In the fourth and final post on asbestos litigation in the 21st century, we will look at the results of the Wall Street Journal's investigation into the current status of the massive victim trust funds.
Established several decades ago, the funds have paid an estimated $17.5 billion to millions of asbestos victims. According to the Wall Street Journal's review of around 850,000 claims, there is cause for concern about the future of this compensation source.
After already paid $17.5 billion on claims, the funds have around $18 billion left. But while new mesothelioma cases are thankfully beginning to slow, claims to one of the largest trusts have tripled since 2007. To respond to this continued demand, half of the trusts have cut the amount of new payments at least once in the last two years. The median payment amount fell around 15 percent.
This is apparently because trusts are trying to preserve assets to fund future payouts.
Another problem faces the funds' long-term ability to appropriately compensate all victims. Fraudsters are apparently beginning to take advantage of the available money. Out of the 850,000 cases reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, it discovered what it describes as "numerous apparent anomalies." These include some transparently fraudulent claims.
All of this makes it important for victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions to come forward and consult with a toxic tort lawyer as soon as symptoms become apparent. While some victims may still be able to pursue existing companies in lawsuits, compensation is still available from the trusts - an experienced lawyer can help prepare claims on behalf of asbestos victims.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "As Asbestos Claims Rise, So Do Worries About Fraud," Dionne Searcey and Rob Barry, Mar. 11, 2013