frequently asked questions

If You Have Questions,

We Can Answer Them

Q. If I recover compensation, what is your fee?

Our attorney’s fee is generally a “contingent fee” of 33.33% of the net compensation that you receive. This means you do not pay an attorney’s fee unless we recover money for you. Our firm will advance the expenses – interest free – necessary to investigate and prosecute with your case. After we recover compensation for you, we deduct the expenses that were advanced.

Q. Can I still recover money for mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis if I am or was a smoker?

Yes. Smoking by itself does not disqualify anyone from receiving compensation for mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis.

Q. If I recover compensation, what income taxes must I pay?

None. Compensation for asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma are free from federal and state income taxes.

Q. Do I have to go to court and testify in court if I file a claim?

In most cases, no. Bankruptcy claims do not require testimony in court to prove your claim. Additionally, most lawsuits are settled out of court, and most asbestos victims are not required to testify in court. In many cases, we can pursue claims based upon information provided about your employment history and asbestos exposure in a sworn affidavit, along with medical records, military records, and employment records that we obtain for you. In some cases, depositions of asbestos victims, family members, and physicians occur out of court, prior to trial. Whether your case goes to trial cannot be predicted in advance. You must personally make that decision based on the unique facts of your case and the careful advice of your attorneys.

Q. Why should you choose PWHD over an out-of-state law firm?

Although we are a local law firm, PWHD has a national reputation in asbestos litigation.

PWHD has over 45 years of experience in prosecuting asbestos claims in both state and federal court. Lawyers on our asbestos litigation team have been designated by their peers as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, Top Lawyers in Tidewater Virginia, and Leaders in the Law in Virginia.

PWHD has a long track record of multi-million-dollar jury verdicts for asbestos victims from the late 1970s to the present.

Because of our national reputation for successful representation of asbestos victims; PWHD, along with other leaders of the asbestos litigation, was appointed by the bankruptcy courts to organize and develop many of the asbestos trust funds that now provide compensation to asbestos victims all over the United States.

PWHD has also been appointed to the technical advisory committees of many of these asbestos bankruptcy trust funds to assure continuing fairness of these settlements for asbestos victims.

PWHD has changed the laws for asbestos victims with landmark decisions in the Supreme Court of Virginia, Federal Courts of Appeal, and the United States Supreme Court.

PWHD has repeatedly initiated and succeeded in efforts to bring changes to the laws of Virginia to benefit asbestos victims.

PWHD has stopped the asbestos industry from passing laws that would establish barriers to the recovery of compensation for asbestos victims.

For more than 45- years, PWHD has successfully settled thousands of asbestos claims for shipyard workers, Navy sailors, refinery workers, union workers, and their families.

At PWHD, asbestos claims are personal. Tidewater Virginia is our home, and our clients are our friends and neighbors.

Q. Will I be required to file a lawsuit?

No. You will not be required to file a lawsuit. In many cases we may recommend that you file a lawsuit based upon the facts of your individual case, but this decision is ultimately up to you. There are over three dozen asbestos bankruptcy trusts that pay claims to asbestos victims in many cases based upon certain medical and exposure criteria without filing a lawsuit.

Q. How long will it take for me to receive money?

The time required for payment of your claims to bankruptcy trust funds varies from trust to trust. Some bankruptcy claims are paid within three to four months of submission of all medical records, employment records, and other exposure information, while others can take a year or more before you receive the money. If you file a lawsuit against asbestos product suppliers, the defendants in that lawsuit will usually not negotiate any settlements until after the case is set for trial.

Q. How much money will I receive?

The amount of money that you will receive from bankruptcy trust claims is very predictable because each trust fund typically pays the same fixed amount of money to each person who has the same disease.  The primary factors required for compensation from bankruptcy trust funds are the type of disease you have; proof of your medical diagnosis; the dates and locations of your asbestos exposure; and, in some cases, the specific identity of asbestos product to which you were exposed. As our investigation proceeds, we will determine what bankruptcy trusts for which you are qualified. All bankruptcy trust funds make a fixed payment based on the specific disease type, i.e. mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis. Each bankruptcy trust fund has a different fixed amount of money that it will pay for each separate disease. However, these trust funds also allow for “Individual Evaluation,” and higher payment in cases that have special circumstances; for example, if the asbestos victim is very young, or the victim has dependent children.

