Asbestos in Talc Products: Finding an Attorney

How do you choose a lawyer who's right for you and your lawsuit over asbestos in talcum powder?

Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers of personal hygiene products are facing scrutiny—and lawsuits—over accusations that their talc products contain asbestos. If you're thinking about filing a civil lawsuit over your development of ovarian cancer or some other health problem linked to use of a talc product (like baby powder), having the right attorney can make a big difference in the outcome. Lawyers who specialize in these kinds of lawsuits should know the ins and outs of product liability law, and are often accustomed to going up against large corporations like Johnson & Johnson (and the big legal teams that defend them). But what, specifically, should you look for in a lawyer, and what do you need to know about the attorney-client relationship in cases like these?

Where to Start Your Attorney Search

Asking for a referral to an attorney from someone you trust can be a good way to find legal help, but the simple fact is that many people don’t have a big word-of-mouth network when it comes to lawyers. Online resources like AllLaw are a great way to put together an initial list of candidates you might want to get in touch with when you're looking for an attorney to handle your talc-asbestos lawsuit

Remember, you're not just looking for someone who has experience handling lawsuits like yours; you're also looking for someone you can trust and whom you feel comfortable with. State bar associations usually have websites that allow you to look up lawyers and learn information like whether they've been subject to any discipline. (Learn more about finding the right lawyer for a personal injury case.)

What to Ask a Lawyer

Whether you talk to a lawyer in person or over the phone, here are some topics you might want to touch on.

  • How long has the lawyer been in practice?
  • Roughly what percentage of the lawyer's practice involves personal injury cases? Has the lawyer handled other cases related to defective products in general, or the safety of talc-based products in particular?
  • Does the lawyer most often represent plaintiffs or defendants? You probably don't want to be represented by someone who has experience with personal injury cases but who has primarily been a lawyer for defendants. Advocating for plaintiffs who have been hurt is much different from helping a client avoid liability at all costs.
  • Would the lawyer personally handle your case or pass it along to another—perhaps less experienced—lawyer in the office? It's normal for more than one attorney in an office to work on the same case, and to have less experienced attorneys (or paralegals and others) handle routine tasks. But you should find out who would have primary responsibility for your case and whom you would be dealing with directly. (Learn about working with a lawyer on an injury-related case.)
  • How will the lawyer and expenses be paid? Personal injury lawyers usually get paid only if the plaintiff gets compensation through a settlement or trial—usually they take a percentage of the overall sum. (More on "contingency fees" below.) Expenses normally come out of that money, too, but you'll want to confirm that and establish whether they would come out of the overall sum, the lawyer's cut, or your cut.

Remember to consider any special needs you might have, and any practicalities. For example, could you benefit from an attorney who speaks a language other than English? If you'll need to visit the lawyer from time to time, is the lawyer's office relatively nearby and close to public transportation (if that's how you travel)? Check out more questions to ask a potential personal injury attorney.

Financial Considerations

Chances are a lawyer will handle your talcum powder lawsuit on a "contingency fee" basis. This means that if you reach an out-of-court settlement, or your lawsuit goes all the way to trial and you receive a judgment in your favor, your lawyer will be paid a percentage of what you receive—usually around one-third of the total. If you don't receive anything from the other side, your lawyer doesn't get paid.

It's important to read the fine print of any attorney-client contract before you sign it, and to understand whether you would be on the hook for expenses or "costs" associated with your case if you don't end up with a trial win or settlement. (Get the details on lawyer fees in personal injury cases.)

Even if you think you have a good case, be prepared for a lawyer to turn down the opportunity to represent you. Many lawyers do not take cases if they fall below a certain potential recovery amount, or if a key element of the case is less than clear. Maybe you have a long history of using baby powder or a similar product, but haven't received a diagnosis of a specific health problem, for example. Be prepared to keep looking for help with your case, or to look again as your situation changes.

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