defendants in asbestos cases are fearful of going to trial because the damages can reach the millions – like one case for asbestosis where a man was awarded $322 million. If the defendant knows that your asbestos lawyer has trial experience, they will be more likely to offer a large settlement.
Size of the Firm and Case Load
In general, large firms will be better able to handle your asbestos litigation because they have more resources available to them. However, there are some downsides to large firms as well. With large firms, you may not get as much individual attention which you feel like you deserve. In some situations, your asbestos case may even be handed down to a less-experienced lawyer in the same firm. Ask about your lawyer’s current case load to make sure that he/she has time to devote to your case.
Always make sure you know exactly who is going to handle your case – not just the name of the lawyer officially in charge. You will also want to inquire about the experience of the legal team which will be assisting in your case. Do any of them also have experience with asbestos cases? How will they be assisting in your case and how will the case responsibilities be divided up?
Closer is Not Always Better
Many of the top asbestos lawyers are located in major cities on the east or west coasts. If you do not live in these areas, then you may not have a large choice of asbestos lawyers in your area. That doesn’t mean your choices are limited though. Most asbestos lawyers are willing to work from long distances to litigate your case and even travel to you when necessary. Some asbestos firms will partner with a local legal firm from your area. In this case, you will have two legal firms working for you at no additional cost.
Costs of Asbestos Lawyers
All reputable asbestos lawyers will offer you a free consultation where they will review your case and assess its outcome. In almost all cases, asbestos lawyers will work on a contingency fee, meaning that their payment will be a percentage of what you are awarded. While contingency fees are often very high – about 40% – you can rest assured that your asbestos lawyer will be motivated to get the highest possible settlement for you.
You may be tempted to seek out the asbestos lawyer who takes the lowest contingency fee. Keep in mind though that you should always first choose your asbestos lawyer based on experience, not his/her fees. In some situations, you may be able to negotiate the contingency fee with your lawyer. For example, you may ask for a lower contingency fee if the asbestos case gets settled out of court because this requires less preparation and time from the lawyer. Rarely are asbestos lawyers paid on an hourly basis. However, this may occur in some situations such as if your asbestos lawyer does not think your case has a good chance of winning.
You Do Not Have to Like Your Lawyer
Even though you may end up spending a significant amount of time with your asbestos lawyer, never get confused about your relationship: your lawyer is working for you, NOT becoming your new best friend. There may be many qualities that you do not like about your asbestos lawyer, such as his/her intrusiveness or bold behaviors. Do not let these feelings get in the way of you choosing the best qualified lawyer for your specific case. However, you should be comfortable with your asbestos lawyer – even if you don’t like him/her. If you are not comfortable with how your lawyer treats you or handles your personal information from the get-go, then find another lawyer.