Mesothelioma is a disease caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma victims almost always win money damages if they sue, but the cases can be complicated and a mesothelioma lawyer is usually needed to identify the parties who are liable for the asbestos exposure (asbestos manufacturers, insurance companies, or asbestos victims' trust funds) and begin the lawsuit or settlement process. Because mesothelioma cases are a specialized legal niche it's important to understand how mesothelioma lawyers operate and how to hire a good one. Read on to learn more. (For general information about hiring an attorney, check out Nolo's article Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer)
The Legal Background
People who find out that they are suffering from mesothelioma (often as a result of working with asbestos) usually have an excellent chance of recovering substantial money damages -- either from the company that manufactured or installed the asbestos, or from an asbestos victims' trust fund. But these cases can get complex, especially from a medical standpoint, since mesothelioma often shows up 10 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos. Having an experienced attorney on your side -- especially one with a record of success in mesothelioma cases -- can make all the difference. (To learn more about mesothelioma cases, read Nolo's article Asbestos and Mesothelioma Lawsuits: What to Expect.)
Finding the right mesothelioma lawyer can be key to your case, but it can also take time and effort. If you are not feeling well, make sure you get help from a consumer savvy relative or friend. As discussed below, you'll get the best results if you do careful research as to a lawyer's qualifications and track record and then interview several. You also may need to bargain as to the amount of the contingency fee and other costs.
Ways to Find the Right Mesothelioma Lawyer
Ask former colleagues. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, chances are good that people who you worked with at the time of your exposure also suffer from it and may have already hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit. If they have achieved a good result through a lawyer they like and respect, this is one good place to start.
Check Nolo's online Lawyer Directory. Some attorneys featured in Nolo's lawyer directory handle mesothelioma cases (full disclosure: lawyers pay a fee to list with Nolo). These attorneys have filled out a detailed profile containing valuable information about their schooling, professional background, legal specialties, and personal attitudes. While there are also a number of other legal directories, we believe Nolo's provides the most consumer friendly information. Go to the Mesothelioma - Asbestos section of Nolo's Lawyer Directory to find a mesothelioma attorney in your area.
Investigate lawyers online. Because mesothelioma cases can be so profitable, many law firms spend big dollars on Internet ads and websites. Just Google mesothelioma lawyer and you'll find a long list. Click on a few ads or websites and you'll see that everyone claims to be the best of the best. How do you cut through all this hype to focus on a short list of hopefully excellent mesothelioma lawyers? We recommend that you carefully read the legal information each lawyer provides. In our experience lawyers who provide well-written, in-depth information demonstrate a superior sensitivity to client needs. By the same token, we distrust lawyers who say little more than "I can get you millions pronto -- trust me."
How to Choose the Right Mesothelioma Lawyer
Check a lawyer's references. A good mesothelioma lawyer should be able to provide you with the name and contact information of a few satisfied clients. Of course, the lawyer will have to get the permission of the client, but this can usually be arranged. Although you'll only be given the names of very satisfied clients, it can still be very helpful to talk to someone who has worked with the lawyer you are considering in a mesothelioma case.
Interview the lawyers. Once you develop a short list of mesothelioma lawyers, contact their offices (again, get help if you are very ill). Request a case evaluation and, if possible, arrange a personal interview. Ask who exactly will manage your case (often a case manager, who is a non-lawyer in larger firms). Find out who you can call or email if you have questions, and how long it will take to get back to you. Anticipating these questions, many law firms will give you a written overview of what to expect. Especially if it's detailed and guarantees that all calls and emails will be returned in 24 hours, this is a good sign.
Negotiate fees with the lawyer. Mesothelioma lawyers charge a contingency fee for their legal representation, plus additional costs to prepare your case. One good approach is to contact several lawyers, making it clear that you'll take your time before signing a fee agreement. Your goal is to find a good quality lawyer who will represent you for 25% to 30% of your recovery, instead of 33% to 40%. But keep in mind that mesothelioma cases can be very complex. If you find an attorney who comes well-recommended and has a lot of experience (and a record of success) representing mesothelioma clients, a few percentage points on a contingency fee probably shouldn't dictate whether or not you hire that attorney.
Find out how are costs handled. A good attorney will deduct costs (things like filing fees and expert witnesses' compensation) off the top of any settlement or award, before the money is divided and the attorney takes their agreed-upon percentage. That way you and the attorney share payment of the costs. And a good attorney will give you receipts showing that all costs incurred were specific to your case -- meaning you're not being saddled with part of the bill for the firm's general operating expenses.