Why Seek Compensation?
Families impacted by mesothelioma or other asbestos diseases often need fast access to funds because treatments must start immediately. Patients put their lives on hold while undergoing treatment. That means things like employment and household activities get set aside and family members must step in to help. These disruptions and adjustments can be costly for the extended family.
In addition to paying for medical expenses, mesothelioma compensation can pay for living expenses, household bills, lost wages, caregiving and other costs. Mesothelioma compensation also provides surviving family members with financial security in the event of the patient’s death.
Types of Compensation
The three primary types of mesothelioma compensation – trust funds, lawsuits and settlements – are available for patients and their family members. The funds can be used to cover any kind of expenses.
Total payment amounts depend on several factors and can exceed $1 million.
Asbestos trust funds are created by bankrupt companies that exposed people to asbestos-containing products or materials. The trusts contain money to ensure that mesothelioma and asbestos disease claims can still be paid even though the company has gone bankrupt.
More than 60 companies that used, sold or manufactured asbestos materials have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to protect their assets from personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. After filing for bankruptcy, the courts ordered these companies to establish trust funds to compensate future victims and their families.
Asbestos bankruptcy trusts now contain more than $30 billion. Many victims were exposed to asbestos products from several different companies. As a result, these victims and their families may qualify for money from numerous trust funds.
The two types of mesothelioma lawsuits – personal injury and wrongful death – aim to get compensation for victims or family members from companies responsible for asbestos exposure. Lawsuits are filed against active and viable companies. Lawsuits can be risky and time-consuming. Financial awards are not guaranteed.
- Personal Injury Claim – An individual diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease can file a personal injury claim (lawsuit). The case is based on a company’s failure to alert employees and consumers about the dangers of asbestos. If the claim is successful, the victim receives compensation.
- Wrongful Death Claim – When a victim of asbestos exposure dies, the victim’s family (through the victim’s estate) can file a wrongful death claim. Like a personal injury claim, a wrongful death suit is based on a company’s failure to alert employees and consumers about the dangers of asbestos.
Most defendant companies opt to settle out of court. They don’t want to face the expense, embarrassment and public backlash a trial can bring. An out-of-court settlement is also beneficial for victims and their families because it doesn’t carry the uncertainty of a jury trial. On average, victims and their families receive a $1 million to $1.5 million settlement award.
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Other Types of Claims
In addition to trust funds, lawsuits or settlements, asbestos victims and their families have other options for financial assistance:
Veteran Affairs (VA) Claims
Veterans, particularly those who served between 1930 and 1980, are at high risk for developing an asbestos-related disease. Veterans account for more than 30% of all asbestos claims filed annually.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs aids veterans with proven asbestos exposure from military service. VA disability claims may provide healthcare and financial compensation for the victim, surviving spouse and other dependents. The military offers aid based on the disease severity. Mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer are compensated at a 100% disability rating due to the severity.
Since treatment costs for mesothelioma can reach more than $1 million, patients and their families also use treatment grants to offset some of the costs. Grants to pay for medical procedures, travel and cost of living expenses help patients and their families navigate their new normal.
After a mesothelioma diagnosis, patients and their families must depend on their health insurance to pay claims. Other types of insurance claims, including workers’ compensation and disability insurance, can help reduce some financial burdens.
Some patients may be eligible for government-funded programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
Filing Multiple Types of Claims
It is possible to seek compensation from a combination of trust funds and lawsuits or settlements because some at-fault companies may have gone bankrupt and established trust funds, while others may still be operating.
Example: Total Compensation from Trusts & Settlements
Eligible patients can then receive additional compensation from VA benefits, treatment grants and other sources.
Section Summary: The primary types of compensation are trust funds, lawsuits and settlements. VA claims, treatment grants, insurance claims and government assistance may also provide financial support. Each form of compensation has established rules and regulations. Payment amounts can exceed $1 million.
Payouts for Asbestos Disease Claims
Those who qualify must have proof of a disease resulting from asbestos exposure and the ability to tie the exposure back to one or more products or companies. Generally, compensation amounts are determined based on:
- Source(s) of exposure
- Companies at fault and products involved
- Bankruptcy status of at-fault companies
- Disease severity
- Extent of asbestos exposure (amount and duration)
- Total medical expenses
- Victim’s age and gender
- Work history
- Lost wages and earnings
- Family situation (dependent children)
- Damages to family
- Pain and suffering
- Military service
- Degree of negligence
Trust Fund Payouts
Trust fund payouts vary, based mainly on the amount of exposure, the extent of illness and the companies involved. The scheduled values for mesothelioma across all trusts range from $7,000 to $1.2 million. The average trust fund payout for mesothelioma is $180,000.
Often, individuals do not receive the total amount of a trust fund settlement. Most trusts pay only a percentage of the entire claim to ensure enough money for all claimants. The average trust fund payment percentage is 25%, which means an individual granted $100,000 in compensation would only receive $25,000.
Still, many victims qualify for payouts from multiple trusts because they were exposed to asbestos-containing products from several companies or at numerous locations. These combined payouts often exceed $1 million for a mesothelioma diagnosis.
