Asbestos Trust Funds

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Several companies have set aside trusts in order to help pay for the needs and expenses that arise from exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma. As of 2016, asbestos trusts hold over $30 billion. Combining these funds with innovations in therapies leads to longer, more comfortable lives for victims of asbestos exposure.


Victims are Compensated

Several individuals have taken advantage of these trust funds— an estimated $18 billion has been paid out to claimants since the late 1980s.

Asbestos trust funds are organized by companies that would otherwise be unable to pay liabilities from asbestos exposure. These companies file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for protection against lawsuits before attempting to set up a trust fund with enough money to pay out asbestos claims— current and future.

Even though these funds will pay for asbestos exposure alone, those diagnosed with mesothelioma will often receive the highest payouts.

Lawyers across the nation have helped thousands of mesothelioma patients file claims to access the asbestos trust funds. This money can help with medical bills, cost of living, and helping the family recover. No amount of money can reverse the symptoms of asbestos exposure, but it can provide a huge sense of relief and a hint of justice served.


Understanding Trusts

Billions are Available for Victims
There were more than $3.3 billion collected from different asbestos trusts in 2008. A median payout for a claim was $180,000.

Financial Support Offered for Thousands
The number of people looking to these funds for assistance is on the rise: more than 575,000 claims were paid in 2008 alone. The money these funds provide can assist with treatment costs as well as make up for any lost wages.

The Victims are the Patients
Those that are struggling with the cancer are the victims because the companies were not open about the dangers.


Compensation

Asbestos gained popularity among businesses and industries due to its resistance to chemicals and heat— and also for its cheap cost. Despite these perks, many signs pointed to asbestos exposure posing a danger to workers. Many companies kept this information on the down-low for as long as they could; luckily, workers began to learn about these dangers and fight back. Sadly, many families could have been spared the trials of mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. Today, the companies of the past owe it to these victims and their families to ensure that they are compensated for their suffering.

As companies began claiming bankruptcy to seek protection against lawsuits, they also began to form trust funds that could still pay out compensation for victims. The bankruptcy courts set the trust fund amount while trustees are in charge of the funds. As a result, thousands of dollars have been set aside to help victims handle their expenses.

Even bankruptcy protects the business from future lawsuits and allows them to remain in operation, the trust funds allows victims to receive compensation.

The RAND Corporation completed a report which found that nearly “730,000 people had filed asbestos claims against at least 8,400 corporate defendants.”

Compensation can be used for many things, including payment for treatment and living expenses. If you are considering filing a claim to access an asbestos trust fund, then you should research and contact a good mesothelioma attorney. An attorney can help you through the entire legal proceeding and ensure that you receive proper compensation.


Facts About Mesothelioma Compensation

  • By 2013, there were roughly $30 billion put aside for patients
  • Roughly 27.5 million individuals have been exposed while working
  • Only 2.5% of the above 27.5 million people have actually filed for compensation
  • Between 1980-2002, $70 billion was paid out to the victims

Quick Facts About Mesothelioma

  • Approx. two to three thousand people in the US are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.
  • Symptoms typically appear between 20-40 years after asbestos exposure.
  • Mesothelioma is four times more likely to affect men than it is women.
  • Most Mesothelioma diagnosis are in patients 45 or older.
  • The average age range for a diagnosis is 50 to 70 years old.
  • Approximately 75% of patients are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma
  • Approximately 20% of mesothelioma cases are peritoneal, with around 250 new cases in the US annually.

Quick Facts About Asbestos

  • Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma
  • Approximately 125 million people have been exposed to asbestos in their workplace
  • Asbestos was used in several products, especially insulation materials and roofing shingles.
  • Asbestos mining in the US officially ended in 2002.
  • 61 countries have asbestos bands in place, some partially and others fully.
  • The US still allows Chrysotile asbestos to be imported.
  • The three most common forms of asbestos are Chrysotile (white), Crocidolite (blue), and Amosite (brown or gray).

