Hold the lawsuits

9/11 victims' families should seek federal funds

Although it may be surprising to some, the organization that represents the nation's trial lawyers is asking the families of 9/11 victims to consider applying to the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund rather than suing. Not only the families, but the entire country would benefit from such an approach.

The fastest, surest thing the families can do to begin rebuilding their lives and easing their financial burdens is to take advantage of the federal compensation fund. The principal reason we urged the creation of the fund and are working to encourage its use is that it will provide prompt and certain economic assistance to the families. A decision will be made within 120 days of the filing of a claim, and payment no more than 20 days after the decision.

Litigation would provide neither speed nor certainty.

The fund is a way to bring about some justice and economic compensation for the families, help them achieve some sense of closure and allow the healing to begin.

That's why my organization has created Trial Lawyers Care, the largest free legal assistance project in history, to help the victims' families. More than 2,000 volunteer lawyers are helping more than 1,400 of the families, with additional requests for assistance coming in every day.

Under the terms of the fund, each family's case is evaluated individually - this is not a one-size-fits-all plan. Anyone who suffered physical injury or lost a family member in the attack is eligible. Each eligible claimant is assured $250,000 for nonfinancial losses (such as loss of companionship) and an additional $100,000 for each spouse or child, as well as compensation based on expected lifetime earnings - all tax-free.

The most important reason for victims' families to consider the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, and for the nation to support their doing so, is that compensation is certain, with no necessity for proving liability or negligence. Those who have considered lawsuits must keep in mind the reality that even after many long, painful years in court, they may never receive any compensation, given the extraordinary circumstances of this unprecedented attack against America.

For more information on the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund and how victims' families can have a free lawyer represent them, contact Trial Lawyers Care toll-free at (888) 780-8637 or http://www.911lawhelp.org/.

Alexander is president of the
Association of Trial Lawyers of America.