Companies in the U.S. knowingly exposed their employees and consumers to asbestos. These companies have accepted liability for the use of asbestos and offer compensation to victims in the form of trust funds.
The increased legal liability caused by extensive asbestos exposure has forced many companies to create asbestos trust funds. Through these trust funds, companies offer compensation to victims of asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma, caused by exposure to their asbestos-containing products.
To learn more about accessing asbestos trust funds, contact us today.
Need to Know Facts on Trust Funds
- Asbestos Companies Exposed Workers - The companies required to set up these trust funds were aware of the dangers of asbestos but exposed their employees to the substance anyways. The victims of this exposure are entitled to financial compensation.
- Millions Are Getting Support - Since the creation of the first asbestos-related trust fund in 1988, about 3.3 million claims have been filed. Most of those who filed received financial compensation for treatment and supplemental income.
- Billions Available in Compensation - The total amount of compensation paid out from these claims so far amounts to about $17.5 billion. There remains billions of dollars available for victims of asbestos exposure.
Bankruptcy and Trust Funds
Although asbestos use has declined in the U.S. over the past three decades, the number of people exposed to the mineral since its widespread use in the better part of the 20th century is staggering. An estimated 27 million to 100 million Americans have been exposed to products containing some form of asbestos since its use peaked in 1973.
There’s no question that a number of companies knowingly exposed their employees and customers to asbestos.
Since the 1980s, asbestos-related litigation has been a “mature tort,” a term signifying that most of the evidence against the asbestos companies has already been established in court. From the 1980s forward, the mounting number of asbestos-related lawsuits caused many companies to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Notable companies that have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy:
- 1982 – Johns-Manville
- 1989 – Raytech (Raybestos-Manhattan)
- 2000 – Owens Corning
- 2001 – W.R. Grace
Filing Chapter 11 allows companies to continue business operations while they restructure and pay their debts. One of the requirements to file for bankruptcy is the creation of a trust fund, which exists so that these companies can still afford to compensate people for illnesses caused by their negligence.
Since 1988, about 100 companies have filed bankruptcy due to asbestos-related lawsuits. Out of these 100 companies, 60 have established asbestos trust funds. The total amount of available assets in these 60 asbestos trust funds amounts to about $37 billion.
The largest six of these companies have each created asbestos trusts valued at more than $1 billion:
- W.R. Grace
- Owens Corning
- Kaiser Aluminum
- U.S. Gypsum Company (USG)
- Armstrong World Industries
- Federal-Mogul Corporation
Victims of exposure don’t necessarily have to worry about a conflict of interest preventing them from receiving compensation. Trust funds are not directly run by the negligible asbestos company. Rather, a board of trustees manages the claims process and pays out compensation to victims of asbestos exposure on behalf of the company.
Additionally, the trust fund itself is funded by the company according to guidelines set by the bankruptcy court. These guidelines also determine the amount of money the company has to set aside for the fund.
Asbestos Trust Fund Amounts
Asbestos trusts must file an annual report that shows how many claims were submitted and how much compensation was paid out. According to a review published by the Government Accountability Office, as of 2011 the total amount of compensation asbestos trusts have paid out to claimants amounts to over $13.5 billion.
There is over $18 billion in available compensation that has not yet been paid out by asbestos trust funds.
The amount of asbestos-related compensation available through trust funds will actually rise in the near future by an estimated $12 billion. This increase is a result of more and more at-fault companies completing the bankruptcy process.
Filing an Asbestos Claim
During the first part of the claims process, the trust reviews a claimant’s work and medical histories to determine if their illness was caused by the company’s negligence. If the trust finds that the claimant is indeed a victim, it will pay out a predetermined amount of compensation.
Each trust fund follows a procedure called a TDP (Trust Distribution Procedure). Trust funds make payments to claimants based on certain guidelines set out by their TDP.
1. Submitting the Claim
When the a victim of exposure first submits a claim, he or she has the option of choosing an expedited review or an individual review. During an expedited review, the trust audits any supporting documentation and either approves or denies the claim. If the trust approves the claim, it makes makes a payment based on a predetermined ‘disease level.’
- Level 8 – Mesothelioma
- Level 7 – Lung Cancer 1
- Level 6 – Lung Cancer 2
- Level 5 – Other Cancer
- Level 4 – Severe Asbestosis
- Level 3 – Asbestosis/Pleural Disease
- Level 2 – Asbestosis/Pleural Disease
- Level 1 – Other Asbestos Disease
Each disease level corresponds to a certain amount of compensation that’s ultimately determined by each company’s trust. Asbestos trusts use disease levels to ensure that the limited pool of money in the trust is paid out fairly.
The most severe asbestos-related diseases usually receive the highest compensation. Asbestos-related diseases are rated from level 1 to level 8. Mesothelioma is rated the highest at level 8.
If the trust denies a claim for an expedited review, the claimant can file for an individual review. An individual review can actually be more beneficial than an expedited review because applicants can challenge the payout amount that the trust initially offered them. Claimants with mesothelioma can possibly receive more than the pre-determined amount assigned to their disease level by filing for an individual review.
2. Being Evaluated
Once a claim is submitted, it enters the trust’s processing line, which is first in, first out (FIFO). This means that claimants who file sooner are evaluated and compensated first.
The trust may request more information or check court records filed with other trusts while they review the claim. They also sometimes ask for additional documents to make sure that a false claim isn’t being filed. Taking steps to ensure that claims are legitimate helps keep money available for victims of asbestos diseases who truly deserve compensation.
3. Receiving Payment
If the claim is approved, the trust makes a payment offer, which is usually a percentage of the compensation amount allotted to each disease level. Trusts do this to ensure that they have enough money left to pay claimants in the future. Different trusts may use varying payment percentages.
If you’re a victim of occupational asbestos exposure, our team can help you understand how these percentages work and get you the compensation you deserve. Contact a member of our Patient Help Team for more information about asbestos trust funds.
- Asbestos Injury Compensation: The Role and Administration of Asbestos Trusts. Retrieved on August 3, 2014 from http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/585380.pdf.
- Bankruptcy Trusts and Asbestos Litigation. Retrieved on August 3, 2014 from http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/products/articles/spring2012-bankruptcy-trusts-asbestos-litigation.html.
- 20 U.S. Code § 4022 – Asbestos Trust Fund. Retrieved on August 4, 2014 from http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/4022.
- Congoleum Plan Trust: Instructions for Filing Asbestos Personal Injury Claims. Retrieved on August 4, 2014 from http://www.congoleumtrust.com/documents/docs/Congoleum_Filing_Instructions.pdf.
- Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts: A 2012 Overview of Trust Assets, Compensation and Governance. Retrieved on August 4, 2014 from http://www.bateswhite.com/media/publication/17_media.580.pdf.