The broad definition of mesothelioma is that it is a form of cancer that is caused by breathing in particles, most commonly of asbestos. The symptoms of the disease include pain in the abdomen or chest, coughing, and fluid around the lungs. There are three treatment options usually used in cases of mesothelioma: radiation, surgery, and/or chemotherapy. There has not been a definitive cure found for mesothelioma, though the treatment regimens have shown the ability to slow the growth of cancerous tumors.
The professionals at Consumer Alert Now want you to know the risks for mesothelioma and the strategies you may wish to pursue receiving compensation from an employer that may have willfully exposed you to asbestos.
Causes of Mesothelioma
The main cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos and the subsequent breathing-in of particles that enter a person’s lungs and cause changes to the body’s DNA. Cells begin to grow out of control and can become cancerous.
The path of the disease’s development most often follows this progression:
- A person swallows or inhales asbestos fibers that are airborne.
- Asbestos particles can become lodged in the lining of the abdomen, lungs, or heart.
- The cells that line these organs are known as the mesothelial cells; when fibers embed in these cells they can cause inflammation.
- The damaged mesothelial cells begin to form tumors that develop to be either malignant (cancerous) or non-malignant (non-cancerous).
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
There are a number of symptoms associated with the development of mesothelioma. These can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry cough
- Chest pain
- Night sweats
- Pleural effusion
- Weakness in the muscles
Unfortunately, most of these symptoms do not manifest until after tumors have developed and spread within the body, often as long as 20-50 years after the disease has begun its course. Often, victims of mesothelioma are not aware of the presence of the disease until they have reached an age past 60 years old.
Risk Factors for Mesothelioma
Among the elements and employment situations that pose a risk for mesothelioma are these:
- Employment in an asbestos mine or in an asbestos-related plant
- Employment in a high-risk occupation such as heavy industry or construction
- Service on military ships or in facilities that have been constructed with products containing asbestos
- Residence in an area that is near an asbestos-contaminated site or an asbestos mine
- Performing home renovation without proper safety procedures to protect against disturbing asbestos products
Types of Mesothelioma
Cancer specialists typically name each type of mesothelioma according to the location of the body where it first develops. Most cases are found in the pleural spaces surrounding the lungs or in the peritoneum, which lines the abdominal cavity. There are also cases of mesothelioma that develop in the pericardium of the heart or in the testicles.
There are differing symptoms, treatments, and prognoses for each type of mesothelioma:
- In pleural mesothelioma, cancerous cells form in the soft tissue that covers the lungs. This is the most common type of mesothelioma and is often treated with a multimodal approach (chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery).
- Peritoneal mesothelioma, which represents about 20 percent of all cases, develops in the lining of the abdomen and is often treated with surgery and a process known as heated chemotherapy.
- The second-rarest form of mesothelial cancer is pericardial, which forms in the soft tissue around the heart. It is also treated with a multimodal approach.
- The rarest form of mesothelial cancer is testicular in which the cells lining the testes develop cancerous growth. The most frequent treatment, in this case, is surgery.
Treatments for Mesothelioma
There are a variety of treatment regimens available for those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Often, more than one treatment may be used depending on the location of the cancer. These treatments include:
- Surgery, which generally offers the highest chance of survival. Surgery is often used in cases for further diagnosis and the removal of tumors. It may also be of use in palliative care to help reduce pain. Those who have otherwise good health, and whose cancer has not spread, are good candidates for surgery.
- Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs that are designed to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. 70 percent or more of mesothelioma patients undergo some type of chemotherapy during their treatment.
- Radiation is used to reduce the size of growing tumors and to reduce pain. Though not generally used on its own, when radiation is combined with chemotherapy and surgery, it helps to reduce the risk of cancer reoccurring.
- Immunotherapy is still considered an experimental treatment in most cases; it involves boosting the patient’s immune system to help fight the cancer cells.
- Multimodal therapy is when two or more of the various treatment regimens are used in combination. This has proven to help improve the rates of survival.
- HIPEC, or hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, is a specialized form of multimodal therapy that involves surgery and a procedure known as “hot chemotherapy” whereby heated chemotherapy drugs are flushed into the abdominal cavity.
- Palliative treatment may involve any of the other forms of treatment but is not intended to attain a cure. Its purpose is to improve the quality of life by reducing pain for the patient.
Highest Risks for Mesothelioma
There are classes of persons who have shown to be at highest risk for the occurrence of mesothelioma. These include veterans of the US Armed Forces who served between the years 1940 to 1980, as all branches of the military used large quantities of asbestos during that time. Navy veterans, in particular, are most at risk, as the US Navy used the largest quantities of asbestos-related products.
Certain occupations also increase the risk for mesothelioma; affected professions include textile workers, automobile mechanics, construction workers, steel mill workers, and firefighters. Additionally, these workers often have carried asbestos fibers home with them on their clothing and bodies, resulting in risk to family members.
