World Trade Center-Ground Zero Deadline Extended Nov. 8th

The Associated Press (AP) is breaking with news about a deadline extension for thousands of Ground Zero workers to settle lawsuits over exposure to the toxic dust that covered the <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/world_trade_center_emergency_workers">World Trade Center (WTC) following the 9/11 attacks. Some 10,000 Ground Zero workers say they became ill as a result of their rescue, recovery, and clean-up efforts in the days and months following the attacks.

Attorneys involved pushed back the September 8th deadline that enabled workers to accept or reject a settlement estimated to be worth some $713 million, noted the AP, extending the deadline to November 8th. The extension was made due to “unexpected logistical delays” said WTC Captive Insurance Co., the insurance entity Congress created to defend the City against litigation related to the attacks, said the AP. Workers who join in the settlement must drop legal claims against the City and demolition companies involved in the clean-up in exchange for payments ranging anywhere from a few thousand to over $1 million, noted the AP.

WTC Captive President and CEO Christine LaSala said the extension is being made to enable plaintiffs more time to speak to their attorneys. Apparently, noted the AP, some workers did not receive their letters detailing potential settlement amounts until a few weeks ago. Some debates about legal fees related to the case were also cited as one of the reasons for the extension.

Since 2003, upwards of 10,000 firefighters, police officers, construction workers, and emergency responders have filed lawsuits against 90 defendants over illnesses they say were caused by exposure to toxic dust at Ground Zero following the attacks. They also allege that the defendants, including New York City, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and construction companies, failed to adequately supervise and protect them with safety equipment during rescue and clean-up efforts.

According to a prior AP report, approximately half of those covered in the settlement either aren’t ill or suffer from minor issues but became involved over fears of future illness. Plaintiffs claiming fear of future illness, but who do not present with an injury that qualifies under the settlement accord, will receive smaller payouts of 3,250 to $11,000. About 94 percent of the settlement, said the AP, will go toward the most serious illnesses—lung cancer, emphysema—while one-quarter will pay legal fees. Individual settlements will be based on illness severity; how much time the plaintiff spent at the WTC site; and other issues including age, health history, and if the illness can be associated with WTC dust, explained the AP.

Before the deal can be considered final, it must receive majority approval—95 percent—from the plaintiffs, said the AP previously; the exact amount is dependent on how many people accept and could pay anywhere from $625 to $712.5 million, said the AP, noting that if 600 decline, the entire deal is null. To date, said the AP, over 5,000 people—about half the workers—have agreed to the deal, which is favorable, but not complete, citing WTC Captive.

Meanwhile, the Hamptons.com reports that Ground Zero Workers have until Monday, September 13 to register with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board to ensure future benefit eligibility. “I urge each of these heroes who performed that important work to register his or her service,” said Chair Robert E. Beloten, quoted Hamptons.com. “Workers’ compensation is insurance for medical care and a cash benefit if your ability to work is impaired. It is vital that workers preserve their eligibility for insurance that will benefit themselves and their families, even if they are not now injured or ill,” Beloten added.

Since its introduction in 2006, 35,980 people have filed WTC Workers Compensation paperwork, to date, said Hamptons.com. Although not a claim, the documents enable employee and volunteer workers to file future claims if the Board is notified of their Ground Zero clean-up efforts. According to Hamptons.com, those involved in the cleanup in and around Canal Street; Fresh Kills Landfill; and on the barges, piers, and morgues, up until September 12, 2002, should file, regardless of the length of their service.

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