Losing a loved one to cancer is a traumatic experience. In some cases, the battle is protracted, with months of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation treatment and waiting. Other times, the progression is so rapid that your family barely has time to accept the diagnosis before you have to start planning a funeral. As far as cancers go, mesothelioma is a highly aggressive form of cancer that is currently considered treatable but incurable.
The tragic truth is that almost all cases of mesothelioma are preventable. The vast majority of people who develop this cancer had workplace exposure to asbestos on a regular basis. Others may have encountered it at home.
Sometimes, cases of deadly mesothelioma result from regular use of talcum powder, commonly called baby powder. Whatever the cause, surviving family members of a victim of mesothelioma may have legal options, including a wrongful death lawsuit. It may take some research and work, but it will provide the surviving family members with some measure of justice.
When mesothelioma could cause wrongful death
Under Washington state law, a surviving family member can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against a person or business who caused the death through wrongful act, neglect or default. When most people think of wrongful death lawsuits, they think of drunk drivers, traffic collisions and similar issues. However, the potential application of wrongful death statutes is broader. Businesses that used asbestos or exposed their workers to it without protection could be responsible for a wrongful death related to mesothelioma under the law.
The reason why is simple. Although humans have used asbestos for centuries, large scale mining of these minerals only began at the end of the 1800s. By the early 1900s, people already suspected asbestos of having long-term health implications, but businesses continued to use it in products and expose workers to it without protection. Because they did not take steps to prevent a common sense danger or reduce risk, they may be liable for the injuries and deaths that result from that inaction.
What can you recover in a wrongful death lawsuit?
Generally speaking, only certain parties can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Those people typically include the spouses, domestic partners, children or stepchildren of the deceased. In cases where there are no such relationships, the parents or dependent siblings in a family can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Generally, families sue for an amount that includes lost wages, medical expenses and funeral costs, therapy expenses for surviving family members and similar losses.
The law allows for a trial by jury in wrongful death cases, and it also gives juries quite a bit of power. The jurors may assess whatever damages seem just to them, given the circumstances of the individual case. That could include substantial punitive damages or even funds for pain and suffering caused by the death.