Asbestos-cancer victims who file claims on specific asbestos trust funds must be able to document evidence of their injuries, their connection to the at-fault company or worksite and their link to workplace asbestos. To find out this information, a little detective work can go a long way.
The initial step to applying for an asbestos trust fund is proving eligibility and exposure. After a diagnosis from a qualified physician, determining exposure can be as simple as talking to family members, friends and former coworkers about what they remember from the suspected time of exposure.
All asbestos trust guidelines are established by bankruptcy courts in cooperation with attorneys, regulators and other interested parties. Each asbestos trust fund has distinct trust distribution procedures (TDPs) and is privately managed. Each trust is overseen by at least one trustee (an individual who oversees the daily operations of the trust), a trust advisory committee (TAC) and a future claimants representative (FAC).
To become eligible for a trust claim, asbestos-exposure victims must document the circumstances behind the medical diagnosis and connect the illness to an asbestos-containing product. Companies that produced asbestos-containing goods are wholly responsible for the exposure. Since there is a time limit to mesothelioma claims, victims are urged to act quickly after a diagnosis. Many asbestos victims can have claims against multiple companies.
Attorneys review three main criteria when determining their client’s eligibility for an asbestos trust claim:
If a mesothelioma patient dies prior to completing a mesothelioma trust claim, the family members may be able to continue the process. Such a claim allows close family members (including spouses, children, parents and other financial dependents) to seek financial compensation from a trust fund. There are several factors that contribute to successful asbestos claims for family members:
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Expedited mesothelioma claims, also called expedited reviews (ERs), provide quick access to funds for seriously ill patients and family members. Awards are a fixed-dollar amount and based on a non-negotiable payment scheduled depending on the level of illness.
ERs are used when the claims can be easily verified to meet the presumptive medical and exposure criteria. While each asbestos trust has different claims procedures, they all have similar ER requirements:
In addition, ERs also make provisions that take into account special circumstances that the patients or their family members may be facing:
Once a mesothelioma trust claim has been accepted, claimants generally receive compensation within three to six months. The amount depends on the individual trusts.
Most asbestos trusts have outlined eight asbestos-related disease levels that can receive funding. The more severe the disease, the higher amount of funding. This disease scheduling method is intended to treat all claimants with similar disease levels equitably, as follows:
Each trust has an assigned scheduled value, or a standardized monetary amount, for compensation. The scheduled values are typically set above the 50th percentile of the historical settlement the at-fault company paid to injured patients before the bankruptcy. Payments vary widely based on the size and scope of the trust.
The individual trusts rarely pay the full scheduled values to ensure all claimants can receive some compensation. Trusts generally pay a percentage, or a discounted value, of a claim based on individual claim circumstances. In most cases, the percentage amount is increased or decreased every three to five years.
For example, the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust, one of the largest asbestos trust funds, currently pays $350,000 for a Level VIII mesothelioma claim. The trust pays 5.1 percent of the scheduled value, so claimants are awarded $17,850.
Another large trust, Owens Corning Corp., currently pays $215,000 for a Level VIII mesothelioma claim. Since the trust pays 11.1 percent of scheduled values for expedited reviews, claimants receive $23,865.
The financial awards are generally tax-free, but all claimants are advised to contact a knowledgeable attorney for more information.
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Daniel Wasserberg was a New York metropolitan area “Super Lawyer Rising Star” from 2013 to 2018 (attorneys under age 40), and a Super Lawyer in 2019. In 2017, Daniel was named a “Top 100 Civil Litigator” by the National Trial Lawyers organization. This recognition is rarely awarded to attorneys under the age of 40. Daniel is proud to call himself a Trial Lawyer, and is often asked to speak at gatherings of the nation’s leading attorneys, from both sides of the bar.Learn More