Who Will Care for Heroes Who Cared for Us on 9/11?
September 21, 2012
Last week I saw pictures of 9/11 first responders on a poster World Trade Center Health Program. The poster asked, “Who would care for these heroes?”
Although programs are around to help now, it’s unclear whether assistance will still be available first responders and others who develop mesothelioma years from now because if toxic 9/11 dust.
In fact, other sources of compensation for 9/11 victims have already started drying up. So it’s time to shed bring attention to the issue now.
Insurance Company Reaches 9/11 Asbestos Claim Limit
Earlier this year, American Home Assurance (AHA) announced it had reached its limit for paying World Trade Center asbestos claims. The company has paid more than $10 million to cover the claims of people who became sick after being exposed to asbestos dust at the World Trade Center site. As of April, it will no longer pay these claims.
AHA issued an insurance policy to Port Authority for the World Trade Center in 1966, before construction began for the towers. The company has compensated 9/11 injuries because it was aware that asbestos was used during the construction.
However, the policy was capped at $10 million per occurrence. Now that it has passed that limit, AHA says it’s no longer obligated to pay World Trade Center asbestos claims.
A Grim Reminder
AHA’s April announcement is a reminder that the clock is ticking when it comes to obtaining compensation for 9/11 asbestos claims. Policies impose dollar limits on how much insurance companies are required to pay for these claims.
Similarly, government programs limit how long they will operate to accept and pay claims. Unfortunately, time is not on mesothelioma patients’ side when it comes to getting assistance.
The situation is very similar to what many fear will happen with asbestos trusts and litigation: that asbestos bankruptcy trusts and asbestos lawsuit defendants will run out of money to pay future asbestos claims.
But for many 9/11 asbestos claimants, asbestos trusts and litigation may not be an option in the first place.
What Can Be Done
Whether or not we’re talking about 9/11, covering future asbestos claims is a complicated issue. But we still need to try. I’m just not sure we’re trying hard enough.
After 9/11, property insurers and business owners worried what would happen if there was another terrorist attack with extremely large property losses. They worried that if insurers couldn’t cover all claims, construction and other business projects would stall and the economy would decline.
Together they urged Congress to pass a law that guaranteed government assistance if insurer’s losses exceeded a certain amount. That law was called the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.
It wasn’t an easy sell and many weren’t sure if it was the right thing to do. But one thing was certain: lawmakers took the issue seriously and worked to come up with some kind of solution.
Surely aiding those who were at Ground Zero — people who may develop mesothelioma years from now — deserve the same attention from lawmakers. They risked their lives to help the nation move forward from tragedy. It would be wrong to continue moving forward without ensuring payment for their future asbestos claims.
So in honor of Mesothelioma Awareness Day next week, ask your senator or congressperson to consider this issue.
If you know a 9/11 first responder or someone else who was at Ground Zero, urge them to contact the World Trade Center Health Program about medical monitoring for mesothelioma and other 9/11 health hazards.