Is new asbestos trust bill aimed at a nonexistent fraud problem?
Over the course of the last few decades, asbestos litigation has become a pervasive aspect of the American legal system. Millions have been exposed to asbestos and developed mesothelioma, lung cancer or some other asbestos-related illness. Whether exposed to asbestos in the course of military duty, in the course of employment or in some other manner, victims of asbestos-related illnesses often have legal recourse to secure compensation from their employers or from manufacturers of products containing asbestos.
Because there have been so many asbestos legal claims, a number of asbestos trusts have been established to hold assets of financially insolvent companies that bear responsibility for causing asbestos-related illnesses. These trusts ensure that even if companies that caused mesothelioma go bankrupt, there will still be a resource pool available to compensate victims. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, as of 2011, there were 60 asbestos trusts containing combined assets worth more than $37 billion.
In November, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to require public online disclosure of certain information about those who file claims against asbestos trusts. While the publically available information would not contain the names or Social Security numbers of asbestos victims who sought compensation for an asbestos-related injury, it would list other personal details.
Critics of the bill say it could delay payments to claimants who desperately need them
Supporters of the new bill claim that it would deter the filing of fraudulent asbestos claims. But, there is little actual evidence of fraud involving asbestos trusts. The Center for Justice & Democracy reported that the threat of fraudulent claims against asbestos trusts has been widely overblown, and government data puts the rate of erroneous payments from asbestos trusts at a mere 0.35 percent.
Meanwhile, the bill would require public disclosure of certain private information about asbestos victims, who are disproportionately military veterans exposed to asbestos in the course of duty. It would require asbestos funds to report quarterly on the claims filed and claims paid, which many experts fear would result in a delay of payments to legitimate claimants, many of whom are dying and in desperate need of money to cover medical bills.
The bill passed in the House on a vote of 229-191; it now moves to the Senate. While the bill’s future is uncertain, it is expected to be shelved in the Senate for the time being.
Call an asbestos litigation lawyer if an asbestos-linked illness has impacted your life
If you have been exposed to asbestos in the Navy, another branch of the armed services, through your employment or in your home, the bill should have no immediate effect on you. If it becomes law however, it might impact the expediency of your ability to recover compensation.
Asbestos-related diseases are very slow to develop, and may not become evident until many years after exposure. Even though it can take a long time to learn of an asbestos-related illness, as soon as you do, you should get in touch with an asbestos litigation attorney; the quicker you begin your legal case, the sooner you can expect compensation. With the potential of the new asbestos trust bill to slow some payments if it becomes law, it is especially important to act quickly in contacting a lawyer.
If you have developed an illness that you believe may be related to asbestos exposure, or if you have lost a loved one to an asbestos-related illness, get in touch with an asbestos litigation attorney today.