What Is a Mesothelioma Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations limits the amount of time someone can wait to file a lawsuit. These legal time limits vary by state and also by the type of claim.
States define different time limits for each type of claim. The clock starts ticking at different times for the two main types of mesothelioma lawsuits:
Personal Injury Lawsuits: For a claim filed by a person with mesothelioma, the statute of limitations period begins the day they are diagnosed.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits: For a claim filed by the estate of a deceased mesothelioma patient, the statute of limitations period begins on the patient’s day of death.
With a few exceptions, people are barred from filing a claim if they wait too long after the statute of limitations period begins.
That’s why you should consult a qualified mesothelioma attorney as early as possible after a diagnosis or death.
Most statute of limitations for mesothelioma claims fall within one or two years, but that should not limit patients and the estate from seeking a lawsuit. You may be able to file a claim in a different state than where you currently live.
Time to File a Mesothelioma Claim Is Limited
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Is My Mesothelioma Claim Within the Statute of Limitations?
Several dozen different factors can affect the statute of limitations on your mesothelioma claim.
An experienced law firm can help you determine which state’s laws will apply to your case, and whether you are eligible to file multiple claims under a different statute of limitations.
Factors Affecting Statute of Limitations
Some of the factors that may affect your claim include:
Type of Claim: Different limitations may apply to different types of claims. A limitation on a trust fund claim may be different from a personal injury claim, for example.
Where You Live: You may be eligible to file in the state where you currently live or another state in which you’ve lived before.
When and Where You Were Exposed: The state in which you were exposed might be the best place to file. Additionally, the date when your exposure began and ended may influence your claim’s statute of limitation.
Company Location: Sometimes the best place to file your claim is the state where the asbestos product manufacturer responsible for your exposure is located.
Day of Diagnosis: The day you were diagnosed with mesothelioma is one of the most important factors affecting the statute of limitations on your case.
Degree of Severity: In some special cases, an extension may be provided to a plaintiff based upon the severity of their diagnosis and how far along their disease has progressed.
There are many complexities, exceptions and extensions involving mesothelioma statutes of limitations. It is best to speak with a mesothelioma law firm that specializes in this unique area of law to understand your options.
Which State Should I File In?
The best state for you to file in depends on several factors:
States where you’ve lived
States where you worked and were exposed to asbestos
States where the companies responsible for the asbestos exposure are located
Don’t guess about whether you still have time to file a claim – talk directly with an experienced mesothelioma attorney. They can review your work history, trace where you were exposed to asbestos and explain all your options for compensation.
Even if you think you have plenty of time to file a lawsuit, you should start the process sooner rather than later. Gathering enough evidence to put together a successful claim will only get more difficult as time goes on.
The sooner you file, the faster you and your family could obtain compensation through a settlement or jury trial verdict to cover treatment costs and other expenses.
“If the statute of limitations runs out in one state, there may be opportunities to file in another state. An attorney helps with that”
Applying a Statute of Limitations to Asbestos Claims
Applying a statute of limitations is straightforward in most personal injury cases. A claimant usually knows when the clock starts ticking on the claim because they know when they were injured. But that’s not the case for asbestos personal injury claimants.
It usually takes at least 20 years after asbestos exposure for an asbestos-related disease to develop.
Unlike most injuries, the conduct that causes asbestos-related injuries often cannot be traced back to a single moment in time. Rather, it’s traced to a period of asbestos exposure over time, typically during months or years of someone’s work history.
Statute of limitations periods for personal injuries range from one to six years, but it takes much longer than that for asbestos claimants to discover their injuries. If asbestos claimants were held to the standard limitations, their claims would be barred before they even realized they were injured.
This is why courts interpret statutes of limitations uniquely for asbestos claimants.
‘Discovery Rule’ for Asbestos Cases
The “discovery rule” refers to when the statute of limitations begins for an asbestos case.
In general, the limitations clock begins to run when a person is injured. In 1973, the landmark asbestos case Borel v. Fibreboard addressed the difficulty of applying the traditional rule to asbestos claimants. Since then, courts have applied the “discovery rule” to asbestos cases.
Today, the statute of limitations begins at the time of diagnosis for personal injury claims and at the time of death for wrongful death lawsuits.
The Borel case is important because it was the first to hold manufacturers liable for asbestos injuries.
In the case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit noted a line of personal injury cases involving exposure to dangerous substances. Those cases held that a cause of action did not accrue (that is, the statute of limitations clock did not begin to tick) until “the effects of such exposures manifest themselves.” The court decided that the rule was also appropriate for asbestos personal injury cases.
An Illinois court later explained it in an asbestos case against Johns Manville: “The cause of action accrues when the plaintiff knows or reasonably should know of an injury and also knows or reasonably should know that the injury was caused by the wrongful acts of another.”
Compensation Options If Your Statute of Limitations Expires
If you believe that your statute of limitations has expired, you may have other options for compensation, and you might be wrong about missing your chance to file a mesothelioma claim.
Because statutes of limitations are complicated and vary by state, the best recommendation is to find a qualified asbestos attorney who can advise you on the right plan of action.
They can determine if you qualify for an exception or an extension that you may not be aware of. For example, in 2020, the Supreme Court of Ohio made exceptions to statutes of limitations because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A mesothelioma lawyer can also provide additional information and assistance attaining other types of compensation such as VA benefits claims, disability insurance claims and health insurance claims.
Common Questions About the Statute of Limitations for Mesothelioma
- What does a statute of limitations mean?
A statute of limitations is the amount of time someone has to file a mesothelioma lawsuit. This time limit prevents people from filing an asbestos claim if they wait too long after the statute of limitations period begins.
- When does the statute of limitations start on an asbestos case?
The legal time limit varies by state and starts with the date of mesothelioma diagnosis or, in wrongful death cases, the day of death. While the mesothelioma latency period can be several decades, the time window to file an asbestos claim may be as short as one year.
- Can a claim be filed in another state if the statute of limitations has expired?
If the claimant worked in multiple states during the time of their asbestos exposure, they might be eligible to file a claim in another state. Hiring a mesothelioma lawyer will help you file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires and in any areas you may be eligible.
7 Cited Article Sources
The sources on all content featured in The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com include medical and scientific studies, peer-reviewed studies and other research documents from reputable organizations.
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Justia. (1981). Nolan v. Johns-Manville Asbestos.
Retrieved from: https://law.justia.com/cases/illinois/supreme-court/1981/52484-6.html
- Justia. (1974). Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Prods. Corp. Retrieved from: https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/493/1076/4552/
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Last Modified October 15, 2020