Texas Mesothelioma Claims
Texas Mesothelioma Claims
Texas mesothelioma claims (sometimes called "asbestos claims") are formal complaints filed against an asbestos company or employer to demand monetary relief for losses arising from a diagnosis or death. Per Texas mesothelioma and asbestos laws, this claim may cover medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and funeral costs. For these claims, the person who files is the plaintiff or claimant, whereas the party being held accountable is the defendant. Notably, both persons diagnosed with mesothelioma and family members who lost someone to the illness can file a claim in Texas.
Mesothelioma is a fatal tumor that forms in the lining of a person's internal vital body organs, especially the tissue covering the lungs and abdomen. The primary cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, a mineral group found in rocks and soil.
Asbestos was widely used to manufacture many products in the late 1900s because of its remarkable properties and commercial usefulness, including tensile strength, inexpensiveness, availability, insulation capability, electrical resistance, and resistance to biological and chemical breakdown. However, there was a downside to using the mineral — one that asbestos companies concealed from the public and their employees — which was that asbestos fibers have carcinogenic effects when inhaled or ingested. Asbestos fibers are so strong that the human body cannot break them down and instead become permanently lodged in the body, causing damage to the exposed individual's organs over time.
Due to the willful and extensive asbestos corporate cover-up, many people have developed serious illnesses like mesothelioma. Persons at risk of contracting mesothelioma include those who worked with asbestos, dependents who may have inhaled asbestos fibers from work clothes, consumers who used asbestos-containing products, and persons who live close to asbestos mines or within buildings constructed with asbestos-containing materials. Such persons have the right to recover medical costs and other financial losses from the liable entities under the law.
Eligibility Requirements for Filing a Mesothelioma Claim in Texas
In Texas, residents or workers diagnosed with mesothelioma, or family members of those parties, can file legal claims against the responsible companies to collect monetary compensation for their injury or loss. However, there are eligibility requirements particular to each claim type that may affect a person's right to claim if not satisfied. The typical requirements include:
The Statute of Limitations: Ordinarily, all legal claims filed to receive damages in Texas have a time limit, which is known as the statute of limitations. This timeframe determines how long an injured person has to bring a claim against another.
Under Section 16.0031 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, a mesothelioma patient or loved one has two years to claim damages. Per the law, the time starts counting from the date of a mesothelioma patient's death or the date that a claimant serves a report carrying specific medical and exposure information on a defendant. This report must comply with Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 90.003 (Reports Required for Claims Involving Asbestos-related Injury) or 90.010(f) (Multidistrict Litigation Proceedings).
Proof of a Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Asbestos Exposure: Each claimant must be able to show that they or their loved one have the illness. Section 90.003 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code details the exact requirements to prove mesothelioma, such as:
- A report by a physician board certified in pulmonary medicine, internal medicine, occupational medicine, oncology, or pathology, whose license was not inactive at the time of the report. The report must state that:
- The patient was diagnosed with mesothelioma.
- To a reasonable degree of medical certainty, asbestos exposure was a substantial contributing factor in developing the disease.
- A report by a board-certified physician with the same qualifications as above containing details of the patient's occupational, exposure, smoking, and medical history. Also, the report must verify that a minimum of 10 years have passed between the patient's first asbestos exposure and the date of diagnosis.
When a claim is filed after a mesothelioma patient's death, the family member must be able to prove not only the diagnosis but that the disease was a crucial factor in their loved one's death.
The Responsible Company's Viability: Besides establishing that one was exposed to asbestos and the specific location where it happened, a mesothelioma claimant must also show that their exposure occurred through the fault of a defendant, and the named party must be capable of paying the suit. This is one of the crucial aspects of a mesothelioma claim, as a claim cannot succeed unless:
- The defendant can be identified;
- The defendant is still in business to some extent or has a bankruptcy trust; and
- It can be proven that the defendant's actions significantly contributed to a person's suffering.