The average trial verdict for a mesothelioma case is between $5 million and $11.4 million. Some awards go far beyond the average:
- In March 2022, a 76-year-old Michigan man sued Ford in a personal injury case after a mesothelioma diagnosis. William Trokey said he was exposed to asbestos in the 1960s when he worked as a mechanic. He argued the exposure was due to Ford’s negligence. A jury awarded Trokey and his wife $20 million.
- In July 2021, the Washington state Supreme Court reinstated an $81.5 million verdict in a wrongful death claim brought by the family of a man who died from mesothelioma. Jerry “Doy” Coogan, 67, had worked for decades with asbestos-containing brake pads and other products made by Genuine Parts Company and sold by National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA). The jury awarded Coogan’s estate $81.5 million, but an appeals court overturned the verdict. The state Supreme Court overturned the appellate court ruling and reinstated the verdict award, stating the appellate court “overstepped its limited role and inappropriately substituted its own judgment for that of the trial court, and most importantly, the jury.”
Average Settlement Amounts
Companies with asbestos liabilities often settle out of court to avoid the expense and exposure of a public trial. The average settlement amount is between $1 million to $1.5 million.
VA Claim Payouts
Many mesothelioma victims are exposed during military service. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes asbestos-related diseases as eligible for disability compensation. Veterans deemed 100% disabled may qualify for about $3,000 a month in compensation. In some cases, the veteran’s family may be eligible for compensation.
Section Summary: On average, mesothelioma patients can expect $180,000 from a single trust fund. The average trial verdict ranges from $5 million to $11.4 million, and settlement amounts range from $1 million to $1.5 million. Payouts are specific to individual circumstances. It is possible for patients and family members to receive money from a combination of trust funds and settlements or lawsuit payouts.
Anyone who was exposed to asbestos or lost a loved one to an asbestos-related illness can seek compensation. Securing compensation from a trust fund or other legal claim requires documented evidence of asbestos exposure and physician-verified proof of an asbestos-related disease. Other necessary information includes:
- List of places where exposure occurred
- Employment records
- Military records (if applicable)
- Witness testimonies
- Dates of exposure
- Information about products that caused asbestos exposure
Eligibility requirements are based on who is filing for compensation: the victim (personal injury claim) or the family (wrongful death claim). Both types of legal claims are bound by a statute of limitations, limiting the number of years the claim can be filed.
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To be eligible for VA disability benefits, veterans and family members must provide the following:
- Proof of military service without a dishonorable discharge
- Proof of exposure during military service
- Medical records that show the illness or disability
- Service records that demonstrate the claimant’s job or specialty
- A physician’s statement connecting contact with asbestos during military service and the illness or disability
Section Summary: Most legal claims have similar criteria for funding eligibility and require evidence of asbestos exposure and a related disease. Claimants must follow local statutes of limitations for access to trust compensation. To be eligible for payment from an out-of-court settlement, lawsuit or VA claim, claimants and their families should speak with a skilled attorney who can help them through the process.
How to File a Claim
Most patients and their families begin filing a claim by seeking out a qualified asbestos attorney. A good attorney understands the process, can navigate the system, and will help determine all possible types of compensation you may qualify for.
From there, the claims process proceeds as follows:
1. Meet with an Attorney
The patient, family members and the attorney meet to discuss the case either in-person or through an online video conference. An experienced mesothelioma attorney will be able to determine if the case meets the standards. Since the attorney works on behalf of the patient or the family, there are no upfront out-of-pocket costs or risks.
2. Gather Evidence
The patient is asked to submit documentation to support the legal claim. If the patient doesn’t have access to the records, the attorney’s legal team tracks down evidence. Some of the documentation needed includes:
- Exposure site evidence – witness statments, employment records, paycheck stubs, invoices, tax records, and other documents.
- Diagnosis evidence – pathology reports, imaging scans, blood tests, and others.
- Medical evidence – an official document from a qualified physician stating the diagnosis. Asbestos evidence – and official document from a qualified physician explaining how much asbestos contributed to the disease.
3. File Claim
The attorney, patient and patient’s family will decide which type of claim – a trust claim or lawsuit – is appropriate for the situation. In some cases, both a suit and trust are necessary. In other cases, claims are filed against multiple trusts due to numerous exposure sites. If a lawsuit is filed, the attorney files documentation with the court. The patient (or family) becomes the plaintiff, and the asbestos company becomes the defendant. If claims are put on trust funds, the attorney submits the documentation with individual trusts. A claim must be submitted to each trust pursued.
4. Claim Discovery or Review
In a lawsuit, defendant companies will review the claim and may request more information or clarification. Asbestos companies also perform their own investigation into the claim. In trust fund claims, the trusts may also request more information or evidence of exposure. The trust administrators determine if the claim meets the criteria established when the trust was formed. The claim will be examined in one of two ways:
- Expedited review (Faster Process) – Individual claims are grouped so administrators can quickly review and approve payments. Each claimant gets a fixed payment amount.
