9/11 Compensation for Wrongful Death

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There are critical facts and rules regarding who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim, timeframes for filing, how these claims are categorized, and how much money is awarded to each claimant.

Of the nearly 500,000 people who were exposed to the toxins at the 9/11 attack site, an estimated 35,000 are or will be diagnosed with cancer, illness or some form of injury. These include first responders, residents of the area, or anyone who was simply in the vicinity south of Canal Street between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002.

Compounding the tragedy of the figures listed above is that there have been more than 2,000 deaths from a 9/11 cancer or illness, of which only 720 claims for compensation have been filed by survivors. This is what is known as a wrongful death claim.

Compensation for a wrongful death claim is awarded by the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), a program designed by the federal government for victims and families of post-9/11 illnesses.

The timeframe for when a wrongful death claim can be filed expires two years after a victim’s date of death. As many families might not have been aware, however, of possible financial recompense, claims may still be filed after that two-year deadline.

Determination of whether cancer or other post-9/11-related illness requires submission of all relevant records (e.g., death certificate, autopsy report, medical treatment files, etc.), as well as proof of victims having been in the vicinity of the attack site (south of Canal Street) between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002.

The categories of wrongful death claims – and the amount of money awarded – is determined by the VCF as follows:

  • Personal injury pain and suffering: Awarded for period of time when victim was first diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness until the date of his or her death. The amount of money awarded ranges from $5,000 to $340,000.
  • Wrongful death pain and suffering: Awarded for pain and suffering related to victim’s death and is added to the “personal injury pain and suffering” classification. The amount of money awarded is $250,000.
  • Spouse and dependent awards: Awarded to victim’s surviving spouse and children. The amount of money awarded is $100,00 to each claimant.
  • Burial memorial services/funeral costs: Awarded to victim’s estate to compensate for out-of-pocket burial or memorial services. The amount of money awarded would be determined by the VCF.
  • Loss of earnings: Awarded to provide for economic loss to the victim’s beneficiaries for earnings lost from when he or she was unable to work due to a 9/11-related illness or injury. The amount of money awarded is dependent on the age of the victim, and the projected number of years he or she was expected to continue working until retirement. For example: In cases where the victim was younger, the award for future lost earnings would cover more years, while if the victim was older, the award would cover fewer years.
  • Replacement services losses: Awarded to victim’s beneficiaries for value of household-related tasks (e.g., cooking, cleaning) that victim could no longer perform as a result of his or her 9/11-related illness or injury. It should be noted the amount of money awarded to services losses are not awarded in addition to lost earnings. These particular claims are, for the most part, limited to instances when the 9/11 victim was not working at the time that he or she first got sick with a 9/11-related condition and does not have any lost earnings.

Further information and answers to any questions can be provided by Turley, Hansen & Rosasco, LLP.