An experienced local attorney with a proven track record in mesothelioma cases can walk a prospective claimant through the stipulations for filing a Texas mesothelioma claim.
Types of Mesothelioma Claims
Two types of mesothelioma claims can be filed within the Texas civil court system to recover damages from the party responsible for a person's sickness. These claims either seek damages for a living plaintiff (personal injury claims) or a deceased one (wrongful death claims).
A mesothelioma patient, or a loved one acting on their behalf, can file a personal injury claim in court. In contrast, Texas law permits only the immediate family member — a spouse, child, or parent — of a deceased mesothelioma patient or the representative of the decedent's estate to file a wrongful death claim. Both claim types enable a plaintiff to receive monetary compensation for a range of damages, including:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial costs (though this is specific to wrongful death claims)
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional or mental anguish
- Loss of income
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of enjoyment of life, and other compensatory damages the court imposes or the involved parties negotiate.
It is worth noting that a court could also award exemplary damages to penalize a defendant for their actions.
Nevertheless, each claim type has specific eligibility and filing criteria, and a plaintiff must be able to base their claim on certain factors, such as negligence, gross negligence, products liability, or premises liability. As an illustration, someone who alleges negligence could assert that a defendant failed to provide adequate or functional safety equipment to them, which allowed them to be exposed to asbestos and later diagnosed with mesothelioma. However, to prevail in such a claim, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed them a duty of care, the defendant neglected that responsibility, and it led them to develop mesothelioma.
On the other hand, someone who bases their mesothelioma claim on premises liability must usually show that:
- Asbestos-containing materials were present on a premises;
- The liable party knew or should have known that the condition presented an unreasonable risk of harm to the plaintiff;
- The defendant's failure to minimize or eliminate the risk of harm caused the plaintiff's illness.
Aside from filing a claim within the court system, mesothelioma claims can also be filed with asbestos trust funds, insurance companies, the Division of Workers' Compensation, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Claims filed with Asbestos Trust Funds
This kind of claim is brought against the asbestos trust fund of a bankrupt asbestos company, a company that can no longer be sued in court. Section 90.051 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code defines an "asbestos trust" as any claims facility, claims agent, qualified settlement fund, or other entity created under 11 U.S.C. Section 524(g) or another applicable statute to compensate victims of asbestos-related injuries like mesothelioma.
Texas' requirements and procedures for making trust claims are outlined in Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 90.052 through 90.058.
Claims filed with the Division of Workers' Compensation
Civilians whose jobs led them to develop mesothelioma can file a claim with the Texas Department of Insurance's Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC). These claims are referred to as workers' compensations claims. However, claimants must be the direct employees of a negligent asbestos company, and an employer must have workers' compensation insurance for a person to get benefits. This includes income, medical, burial, and death benefits.
Income benefits can replace some of the money a person lost because of their disability. Medical benefits can provide financial assistance for the reasonable and necessary costs required to treat a mesothelioma patient. Burial benefits can help pay for some funeral expenses (if the employee dies). Meanwhile, death benefits can restore some monetary losses families suffered due to a loved one's death.
Notably, mesothelioma victims who decide to file a workers' compensation claim in Texas must give notice of the illness to their employer within 30 days from the date of a diagnosis. Also, they have only one year to file a claim with the DWC.
More details about filing a workers' compensation claim are available on the DWC's website or by calling (800) 252-7031, ext. 1.
Claims filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs
Former U.S. military personnel exposed to asbestos and who developed mesothelioma due to their service have the right to file a veterans claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This allows them or their dependents to receive financial support from the U.S. government. Compensation benefits can help cover healthcare costs and other expenses related to an illness.
One point to note regarding workers' compensation claims and veterans' claims is that neither are lawsuits. These claims are not meant to hold persons or companies accountable. Instead, they allow victims and their families to obtain some benefits to ease the financial burden associated with an illness or death.
It is altogether possible that a victim can receive disability benefits from the government or an insurance company and still file a lawsuit or claim against a third party linked to their suffering; in many cases, the two go hand-in-hand.
