Victims' families of Sept. 11 attack to get average of $1.5 million.
December 21, 2001 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Victims' families of Sept. 11 attack to get average of $1.5 million. Will this include the families of those who are still listed as missing instead of dead? Is the compensation structure fair? Should the families have to give up most of their rights to sue (and who would they be able to sue)?
posted by bakiwop (19 comments total)
 


How lucky. The average joe who forgets to look both ways before crossing the street doesn't get such a largess.



What are these families getting "compensated" for again? Can someone tell me?
posted by Witold at 9:12 AM on December 21, 2001


US foreign policy.
posted by tolkhan at 9:36 AM on December 21, 2001


Your 'average Joe' example died because he made an unfortunate miscalculation in crossing the street. World Trade Centre and Pentagon deaths were the result of a number of more complex issues - they were innocent pawns in an international game of Chicken, a game helped along by North American mindsets that say things like a fast check in time at the airport is more important than safety, and that the bottom line is more important than manning airport safety checkpoints with carefully trained security officers.



Also, when your average Joe gets hit by a car and dies, the owner of the car can be sued for damages. Check out the amount of some of the auto settlements in states like Michigan.
posted by kristin at 9:40 AM on December 21, 2001


They are being compensated for, among other things, giving up their rights to sue the airlines, their employers, the Port Authority (the owner of the World Trade Center), the property management companies at the World Trade Center, etc.



The thing I worry about -- and I know this is very Chicago School of me -- is the so-called "moral hazard" problem. Because life insurance payments are deducted from the benefits to be received, in effect, families of those who bought life insurance are being penalized by the present value of all their premiums. One of the very most important we do in structuring the economy is properly to incentivize people to insure against risks -- this disincentive proper risk management.
posted by MattD at 9:42 AM on December 21, 2001


IMHO every victim's family should get the same amount of money. It's ridiculous to give a stockbroker's family more because their standard of living is higher than, say, the family of a busboy. Total BS. I've lost all faith in giving money to charities and it's been ages since I had faith in the government.
posted by fleener at 9:50 AM on December 21, 2001


I know it's nowhere near as serious, but what about everyone who lives in New York City and breathed in all that asbestos-laden dust? If people develop lung cancer down the line because of this, is the fed govt going to pick up the tab?
posted by panopticon at 10:01 AM on December 21, 2001


This is wrong in so many ways. I was fairly repulsed by the number of folks here in Seattle rounding up coin for New York when massive Boeing lay-offs loomed over the carcasses of fallen dotcom efforts. Nobody was collecting for those hosed by corporate greed and mismanagement and can't pay their electric bills, but die in a spectacular building collapse and it's all good, so much so that the government will happily arrange for you to receive literally millions of dollars. It just makes me shake my head.
posted by shagoth at 10:13 AM on December 21, 2001


IMHO every victim's family should get the same amount of money. It's ridiculous to give a stockbroker's family more because their standard of living is higher than, say, the family of a busboy. Total BS. I've lost all faith in giving money to charities and it's been ages since I had faith in the government.

i don't think the payments are intended to compensate victims for the attack; they're intended to ensure that the families can function economically without their loved ones. (sort of like life insurance - someone correct me if i'm wrong about that.) if they were just getting paid for their bad luck, i'd agree with fleener's egalitarian distribution of the money, but there are other factors to consider if the real objective is to make sure the families come out okay economically. if you gave everyone an equal lump sum, you're not taking into account the number of dependents in the family, their expenses, which may realistically be disparate for reasons that have nothing to do with chosen standards of living, (i.e., not just because the 'rich guys live in bigger houses.')

insurance companies and policy makers have to calculate the value of a human life all the time, and as callous as it may seem, a good part of that calculation is based on the person's potential economic contributions to society. A PhD is, by default, going to be worth more than an uneducated person with the same basic attributes by virtue of their earning power. fleener's argument seems to be based on an assumption that no one deserves 'more' by virtue of essential equality as human beings, which is irrelevant if the goal truly is economic stability for the families.
posted by lizs at 10:28 AM on December 21, 2001


