Mesothelioma Trust Funds
When a growing number of companies filed bankruptcy as a result of asbestos-related lawsuits, Congress mandated that these businesses set aside funds to ensure the victims could get compensated.
Even with that, critics have complained that these bankruptcy trust funds, which total more than $30 billion, don’t have nearly enough money to cover the losses. Instead, many asbestos victims aren’t getting the full financial benefits they deserve.
What Is An Asbestos Trust Fund?
In the early 1970s, the courts saw an explosion of asbestos-related litigation. The first lawsuit was against Johns-Manville, a manufacturing giant that used asbestos in its roofing materials and insulation products. By the early 1980s, the company was overwhelmed with lawsuits and filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. From that, the first trust was born so the thousands of asbestos victims could be compensated for their injuries. It puts funds aside for victims. In the first ten years, it paid out more than $2.5 billion to nearly 360,000 injured victims. Through 2010, about $17.5 billion in claims have been paid.
Since the Johns-Manville trust was established, nearly all of the major asbestos manufacturers have declared bankruptcy. It protects them from civil lawsuits and other legal actions.
Current Status of Asbestos Trusts
To date, more than 60 companies have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and created asbestos bankruptcy trusts. Sadly, many say that the trust funds are “woefully under funded.” At the same time, these bankrupted companies go on to be highly profitable and competitive.
Analysts predicted that asbestos claims would decline by the end of the 20th century, when, in fact, they have risen in the last 10 years. The rules for getting funds from a bankruptcy trust vary from company to company, making the process confusing and complicated. It is important to have an attorney help review your options.
If you choose to file a claim with a trust instead of filing a lawsuit, there is a stepwise claim process that is characteristic to most trust funds:
- Identify Your Trust -- Depending on your work history, identify the company or companies that could be the source of your mesothelioma. Many claimants file claims with multiple asbestos trusts.
- Choose Your Review Method -- Claimants can decide whether they want an expedited review of the claim or individual review. Expedited claims are paid quickly with a set value. Individual reviews take longer to process but receive individual consideration.
- Claim Processing -- During this time, the trustees of the bankruptcy trust will begin to review your case. Once you meet the medical and occupational requirements, your claim will be validated.
- Liquidation -- At this point, a monetary amount is set to your claim. There are a number of factors that are taken into consideration, including your age, your medical condition and your family status. You can choose to accept the payment offer or file a dispute. In some cases, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the trust.
- Payment -- Because most trusts cannot afford to pay every claim in full, most are discounted, which is known as a payment percentage. For example, if you were awarded a $100,000 claim with a 20 percent payment percentage, your actual award would be $20,000. Typically, attorney’s fees are also paid with this award.
Asbestos Claims for Veterans
Because veterans account for a large amount of mesothelioma victims, the Veterans Administration set up special compensation funds for assistance:
- Health Care Benefits -- Veterans who were exposed to asbestos and developed mesothelioma are entitled to special health care benefits.
- Disability Compensation -- Any mesothelioma diagnosis is considered to be a 100 percent disability.
Compensation for Patients & Families
For anybody who has suffered as a result of asbestos exposure, filing a bankruptcy claim could help pay for the crushing financial burden that it brings. It can also help secure your family’s future.