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What Are Asbestos Compensation Funds?

Asbestos Compensation Funds

Mesothelioma trust funds and asbestos bankruptcy trusts are funds set up by corporations responsible for exposing their customers and others to asbestos. The funds ensure that victims of asbestos-related illnesses receive compensation, even if the companies have filed for bankruptcy or gone out of business. In order to fully understand how the funds work, it’s best to examine the history of asbestos compensation funds from the beginning.

History of Asbestos Compensation Funds

Employees of Johns-Manville, which mined and processed asbestos, began suing the company over lung illnesses as early as 1930. In 1982, to deal with the mounting cost of these lawsuits, the company reorganized under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Johns-Manville placed funds to pay victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses into a bankruptcy trust. Since that time, other companies have created about 50 asbestos trusts in bankruptcy.

People suffering from asbestos-related illnesses, as well as spouses and dependents, are eligible for compensation from the asbestos trust of the corporation responsible for their exposure. Some companies have not sought bankruptcy protection and must be sued directly to obtain compensation.

Congress may soon make it harder for victims to access asbestos trust funds. House Republicans have introduced legislation that will place burdensome reporting obligations on the trusts, to the benefit of companies that continue to use asbestos and to the detriment of claimants.

How to Receive Asbestos Compensation Funds

To prove your claim, you will need documentation of diagnosis with an asbestos-related illness, based on an examination by a physician approved by the trust. In all but mesothelioma cases, you must also meet the criteria for Significant Occupational Exposure (SOE) to asbestos of at least 5 years total, along with 6 months exposure to the products for which each trust is responsible. Requirements may vary based on your occupation and the company or companies for which you worked. You will need to provide affidavits supporting your exposure.

Each asbestos trust is run by one or more independent trustees, who seek advice from a Trust Advisory Committee made up of attorneys from law firms that represent asbestos claimants, and a representative of future claimants. The trust reviews claims and assigns values to accepted claims based on an equitable distribution of the trust’s assets to current and future claimants. I have been been nominated by the U.S. Trustee and appointed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to serve as a member or as counsel to victim members in almost all asbestos bankruptcy reorganizations.

Payments are calculated based on several factors, including the severity of your illness, the age at which you were diagnosed, and the history of past settlements negotiated by your attorney. Other factors that may have contributed to your illness, such as a history of smoking, may also affect the amount of your settlement. All asbestos funds publish average payment amounts. If a trust does not have enough funds left to pay all anticipated claims, it will reduce each claim by a percentage that will allow it to continue to compensate future claimants. If you disagree with the amount of your settlement, you may dispute it.

Most asbestos bankruptcy trusts will take a few months to more than a year to process a new claim. If you accept the payment offered, the time frame for receiving payment can again vary, but it is usually around two months. Some of the larger trusts accept claim documents electronically to speed the process. For those facing financial hardship or terminal illness, most asbestos trusts offer an expedited review process that will remit funds more quickly.

Are Asbestos Compensation Funds the Only Way to Receive Help?

Asbestos trust funds were set up for two purposes: to protect the assets of corporations who exposed their employees and customers to asbestos and to provide money to compensate those suffering from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses, even if the responsible company ceases operations. The trust process provides a simpler and quicker way for claimants to receive much-needed compensation to pay for medical bills and other financial burdens of asbestos-related injuries. Trust payments, however, are generally lower than what plaintiffs could expect to recover through the courts or through negotiated settlements or jury verdicts.

Gathering and submitting the documents you need to prove your claim to an asbestos trust fund can be challenging, particularly if you are contending with health and financial concerns. If you were exposed to asbestos from more than one company, you may need to file claims with multiple trusts or pursue a combination of trust claims and a lawsuit, to receive the compensation you are entitled to. An attorney familiar with the process can take the burden off you while assuring that your paperwork is completed correctly the first time, so you receive compensation more quickly.

Some claimants may wish to pursue their claims in court. By filing a lawsuit against the company or companies that subjected you to asbestos poisoning and pursuing a trial or negotiating a settlement, you may receive a larger payment for your injuries. An attorney with experience working with clients suffering from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases can explain your choices and help you choose option that is best for you and your family.

