What Happens When a Mesothelioma Victim Passes Away During the Legal Process?

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Mesothelioma & Asbestos Published on August 30, 2019 and updated on March 7, 2022.

doctor talking to patientMesothelioma is often not diagnosed until it has reached an advanced stage and the patient has a matter of months or about a year to live. This could mean the patient will die as he or she is attempting to go through the legal process and pursue compensation.

Below, our Maryland mesothelioma attorneys walk you through the legal process that occurs after a claimant passes. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our legal team for a free, no obligation consultation today.

The Claim Becomes Part of the Estate

When a mesothelioma patient dies, the legal process becomes more complicated, but it does mean his or her claim can no longer be pursued. When the person who files the claim is alive, compensation awards from the court or settlements go directly to that person. After death, the claim is considered part of the decedent’s estate.

Once a mesothelioma claim is part of a deceased person’s estate, the estate representative is in charge. This person decides if the estate will continue to pursue the claim, as well as how to pursue it and speaks on the estate’s behalf concerning this matter.

The estate representative is typically appointed by the decedent before death, in the decedent’s will. If the decedent did not have a will or the named representative cannot or chooses not to accept the role, an estate representative is appointed by the court. In most cases, the estate representative is a member of the decedent’s immediate family, though a person without a family relation to the decedent may fill this role.

Mesothelioma lawsuits allow a plaintiff to seek compensation for damages associated with his or her asbestos-related illness, including:

  • Medical expenses, including future costs of treatment
  • Travel costs for medical treatment
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering

If someone dies due to mesothelioma caused by negligent exposure to asbestos, certain family members or the estate representative may be able to seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. Those who may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim include:

  • A spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Others financially dependent on the decedent

Who Receives Compensation?

Compensation awarded through a mesothelioma claim after the claimant dies is also considered part of the estate. If a wrongful death lawsuit is filed by the estate representative, this is also the case. This compensation is divided amongst the named heirs according to the decedent’s will. If the decedent did not leave a will, the compensation is divided per the state’s intestate succession laws, which dictate how estate assets are divided when someone dies without a will.

Challenges When the Victim Dies

Once the original plaintiff of a mesothelioma lawsuit dies, the situation becomes more challenging.

  • It may be harder to establish the plaintiff’s asbestos exposure history, as the plaintiff is no longer available to offer helpful information.
  • It may also be more difficult to compile evidence without the plaintiff’s assistance, such as complete medical records, work records and additional documentation.
  • Identifying and tracking down possible witnesses, such as former bosses or coworkers who are able to verify asbestos exposure on the job, may be more difficult without the plaintiff’s assistance.
  • It is no longer possible for the plaintiff to give attestation, statements made through affidavits, depositions, or under oath at a trial.

In addition, the awarded compensation is typically much lower if a verdict is determined or a settlement is offered after the original plaintiff’s death. This is because the plaintiff no longer has ongoing damages such as medical expenses and emotional distress.

Filing a mesothelioma lawsuit early on is the best option, as attorneys are then able to gather the needed evidence and information from the plaintiff. Cases can be settled sooner, providing the financial assistance needed to pay for treatment and giving the plaintiff more time to focus on his or her health and family.

Get Help from Our Licensed Lawyers Now

The death of a mesothelioma victim does not mean his or her legal claim is over. If someone you love has passed away due to mesothelioma, our legal team is ready to help your family fight for maximum compensation.

Contact us to schedule a free, no obligation consultation. We charge no upfront fees and are only paid if we recover compensation for you.

Call 410-244-7005 or complete our Free Case Evaluation form now.