If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos-lung cancer, every moment of your time is precious. Even though you may be entitled to compensation from a company that exposed you to the substance, you may be reluctant to spend your time litigating a claim. Do you always have to file a lawsuit?
No. Depending on your situation, you may be able to make a claim against a trust. This is because many companies that were responsible for exposing people to asbestos have declared bankruptcy. When they did, they may have had to make provisions for future claims. Generally, this resulted in the bankruptcy court setting up an asbestos personal injury trust.
These companies generally included:
- Manufacturers of asbestos products
- Purchasers of asbestos products
- Businesses that used asbestos products as part of their industry
- Sellers of asbestos products
- Those companies’ insurers
During much of the 20th century, asbestos was widely used in a variety of products and processes. At first, those who manufactured, used and sold it may not have realized the danger, but by the 20s and 30s it was clear that asbestos caused mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other diseases like asbestosis. Nevertheless, many companies continued to use the mineral, expose their workers and their workers’ families to it, and sell it to the public in a variety of products.
By the 1960s, victims of asbestos-related diseases began to sue companies that exposed them to asbestos without revealing the known risks. According to the RAND Corporation, by 2002 about 730,000 people had made claims against at least 8,400 corporate defendants. These cases resulted in billions of dollars in injury awards, legal fees and claim-related costs.
Over time, the immense liability of some companies became clear – and many responsible companies declared bankruptcy. However, there is a very long latency period between exposure to asbestos and developing mesothelioma or lung cancer, so the bankruptcy courts understood that there would be more claimants. When companies with substantial asbestos liability went bankrupt, the courts set up independently-managed trusts to compensate those future claimants.
In general, these trusts have specific exposure and medical criteria that claimants must meet before they can obtain compensation. As long as the person can show they were exposed to the bankrupt company’s asbestos-laden products and can demonstrate a serious illness as a result, the trust will pay the claim.
In other words, you may not need to spend time in court arguing with attorneys from the company who harmed you. It may be a relatively straightforward process of making a claim against an independent trust.
Sieben Polk, P.A., offers free consultations so you can understand the process and your rights.