The Quest for Fairness in Compensating Victims of September 11
31 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2003
Aside from natural disasters, when tragedy strikes - taking its toll in fatalities and serious injuries - we ordinarily look to the tort system for redress. Tort is not the exclusive form of redress, of course, in this era of private insurance and government disability programs. But still, it remains our most highly visible mechanism for assigning responsibility and providing compensation. So, we ordinarily look to tort. But there was nothing "ordinary" about September 11, 2001. And that includes how our legal system responded to the plight of injury victims of that horrific day. Within less than two weeks of September 11, Congress took action, funding a special compensation scheme for the victims and survivors of the terrorist acts, entitled the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, which provides "no-fault" benefits; that is, compensation for physical harm without the necessity of establishing wrongful conduct as a basis for recovery.
In this paper, I begin by describing the approach to compensation taken in the Victim Compensation Fund. I then discuss the implementing regulations promulgated by the Special Master appointed under the Fund. Next, I offer a preliminary assessment of the significance of the Fund for the survivors of those who perished, as well as the seriously injured. And finally, I speculate more broadly about the significance of the Fund for how we address the continuing problem of compensating victims of unexpected harm.
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