Receiving a Mesothelioma Settlement After Death
If you or a loved one is struggling with mesothelioma, you already know how devastating this disease can be. The outlook and odds of survival are not high.
Furthermore, caring for someone with this disease can be costly. These costs do not go away when your loved one passes. Instead, the burden can increase as you struggle with funeral expenses, lost income, and other losses.
You may have heard about people who have received mesothelioma settlements. These settlements provide financial help to a person with mesothelioma. Such compensation can offset treatment costs, lost income, and other expenses related to their diagnosis.
Each person’s experience with this disease is different. That includes how long a person lives following their diagnosis. Your loved one may pass from this disease before they reach a mesothelioma settlement. But even if your loved one dies before reaching a settlement agreement, you and your family can continue pursuing compensation.
Understanding Mesothelioma’s Causes, Diagnosis, and Effects
According to the American Cancer Society, mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. Only about 3,000 new cases occur yearly.
It is also aggressive, and many of those diagnosed with this disease die. Penn Medicine reports that the five-year survival rate is only 10%. In other words, only one out of every ten people with this condition will be alive five years after their diagnosis.
The average life expectancy of someone with this disease is only 4 to 18 months following their diagnosis.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Malignant mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the mesothelium. The mesothelium is the lining surrounding the lungs, stomach, and other organs.
The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs. The National Institutes of Health estimates that over 80% of all mesothelioma cases are pleural mesothelioma.
Another form of mesothelioma is peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the stomach lining. Pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart (the pericardium). Likewise, testicular mesothelioma affects the lining found in the male testes. Together, these three forms of cancer account for approximately 17% of all new mesothelioma cases.
This condition does not develop quickly. The disease can take 20 to 50 years to develop before doctors detect it. However, once cancerous cells develop, they can metastasize and spread rapidly to other body parts. This helps explain the short time between diagnosis and death in the average case.
Most cases are diagnosed after the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes and other body parts. It is challenging to treat in this advanced stage, and the prognosis is poor.
When doctors catch mesothelioma in its earlier stages, medical treatment is more likely to slow the spread of the disease and prolong your life. Therefore, early detection is critical when it comes to this form of cancer.
Causes of Mesothelioma
Doctors and researchers do not completely understand why someone develops this form of cancer. However, a clear and well-documented link does exist between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.
The U.S. government has tightly regulated asbestos for several decades. However, Americans can still easily find this dangerous material in older schools and buildings.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring microscopic mineral fiber. When left undisturbed in its natural state, it is harmless and poses no risk to humans. However, when people disturb asbestos fibers, the fibers can become airborne. Anyone nearby can either inhale or ingest them unwittingly.
Once these fibers enter the body, they can lodge in the mesothelium. There, they can irritate and inflame the lining of the lungs, stomach, and other organs. Scar tissue can develop after that. Eventually, cancerous cells and tumors will begin to grow.
Not everyone who inhales or ingests asbestos will develop this form of cancer. But the longer a person is exposed to asbestos fibers, the greater the risk of developing the condition. For example, a pipe fitter who worked around asbestos for decades has a greater risk than someone who was only exposed to asbestos fibers once or twice.
Researchers believe that radiation exposure and genetics may also play a role in the development of this disease. However, primary or secondary asbestos exposure remains the largest risk factor.
Individuals Most at Risk
Asbestos is lightweight but very resistant to heat and fire. As a result, it proved useful in a variety of industrial and commercial products, such as:
- Ceiling and floor tiles
- Textured paints
- Insulation for boilers, pipes, furnaces, walls, and ceilings
- Brake pads for cars and trucks
- Shipbuilding materials
People who have mined asbestos or worked with products containing asbestos are most at risk for asbestos exposure. This list includes miners, shipbuilders, pipe fitters, electricians, and other workers in the construction industry.
Many office workers spend their days in buildings containing asbestos. They can also be at risk of cancer if the asbestos becomes airborne.
Finally, people who have lived in the same home as those exposed to asbestos are at risk. Airborne asbestos fibers could settle on a worker’s clothing and return home with the worker at the end of the day. When the clothes were removed or washed, the asbestos fibers could become airborne again and affect those in the home.
Today, companies cannot use asbestos in construction or manufacturing, with very few exceptions. This does not eliminate the large number of asbestos-containing structures. But as long as no one disturbs these materials, they do not pose a risk to those who live or work in the building.
However, sometimes these materials are disturbed, such as during renovations. In that case, the asbestos fibers can become airborne and pose the same risk to current occupants as to those who originally installed the materials.
Symptoms to Watch For
The symptoms a person might experience can vary depending on the type of mesothelioma they develop. In all cases, however, the early signs of this disease can mimic the symptoms of other common ailments.
