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Can I File a Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Claim After a Postmortem Report?


Losing a loved one due to mesothelioma is difficult, but one may be eligible for compensation to help with the healing process. Asbestos is a dangerous carcinogen that was used for decades in many manufacturing, industrial, military, and other industries for its heat-resistant and fireproof properties. Inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers can lead to mesothelioma in the lungs, abdomen, or heart.

Filing a mesothelioma wrongful death lawsuit can help a loved one of the deceased to pay for medical bills, funeral and burial costs, future lost wages, emotional pain, and suffering, and more. A lawyer can assist with a claim.

Who May File a Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In most cases, the following people can bring a wrongful death mesothelioma lawsuit:

  • Surviving spouses
  • Children
  • Minor stepchildren
  • Domestic partners
  • Parents and siblings
  • Anyone who was financially dependent

It is important to note that adult, non-dependent stepchildren who were not legally adopted usually cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit. Biological children who were not adopted by another person usually can file. Even if the children were estranged and removed from the will, they usually can still file suit.

It is vital to work quickly. Time is important when filing a wrongful death lawsuit related to asbestos. Usually, the window is one to three years to make an asbestos claim. In Pennsylvania, the window is two years.

Should I Request an Autopsy Report?

Family members can request a post mortem or autopsy report when a mesothelioma patient dies. Any information published in this report is subject to doctor-patient confidentiality. Autopsy findings are discussed with the next of kin and immediate family members only. Third parties must have permission from the next of kin to have access to the findings.

If a loved one’s death certificate says the cause of death is mesothelioma, there might be the option of obtaining compensation for the loss in a wrongful death lawsuit. Some physicians mistake mesothelioma for lung cancer, resulting in an incorrect death certificate. Mesothelioma is different from lung cancer in critical ways. Most significantly, mesothelioma is only caused by asbestos exposure.

Can a Doctor Order an Autopsy?

The consent of the next of kin must be obtained before a physician can order an autopsy. The next of kin also has the right to limit how extensive the autopsy is. The only instance in which an autopsy can be ordered without the consent of the next of kin is when the death appears to be suspicious, then, the medical examiner has the right to request it.

A comprehensive autopsy report includes outlines of the procedures used and any microscopic findings, and lists the diagnosis and a summary of the case. The report is designed to examine the relationship between the medical examination, laboratory tests, findings from imaging scans, and findings obtained from the autopsy.

What Damages are Available in Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

Damages that one may be entitled to in a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Projected lost wages, which is the amount of money the decedent would have earned until they retired.
  • Funeral and burial expenses.
  • Loss of future services, assistance, and care the decedent would have given to the family.
  • Loss of comfort and companionship.

How Do I Pursue a Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Case?

A mesothelioma wrongful death lawsuit can be filed if the death certificate says the cause of death is mesothelioma. However, obtaining evidence for this type of wrongful death lawsuit is challenging.

Family members who did not work with the deceased loved one might not be able to describe where and how the asbestos exposure happened. They also probably do not know which products contained asbestos. The latency period between exposure and mesothelioma can take up to 40 years. Most people are diagnosed later in life and do not live beyond a year or two. The five-year survival rate for all types of mesothelioma patients is only nine percent.

Witnesses to the asbestos exposure, such as former co-workers, and written evidence from work diaries and union documents are vital to prove the case. A mesothelioma lawyer will need to expend significant financial resources on interviewing witnesses, collecting records from employers and worksites, and generally investigating when, where, and how asbestos exposure happened. This work is essential. It is possible the decedent was exposed to asbestos by multiple employers and asbestos product manufacturers. If the defendants cannot be found, the wrongful death case could be limited to bankrupt suppliers of asbestos products and manufacturers.

Asbestos Trust Funds

Asbestos trusts funds have paid out nearly 21 billion to more than 600,000 asbestos claimants. There are about 60 active asbestos trust funds with an estimated $32 billion in remaining assets.

Asbestos settlement trusts were established to help compensate workers and their families for asbestos exposure that caused mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. When an asbestos company establishes a trust fund, all settlements are managed by trustees that decide the compensation amounts paid to mesothelioma claimants. Courts allow asbestos defendants to file for protection under bankruptcy reorganization. This allows the company to pay claims and stay in business.

In all asbestos-related cases, a knowledgeable lawyer will conduct extensive research. This often starts with interviews with the potential plaintiff. If there is a conclusion that a lawsuit should be filed with an addition to seeking damages, the lawyer will ensure the settlement offer is fair. About 95 percent of mesothelioma and asbestos cases end in settlements. The amount received is likely going to be a significant financial event. The average mesothelioma settlement is between $1 million and $1.4 million. A mesothelioma trial verdict may result in a higher payout than a settlement but compensation is not guaranteed.

Awards from wrongful death lawsuits go to the estate not the estate representative. This means payments form mesothelioma settlements, trial verdicts, or trust funds may be divided among family members.

What are Challenges with Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?

Challenges include:

  • Proving work history and asbestos-exposure history.
  • Tracking down witnesses who can attest to exposure.
  • Compiling viable evidence.
  • Filing before the statute of limitations expires.
  • Patients being unavailable for attestation.

An experienced lawyer can help make the process as simple and stress free as possible.

Philadelphia Mesothelioma Lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler Help Clients with Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Claims

If a loved passed from mesothelioma, then you should contact a Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyer at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler if you are interested in obtaining compensation. Contact us online or call us at 215-569-4000 for a free consultation. We have an office located in Philadelphia, and we proudly serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, Chester County, and Philadelphia County.