Frequently Asked Questions & Answers
What is an asbestos claim or asbestos lawsuit?
An asbestos claim or lawsuit ordinarily refers to a legal claim against an entity responsible for causing a person to be injured as the result of exposure to asbestos. An asbestos lawsuit, or civil action, is filed in a court of law against solvent (non-bankrupt) companies who may be legally responsible for a person’s asbestos exposure. With bankrupt companies, asbestos claims can be made outside of court with a bankruptcy trust fund that has been established to compensate those who have suffered asbestos-related injuries as the result of exposure to asbestos from the bankrupt company’s products.
Does a person have to be injured to file an asbestos claim or lawsuit?
In order to file a personal injury asbestos claim or lawsuit, a person must have an injury from asbestos exposure. There may be other legal actions that a person can file relating to asbestos, such as property damage, but in order to be compensated for a personal injury relating to asbestos, a person must establish that they have an asbestos related injury. These FAQs relate to asbestos claims and lawsuits based on a personal injury. The most common asbestos caused injuries are mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the bodily tissues, including the pleura and peritoneum), lung cancer (a cancer arising in the lung tissue), and asbestosis (scarring of the interstitial lung tissue that meets the medical standard for this disease).
What types of companies may be legally responsible in an asbestos claim or lawsuit?
The following are examples of the types of companies that may be legally responsible for causing an asbestos related injury:
Many companies who made asbestos-containing products entered into bankruptcy proceedings through which “trust funds” were established for present and future “claimants” who were injured or who would suffer injury in the future from past exposures to the bankrupt company’s products. Many of these companies were reorganized in the bankruptcy proceedings and continue to do business today, but cannot be sued in the court system due to the bankruptcy proceedings which established the trust claims proceedings as the sole remedy against the company for asbestos related claims.
Manufacturers of Asbestos Products
Many companies that manufactured and sold products that contained asbestos are solvent companies that may be sued in an asbestos lawsuit depending on the facts of the case. These companies include manufacturers of joint compound, floor tile, roofing and siding materials, caulking, gaskets, packing, insulation, boilers, pumps, valves, turbines and other equipment and materials.
Raw Asbestos Fiber Companies
Several companies who mined and sold large amounts of raw asbestos fiber in the United States can be sued in an asbestos lawsuit depending on the facts of the case. These companies sold asbestos in large bags to companies that used the asbestos to make asbestos-containing products.
Suppliers of Asbestos Products
Depending on the facts of a particular case, companies that did not make asbestos-containing products, but sold them in retail stores or through distribution channels may be legally responsible in an asbestos case. These companies include companies ranging from asbestos insulation distributors who sold and delivered large amounts of asbestos to commercial jobsites to retail stores that stocked and sold various asbestos-containing product lines.
Companies that used asbestos-containing products on job sites and failed to take appropriate precautions to protect workers in the vicinity may be liable for damages in an asbestos lawsuit depending on the facts of the case.
The landowner, or premises owner, can be sued in an asbestos lawsuit depending on the facts of the case, including the manner in which the asbestos was used and the role that the premises owner may have played in causing or failing to prevent the unsafe condition.
Designers or Engineers
The company that designed a building and specified the use of asbestos may be liable in an asbestos lawsuit, particularly when asbestos was specified for use in the construction of the building and asbestos-free materials of the same or similar utility could have been specified.
In most jurisdictions, a person’s employer cannot be sued in a civil action, but rather is only subject to a worker’s compensation claim. However, in some jurisdictions, the employer may be sued in a civil case, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.
Can more than one company be legally responsible?
Yes. Most of the time, this is the case. In fact, it is well-established that asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer, are caused by a person’s cumulative (total) exposure to all asbestos that they had in their lifetime. Commonly, a person’s asbestos exposures come from a large number of products and therefore many companies may be legally responsible. The law in all, or nearly all, jurisdictions recognizes that there can be multiple causes of the same injury.
What evidence is needed for an asbestos claim or lawsuit?
To recover money in an asbestos claim from most bankruptcy trusts, a person must present evidence of a diagnosis with an asbestos related disease and proof of exposure to products from the bankrupt company sufficient to satisfy the rules of the particular trust. For some bankruptcy trusts, proof of exposure may only require evidence that a person worked at a particular jobsite and performed a particular type of work or had regular contact with the work clothing of someone who performed such work. In a civil action, however, the amount of evidence needed for a claim is more demanding. In an asbestos lawsuit, the plaintiff must plead and prove specific legal claims, including, for example, the following.
A common claim in an asbestos lawsuit is “negligence”, which asserts that the defendants (companies being sued) did not exercise reasonable care in manufacturing, selling or using asbestos-containing products. Many companies were negligent because they sold asbestos-containing products without adequately warning about the dangers. In fact, many companies provided absolutely no warnings.
Another common legal claim is “strict liability” or “products liability”, which asserts that the manufacturer or seller of the product is liable for selling a product that was “unreasonably dangerous” or “not reasonably safe” for its intended use.
