What Are Mesothelioma Trust Funds?

Mesothelioma trust funds were created in the late 1990s, but many more have been set up in subsequent years. The trusts contain funds set aside by asbestos manufacturers that file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The trust funds are designed to help compensate the victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos trust funds function in a similar manner to other trust funds established to compensate individuals in various industries. They are managed by a court-appointed board of trustees. The trustees oversee the management of the fund, and make decisions on compensation amounts. 

Individuals and families may only become aware of their asbestos-related disease or illness in the years – often decades – after the initial exposure. As such, the trust funds are managed to ensure that compensation amounts will still be available for future claimants. 

There are approximately 60 active asbestos trust funds, with around $30 billion available for future claims.  

Who Qualifies For Asbestos Trust Fund Compensation

Here are the main questions you should consider before pursuing a claim through an asbestos trust fund. The following questions will allow you to gather information and documentation to help prove your claim.

  • Were you directly exposed to asbestos – can you prove it?
  • Did you work in an occupation that is now known to put workers at a high risk of asbestos exposure?
  • Did you handle products or work in an environment that regularly exposed you to asbestos?
  • Did you work for an employer who has paid out to other victims of mesothelioma, or other asbestos-related diseases?
  • Are you a family member of an individual who was diagnosed with mesothelioma? 
  • Did you come into contact with someone who worked in an environment that contained high levels of asbestos, which may have resulted in secondhand exposure?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then there is a strong likelihood that you should begin the process to file a claim with an asbestos trust fund.

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Criteria Required To File An Asbestos Trust Fund Claim

Attorneys typically review three main criteria when assessing an asbestos trust fund claim.

  • Proof of disease – You must have medical records showing mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer as the primary cancer.
  • Proof of exposure – There must be a connection between the mesothelioma victim and the at-fault company’s asbestos-containing product.
  • Statute of limitations – Every state has a time limit for mesothelioma claims of between one and three years from initial diagnosis. The statute of limitations usually begins immediately following a mesothelioma diagnosis.

These factors make gathering the necessary information in a timely manner a top priority for mesothelioma sufferers. If you have any questions, one of our experienced patient advocates would be happy to assist you.

Step 1: Gather Documentation

The first step to an asbestos trust fund is proving eligibility and exposure. After a qualified physician’s diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness, determining exposure can be as straightforward as speaking with family members, friends and former coworkers to gather the suspected time of exposure. Here are some examples of how you can document your asbestos exposure:

  • Looking at old photo albums and yearbooks
  • Reviewing old documents
  • Searching for online resources about former employers
  • Submitting requests through the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for earnings information
  • Checking credit reports for past employment records
  • Considering other possible exposure sources, including beauty salons, barbers, auto repair shops, coin-operated laundry businesses and home laundry areas

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).

Notes for family members of mesothelioma patients

If a mesothelioma patient dies prior to completing a mesothelioma trust claim, the family members may be able to continue the process. These claims allow 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:

  • Proven exposure – Family members must provide a link between asbestos and the disease. Family members might have a difficult time recalling the dates and places associated with the asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma attorneys research the possible places of exposure and can help make connections to asbestos-containing products.
  • Corporate negligence – A majority of asbestos manufacturers knew about the dangers of asbestos exposure as they continued to distribute the products and put workers at risk. Skilled asbestos attorneys help patients determine the negligence of asbestos companies.
  • Substantial impact – Family members must show their loved one’s death had a substantial impact on their lives, finances and overall ability to live a stable and secure life.

Step 2: Consider Compensation Factors

There are many factors that may limit the successful processing of an asbestos trust fund claim. Lawyers familiar with these limitations help their clients understand how their choices may affect compensation and how the trust distribution procedures and state laws may substantially alter the financial results of their claims. Common factors to consider include:

  • Statute of Limitations – If you are processing a claim against a trust fund, each fund has established time limits for when you file a claim. Though these statutes of limitations vary, they are often two to three years after diagnosis of mesothelioma, other asbestos-related diseases, or death from those conditions.
  • SetoffsWhen you qualify for compensation from multiple
    trusts, each trust has the authority to deduct any payments you have previously
    received from them. This deduction is made before each trust determines the
    specific amount they will pay you.
  • Filing Claims and Lawsuits – Some claimants may be eligible to file both asbestos lawsuits and asbestos trust fund claims. If you are eligible, know that filing the trust fund claim may alter the compensation you receive from the lawsuit.
  • State Laws – Each state has its own laws governing the compensation of trust fund claims and how they may alter the compensation you receive from an asbestos lawsuit.

Step 3: Filing Your Claim

  • Filing A Claim By Yourself – Asbestos exposure claimants can file with asbestos trust funds on their own, but it can be risky. Among the potential dangers, any errors and omissions in filing claims can significantly diminish or completely prevent you and your family from receiving the compensation you deserve for your injuries. One way to help ensure that your claim helps you recover appropriate financial compensation for your injuries is to speak with an experienced legal team that specializes in mesothelioma claims.
  • Benefits of Working With a Mesothelioma Lawyer – There are several benefits of choosing to hire a specialist mesothelioma lawyer. These include their knowledge of the process, specific products or brands that led to asbestos exposure, access to employment records to prove that you worked for the company you are filing the claim against and resources to find people to corroborate when and where your exposure took place. Many asbestos claimants gain peace of mind in this time-consuming and complex process by knowing their claim is in the hands of lawyers who know what it takes to get you the compensation they deserve. If you are working with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer, reviewing their record of successful claims may be a great way to understand how they may help your case.

Step 4: When Your Claim Is Approved

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:

  • Level VIII – Mesothelioma
  • Level VII – Lung cancer with evidence of bilateral asbestos disease, such as asbestosis. Also called lung cancer
  • Level VI — Lung cancer with evidence of bilateral asbestos disease, such as asbestosis. Also called lung cancer
  • Level V — Other cancer, with evidence of bilateral asbestos-related disease
  • Level IV — Severe asbestosis
  • Level III — Asbestosis/pleural lung disease with restricted pulmonary function. Also called asbestos/pleural disease
  • Level II — Asbestosis/pleural lung disease with restricted pulmonary function. Also called asbestos/pleural disease
  • Level I – Other asbestos diseases

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.

Using An Expert Mesothelioma Lawyer

The asbestos trust fund claims process can be extremely complicated, time-consuming, and stressful. 

From gathering all of the necessary documents to actually filing your claim, deciding how to proceed in this situation is a big step, so it is vital to consider your actions carefully. Finding someone who understands your situation and knows how to get you the compensation you deserve can help ease some of that burden and guide you through the process. 

That’s why many people who have been injured based on their asbestos exposure choose to consult with experienced mesothelioma lawyers, who understand what you’re going through – and what it takes to get you compensation you deserve.

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Written and legally reviewed by Daniel Wasserberg

Attorney and On-Site Legal Advocate

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.

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