Types of Settlements
Although settlement agreements from the late 1980s led many companies guilty of employee asbestos exposure to believe the ensuing litigation would be manageable, rapidly-increasing claims and costs have proven that settlement amounts will likely continue to take a greater than anticipated toll on these companies. Since the first asbestos-related lawsuit was filed in 1929, over 700,000 new lawsuits have been filed against over 6,000 companies in nearly all industry types in the United States. Furthermore, as a result of the long latency period of this disease, these cases are not estimated to reach their peak volume for several more years.
Class Action Lawsuits
Class action lawsuits are a form of lawsuit where a large group of plaintiffs collectively bring forth a claim to court. In many cases, these lawsuits are written to automatically include everyone involved, based on their association with the company or situation at the center of the trial. If an individual is notified of their involvement in such a case, they should carefully review this notice. Individuals that do not wish to be included in such suits must contact the attorney in charge to ensure their name is not included.
However, involvement in a class action suit often benefits individuals who underwent dangerous exposure to asbestos in the past and deserve compensation for employer negligence and negative health consequences. Furthermore, the large pool of claimants also makes an out of court settlement likely, guaranteeing participants compensation for their past exposure asbestos exposure.
Unfortunately, class action suits also do not allow claimants to have a say in the direction of the case. In addition, the attorney in charge works on behalf of the group in these suits, not individuals. Finally, involvement in class action suits often disqualifies individuals from taking future action against the company if health problems worsen.
Companies that declared bankruptcy generally require individuals file a claim with the settlement trust they established to compensate victims. After filing such a claim, it is evaluated to determine the value. Oftentimes, though, these victims only receive a tiny fraction of their claim’s value. The amount paid out to victims typically ranges from five to 15 percent of a case’s value, though this varies. However, this form of receiving compensation is also far easier for victims than going through the potentially lengthy trial process. Victims generally need not even visit court when filing a claim with a company’s established trust.
Settling a Claim Out of Court
As a result of indisputable evidence proving the danger of asbestos and the sheer number of cases present already, out of court settlements are common in asbestos claims. In these settlements, lawsuits never actually make it to trial, though a claim must be initially filed. These defendants often agree to settle the claim out of court to avoid negative publicity, trial costs and time. For many defendants, out of court settlements are in their best interest.
Settling a Claim in Court
Companies unwilling to make an out of court settlement may choose to take the case to trial. In many cases, the first settlement offer may not appear fair to these defendants, prompting them to see the claim decided in court. Nevertheless, it remains common for claims that go to court to be negotiated and settled out of court during the trial process.