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What Families of Mesothelioma Victims Need to Know About Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on July 7, 2021

If you lost a loved one to mesothelioma, you and your family may be entitled to financial compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. If someone should have prevented your loved one’s asbestos exposure, that person or entity may be financially responsible for the death in question. The more you know about wrongful death mesothelioma lawsuits, the easier the legal process will be for you and your family.

There Are Different Types of Cases

First, your family will need to verify that you have grounds to file a wrongful death claim. The exact definition of wrongful death will depend on the law in your state. New York law defines wrongful death as a death caused by someone else’s wrongful act, neglect or default, of a type that the decedent could have filed a personal injury lawsuit had he or she been alive.

The identity of the party responsible for exposing the victim to asbestos will determine the type of lawsuit, in most cases. Your family may have a product liability claim, for instance, if your loved one was exposed to asbestos from a product. If your loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma related to his or her job, on the other hand, you would have a workers’ compensation claim or lawsuit against the employer.

Your type of case can determine what you must prove to win your mesothelioma wrongful death lawsuit. If you have a strict product liability claim, for example, you generally will not have to prove that the manufacturing company did something wrong. Instead, it will be enough to demonstrate that the item in question contained a defect and caused your loved one’s mesothelioma. You may need a mesothelioma lawyer’s assistance to determine what must be proven in your case.

Only Certain People Can File

Unlike many states, New York does not allow family members to file wrongful death claims. In New York, only the personal representative of the estate has the right to file. Even if you were close to the person who passed away, you will not have the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit for financial compensation unless you are the personal representative. This individual may be named in the decedent’s will or assigned by the courts. The personal representative can pursue compensation on behalf of close surviving relatives, such as a spouse, children or parents, as well as the decedent’s estate.

There Is a Deadline to File

The personal representative has a limited amount of time in which to file a wrongful death claim for mesothelioma. This deadline varies from state to state. In New York, the deadline – known as the statute of limitations – is two years from the date of death. In general, if the representative does not file within this two-year window, he or she will lose all right to recover financial compensation for surviving family members or the estate.

Compensation Is Available Through Asbestos Funds

If the party at fault for your loved one’s terminal illness is bankrupt, deceased or no longer exists, you may still be able to recover compensation through a national asbestos trust fund. These trust funds were created due to the frequency of defendants being unavailable or bankrupt by the time a victim was diagnosed with mesothelioma, as this can take decades after the date of asbestos exposure.

Compensation Is Not Guaranteed

A death due to mesothelioma does not guarantee surviving family members financial compensation. It is up to you or your attorney to prove the grounds for your wrongful death lawsuit based on clear and convincing evidence. You may need to prove your case using asbestos records, medical documents, testimony from a mesothelioma expert and other evidence. You can strengthen your ability to obtain a fair recovery by hiring an experienced New York mesothelioma lawyer to represent you and your family.


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