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Can I Participate in a 9/11 Lawsuit and Still File a VCF Claim?

In addition to having an eligible certified 9/11-related health condition, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund requires you to have withdrawn, dismissed, or settled any 9/11-related lawsuit in which you were involved to submit a claim or amendment and receive VCF compensation. By filing a VCF claim, you also waive your right to pursue any future civil action in either federal or state court in connection with the terrorist-related plane crashes or illnesses arising as a result of being in the Exposure Zone or along the routes of the debris removal.

However, the VCF allows for two significant exceptions to its rule barring claimants from participating in active lawsuits —you are permitted to file a civil action to help recover collateral source obligations. You can also participate in a lawsuit against an individual who aided, abetted, or assisted an attempt to commit a terrorist act, such as an action commenced under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. 

Withdrawal or Dismissal of Lawsuits Without Settlement

The VCF has certain requirements that must be met concerning withdrawal or dismissal of 9/11-related lawsuits to be eligible for compensation. Specifically, you would not be permitted to file a VCF claim unless the lawsuit was withdrawn prior to January 2, 2012.

To demonstrate that you timely withdrew the lawsuit, you must provide the VCF with:

  • A court order showing the action was dismissed or discontinued
  • A letter filed with the court stating the action was withdrawn on or before January 2, 2012
  • The court’s final order confirming withdrawal or dismissal

In cases involving compensation for a newly covered injury or illness that was added to the VCF’s list of eligible conditions after January 2, 2012, you must have withdrawn the lawsuit on a date no later than your claim submission to the VCF. It’s critical to be aware that the VCF has condition-specific criteria concerning the settlement or withdrawal dates for lawsuits filed after December 22, 2003 and before November 16, 2016 in connection with newly covered conditions. 

Additionally, if you have a 9/11-related condition that was eligible prior to January 2, 2012, as well as a newly covered condition — but did not withdraw a lawsuit before January 2, 2012 — you would only be able to receive VCF compensation for the newly covered condition, pending your withdrawal of the suit. 

Settled Lawsuits

The VCF will consider your claim for compensation if you had settled a 9/11-related lawsuit, provided that it was commenced after December 22, 2003, and the release was tendered before January 2, 2011. You must also have dismissed any remaining claims which were not settled in the lawsuit prior to January 2, 2012.

Collateral Source Lawsuits

One type of lawsuit you may pursue concurrently with a VCF claim is one that was commenced to recover collateral source obligations. Under the Zadroga Act, collateral sources are all sources, and can include pension funds, death benefits, life insurance, settlements from 9/11-related lawsuits, and any payments concerning the plane crashes or debris removal you’re entitled to receive from federal, state, or local government.

JASTA and USVSST

The second exception to VCF’s regulations concerning active 9/11-related lawsuit concerns two Acts passed by Congress that allow those who were victims of terrorist acts to pursue claims for compensation. Responders and survivors with eligible conditions can participate in a lawsuit against a “knowing participant in any conspiracy to hijack any aircraft or commit any terrorist act” and pursue a claim for compensation from the VCF at the same time. These lawsuits include those brought under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).

Responders, survivors, and family members of deceased victims may also simultaneously pursue a claim with the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (USVSST) and the VCF.  

If you receive a settlement award related to a JASTA lawsuit or compensation from USVSST, the VCF will treat it as an offset to your VCF award. In cases where the VCF claimant is not the same party receiving compensation from the USVSST (for example, if the victim’s family pursues a deceased claim), the VCF does not apply an offset.

Contact a New York City 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney

Navigating the VCF regulations for a deceased claim can be confusing, frustrating, and complicated. A 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorney who is knowledgeable about the deadlines and regulations involved can guide you through the VCF claims process and help ensure that you receive the compensation to which you are entitled from the VCF. 

The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorneys at The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. have represented claimants and their families in 9/11 VCF claims for over a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today. 

John P. Dearie

John P. Dearie is a graduate of Regis High School, The University of Notre Dame, and St. John’s University School of Law. After working at a corporate law firm in New York City for two years following law school graduation, he joined The Dearie Law Firm in 2011.

John represents injured New Yorkers in third-party negligence litigations, as well as first responders, workers, volunteers and residents in claims to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.