The Johns-Manville Corporation

When asbestos was enjoying its popularity, the Johns-Manville Corporation was the top producer of insulation and materials used for roofing in addition to automotive sheet cylinder packing, cement, and acoustical products. They even produced products for the US war effort, such as the insulation in Navy vessels. The products they provided contained a large amount of asbestos within. Thousands of exposed employees began to suffer severe health complications (including mesothelioma). Starting in 1929, claims were being filed and employees started fighting for compensation. Some of the employees participated in a rather violent strike at the asbestos mines in Canada. As a result, the Johns-Manville Corporation was the first to file bankruptcy for lawsuit protection in the 1980s; they also formed the first trust fund in 1988, setting the standard for additional companies to follow.

Today, Johns Manville is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. While they still produce insulation and construction products, their line now focuses on fiberglass and polyurethane. They also won awards for their formaldehyde-free insulation.


Asbestos Trust Funds – What You Need to Know

These trusts are because of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Bankruptcy courts forced the companies to set these up because of the claims that were being filed. They were set up to protect the victims.

Understanding Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is when a company works to pay their debt while they continue to operate and do business as they did before. When individuals want to file a claim related to asbestos exposure, they must be willing to do this by filing a claim against the trust rather than suing the company.

The code does not put a limit on just how many trust funds a victim can file a claim with. It does not put any limits on just how much money a victim can ask for. As a result, victims who were exposed due to the negligence of more than one company has the option to file against several trust funds to receive compensation and ease their resulting financial burdens. In some cases, victims receive compensation from every trust they file against. The best way to attain this result is by working with a mesothelioma attorney who will walk you through the entire legal process and your options.

Companies looking to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy and reorganizing under the laws may protect a company from lengthy and costly lawsuits, but the process also comes with a price. During bankruptcy proceedings, the company is required to set up a trust fund to settle current and future compensation claims— and the courts must approve the amount.

The bankruptcy process is also fairly lengthy, involving several steps. The company must submit a plan for their reorganization to the court; this plan must include the asbestos trust fund. The court will then host proceedings between the company and current plaintiffs’ representatives to hammer out the details of the trust. Both sides are allowed to present arguments and evidence, much like with litigation. Both the company and the representatives then work to estimate the cost of future compensation claims in an effort to ensure the trust will have enough money.

Because mesothelioma and other symptoms of asbestos exposure can arise decades after the initial exposure, this process is critical. In the end, the judge must decide if the amount will be sufficient or if the company must return to the drawing board and try again.

This reorganization process can take several years and multiple estimation meetings. Once everything is approved, the company officially sets aside the amount determined for the fund.

Since the Johns-Manville case, approximately 100 companies have sought bankruptcy protection for lawsuits involving asbestos exposure. Not all of these companies were able to form an asbestos trust fund; many never achieved court approval and were forced to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy instead, liquidating their assets to pay debtors.

The trusts funds are assigned trustees that are going to manage the money that has been set aside. Then when a claim is filed, the trustee will oversee that the money is paid out correctly. They may have other duties as well.

Trustees may be expected to:

  • Managing any investing of the trust
  • Complete all of the tax returns
  • Take care of reports to the bankruptcy courts
  • Stand in at court

Once the fund is established and a trustee assigned, the company has no role in the trust fund’s operation. Instead, trustees are objective and independent. They weigh each claim’s evidence against a set of guidelines set for the fund to reach a decision on compensation.

Some of the information a trustee considers are the amount of money in the fund, the number of claimants, and each claimant’s evidence. The more severe the medical condition, the more compensation one will be awarded providing proper evidence is provided. This is another reason to work with a mesothelioma attorney, to ensure that all the evidence is accurate and accounted for.

Compensation Rewards

The amount a claimant receives from an asbestos or mesothelioma trust fund will vary, as several factors play into the decision. Types of illness and injury, severity, and payment schedule established for the fund all affect a trustee’s decision.

Because the trust fund must maintain enough funds to meet future claims, the chance exists that you will not receive 100% of your claim.

Conversely, this allows patients whose medical issues develop during later years to rest assured that the funds are still available to help with their costs, as well. Mesothelioma and other asbestos-exposure related illnesses are extremely latent, often taking several decades to appear.

