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Charities and Victim Compensation Funds

Page history last edited by Steve Escher 15 years, 2 months ago

Victim Compensation Fund                                                                  





A priority for the Minnesota 2008 Legislative session has been authorizing a State Compensation Fund for the victims of the I-35W bridge collapse. Supporters of this fund hope to have a law establishing the account to be passed sometime this spring. Because the state owns the bridge many feel that it should be responsible for helping out the victims. There are big differences between the House and Senate versions for the Victim Compensation bill. The House has no limits on how much each person can receive from the state, while the Senate limits each claim to a maximum of $400,000. (4)


The compensation fund is modeled after the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. It was created by an act of congress shortly after the attack to compensate the victims of the attack (or their families) in exchange for their agreement not to sue the airline corporations involved. If a family accepted the offer it was not possible to appeal later on. In the end $7 billion was awarded to 97% of the families and the average payout was 1.8 million dollars per household. A problem with the settlements was that many of the victims were highly compensated professionals. If the court had decided their cases on an individual basis, they would more than likely been awarded much higher amounts. The risk in pursuing an individual case could have been that the insurers and airlines may have gone bankrupt before being able to pay the claim. (11)


In order to protect the victims and the state, "A Victim Compensation fund could allow for compensation to victims and their families, while avoiding any long-term damage to the state's ability to do business with private enterprise." (11)








 Victim of the 35W Bridge Collapse


Creative Commons License: Public Domain



What is the 35W Bridge Victim Compensation Fund?




The bill would compensate victims and their families for medical expenses, lost wages, burial costs and pain and suffering. Claimants would agree not to sue the state. The bill proposes to set up a catrastrophe fund modeled after the 9/11 victims' compensation package passed in 2001. The fund will remain in place for future catastrophes. (10)


  • Short-term needs: Medical bills for physical injuries and all associated expenses such as mileage and parking for doctor appointments, home health aides, in home medical care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, medical supplies, renovations needed for home, economic losses. For next of kin, includes all costs related to the passing of loved one including burial and cremation, funeral expenses, financial aid, social assistance and grief counseling.
  • Long-term needs: Survivors will need the State's assistance to ensure that they are not financially burdened by medical and other expenses they cannot foresee. Governor Pawlenty is working toward providing more money for the most severe cases. (10)



Key elements will include:


  • Anyone accepting compensation from this fund would waive any and all claims against the State of Minnesota for damages arising out of the bridge collapse and would cooperate with the State in pursuing any claims the State may have against any other parties.
  • Persons who do not accept compensation from this fund would be subject to all limitations on the state‚Äôs liability in effect at the time of the bridge collapse.
  • Funds paid to persons out of the Emergency Hardship Fund would be deducted from an award out of the final bridge compensation fund.
  • The State will retain its right to recover from any other payments made from the bridge compensation fund (10)












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The new bill will limit payments to $400,000 per victim, but victims could receive compensation from private companies as well depending on fault. Consideration is being given to awarding victims more based on need. There is also a proposed bill by Rep.  Ryan Winkler (DFL), that would divide between $30 and $60 million between the victims. The Senate committee approved a $25 million fund for victims. House members are working on an amendment to bar lawyers from recovering fees from the fund. So far, 13 people have claimed more than $70,000. Lawmakers hope to agree on one version of the bill sometime this April. Minnesota will double the compensation that victims can claim for lost wages. (7)


So far, 73 victims or their survivors have notified the state their plans to sue. The survivors of the 35W bridge collapse lobbied at the State Capitol. They brought with them their message of a need for more money to treat injuries. The day was dubbed '35W Bridge Collapse Victim's Day.' Kimberly Brown and Mercedes Gorden, both from Minneapolis, have been speaking out on behalf of fellow survivors since the August 1 collapse. Their site www.35wbridge.com intends to explain the needs of survivors' and victims' families, as well as provide an easy way to contact legislators. (2)



Financing of the Fund


Initial funding of $1 million was promised by the governor and the legislation with intentions to raise limits with increased funding. By February 28, 2008 lawmakers passed a $40 million compensation fund bill. The money is intended for victims and families of victims. Those awarded can get up to $10,000 per person in lost wages. Liability is $1 million per incident and $300,000 per individual.