By the time a person seeks medical care for their symptoms, the cancer may have already reached an advanced stage. That means it has spread to other parts of the body and become difficult to treat.
In the case of pleural mesothelioma, some of the early symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest pain, and a persistent cough. You might also feel tired and weak. These symptoms may not appear until years or even decades after your asbestos exposure.
As the disease progresses, these symptoms will become more pronounced and persistent. You may find breathing increasingly difficult and have trouble walking or performing physical activities.
Treatment Options for Patients
Unfortunately, there is no established cure for this disease. Nor is there any way to put it into remission.
When mesothelioma is caught early, treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation may prolong your life and slow the disease’s progression. If doctors detect the disease in its advanced stage, the goal of treatment is to manage your symptoms and make you as comfortable as possible.
An Overview of Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Suppose that a person has been recently diagnosed with this disease. Their doctor confirms that the cancer is in an advanced stage. As the disease progresses, that person will likely incur significant medical expenses and debts. These costs will be compounded if they can no longer work because of their symptoms.
That person may have the right to file a lawsuit against one or more entities. Compensation is available if they can prove the following:
A Person or Entity Owed Them a Duty of Care
Often, asbestos exposure happens in the workplace. Employers owe their employees a duty to create a reasonably safe work environment. This includes warning their employees of dangers present in their workplaces and providing training and safety equipment to mitigate the dangers.
Therefore, employers have a duty to advise employees of the presence of asbestos and its dangers. Before an employer sends workers onto a job site that could be contaminated with asbestos, the employer must take reasonable steps to determine whether asbestos is, in fact, present. If it is, the employer must remove or safely contain the asbestos.
Similarly, companies that manufacture products must inform consumers of their products’ dangerous qualities. They do this by using a warning label if a product contains asbestos. The manufacturer’s warning label should also indicate that asbestos exposure poses a risk of developing cancer.
The Person or Entity Did Not Fulfill That Duty
Next, the lawsuit must prove that the person or entity did not follow their legal duty. Instead, they violated it by not warning their customers or protecting their workers. If the person or business did not act reasonably and carefully, they will usually be found to have violated their legal duty.
These Actions Led to the Persons’ Asbestos Exposure and Diagnosis
Third, the plaintiff must show that the other party’s actions exposed them to asbestos and caused them to develop this condition. Because of the strong link between asbestos exposure and this form of cancer, it is usually enough to show that a person was exposed to asbestos by the other party.
The Individual Suffered or Will Suffer Harm
Lastly, the plaintiff must prove that they have sustained or will incur some losses because of their diagnosis. The judge or jury would decide what losses the person suffered and how much those losses are worth. The plaintiff would then receive this as a judgment.
Mesothelioma Settlements as an Alternative to Trial
Asbestos exposure is known to cause mesothelioma, and scientists have clearly established the dangerous qualities of asbestos. Because these facts are clear, many cases will settle before trial. There are several points to remember about settlements:
How Settlements for This Condition Work in General
A mesothelioma settlement is an agreement between the plaintiff and a party responsible for exposing a person to asbestos. In this agreement, the responsible party agrees to pay the plaintiff a certain amount of compensation.
When they receive the settlement, the plaintiff agrees to dismiss any pending legal suit against the other party. In addition, they agree not to file another lawsuit in the future based on their diagnosis.
The Costs That Settlement Funds Address
Settlement amounts vary depending on the facts of each case. Generally, the plaintiff will ask for an amount that covers all of their losses. They will work toward a settlement that addresses the following:
- Medical bills incurred in diagnosing, treating, and managing the condition
- Travel expenses, if the person must travel to access treatment and care
- Lost income, if the person can no longer work or cannot work at the same job
- Future reduction in income as the disease progresses and continues to limit the person’s ability to work
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. It might cause someone to become depressed. They may lose interest in hobbies and become withdrawn around their loved ones. This is a loss that also deserves compensation. That’s why many settlements also include compensation for mental and emotional suffering.
Settlements Following a Person’s Death
This form of cancer can spread and kill quickly. Sometimes, a person is diagnosed and dies before they can file a lawsuit or resolve their case. Their passing deprives the individual of compensation for the losses they experienced. Additionally, it may leave their surviving family members in a difficult financial situation.
Death does not end a victim’s legal rights. Moreover, surviving family members may also have legal rights to compensation. When a loved one passes from the disease, it is still possible to reach a mesothelioma settlement.
The Deceased’s Legal Rights Continue After Death
When someone dies from their disease before they can file or finish a lawsuit, their legal rights do not disappear. Depending on your state, your loved one’s court-appointed administrator may continue with your loved one’s case.
