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Vanessa Blanco, patient advocate for the Mesothelioma Prognosis Network
Written By Vanessa Blanco

How Are Mesothelioma Settlements Determined?

Mesothelioma settlements usually result from negotiations between two sides. The plaintiff is a person diagnosed with mesothelioma or a surviving family member. The defendant is the company responsible for the asbestos exposure that caused the cancer.

Settlement negotiations may begin as soon as the plaintiff files a lawsuit and continue even after a formal trial has ended.

At any time during the legal process, the plaintiff and defendant can agree to a certain amount of compensation as an out-of-court settlement. Otherwise, a mesothelioma settlement may be awarded by a judge or jury at the end of a trial.

Another type of mesothelioma payout comes from asbestos personal injury trusts. These special trust funds follow a standardized process for determining the compensation a claimant receives.

In some cases, compensation for mesothelioma is available from a workers’ compensation system or the Department of Veterans Affairs. But filing a mesothelioma lawsuit often gives a family the best chance of paying for expensive cancer treatments and ensuring their financial security.

What Is the Mesothelioma Settlement Process?

A mesothelioma settlement may be negotiated at nearly any point in the legal process. Once your attorney files a lawsuit against a defendant, settlement negotiations may begin. Some defendants may not be willing to settle until the trial begins, while others offer settlements if a jury rules in your favor to avoid the appeals process.

Most mesothelioma lawsuits follow this process:
  • Step 1. Gather Evidence: Your attorney will gather evidence of your asbestos exposure history and how it caused you to develop mesothelioma. This is commonly known as the discovery phase.
  • Step 2. File a Claim: Depending upon your situation, your attorney may recommend filing a trust fund claim in addition to a personal injury lawsuit or a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Step 3. Preparation for Trial: Your attorney will prepare your case for trial even if they believe a defendant will likely settle. Defendants in certain cases may use a strategy of waiting until the trial to begin settlement negotiations, and your attorney will be prepared to work this to your advantage.
  • Step 4. Settlement: A mesothelioma settlement may be reached before, during or after a trial. If the court rules in your favor, negotiating a settlement with the defendant means they won’t appeal the ruling.

Mesothelioma Settlement Amounts

The average mesothelioma settlement ranges from $1 million to $1.4 million. The average trial award is about $2.4 million. But every case is unique, and there are many factors that affect the potential value of a mesothelioma claim.

Landmark Mesothelioma Settlements

Mesothelioma settlements are typically kept private. Some settlement figures have been made public, both with and without revealing identifying information about the plaintiffs.

  • $10 million: In 2011, Nancy Lopez settled with U.S. Engineering Company for $10 million. She sued the company, claiming her mesothelioma diagnosis resulted from asbestos exposure she endured during a renovation project performed by U.S. Engineering.
  • $43 million: In 2011, a $43 million settlement was approved by a Montana court on behalf of 1,300 plaintiffs who were exposed to asbestos in Libby, Montana. In 2017, another settlement of $25 million was awarded to 1,000 Libby plaintiffs.
  • $25 million: In 2006, Alfred D’Ulisse reached a $25 million settlement with Daimler-Chrysler after filing a lawsuit against the company claiming its asbestos brake pads caused him to develop mesothelioma.

Experienced mesothelioma attorneys can evaluate the strength of your case. They can explain all your legal options and estimate how much compensation you may receive. But an experienced mesothelioma lawyer will never guarantee an outcome.

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Find Ways to Cover Mesothelioma Costs
Mesothelioma patients have several options for paying for treatment, travel, lost wages and other costs.

Factors Affecting Settlement Amounts

Several factors play a role in settlement negotiations, including how much you’ve spent on medical care, how much income you’ve lost and the pain and suffering you and your loved ones have endured.

