Understanding the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund 

Understanding the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund 

March 12, 2018 | World Trade Center

Anyone who was old enough, will always remember where we were and what we were doing the day the world stopped and everything froze as the images of the World Trade Towers collapsing filled TV screens across the country. Even all of these years later we still feel the effects of it and we still remember that great tragedy.  For victims and their families, those who lost loved ones and those who struggle now daily with life-changing injuries, will also never forget that day.  Even those who were not injured or killed directly by the attack also have suffered as thousands of rescue teams and emergency responders later became sick due to exposure to toxins during rescue and cleanup work. The world rallied around these people and may fought for their right to be compensated for their sacrifice and for their injuries.

Legal Agreements and Proceedings

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was created by an Act of Congress, the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act (49 USC 40101), shortly after 9/11 to compensate the victims of the attack (or their families). In exchange for this, the families and individuals who were awarded compensation had to verify and secure their pledge that they would not ever try to sue the airline corporations that were involved in the tragedy. Experience attorney and social advocate Kenneth Feinberg was appointed by Attorney General John Ashcroft to be Special Master of the fund that would award the victims their compensations. He worked for 33 months pro bono in connection with the initial proceedings and hearings to hammer out the details. He established the guidelines governing the management and dispersal of the fund and oversaw all aspects of the program for that time period.

“Feinberg was responsible for making the decisions on how much each family of a victim would receive. Feinberg had to estimate how much each victim would have earned in a full lifetime. If a family accepted the offer, it was not possible to appeal. Families unhappy with the offer were able to appeal in a nonadversarial, informal hearing to present their case however they wanted. Feinberg personally presided over more than 900 of the 1,600 hearings. At the end of the process $7 billion was awarded to 97% of the families; the average payout was $1.8 million. A non-negotiable clause in the acceptance papers for the settlements was that the families were to never file suit against the airlines for any lack of security or otherwise unsafe procedures” (Wikipedia).

Problems With the VCF

While a lot of good was done by the work of the WTC VCF there were some arguments and problems that were brought up against the settlements and this was the fact that many of the World Trade Center victims were very well off financial professionals who had a lot of income that was lost due to the tragedy. Many of the families of these victims felt the compensation offers were too low, and they believed that if they had brought a case to court on their own as an individual case they would have been awarded a higher amount based on that loss of income. This concern had to be taken into regard against the fact that it would have taken a lot of time to do thousands of individual cases and there was a very real chance that the airlines would be out of business before that many individual cases could have been tried and payments made. The money in the VCF is a separate fund from the similarly named September 11th Fund, and from the World Trade Center Captive Insurance Company.

VCF Facts You Need to Know

According to an article by CNN, here are a few fast facts about the VCF:

  • From 2001 to 2003, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) processed claims relating to injuries and deaths caused by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
  • In 2011, the fund was re-opened to compensate first responders and individuals who later experienced health problems related to 9/11.
  • The WTC Health Registry monitors the health of registrants who were directly exposed to the disaster.
  • The fund received 7,408 claim submissions from 75 countries. Awards were made in 5,560 of those cases and totaled over $7 billion.
  • The fund received 2,963 death claims. This accounted for more than 98% of eligible families. Funds were distributed in 2,880 of these cases. The average award was $2,082,128 and went as high as $7.1 million.
  • The fund received 4,445 personal injury claims. VCF Payouts were distributed in 2,680 of these cases. The awards ranged from $500.00 to $8.6 million. The money was tax-free.

If you or a loved one was in Lower Manhattan below Canal Street at any time between 9-11-2001 and 5-30-2002, you may have the right to claim damages from the VCF. Contact us today to find out if you are eligible to file.

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