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What’s the Difference Between an Asbestos Lawsuit and a Trust Fund Claim?

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For decades, asbestos was widely used in a variety of construction and industrial applications, and victims are still dealing with the consequences. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma and dramatically increases the risk of other types of lung cancer. And because decades can pass between exposure and a cancer diagnosis, more cases are still emerging every day.

Victims have legal recourse against asbestos companies, but because so much time has passed, those options are more complicated than other types of injury litigation. An experienced asbestos lawyer can explain your legal options and build the right strategy to fight for the financial compensation you need and deserve.

What is an asbestos lawsuit?

Just like any other manufacturer of products, companies that made and distributed asbestos products can be held liable (legally responsible) for injuries and illnesses they caused. If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the company that produced the asbestos products you were exposed to.

To reiterate, even if you were exposed to asbestos on the job (as most people were), an asbestos lawsuit is a claim against the manufacturer of the products you were exposed to at work, not your employer.

An asbestos personal injury lawsuit is a claim filed by a living victim against an asbestos company. An asbestos wrongful death lawsuit is a claim brought by family members of a person who died of lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Either way, winning an asbestos lawsuit requires extensive investigation to determine which company or companies manufactured the asbestos products in question, as well as documenting the full extent of the damages (losses) that the victim suffered. Steps in the lawsuit process include:

  • Initial consultation with an attorney
  • Investigation and evidence-gathering
  • Filing a complaint (a formal document filed with the court)
  • Discovery (formal information-gathering)
  • Settlement negotiations
  • If necessary, trial

Unfortunately, the court system does not move quickly, and asbestos cases can require extensive investigation and discovery given the amount of time that has passed and the number of documents that need to be tracked down. The entire process can take years to resolve.

What is an asbestos trust fund claim?

Many companies that manufactured asbestos before it was banned in the late 1980s have since declared bankruptcy. This is a problem for victims because once a company has declared bankruptcy, it can’t be sued.

To address this problem, asbestos trust funds (ATF) were set up to compensate victims. There are over 60 ATFs in the United States, with billions of dollars in assets available to pay victims of lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Filing a claim with a trust fund is similar to a lawsuit in some respects. You still need to prove that you have an asbestos-related disease and that it was caused by products manufactured by the company associated with the trust fund. However, the claim is reviewed by a trustee instead of a court, and the process is generally faster. Steps in the trust fund process include:

  • Gather evidence to confirm that you meet the trust fund criteria, including proof of asbestos exposure and asbestos-related diagnosis (lung cancer or mesothelioma).
  • Submit your claim documents following the trust’s protocols.
  • Claim review: typically, you can choose between expedited review (grouped with other claims based on diagnosis) or individual review (may be slower but may also result in higher payment).

If approved, the trust fund will begin payment, often within a few months. Trust fund payments are typically in installments over the course of one to two years; it’s important to note that this is not the same as ongoing benefits like Social Security or veteran’s benefits.

How much money can you get from a lawsuit or a trust fund claim?

For victims who file trust fund claims, the compensation is based on the type of asbestos-related illness and the trust fund’s payment percentage. Unfortunately, some trust funds have been depleted and can only pay a fraction of the payments that victims actually deserve. However, it’s not unusual for victims to receive low six figures by filing claims with multiple trust funds.

Asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma lawsuits can produce significantly larger awards. The average verdict at trial is more than $2 million, and out-of-court settlements are frequently above $1 million. However, that is an average, not a guarantee of results; every case is different, and only an attorney can tell you what your case may be worth.

Can you file an asbestos lawsuit and a trust fund claim?

In general, yes, you can file one or more lawsuits and one or more trust fund claims if you meet the criteria. It all depends on which companies manufactured the asbestos product or products you were exposed to. If the manufacturer has declared bankruptcy, you can file a claim with the associated trust fund; if the manufacturer is still solvent, you can file a lawsuit. If you were exposed to asbestos manufactured by multiple companies, as many people were, then you can file multiple lawsuits and/or trust fund claims as appropriate.

That said, depending on where you were exposed, there may be state laws that provide for “setoffs,” which means your court award could be reduced if you received trust payments. There are also state laws that govern information sharing between trust claims and defendants in lawsuits. And there are different legal deadlines that apply to both lawsuits and trust fund claims. So, again, the only way to know your options is to speak with an experienced asbestos attorney.

How an experienced attorney can help you pursue financial compensation

Asbestos claims and lawsuits are complex. You need to prove that you were exposed to asbestos and who manufactured the asbestos products; depending on the circumstances, that may mean digging through decades-old purchase orders and other documents that identify where each product was made and distributed. You also need sufficient medical proof of your lung cancer or mesothelioma diagnosis and the associated damages.

Throughout the process, there are strict deadlines that must be met and legal hoops to jump through. And remember, you only get one shot at compensation. The right attorney will make that shot count.

If you were exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma, or if your loved one died of an asbestos-related disease, you have legal options. We can help. Contact the Ferrell Law Group today for a free, confidential consultation with an experienced asbestos attorney.

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