How to Claim Mesothelioma Medical Expenses as Tax Deductions

mesothelioma medical expensesIf you claim your mesothelioma medical expenses as a deduction on your taxes, you need to keep records of your claimed expenses in case you are audited. In an audit, you must prove to the IRS that the expenses you claimed on your tax return are valid. Otherwise you may be required to pay additional taxes plus a penalty.

Also be sure to let your mesothelioma lawyer know your medical expense totals for the year so he/she can include them as part of your claim for compensation in settlement negotiations and at trial.

Here’s how to document your mesothelioma medical expenses:

1 Label the sections of an accordion file or separate file folders with the categories of mesothelioma medical expenses that you want to claim. For example, you probably need a section for doctor bills, lab bills, co-pays, prescriptions and insurance paperwork. Any costs you incur traveling for your mesothelioma medical treatment or to seek legal advice because of your mesothelioma should also be filed in separate section. Costs for medical equipment you buy or rent because of your mesothelioma should also have a section.

2 Add your own notes to every printed record of a medical expense when you receive it. Each document should identify the medical professionals who provided treatment for you and in your own words, what they did. The medical terms on the bill may not make sense to you later on. The record should also include the name and address of the provider, the date of the expense, type of expense and cost. The IRS recommends keeping track of expenses when they occur. Include items like receipts, bills, sales slips, canceled checks, credit card statements and records of electronic transfers.

3 Enter the details of each medical bill into a spreadsheet on your computer. You can also set up a paper-and-pencil spreadsheet to track medical expenses. The spreadsheet should include a column for each of the details you have noted on the written record. Organize the columns in a way that makes sense to you. You might, for example, put the date in the first column, then the name of the person associated with the expense, the type of expense and so forth. Spreadsheet applications or specialized tracking software have several advantages over a handwritten record. For example, they will allow you to reorganize the order of the columns and sort the information by a specific factor.

4 Place the printed record of the expense in the appropriate section of your files. Keep the records in order by date within each file section by consistently placing each new record at the front or the back of the file. Occasionally flip through every section to make sure the order is correct and that you put each piece of paper in the right section.

Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts Explained

Asbestos bankruptcy trusts are a complex but important aspect of asbestos litigation. This is video of the presentation I was asked to give on how asbestos bankruptcy trusts work at the 2014 International Mesothelioma Interest Group conference in Cape Town, South Africa last month. Here are some highlights.

How Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts Started

The asbestos bankruptcy industry – and I call it that- started in 1982 with the first asbestos bankruptcies. There are now about 50 asbestos bankruptcy trusts. They came about because of asbestos litigation –and corporate decisions to evade full responsibility for the death and disease they caused– we sued enough companies often enough and beat them badly enough that many of them decided they had enough and needed to find a legal way to pay up and move on.

I have been involved with almost all of these bankruptcies and resulting trusts since the beginning, often as a chair or co-chair of what is known as the victims’ creditors or advisory committees.  That means I am one of the watchdogs who help make sure that the victims’ interests are being served.  In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported that our firm is involved with more trusts and handle more trust funds than any other American law firm.

Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Assets and Payouts

The US bankruptcy trusts to date have already paid out over $21 billion dollars.

We’ve put together a list of their assets which is a daunting task because it requires us to dig through a lot of records filed with the courts.

This year’s figures aren’t public but as of the end of last year, the asbestos bankruptcy trusts together have close to $32 billion dollars in assets. This is money that is set aside to be paid out over the next 30 to 40 years to asbestos victims.  The funds earn about 5 percent annually on their investments so they will ultimately pay out well above their current asset total.

The bulk of the funds go to mesothelioma cases. The amount paid on each case is based on the number of present cases and how many cases are projected for the future divided into the amount in each trust. Under this formula, a typical shipyard worker or construction worker with mesothelioma would receive about $260,000.

Are You Eligible To Receive Funds From an Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust?

To be eligible to receive funds from a bankruptcy trust, you do not need to prove that the company’s products contained asbestos. The companies involved have admitted that their products contained asbestos and were handled by workers at sites around the country and aboard many ships. We’ve got lists of them. There are 115,000 identified sites in the U.S. plus 19,000 ships. You just need to prove that you worked at one of them and that you are now ill.

All the trusts provide information on how to file a claim on their websites. We’ve made the procedures the same for each trust.

