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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bridge victims' compensation fund an excellent idea

Some are calling for state lawmakers to establish a victims' compensation fund to provide some financial compensation to those affected by the 35W bridge collapse. For the precedent for such an action, one need only look to the victims' compensation fund set up by the federal government in the wake of 9/11. I think setting up such a fund is an excellent idea.

As it stands, the state's total exposure for all injuries and deaths stemming from the bridge tragedy is $1 million. There were 14 deaths and an as of yet undetermined number of people who received life-altering injuries. Officials say there were 100 or so cars they had to clear in the collapse area (90 of which have been cleared to date). If you divide that $1 million by even just the number of cars left at the bridge site, you get just $10,000 per car. It is unclear how the number of cars will ultimately correlate with the number of victims, but it gives you an idea of how paltry that $1 million cap is for an incident like this.

I think the state needs to take the initiative and set up a fund for the victims rather than trying to hide behind the liability cap -- not because it is legally required to do so (it isn't), but because it's the right thing to do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have overlooked the fundamental legal background in which the 9/11 fund operated. The fund was designed, in large part, to preempt the unimaginable number of lawsuits by 3000 deceased plaintiffs and their next of kin against every conceivable defendant--the airlines, Windows on the World Restaurant, Cantor Fitzgerald and every other employer, the WTC developers, architects, builders, NY State, NY City, the Boston airports commission, the INS, and everybody else in the long and twisted path that led to 9/11. What is the possible rational here for such a fund?

Minnesota had nearly 500 traffic fatalities last year. The bridge collapse, while tragic, will represent a mere 3% of automotive death in Minnesota this year. I understand you're job is to be provocative, but do you really believe that this unfortunate tragedy really requires a compensation fund? What if a tractor trailer jackknifes into a bus one day and kills a dozen people? A victim fund for that?

Also, frankly, the implicit comparison to 9/11 is a little uncomfortable. A few weeks ago, 14 people died by accident when the bridge collapsed. On September 11, 2001, a couple of guys murdered about 200 times that many people.