Overall, the prognosis for surviving mesothelioma for more than one year after diagnosis runs at about a 40% rate. Older men have the worst rates of survival, while younger people and women have higher rates of survival.
The Four Stages of Mesothelioma
As with all forms of cancer, the earlier mesothelioma can be diagnosed and treated the better the patient’s odds of survival. Here is a brief overview of the stages of the disease as it progresses.
In Stage 1, mesothelial cancer cells are localized in one area and are most effectively treated with surgery. The survival rates are much higher for Stage 1 treatment, with a life expectancy of just over 22 months.
At Stage 2, the mesothelial cancer cells have begun to spread to other parts of the body. Surgery is still a possible option, along with some of the other treatments mention earlier. Survival rates here are approximately 20 months on average.
At Stage 3, cancer cells have now spread to a more advanced area, most often including the lymph nodes. The average life expectancy goes to approximately 18 months.
Finally, Stage 4 mesothelial cancer has spread extensively in the region where it developed. The use of immunotherapy and chemotherapy may assist in controlling symptoms; life expectancy has dropped to less than 15 months.
Understanding Mesothelioma Lawsuits
It is a sad – but true – fact that many companies that used, distributed, or produced asbestos products were aware of the dangers of asbestos. However, many of these companies failed to warn their employees of the potential risks. If you have developed mesothelioma due to your exposure in military service or through your workplace, filing a lawsuit may help you and your family with financial compensation to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other monetary costs.
In 2010, the median value for payment of a mesothelioma claim was $180,000; by 2016, the average mesothelioma settlement was over $1 million.
At Consumer Alert Now, our aim is to help those who are experiencing the pain and suffering of mesothelioma to understand their legal options and to receive any and all compensation to which they are entitled. If a loved one has died from mesothelioma, a wrongful death lawsuit can also be filed.
What About Joining a Mass Tort?
There has been much publicity surrounding Mass Torts for mesothelioma victims in recent years. A Mass Tort is when a group of plaintiffs/people brings a complaint in court against a few or one defendant a drug company or device manufacturer; everyone in the group is considered to be similarly situated with regard to the damage and therefore eligible to be a Mass Tort.
Mass torts are usually combined as multidistrict litigation or the court must determine that separate lawsuits by the individuals making up the group would be burdensome or impractical. If the court certifies the group as a class, then their complaints can be litigated collectively, thereby reducing expenses for trial. Any judgment for the class is divided among the members of the class according to pre-determined formulas (which will include fees for the attorneys representing the class).
Mass torts relating to mesothelioma victims began surfacing in the 1960s and have continued to rise; the number of asbestos-related claims in court now numbers in the millions. Due to the massive numbers involved, adjudicating these claims has been difficult, even with focused legislative and judicial efforts like the Multi-District Litigation panel (MDL 875) adopted by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, initially established in 1991 and revised several times since.
As of July 2018, there were a combined 186,708 cases filed through this court mechanism with well over 10 million individual claims to be adjudicated.
It should be obvious that, if you are invited to join a class action lawsuit involving exposure to asbestos or the diagnosis of mesothelioma, a qualified mesothelioma attorney like those at Consumer Alert Now could be extremely helpful in determining your legal options. You can opt out of a mass tort and pursue your own individual suit; your decision should be made based on your own individual circumstances and legal options.
What Types of Compensation Do Mesothelioma Victims Receive?
There are at least four major sources of compensation that victims of mesothelioma and asbestos exposure may be entitled to. These include trust funds set aside by employers, out-of-court settlements entered into by liable companies, verdicts obtained in court, and claims for veterans through the Veterans Administration.
- Bankruptcy Trust Funds have been established by companies that either mined asbestos or manufactured asbestos-containing products. Many of these companies no longer exist, as they were either bought by other companies or simply declared bankruptcy due to a large number of lawsuits that were filed against them. In the bankruptcy process, many of these companies were ordered to establish trust funds to compensate victims of asbestos-related negligence. These funds are often known as mesothelioma compensation funds, or sometimes simply known as trust funds. A successful application for funds from one of these funds can be handled quickly.
- Out-of-court settlements are preferred by some employers who have become defendants in mesothelioma cases. Paying financial compensation in a settlement is usually seen as less expensive than risking a large settlement in a court case. A qualified mesothelioma attorney can help to put you in the best possible situation to receive a favorable settlement.
- There are still mesothelioma cases that go to trial without settling. In this case, the basic decision by the court will determine if an employer is either liable or not liable for damages. If found liable, there will be a monetary award based on circumstances of the case such as the severity of the disease, length of exposure, medical costs, and lost income. If no liability is determined, then there is no financial compensation.
- For veterans of the armed services who were exposed to asbestos during their service, a claim may be filed with the US Veterans Administration. This process can be lengthy and confusing and a VA-accredited attorney or claims agent can be a great help.
What is the Timeframe for a Mesothelioma Claim to Be Settled?