To satisfy legal claims in an asbestos lawsuit, the person with the asbestos-related disease often gives sworn testimony in a deposition and, if necessary, at trial. The testimony of co-workers or other eyewitnesses may sometimes be available and useful in proving legal claims in an asbestos lawsuit.
What types of compensation can be recovered in an asbestos claim or lawsuit?
Bankruptcy trusts usually pay asbestos victims who qualify for payment a set amount of money based primarily on the disease that the person has.
Mesothelioma claims typically receive the highest compensation. However, asbestos bankruptcy claims pay reduced amounts of money and cannot fully compensate asbestos victims for their immense suffering.
In an asbestos lawsuit filed in court, a person can seek “compensatory damages,” which are designed to compensate a person for the injury. Compensatory damages may include a monetary value of pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost earnings. The spouse of a person who suffers from an asbestos related disease may be able to receive damages for “loss of consortium” or “loss of services”. For all these types of compensation, the plaintiff (person injured or family of the injured person bringing the lawsuit) must first prove that at least one defendant is liable at trial. In some jurisdictions, a plaintiff is able to recover punitive damages, which are designed to punish a company for wrongdoing and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. To prove punitive damages, the plaintiff must prove wrongful conduct beyond negligence. This may require a showing that the defendant acted in reckless disregard to a known risk or acted maliciously or intentionally in harming the plaintiff.
What are the time limits for an asbestos claim or lawsuit?
There are strict time limits for asbestos claims and lawsuits known as “statute of limitations.” The particular statute of limitations varies from state to state, and may be as short as one year or as long as several years from the date of diagnosis. In many states, there is also a separate statute of limitations applicable to wrongful death claims and it runs from the date of death. It is important to consult an experienced asbestos attorney as early as possible, so that you can learn what the statute of limitations is for your case.
Can an asbestos claim or lawsuit be filed if the person who developed the disease is now deceased?
Yes, so long as the applicable statute of limitations has not expired. To determine this, it is very important that you speak with an experienced asbestos lawyer right away. In most states, the damages of the decedent “survive” the person’s death and those damages can be sought by a personal representative of decedent’s estate, such as the surviving spouse. Also, wrongful death statutes permit certain surviving family members to seek financial compensation resulting from the death of their loved one.
Will asbestos lawyers work on a contingent fee basis as opposed to an hourly fee basis?
Yes, the standard attorney fee arrangement in asbestos cases is for the attorney and the client to sign a “contingency fee contract,” in which the attorney law firm receives a set percentage of any money recovered in the case. This means that the attorney does not receive any fee unless money is recovered for the client. The attorney will typically “advance” all the reasonably necessary case-related expenses and then be reimbursed for those expenses out of the recovery. The terms of the contingency fee agreement are governed by the particular contract signed between the attorney and client.
How much are asbestos claims or lawsuits worth?
This very much depends on the particular facts of the case. You should be very suspicious of any attorney that promises that a case is worth a certain amount of money. An asbestos case can result in a very small recovery or very large recovery depending on the evidence in the case.
Do most asbestos lawsuits go to trial?
No. Most asbestos lawsuits settle before trial. However, it is important to be represented by a law firm that is prepared to go to trial if necessary and is recognized by defendants and insurance companies for their expertise in trial. In some instances, it may be in the best interests of the client to proceed to trial. The decision about whether to settle the case or go to trial is made by the client, after consultation with the attorney, based on the facts of the particular case.
Who is Levy Konigsberg (“LK”)?
LK is a national trial law firm that has been representing victims of asbestos related diseases and their families for close to 30 years. The firm has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for families affected by asbestos and, in 2013, was named the Plaintiff’s Law Firm of the Year for Product Liability by U.S. News and World Report. LK has won landmark verdicts and settlements in asbestos cases including the largest compensatory damages verdict ever upheld on appeal in a mesothelioma case. LK is also a philanthropic firm that has donated substantial amounts of money for mesothelioma research and efforts to raise awareness about asbestos.
How do I contact LK?
Our law firm is available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Simply call 1-800-637-6529 or fill out an electronic form on this website. We offer a free consultation and meetings can be arranged in the convenience of your own home, anywhere in the United States.
Under the law of most states, pain and suffering from mesothelioma may be compensated through the award of money damages, usually obtained with the help of experienced mesothelioma attorneys. In some states other types of damages may also be recovered.
Asbestos litigation affords mesothelioma victims the opportunity to receive financial compensation and hold accountable the companies that caused their asbestos exposure.
- Preserve your rights to bring a legal action against the responsible parties within the limited time frame allowed by law, known as statute of limitations;
- Obtain maximum compensation in your case by being able to:
- Preserve evidence and establish facts of the asbestos exposure while the claimant is still alive and able to provide information;
- File and resolve a lawsuit against the responsible parties before they file for bankruptcy or, if they already have, to obtain compensation before their bankruptcy trust funds run out of money;
- Expedite your case, as courts tend to give higher priority to mesothelioma lawsuits where the claimant is still alive.