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Asbestos Lawsuits and Asbestos Lawyers
Asbestos Lawsuits and Asbestos Lawyers
Since the mid-20th century, the link between asbestos and deteriorating health has been unquestionable. When asbestos is damaged or disturbed, it will release particulate fibers that can cause disease when inhaled. Individuals who have been occupationally exposed to asbestos are at a greater risk of contracting asbestos-related diseases. Such diseases include asbestosis – a scarring of the lung tissue; lung cancer; gastrointestinal cancer (larynx, esophagus, stomach, intestine); and
Since the release of the overwhelming evidence pertaining to the hazards of asbestos, many lawsuits have been launched by individuals working with or around asbestos and asbestos containing material, against their employers, who had improperly warned them about the safety concerns of asbestos. These lawsuits are based upon the liability of manufacturers of abestos and asbestos products, for the harm caused by exposure to those products.
An increasing amount of lawsuit cases have been launched over the past few years, with really no end in sight. Many companies have been forced into bankruptcy since the litigation of these cases began.
Starting an Asbestos Lawsuit
If a person feels that an asbestos-related disease, such as asbestosis or mesothelioma, due to occupational exposure, has afflicted them, they can contact a lawyer. There are many law firms all around the county that focus on occupational-health law, with a specialization with asbestos. Preliminary work involves attaining pertinent information such as the potential client's work history, exposure to asbestos, and medical records. This information is reviewed to determine whether the client has a reasonable chance of a successful outcome.
Most law firms will only take on the case if they feel the client has good chances for a victorious result. If they feel the chances are good, further investigations into whether the client has a viable worker's compensation claim against their employer(s).
Filing the Complaint
The formal start of the case begins when lawyers file the client's (plaintiff) complaint against all companies that they believe are, or might be responsible, for the asbestos exposure. Determining whom to sue can be a complex matter since there is usually more than one company responsible for the manufacturing of asbestos and asbestos exposure. In some cases as many as forty companies have been identified as potential defendants. Most of these companies are generally in the asbestos mining, manufacturing, distribution, brokers, insulation, and construction industries. Once the complaint has been filed, the defendants have about a month, after receiving the complaint, to respond.
In recent years, a great number of asbestos companies have filed for bankruptcy to protect themselves from the rising number of complaints and cases filed against them. The majority of these companies have set up settlement trusts that are separate from the litigation process. If one of the defendants named is company that has declared bankruptcy, lawyers can submit claim forms and negotiate with these settlement trusts. The money received from these trusts is generally much less than would have been received had they been in the litigation, and the terms of payment are often delayed over many years.
Researching the Case – Interrogatories, Subpoenas, and Depositions
Once the complaint has been filed, lawyers for both client and defendants set aboard to research all aspects of the lawsuit in preparation for the trial. Both sides try to discover as much as possible relevant to the lawsuit. Both sides will utilize interrogatories - which are written questions; and subpoenas – an official request for documents, addressing key individuals and companies involved in the lawsuit. An interview of the plaintiff, called a deposition, is an informative legal proceeding for both sides.
On the client's side, investigators gather information from many sources to attempt to identify the asbestos products that the client was exposed to, and to identify the companies responsible for the products and determine who was responsible for safety at the site. This investigation will likely include contacting the client's co-workers for any relevant information, reviewing depositions, as well as research in libraries, archives, government records, company records, record collections, and databases. Other law offices that might have information on the topic are contacted. The investigators try to not leave any stone unturned as they expand upon the information gathered at the first interview. It is not uncommon for them to review thousands of pages and talk to over a hundred potential witnesses.
On the defendant's side, investigators will try to find out things as employment, marriage and medical history. The aim of this investigation is to determine if the plaintiff was warranted in accusing the company(s) for their poor health because of asbestos exposure.
Trial Preparation and Settlements
Lawyers for the plaintiff will usually as the court to put the case on the trial calendar as soon as possible. If the plaintiff is in poor health, a request will be made to the judge to expedite the case by moving it to the top of the trial calendar. Once the case is put onto the court's trial calendar, it also marks the beginning of serious settlement negotiations.
Lawyers will generally consult with the client and enter into negotiations with the defendants (companies). It is typically customary for the lawyers representing the client to present each defendant with a demand that is reasonably based on that company's share of liability in the lawsuit. If the evidence against the defendants is overwhelming, many of them will choose to settle before the trial begins. Normally, there will be some defendants that do not agree to settle by the beginning of the trial. However, it is rare that a trial will proceed all the way to a verdict since defendants will agree to settle during the trial once they gauge how the trial will turn out.
An asbestos trial averages about a month in length. Evidence against the defendants is brought up using the expertise analysis of treating doctors, pathologists, pulmonologists, industrial hygienists, and oncologists. Co-workers, the client, and their family also present further evidence.
In the case of a settlement by the defendant(s), the plaintiff and family members much sign a release form, which stipulates that the plaintiff cannot sue the defendant for the same thing. In regards to the distribution of the settlement, the lawyer will apportion the money to the plaintiff and their dependents. It is highly recommended to have a clear, current, and accurate assignment of one's property that includes the potential value of the pending asbestos lawsuit. This makes the settlement and money distribution process more efficient and smooth. Once all the parties have signed the release document, payment is usually made within three months.
If the case goes all the way through to a verdict, the losing party or parties will undoubtedly appeal the decision. This means that the final outcome of the trial can be delayed for many months or even years.
In the tragic case of the death of the client before resolution of the case, the client's lawyers will have to file a wrongful death case before proceeding on with the personal injury case. Lawyers will then consolidate the cases, and return to the researching the original lawsuit, trial preparation and settlement negotiation duties.