The state is facing a budget deficit last measured at $373 million, and lawmakers expect the picture to worsen. "We are dealing with tens of millions of dollars in a budget under severe pressures," Senator Ron Latz stated. "In a zero-sum budget, which I think is the reality we're dealing with this year, every dollar that goes here does not go into your districts for schools, roads, bridges, and local government aid." Governor Pawlenty is proposing to cut the state sales tax by 1/8th of a percent, which would actually deepen Minnesota's anticipated deficit of $935 million. The budget plan also provides up to $40 million for a special compensation fund for victims of the 35W bridge collapse, although the governor said the final package could be smaller. (3)




Sources of Income


  • $40 million from state would come from the general tax fund from the state approved by representatives. (4)



Qualification as victim


All lost wages must be documented before compensation can be processed. Survivors and families of victims will receive compensation for "lost wages, medical expenses, burial costs, physical and emotional pain and suffering, and physical impairment. It also would cover damages attributed to "inconvenience" and "loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of sobriety and companionship. All claims must be filed within 2 years of the collapse. (3)




Who is responsible for Compensation?


  • Any entity that contributed to the actual collapse.
  • The Government can only be liable for a maximum of $1 million according to current laws.



Problems with receiving relief


  • All expenses and time lost must be documented.
  • Claim is final once rewarded.
  • The State's total liability is $1 million, which must be divided among all injured even though some injuries more severe than others.



Bill would also compensate University of Minnesota


The legislative plan to compensate victims of the 35W bridge collapse is also proposing to take care of the University of Minnesota since researchers authored a 2001 study stating there was no need to replace bridge. This bill would help to protect the university from potential legal claims. It is currently being decided between the House and the Senate whether it should be included in the final plan.



Possibility That Health Plans May Go After Victims' Awards


As if the victims of the 35W bridge collapse haven't gone through enough, they may have to worry that their health plans may capture a portion of their compensation to cover their medical expenses. Since health care costs are rising, health plans have been trying to recover the money for the benefit of their members. Lawmakers are currently working with attorneys to propose a plan that would protect the victims and survivors. (12)






Several charities, organizations and individuals provided support following the 35W Bridge collapse. Support came in many forms ranging from financial to spiritual. Two main charities collected money, sent volunteers, and provided relief immediately following the bridge collapse and through the present.

The Twin Cities Area American Red Cross appeared on the scene within minutes of the disaster and provided comfort and relief to the victims, water and meals to the rescue workers and volunteers, and support to families looking for loved ones. The Red Cross also organized blood drives and webpages to alert families and friends regarding the safety of anyone they knew. Within days the Minnesota Helps - Bridge Disaster Relief fund was also established. The fund collected money from individuals and groups and distributed it to nonprofit organizations providing support to all involved. The fund's work is still ongoing.

Above and beyond the support provided by these charities, additional community response and outreach were also organized. The local music community provided support through a charity concert and later a charity CD set. Professional sports franchises, notably the Minnesota Twins, provided support through donations to charity auctions, moments of silence and other commemorative activities. The religious communities offered prayer services, and religious leaders responded directly to the scene of the collapse to provide comfort and support.



Minnesota Helps - Bridge Disaster Relief


Minnesota Helps was established only five days after the collapse of the 35W Bridge. It was created by several local charities collaborating to extend the reach and improve the impact of their money and influence. Their goal was to collect donations from groups, congregations, companies and individuals and then distribute the funds to nonprofit organizations who would provide relief to everyone affected by the bridge collapse. Grants from Minnesota Helps now go to provide everything from victim financial support to community counseling services. Minnesota Helps collected and distributed over $200,000 in September of 2007 alone, just one month after the bridge collapse. To date, Minnesota Helps has received over $1.2 million dollars in donations and has awarded over $400,000 to date with more being awarded constantly through grants. (1)

Although created initially to provide relief to victims of the 35W bridge collapse, Minnesota Helps now provides support for charities and disasters all over the United States. They have encouraged donations to help the flood victims in Southeastern Minnesota by providing donations for the United Way of Olmsted County. They have also brought awareness of the of the Wildfire Relief efforts in Southern California to Minnesotans in an effort to collect donations. (1)


To learn more about the relief that Minnesota Helps has provided since the bridge collapse see the Minnesota Helps- Bridge Disaster Fund page.


