Asbestos trust funds: a helping hand for asbestos victims

By Shaniqua Williams

Posted on November 22nd, 2018

Payouts from asbestos trust funds represent the most direct way to hold companies responsible and recover financial compensation. Through them, people suffering from asbestos-related diseases are compensated without the need to make it to a courtroom.

The use of this carcinogenic mineral on a large industrial scale began two hundred years ago, yet the awareness of its adverse health effects started to emerge only in the early 20th century. Holding companies responsible for exposing workers and consumers to this dangerous mineral is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Asbestos is currently the single largest cause of occupational cancer in the U.S. Studies associated more than a dozen different diseases to asbestos exposure. This may cause four distinct malignancies, and it may increase a person's risk for several other diseases. Mesothelioma is the most known related cancer, as exposure to this mineral is the only way someone can develop this disease. In order to recover cancer compensation for the negligence of manufacturers, the victim has the option to file trust fund claims.

How asbestos trust funds work and why make a claim?

Although they were aware of the dangerous impact the carcinogenic mineral could have on their employees, the companies that used asbestos tried to cover up the health risks. As demands for products containing it grew throughout the 1900s, manufacturers prioritized profit over safety. However, the health implications soon became impossible to ignore, and when the first claims were filed, companies promptly looked for ways to protect themselves.

In 1982, one of the biggest manufacturers of products containing it, John-Manville, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as a result of thousands of individual lawsuits filed against the company based on asbestos-related injuries, such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Since then, around one hundred companies have sought bankruptcy protection due to liabilities. Bankruptcy reorganization ensures compensation for current and future claimants.

Asbestos trusts, also known as mesothelioma compensation funds, are organized by bankrupt companies to ensure that monetary compensation is available for victims. The U.S. Bankruptcy Courts have approved new Compensation Trust Funds, with initial funding of over $30 billion, to help and support asbestos-diseases victims and their families.

Trust funds are created by 'trust agreements'. The agreement is between the trust and the company. The trust takes on the company's asbestos liabilities, and the company accepts to fund the trust with the amount authorized by the court. The trust is a separate entity from the company, and the company has no input in paying claims.

Some of the reasons why victims and families decide to pursue claims with these trust funds include:

  • Getting compensation for medical expenses
  • Recovering costs from loss of work
  • Making a difference in their quality of life
  • Pursuing justice
  • Getting compensation for emotional distress

What documentation is needed for filing a compensation claim?

Eligibility for asbestos trust funds is reviewed by specialized lawyers based on the following criteria:

  • Proof of disease - For a valid claim, documentation of diagnosis, including x-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, and biopsy, must show mesothelioma or lung cancer as primary cancer.
  • Proof of exposure - There must be evidence that exposure to asbestos occurred from working at a particular work site during a certain period of time or while using specific products.
  • Proof of negligence - Claimants must also show the defendant failed to warn product users and hid information in favor of profits.
  • The statute of limitations - This is the time limit for a legal claim and is typically between 1 and 3 years from the initial disease diagnosis. If the victim dies, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim begins immediately after death.

Choosing the right lawyer to represent you is the first step to benefit from asbestos trust fund compensation. If you meet the eligibility criteria, a lawyer can help gather the necessary documents for the claim, such as medical records, including a physician's statement confirming the disease diagnosis. Our attorneys can assist you each step of the way and help with every aspect of the claiming process.

How long will it take for an asbestos claim to be resolved?

For many people who developed a disease caused by asbestos exposure, time is short and of the essence, especially if they've been diagnosed in a late stage of cancer. Each asbestos-related impairment has its particular urgency and circumstances. Therefore, time is an essential factor in ensuring claims are paid out promptly and fairly.

There is no specific or set timeline for asbestos compensation claims to get resolved. This depends on the representation a claimant gets from a law firm.

The last thing a person suffering from an asbestos-related disease needs is a long and dragged out legal process. The fastest way to avoid that and get your settlement paid out is by retaining a law firm expert in asbestos-related claims.

How much money can you receive following an asbestos claim?

Depending on your work history and the workplace where asbestos exposure took place, you may be entitled to file claims with multiple trust funds.

Because of the large amounts of people making claims to trust funds, many are underfunded and stretched to meet the needs of claimants.

Therefore, trusts only pay a percentage of the amount the claimant is granted. Each trust has a different payout percentage ranging from 1 to 100 percent.

Reports estimate that from 2006 through 2012, the entire trust system paid out over $15 billion to claimants. Asbestos trusts use 'disease levels' to ensure that the limited amount of money in the trust is paid out fairly.

These are the disease levels in order of the most severe to the least severe condition:

  • Level 8 - for Mesothelioma
  • Level 7 - for Lung Cancer 1
  • Level 6 - for Lung Cancer 2
  • Level 5 - for Other Cancer
  • Level 4 - for Severe Asbestosis
  • Level 3 - for Asbestosis/Pleural Disease 2 with significantly restricted function
  • Level 2 - for Asbestosis/Pleural Disease 1 without significantly restricted function
  • Level 1 - for Other asbestos diseases

The amount paid for your case will depend on the extent and duration of your asbestos exposure, the stage and severity of the type of disease you have, and what our attorneys specialized in asbestos law can negotiate. If you are a victim of asbestos exposure, don't hesitate to contact our team to learn more about the legal options available to you. We charge a 40% contingency fee. That means we only get paid after we resolve your case to your satisfaction.