Suppose that you were in the middle of settlement talks with an employer who carelessly exposed you to asbestos. Sadly, you pass away before you can settle your claim with your employer. The person the court appoints to oversee your estate will usually have the right to continue with your case.
That person will be able to continue negotiating the terms of your settlement. Once all parties agree to the terms, your estate receives the settlement funds. This money will go to your heirs according to your estate plan or other applicable laws.
Imagine, for example, that a former construction worker filed an asbestos lawsuit against his employer. Sadly, he passed away from mesothelioma before settling the lawsuit. Before he passed, he created a will that left all his possessions and property to his spouse. Following his death, his estate administrator continued with his case until they eventually reached a settlement. The settlement funds then passed to his spouse.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Settlements
When a loved one passes because of this terrible disease, surviving family members can face large losses. These include funeral expenses and other debts related to the loved one’s disease and treatment.
The family might also have expected their loved one to earn income to support them for years to come. These losses are all on top of their grief and pain from losing their loved one prematurely.
Surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit and seek compensation. This type of lawsuit alleges that a person’s or organization’s careless acts led to the loved one’s early death. Certain surviving family members would receive any compensation recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Like any other lawsuit, these types of cases can result in a settlement. However, some unique aspects of wrongful death suits make recovering compensation somewhat more complicated.
Only Certain People Can Bring Wrongful Death Claims
In other types of lawsuits, the person who develops the disease is the plaintiff and files the case. However, in a wrongful death action, your state’s laws control who can act as a plaintiff. In almost every state, the list of people who can bring a wrongful death suit includes the decedent’s surviving:
- Spouse, if the deceased was married at the time of death
- Adult children, if any
Some states permit the decedent’s estate administrator to bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the surviving family members. No state allows a close friend or distant relative to file a wrongful death suit.
Compensation Is Meant for the Survivors
In a personal injury lawsuit, any compensation the plaintiff gets is meant to address the costs and losses the person with the disease suffers. For example, even though the person’s family might benefit from obtaining compensation for lost wages, such compensation is primarily meant for the plaintiff.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving family members’ losses are front and center. For this reason, plaintiffs in a wrongful death suit do not always receive compensation for medical bills and hospitalization costs.
However, they could receive damages to cover funeral and burial costs, the income they expected the deceased to contribute, and their mental pain and suffering.
Tips for Settling Your Lawsuit
No matter whether your doctor diagnosed you with mesothelioma or this form of cancer recently claimed the life of your loved one, your case has the potential to settle. Before agreeing to a settlement, though, you should consider the following:
Your Past and Future Expenses
You and your medical team may not know how long you will survive following your diagnosis. You may have only four months to live, or you may have years to enjoy before your passing. Similarly, you could work for several months following your diagnosis, or you may have to leave the workforce.
This uncertainty explains why you must consider all of your potential future losses. Suppose that you accept a small settlement because you expect to pass quickly. However, the disease progresses more slowly than predicted. Fortunately, you have years of life to enjoy with your loved ones.
However, your settlement funds run out after two years. You struggle to pay your medical bills and afford your living expenses. Because you agreed to a settlement without considering your potential future, you find it harder to enjoy your remaining time.
The Extent of Your Pain and Suffering
You cannot measure the depression, anxiety, and hopelessness that come with a diagnosis. It is equally difficult to put a price tag on your feelings following a loved one’s passing. Yet obtaining a fair settlement requires that any agreement acknowledge and address your pain and suffering.
Keeping a journal is one tool that can help quantify your pain and suffering. Write down your thoughts as you experience them. These entries can serve to support a claim for non-economic damages. They can also help you better understand just how much the diagnosis has impacted your life.
The Benefits of Settling vs. Going to Trial
Lastly, as you contemplate a settlement offer, give some thought to the benefits of a settlement.
Since there is a strong link between this disease and asbestos exposure, it is tempting to insist that the other party meet all your demands. But remember that agreeing to a settlement:
- Removes the uncertainty and risk of trial
- Provides you certainty as to what you will receive
- Prevents the other party from appealing a verdict they are not happy with
- Allows you to receive your compensation faster
While you should never accept a settlement that does not compensate you fairly, neither should you insist on unreasonable settlement terms
Have Additional Questions About Mesothelioma Settlements? Contact The Joel Bieber Firm
Lawsuits are complicated, and people usually find that it’s too much to handle alone. Instead, you need a dedicated team on your side to help you look after what is essential. The Joel Bieber Firm is experienced in complex litigation, including mesothelioma settlements.
When you contact The Joel Bieber Firm, we will conduct a thorough investigation to make sure you are in a strong bargaining position. Our legal team will work to resolve your case favorably and quickly, either through the courts or through a settlement.
You may still have a right to compensation if your loved one has passed. Contact The Joel Bieber Firm to learn more and get started.