Asbestos Trust Funds

Asbestos trust funds contain over $30 billion. This money is set aside by asbestos companies to compensate victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. The money is awarded based on an individual’s exposure and medical history. Some trusts contain over $1 billion for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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What Are Asbestos Trust Funds?

Asbestos trust funds are set up by bankrupt companies to provide compensation to people who have developed an asbestos-related disease. Companies are often forced to file for bankruptcy when they are found liable for exposing people to asbestos.

Since people cannot sue bankrupt companies, trust funds allow victims to access compensation from those responsible for their illness.

The funds are held by a group of trustees who are given legal responsibility to govern and manage the trusts for claimants. Trustees manage the ongoing compensation payouts of the fund, ensuring that it can continue to operate as new claims are made each year.

Asbestos trust funds currently contain over $30 billion to be paid out to future claimants.

Benefits of Asbestos Trust Funds

Asbestos trust funds can help victims with asbestos-related diseases pay for treatment. These funds can also protect people from bankruptcy and provide for families after passing.

Some asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma can take years to develop after exposure. Trust funds ensure that there will always be compensation available for victims of asbestos exposure.

Quick Facts

  • Asbestos trust funds can provide mesothelioma victims and those with asbestos-related diseases money to pay for treatment. Families of mesothelioma victims can get financial aid as well.
  • There are many asbestos trust funds still active today. They contain funds for mesothelioma victims and their families.
  • Seeking funds from an asbestos trust fund can be much faster than filing a lawsuit. However, the payout might be less.

How Were Trust Funds Created?

Lawsuits over asbestos exposure have gone on for over 40 years. Some companies were found to be responsible for widespread injury and death due to their use of asbestos.

Many of these companies have filed for bankruptcy. This caused bankruptcy trusts to be formed. These trusts pay claims on behalf of the bankrupt companies.

Some companies were found to have been hiding the deadly truth about asbestos exposure. Companies such as Johns-Manville were paying out claims in secret so they could continue using the dangerous mineral.

When the public began to find out, the courts were flooded with lawsuits. Larger companies sought bankruptcy protection through the courts.

When bankruptcy trusts are created: 

  • Companies may be able to stay in business
  • Companies can no longer be sued because victims can get compensation from the trust fund
  • Victims who developed mesothelioma can seek legal action to get money through the trusts

Choosing a Trust Fund

People seeking compensation through a trust fund must first determine which trusts they qualify for. Often, more than one company is responsible for someone’s asbestos-related illness, so it’s common to file with multiple trusts.

Accessing Multiple Trusts

Many companies worked together to make and sell asbestos-containing products. As a result, more than one company may be responsible for a victim’s asbestos-related disease. In this case, they may be able to file against more than one trust.

When filing a trust fund claim, claimants must show that a particular company caused their illness. This is often established based on the claimant’s work history.

While it can be challenging to identify the companies responsible for exposing someone to asbestos, an asbestos attorney can help determine exposure history.

Mesothelioma lawyers can also help figure out which companies could be responsible. This helps them find the correct asbestos trust fund.

How to File an Asbestos Trust Fund Claim

Today, most companies that manufactured asbestos-based products have established asbestos trust funds. A trust fund allows victims to receive financial compensation while protecting the rest of the company’s assets.

With the help of an asbestos lawyer, victims may be able to access money from asbestos trust funds.

Who Can Access Asbestos Trust Funds?

To receive compensation from an asbestos trust fund, a person will need to file a claim. An asbestos attorney can help the claimant navigate the claim process and increase the chances of successfully recovering the compensation they deserve.

It’s essential to work with an experienced legal team to gather evidence that supports the claim.

Those who can access asbestos trust funds may be:

  • Victims: anyone who has developed an asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma
  • Family members: Family members can file claims if the asbestos victim has died
  • Secondhand asbestos exposure victims: those who lived with people who worked around asbestos may have inhaled the fibers as well, and may have a claim

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

  • A confirmed diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, or another specified form of lung cancer
  • Proof of a connection between the company’s asbestos-containing product and the asbestos illness
  • Evidence that the death of an asbestos victim had a substantial impact on their family’s financial or emotional well-being

Proving Past Exposure to Asbestos

People who wish to access asbestos trust funds must prove the connection between their asbestos exposure and their disease. Essentially, they will need to prove how, when, and where they were exposed to asbestos.

For a claim to succeed, claimants also need to demonstrate that the disease was caused by the asbestos products manufactured or used by the bankrupt company.

