What is the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act?
The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act is a primary piece of legislation proposed by the United States government to expedite the administration of claims filed by individuals who are affected by asbestos exposure or asbestos poisoning. This particular legislation was deemed necessary to illuminate on asbestos victims’ rights. Before the passing of the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act, issues surrounding victims’ and just compensation were murky—it was difficult for legislators and the court system to negotiate terms that provided fair compensation to victims of asbestos exposure.
The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act creates laws and a procedural system to compensate individuals who develop asbestos-related illnesses as a result of over-exposure to the deadly mineral. Asbestos poisoning occurs when an individual perpetually inhales, over an extended period of time, asbestos fibers. These filaments are microscopic in size, but can easily lodge inside the lungs and air passageways. Once inside, these fibers adhere to the mesothelium—a two –layered protective membrane that surrounds the lungs. Over time, this shield is destroyed, leading to the formation of cancerous tumor cells. The cancerous bodies, which formed from the asbestos filaments, eventually proliferate to remote areas of the body.
Workplace exposures in industries that manufacture asbestos-based products pose the most significant risk to human beings. Asbestos poisoning is a known cause for an assortment of debilitating medical conditions, including lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma cancer. Unlike other toxin-related medical conditions, symptoms related to asbestos exposure have a prolonged latency period—formation of asbestos-related diseases may take anywhere from 20 to 40 years to become noticeable. Because of the grave health risks associated with asbestos exposure, those affected by asbestos fibers are awarded a legal right to compensation for previous workplace exposure.
The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act Defined:
The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act was originally proposed in 1999 as a means to address the assembly of legal suits filed by workers and individuals affected by the asbestos manufacturing industry. The intention of the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act was to create a centrally located office, run by the federal government, through which an asbestos-related suit and/or claim would be processed. Those affected by asbestos exposure are required to meet a certain set of medical criteria to become eligible under the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act.
Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act, in addition to expediting an individual’s ability to secure asbestos compensation, also seeks to establish a fund from which all eligible asbestos legal claims would be paid. By establishing a central office—once again run by the United States Federal Government—asbestos-affected patients are given a resource to establish their case and seek correspondence to aid in the filing.
The Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act—formally developed by the United States House of Representatives—includes 11 points that remain central to the ongoing debate regarding asbestos law. These characteristics or points address the widely-studied health risks associated with workplace asbestos exposure, the need for an established system for litigating asbestos claims and the lack of criteria for defining whether an asbestos claimant qualifies for asbestos compensation.
Some Features of the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act:
As stated above, the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act is broken down into multiple subcategories. Below is a description of some of the most influential:
The Injury Resolution Act: Modifications made in 2005 sought to establish funding on a federal level. This establishment was suggested to resolve discrepancies that arise from previous renditions. According to various government agencies, the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 2005 proposed a $140 billion national trust fund with the provision that the filing party’s attorney fees are capped at 5 percent of the asbestos settlement. This modified portion of the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act also incorporated a medical criteria requirement. In this fashion, legislation was not passed due to controversies surrounding caps on lawyer fees along with the medical requirement.
Claims Criteria Act:
Revisions to the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act were affirmed in 2003 and 2005 as an attempt to address the problems that prevented the first version of the bill from passing. The Compensation Act of 2003 and the Asbestos Claims Criteria sought to form private financing units for the creation of a national trust fund from which asbestos-disease sufferers would be compensated. The act also formally incorporated a stringent set of medical criteria for eligible asbestos sufferers. Attempts to pass this revision of the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act ultimately proved fruitless.
Effects of the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act:
Due to the complex issues surrounding asbestos worker rights, environmental health and consumer rights, or any laws involving asbestos exposure, requires input and the delivery of information from an assortment of government branches. The areas of government that impact asbestos legislation include the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An asbestos lawsuit claim filed against any asbestos company or manufacturing industry directly results in lost jobs and the filing of multiple bankruptcies. According to various research studies conducted by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy, the number of asbestos-related companies sued because of the formation of asbestos-related illnesses exceeded 8,000 in the 21st century.