The September 11 terrorist attack had brought devastating effects not just because of the destruction to lives and property that occurred during that day, but because of its long-term consequences. The substances that emanated from such attack caused a lot of trouble to the people. Over 1,600 people filed legal action, with their claim that their health was damaged by dust and smoke from the collapsed Word Trade Center. It was revealed that by January 2, they need to make a choice if they will pursue with their lawsuit or not, and apply instead for benefits funded through government compensation.
Last winter, the lawmakers allotted $2.76 billion for the individuals who acquired diseases after being exposed to the ash-filled disaster site. However, in order to become eligible to the aid, the applicants need to drop any pending litigations by the set date; also, they should give up their right to file legal action regarding the 9/11-related health problems for life. Those who have still pending suits on January 3 will be forever excluded from the program.
The government program is enticing, since it does not require the person to prove that his sickness is due to the 9/11 attack. Nonetheless, applicants would not be able to determine for months or years the amount of money they will actually get from the program. This may imply that they may drop their lawsuits, then after some time they would discover that they only get a modest amount. Still, others may encounter a bigger problem. The people may have illnesses not presently covered in the ailments stipulated in the program (i.e. asthma, scarred lungs and respiratory problems). Cancer is not yet included in the list. However, some gave up their lawsuits thinking that someday cancer would be included.
According to New York police detective John Walcott, who retired after his AML diagnosis in 2003, he is hopeful that the country he has served will not let him down. His decision to drop the suit was made few days before Christmas, as he stated that he would get nothing with the legal system and he just wanted to move forward over this with his family.
Sheila Birnbaum, the in-charge of overseeing the compensation fund, knew that some people would have a tough time to decide, knowing that some illness may not be covered by the program. She still emphasized that the people need to make a choice. Furthermore, the application process for the program started in October and she believes that thousands would apply.
Additionally, the lawyers of those with pending lawsuits are still studying the benefits and detriments with their clients to make the better choice. Gregory Cannat, whose firm represents 100 individuals (inclusive of workers who repaired destroyed buildings and cleaners), said “It is a complicated analysis”. He further added that some of his clients opted to pursue their cases, hoping that they would get a larger amount than what they would get from the program. A large portion of the 5, 000 city workers, who filed cases, stated that the city was not able to give them protection from the dust. They settled their cases in 2010, prior to the creation of this compensation fund.
Walcott was among the few who were against the deal amounting to $700 million. He further explained that people who were able to make settlements before can apply for benefits from the government, and the benefits they would get will be decreased by the amount they obtained from the settlement,
Kreindler & Kreindler’s Noah Kushlefsky articulated the possibility of exhausting rapidly the compensation fund. He took into account the people who would apply having common sickness which may or may not have been caused by the 9/11 toxins. He added that if 1,000 people with malignancy will be added, $1 billion would be further trimmed. He also stated that the real issue is the number of 9/11-caused health cases present.
Indeed, the people are burdened to make a difficult decision—a decision that can make or break them and their future. No matter what, they need to weigh the possible consequences and choose the best option.