The American Red Cross Relief Effort


The American Red Cross was the first charity to respond to the 35W Bridge collapse. They provided bases for rescue efforts, water and meals to the relief and rescue workers, support for families and victims and established a website where families and friends could connect to share that they were safe. Furthermore, the American Red Cross organized and held extra blood drives to supply the hospitals so they could treat the 144 wounded. Since the bridge collapse the Twin Cities Red Cross has continued to provide support to many as well as working to recognize those that risked their lives to help others on August 1, 2007. (2,3,4)



To learn more about how the Red Cross' contribution to the collapse relief effort see the Red Cross page.


Community Response


Following the collapse of the bridge a support community came together to utilize their talents to provide further support for those affected. From charity concerts to CDs to auctions to silence before a game to prayer services, individual communities throughout the Twin Cities area and nationwide lent support by using their talents to raise money, provide spiritual support, or just take a minute to remember. (5,6,7)


To read more visit the Community Response page.


Charities Resources


1. Minnesota Helps- Bridge Disaster Fund. About the Fund. Retrieved 2.25.2008.


2. The Red Cross Twin Cities. About Us. Retrieved March 3, 2008.


3. The Red Cross Twin Cities. Twin Cities Red Cross Responds the 35W Bridge Collapse. Retrieved February 28, 2008.


4. The Red Cross Twin Cities. 35W Bridge First Responder Tribute. Retrieved April 11, 2008.


5. PRNewswire. Rockie Lynne Lends Talent to Benefit CD for Bridge Collapse Victims Reuters.com. Retrieved 3.26.2008.


6. Hogendorn, Brittany. Musicians for Minneapolis Benefit CD. PremierGuitar.com. Retrieved 3.26.2008.


7. Thesier, Kelly. Twins to Play Indians as Planned. MLB.com. Retrieved 3.30.2008



Victim's Compensation Resources



1. Associated Press. __Aid to I-35W Bridge collapse victims drying up__. 20 February 2008; FoxNews.com.


2. Associated Press. AP: __Dozens of 35W Bridge victims prepare to sue__. 21 January 2008; WCCO.com


3. Dorell, Oren. __Some aid for Minn. bridge victims stalled__. 31 December 2007; USA Today.


4. Doyle, Pat. __House OKs $40 million for bridge survivors__. 29 February 2008; Star Tribune.


5. Pogmire, Tim. __Governor and legislators announce I-35W victims relief fund__. 29 November 2007; Minnesota Public Radio.


6. Associated Press. Conf. to Decide How to Compensate Bridge Victims. 10 March 2008; WCCO.com.


7. Kaszuba, Mike. Senate Committee Ok's $25 million fund for bridge collapse victims. 10 March 2008; Star Tribune.


8. Associated Press. Victims of the I-35W Bridge Collapse. Retrieved 11 March 2008; WCCO.com.


9. Muehlhausen, Nicole. Bridge Victims Lobby for Injury Money. 25 February 2008; KSTP.com.


10. Brown, Kimberly and Gordon, Mercedes. 35W Bridge Victims Fund. Retrieved 11 March 2008; 35wbridge.com.


11. Latz, Senator Ron. Senator Latz Proposes Bridge Survivors Compensation Plan. 22 January 2008; state.leg.state.mn.us.


12. Louwagie, Pam. Will Insurers Go After 35W Bridge Victims' Awards? 29 January 2008; Star Tribune.


13. Louwagie, Pam. Cap of $400,000 Per Person is Proposed for I-35W Victims Fund. 23 January 2008; Star Tribune.


14. Associated Press. Minnesota Doubles Compensation For Victims of I-35W Bridge Collapse. 14 February 2008; DCN Services.


15. Associated Press. Help For 35W Bridge Victims Could Get Caught in Budget Woes. Retrieved 2.20.08.


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