Mesothelioma Medical and Legal Basics – What is the average mesothelioma settlement worth?
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the peritoneum, the layer of protective tissue surrounding the abdominal cavity. Mesothelioma
is usually caused by asbestos, whose fibers attach themselves to internal organs when inhaled or ingested. Where most asbestos fibers are straight flakes, the fibers in chrysotile asbestos have a spiral configuration that makes them lodge into organs and cause long-term inflammation that eventually becomes cancerous.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include vomiting, nausea, appetite loss, clotting of the legs, anemia, fever, bowel obstruction and abdominal swelling-which is usually the first symptom that gets noticed. The swelling is caused by a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity, which happens concurrently with the formation of mesothelioma tumors in the same region. If the tumor cells metastasize, the malignant peritoneal mesothelioma often spreads throughout the abdomen up through the respiratory system, resulting in mesothelioma lung cancer, and putting pressure on the throat, making it difficult to swallow.
The condition is difficult to diagnose initially, in part due to the symptoms having so much in common with other gastrointestinal problems, but mainly due to the long latency period of disease. It can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years between the patient’s first exposure to asbestos and the first symptoms becoming evident.
Since the 1970′s, mesothelioma litigation has skyrocketed, especially in the US. This is due in large part to asbestos regulation finally becoming a reality with the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970, and the first successful asbestos lawsuit against a company in 1973: Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation.
There are three main ways in which meso claims are handled. The first option is an individual lawsuit, which often ends with an out of court settlement. The Wall Street Journal reported that, according to the lawyers they interviewed, that the average mesothelioma settlement was $1,000,000; and that if the case went to trial, the average judgment was $6,000,000. However, this average has been hard to confirm. A review of settlements published online shows a range of settlement amounts ranging from four-figure to seven-figure checks.
The second option is a class action
, in which a suit is file for an entire group (class) of plaintiffs. Many or most of the individuals named as part of the class action aren’t aware of their involvement until they’re notified by mail, at which point they have the option to opt out of the suit. Opting out may be in their best interest, since their award is potentially much lower than it could be for a claim made in the future. Since mesothelioma takes decades for its effects to fully take hold, the medical costs will likely be out of reach by the average patient without being able to sue the responsible company for compensation. Class action participants who win a settlement or judgment today waive their right to sue the company in the future.
Finally, victims can receive compensation from a mesothelioma settlement trust. Since asbestos has been out of production since 1975, most of the companies responsible for their employees’ asbestos exposure have claimed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Companies that were sued and found liable prior to filing for bankruptcy usually set up settlement trusts that pay a portion of new claims that are brought to them. The attorney fills out a claim form for the client and submits it to the trustee. Settlement trusts typically pay 5-15% of the claim amount. One of the benefits of going through a trust is that it’s a fairly straightforward process: there are no judges, defense attorneys or medical experts to deal with.
If you’re thinking about hiring a mesothelioma lawyer
yourself, make sure that the retainer agreement doesn’t allow the lawyer to make a settlement without your permission, and make sure that you hire a specialist. Medical lawsuits are especially complex, and you’ll need an attorney with experience in handling a mesothelioma settlement
Thanks to Amin Mintarsa for the great article.
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