Settling a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
When you file an asbestos personal injury lawsuit, there are two ways to receive compensation. If your case goes to trial, you may receive a favorable jury verdict awarding you damages for your illness.
But in most cases, mesothelioma lawsuits are settled out of court.
Pleural mesothelioma settlements occur when common ground is reached on how much money a defendant will pay and how much a plaintiff will accept.
There is never any guarantee on how a trial will end, so parties often agree to a settlement to avoid a long legal battle with an uncertain outcome. However, negotiating a fair settlement amount is just as complex as winning a lawsuit at trial.
An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you determine when to accept a settlement and when to press on with a lawsuit.
Mesothelioma Settlements vs. Verdicts
The majority of mesothelioma lawsuits end in a settlement before reaching the courtroom. Mesothelioma settlements are usually significantly lower than favorable trial awards, but accepting a settlement often means receiving compensation months or years sooner.
|Average Mesothelioma Settlement Amount||Average Mesothelioma Trial Award|
|Between $1 million and $1.4 million||Around $2.4 million|
Plaintiffs and defendants can agree to a settlement any time after a legal complaint is filed. Going to trial may involve years of back-and-forth legal proceedings.
Sometimes defendants offer to settle early in the process to avoid legal expenses and bad publicity. Cases may settle during the discovery phase, as more evidence comes to light and the strength of each party’s case becomes clearer. Others settle right before trial or during trial for the same reason.
Sometimes parties reach a settlement after a jury has ordered a substantial award. A plaintiff may accept a settlement that is lower than the jury award in exchange for the defendant waiving its right to appeal the decision and delay payment.
Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Settlement Amounts
Mesothelioma settlement negotiations primarily depend on the strength of the plaintiff’s case, but many other factors come into pay as well.
Plaintiff’s Medical and Work History
The strength of a plaintiff’s case depends on medical records, work records and testimony documenting how the defendant caused the asbestos exposure that lead to the mesothelioma diagnosis.
If the plaintiff has a good chance of winning a mesothelioma lawsuit at trial, they will have a stronger position in settlement negotiations.
Plaintiff’s Medical Bills, Lost Wages and Other Expenses
When a jury decides how much compensation to award in a mesothelioma lawsuit, they first look at all the expenses related to the cancer. This is why asbestos lawyers are careful to document all costs related to mesothelioma treatment, caregiving and loss of income.
The potential amount of the jury award influences the mesothelioma settlement amount a defendant will agree to.
Proof of Defendant’s Negligence
If there is evidence a defendant actively concealed the dangers of asbestos exposure from the plaintiff, the defendant’s potential financial liability could be enormous.
In some cases, juries have seen fit to punish companies with tens of millions of dollars in punitive damages. Settling with the plaintiff could be the best way for a defendant to minimize their losses.
Defendant’s History of Liability
If a defendant has lost mesothelioma cases in the past, they may be willing to settle a claim quickly to avoid going through the legal process again.
A defendant may also be facing several mesothelioma lawsuits at the same time. Settling a case quietly allows a defendant to avoid a trial verdict that might provide ammunition to the other lawsuits filed against them.
Defendant’s Insurance Coverage
Large corporate defendants usually have insurance policies that help them pay litigation claims and expenses. Their insurers have considerable input into whether and when the corporations agree to settle, and the amount of insurance coverage available affects the amount of the settlement.
Number of Defendants Sued
In mesothelioma lawsuits with multiple defendants, some defendants may choose to settle early in the process, leaving the remaining defendants to worry about the expense and potential negative publicity of going to trial.
In turn, accepting these early settlements allows plaintiffs to focus their resources on fighting fewer defendants.
Every defendant in a mesothelioma lawsuit has a different negotiating position. States have different rules on how to divide liability between defendants, and some defendants are more motivated to avoid litigation issues than others.
Jurisdiction Where the Claim Is Filed
The level of evidence required to prove a defendant’s liability varies by jurisdiction. State and local laws also set different rules for how much money juries can award in damages. These regulations influence how much negotiating power a defendant has.
Deciding When to Accept a Settlement
Pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer, and its physical, emotional and financial toll mounts quickly. It may be in your best interest to obtain some portion of compensation sooner rather than taking a chance at receiving more at trial.
While a jury verdict may result in a larger award, there is no guarantee a jury will side with you. Any reputable attorney can attest there are no guarantees in a trial. While an asbestos lawsuit settlement may be smaller than what might be expected in a trial verdict, at least the mesothelioma compensation is guaranteed.
Defendants usually offer low settlement amounts at first. At every round of negotiations, an experienced mesothelioma attorney can advise you on whether to hold out for a better offer.
Reasons a Defendant May Increase Their Settlement Offer
- A compelling deposition or the discovery of evidence favoring the plaintiff
- Lack of time to complete research or sudden unavailability of a key witness for the defendant
- Mounting legal fees and negative publicity
How Settlements Benefit Defendants
You should consult a qualified mesothelioma attorney before agreeing to settle a claim. You need to make sure the amount of money you receive is worth what you will have to give up through the settlement agreement.
Typical Mesothelioma Settlement Requirements
- Plaintiff must waive their right to sue the defendant again in the future.
- Plaintiff must accept that the defendant denies responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries.
- Plaintiff must keep the amount of the settlement a secret.
These terms are designed to prevent the settlement from encouraging other lawsuits against the defendant.
Mesothelioma Settlement FAQs
- How Long Does It Take to Get a Settlement?
The time it takes to get a mesothelioma settlement varies for each case, and specialized mesothelioma attorneys work hard to expedite claims. You may start receiving settlement checks within a few months of filing your claim, or you may have to wait more than a year.
Mesothelioma settlement money usually comes in installments rather than one lump sum, especially if the settlement is very large. During settlement negotiations, you can discuss with your attorney how payments should be structured.
- Are Mesothelioma Settlements Taxable Income?
In general, compensation for lost wages and emotional distress is taxable, but compensation to cover medical expenses is not taxable. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 expanded the amount of settlement money that plaintiffs must pay taxes on.
An experienced lawyer can explain which part of your mesothelioma settlement is considered taxable income and which part is not.
- Who Is Awarded in a Wrongful Death Settlement?
In a mesothelioma wrongful death lawsuit, settlement money may go to a deceased plaintiff’s estate or to certain surviving family members. It depends on who filed the claim and other circumstances unique to each case.
- How Much Are Attorney Fees?
Mesothelioma attorneys usually work on a contingency-fee basis, keeping a percentage of mesothelioma awards and settlements as their fee. This means you do not have to pay them if you do not receive any compensation.
You agree to the percentage of compensation your lawyer keeps at the time you hire them. Mesothelioma lawyers may set different percentages for settlement money and trial award money.
- Are There Other Types of Mesothelioma Compensation?
Other sources of mesothelioma compensation include asbestos trust fund claims, VA benefits and workers’ compensation.