The payout will be calculated based on the combination of economic loss -- what the person would have earned -- and non-economic loss -- pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of consortium.
Whether or not the value of a person's life can be calculated in reference to their occupation/education, the way North America looks to financial compensation as a salve for emotional loss is flawed. Even if it is just a formality to acknowledge personal trauma, to apply a mathematical equation to emotional loss is so natural to us (perhaps because of the insurance industry) the absurdity of it is lost. Dollars are band-aids, they do little to heal wounds in the psyche. I hope the government will be equally prepared to absorb the cost of a mental health crisis which will not affect people based on economics. America has never seen this kind of post disaster fallout before. This kind of suffering has an unpredictable gestation period and numbers are mere estimates. Using other international tragedies as a guide, we can be certain we have not yet seen the worst of the emotional suffering involved
posted by deer at 11:50 AM on December 21, 2001


Keep in mind, you will earn 1.5 million over your life. Okay, not everyone..but most will. You won't earn it in one lump sum, but you will earn it. A person making 150,000 will earn it in 10 years. A person earning 50 will make it.in 30 years, (and you could calculate even the most modest pay increases and inflation to make it sooner than30 years.)

So in a sense, the USA is simply giving their families the income they would have contriubuted had they lived.

Dollars are band-aids, they do
little to heal wounds in the psyche.


Its true, but tell that to a widow who has morgtage payments due.
posted by brucec at 1:31 PM on December 21, 2001


All other considerations aside (and I think that there are many worthy considerations regarding this action), what about victims of other terrorist actions. Like Oklahoma City (Salon story, dated today).
posted by yesster at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2001


They are being compensated for, among other things, giving up their rights to sue the airlines

Too late. Someone has already filed a wrongful death suit against United.
posted by RylandDotNet at 2:49 PM on December 21, 2001


The woman who filed suit against United will be excluded from the settlement by law.

i don't think the payments are intended to compensate victims for the attack; they're intended to ensure that the families can function economically without their loved ones.

This is all fine and good, but why is it that these particular loved ones get this benefit, when other victims of murder do not? They are left to try to scrape together whatever means of support they can find -- selling their homes, taking on additional jobs, liquidating assets, with very little (or no) help from the federal government unless you count a very piddly check from Social Security as "help." And you only get that if there are kids, and then only until they've graduated from high school, and that help is offset a dollar for every two that you earn over $12,000 a year -- gross.

My friend Sam was murdered a few years ago. A stupid junkie neighbour walked up to him and shot him point blank in the head for the piddly sum in his wallet. (Sam was a student and minister and poorer than the proverbial church mouse and the neighbour knew so, because everyone in the community was broke, that's why they lived there.) Sam's wife and three kids have had no help at all, save the charitable contributions from their community of faith -- expended after two months -- and a $103/month social security check. They now live with her parents, she owns nothing because she sold everything when she moved, to get a nest egg to pay bills. Now she works a $8/hour clerical job to pay her way.

Would that the woman I saw on O'Reilly bitching because she's only gotten enough charity to pay her Nutley, New Jersey mortgage for six months were forced to sell her McSuburb crackerbox house and go work an $8 clerical job just to survive. There's a pervasive sense of entitlement being promoted here, and strangely enough, it seems to have most deeply infected those who had the most to start with -- but that's another essay for another day.
posted by Dreama at 3:24 PM on December 21, 2001


It is nice to know that as we return to a more nearly normal life we have these arguements about who should get how much and who did not get enough and who was neglected and who has friends who got killed and got little or nothing...all sounds like going over a will and being elated or angered. MONEY.
ps: whoever mentioned the compensation was for Amreican foreign policy ought to ask if our rebuilding of Germany and driving Hilter out of business was also a fine example of our terrible policies. That "pay back" nonsense does not wash with most reasonable people but seems to with the fundamentalist mind and those bitter about American status in the world.
posted by Postroad at 4:25 PM on December 21, 2001


Regarding the poster's factual question... "the families of those who are still listed as missing instead of dead?"
For practical purposes, no one is still considered "missing"
in the trade center disaster. Those on the list are presumed dead, and it is possible to apply for a death certificate even without identified remains. Identifications are moving ahead quite quickly, using DNA, as more bodies and parts are found deeper in the site.
posted by Palafo at 4:36 PM on December 21, 2001


Who would they sue? How about the airlines for their shitty security?

