In January 2022, amendments to a California law will go into effect, allowing the surviving estate of individuals lost to mesothelioma to receive damages for pain and suffering. This is a major legal change from the previously-existing 1961 law that blocked pain and suffering and disfigurement damages from being awarded to any party but the injured plaintiff. Before the recent amendment, California was one of only five states to restrict these damages to the plaintiff alone and deny family members from obtaining this type of compensation on behalf of a deceased loved one. As of January 1, 2022, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Idaho will be the only states with this type of law still in effect.
The full impact of this recent amendment is yet to be determined, and an ongoing evaluation of its effects on California’s courts and businesses will be conducted in the upcoming years. But for the families of mesothelioma patients in California, this may be an important step toward justice for victims of asbestos exposure caused by corporate negligence. Please reach out to Frost Law Firm, PC if you have questions about filing for a mesothelioma settlement in the state of California.
Why SB 447 Is Important to Families of Mesothelioma Victims
Senate Bill No. 447 (SB 447) is not specific to mesothelioma cases. The non-economic damages listed in the bill are common to many types of personal injury cases. When a party is injured by another party’s negligent actions—such as a mesothelioma patient is injured by a company that exposes them to asbestos—they often suffer great physical and emotional anguish. Under California law, an accident victim may be eligible to recover damages for pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit like a mesothelioma lawsuit.
Pain and suffering damages are some of the most important damages, attached to the largest sums of money, in a mesothelioma claim. Mesothelioma patients and their families know the immense suffering inflicted on victims of this illness. But because mesothelioma is frequently diagnosed in the cancer’s later stages, those filing mesothelioma lawsuits and their families also know that there is a very real possibility that the diagnosed patient will not survive to see the case reach a settlement. For the past 60 years under California law, the non-economic pain and suffering damages to which the mesothelioma patient would have been entitled to were extinguished with their death.
Under the terms of the recent amendment, however, surviving families are allowed to collect those damages on behalf of the deceased. This prevents a defendant from deliberately prolonging the legal process in hopes that the plaintiff will die before a settlement is reached. This was a morbid tactic used by some defendants in past mesothelioma lawsuits, saving negligent corporations millions of dollars in what was sometimes referred to as a “death discount.” The bill’s author, Senator John Laird (D–Santa Cruz), and supporters argue that a defendant should never be financially rewarded when a plaintiff dies due to the defendant’s own negligence.
COVID-19’s Impact on California Court Delays
Supporters of California Senate Bill 447 have also cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for the need of amendment to the pre-existing law. Court delays, already a significant issue prior to the pandemic’s onset, were only made worse over the past few years.
Currently, the California court system is struggling under the weight of a 1.4 million case backlog, according to the advocacy association Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC), co-sponsors of SB 447. Under certain conditions, a terminally-ill plaintiff and their attorney may bring a motion to have the court date expedited to within 120 days. However, with the excessive delays in the California court system, it is not always possible to have a court date set for as early as may be hoped for given the circumstances.
Due to the current conditions, the chance that a plaintiff in a mesothelioma case will die before the case goes to trial is much higher. Prior to the recent amendment, this would have put mesothelioma victims and their families at a severe disadvantage—making it much more difficult to obtain maximum compensation for the losses they suffered.
At the same time, court delays provide negligent corporations even greater opportunity to avoid paying millions of dollars in pain and suffering damages to victims of asbestos exposure. One of the aims of SB 447 is to prevent this unfair situation from becoming the standard for mesothelioma lawsuits under the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How a Mesothelioma Lawyer Can Help Your Family Collect Benefits
Mesothelioma compensation for family members is an important part of the recovery process for grieving loved ones of a mesothelioma patient. If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma after asbestos exposure, your family may be eligible to receive compensation for your losses. The types of damages recoverable in a mesothelioma lawsuit can include economic damages like medical bills and associated expenses, as well as non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
If you haven’t already spoken with a qualified mesothelioma attorney about the specifics of your family’s situation, we invite you to contact our team of mesothelioma lawyers at Frost Law Firm, PC. If your family is unsure what steps to take after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis, it may provide some relief to know that you have legal options.
Fighting for mesothelioma patients is personal to us. We have represented clients from across the nation for nearly two decades, dedicating our legal practice to obtaining justice for victims of corporate negligence. We understand the laws in each state. And we know the tactics that multi-million dollar corporations sometimes employ in order to exploit loopholes and avoid fairly compensating victims of negligence.
If we mutually decide after an initial consultation that our firm is best suited to take your family’s case, we will fully extend our legal expertise to representing your family until the conclusion of your case. It is our mission to work toward holding negligent corporations accountable, improving the quality of life of mesothelioma patients, and preventing this illness from affecting future generations.