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Legal Options if Diagnosed with Mesothelioma

In addition to the many medical questions that may arise with a mesothelioma diagnosis, there are legal questions too.

Your first step is to consult with an experienced Boston mesothelioma lawyer from The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman. Our attorneys understand the many complex, multifaceted elements of these cases, from how people are exposed to asbestos (the cause of mesothelioma), to what products asbestos companies made, how they were packaged and what kinds of state laws and federal regulations could impact your ability to file an asbestos lawsuit. We also understand the fragile health of mesothelioma patients and respect the precious time they have left.

We work to help patients and their families navigate the legal system with dignity and as much ease as the process allows.

One of the first questions people have when first diagnosed with mesothelioma is, “Can I file a lawsuit to recover damages?” The answer is usually, “Yes.” However, it depends on numerous factors, and the ability of your attorney to meticulously and timely manage the detailed investigation and filings that such cases require.

What Legal Options Are Available to Those Injured by Asbestos?

There may be several different legal options, depending on the source of your asbestos exposure.

One of the first to consider is workers’ compensation. Most asbestos exposure cases in New England happened on-the-job. Asbestos was used in roofing, insulation, shipping materials and vehicle brake pads throughout much of the 20th Century.

Most employees do not have the option to sue their employers for negligence because Massachusetts has a no-fault system for work-related injuries. (Railroad workers are the major exception, and there could be a few others.) However, a person who suffers an occupational disease should be able to collect workers’ compensation in the form of:

  • Temporary total disability benefits
  • Partial disability benefits
  • Permanent and total disability benefits

These benefits should cover a portion of lost wages and/ or medical expenses.

However, the compensation received through these benefits may be modest, and will not cover damages such as pain and suffering.

Plaintiffs may further have the option to pursue claims for:
  • Product liability. These would be claims filed against companies that mined or processed asbestos or companies that used asbestos in their products.
  • Premises liability. These types of lawsuits would be against companies that failed to take reasonable measures to protect those who were on site (i.e., failure to provide appropriate protective gear to workers/ visitors).
  • General negligence. These might be for claims of improper asbestos removal or improper asbestos disposal resulting in injury to third parties.

It should be noted that you may have more than one type of claim, depending on how you were exposed to the asbestos and what parties may be liable.

There is also the potential to file a claim with an asbestos bankruptcy trust. These trusts were established by companies that went bankrupt amid a flood of asbestos lawsuits. As the U.S. Government Accountability Office has reported, more than 100 companies have declared bankruptcy due to asbestos litigation, and federal bankruptcy code allows them to compensate present and future claimants via assets placed into a personal injury trust. In total, there is an estimated $37 billion held in these trusts. These claims are handled differently than workers’ compensation claims or lawsuits – which is why it’s important that your case be handled only by an experienced law firm.

How Long Do I Have to Sue?

This is a tricky question because unlike many personal injury lawsuits in Massachusetts, these cases are predicated on exposure that occurred 10 to 50 years prior to a diagnosis. State statutes of limitations laws may vary, giving plaintiffs between just 1 and 5 years after diagnosis or discovery of mesothelioma in which to file a lawsuit. That’s why it’s so important to act quickly.

There are two basic types of mesothelioma lawsuits:

  • Personal injury lawsuit.
  • Wrongful death lawsuit.

In both cases, the statute of limitations (per Mass. Gen. Law 260 Section 4 and Mass. Gen. Law 229) is three years from the time of diagnosis.

Personal injury lawsuits can be filed by the individual, and wrongful death lawsuits are filed after a person has already died. If a person files a personal injury lawsuit for mesothelioma and later dies, his or her estate may continue that claim and add a claim for damages on grounds of wrongful death.

It should be noted that Massachusetts workers’ compensation claims must be filed within four years from either the date of injury or the date that you became aware that you had a health problem related to your job.

What If I Don’t Know How I Was Exposed to Asbestos?

Mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related disease has a latency period of between 10 and 50 years. For this reason, it’s common that individuals may not know the origin of their asbestos exposure.

It doesn’t help that asbestos was used in so many everyday products, from cement to vehicle brakes, that many people were exposed to asbestos without realizing it.

Our asbestos injury lawyers spend time extensively reviewing your case and your history to determine how you were exposed to asbestos and which companies may be liable for that exposure. We devote significant time and resources to each case.

Companies we may look at holding liable include:

  • Manufacturers of asbestos-containing products.
  • Contractors who installed and repaired asbestos-containing products and equipment.
  • Suppliers who provided material to the work site.
  • Owners of property who allowed asbestos materials to be used on their property.
Will There be a Trial in My Case?

This really depends on so many factors. However, it is fair to say most mesothelioma cases that make it beyond the summary judgment phase (where a judge determines if either party is entitled to a favorable judgment as a matter of law) will be resolved in an out-of-court settlement.

Similarly, claims made to an asbestos bankruptcy trust will usually not go to trial. However, plaintiffs will need to present evidence of an asbestos-related injury, and those claims are settled out-of-court, with trustees typically agreeing to pay a percentage of what they claimed. However, the payout process is generally faster for a trust than a lawsuit.

Mesothelioma trials are time-intensive, arduous and expensive – for both sides. That’s why out-of-court settlements are preferable if possible. However, our attorneys will not shy away from a trial if that is what is needed to secure our client fair compensation.

How Will I Pay for My Mesothelioma Lawyer?

Plaintiffs in mesothelioma cases do not pay the financial costs out-of-pocket, because our attorneys take these cases on a contingency fee basis – meaning we aren’t paid unless you win.

When our attorneys agree to take on your case, we are also agreeing to advance our time and resources toward working on your case. That’s why you can be assured when we accept your case that we believe in its success.

Once a case is completed, those expenses and legal fees will be deducted from the total money we recover.

If you have questions about your legal options, we can help.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.

NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL

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