Am I really the only person who remembers those news stories from last year about "air rage", in which drunk or mentally disturbed passengers disrupted flights and sometimes even broke into airline cockpits? The major airlines knew there was a security problem, but didn't want to spend the extra money to strengthen cockpit doors. Now they've paid the price, but thanks to lobbying, they can't be sued over it.
posted by Potsy at 4:40 PM on December 21, 2001


Boy, I should have put on my hip-high waders for this one.

First, note that charity monies received are not being counted against the federal compensation, though insurance policy payouts are. MattD has a good point here, though part of the point is -- I think -- to avoid having life insurance policy owners being questioned about what floor they work on and having their premiums jacked as a result. Terrorism is such an anomalous event it's hard to see how the actuarial tables and other risk assessments can account for it.

What are people being compensated for? Again, MattD is correct: They're being asked to take this e asy money instead of burdening the legal system, forcing insurers to shoulder the burden, and (again) the need for insurance premiums to rise as a result. Note that the United States is generally immune from lawsuit claims, even though it could easily be argued in court that US government actions played a role in the deaths -- from lax security at Logan, to lousy coordination while the planes were in air, permitting three successful strikes. Here's another part of that: lawsuits against other parties will thus disproportionately affect those other parties, simply because the US will never be forced to pay out. Thus, compensation linked to a renunciation of lawsuit rights.

This was all pretty much foreshadowed by the 2000 Victims of Terrorism law; last year noone coulud have foreseen how soon, or to what extent, that law would come into play. At that time, if you factor out the OKC domestic bombing, Americans were killed by terrorists overseas at the rate of only one every two or three weeks.

The taxpayers may eventually be compensated for this, in the form of conversion of frozen assets, if the US sues those organizations itself.

As for the missing/dead issue, it is possible to get a death certificate under a speeded-up process if you have sufficient documentation but still no body. Someone probably would have to do this or forgo the compensation. In other words, it's a legal matter rather than real-world.

The compensation structure, which starts with a flat payout for pain and suffering, expanded to cover the number of dependents, and then a highly variable figure depending on age, salary, and other factors, is in line with other compensation programs for dead public servants (e.g. firefighters). A flat payout may seem egalitarian to some, but grossly distorted to others. It is certainly one aspect of our capitalistic society that certain persons are valued in the work force more than others, which is borne out in the real-world formulas and figures for lawsuit awards given by juries, and it is not the job of this compensation program to change that. Certainly whatever system is chosen will fail to make all parties happy.
posted by dhartung at 4:45 PM on December 21, 2001


As for legal targets, the airlines are just the obvious ones. The city of new york/port authority had a command bunker in 7 World Trade Center that had large diesel tanks in violation of the city code that probably led to the collapse of that structure. The steel in the two towers may have had inadequate fireproofing. There may have been errors in the way the evacuations were handled (people in the second tower to be hit were told to go back to their offices shortly before the second plane hit.)
posted by Slagman at 5:33 PM on December 21, 2001


If you want your family to be compensated if you die, you better buy life insurance. There are plenty of companies who offer this service. We don't need the government to force its citizens to cough up extra tax dollars to compensate a few citizens who may or may not have bought enough for their families. Those who wanted to help the victims' families did a fine job donating over $1.4 billion on their own. Yes, I was one of those people.

Death is sad for those who remain behind, and money is necessary to sustain life. However, the families of those who died on September are no more deserving of a "special payment" from their taxpaying neighbors than the families of the other 2,393,000 people who lost their lives this year.

2.3 million deaths * $1.5 million each = $3.5 trillion per year in benefits
Let's convince our government to stop with the special treatment. Give the money back to the taxpayers so they can beef up their life insurance policies and protect their families.
posted by hitsman at 6:53 PM on December 21, 2001


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