Asbestos Trust Funds

Summary

You may be exploring what options are available to you if you are one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been affected by asbestos exposure. Exposure to asbestos at work, in school, or even indirectly through a family member continues to devastate the health and financial well-being of millions of Americans.

Depending on the situation, filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against a company that is responsible for an asbestos-related injury or death is not always possible, nor is it necessarily the best option. Filing an asbestos trust fund claim may be your best course of action.

Consequences of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is one of the most versatile and widely used minerals known to man. Because of its heat resistance, strength and sound absorption qualities, this “miracle mineral” has been used in thousands of places and products, ranging from wall and piping insulation for homes, factories, and offices, to automobile gaskets, lining and brake pads.

Asbestos is also extremely hazardous to human health, a fact that has been known to the medical community, the insurance industry and, among others, the governments of both the United States and Great Britain since the 1920s. Canadian and American insurers stopped selling life insurance policies to asbestos workers as early as 1918.

Use of Asbestos

Despite this awareness, the mass production and widespread use of asbestos continued in the United States into the 1980s. And even though the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry estimates that 27.5 million Americans were exposed to asbestos in their workplace between 1940 and 1980, its use in a significant number of products has not yet been banned here in the U.S.

Deceit and Disregard—How Asbestos Trust Funds Began

Asbestos manufacturers have clearly reaped enormous financial benefit from weak federal and state regulation of their product. But for much of the 20th century, they also exploited the fact that asbestos-related illnesses take years to progress to the stage where they can be clinically diagnosed.

In the case of malignant mesothelioma, it can take between 10 and 50 years to be detected. Because symptoms can take so long to show up, workers who have suffered terribly as victims of asbestos exposure have often been misdiagnosed as having other diseases related to asbestos. And because life expectancy for a mesothelioma sufferer is usually between 6 and 24 months, many victims were not and will not be compensated before dying of their injuries.

In some cases, such as with the John-Mansville Corporation—one of the largest asbestos companies in the world—employees of companies who produced asbestos products were given routine medical examinations but were never told by their employer that they had developed asbestosis. Court records show that the company knowingly lied to their workers about their ill-health and continued to expose them to ongoing risk. Their deceit allowed them to reduce the number of compensation claims against the company by its workers.

As awareness increased during the 1960’s about the links between exposure to asbestos and the increasing occurrences of asbestosis, mesothelioma and other cancers, the John-Mansville Corporation paid out a large amount in workers’ compensation claims.

In 1969, even with this ongoing deception by the John-Mansville Corporation, almost $1 million was paid out to 285 of its asbestosis-disabled workers.

When the John-Mansville Corporation filed for bankruptcy in 1982, it was the largest asbestos manufacturer in U.S. history to do so. Within six years, a new legal entity known as the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust had emerged, and a new legal remedy for dead and dying victims of asbestos exposure and their families came into being.

But the story of seeking justice for asbestos victims does not end with the John-Mansville Corporation. Due to the hundreds of thousands of lawsuits filed against Babcock and Wilcox, Pittsburgh Corning, Turner and Newall and others using asbestos in their products, many of these companies — over 100 as of 2011 — have filed for bankruptcy under Section 524 (g) of Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

Through the restructuring provisions allowed under this section of Chapter 11, personal injury asbestos trust funds have been set up by some of the former companies that manufactured asbestos-containing products. Companies established bankruptcy trusts as a way to deal with their present and future liability where exposure to an asbestos product or an activity related to asbestos has caused someone injury.

Legal Options for Asbestos Victims

Asbestos victims and their families cannot file legal claims against an asbestos company whose product caused the injury if the company has filed for bankruptcy.

Where a company is still solvent, an asbestos victim can file suit against them in civil court. If a company seeks bankruptcy protection while being sued, all lawsuits against them are stopped. By speaking to an experienced and knowledgeable mesothelioma attorney, an asbestos victim can avoid unnecessary delays and find out what legal remedies and financial aid will be available to them.

Personal injury (PI) asbestos trust funds were created by bankruptcy courts as a way for injured claimants or their family members to seek compensation for personal injury or wrongful death.

A group of trustees are given legal responsibility to govern and manage the trusts for the benefit of claimants. This role includes overseeing the assets and investments of the funds, filing annual tax returns as well as making annual reports available to the bankruptcy court. They must also manage the ongoing compensation payouts of the fund, ensuring that it can continue to operate as new claims are made each year against the trust fund.

As of 2013, over $21 billion in assets were paid out by trust funds such as to mesothelioma victims and other victims of asbestos-related diseases. These PI funds currently still have over $31 billion to be paid out to future claimants.

