Mesothelioma is a particularly virulent form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Because asbestos exposure is virtually the only cause of mesothelioma, and because the effects of mesothelioma are so devastating, many lawyers compete to litigate mesothelioma claims. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or if a family member has died as a result of mesothelioma, you will want to speak with a number of attorneys who specialize in handling mesothelioma cases. This guide will help you in choosing the right lawyer to handle your mesothelioma case.
First of all, time is of the essence. Because mesothelioma doesn't begin producing symptoms for years - or even decades - after exposure, it is critical that work begin on investigating your background for potential asbestos exposure as quickly as possible. This is important because:
Evidence will spoil and be lost over time.
States have statutes of limitation that constrain the time in which mesothelioma claims can be brought.
Sadly, because mesothelioma is so virulent and inevitably fatal, it is important that you provide any personal information for the investigation before the disease has run its course.
While there are thousands of asbestos-related claims every year, mesothelioma claims are most appealing to lawyers for several reasons:
There typically isn't much need to prove a connection between asbestos exposure and the disease, given the incredibly strong link between mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos.
Damages awards are highest in mesothelioma cases, given the horrible nature of the disease and the fact that its cause can be easily tied to asbestos.
Mesothelioma cases are the most satisfying from the perspective of delivering justice for those afflicted with mesothelioma and their families.
The problem with mesothelioma claims, however, is that the investigatory work necessary to trace your asbestos exposure back over what may be 20, 30 or 40 years is very difficult. While there's little question that mesothelioma is caused by asbestos, in order to recover you need to be able to discover which company was responsible for the asbestos to which you were exposed.
For this reason, you need to choose a mesothelioma attorney who has the experience and resources necessary to handle your case. You should speak to 3-5 lawyers before choosing one. Factors to look for in making your choice include:
Mesothelioma Specialization: Many firms handle "volume" asbestos practices, where a large number of claims are characterized by low damages, tenuous links to actual asbestos exposure, or both. Such claims are typically settled quickly out-of-court for low dollars. These aren't the firms you want. Look for a firm that focuses primarily or exclusively on litigating mesothelioma cases. Ask up front how much of their practice is devoted to these cases.
Trial Experience: You want to know that the lawyer you hire is ready to go the distance. Ask how many mesothelioma cases they have litigated, and how many have gone to verdict. If nearly all cases have settled rather than going to trial, this may be a cause for concern. However . . .
Results Speak: Sometimes, the biggest cases are those that settle. And sometimes, a mesothelioma lawyer or law firm has such a reputation for case selection, preparation and trial skills that a higher proportion of his or her cases settle because the defendants know they are likely to be outgunned in trial. Although every case is different, find out what kind of results the mesothelioma lawyer has obtained for other clients, both in settlement and trial.
Rapport: Finally, assuming you have found several mesothelioma lawyers with the necessary resources and track record to handle your case, you'll want to focus on rapport. The litigation will add time and stress to what will already be an incredibly difficult time. You want someone who will communicate effectively and with compassion, and keep you appropriately informed as the case progresses. Speak directly with the attorneys who would be handling your case, and make sure you are comfortable with their approach and communication style before signing an engagement letter.