If you’re currently involved in asbestos-related litigation or if you’ve been doing some investigation into the possibilities of filing an asbestos-related lawsuit, you’ve probably come across some information about asbestos trusts.
Perhaps you’re a little confused as to what these trusts are and who might benefit from them. Below we’ve offered a bit of introductory information about these trusts in hopes that you’ll be able to better understand how they work.
Throughout the years, many companies that were responsible for asbestos injuries and were subsequently bombarded with lawsuits filed for bankruptcy and then bankruptcy reorganization, which – when successful – protects them from lawsuits but allows them to stay in business. These companies can be large – like Johns-Manville, W. R. Grace, and Pittsburgh Corning – or much smaller.
The U.S. Bankruptcy code then allows for the creation of so-called “asbestos trusts”, funds into which these companies must deposit monies in amounts large enough to handle current and future asbestos claims. Courts must approve the amount that is to be set aside, based on former claims as well as the potential for further litigation against the company. Economists and legal experts are brought in to help with the determination. The first numbers submitted don’t always meet with the court’s approval so sometimes it takes years and years for the trust to finally be established.
Once an asbestos trust fund is put into place, it is removed from the hands of the particular company responsible for depositing the funds. The company does not review claims made against the trust nor do they decide who gets the money and who doesn’t.
Instead, the trust is operated by a “trustee”, an appointed person or persons who make the decisions for the trust. However, the trustee(s) must follow certain pre-designated procedures to make these determinations so that all decisions are made in a fair and equitable manner.
To file an asbestos trust claim, you’ll need much of the same information as you’d need to file any other litigation.
• Confirmation of diagnosis – You’ll need to show that you’ve been to a doctor or doctors and that you are definitively suffering from an asbestos-related disease. Most likely, there will be forms to be filed by these physicians or statements to be signed. The physicians will also need to determine to what extent asbestos exposure contributed to your disease.
• Proof of exposure – Plaintiffs filing for compensation from a trust fund will need to establish proof of who was responsible for their exposure. Items such as witness statements and employment records may be needed as well as other similar documentation. It may take some time to assemble this needed documentation.
Rules about asbestos trust claims and the legal process vary from state to state, but mesothelioma victims should know that filing for funds from a trust could affect the outcome of a lawsuit and the amount of compensation received overall.
Only an experienced asbestos attorney can guide you towards the path that will provide you with the most positive outcome for you and your family members.