Asbestos Mesothelioma Trust Funds
In the wake of an increasing number of once-solvent companies filing for bankruptcy following asbestos litigation, dozens of trust funds have been established as a way to give restitution to mesothelioma victims. With more than $30 billion in trusts, these accounts have become a major source of compensation for injured mesothelioma victims nationwide.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that forms in the chest area and is predominantly caused by exposure to asbestos, a toxic mineral that has fibers that settle in the lungs and eventually leads to cancer. Although asbestos has been used for centuries because of its heat-, fire- and chemical-resistant properties, it was not widely used in the United States until the 1930s. Since then, it's been used in a multitude of workplaces, including shipyards, construction sites, mines and mills. It is also been used in a large amount of products, including plumbing and electrical insulation, automobile brakes and floor and ceiling tiles. Use of this toxic substance skyrocketed during World War II and subsequent military actions. Even though most companies knew early on about asbestos dangers, many did not put measures in place to protect the workers or their families. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people have been injured or died.
Mesothelioma is known to have a 20 to 50 year latency period, so by the 1960s thousands of people were being diagnosed with the disease and courthouses were flooded with claims. In the 1970s, the United States Congress began trying to enact Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution bills that would create federally mandated trust funds. The most recent revival of this bill, in 2006, would have allowed for a $140 billion trust fund financed by insurance companies and defendant companies. It would have severely limited a claimants right to pursue financial compensation and would have cleared all asbestos manufacturers from wrongdoing. It also would put an end to individual asbestos litigation. Lawmakers summarily shot it down. No bill was ever created.
Mesothelioma Bankruptcies and Bankruptcy Trusts
Today, 56 bankruptcy trusts have emerged from at-fault companies that have filed for bankruptcy. According to the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit global think thank, the largest 26 trusts have paid out at least $10.9 billion on 2.4 million claims so far. These trust have billions set aside for future claims.
The rules that govern these trusts vary among the companies, which makes the legal process very complex. Further complicating the situation is that payout amounts vary greatly from state to state because of differing statutory laws and court rules. A recent study by RAND showed that bankruptcy trusts are playing a larger role in asbestos-injury compensation, but there is no standard system to coordinate payments.
Because of the complexities that surround these trusts, it is important to have an experienced asbestos attorney by your side. A specialized mesothelioma attorney can maneuver through the complex world of court litigation and bankruptcy trusts to ensure you and your family get just compensation. This compensation should not only pay for current medical bills and treatments, but also must cover household expenses and lost wages. An appropriate compensation will also help fund alternative medical treatments that you might not be otherwise able to afford.