For a claim to be approved you must show:

  • Exposure to a product of the company for which that trust is responsible, when and where you worked and your trade or job, and what asbestos disease you have.
  • Claimant’s occupation when claimant worked with the product
  • Time period claimant worked with the product
  • Asbestos-related disease
  • Who claimant’s dependents are
  • Claimant’s medical expenses and/or economic loss (optional]

If you have any questions about asbestos bankruptcy trusts after you watch the video, please email me and I will answer them for you.

How an Asbestos Bankruptcy Affects Your Asbestos Lawsuit

asbestos bankruptcySometimes no matter how strong your case is you may find that you will have to contend with a defendant company’s asbestos bankruptcy. When you file an asbestos lawsuit, you may find that one or more of the companies responsible for exposing you to asbestos has gone into hiding in bankruptcy. This is what’s known as “gaming the system” – using the rules and procedures meant to protect a system in order, instead, to manipulate the system for a desired outcome.

A company that reaped profits while it knowingly exposed people to asbestos, potentially causing their deaths, now can dodge full financial responsibility for each worker’s lawsuit by declaring bankruptcy. With an asbestos bankruptcy, the company will still have to pay the plaintiffs in an asbestos lawsuit but not as much and not as quickly.

This is what happened with the Johns-Manville Corporation, the first major company to be sued for asbestos exposure. I was one of the attorneys who pioneered some of the first asbestos lawsuits against Johns-Manville. Johns-Manville offered asbestos-containing products for sale from their founding in 1901 through 1985. Johns-Manville products were used extensively in construction and naval shipyards, putting many workers at risk for developing mesothelioma or other diseases caused by asbestos exposure.

When thousands of people began developing serious illnesses as a result of asbestos exposure from Johns-Manville products and filed lawsuits, the company filed for bankruptcy in 1982. In 1988, the company emerged from their asbestos bankruptcy and the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust took over the company’s liabilities.

Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., acquired Johns-Manville in 2001, and today the company is back in the insulation and construction products business. They simply changed their name by dropping the hyphen. It’s now Johns Manville.

How did this happen? Under Title 28 of the U.S. code, federal bankruptcy laws govern how companies go out of business or recover from debt. A bankrupt company, the “debtor,” might use Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code to “reorganize” its business and try to become profitable again. Management continues to run the day-to-day business operations but all significant business decisions must be approved by a bankruptcy court. This protects the company’s creditors and investors, i.e. banks, suppliers and bondholders.

A number of asbestos companies have filed for bankruptcy; many have set up settlement trusts that are separate from the litigation process. After moving a case towards trial, we submit claim forms and negotiate with these settlement trusts. The money received from these trusts is generally much less than would have been received had they been in the litigation – often pennies on the dollar – and payment may be delayed , but Kazan Law and the plaintiff have no control over this and we do the best we can in the circumstances.

Kazan Foundation Supports IBAS Grant for Doctor’s Asbestos Training

mesothelioma research

In order to file an asbestos claim, patients must first show that they’ve experienced irreversible damage to their respiratory system, and that asbestos is truly the cause. This requires the expertise of doctors who are specially trained by groups like the International Labour Organisation, or ILO, to identify asbestos-induced illness.

The 2012 International Ban Asbestos Secretariat grant was awarded to Dr. Abhijeet Jadhav, who used the grant to complete his training for the ILO 2000 International Certification of Radiographs of Pneumoconioses. With this education, Jadhav now has the knowledge needed to read the X-rays of patients who potentially have asbestos claims to file.

What do X-rays tell us?
In addition to causing asbestosis, the inhalation of asbestos fibers can drive other life-threatening illnesses, such as malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer – all of which affect the respiratory system. To the untrained observer, some of the symptoms of these diseases, including chest pain and breathing difficulties, are hard to tell apart from each other. This is where chest X-rays come in handy.

Using these radiological scans, trained physicians can more closely examine patients’ bones, hearts and lungs. When it comes to the lungs, X-rays can reveal problems such as collapse, abnormal fluid collection, tumors, malformed blood vessels and scarring. The formation of scar tissue is a distinguishing characteristic of asbestosis, along with coughing, sensations of chest tightness, nail abnormalities and clubbing of the fingers.

IBAS grant recipient makes good use of award
The World Health Organization estimates that 125 million people all over the globe deal with asbestos exposure in the workplace. Many of these individuals are from developing countries, such as India. This is where Jadhav decided to put his ILO training, which he paid for with the IBAS grant, to good use.

