Should You Settle or Go to Trial?

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Should You Settle or Go to Trial?
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Avoiding Under Compensation

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Why should I hire a Mesothelioma Lawyer
Stages of a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Know your Mesothelioma Rights
Mesothelioma and Types of Exposure
Mesothelioma and your Right to Settlement
Mesothelioma Settlement Statute of Limitations
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Hiring an Asbestos Lawyer
Your Rights under Asbestos Law
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What to Expect from your Asbestos Lawyer
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Getting Compensated for Mesothelioma: Should You Settle or Go to Trial?

Despite what we usually see on court TV dramas, most lawsuits never make it into a courtroom.  Instead, the parties agree to a settlement long before trial preparation even begins.  There are benefits to both settlements and to trials which you will have to consider.

Regardless of what you expect the outcome of your case to be, your lawyer should always begin preparation for trial immediately once your claim is filed.

What is a Settlement?

A settlement is simply an agreement between the complainant and the defendant.  Settlements can be agreed upon at any point before or during a trial.

Benefits of Settlements

For all parties involved, there are many benefits to choosing a settlement over going to trial:

  • More expedite. Settlements allow the mesothelioma victim to receive compensation faster. Settlements can often be reached very quickly, whereas mesothelioma trials can go on for well over a year.
  • Settlements offer clear results of the case.  If the case goes to trial, no party can be sure of what the outcome will be, such as massive damages being awarded or the case being thrown out.
  • Fewer Defendants and lawyers tend to prefer settlements because they are cheaper and less time-consuming than trials.

Disadvantages of Settlements

  • Settlement amounts are usually much less than damages awarded during a trial.
  • If the complainant passes away during the trial, then the case will have to be re-filed by the complainant’s family as a wrongful death suit. This can be a burden on the family.
  • Settlements are completely final. They cancel the chance of gaining compensation for future medical problems.  When a mesothelioma victim settles, he/she must sign a legally-binding contract saying that no future lawsuits related to the same issue will be filed.

NOTE: If you have an asbestos-related disease and get a settlement, you can still file another lawsuit later if you develop mesothelioma).

  • Settlements are negotiable. If you are not satisfied with the first settlement offered, then you should hold out for a higher settlement

Comparison of Mesothelioma Settlement Vs. Trial

The average mesothelioma settlement in 2001 was about $1 million; compared to $6 million if the case made it to trial.

There have been numerous cases where much larger settlements or damages were awarded.

NOTE: These amounts don’t include the lawyer’s fee which is usually about 40%.

What amount of compensation can you expect from an asbestos case?

The amount of compensation you can expect varies depending on numerous factors, including :

  • Your mesothelioma-related expenses. The amount of money you have spent and are projected to spend. This includes treatment, lost income, travel expenses and more
  • The severity of the disease
  • The level of the defendant’s culpability. Whether they knew about the asbestos risk or not
  • Whether key witnesses or evidence is available

Benefits of Trials

While settlements are usually preferred for all parties in mesothelioma cases, they are not always the best option.

  • There have been dozens of asbestos-related cases in which complainants received more than $20 million.
  • Roby Whittington, a 70-year-old retiree of US Steel received a diagnosis of mesothelioma in 2001 and took his case before a jury.  He was awarded $250 million in damages.
  • Thomas Brown Jr. was awarded $322 million by a jury for asbestosis.
  • However, there have also been trials where the plaintiff was not awarded anything at all.
  • If you choose to go to trial and you win your case, then you will be able to seek further damages as necessary.
  • In some personal injury cases, settlements may be offered right before trial or even during the trial when the defendant realizes that the case is going unfavorably.
  • Most defendants in personal injury lawsuits such as for mesothelioma expect to settle, and they expect you to negotiate on the settlement amount.  Often, just the threat of going to trial can make the party offer a much larger settlement.

Final Considerations

The monetary benefits of a trial over a settlement can make it very tempting to hold out for your day in court. However, the choice between settlement and trial usually ends up being one of urgency:

  • If you have a poor prognosis and are not likely to survive a trial, then a quick settlement may be preferential over the hope of larger awards.
  • If you need financial compensation quickly, then a settlement is the best option.
  • Many states have laws about how soon after a settlement the defendant must make payments.  With trials, the defendant can appeal the ruling. An appeal means it may take years before you or your family sees any compensation at all.
  • Settlements and trial damages are often awarded in sums rather than bulk payments.  With a settlement, you will have more power in negotiating how and when you receive your payment.

A Personal Decision

Even if your mesothelioma lawyer is encouraging you to settle, it is ultimately your decision as to whether you want to go to trial or not.

When meeting with your mesothelioma lawyer, make sure to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of settlement and trials and to reassess these benefits/disadvantages as your case progresses.

Regardless of what you expect the outcome of your case to be, your lawyer should always begin preparation for trial immediately once your claim is filed.