What You Need to Know About Punitive Damages for Mesothelioma

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Your exposure to asbestos or any other element that caused your mesothelioma was inexcusable. Precautions should have been taken to protect you from developing this serious and often fatal form of cancer. You believe the company responsible for your exposure and ultimately for your mesothelioma diagnosis should be punished, but does the law agree? Can you recover punitive damages?

Punitive Damages Are Meant to Punish the Wrongdoer

There are two types of damages that may be awarded in a mesothelioma case: compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Compensatory damages, such as those for medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering, are based on the actual losses you incurred and will suffer in the future due to your mesothelioma diagnosis.

punative_damagesPunitive damages have a different purpose. Punitive damages are awarded not to compensate the victim but rather to punish the defendant and to discourage the defendant and others from acting in this way again. Generally, the more outrageous the behavior of the defendant, the more likely a jury is to award punitive damages. The amount of punitive damages is decided by the court in accordance with any punitive damage caps established by state law.

As the plaintiff, you'll receive monetary compensation if the court agrees to award punitive damages as a result of the defendant's actions.

Are Punitive Damages Possible in Mesothelioma Cases?

Punitive damages are possible in some mesothelioma cases, but they are rarely awarded. Generally, it's necessary to prove one of the following:

  • The defendant intentionally exposed you to asbestos and failed to take reasonable safety precautions to limit your exposure. The burden of proof lies in the fact that the defendant knew about that asbestos exposure could result in mesothelioma and intentionally let you be exposed without protecting your health.
  • The defendant was grossly negligent in exposing you to asbestos and failed to take reasonable safety precautions to limit your exposure. Gross negligence means the defendant’s conduct was reckless and showed a conscious disregard of indifference to your health and safety.
  • The defendant acted with recklessness, malice, or deceit in exposing you to asbestos and failing to take reasonable safety precautions to limit your exposure. This standard is similar to the standards described above.

The exact standard that applies to your case is dependent on state law.

The court may also consider specific things, such as how much was known about the danger of asbestos at the time you were exposed; how much was known about how to prevent the inhalation of asbestos at the time you were exposed; and how much money the defendant had to use alternative substances or to implement appropriate safety precautions.

Recovering All Possible Damages in Your Mesothelioma Case

Before you request punitive damages in a mesothelioma case, it's important to make sure you have a reasonable basis for doing so. In other words, there must be some evidence of intent or gross negligence. In many states, if you don't have this evidence, the court could impose financial sanctions against you.

Accordingly, you want to know whether you have a reasonable legal basis to pursue punitive damages against the defendant. Our experienced mesothelioma lawyers will review your case and recommend whether or not you should pursue punitive damages as part of your claim.

For more information about how we can help if you have developed mesothelioma, please read our free report, Understanding Your Rights After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis, contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means we're only paid if your claim is successful.


Richard J. Arsenault
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Recognized by several legal associations, Richard Arsenault has vast experience in complex litigation cases.