For his study, Jadhav interviewed 17 individuals – all of whom were former workers in a factory that manufactured asbestos and cement sheets, and all of whom were asbestosis patients. The research team asked the study participants about their work setting, what they knew concerning the health risks of asbestos exposure and how their conditions affected family life.

The interviews revealed that the subjects didn’t see their sicknesses as a big deal, but this may have something to do with the fact that fatal asbestos-related illnesses can take decades to develop.

Here’s what Jadhav had to say about the study, which was published in the Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine:

“It suggests a need of very strong program for prevention of asbestosis with the incorporation of worker awareness and education for safety. The socio-economical status and educational levels of the workers make this floating population more vulnerable for manipulation by the corporates.”

Jadhav said that India also needed a stronger foundation for providing injured workers with rehabilitation and palliative care. Ultimately, though, he concluded that there’s only one real solution for protecting workers: banning the use and production of asbestos around the world.

The partners behind the Kazan, McClain, Abrams, Fernandez, Lyons, Greenwood, Oberman, Satterley & Bosl Foundation couldn’t agree more, and want nothing but the best for our clients and workers everywhere. That’s why we’re proud to support IBAS so that it could help others.

Sale of Websites Shows that Some Asbestos Attorneys are Just in it for the Money

asbestos lawsuit Google searchAsbestos victims and their families have plenty to worry about. From testing and treatments to worrying about the future, the last thing these people need when attempting to gain asbestos compensation is an unscrupulous lawyer but sadly, such individuals exist.

These just-concerned-with-profit lawyers will now be able to buy high-ranking asbestos- and mesothelioma-related websites from Stephanie Torain, who says she created the sites to give victims free case evaluations.

Free-wheeling attorneys can purchase Asbestoslawsuitshelp.com, AsbestosLawyerinfo.com and MesotheliomaLawsuitinfo.org from Torain, reports Legal Newsline.

According to Torain, the purchaser will have his law firm name and number put on one of the sites, which rank on the first page of Google for the terms “Asbestos Lawsuit” and “Mesothelioma Lawsuit.”

Unscrupulous lawyers prey on asbestos victims

A great many people struggling with asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma are blue collar workers who contracted the illness on the job, where the naturally occurring mineral was widely used as a flame retardant and insulator.

Such individuals are not typically wealthy and are hoping to get asbestos compensation to ensure that their family is taken care of after they are gone. However, this does not stop some lawyers from taking advantage of people in such vulnerable situations.

Real attorneys fight for the rights of victims

While there are some lawyers out there who are only involved in the field to make a buck, there are still upstanding asbestos attorneys who will go to the mat for their clients to get them the compensation they deserve.

These asbestos lawyers will work with their clients to determine when and where the asbestos exposure that caused their illness took place to ensure that the party responsible is held accountable for their actions.

By contacting earnest lawyers, asbestos victims can work to ensure not only that their families will be taken care of but that justice will be done.

$43 Million Asbestos Settlement Approved for Libby Victims

asbestos mineFew communities in the world have been as heavily affected by asbestos as Libby, Montana, and those suffering from asbestos-related diseases in the town recently received a bit of good news.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock in Helena approved a $43 million settlement from the state that will go to those suffering from asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma and other illnesses, according to The Associated Press.

Libby is the former home of the W.R. Grace vermiculite mine, which brought large quantities of asbestos to the surface. The heavy exposure to the substance that those in the area endured exacted a devastating toll, reportedly killing 400 people through asbestos diseases and sickening nearly 2,000 more.

The plaintiffs claimed that state officials knew that the asbestos was causing harm but did nothing to prevent it from happening.

Asbestos Settlement too Late for Some

Asbestosis sufferer Mike Nelson, who has signed up for the settlement, told the news source that any asbestos compensation he receives from the deal can’t cover the devastating losses he has been forced to endure.

“I’ve lost my father, my mother, my stepmother and my father-in-law,” he told the AP. “They’re all dead. All from asbestos… W.R. Grace was the one responsible, but right now, I hate my government. The state knew. (The money) isn’t going to do anything for me.”

Thousands of people are likely in the same boat as Nelson, having lost family and friends needlessly due to corporations and officials conveniently ignoring the fact that asbestos exposure kills.

Medical Evidence Impossible to Ignore

Asbestos exposure has been known to cause malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer since the mid-1960s, a fact that a number of companies like W.R. Grace – which only closed the mine in the early 1990s – largely ignored.

