Is Bigger Really Better? 

Why Local Experience Matters Most When Hiring A Mesothelioma Litigation Firm In Massachusetts

Mesothelioma is a devastating disease that develops years after exposure to asbestos-containing material. This exposure invariably occurred in the normal course of employment, and workers had no idea they were entering a potentially dangerous environment day after day. No one told them that while they were simply trying to provide for their families, they were risking their future health.

The fact that mesothelioma patients and their families have had to endure pain and suffering, both financial and emotional, as a result of the callous actions of manufacturers of asbestos-containing products is unconscionable. Companies that knowingly perpetuated the use of this harmful material for decades after it was known to be harmful should be held accountable, and many victims are successfully filing lawsuits in Massachusetts to get compensation for their injuries. 

But what is the best way to make sure these companies pay? 

If you or a loved one is suffering or suffered from mesothelioma in Massachusetts, you have a number of options when hiring a lawyer to represent you, from mesothelioma mega-firms that tout their size and geographic reach as benefits, to smaller local firms who have practiced in the state for many years. Which of these options provides the best chance for success? 

Ask yourself the following questions when choosing the right firm to represent your interests in a Massachusetts mesothelioma case:

Do they understand Massachusetts law?
If you file your case in Massachusetts, you want someone who thoroughly understands the state’s legal landscape. In complicated mesothelioma cases, your attorney should be very familiar with state laws, the Judge and Special Master, the defense attorneys on the other side, and the local rules of discovery and deposition, which vary widely from state to state. In fact, your case could be dismissed outright if your lawyer does not strictly follow the proper rules and procedures. Even improperly filling out a Plaintiff’s Disclosure Form can have serious ramifications for your case, potentially precluding claims against liable defendants, meaning your final award will be less than you could have received. 

Do they know who to sue?
In addition to knowing how to file the case for maximum benefit, your attorney should fully understand who to include in the suit. There are myriad potential defendants in a mesothelioma case, some obvious and some less so. Lawyers from out of state may not be familiar with the suppliers of specific asbestos-containing products used in Massachusetts. They could overlook potential defendants that would add to your financial recovery. Do they know the names of all the contractors, distributors, wholesalers, and suppliers involved? Experienced local lawyers will have intimate knowledge of the entire pool of potential defendants specific to your jobsites.

Have they tried a case exactly like yours before?

Lawyers have varied interests and experience, and many practice in multiple different areas of law. However, the specialized and detailed nature of a mesothelioma lawsuit does not lend itself well to dabblers in the area. Many mesothelioma cases in Massachusetts stem from similar jobsites, projects or exposures, be they paper mills, navy ships, powerhouses, shipyards, high-rise office buildings, or a host of other workplaces. Even those who were self-employed often worked with the same asbestos products. Is your attorney well-versed in the history of asbestos use in the state and have they successfully tried similar cases against all possible defendants? Specific, relevant Massachusetts asbestos litigation experience is critical to a successful outcome.

Are they part of the local landscape?
As in many other areas, communities in Massachusetts are tight-knit and tend to help and support their own. Opening up to out-of-staters can be more difficult, and to the extent that there is some implicit bias against outsiders, there is the potential it could negatively affect your case. 

As a test, ask your prospective attorney to pronounce these names: Quincy, Haverhill, Worcester, Stoneham, or Amherst. You will quickly learn whether they are truly part of our community!

Do they have “boots on the ground” in MA?
All cases litigated in Massachusetts require a Massachusetts-licensed attorney to bring the case to court. That means if your attorney is in another state and not licensed to practice in Massachusetts, they will need to add local counsel to the team to help with the case, sponsor their access to the courts, and navigate the local rules and procedures. This seems like an extra step: why not hire experienced local counsel to begin with? Even if they are paying the local counsel out of their fee, how motivated is your out-of-state lawyer when he or she is splitting the fee with a local lawyer hired to help them?

Are they personally available?
In a highly complex lawsuit involving hundreds, sometimes thousands of important details, it’s natural for you to have questions. Having personal access to your lawyer whenever you need clarification of a certain aspect of your case, or just want reassurance that everything is on track, can make all the difference to your peace of mind. Often, large firms in diverse locations have multiple hoops to jump through before you are connected with someone familiar with your case and can knowledgeably answer your questions. When you call, are you directed to someone on a “team” working on your case? Do you talk to a different person every time you call? That’s code for a large law firm having too many cases to keep one lawyer on your case from start to finish. A local firm entirely dedicated to your case can often answer your questions with one email, text, or phone call.

Who will pay for their travel costs?
Cases going back many years and involving numerous defendants require detailed and in-depth discovery, unearthing miles of paper trails and conducting multiple in-person depositions. This work needs to be done locally, and if your attorney is from out of state, his or her travel and associated costs will quickly add up. While you may not have to pay these costs up front, they are not free and will ultimately come out of your settlement, lowering your compensation.

Do they really care about you and your family?
You and your family are undoubtedly experiencing emotional stress and trauma as you deal with this painful time in your lives. Especially now, you need an attorney who is present, who cares about what’s happening to you, and who is committed to seeking justice in your case. Make sure you find an attorney for whom you are not just a number on a spreadsheet or a docket. Having responsive, compassionate, and sincere counsel that understands the local court system and who lives and works in the same state is crucial to success – financial success and having a positive experience while going through the process.

Do they win?

Above all, you are hoping for compensation for your suffering. Ask to see your attorney’s successful track record in cases like yours, and in the place you live.

The answers to the above questions will help you make an informed decision about hiring the right attorney for your case. If you think you might have a mesothelioma case in Massachusetts we encourage you to reach out to Shepard O’Donnell. We have helped hundreds of individuals and families obtain justice for their injuries, regularly obtaining settlements and verdicts numbering in the millions. We’d be happy to discuss these questions with you and offer you a free case evaluation. If you like, we will come to your house to listen to your story and will tell you honestly if we think you have a viable claim. And you will never pay unless we deliver results for you.