Asbestos Trust Funds: Their Purpose and How to Get Your Compensation
Asbestos trust funds, also referred to as asbestos bankruptcy trusts and asbestos compensation funds, are one of the sources of compensation for people suffering from mesothelioma or other asbestos diseases. Asbestos trust funds were created to ensure that corporations set aside enough money to compensate the people they exposed to asbestos.
A Short History of Asbestos Trust Funds
Johns-Manville, a corporation that has manufactured products such as insulation and roofing with asbestos since 1901, was the first large corporation to declare bankruptcy claiming asbestos litigation as the cause. By the early 1930s, the corporation’s employees were falling prey to an unusual amount of lung disease. People began to sue the company in increasing number over time, even as Johns-Manville continued to use asbestos in its products, exposing employees and construction workers to toxic levels of the mineral.
By 1982, Johns-Manville was facing so many individual and class action asbestos lawsuits that it filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11. Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code allows corporations to reorganize so they can stay in business.
After several years of bankruptcy and civil litigation, in 1988 Johns-Manville placed the majority of the corporation’s assets into a fund to pay victims with asbestos-related diseases caused by the its products. This fund, the Manville Personal Injury Trust Fund, was the first big asbestos trust fund. It is still paying claimants today.
Section 524(g) of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code was enacted to encourage corporations to establish well-funded asbestos trust funds such as the Manville Fund, rather than waiting until corporate assets were drained by litigation to reorganize under Chapter 11. About 60 corporations have followed this path to allow the business to remain viable in the face of massive liability for toxic asbestos exposure.
Filing a Claim With an Asbestos Trust Fund
If your illness was caused by a company that has established an asbestos trust fund, you will need to file a claim with that fund for compensation. You may have claims against more than one fund, and or also non bankrupt companies, if you were exposed to asbestos by multiple corporations.
Before you can file a claim with an asbestos trust fund, you will need a confirmed diagnosis of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease from a qualified doctor approved by that fund. You will also need to document when and where the company’s products or actions exposed you to asbestos. Documentation may include a work history for you or a spouse or proof that you lived or worked in a building containing asbestos products made by that company.
While filing a claim with an asbestos trust fund is simpler than filing a lawsuit, it still requires paperwork that must be completed correctly. You can file the claim on your own but, as you can imagine, the assistance of an experienced asbestos lawyer can take a considerable burden off of you. A lawyer who has been through the process many times will know the ins and outs of filing a claim. He or she can do the preparation and investigation work to get your claim filed so you don’t have to expend extra effort at a time when your health is suffering.
Getting Compensation From an Asbestos Trust Fund
Asbestos trust funds were set up to compensate victims of asbestos exposure more straightforwardly than by forcing each individual to go to court. The process is much less contentious than filing a lawsuit. By setting up an asbestos trust, a corporation has acknowledged its culpability in exposing people to toxic levels of asbestos and has taken responsibility for providing compensation for current and future victims of asbestos disease.
Because of this, you can expect to receive your compensation more quickly than if you filed a lawsuit. It can take several months to gather the documentation needed and for the asbestos trust fund to process your claim. Once a claim is accepted, most claimants receive compensation within about two months.
For people who are very ill, such as those suffering from advanced lung cancer or mesothelioma, asbestos trust funds offer an expedited process, so victims can receive compensation more quickly. The trade off for expedited review is that the trust fund will offer a fixed schedule of compensation amounts for certain illnesses. These amounts tend to be lower than the amounts claimants may receive under the regular review process.
Once your claim has been approved and the amount of your compensation agreed, the asbestos trust fund may reduce the amount you receive. While some funds pay out 100% of the compensation owed to claimants, some pay only a percentage, as a way to preserve enough funding for future victims. Because asbestos-related illnesses often develop several decades after exposure, asbestos trust fund managers project how many more people they expect they will need to compensate in the future. Some funds pay as little as 1% but on average it’s about 25% of full value.
Another way that an experienced asbestos attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve from an asbestos trust fund is to negotiate a higher compensation amount, if you choose the regular (not expedited) claim review process. Compensation amounts depend on the seriousness of your illness, the amount of exposure you received from that corporation (for example, how many years you were exposed to the product), and the solvency of the trust fund. Payments for those with mesothelioma or other serious illness can be hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.
Kazan Law Experienced with Asbestos Trust Funds
Recognized by the Wall Street Journal as the country’s most important law firm in the asbestos bankruptcy arena, Kazan Law has the experience required to attain the best results for you and your family. We pursue all possible sources of compensation for our clients. If you have more questions about asbestos trust funds or other issues relating to compensation for your asbestos-related illness, please feel free to contact us.