How to Access Asbestos Trust Funds

There are various restrictions that apply when a person makes a claim to access compensation payments through one or more of the asbestos trust funds.

Some of the eligibility requirements for accessing asbestos trust funds include:

  • If a person has a confirmed diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness such as asbestosis, mesothelioma or other specified forms of lung cancer, they can claim compensation from a trust fund
  •  A family member (i.e. child, sibling or spouse) of a deceased person may file a claim on behalf of themselves and the decease’s estate

Asbestos Exposure Claim Proof

Each trust fund has its own way of requiring that a claimant can prove a “significant occupational exposure” to asbestos. A claimant must show proof of a connection between their asbestos exposure and one of eight different “disease levels” before receiving compensation payment. The most serious of these disease levels is mesothelioma.

For your claim to succeed, you need to prove that your asbestos exposure was linked to asbestos products manufactured or used by the bankrupt company.

To satisfy the trust that your claim is valid, the required proof would usually include such things as:

  • Type of industry in which the exposure occurred (e.g., manufacturing, shipyard)
  • Type of occupation during the time of exposure (e.g., steamfitter, construction worker)
  • Name of the site of exposure
  • Beginning and end dates for the time of exposure
  • Social Security and employment records
  • Affidavit or deposition by the claimant or co-workers regarding work history
  • Affidavit of a family member where the injured person is deceased
  • Documented proof of economic loss

Also, a claimant must be able to provide medical records regarding their illness.

These documents and details would include:

  • Type and stage – or “level” of disease (mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer or other cancer)
  • Death certificate (if applicable)
  • Date of diagnosis
  • Medical records such as chest X-rays, documentation of treatments
  • For mesothelioma, a pathology or autopsy report identifying the disease will be required.

The Statute of Limitations on Asbestos Claims

MJN Brief

With most types of legal action, there are strict rules about the period of time in which an injured person must take action to enforce their rights or claim compensation related to their injury. Every state has its own statute of limitations or rules related to these time frames, but these limits usually begin from the time the injured person received their medical diagnosis.

Although it is different from filing a civil lawsuit, the general best practice is to file a claim with an asbestos trust fund as soon as possible after receiving an asbestos-related diagnosis, even if serious symptoms have not yet been experienced.

Choosing the Claim Option that is Right for You

Before getting your claim underway, you should know that the details of your own situation are very important, and will help determine the best way to go forward. Getting the right kind of feedback on your medical and work history from an experienced legal team will help you get the best compensation possible.

Each trust sets its own payout amount. Many injured by asbestos qualify for more than one trust. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer will check with each trust to determine your payout.

In most cases, a claimant who has the required medical and work records can find out how much their claim payout for mesothelioma or other serious asbestos-related conditions will be by filing an expedited review claim. With this type of claim process, a fixed set of scheduled values is used to determine the amount of payout. Payment is made more quickly than it is for the individual review claim method.

The individual review claim method can be used where the claimant hopes for an increased payout amount based on their personal circumstances, and factors like age, minor children, exposure from the product covered by the trust, or even the historical settlement and verdict amounts obtained by the law firm representing them. The individual review must be used for certain types of illness and requires more detailed proof from the claimant, but it does not guarantee a higher claim payout. In fact, if you choose an individual review, you can sometimes receive less than the expedited amount. An experienced legal team can assist you in making this difficult decision to file an individual review claim.

This material is provided as a general summary of a compensation process that has been of significant help to many asbestos victims.

Getting Legal Guidance on Asbestos Claims

There are many factors to consider when filing a claim with an asbestos trust fund. Whether you were exposed to asbestos, or this happened to a loved one, choosing a reliable attorney that you feel comfortable with is the best way to make sure that you can be fully and fairly compensated for your situation.

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

Whether you have concerns about filing a claim before the statute of limitations runs out, or have questions about how to gather employment and medical history details, call us at 855-620-9524. Our Claims Representatives can assist you with how to get your treatment costs covered.

There is help for you, and we are here to get you that help.

View Author and Sources
Sources
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  5. Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts: An Overview of Trust Structure and Activity with Detailed Reports on the Largest Trusts. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2010. Retrieved from
  6. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2010/RAND_TR872.pdf Accessed on November 12th, 2017.
  7. Bordeaux, Paul. 1985. Outrageous Conduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial. New York: Pantheon Books. Accessed on November 20th, 2017.
  8. United States Government Accountability Office. Report to the Chairman, 2011, September. Asbestos Injury Compensation: The Role and Administration of Asbestos Trusts. Retrieved from: http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/585380.pdf Accessed on November 20th, 2017.

Last modified: September 27, 2018