The grief you feel after losing a loved one to a 9/11-related illness can be unbearable. While no amount of money could ever adequately compensate you for your loss, you may be entitled to an award from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to help relieve the economic burden on your family. Significantly, the family members of a responder or survivor who passed away in connection with a 9/11 health condition may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim to recover their economic and non-economic losses.
Who Can File a VCF Wrongful Death Claim?
Only the personal representative of the victim’s estate is eligible to file a deceased claim with the VCF. No matter how close the relation, this individual must have first obtained Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration from the probate court to have been granted this authority. However, in certain cases where a probate proceeding could not be opened, the Special Master may appoint a personal representative for the limited purpose of filing a VCF claim.
When Can You File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In order to be eligible to file a VCF wrongful death claim, certain requirements must be met. Pursuant to the Zadroga Act, the deceased individual must meet the following criteria:
- They must have been a 9/11 responder or survivor
- They must have been present in the NYC Exposure Zone in the timeframe defined as the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks
- They must have had an eligible 9/11-related health condition certified by the WTC Health Program
- The 9/11-related health condition must have caused the death
In the event the victim’s passing was not caused by their 9/11-related illness, the VCF would evaluate the death certificate to determine whether the 9/11-related condition was a significant factor that contributed to their death or was an underlying cause.
For victims who passed away before July 29, 2019, VCF registration must have been completed by July 29, 2021. However, there is a VCF registration deadline of two years from the date of death for victims who pass after July 29, 2019. In the event a victim had already filed a VCF claim prior to passing away due to their 9/11-related health condition, a new deceased claim will need to be submitted by the personal representative. If the victim passed away from causes other than their 9/11 illness, an amendment to their personal injury claim must be filed.
What Compensation Is Available in a VCF Wrongful Death Claim?
It’s important to understand that there are two parts to a VCF award for a deceased claim — the wrongful death award and the victim’s personal injury award. Each is calculated separately. Specifically, the personal injury award is meant to compensate a victim for the losses they suffered due to their 9/11-related illness while they were alive. The wrongful death award provides monetary compensation to the family of a 9/11 responder or survivor for the non-economic and economic losses they suffered due to the loss of their loved one.
The VCF may compensate the following as part of an economic loss award:
- Lost earnings and employment benefits
- Unreimbursed medical expenses
- Replacement services loss
- Burial and memorial service expenses
Under the Zadroga Act, the VCF may issue a non-economic loss award of $250,000 on behalf of the victim — and $100,000 on account of the victim’s spouse and each dependent.
Contact an Experienced 9/11 VCF Attorney
Understanding the requirements to file a wrongful death claim with the VCF can be confusing. A knowledgeable VCF attorney can guide you through the process and help ensure you obtain the VCF compensation you deserve for the loss of your loved one. 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.