This article was written by our newest contributor Jenna Brown. Jenna is a freelance writer who has been blogging on random topics from law to business since her days in college, feel free to e-mail her if you would ever like to have her write for you!
One of the more prevalent areas of personal injury litigation in the past decade has come from mesothelioma cases. Although this form of cancer is relatively rare, it has a low survival rate, even when detected and treated in early stages. Because of the many ways mesothelioma can devastate victims and their families, it is critical to consult an attorney with expertise in this disease to prevent long-term financial ruin.
Anyone with a basic knowledge of mesothelioma is aware that its highest risk group is made up of people with extensive exposure to asbestos. According to the American Cancer Society, about three-fourths of mesothelioma cases form in the chest. This comes from working jobs, typically in mining or manufacturing, where exposure to asbestos is pretty common. The small fibers that make up asbestos are easily breathed in and can damage the DNA of mesothelial cells in the lung. After the DNA of these cells is damaged, they can produce more damaged cells that in turn reproduce rapidly, thus resulting in cancer.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enacted a series of bans from 1973 to 1990 that eliminated the use of asbestos for all but a few applications. Nevertheless, many who were exposed to the material are still alive today and very much at risk. It can take decades for mesothelioma to appear after exposure and once detected, it is often difficult to treat. Even the least advanced forms (stage I) have a median 5-year survival rate of 21 percent.
The Baron & Budd attorneys (http://baronandbudd.com) successfully litigated one of the first asbestos lawsuits in the 1970s. The chances of recovering damages are pretty good in mesothelioma cases, but victimized parties need to act quickly to file their cases to avoid the statute of limitations. Some states like Maine and North Dakota will allow up to six years from diagnosis to file a case, while others like Louisiana and Tennessee only allow one.
Asbestos/mesothelioma law is not a practice where ‘any old lawyer’ will do. These cases are not a part of class actions, because each one has a unique set of circumstances that must be litigated individually. Since mesothelioma can take so long to appear, it is not always an easy case to make that exposure from a particular site caused the victim to end up with the disease. Any suit involving medical issues will also require expert testimony to demonstrate credibility.
Unlike other areas of law where clients pay fees up front, attorneys take mesothelioma cases on a contingency basis. In such cases, no one gets paid unless the plaintiff wins, so attorneys will only take the case if they think they have a good chance of winning.
Conversely, mesothelioma clients must not choose a law firm unless they also think its attorneys have a good chance of winning. This means performing a lot of due diligence to obtain the best representation possible. Checking the prospective attorneys’ education, standing with the bar and track record are a great start. Speaking with past clients to learn more about success stories and how they were treated is also important.
The unfortunate nature of mesothelioma cases bears much similarity to lawsuits filed against the tobacco industry. It wasn’t until after years of exposure that many people discovered the serious health problems. The victims who did not die often lived a poor quality of life. With asbestos exposure cases, getting a fair settlement or judgment is certainly doable. Clients cannot take things for granted however, and must do the legwork and research beforehand to improve their chances of winning in court.