The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution (FAIR) Act Frequently Asked Questions
Many of our asbestos clients have questions and expressed their concern over the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act (S. 2290), an asbestos bill introduced by Senator Arlen Specter (R- PA) to eliminate asbestos law suits in favor of a $140 billion trust fund.
Update: This bill was proposed in a previous session of Congress. Sessions of Congress last two years, and at the end of each session all proposed bills and resolutions that have not been passed are cleared from the books. This bill never became law.
Weitz & Luxenberg strongly opposed the formation of this fund. Since the possibility exists that Senator Specter or another member of Congress may try to re-introduce this bill in the next session of Congress, we continue to provide answers to some frequently asked questions both about the fund in general and about how it could impact our past, present, and future clients.
- Will my asbestos claim be affected by this bill?
- If I qualify for compensation, will I at least get my money faster?
- Where is the money coming from to form the asbestos trust?
- Will the bill affect how much money I am eligible to receive for my asbestos injuries?
- My claim has already been settled, but I haven't been paid yet. Will I be affected?
- What can I do to fight the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act?
Unfortunately, if the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act passes, it is likely your claim will be affected. As in current asbestos litigation, the severity of your asbestos injuries will be taken into consideration, and those determined to be more severely ill will receive greater monetary compensation. The bill also includes criteria regarding exposure levels and dates. For example, those exposed to asbestos after 1976 must prove a much higher level of exposure to be eligible for compensation from the trust. Those who would otherwise be able to sue asbestos manufacturers for compensation for their injuries will be unfairly excluded from collecting any money whatsoever, and those with the most severe asbestos-related injuries, such as mesothelioma, are likely to collect far less money than they would in a trial or settlement.
If I qualify for compensation, will I at least get my money faster?
We know how frustrating it is to wait for your asbestos claim to pay out. But the asbestos trust will not speed up payments, and is most likely to slow them down even further. There are currently over 500,000 claims that must first be dealt with before hundreds of thousands of new claims are ever examined. Each of these claims must be reviewed by a government claims officer, analyzed, and processed. The government has established no timeline for processing claims and finalizing pay outs, so delays in payment are likely to be very substantial.
Where is the money coming from to fund the asbestos trust?
The money in the trust will, in theory, come from companies responsible for each claimant’s asbestos exposure and those companies' insurers. Once an asbestos-manufacturing company makes their contribution, they will be protected from future asbestos lawsuits, and from lawsuits that are going to trial at the time of their pay out. Insurers of asbestos-manufacturing companies are now raising concerns, however, that the amount of money they are expected to contribute to the trust may cause them extreme financial difficulty. Ultimately, if insurers or the companies themselves cannot or will not make payments to the trust, the burden of financing it will fall on the American taxpayer.
Will the bill affect how much money I am eligible to receive for my asbestos injuries?
The bill will greatly reduce the amount of compensation to which asbestos claimants would typically receive in a lawsuit. Those who are diagnosed with Mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer will be limited to a maximum of one million dollars, and will most likely receive significantly less. The limits on financial compensation would mean that some asbestos-disease patients may not even receive a compensation amount that would cover their medical bills.
My claim has already been settled, but I haven't been paid yet. Will I be affected?
Asbestos claimants who have already proven they are entitled to compensation but who have not yet been paid will have to have their cases reviewed by government claims officers and will have to surrender the agreed pay out back to the company responsible for their asbestos exposure. Their case will then be subject to the restrictions of the asbestos trust, and any amount previously decided on in court will be thrown out.
What can I do to fight the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act?
While this bill is no longer being considered by Congress, it is important to continue to contact your government representatives and urge them to vote no on any legislation that may impact your rights to receive compensation for your asbestos-related illnesses. You can locate the contact information for your Senators here and you can locate information on your local congressman here.