Your Guide to Mesothelioma Mass Tort Law
February 24, 2023 @ 7:25 pm
Asbestos is a powerful mineral. It has long been valued for its ability to make things fireproof and give whatever it was added to tensile strength. However, it is also highly carcinogenic—an agent that is known to cause cancer in people who have been exposed to it. Malignant mesothelioma is the form of cancer most closely associated with asbestos—its symptoms often develop years or decades after exposure. This proven link between asbestos exposure and diagnoses of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases has resulted in its own venues for lawsuits, claims and mandated financial compensation for victims—mesothelioma mass tort law.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that grows in the mesothelium—the thin protective membrane that covers the internal organs of the chest, abdominal cavity and pelvis. While it’s most commonly associated with the lungs because of exposure to asbestos dust, it is a malignant cancer that can start in or spread to other organs like the heart, abdominal organs or testes. Clear-cut symptoms typically don’t appear until many years after exposure, so diagnoses often come decades after the initial dates of exposure.
Have other debilitating conditions been linked to asbestos?
While mesothelioma is perhaps the most well-known because of its tumorous malignancy, other serious asbestos-related diseases include asbestosis, respiratory disease and pleural disease.
- In asbestosis, asbestos exposure results in long-term scarring and inflammation of the lungs.
- Respiratory disease causes changes to the structure of the lung and its function and can also involve the passageways leading to the lungs.
- IPleural disease describes a number of conditions affecting the thin membranes that cover the lungs and line the chest cavity.
Asbestos exposure has also been linked to cancer of the larynx and ovaries and possibly cancer of the pharynx, stomach and colorectum.
What is mass tort law?
Tort law is the civil legal process that seeks to give people who have been wronged a way to receive compensation for their injuries and protect against further injury or loss. Mass tort law applies when many people are injured or wronged by the same thing—a person, company or product, for example. In instances of illnesses like mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, so many people have been wronged that the question is no longer whether victims have a valid case. The only real question is which legal venues to pursue compensation.
Who is eligible to file a lawsuit for mesothelioma compensation?
Victims of asbestos exposure who are still living may be eligible to pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. If a loved one has already died, their family may be eligible for compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. Whether the suit is personal injury or wrongful death, the circumstances must fulfill at least two requirements.
- First, the victim must have had a formal medical diagnosis of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease obtained from a health professional.
- Second, you must be able to document the victim’s exposure to asbestos.
Something important to be aware of is that exposure can be second-hand exposure—not just first-hand. For example, a worker who had to handle asbestos or asbestos-related materials would have been exposed. In turn, that worker might have gone home and unknowingly exposed their family members to asbestos dust that coated their clothing, their work gear, and even their body and hair.
General descriptors for who may be eligible to file an asbestos claim include workers and employees who handled or were exposed to asbestos or asbestos-related products, family members who had second-hand exposure to asbestos, people who were exposed to asbestos in their environment and people who lost a loved one to an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma.
Who do you file an asbestos-related lawsuit or claim against?
The circumstances of the asbestos exposure determine who the lawsuit or claim would be filed against. Depending on the circumstances, multiple entities may be at fault. In most cases, legal claims focus on asbestos manufacturers who sold their products to other companies or consumers without revealing the dangers associated with asbestos. Employers who knew the risks yet failed to control and handle asbestos products safely or failed to provide employees with the proper worker protections may also be at fault. Because asbestos is a known hazardous substance with many years of laws and lawsuits associated with it, cases rarely go to trial but instead are settled.
In some cases, mass tort law has already decided mesothelioma cases against a company or entity. The responsible party—or parties—most likely had to set aside mesothelioma compensation funds available through an asbestos trust fund or reserve. Those funds are typically invested so that they continue to yield money payable to current eligible claimants as well as future ones. Even if a company declared bankruptcy, it most likely had to establish reserved funds to cover future asbestos-related compensation claims. Some of the largest, most prominent firms in the United States have established mesothelioma trust funds—including Owens Corning, United States Gypsum and Armstrong World Industries, for example.
Military veterans can file claims directly through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs—the VA—due to the prevalence of asbestos used throughout military installations, ships, planes and equipment. Veterans suffering from asbestos-related diseases are entitled to full compensation and medical care, and their spouses are eligible for survivor benefits.
Individuals under 65 who are unable to work due to an asbestos-related disease or its treatment may be eligible for SSDI—Social Security Disability Insurance. Upon receiving SSDI for two years, the recipient may then be eligible for Medicare.
How do I file a mesothelioma claim against an asbestos trust fund?
Asbestos trust fund payments can range from thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Each claim is thoroughly evaluated, taking into account the illness or disease involved, the payment schedule that the originating company initially set for each type of medical condition and the trust’s current payment percentages.
If this sounds complicated, the truth is that it can be. Companies are typically compelled to set aside millions of dollars calculated to cover claims that may be lodged decades into the future, and those funds are supposed to be carefully managed to maintain the trust’s longevity. However, the need to keep funds available often results in trusts trying to pay only a small percentage of an asbestos victim’s claim.
Meeting the criteria that each fund sets is crucial to being able to receive the best percentage of compensation possible. Likewise, providing complete documentation and evidence of all circumstances—from proof of exposure to the formal medical diagnosis—within approved timeframes and accepted submission formats is critical to having a successful claim that can withstand review through the most appropriate venue and be resolved quickly.
Victims may be eligible to lodge claims against multiple funds. However, each trust fund has its own administrative rules, claims procedures and requirements, and review venues and practices. An experienced asbestos lawyer can guide you through the process and ensure that you get the best settlement possible.
What role does my health insurance play?
In many cases, victims of asbestos-related disease or cancer receive medical care and treatment through their personal or employer-provided health insurance. Because of mass tort law and the compensations available for asbestos-related medical issues, health insurance companies may attempt to place a lien on compensation to recover their expenditures and covered treatment costs. An experienced mesothelioma attorney may be able to negotiate costs and protect your financial settlement.
What is the statute of limitations for mesothelioma mass tort claims?
A statute of limitations limits the length of time victims have to file a lawsuit or claim. With asbestos-related cases, the clock starts when a patient receives a formal diagnosis of mesothelioma or other serious asbestos-related diseases.
In Louisiana, the statute of limitations for mesothelioma lawsuits is one year for both personal injury and wrongful death cases. However, the number of diagnoses and the timing of them may affect deadlines. In addition, the location of the company responsible may also affect the statute of limitations that applies as some states have longer statutes of limitations. For claims lodged against trust funds, timeframes for eligibility vary from fund to fund.
Our Mass Tort Lawyers Can Help
When asbestos-related malignant cancer or other serious medical conditions are involved, a lot is at stake. The most important issue quickly becomes how to find a good asbestos attorney or mesothelioma lawyer experienced in mass tort law.
If you were ever exposed to asbestos—or if someone you deeply care about was—and received a diagnosis of mesothelioma, you have the right to financial compensation. Millions of dollars have been awarded to the victims of asbestos-related diseases and their families. If you believe that you have a case, reach out to the experienced attorneys at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett & Haik, and let us help you get all of the funds and assistance that you so desperately need.