There have been more than 600,000 plaintiffs in asbestos disease lawsuits and every case has been significantly different. It is incredibly difficult to predict what will happen during an asbestos lawsuit. However, you should have clear expectations of what to expect from your asbestos lawyer.
After Hiring Your Asbestos Lawyer
An experienced asbestos lawyer knows that time is of the essence with asbestos lawsuits, particularly with mesothelioma lawsuits as the disease holds such a grim prognosis for many. Immediately after your asbestos lawyer is hired, he or she should assign a team to your case. This team will be responsible for discovering all evidence related to your case. Most importantly, the team will need to identify the main source of asbestos exposure who they can file a lawsuit against the appropriate party. In some cases, you may file a claim against several parties.
In order to assist with the evidence discovery, you will be expected to hand over all records which could be related to asbestos exposure. As much of this information can be very personal, such as your medical records, the process can be very intrusive. However, it is important that you do not withhold any information from your asbestos lawyer regardless of how insignificant you think it is. You may even be required to have your home investigated for asbestos.
At some point, if you are medically able to do so, you will be expected to have extensive interviews with your asbestos lawyer or a team member. You will be asked about personal matters such as work conditions, health complications you may have experienced and maybe even about your vacation history. All of this is important for the asbestos lawyer to build up a solid case and to establish who is at fault for your asbestos disease.
It is common for your asbestos lawyer to require you to see certain medical specialists. You will not be responsible for costs related to these medical specialists. You will likely have photographs taken to show how the asbestos disease has affected your life.
Your family members may also be involved in the asbestos lawsuit. For example, if your spouse has had to miss significant amount of work in order to care for you, then your spouse would also be entitled to receive compensation for lost wages. An intuitive asbestos lawyer may ask your spouse or other family members to undergo medical tests, such as for psychological damages as this can be used as evidence in court or in negotiating settlements.
Filing the Claim
Once your asbestos lawyer has built up the case, he/she will file your claim. The party against which your claim is being filed will have a set amount of time to respond to the claim – usually about 30 days. Once all parties respond, you will be expected to give a deposition which is essentially an oral testimony about the specificities of your case. The deposition will be preserved in writing to be used in court. This is particularly important as you may not be able to attend court yourself due to medical problems.
The defendants in your case will be given access to all the evidence discovered by your asbestos lawyer. The defendants also have the right to have their own experts examine your medical and personal history related to the lawsuit. You may be required to see certain experts hired by the defendants. After the claim is filed, the discovery process will typically last for another 4-5 months before a settlement is offered or parties go forward with trial.
Settling or Going to Court
Once your asbestos lawsuit claim is filed and a response is received, a court date will be set for trial. Court dates may be many months in the future but they can often be expedited as judges realize the urgent nature of asbestos disease cases, particularly mesothelioma lawsuits.
In most cases, asbestos lawsuits are settled out of court. The major benefit of this is that you will be able to receive financial compensation much faster. Further, out-of-court settlements offer a guaranteed award whereas court trials do not. However, compensation received from settlements is usually much less than what is awarded in court. Your asbestos lawyer is responsible for negotiating possible settlements with the defendants. Even if settlement is expected, your asbestos lawyer must immediately begin preparation for court – including finding expert witnesses to handling legal documents and so forth.
While your asbestos lawyer will handle all of these aspects, the decision of whether to settle or go to trial is ultimately up to you. Your asbestos lawyer should keep you reasonably informed at all steps of the litigation process. An experienced asbestos lawyer will realize that you may have other pressing issues to deal with, such as medical treatments for mesothelioma. Thus, the amount of involvement and insight you have in your asbestos lawsuit can vary depending on your wishes and abilities.