Claimants must provide the following evidence when filing a trust fund claim:

  • Industry in which the exposure occurred
  • Occupation during the time of exposure
  • Name of the site of exposure
  • Beginning and end dates for the time of exposure
  • Social Security and employment records
  • Documented proof of economic loss
  • Type and stage of disease (mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, or other cancer)
  • Death certificate (if applicable)
  • Date of diagnosis
  • Medical records

Statute of Limitations on Asbestos Claims

Statutes of limitations are strict rules about the period of time in which an injured person can take action to enforce their rights or claim compensation related to their injury.

Every state has its own statute of limitations, but typically, the clock starts ticking when the injured person receives their medical diagnosis.

The best practice is to file a claim as soon as possible after receiving an asbestos-related diagnosis, even if the person who was exposed to asbestos is not yet experiencing serious symptoms. Work with an experienced lawyer to determine how long you have to file a claim.

Steps to Filing an Asbestos Trust Fund Claim

There are several steps involved in accessing money from an asbestos trust fund.

The steps are highlighted as follows:

  1. File the claim: In order to file a claim, a claimant must know which company to file with. This includes producing evidence that shows where asbestos exposure occurred.
  2. Claim review: After the claim is filed, trustees review it. Claims are reviewed in two ways:
    • Expedited review: If medical history and asbestos exposure meet specific criteria, they can be reviewed faster.
    • Individual review: A person’s background is investigated in more detail.
  3. Claim liquidation: In this stage, claims are given a monetary value. This is the amount of money the asbestos trust fund will pay out.
  4. Payment: Once an offer is made and accepted, the victim is paid.

Asbestos Trust Fund Companies

Since the late 1980s, over 100 major asbestos companies have established trust funds.

Some of the most notable companies to set up asbestos trust funds include:

  • Johns-Manville
  • W.R. Grace & Co.
  • Babcock and Wilcox
  • Armstrong World Industries
  • Turner and Newall
  • Pittsburgh Corning

The first asbestos trust fund was set up by the Johns-Manville Corporation in 1987. Since then, over 100 major asbestos companies have filed for bankruptcy, and many of them have set up trust funds for their victims.

Asbestos Trust Fund Payouts

The payout that claimants receive from a trust fund settlement will depend on the particular trust funds they access. Each trust sets its own compensation amounts and payment schedule.

Since trusts contain only limited funds — which must be available for future claimants — they only pay out a certain percentage of the amount granted.

These trusts have developed levels to categorize asbestos-related diseases and determine the appropriate compensation amount. Mesothelioma is considered the most severe condition, so mesothelioma patients often receive the highest compensation amount possible.

Mesothelioma Payouts Are the Highest

Trust fund settlement amounts are paid to victims based on the severity of their diagnosis. Because mesothelioma is such an aggressive disease with a low survival rate, claimants with mesothelioma typically receive the highest compensation amount possible.

Asbestos Trust Fund Payment Percentages

Since there is a set amount of money in asbestos trust funds, trustees must be sure they don’t run out. Since some trusts are financially unable to pay asbestos claimants the entire amount of compensation, they created payment percentages.

These are different for each trust, with some being able to pay the full amount and others only paying as little as 1% of a claim amount.

For example, if a claimant was awarded $100,000 through a trust with a payment percentage of 1%, the claimant would receive $1,000.

The percentages change and it is important to file a claim as soon as possible. The payment amount can be limited to make sure there is enough money to pay future claimants.

Get Guidance on Filing a Claim

There are several factors to consider when filing a claim with an asbestos trust fund.

Many asbestos victims have concerns about filing a claim within the statute of limitations and providing enough evidence to support their claim.  In addition, gathering employment and medical history details can be overwhelming.

Whether you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos, choosing a reliable attorney is the best way to ensure you are fully and fairly compensated for your situation.

To learn more about receiving compensation, start your free case review today.

Author:Stephanie Kidd

Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network

Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie Kidd works tirelessly as a dedicated advocate for the vulnerable and underrepresented. Stephanie worked as a copywriter for an agency whose focus was communicating safety procedures on construction work sites. With her extensive background in victim advocacy and a dedication to seeing justice done, Stephanie works hard to ensure that all online content is reliable, truthful and helpful.

Last modified: September 17, 2019

View 4 Sources
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    Trust Structure and Activity with Detailed Reports on the Largest Trusts. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2010/RAND_TR872.pdf.
  2. United States Government Accountability Office. (2011, September). Asbestos Injury
    Compensation: The Role and Administration of Asbestos Trusts. Retrieved from:
    http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/585380.pdf.
  3. White, M. (2004, February). Asbestos and the Future of Mass Torts. Retrieved from
    http://www.nber.org/papers/w10308.
  4. LexisNexis. (2013). Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts: A 2013 Overview Of Trust Assets, Compensation & Governance.” Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/litigation/b/litigation-blog/posts/asbestos-bankruptcy-trusts-a-2013-overview-of-trust-assets-compensation-amp-governance
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