More than 10,000 rescue workers who were affected by toxic dust and debris after the September 11 attacks have accepted a minimum of $625m (£397m) in compensation.
The responders said they were made ill by the debris and dust which was thrown into the air when the twin towers collapsed – and US Government insurers confirmed that over 95 per cent of those eligible have now accepted the settlement, which means that their compensation claims will be dismissed.
The group of claimants, which includes fire fighters, police and paramedics as well as construction workers were all involved in the rescue efforts after Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked two planes which slammed into the World Trade Center.
Injury lawyer Paul Napoli welcomed the deal, agreed with 10,043 plaintiffs, saying that it avoided a longer legal battle for compensation. He said they had been negotiating the deal for more than two years and believed they had achieved the best possible result.
The level of compensation received by each individual will depend on the severity of their illness, and whether it can be determined that their condition is linked to the work done at the Ground Zero site.
It means that a non-smoker who developed a severe respiratory illness, like asthma, within seven months of exposure to Ground Zero could be in line to receive between $800,000 (£507,860) and just over a million dollars.
“This settlement is a fair and just resolution of these claims, protecting those who came to the aid of this city when we needed it most,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The agreement was conditional upon a minimum of 95 per cent of the claimants accepting the package, and the final figures could reach $712.5m (£452m) said Diana Posternsky, from financial communications firm Kest and Company. Some people who are healthy but fear that the exposure could cause them to become ill in the future may also be entitled to compensation.
The funds will be paid out by the WTC Captive Insurance Company, set up in July 2004. The fund was given a billion dollars in federal funds to pay for personal injury claims. Company president Christine LaSala said:
“I hope that this settlement will bring closure to the heroes on both sides of this litigation who did their best to repair this city and restore this community in those difficult days and months following 9/11.”