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Asbestos Litigation Questions and Answers

We understand that an asbestos lawsuit is not something that most people are familiar with, and the procedure can be confusing. In order to better inform our clients as to what to expect as we proceed with an asbestos claim on your behalf, we have put together this list of Frequently Asked Questions. We hope that this answers most of the questions you have about how asbestos cases work. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to ask us. Thank you for your trust and cooperation.

Is My Asbestos Case Part of a Class Action Lawsuit?

No, there is no asbestos class action in place pending right now. Your case is an individual lawsuit filed in Court. You are not participating in the lawsuit with any other asbestos victims. Your case is handled independently, just like any other civil lawsuit pending in court.

Where Will My Case be Filed?

That will depend on a number of factors, including where you live, where your exposure to asbestos took place, where the defendant companies are based, and the procedural and substantive law of the potential jurisdictions we are considering. We always try to find the best place to file your lawsuit, so that we can put your case in the best position for a successful outcome. Some states require that asbestos cases all be filed with the same court. For example, in Massachusetts, all asbestos cases are filed in Middlesex County Superior Court, and are heard by the currently appointed asbestos docket judge. Because of budget issues in Massachusetts, many judges move around to different courts during different times of the year, so we appear before the asbestos docket judge in the court in which he is sitting at that particular time. Each state will have its own system for handling asbestos lawsuits.

When Will My Case be Filed?

That will depend on the way in which the jurisdiction in which we file the case operates. Before we can file the case, we need to collect enough information to put the case in suit. That usually means that we have to research and collect information about the injured party’s use of asbestos products, and try to determine which companies are responsible for those products. We need to make sure we have enough information to go after the right parties, which can take time. Different jurisdictions may have procedures and systems that favor filing a case before or after a certain date or time of year. Some states allow living mesothelioma victims to advance their cases ahead of other cases in line for trial. We will make the determination about what is best for your case, and file it accordingly.

Once My Case is Filed, How Long Will it Take?

That depends on how quickly the court moves through its case docket. It varies by state, and by court. In many states, like Massachusetts, asbestos cases take 3 years from the year of filing to be reached by the court. So if your case is filed in 2017, you can expect that it will be reached by the court sometime in 2020. Some states, including Massachusetts, have a procedure that allows us to petition the court to advance the case of a living mesothelioma victim to trial in a faster time frame, often within a year. Depending on the complexity of the case, not every case benefits from getting to trial quickly. Some cases need additional time to try to locate documents and witnesses that support the case. But it is important to know that the courts in most jurisdictions move much more slowly than most people realize. It is nothing like what is depicted on legal dramas on television. Real-world lawsuits can take several years to complete.

Does that Mean That I Won’t See Any Money Until Years From Now?

No, it doesn’t. Asbestos lawsuits name a number of companies as defendants. We try to identify all of the responsible companies, and name them in the lawsuit. That means that a typical asbestos lawsuit has anywhere from a handful to a long list of companies listed as defendants. Most of those defendants will wait until the case is reached by the court before they will talk about settlement. But some companies are interested in negotiating a settlement of your case sooner than that. In that case, we can get you some compensation earlier on in the process. And as will be explained in more detail below, not every defendant in your lawsuit will pay a settlement.

I’ve Received My First Settlement Check—Is That It?

No, that is not it. Since we name a number of companies in your asbestos case, we have to deal with them one at a time. When you settle your case with a defendant, we just cross them off the list, and we continue on against the remaining defendants. We do this until we have either resolved the case with each defendant, or the remaining defendants have been dismissed from the case because we didn’t have enough evidence to show that their asbestos products were a substantial contributing cause of your disease.

There are a lot of defendants named in my lawsuit. Should I expect settlement money from all of them?

No, we aren’t able to achieve settlements with all of the defendants in your lawsuit. We name the defendants based on the information that we have at the beginning of your case. How many stay in the case until the end will depend entirely on your history of exposure to asbestos. In many instances, despite best efforts, we are not able to collect enough evidence to keep some defendants in the case. They get out of the case through either a dismissal or through a process called summary judgment. So if we are only able to identify a few asbestos products that you worked with or around, then we will only have a few settlements to work toward. If we can identify a lot of different asbestos products, then we will have more settlements to pursue. Every case is different, since no two people were exposed to the exact same asbestos products. You can’t compare your case to cases of your co-workers or friends, because the circumstances of everyone’s case varies depending on the number of products, years of exposure, severity of the injury, age of the victim, value of lost wages, etc., etc. Rest assured that we will do absolutely everything we can to try to maximize the recovery that we obtain for you.

What Happens if I Die Before My Lawsuit is Reached?

If something should happen to you before your lawsuit is reached by the court, it doesn’t end there. We would have someone appointed as executor of your estate, and the lawsuit would continue with that person standing in your shoes. Any settlement money received from the lawsuit would go to your spouse and/or heirs, depending on how your will or estate is set up. We recommend that all of our clients make sure they have up-to-date wills that name an executor who will be responsible for handling the estate. We can refer you to a lawyer who specializes in wills and estate planning, if you would like more information on setting that up.

I Haven’t Heard From Your Firm in a While—Should I Be Concerned?

No, there is no need for concern. Asbestos cases take a lot of work, and a lot of time to put together. We work with you at the outset of the case to gather the information and evidence we need to file your case and move forward with it. We collect medical records from your health care providers, and search for documents and evidence from your working years. We request documents and records from the defendants in your lawsuit, and we take depositions as needed to gather testimonial evidence. When we make requests, we have to wait for responses. We also have to wait for certain court deadlines. While we are putting all of this information together, we may not need any additional information from you, or your signature on any documents. As a result, many months may go by without hearing from us. Don’t be concerned, for we are busy working on your case. We won’t bother you unless there is something to report to you, or unless we need some information from you. You have enough on your plate without having us calling you. If you would like an update, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Please don’t be frustrated if we don’t have any new news to report to you—the legal system can move slowly, and for the most part there isn’t a lot that we can do about it.

Is Settlement Money That I Receive Taxable?

The short answer is “No.” Your asbestos lawsuit is seeking damages for personal physical injuries that you have received. Settlements for physical injuries are not taxable as income. There may be instances where settlements trigger some estate taxes, but that is rare. When you die, your estate is allowed a tax exemption up to a certain amount. In 2017, the federal exemption amount is $5,490,0001  per person. There is an unlimited marital deduction, which means that there is no limit on how much you can leave to your spouse tax-free. Individual states may have their own estate or inheritance tax rules, so you will need to find out what they are in your state. If you have any tax questions, let us know, and we will refer you to a tax professional who can provide detailed information. We focus on helping people with injuries, so tax law is not our area of expertise!

1The amount of the estate tax exemption may change year-to-year. For questions about the estate tax and how it might affect you and your family, please contact an estate or tax professional.

 

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