Most people don’t turn to a lawyer until they have to go to court. But lawyers can use their skills to help with more than filing lawsuits and trying cases. You may not realize that the skills that make lawyers useful in a courtroom also make them useful in other situations.
My first win for a client did not happen in a courtroom. In fact, there was no plaintiff or defendant. My client, a man with a terminal illness, had applied for Social Security disability benefits and was denied. He was unable to work and had no family to support him. With legal help, he appealed the denial and was awarded much-needed disability benefits.
Nothing about his condition or inability to work had changed during his appeal. He just needed to clearly explain his situation to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
I helped him do that by combing through his medical records and talking to his doctors. I used evidence I gathered and my understanding of the SSA’s rules and regulations to persuade the SSA that my client was eligible for benefits. I also used knowledge of the SSA’s procedures to ask for a quick review of his appeal.
How Lawyers Can Help
A big part of my job as a lawyer is to understand relevant laws and rules and to apply them to the facts of my client’s case. I must also know my audience. This is because the process for making my client’s claim differs based on the audience. Sometimes it’s a judge or a jury. Other times it’s another decision maker like a government official or claims representative. Each has different procedures.
Regardless of the audience, my ultimate goal is always the same: I must present the law and facts in a way that persuades the decisionmaker to rule in favor of my client.
Another part of my job is listening to my client’s problems and explaining their legal options. Sometimes they have more than one option available. Not all options involve going to court.
If you’ve suffered because of an asbestos-related disease, you should consider all available sources of financial assistance to help with your expenses. An attorney can help you review your legal options, such as your eligibility for the following:
- Social Security Disability Benefits:
If you are too sick to work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Applications for benefits are often denied because they do not contain enough information about the applicant's disability. An attorney can use knowledge of the SSA's rules and your medical history to not only show that you are sick, but also explain how your illness prevents you from working.
(Remember that if you have pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma, you can apply for benefits under a program that allows you to get a decision from the SSA much faster than most applicants. Asbestos.com's Patient Advocates can assist you with this process.)
- Workers Compensation:
If you were exposed to asbestos on the job, you may be eligible for workers compensation benefits. Your state's workers compensation board can provide more information. Workers compensation laws and the claim process can be difficult to understand, so it's also a good idea to talk with an attorney.
- Mesothelioma Trust Funds:
If you were exposed to asbestos-containing products years ago, the manufacturer may be one of many who have since filed for bankruptcy protection. Trust funds have been created to handle future mesothelioma claims against some of these companies. A mesothelioma lawyer can help you find out if the manufacturer responsible for your injuries has a trust fund and help you file a claim.
Keep in mind that any single source of assistance may not alone be enough to cover your expenses. Costs of treatment and related expenses will likely exceed any disability benefits you may receive. Likewise, if you get workers compensation, it may not be enough to cover your expenses. Unfortunately, the trust funds do not always have enough money to pay all claims. There are also limits on veterans' ability to get compensation from the government.
A lawsuit may be your best option. You should speak with a mesothelioma lawyer to find out what makes sense for you.
Also, remember that filing a claim — whether or not it’s done in court — requires a lot of research and planning. It can be difficult to prepare on your own if you’re ill. An attorney’s expertise can help, so put your legal advocate to good use. If you haven’t added a mesothelioma attorney to your care team, consider doing so today.