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Understanding Mesothelioma Trust Fund Claims

Offered by Weitz & Luxenberg P.C.

People diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases need to be fully compensated for their losses – medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. Depending on the circumstances, there are several potential ways to obtain that financial compensation.

One of the options available to victims is to file a claim with a mesothelioma trust fund.

What is a mesothelioma trust fund?

A mesothelioma trust fund, also known as an asbestos trust fund or asbestos bankruptcy trust fund, is essentially a pool of money that has been set aside to compensate victims of asbestos exposure. A 1994 act of Congress established section 524(g) of the Bankruptcy Code, which allowed asbestos manufacturers to create these trust funds.

Asbestos companies – that is, both companies that mined and manufactured the mineral and facilities that used asbestos in manufacturing – continued to use asbestos until the late 1970s, when the dangers of the material became commonly known. Since then, many asbestos companies have been forced to declare Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy, which permitted those companies to reorganize and remain in business. As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, those companies created trust funds to compensate current and future victims of mesothelioma and asbestosis.

What’s the average payout from a trust fund?

There is no single average payout because it depends on the extent of the disease and the trust fund’s payment percentage. However, it’s not unusual for mesothelioma patients to receive low six figures or more by filing claims with multiple trust funds – depending upon the specifics of their occupational asbestos exposure.

How compensation from mesothelioma trust funds works

Eligible victims can file a claim with a mesothelioma trust fund for compensation for their losses due to a mesothelioma diagnosis or death. Compensation from a trust fund can:

  • Pay for treatment and associated expenses, such as travel to and from appointments.
  • Replace lost income and lost future earnings.
  • Provide financial security for patients and families of patients.

In general, to file a claim with an asbestos trust fund, you need to provide documented proof of exposure to asbestos from products made by the company associated with the trust fund, as well as proof of an asbestos-related diagnosis such as mesothelioma. Some trust funds have additional eligibility criteria. Families of victims who died from mesothelioma may also be eligible to file a trust fund claim.

Each trust fund assigns claim values according to a “schedule,” based on the type of asbestos-related disease diagnosed. In addition, each trust has a set payment percentage – in other words, each claimant only receives a portion of the value of their claim based on the payment percentage. For instance, if you’re entitled to $100,000 total and the trust fund has a 20% payment percentage, it would pay $20,000.

The purpose of the payment percentage is to ensure that funds remain available to continue to pay future victims. Indeed, some trusts have become underfunded and had to stop payments or dramatically reduce their payment percentages in order to avoid running out of money.

However, remember that you aren’t limited to filing a claim with just one trust fund. Eligible victims may be able to file claims with multiple trusts. Filing a claim with one trust does not affect your eligibility to file with another trust.

The claims process used by asbestos trust funds

While the claims process varies somewhat from trust to trust, in general, you can expect a four-step process:

  1. File a claim – initiating the process requires gathering information on the sources of asbestos exposure, occupational history, and details about the asbestos-related disease diagnosis (e.g., mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer).
  2. Trustee claim review – in an asbestos trust claim, it’s a trustee, not a judge, who will review your claim. The trustee will review the information provided to make a factual determination. Trusts review claims on a first-in first-out basis, generally using one of two methods of review:
    • Expedited review – the claim is grouped together with similar claims and assigned a fixed payment based on general information. As the name implies, this is generally a faster process.
    • Individual review – the individual claim is considered on its own merits, including the extent of disease, level of exposure, and number of dependents. This is generally a longer process, but it has the potential to produce a higher payout than an expedited review in some circumstances.
  3. Claim liquidation – once the trustee factually validates the claim, a monetary amount must be determined. Depending on the type of claim, this may be a predetermined amount, or it may be subject to negotiation. It’s then adjusted by the payment percentage.
  4. Payment – the claimant has a set period of time, usually 30 days, to accept the payment.

Can you file both a trust fund claim and a mesothelioma lawsuit?

The short answer is “yes,” you can file a claim with an asbestos trust fund and a lawsuit against a mesothelioma company if your situation fits the criteria to do both. You can’t file a lawsuit against a manufacturer that is protected by bankruptcy; you must get compensation from the applicable trust fund. However, if you are eligible for claims against multiple asbestos companies and only some have filed bankruptcy, you can still pursue a lawsuit against a manufacturer that is not protected by bankruptcy.

How trust fund claims and mesothelioma lawsuits interact depends on state law. Some states permit “setoffs” for mesothelioma lawsuits, which means the defendant in a lawsuit (that is, the asbestos company that gets sued) can deduct the amount of any trust fund payments from the court award in a lawsuit. In addition, some state courts allow information sharing between trust fund claims and lawsuit defendants.

Whether you should file a lawsuit, a trust fund claim, or both is a question only an attorney can answer. It takes legal expertise and experience with mesothelioma claims to evaluate your situation and advise you of the most viable option in your case.

Do you need a lawyer to file an asbestos trust fund claim?

You aren’t required to have a lawyer to file a claim with a mesothelioma trust fund, but it’s highly recommended. The submission process is complex, and a mesothelioma attorney can confirm that you have all the documentation and evidence needed to move your case forward. Your lawyer can ensure that all forms supplied by the trust fund are fully completed and accurate to help process your claim as efficiently as possible.

Experienced attorneys understand the nuances of how different trust funds work and can help you identify which funds you are eligible to claim. More broadly, an attorney can help you understand all your options, including trust funds, mesothelioma lawsuits, and other sources of compensation such as veterans’ benefits. Your lawyer’s job is to work with you to create a legal strategy that maximizes your compensation.

Mesothelioma attorneys offer free, no-obligation consultations, so there is no downside to discussing your options with a lawyer. If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestosis or lost a loved one to an asbestos-related disease, you have rights. Talk to an attorney who can help protect them today.

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Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. is an experienced, nationwide "mass torts" injury law firm based in NYC, with $19 billion in total verdicts and settlements and over 55,000 clients. They ar...