The time it takes to settle a claim in court for a mesothelioma case varies according to the specifics of the case. There is considerable paperwork that must be documented and filed. Some victims can receive compensation within a few months, while others may have to wait a year or longer after the initial claim has been filed. A qualified mesothelioma firm like Consumer Alert Now can help with this burden and expedite the timeframe for your case.
What Are the Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Settlement Amounts?
If you are considering filing an asbestos-related lawsuit, there are a number of factors that affect the potential settlement amount that you could receive. Some of these factors are considered to be more relevant than others and may weigh on the decision of a prospective defendant as to whether they will settle or go to court.
- Lost Wages and Medical Expenses
Besides the difficulties associated with bearing the disease itself, most mesothelioma victims and their families must deal with the financial hardships that come with the loss of income at the same time that medical expenses are mounting. This affects the amount of any financial judgment that may be considered either in a settlement or a jury verdict.
- Employer Negligence
If an employer or manufacturer was willfully negligent in informing workers of the risks involved with asbestos-related products, a financial judgment could be quite large. There are some cases that have awarded damages in the tens of millions of dollars.
- Number of Defendants
It is highly likely that more than one company could be involved in many mesothelioma and asbestos-related cases. If this is true, then there will be separate filings against each of the companies involved, and multiple defendants may end up paying damages to the victim and/or their families.
- State Where the Complaint is Filed
Depending on the state where the complaint is filed, there are different levels for the burden of proof and evidence that must be presented. Experienced mesothelioma attorneys like those at Consumer Alert Now are knowledgeable of the guidelines for cases filed nationwide. It is important to understand the laws in your state of residence.
- The Case Matrix
When an asbestos-related case is going to be settled from a trust fund set aside for that purpose, there is a legal document that is known as a case valuation matrix. This matrix helps to determine how much compensation a victim can receive. Every asbestos-related disease receives a baseline amount for compensation, which is then adjusted for each individual case according to its characteristics. These characteristics would include things like the person’s age, the level of asbestos exposure, their specific cancer diagnosis, and any other past health records.
- Quick Settlement Offers
Some companies who have paid out a large number of settlements or verdicts in the past may decide to offer a quick settlement without a trial proceeding. This has the advantage of reducing the waiting time for payment but may not result in adequate compensation for damages or medical expenses. You should consider such a settlement offer carefully and with the advice of a qualified mesothelioma attorney.
- A Low Offer
Another favorite tactic by attorneys for employers is to offer a settlement that is low from the very beginning of your case discussion. It could make sense for you to hold out for a better proposal, as settlements offers can be changed and made right up until the moment a case begins in court. Again, an experienced mesothelioma attorney can advise you on the best course of action.
- Settlement to Avoid Publicity
There are times when a defendant, or even multiple defendants in a potential trial case, wish to avoid negative publicity and additional expense due to a prolonged court proceeding and will offer to settle the case ahead of the trial. Let your mesothelioma attorney guide you in evaluating any such offer.
What is the Average Amount of a Mesothelioma Settlement?
Cases that go to trial result injury awards of approximately $2.4 million (as of 2016). Settlement awards average between $1 million and $1.4 million and are usually paid out by a number of defendants in a case. Be aware that every case is unique and there are no guarantees of any monetary compensation.
Is a Mesothelioma Settlement Considered Taxable Income?
The taxable status of any mesothelioma-related award depends on how the settlement funds are classified. Usually, and awards for lost income or emotional distress are considered to be taxable income. Any part of the award that is designated to cover medical costs is not usually considered to be taxable. It should be noted that the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 increased the amount of money that mesothelioma plaintiffs must pay taxes on when they receive a jury award or a settlement.
Who Receives Payment for a Wrongful Death Claim?
Any compensation that is awarded for a wrongful death claim related to mesothelioma may be paid either to the estate of the decedent or to surviving family members depending on who filed the claim. These distributions are subject to court orders and are unique to each case.
What Are the Results of Some Actual Mesothelioma Cases?
A court in California awarded a Los Angeles man, Philip Depoian, an $18 million verdict for his mesothelioma diagnosis due to talcum powder in 2015. The tainted powder came from the barbershop where Depoian’s father worked.
In Virginia, a former naval shipyard worker was awarded $6.5 million in 2016. The company was John Crane, Inc., a subcontractor for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The worker, George Parker, was a worker with gasket materials that contained asbestos.
Finding a Mesothelioma Attorney Near Me
As you can see, evaluating cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses is a complex process. There can be large amounts of money at stake and the companies who often bear responsibility for exposing workers and their families to the dangers of asbestos have large legal teams on their side. You need expert assistance in order to understand your rights and to receive any and all compensation to which you are entitled.
Let the professionals at Consumer Alert Now guide you in this process. Regardless of the details of your case or your location within the United States, we can get you connected with a qualified Mesothelioma attorney who understands the complex process of mesothelioma litigation. Call us now at 800-511-0747.