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Can You Sue If You Believe a Doctor or Product Manufacturer Contributed to Your 9/11 Illness — and Still File a VCF Claim?

9/11 illness

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was established to ensure that responders and survivors obtain monetary recovery for their 9/11-related health conditions. But it’s important to understand that certain criteria must be met to file a claim. In addition to proving presence in the NYC Exposure Zone and obtaining certification from the WTC Health Program, you must waive the right to participate in most 9/11-related lawsuits. The waiver requirement includes claims against doctors and product manufacturers based on the legal theory that they contributed to or exacerbated your 9/11-related illness.  

Why Are Medical Malpractice and Product Liability Lawsuits Impermissible?

The VCF is an alternative to litigation. Pursuant to the Zadroga Act, a VCF claimant may not have an active 9/11-related lawsuit at the time they submit their claim or file an amendment — except for claims brought under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act and the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund. Specifically, the waiver requirement includes any lawsuits brought in state or federal court for damages sustained in connection with the terrorist attacks or injuries arising from the debris removal. All 9/11 lawsuits must be identified and disclosed to the VCF when filing a claim.

A lawsuit brought against a doctor for medical malpractice in connection with a 9/11 illness falls within the terms of the lawsuit waiver requirements set forth in the statute. In order to be eligible for compensation from the VCF, when you file your claim, you must waive your right to participate in such lawsuits and meet any applicable settlement or dismissal deadlines. Similarly, a responder or survivor may not pursue a legal action for product liability against a product manufacturer — such as a medical equipment manufacturer or pharmaceutical company — based on the theory that it caused, contributed to, or exacerbated the 9/11 health condition.    

What Are the Settlement and Dismissal Deadlines?

If you had commenced a 9/11-related lawsuit against a doctor or product manufacturer before submitting a VCF claim, you may still be able to recover compensation from the VCF if you withdrew or dismissed the action. But it’s crucial to be aware that the VCF has specific requirements when it comes to the deadline by which a 9/11 lawsuit must have been filed, withdrawn, dismissed, settled, or released — a responder or survivor cannot file a VCF claim unless the 9/11-related lawsuit was withdrawn no later than January 2, 2012. 

Generally, if you settled a lawsuit to which the required waiver applies after the specified deadline, you would not be eligible for an award from the VCF. This rule applies even if you had not been diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness or your condition was not certified by the WTC Health Program at the time the lawsuit was filed or settled.  

The VCF will accept claims with settled 9/11-related lawsuits if the following conditions are met:

  • The lawsuit was filed after December 22, 2003, and a release of claims was tendered before January 2, 2011, and
  • You dismissed any remaining claims that were not settled on or before January 2, 2012  

While the VCF can make exceptions when there has been an untimely dismissal of a lawsuit, it cannot make exceptions for untimely settlements under the statutory guidelines. If you tendered a release after January 2, 2011, you would not be eligible to receive an award from the VCF. However, it should be noted that the VCF imposes later settlement dates for claims filed before November 16, 2016, in connection with certain newly covered conditions.  

Contact an Experienced New York City 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney

If you are a 9/11 responder or survivor diagnosed with a 9/11-related health condition, you may be eligible to receive a monetary award from the VCF. However, the VCF’s registration and claim filing procedures can often be confusing. It is essential to have the representation of a knowledgeable VCF attorney who can help you navigate the process and ensure that you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled. 

The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorneys at The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. have represented claimants and their families in 9/11 VCF claims for over a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today. 


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