NEW YORK—First responder workers injured or afflicted in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, may receive as much as $712 million in compensation, according to a settlement offer by U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein announced on Thursday.
More than 11,000 firefighters, police officers, construction workers, and EMS workers suffered injury and experienced long-term respiratory problems due to inhaling the toxic dust that emitted from the rubble in and around ground zero. Workers who contracted severe respiratory problems like asthma within seven months of exposure to the WTC site could get between $800,000 and just over 1 million in compensation. Plaintiffs who don't have any qualifying injuries but have a fear of getting sick will get $3,250 each.
Under Judge Hellerstein's agreement, 95 percent of the 10,000 plaintiffs must agree on the settlement by Sept. 30. According to the court papers, the workers' compensation and benefits will continue in the future “without interruption or reduction.”
In a key agreement, attorney's fees will capped at 25 percent, which will reduce the cost by $50 million. From the $1 billion set aside by the federal government for covering insurance claims of 9/11 responders and workers, nearly $200 million has been sapped by administrative and legal fees, according to New York Rep. Jerold Nadler.
Several weeks ago, Judge Hellerstein said that they had reached a $657 million contract. Before that a $575 million contract was reached.
NY Reps Say Deal Not Enough
Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Carloyn Maloney, and Peter King, who all represent parts of New York, said the deal was a step in the right direction, but isn’t enough.
The three want to see a bill they authored, known as the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, get passed. The Zadroga Act would provide and extend benefits to the families of workers who perished doing rescue or cleanup work.
The three Congress members released a joint statement on Thursday.
“The settlement depends on continued federal funding of health care for the first responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks,” said Rep. Nadler. The best way to ensure that funding keeps going is to pass the Zadroga Act, he added.
The 11,000 first responders “deserve the maximum settlement possible” but are “a fraction of the more than 20,000 Americans” who became ill or injured in the aftermath of cleaning up ground zero, Rep. Maloney said.