Controversial FACT Act would create new obstacles for asbestos victims

The FACT Act, or Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, is a controversial piece of federal legislation that could dramatically affect the ability of people suffering from asbestos-related medical conditions to receive compensation through the legal system and asbestos trusts.

Public disclosure of private information

If passed into law, the FACT Act would allow asbestos companies to require public disclosure of private, confidential information about asbestos trust claimants, including claimants' identifying details as well as private medical, financial and employment information. Critics of the legislation say it is designed to invade the confidential relationship between attorney and client and to create additional obstacles for asbestos victims who seek compensation from the trusts. Furthermore, opponents of the FACT Act say, the bill represents a tremendous invasion of privacy that would put claimants at risk of being targeted for identity theft and other criminal activity.

Proponents of the FACT Act (asbestos defendants who haven't gone bankrupt) claim that the legislation is necessary to protect against fraud by asbestos victims who file claims for compensation from company trusts. However, a report released by the Government Office of Accountability revealed that although the potential for fraud is theoretically possible, no actual cases of fraud have been identified despite widespread audits of the asbestos trusts. Furthermore, the GAO noted in its report, each trust is focused on ensuring that each claim meets all necessary eligibility criteria.

Compensation for asbestos victims

Over the last several decades, millions of Americans have died or become seriously ill as a result of occupational exposure to asbestos. Asbestos, a human carcinogen, is known to cause debilitating medical conditions such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, killing an estimated 10,000 individuals each year in the United States.

There are currently 60 different asbestos company trusts containing a total of $37 billion in assets, according to the Wall Street Journal. Congress provided for these trusts as a way to help companies to fulfill their financial obligations to asbestos victims while also filing for bankruptcy, which has allowed most of those companies to continue operating.

Although the asbestos trusts have been highly successful in allowing companies to remain economically viable, they typically do not provide full compensation to the ill and injured asbestos victims who are the intended beneficiaries of the trusts. In fact, according to a RAND report, the median payment made by asbestos trusts is just 25 percent of a claim's actual value, and many claimants receive much less.

An asbestos exposure lawyer can help

If you or a loved one is suffering from a medical condition that you believe may be the result of asbestos exposure, consult with an experienced attorney to discuss the possibility of filing a claim for compensation. A lawyer with extensive knowledge of asbestos trusts can help you evaluate your claim and can be a powerful advocate on your behalf to help you and your family secure the maximum compensation you are entitled to.