- Individual review (Slower Process) – Claims are reviewed based on individual merits and payment is tailored to the patient’s (or family’s) specific circumstances.
5. Settlement, Trial, or Liquidation
- Settlement – Most asbestos companies choose to settle the case out of court to avoid a costly or time-consuming trial. During the negotiations, the company and attorneys try to reach a settlement amount. Asbestos attorneys work for the best financial outcome for their clients.
- Lawsuit – If a settlement agreement can’t be reached, the case may proceed to a trial. Even during the trial, both parties may attempt to settle the case.
- Liquidation – After the trust administrator approves a claim, the trust will review the payment schedule for compensation in a process called liquidation. Since all asbestos trust funds have payment schedules, patients generally get the same amount based on the severity of the disease. Claimants can expect payment within three to six months following approval.
Section Summary: The process for filing a lawsuit or trust fund claim follows multiple steps, including gathering evidence and filing documentation. In some cases, asbestos companies and attorneys agree to a financial settlement. Sometimes, the case goes to trial. Trust fund claimants receive a fixed award based on the disease severity. Before filing any claim, patients and their families should seek a qualified attorney.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to consult with a mesothelioma attorney?
Nothing. Most attorneys who specialize in asbestos litigation do not charge up-front fees. These initial meetings allow the attorney to get familiarized with the case and the clients comfortable with the law firm.
How much does it cost to file a claim?
Nothing unless your attorney wins the case. Mesothelioma attorneys work on a contingency basis, an agreed-upon percentage of the award to cover client costs and attorney’s fees.
How much do I get for mesothelioma?
The amount varies because financial compensation depends on how it is awarded – lawsuit, trust fund claims or settlement. In general, however, the average mesothelioma claims range from $1 million to $2.4 million.
Do family members qualify for asbestos trusts?
Yes. When a loved one dies from asbestos exposure, close relatives can file a wrongful death claim through the deceased’s estate. An asbestos lawyer can help family members navigate the confusing process.
Am I required to pay taxes on mesothelioma settlement money?
Unlikely. According to the U.S. tax code, financial compensation awarded in connection to a personal illness or injury is not taxable. Since tax laws are complicated, victims and their families should seek professional assistance from a mesothelioma attorney to move through the process.
What is the difference between trust fund claims and lawsuits?
When companies declare bankruptcy from an overwhelming number of asbestos lawsuits, they typically file for bankruptcy and open a trust fund. The finances in the trusts are used to compensate current, former and future asbestos-disease victims. In a lawsuit, the victim or family takes legal action against a company through a personal injury or wrongful death suit. In general, trusts offer quicker access to compensation, but a lawsuit may provide a more significant award.
What are the largest payouts for mesothelioma?
The most significant jury award on record for a mesothelioma patient is $250 million, although the case was later settled for less instead of going through the drawn-out appeals process. In general, the average trial verdict is $2.4 million. Mesothelioma trust fund claims average between $1 million and $2.4 million.
How long does it take to see if I qualify for compensation?
The initial meeting with an asbestos attorney usually lasts about an hour. The attorney will review the facts and determine if the case is viable.
How long will it take to get compensated?
On average, trust fund claims take less than a year to process, while a jury trial could take years. At the same time, if the company chooses to settle the lawsuit before or during the trial, a settlement can take just months. Since a jury trial is so uncertain, many patients and their families opt for trust fund claims.
What are the average settlement amounts for the highest-paying trust funds?
While a total settlement amount from a trust varies, settlements from the highest-paying trust can exceed $125,000. Claimants may be eligible for compensation from several trust funds due to multiple sources of asbestos exposure.
Currently, the highest-paying trust funds are:
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- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. (2019) Asbestos, Smoking and Lung Cancer: An Update. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6982078/
- Associated Press. (2022) St. Louis County Man Awarded $20 Million in Asbestos Suit. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/missouri/articles/2022-03-12/st-louis-county-man-awarded-20-million-in-asbestos-suit
- Courtroom View Network. (2022) Ford Hit With $20M Verdict In Missouri Asbestos Trial. Retrieved from https://blog.cvn.com/breaking-ford-hit-with-20m-verdict-in-missouri-asbestos-trial
- Vehicle Service Pros. (2021) Washington Supreme Court upholds $81.5 million verdict in automotive technician mesothelioma case. Retrieved from https://www.vehicleservicepros.com/service-repair/news/21230290/washington-supreme-court-upholds-815-million-verdict-in-automotive-technician-mesothelioma-case
- Legal Information Institute. U.S. Code § 104 – Compensation for injuries or sickness. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/104
- Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. “Asbestos Toxicity: Where Is Asbestos Found?” Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=29&po=5
- Hersher, Rebecca. NPR. “Asbestos Deaths Remain A Public Health Concern, CDC Finds.” Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/04/11/523277735/asbestos-deaths-remain-a-public-health-concern-cdc-finds
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Veterans asbestos exposure.” Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/
- Cancer.net. “Understanding the Costs Related to Cancer Care.” Retrieved from https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/financial-considerations/understanding-costs-related-cancer-care