You might have heard that all asbestos cases are the same. It’s more accurate to say they are similar, and not all law firms are appropriate for all asbestos cases. The nature and location of your asbestos exposure, your health condition, and your own comfort with a firm all matter. In this article, we'll discuss a few key considerations to hopefully help you make a good match.
Nature of the Asbestos Exposure
Generally an asbestos lawsuit has to be filed in the state where the harm occurred and the county where you lived or worked -- or where the defendant is located. A local firm that is familiar with your jobsites and the contractors and suppliers in the area will often be the best choice because a lot of the evidence has already been gathered in other cases.
It’s also cheaper to have a local case; the attorneys don’t have to do as much travel, the firm likely has working relationships with nearby doctors for physical examinations, and there aren’t additional expenses associated with obtaining records out of state.
Sometimes, however, a local firm is not enough. Perhaps you’ve worked in multiple states or were exposed only in the course of United States Navy service on a ship built and repaired in a different state. In that situation, you want to make sure you have a firm that is experienced with handling cases in multiple courts and locations. There are numerous asbestos firms that handle cases on a nationwide basis, either alone or in collaboration with other firms.
Specifics of Asbestos-Related Disease
Some firms specialize in mesothelioma cases only, and will not take your case if you have asbestosis or asbestos-related lung cancer. These firms may be able to refer you to another firm that might be interested in your case. Keep in mind that if a firm is not interested in your case simply because of the nature of your illness, that does not mean your case is a bad one.
Big Firm or Small Firm?
Some asbestos law firms have dozens of lawyers and have offices in multiple locations. Others are only a few attorneys with an office in one city. The size of a firm is not an indicator of its quality. The difference is one of approach.
A large firm has the advantage of being able to efficiently handle a case where exposure occurred in many different locations. You might have former coworkers who have already had cases with the firm, which means your case can be filed quickly. Filing a case with a large firm will probably also reduce your costs, and the firm may have more resources than a smaller firm. (Learn more about Costs in an Asbestos Case.) Larger firms are also more equipped to take cases that are not as strong, because the risk is spread out among more cases.
However, in a large firm you are more likely to have multiple people working on your case, and you might end up having more contact with a paralegal than with an attorney. An attorney in a smaller firm will probably be able to spend more time working with you personally. For some people this is an important consideration.
How to Find A Firm
Especially in asbestos cases, people generally find lawyers either through word of mouth from friends and coworkers who have gone through their own lawsuits, or know someone who has. Recommendations are excellent, especially coming from someone who has had success in a case similar to yours.
But if you don’t know anyone with an asbestos-related disease, or your exposure occurred a thousand miles away from where you now live, you may need to do your own search. You can start online (including on this website) by researching local lawyers and even submitting a question to one or two that look like they might be a good fit. Here are a few things to consider:
- How long has the firm been in business?
- Does the firm have recent case success stories?
- Has the firm handled cases like yours?
- Does the firm's profile/site provide you with useful and honest information?
- How much is the contingency fee? (33 percent to 40 percent is standard.)
You can also go to disease support forums and social media and ask other people about their experiences with a particular firm.
Most firms will provide free consultations. Learn more about What to Ask an Asbestos Attorney at a Free Consultation. Keep in mind that no attorney can guarantee the results of litigation. And of course, if your interactions with a firm consistently make you uncomfortable, it’s probably not the right firm for you no matter how good it looks on paper.
It is crucial that whichever attorney you choose has experience with asbestos cases. An experienced asbestos attorney will already have evidence against likely defendants, will have established relationships with asbestos expert witnesses, and will know how to try a case that does not settle.
Watch the Statute of Limitations
Finally, states have laws protecting defendants from being sued after a certain amount of time has passed, generally beginning from the date of your diagnosis and/or the date you became disabled from the disease. The exact periods vary from state to state. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease and want to sue, you should start looking for an attorney as soon as possible so that you don't run out of time to file your lawsuit and protect your rights.