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Can I File a Wrongful Death Suit for a Mesothelioma-Related Death?


Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma is aggressive and often has a poor prognosis, even with treatment. When a patient dies, it is both emotionally and financially challenging for their family members. Many family members are forced to handle funeral costs, medical bills, and a smaller income. Those who lost a family member to mesothelioma might be able to file a wrongful death suit.

What is a Wrongful Death Suit?

When an individual or an entity is liable for one’s death, the victim’s family may choose to file a wrongful death suit. A wrongful death suit holds liable parties accountable for a death caused by negligence. The damages can help a family recover financially and emotionally.

A wrongful death suit could cover:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical bills
  • Loss of companionship
  • Pain and suffering

What Must be Proven in a Wrongful Death Suit?

To obtain entitled compensation, the family of a deceased patient must prove several things. First, they need to prove where the deceased was exposed. A lawyer can help a family identify the details of the patient’s exposure. This can help improve the success of the claim.

Next, the family must prove negligence. Many mesothelioma patients are exposed to asbestos from work-related conditions. Some employers allowed their employees to work, despite knowing about health hazards. The family must identify the connection between the deceased’s diagnosis and the employer’s negligence.

Finally, the family must prove that the death had a significant impact, either financially or emotionally. Losing a loved one is always difficult. Many people depend on family for financial and emotional security; this, coupled with medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses, can become a burden on a family. To help recover, the family should contact a lawyer to discuss their legal options.

Who Can Sue for a Wrongful Death?

An executor of a person’s will is given a lot of responsibility after the loss of a loved one. Similar to the duty of handling the estate, when wrongful death is involved, the executor has the ability to sue on the behalf of the deceased.

Potential executors include:

  • Spouses
  • Registered domestic partners
  • Children
  • Unrelated dependents, like stepchildren
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Nieces or nephews

One should note that there are some exceptions to who can or cannot sue for a wrongful death. For instance, adult unrelated dependents, like stepchildren, are usually unable to file the suit. However, adult biological children, even estranged ones, can usually file a wrongful death claim.

Even a child that was cut out of the decedent’s will could file a claim; however, this may change if the biological child was adopted by another individual. Similarly, an adopted stepchild could file the suit. Those involved in the deceased’s estate need to agree on how the settlement is distributed, therefore, the family should discuss any conflicts with their lawyer.

Wrongful Death Claims and Mesothelioma

A wrongful death claim involving mesothelioma has its unique challenges. This is because the evidence often dies with the patient. An individual might not receive a diagnosis for decades after their exposure to asbestos. This can make it difficult for those who need important details, like the location of the exposure and the materials used during employment.

To combat this, the family should look for physical evidence. This might include work diaries, union dispatch slips, work records, and other evidence. If possible, the family can also look to witnesses, like the deceased’s coworkers. The family’s lawyer can help identify witnesses and conduct interviews to obtain information essential to the case. If the family cannot identify the employer responsible for the diagnosis, they can file a lawsuit against the asbestos suppliers; however, this option is likely limited because most of these suppliers face bankruptcy.

The family might also face statutory issues. Like most lawsuits, wrongful death claims have a statute of limitations. State laws affect the length of time, however, most states only give a victim’s family one to two years after a death to file a claim. This can present a challenge since some families are not aware that their loved one’s death was attributed to a disease.

Fortunately, some states allow a family to file a wrongful death claim after the due date if the family was unaware and could not have reasonably found out. Families facing statutory issues should consult a lawyer to discuss their legal options.

How Do I File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Many states have different ways of handling a wrongful death suit; however, most states have similar phases in the process. The deceased’s family should first contact a lawyer. A lawyer can help a family complete all the necessary steps for their claim.

First, the family’s lawyer will collect evidence. Analyzing evidence helps a lawyer determine the best legal route for the family. It can also help a lawyer to determine the value of a case. Also, evidence is crucial for the success of the case, therefore, the lawyer will conduct research to find essential information.

Next, the family and their lawyer will file the wrongful death claim. The location of the claim could change depending on a few factors. The family could file the claim in the state that the deceased was exposed in. They could also file the claim in the location of the plaintiff’s office. A lawyer can help the family determine which location is the best legal option.

After filing the claim, the lawyer will spend time collecting more evidence. This phase is crucial for the success of the case. Some of the evidence collected includes prior work history and personal history. They will likely also conduct interviews with any witnesses.

Finally, the family will receive a settlement offer from the liable party. If they do not receive a fair settlement offer, the family will likely go to trial. This could take a long time, however, it could help secure more damages for the family.

How Much is My Case Worth?

A family that wants to file a wrongful death claim may have questions about the value of their case. According to the Mesothelioma Center, the average settlement amount for a wrongful death claim for mesothelioma is over one million dollars. However, a trial verdict case might land a family over two million dollars. The value of the case depends on a few factors.

The amount of damages a family collects is affected by both financial and emotional losses. Some financial losses include medical bills, treatment, funeral costs, and lost income. Similarly, emotional losses include loss of companionship or pain and suffering. Families with higher losses will likely receive a higher settlement amount than a family with fewer losses.

The family could collect more damages if the case has multiple defendants. For instance, if the family is filing a lawsuit against the deceased’s employer and the asbestos supplier, both defendants could award settlements. This increases the total amount for the patient’s family.

Finally, the case’s value is likely affected by the state’s jurisdiction. Some states place a cap on the amount of awards a family can obtain from a wrongful death suit. This ultimately reduces the total amount of damages the family could receive under a different jurisdiction. Families should contact a lawyer to determine whether they can file in a state that does not have an award cap on damages.

Philadelphia Mesothelioma Lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler Help Families of Mesothelioma Patients

If you lost your loved one to mesothelioma, you need to contact one of our Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler. Our lawyers understand the unique emotional and financial challenges of losing a family member to this asbestos-related cancer. We are dedicated to helping families recover damages through a wrongful death suit. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-569-4000. Located in Philadelphia, we proudly serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, Chester County, and Philadelphia County.