An asbestos settlement is the sum of money determined to qualify as satisfactory compensation for personal injury related to mesothelioma and other asbestos-linked illnesses. A settlement is reached between a claimant (the injured party) and a defendant (the party held liable) and is intended to resolve a filed asbestos lawsuit without the expense and time of taking the case to civil court.
Three Common Questions about Asbestos Settlements—and the Answers You Nee
1. Why do most asbestos injury cases settle out of court?
There are several reasons that a defendant is likely to be favorable towards negotiating an asbestos settlement. One of the most common is the revelation of facts and evidence during the discovery process that would seem to indicate a high likelihood of the claimant winning at trial. Other factors that often motivate defendants to settle include rising legal fees or a lack of compelling case facts or evidence on the defendant’s side.
2. How does the settlement process work?
Typically, an initial settlement offer is made well before the set trial date—usually in an amount that is lower than what will be accepted by the claimant. As that set date nears, however, defendants generally become increasingly eager to settle and will often submit steadily increasing offers as time progresses. It is then the job of a skilled and knowledgeable asbestos attorney to help his client decide when to say when. The idea in this almost one-sided negotiation process is to get the defendant to go as high as that particular defendant is willing to go in that particular case—without forcing the case to trial.
Trials can be long, tedious and expensive—not to mention the fact that they present the possibility of losing. Ideally, a claimant will want to get the best possible settlement offer without taking the case to court—while at the same time avoiding the acceptance of a low-ball offer that is significantly less than the amount of damages, which the claimant deserves.
It’s important to note that the average settlement amount is about half that of the average trial award, so the negotiation process must be handled very delicately and with advanced legal precision to ensure the claimant’s maximum benefit.
3. What factors affect the final amount of a given asbestos settlement?
Settlement amounts generally average around one million dollars, but claimants in notable cases have received sums of ten million or more.
Several factors go into determining a fair settlement amount. The degree and extent of injury and illness are first and foremost in settlement considerations—the more severe the claimant’s condition, the more a defendant is likely to offer. Lost wages also play a role, with retired claimants typically receiving lower offers than those who have suffered financially due to being out of work.
Another major factor causing variance in settlement amounts is the number of defendants in the case. Often claimants will file suit against multiple companies at once—thus resulting in larger cumulative settlement amounts. The degree and type of negligence alleged against the defendant or defendants plays a role as well.