World Trade Center BuildingsThe September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks resulted in enormous human and financial losses. It also resulted in many lawsuits. Although many 9/11 victims were compensated within a few years, lawsuits filed by "Ground Zero" workers claiming to have contracted 9/11-related illnesses caused by environmental conditions took much longer to resolve. The situation was particularly complex because these lawsuits were heard individually instead of being combined into a single class-action lawsuit.

Thousands of Lawsuits Have Been Filed

The 9/11 attacks caused perhaps the worst environmental disaster in New York City history. In 2004, more than 9,000 Ground Zero workers filed lawsuits against dozens of government agencies and private contractors. These lawsuits claimed that the defendants didn't do enough to prevent the workers from contracting a variety of illnesses that can result from working in a toxic environment like Ground Zero. The plaintiffs were mainly firefighters, police officers, and construction workers who participated in rescue and cleanup efforts after the attacks.

The Defendants Vigorously Challenged the Lawsuit

The Ground Zero plaintiffs sought compensation for physical illnesses such as cancer and respiratory diseases caused by bad air quality. The defendants claimed that there is no proven link between conditions at Ground Zero and the diseases for which the plaintiffs sued. The City of New York claimed legal immunity from the lawsuit because 9/11 qualifies as a national emergency, noting that local taxpayers must pay any damages awarded against the city.

Compensation Has Been Approved

In 2011, a settlement of $712 million was approved by over 95 percent of the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs with severe illnesses will receive up to $1.8 million. The fund will primarily cover the monitoring and treatment of lung illnesses. In 2011, President Obama signed the Zadroga Act, which provides billions of dollars for treatment and monitoring for 9/11 victims. The plaintiffs as well as other people who lived and worked in the area are eligible for this program. Although cancer treatment is not yet covered, it may be covered in the future if scientific research provides a strong link between 9/11 environmental conditions and cancer.

The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Covers Economic Losses

The Zadroga Act also reactivated the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which was originally shut down in 2003. This fund compensates victims who have become partially or totally disabled due to 9/11-related illnesses. In particular, it compensates victims for economic losses such as the inability to work. It also compensates victims for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.

A Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding personal injury as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a personal injury lawyer.

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