On the other hand, the amount of recovery from lawsuits varies from case to case depending upon a number of factors: whether your claim is for mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis; the dates and locations of your asbestos exposure; the specific asbestos products involved in your case; the amount of your medical expenses; the financial loss that your disease has caused  your family; and your pain and suffering.

If a lawsuit is filed, the evidence concerning your exposure to specific asbestos products will be a primary factor in determining your compensation, but that cannot be predicted in advance. The same is true of verdicts from jury trials. Winning or losing a jury trial cannot be predicted in advance, and if you win a jury trial, the amount a jury potentially awards cannot be predicted. We will work with you to maximize the potential money you may recover.

Q. How much exposure to asbestos is enough to cause my disease?

In some cases, a brief exposure of just a few weeks or months is sufficient to cause mesothelioma. Although asbestos diseases are not contagious, family members can contract mesothelioma from living with an asbestos-exposed worker who brings asbestos-covered clothing into the home which allows the asbestos fibers to become airborne again. The consensus of governmental organizations and the scientific community is that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure that would not potentially cause cancer, like mesothelioma, in some people.

Q. What if I cannot remember how and where I was exposed to asbestos?

Some bankruptcy trust funds pay claims based upon the date and place of employment, not your specific memory of the asbestos product or products to which you were exposed. If specific product exposure information is required, our investigators will typically find helpful employment records, your co-workers at the time of exposure, and other related information to meet these requirements.

Q. Will you sue my employer?

Normally, we do not sue your employer. But there are some limited exceptions such as claims for workers’ compensation, claims by railroad workers, or claims by commercial seamen. Apart from these exceptions, Federal and state law generally prohibit filing a lawsuit against your employer for diseases caused by your asbestos exposure. You may be able to file a worker’s compensation claim against your employer. We evaluate each case, including a discussion with each client regarding potential recoveries from bankruptcy trusts or lawsuits and health care concerns, to determine if a worker’s compensation claim is in the client’s best interest.

Q. Will I be required to come to PWHD’s office?

No. No face-to-face meeting is required to begin investigating your claim. Normally, we like to have a face-to-face meeting with potential clients so that we can get to know each other. This meeting may occur at our firm, at your home, or anyplace else that is comfortable for you.

With the coronavirus pandemic, we have had to modify this approach for our clients’ safety.  At PWHD, we are committed to doing our part to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in our community. Accordingly, we are currently conducting meetings by phone, and are also available to schedule virtual meetings over video conferencing software with our clients.  If you do not have a computer or tablet for a video conference, we can loan you a tablet at no cost.

Q. Are there any time limits for filing a claim?

Yes. If you receive a diagnosis of an asbestos related disease, you should act quickly to protect your rights.  

If you were exposed to asbestos in Virginia, the time limit for filing lawsuit in Virginia is two years from the date that a diagnosis of asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer or mesothelioma is communicated to you by a physician or two years from the date of death, whichever occurs first. If you were exposed to asbestos while working aboard ships, the time limit for filing a lawsuit is three years from the date you discover that you have an asbestos-related disease or three years from the date of death, whichever occurs first. If you were exposed to asbestos somewhere other than the state of Virginia, or onboard a ship, the law of the place where you were exposed will determine the time limit, and those time limits vary from state to state.  

The time limit for filing bankruptcy claims is different from filing a lawsuit.  Most bankruptcy trust fund claims must be filed within three years from the date of diagnosis regardless of the time of death.

Q. I never personally worked with asbestos products, am I eligible to make a claim?

Yes. Many people develop mesothelioma as a result of “bystander” asbestos exposure (working near or around someone else who was using asbestos products) or “secondary exposure” (exposure from asbestos fibers brought into the home on work clothes). Depending on the circumstances of your exposure, you may be entitled to compensation even though you did not personally work with asbestos products.

Q. I was previously diagnosed with asbestosis, and I now have mesothelioma. Can I file a second claim?

Yes. Most jurisdictions and most bankruptcy trust funds permit filing a claim for asbestos-related cancers like mesothelioma or lung cancer even after you have prosecuted and/or settled a claim for asbestosis (which is a nonmalignant disease).