One of the plaintiff’s asbestos attorneys said that the medical evidence presented in the case was too much for the court to overlook, according to Daily Inter Lake.

“We believe that a factor in the state’s willingness to settle was that we had assembled so much medical proof that the state was unlikely to win by calling doctors to dispute the findings of the doctors at the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) clinic in Libby,” the asbestos lawyer reportedly wrote to his clients.

New York Man Awarded $2.5 million in Asbestos Compensation

CourtroomA former laboratory chemist from New York recently won $2.5 million in compensation after he was reportedly exposed to asbestos on the job and subsequently diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in March 2010.

According to the Buffalo News, James Ginter was employed at manufacturer Durez Plastics in North Tanawanda, New York, starting in the late 1970s where he was charged with utilizing resins and molding compounds.

Specifically, Ginter was responsible for working with a Ford Motor Company-manufactured machine with which he was forced to grind asbestos-containing products that were later utilized in the brakes of vehicles, the news source said.

In his lawsuit, Ginter claimed that such work resulted in asbestos-containing dust being released into the environment, which ultimately led to his mesothelioma diagnoses decades later.

Ginter also accused Ford of manufacturing the machine without warning employees about the possible risks that came with asbestos exposure.

Ford was reportedly the only defendant involved in the trial and was assigned 15 percent responsibility for the damages awarded to Ginter. Other defendants named in the suit reportedly settled before it reached the state Supreme Court, the news source said.

Ginter’s Asbestos Lawsuit One of Many in the U.S.

The multi-million dollar award granted to Ginter represents just one of the many asbestos cases being heard in courtrooms around the country.

In one other such case, the widow of a Louisiana seaman recently filed an asbestos lawsuit against a number of companies who she claims are responsible for her late husband’s asbestos exposure and subsequent death.

According to the Louisiana Record, Katrine Davalie filed the asbestos lawsuit on July 9 in federal court in New Orleans. She claims companies such as Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Black & Decker Corporation and North American Refractories Company were negligent in allowing her husband to be exposed to asbestos-related products while working on ships.

Davalie is seeking damages for loss of earnings, pain and suffering, according to the news source.

Asbestos Compensation Sought for Former UM Football Player’s Death

Ann Arbor City Hall

The Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building houses the Ann Arbor City Hall and Police Station

A former University of Michigan football player and Ann Arbor policeman claimed before his lung cancer death that asbestos exposure at city hall caused his disease.

Vada Murray played safety for the Wolverines from 1988 to 1990 and then became a policeman in the college town, according to AnnArbor.com.

Murray was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008 and died at the age of 43 in early April after the disease spread to his brain.

Before he died, Murray filed a worker’s compensation claim, contending that his lung cancer was a result of his exposure to asbestos and radon in Ann Arbor’s city hall.

Rough Conditions at Work

In an interview recorded before his death, Murray, who never smoked cigarettes, explained the conditions that police officers in Ann Arbor had to deal with.

“Some guys used to get so mad, because, you know, stuff was leaking on them,” he said. “They’d take their nightsticks and jab at [the roof], and it would just come crumbling down. Water dripping down the wall. There were pipes with stuff around them that you wouldn’t – you wouldn’t want to touch.”

Many police officers believed that the “stuff” was asbestos. In addition, city records indicate that the levels of radon in the basement and in parts of the first floor where police officers worked were seven times higher than the federal limit.

Asbestos Poses Grave Risks

It has been known since the mid-1960s that exposure to asbestos causes serious diseases. In addition to lung cancer, exposure to the naturally occurring mineral, which was once used as a flame retardant and insulator, can cause asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, a rare cancer.

The World Health Organization estimates that such illnesses claim the lives of 107,000 people each year around the world.

Murray’s Family Awaits Opinion

AnnArbor.com reports that a Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency judge will issue an opinion on the case, but as of yet no trial date has been scheduled.

An attorney told the news source that the damages in the case would be to cover medical expenses and lost wages.

Murray Missed by Many

The Detroit Free Press reports that hundreds of people turned out for Murray’s memorial service, which was held in Cliff Keen Arena in Ann Arbor.

“He was so much more than a football player,” Sarah, Murray’s wife, said. “Our love for him had very little to do with his football career. He was a father, husband, son and a friend.”

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