Understanding Mesothelioma & Asbestos Trials
Most asbestos-related lawsuits never go to trial. Many cases are settled out of court long before a trial begins. And a number of others are settled during the trial process. Regardless, the job of your mesothelioma attorney is to prepare for a trial as soon as you decide to file a claim.
Attorneys will take into consideration how to build your case. As the case is being built, the attorney will form a plan about what kind of trial best suits the medical evidence and work history you are able to provide. If your case does end up in a trial, it will be important for you to know the steps of the trial process.
Steps in the Trial Process
If an asbestos-related case is deemed strong enough to go to trial, the following steps are generally followed:
Determining the Type of Trial
There are two types of trials. The first type is held before a judge, in what is known as a bench trial. The second type of asbestos trial is held before a judge and jury. Your attorney will help you decide which option is better for you, and the decision depends on the facts and strength of your case.
Setting a Trial Date
From start to finish, a mesothelioma lawsuit could take a couple of years or more depending on your case. Most of that time is spent filing various court documents and collecting evidence before the court schedules a mesothelioma trial.
Parties involved in the lawsuit usually file several motions and memoranda to decide various legal issues before the case reaches the trial stage. If the motions are decided, discovery ends and there is no settlement, the parties work with the court to set a trial date. The number of cases on the court’s calendar ultimately determines the date of the trial.
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After the date is set, more court filings and one or more pre-trial meetings with the judge usually follow. Attorneys for both sides go over all of the exhibits, witnesses and legal issues they will present at trial.
Based on all of this preparation, the judge will issue a pre-trial order that outlines how the trial will progress. If there are any emergencies or scheduling conflicts, the attorneys may request a continuance to delay the trial date. Courts have tight schedules, so continuances usually happen only in extreme circumstances like medical emergencies.
After a trial date is set, if settlement negotiations have not already started they will likely begin. Your attorney will discuss any potential settlement offers with you. You can typically participate in any of the negotiations, but you are not required to attend. Do not feel pressured to settle your case early in the process if you do not feel you have received a fair offer. In some cases, a settlement agreement can be presented on the day the trial is set to start or even during the trial.
If a jury trial will take place, jurors will be chosen to decide the case. The court randomly calls citizens from a list of registered voters to serve as potential jurors. During a process called voir dire, the judge asks questions to determine whether potential jurors can serve objectively. Questions usually include whether the potential jurors know any of the parties or attorneys or have any personal knowledge about the case.
Attorneys for both sides also have an opportunity to screen out potential jurors who may be biased against their client’s case. When the jury is selected, the jurors are sworn in and the parties begin presenting their cases.
Presentation of Evidence and Testimony
While some mesothelioma trials may take up to a few weeks to conclude, some of them reach a resolution within a few days. For example, after a four-day trial in September 2021, a South Carolina jury awarded $32 million to Robert Weist, the surviving spouse of Kathy Weist, who died of mesothelioma following secondary exposure to asbestos.
If you are in poor health, you can petition the court for an expedited case process. If you die during the personal injury legal process, your family members have the option to continue the claim as a wrongful death suit.
With an experienced mesothelioma attorney, you can decide how much you wish to participate in the asbestos trial. A qualified mesothelioma law firm can handle the process and advise you on your options.