Why File a Mesothelioma Claim
Of the three serious illnesses linked to asbestos exposure (mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer), mesothelioma, though rarer, is by far the most aggressive. Not only does the disease have no cure and a short life expectancy, but it can create financial hardships for patients and their families, as the bills for treatment and healthcare are substantial. Filing a mesothelioma claim can provide monetary compensation to patients, helping them cover their expenses. It can also ensure financial stability for a patient's family, even though no amount of money can truly compensate one for the anguish brought on by mesothelioma.
In addition, mesothelioma is preventable. Suppose the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products warned the public of the dangers of asbestos, a lot of harm and suffering could have been avoided. Because they did not, many people remain at risk of developing terminal diseases. As such, another component of filing a mesothelioma claim is to seek justice against the negligent asbestos companies.
How to File a Mesothelioma Suit in Texas: The Process
While there are different lawsuits that a mesothelioma victim can file in Texas, the legal process for filing a suit is similar. It includes:
- Hiring legal representation: Mesothelioma litigation is complex. There may be several defendants in an individual claim, and a plaintiff may have to locate each one and prove liability to claim damages. Furthermore, under Texas law, there are specific documents and reports that a claimant must gather and submit during the process. Not to mention that a person will have to comply with all court dates and statutory deadlines to avoid adverse outcomes. Adding this all together, a claimant can quickly get overwhelmed.
Hiring a lawyer to manage the process frees one to focus on what matters (for instance, spending time with a loved one). It also ensures that a claimant's rights are protected, and they secure due compensation from the responsible companies. Notably, many law firms will not charge a mesothelioma victim until they get a settlement award or verdict.
- Case preparation and review: This stage involves verifying one's eligibility to claim damages and collecting documents or other evidence to prove one's asbestos exposure and disability (i.e., mesothelioma). The plaintiff's lawyer will also review the case and determine if the victim qualifies to file other types of claims, for example, an asbestos trust fund claim. Additionally, the attorney will determine:
- If the case should be filed in Texas or another jurisdiction;
- The companies liable for the victim's illness; and
- The amount of compensation a claim warrants.
- Filing the lawsuit: After researching a case and obtaining records to support a claim, the next step is filing the case. This requires preparing and submitting a civil complaint bearing the plaintiff's allegations and proposed relief to the proper court. Following the filing of the suit, the defendant will be notified and invited to take part in the legal proceedings, which will usually either see the case resolved by an out-of-court settlement or a jury verdict.
How Long Does Filing a Mesothelioma Claim Take in Texas
The Texas legislature has a provision called the "statute of limitations". This law limits how long a person has to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim in Texas, including mesothelioma claims.
While filing a mesothelioma claim may involve several activities — for example, investigating a person's asbestos exposure history, determining who to sue, and filling out the claim paperwork properly — plaintiffs should file within the statutory limits. Otherwise, they may lose the right to claim in Texas.
The statute of limitations to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim in Texas is generally two years. This deadline is halved, however, if the type of claim a person wishes to file is a workers' compensation claim. Eligible plaintiffs are encouraged to file as soon as they discover an injury or death is linked to mesothelioma.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Mesothelioma Settlement in Texas
The time it takes to get a mesothelioma settlement in Texas depends on how fast the plaintiff and defendant can settle. A mesothelioma settlement occurs when the company sued for a patient's injury or death pays a negotiated sum to the aggrieved party to discontinue legal proceedings.
Mesothelioma litigants who opt to resolve their case via settlement will usually be able to get compensation within some months. This payout is often beneficial to patients and families under financial strain. Moreover, because a settlement is legally binding, the plaintiff still retains the right to legal action if the defendant fails to pay on time or as agreed.
It is best to have an experienced mesothelioma attorney explain what to expect during settlement negotiations or negotiate on one's behalf. This ensures that a person gets what they deserve from the at-fault entities.