Type in the word "mesothelioma" on an Internet search engine
and you'll be overwhelmed with advertisements from law firms-a few
are legitimate lawyers with asbestos litigation experience, but many are
not. Some of the top-ranked mesothelioma web sites pose as "help"
or "medical assistance" resources when they are in fact fronts
that refer your mesothelioma case out to another law firm for a fee.
If you've been contacted by a law firm, or if you're considering
filling out a form on a mesothelioma web site, here's a list of questions
that can help you screen the legitimate, experienced firms from those
who are simply flipping your case in order to collect a referral fee.
Below, when we write "your firm" we are assuming that you, the
reader, are interviewing a law firm.
How long has your firm represented mesothelioma clients?
Many firms are new to asbestos litigation, and they have little or no experience
with representing mesothelioma clients. Mesothelioma cases are among the
most complex legal cases that exist, and your case should be handled by
How many mesothelioma clients has your firm represented?
Make sure that the firm you hire has worked with more than a handful of
mesothelioma cases. The top firms have represented hundreds of mesothelioma victims.
What percent of your firm's case load is mesothelioma cases?
Some firms do mesothelioma litigation as a small part of their practice.
You will get the best results with firms who only handle mesothelioma.
What are your firm's historical settlement values against specific
defendants in similar cases?
The best predictor of future behavior is past performance. Ask for numbers
and for historical averages in mesothelioma cases. This will be the best
predictor of what you can expect from a firm. Ask for the overall historical
average, and then break it down for averages for specific defendants (product
manufacturers, suppliers and/or premise owners). Bankruptcy settlements
are fairly uniform among all law firms, although certain bankruptcy trusts
allow for individual review.
How long does it typically take your firm to get a mesothelioma case set
for trial and resolved?
Many firms will take so long to get a case set for trial that the patient
may be severely compromised or even deceased before the trial ever takes
place. This is not a reflection on the quality of your lawyer, necessarily,
as in some jurisdictions the courts are not set up to "fast track"
mesothelioma cases, as they are in California. Insist on working with
a firm that will expedite your case and get it set for trial in months,
not years. Also, in many states, the wrongful death statutes penalize
a personal injury victim when he dies by limiting the damages available
to the decedent's estate and heirs.
What are your historical settlement values for similar case?
Ask the firm what its settlement values are for a case like yours. If they're
unwilling to give you a ballpark estimate, keep looking. Make sure the
firm details for you what the burden of proof is. There are no guarantees,
but the firm should talk openly and in plain language about its historical
Will a lawyer from your firm prepare me for my deposition?
The deposition is the key to your case. Find out if the firm that's
asking for your business is willing to stick around and do the hard, crucial
work of preparing for the deposition. Will they interview coworkers? Will
they obtain records from labor unions? Will they meet with you and discuss
where you worked, when you worked, and what you worked around? Confirm
that the firm who's trying to "sign you up" is going to
still be around when the work begins. Many law firms who are new to this
business do not know that there "new" defendants in asbestos
litigation, many of whom are potentially liable for compensation.
Does your firm have an asbestos product database?
A sure sign that you're working with a Johnny-come-lately is the absence
of a product database. There have been thousands of asbestos-containing
products made over the years, and it's crucial for your lawyer to
have that information at his fingertips. A firm with experience will have
recorded hundreds and hundreds of jobsites where clients or coworkers
have testified under oath about the use of particular brands of asbestos
or asbestos-insulated equipment.
How much time do the principals in your firm volunteer to nonprofit medical
If the firm is in it solely for the money, this question will flush them out.
How much money does your firm contribute to cancer medical research ? Which
cancer research charities does it contribute to?
Over $80 billion dollars have changed hands over the course of asbestos
litigation. How much has the firm asking for your business given back?
If you believe that people who profit from asbestos litigation have a
moral duty to help find a cure for asbestos disease, this question will
help you find out if the firm you're talking to is in it for the right
reasons. Ask your lawyer what their annual advertising budget is to attract
clients (TV, newspaper, Google, etc) and compare that number to the amount
the invest in mesothelioma medical research.
Does your firm stay abreast with medical and scientific developments on
the detection, prevention and treatment of mesothelioma? Do they make
this information readily available? Do they know about the particular
expertise of particular surgeons and oncologists?
Mesothelioma cases require the lawyer to understand the most recent developments
in asbestos cancer medicine. This understanding affects your case and
your health. If your lawyer seems to have a less-than-detailed knowledge
of current treatments and trends, keep looking.
Is your firm comfortable in speaking to you about your medical treatment
options? How soon in the conversation does the attorney you are speaking
to ask you about your treatment program and whether you're happy with
it or open to new therapies?
If the law firm is truly experienced with asbestos litigation, your lawyer
will spend most of your first conversation talking about your medical
condition, treatment options, and doctors in your vicinity who may be
able to give you a second opinion. Make sure you're working with a
firm whose first priority is your life, and whose second priority is compensation
for your mesothelioma.