  • Medical Expenses
    Mesothelioma treatment is expensive. It is common for medical bills to amount to tens of thousands of dollars in a single year. Plaintiffs who underwent surgery, which is the most expensive mesothelioma treatment, may be able to negotiate a larger settlement amount than patients who only underwent chemotherapy.
  • Lost Wages
    A plaintiff may present evidence of the amount of income they’ve already lost because of mesothelioma, as well as the amount of income their family stands to lose long term. A good settlement takes into account the amount of money a plaintiff would have made if they could have continued working.
  • Pain and Suffering
    The amount of pain and suffering a plaintiff and their family endures because of mesothelioma is an important factor in settlement negotiations.
  • Patient’s Age
    Younger plaintiffs with mesothelioma may be able to negotiate a larger settlement because they stand to lose more of their life to mesothelioma compared to older plaintiffs.
  • State Regulations
    State regulations affect compensation awarded in asbestos lawsuits. For example, some states set limits to the amount of compensatory damages or punitive damages a jury can award. A national law firm that specializes in asbestos cases can advise you on which jurisdiction to file a claim.

Company Negligence

When people first started filing mesothelioma lawsuits, asbestos companies claimed they did not know the risks associated with asbestos. This lie has been thoroughly disproven.

In fact, many companies actively participated in covering up the dangers of asbestos.

Generally, companies are considered more liable for asbestos exposure if they specifically took steps to hide the health risks from workers and consumers. Mesothelioma lawyers search for evidence of this during the legal discovery process.

Juries may add punitive damages to a compensation award to punish companies for such wrongdoing.

When Multiple Companies Are Liable

In many cases, more than one company is at fault for an individual’s asbestos exposure. A mesothelioma claim may include manufacturers of various asbestos products the plaintiff was exposed to as well as employers who did not provide protective equipment.

In a lawsuit against multiple defendants, it is common for some of them to settle out of court while others fight the lawsuit at trial.

It is wise to work with an attorney who can identify all the asbestos companies that manufactured products you were exposed to because it increases your chances of obtaining more compensation through settlements.

When multiple defendants have to pay damages, the jury must decide the percentage of liability for each defendant.

Mesothelioma Settlement Negotiations

Out-of-court settlements help plaintiffs get compensation faster. They also help defendants avoid legal fees and bad publicity. But early settlement offers from defendants are often unreasonably low.

The more evidence you have in your favor, the easier it will be to negotiate a fair settlement.

Defendants that have lost mesothelioma cases in the past may be more willing to negotiate. But defendants that have had verdicts overturned on appeal may be more confident in taking the case to court.

Most successful mesothelioma lawsuits end with an out-of-court settlement. Usually, it is not a question of whether to go to trial, but of how long to let the litigation continue.

Many plaintiffs need their compensation as soon as possible. Likewise, many defendants need to keep legal fees to a minimum.

Mesothelioma Settlements Versus Verdicts

Mesothelioma settlements and verdicts are two types of compensation awarded in mesothelioma lawsuits.

Settlements are negotiated between the plaintiff and the defendant, and they are the most common resolution to mesothelioma lawsuits. It is generally rare for a mesothelioma lawsuit to reach a trial. Verdicts are issued by courts, judges, panels and juries at the close of a mesothelioma trial.

The average mesothelioma settlement is around $1.4 million, while the average mesothelioma verdict is $2.4 million.

Whether you should settle or seek a verdict at trial will depend upon the specifics of your case and the defendants involved in the lawsuit. A qualified mesothelioma lawyer will guide you throughout the legal process to ensure you receive the most compensation possible.

Tracking Mesothelioma Expenses

After a cancer diagnosis — especially a rare, aggressive one such as mesothelioma — bills tend to pile up. First and foremost, a lawsuit must document the financial toll the cancer has taken on a family. This includes medical expenses, lost income, travel expenses, caregiving costs and any other indirect costs.

Your attorney can help you track these mesothelioma-related expenses. Organizing your medical and financial records is an important part of building your case.

If compensation comes from a jury award, these expenses will be covered by compensatory damages.