Trust Funds will often publish important information such as:

  • Confirmed Exposure Sites
  • Guidelines
  • Rules
  • Qualifications

The Trust Funds Claim Process

The first and most essential step is obtaining proper medical care and diagnosis. If you or a loved one has concerns about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, speak with a doctor immediately and stay on top of your health. Documentation will be important, so store all of your records in secure locations. Should you begin to suffer the latent effects of mesothelioma, we recommend contacting a mesothelioma attorney to help through the claims process. They are highly trained and experienced navigating the paperwork and can help you obtain the best results for your claim.

When it comes to a trust fund claim, you’ll kick off the process by filing the claim. To do this, you need the documentation regarding your official diagnosis— generally, this includes your physician’s diagnosis and statement, evidence of site exposure to asbestos, and medical documentation showing that asbestos affected your illness or injury.

If you choose to work with an attorney, they can help you gather up the necessary documentation and then represent you through the process. This can make the claim smoother for you and your family, so that you or your loved one can focus on your treatment and life.

Top 10 US Asbestos Trust Funds

Company Estimate of Initial Assets Year Established
Armstrong World Industries $2 Billion 2006
Babcock & Wilcox $1.8 Billion 2006
DII Industries $2.5 Billion 2005
Johns-Manville Corporation $2.5 Billion 1988
Owens Corning Corporation $3.4 Billion 2006
Owens Corning Fibreboard Subfund $1.5 Billion 2006
Pittsburgh Corning Corporation $3.4 Billion 2011
United States Gypsum $3.9 Billion 2006
Western Asbestos (Western MacArthur) $2 Billion 2004
W. R. Grace and Co. $2.9 Billion 2001

^Source: RAND Institute for Civil Justice “Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts” report

The Difference Between Trusts, Lawsuits, and Veterans Benefits Claims

All three of these can provide compensation for the victims of asbestos exposure, but that is where the similarities end. Trusts, Lawsuits, and Veterans Benefits Claims require different paperwork, protocols, and requirements for eligibility.

For Lawsuits and Trust Fund Claims, we recommend working with a mesothelioma attorney; for Veterans Benefit Claims, you should work with a VA-accredited claims agent. For both cases, these people are experienced and highly trained in navigating the process and helping you file all the correct paperwork.

Lawsuits

Asbestos injury lawsuits typically lead to larger compensation when compared to trust fund claims. These lawsuits are filed against manufacturers and other companies that are still in operation. Both patients and their loved ones can file lawsuits, and these suits can be filed against multiple defendants.

Bankruptcy Trust Fund Claims

These claims are typically handled outside of a court room. An attorney can help you locate each trust fund you are eligible for and help you with paperwork and documentation. Typically, trust fund claimants do not receive the full amount of their claim but will receive funds faster than through a lawsuit.

Veterans Benefits Claim

US military veterans may find that they are eligible for several VA benefits, including disability compensation and health care. To qualify, the veteran must provide a complete history of exposure to asbestos while in the military. If a veteran regretfully perishes from their illness, a surviving spouse or children may seek compensation.

Limitations for Mesothelioma Compensation Filing

When you are involved in a critical legal process such as filing for mesothelioma compensation, you need to be aware of limitations in the process. A qualified mesothelioma attorney can help you navigate these hurdles with far less hassle than trying to take them on yourself.

Statutes of Limitations

This varies by state, but it puts a deadline between your diagnosis and filing a lawsuit. The average time span is two years from diagnosis. On the bright side, if your time limit has expired in one state, you may be able to file through another or seek an asbestos trust fund claim.

State Laws

No federal or nation-wide asbestos laws are currently in existence. Instead, each state decides their own legislation. State laws can vary greatly on anything from when claims must be maid to how lawsuits are determined.

Setoffs

If you have already sought a trust fund compensation, than any defendants you choose to sue can deduct the amount of that trust fund compensation from any court-awarded compensation. This is known as a “setoff,” but only some states permit the use of setoffs. Others limit the amount that can be setoff.

Filing Multiple Lawsuits and Claims

Claimants are allowed to file trust fund claims and asbestos lawsuits simultaneously, but this may affect how much they are awarded from each. Another thing to be aware of is that some courts will require disclosure of any submitted trust fund claim forms during litigation.

A main takeaway here is that claimants must look into state laws and court requirements when preparing to file. A mesothelioma attorney has the best resources for these discoveries and most likely already knows the answers for several states.

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