Asbestos trusts, also known as mesothelioma compensation funds, were formed after thousands of injured workers started filing lawsuits against at-fault companies. The companies, in response, filed bankruptcy to limit their financial obligations. The courts demanded these companies establish trust funds to ensure injured victims would receive monetary compensation that could help pay for medical treatments and living expenses.
Victims have two options when considering an asbestos-disease lawsuit – personal injury and wrongful death. Claimants file personal-injury lawsuits to receive compensation from companies that exposed them to asbestos. Family members file wrongful death suits to hold companies accountable for their loved one’s death.
Difference between Trust Funds & Lawsuits
Both trust funds and lawsuits utilize the legal system to compensate injured asbestos victims and their families, but there are distinct differences between an asbestos trust fund vs. a lawsuit. The methodology and procedure for collecting compensation differ, as follows:
- Mesothelioma trust funds were created to help victims of corporate neglect. Companies knew they were putting workers and their families in danger by secretly exposing them to asbestos. When individuals got sick as a result of the exposure, the companies tried to deny wrongdoing and file bankruptcy to shirk their responsibilities.
- Generally, the trust process takes 3 to 6 months for an expedited review or up to a year for an individual analysis.
- Trust funds were created to provide victims with financial compensation to cover any expenses. Victims who seek compensation can use the money to pay medical bills and living expenses. Victims can file claims against multiple trusts and receive six-figure settlements.
- The 60 or so active trusts contain an estimated $30 billion for compensation. The amount claimants can receive varies from trust to trust, based on illness and the trust payment schedule. Victims with more severe diseases, such as mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer, tend to receive higher payouts.
- On average, asbestos-cancer trial awards top $2.4 million and out-of-court settlements garner $1 million to $1.4 million.
- Just like trust fund settlements, lawsuit monetary awards can be used in any way the claimant sees fit, including treatments and living expenses. However, the road to a lawsuit financial award is more prolonged and without guarantees.
- The asbestos lawsuit process could take months to years, depending on a variety of factors, including the willingness of the at-fault company to cooperate and the level of expertise of the claimant’s attorney.
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Trust Fund and Lawsuit Process
|Trust Fund Process||Lawsuit Process|
|Determine if an attorney would be helpful throughout the claims process. Claimants who use an attorney can count on a smoother course than those who try to go it alone. Attorneys have the experience, understanding and resources to compile all of the necessary documentation and clear the red tape.||Claimants meet with an attorney to provide the necessary information and determine which company or companies are responsible for asbestos exposure.|
|Collect all of the vital paperwork and information related to the claim, including employment and health history, proof of exposure to asbestos, evidence of a connection between the claimant and the asbestos-containing products and witness statements.||Attorneys file a written complaint against the at-fault company. The process may take time because many companies that used asbestos have filed bankruptcy or gone out of business.|
|Decide which type of claim to file: expedited or individual||The defendant companies present their response to the lawsuit. Since the companies rarely admit fault, the claimant’s attorney will counter the defendant’s claims in writing.|
|Submit the request to the proper trusts and include all appropriate records.||Lawyers on both sides will begin collecting information and facts about the case. Claimants will have to meet with attorneys for depositions. The defending company will work to discredit the claims.|
|Answer trustee questions and gather additional paperwork if necessary. If claim documents are filled out wrong or inaccurate information is provided, claimants must correct the inaccuracies. Attorneys usually handle trustee questions with the claimant’s input.||Sometimes the company will propose a settlement to keep the case out of the courts and the public eye. At this point, the attorneys may negotiate the best arrangement.|
|Collect claim settlement amount. Settlement amounts vary by trust and disease level. While trusts can pay claimants via paper check, most trusts pay through direct bank deposits.||Most cases do not make it to trial. When they do, claimants are often not required to appear in court. If the claimant wins, the defendant has the right to appeal the verdict, which can take several months. The appeal will delay the monetary award, but the company must post a bond equal to the award amount. The verdict can be upheld or overturned during the appeal.|
Trust Fund Claim Reviews
In filing trust claims, patients and their families must provide documentation that proves the connection to the at-fault companies and the resulting illness. Claimants can file for either an expedited or individual review.
Expedited reviews are paid out based on the level of disease (with mesothelioma being the most severe). The trustees, or administrators who oversee each trust, determine the amount of compensation. The U.S. Office of Government Accountability estimates that about 98% of all trust claims are processed through the expedited review system.
Individual reviews provide an in-depth look at each case and fund the requests based on distinctive characteristics of the case. In some cases, claimants receive more through an individual review, but it often takes longer than expedited reviews.
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Filing a Trust Fund Claim & Lawsuit
Asbestos victims whose injuries are a result of exposure to multiple products or worksites can file multiple trust fund claims or mesothelioma lawsuits. However, lawsuits cannot be filed against trust funds or companies that went bankrupt.
In the past decades, more than 120 companies have filed bankruptcy as a result of asbestos liabilities. Of those, more than 60 companies – both large and small – have created asbestos trusts. Many of the companies were trying to use bankruptcy to shirk their responsibilities to injured workers. Instead, the court system forced the companies to set aside money to help the workers.
About 35 of the largest companies that filed bankruptcy hold billions of dollars in trust. Many claimants receive payments from multiple trusts because each trust operates independently and workers were exposed to multiple products.
In some cases, claimants can benefit from filing both trust claims and lawsuits. Some states have provisions that require trust claims to be settled before asbestos-related lawsuits are filed. In all cases, claimants must prove they were exposed to the company’s asbestos-containing products.
It is important to carefully consider all of the options when considering an asbestos trust fund claim or lawsuit. Consult with a qualified mesothelioma attorney before making any decisions.
Do I need to sue to get money from a trust fund?
- Trust fund claims do not require a lawsuit. Trust funds were established when asbestos companies tried to dodge their financial responsibilities to workers they injured. The court system demanded financial safeguards for the victims.
- To date, more than 60 companies have established trust funds with billions of dollars in holdings for victims. To access the funds, claimants must uncover detailed information about the history of their asbestos exposure.
Does a trust protect from lawsuits?
- Both trust fund claims and lawsuits are viable options for receiving compensation for injuries caused by asbestos corporate negligence. Bankrupt companies are protected from lawsuits, so asbestos trusts were created to compensate victims. Lawsuits include personal injury and wrongful death.
- Claimants can file both trust fund claims and lawsuits simultaneously, but the process can be complicated. Most states have statutes of limitations for claims, so victims should act quickly following a diagnosis to receive compensation.
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Samuel Meirowitz is a member of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers.” Mr. Meirowitz was named a “Rising Star” in 2013 & 2014 by Super Lawyers and then a Super Lawyer every year since 2016. In 2013, Mr. Meirowitz obtained what is believed to be the first multi-million-dollar asbestos verdict seen in more than two decades in a New York federal court. In that highly contentious matter, Mr. Meirowitz was able to convince the jury to hold a boiler manufacturer responsible for 60 percent of the $3.8 million awarded, despite the defendant’s attempt to escape all blame by pointing fingers at the plaintiff’s employer and the U.S. Navy (in which the plaintiff admirably served from 1966-70 during the Vietnam conflict). This verdict was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.Learn More
- Nolo.com. Statutes of Limitations: Is It Too Late to Sue? Retrieved from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/statutes-limitations-is-it-too-late-sue-faq.html
- Congress.gov. Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (Fact) Act Of 2015. Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/congressional-report/114th-congress/house-report/352
- Barnes, Jeb. Why asbestos litigation won’t go away: Because asbestos won’t go away. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/why-asbestos-litigation-wont-go-away-because-asbestos-wont-go-away-110085