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VCF Wrongful Death Claims and COVID-19 Related Cause of Death

As a result of being exposed to the toxic dust and chemicals at Ground Zero, in the NYC Exposure Zone, and along the debris routes, countless responders and survivors developed cancers, respiratory illnesses, and lung conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. 

Over the last several months, thousands of 9/11 survivors and responders with health conditions related to the terrorist attacks and debris removal efforts have contracted coronavirus, and many have died due to complications the virus caused in connection with their 9/11-related illnesses.

Pursuant to the Zadroga Act, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund allows families to submit a deceased claim as long as it is registered within two years of their loved one’s death or by July 29, 2021 if the death occurred before July 29, 2019. 

Even if the decedent’s VCF eligible condition wasn’t the immediate cause of death, the VCF will recognize a viable deceased claim in cases where COVID-19 was the immediate cause of death due to, or as a consequence of, the eligible condition. The VCF will also recognize a deceased claim if the decedent passed from COVID-19 but an eligible VCF condition was considered an “other significant condition contributing to death.”

9/11-Related Health Conditions That Can Cause COVID-19 Complications

According to the CDC, individuals with certain underlying conditions or illnesses are at increased risk of complications if they contract the virus. Many of these conditions are prevalent among responders and survivors who were present at one of the 9/11 attack sites or in the Exposure Zone.

Eligible 9/11-related health conditions that increase the risk of COVID-19 complications or fatality can include:

  • Cancers
  • Asthma
  • Aerodigestive disorders
  • Lymphomas
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Pulmonary disease

The WTC Health Program provides COVID-19 testing for survivors and responders who have certain certified 9/11-related health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus. Additionally, the program may cover COVID-19 treatment for members who meet certain criteria.

COVID-19 Cause of Death of the Claimant

To be awarded compensation for a VCF wrongful death claim, the responder or survivor who filed a claim with the VCF must have had an eligible 9/11-related illness, cancer, or injury. In determining whether the personal representative of a deceased claimant can recover compensation on the claimant’s behalf, the VCF looks to the cause of death listed on the claimant’s death certificate.

The VCF clarified in an update to its FAQ that if a claimant passes away from COVID-19, their family may still be eligible to receive compensation from the VCF, even in cases where the direct cause of death was not the 9/11-related condition.  

If the death certificate specified COVID-19 was the cause of death or a contributing factor, the VCF may still award compensation for wrongful death as long as the claimant’s eligible 9/11-related condition is also listed as either an immediate or underlying cause of death. You may also be entitled to receive compensation on behalf of your loved one if the 9/11-related health condition significantly contributed to the death — even if COVID-19 was the immediate cause. If an eligible 9/11-related physical health condition does not appear on the death certificate, the VCF may consider medical evidence to link the eligible condition to the claimant’s death.

Submitting a VCF Claim for Wrongful Death

VCF deceased claim can be filed by the Personal Representative, Administrator of the Estate, or the Executor of the Will of the claimant. The VCF requires that several documents be filed with the claim, including the Designation of the Personal Representative, the claim form signature page, a certified copy of the claimant’s “long form” death certificate, and proof of the cause of death. 

Deceased claims consist of two parts: the personal injury award and the wrongful death award, which are both calculated separately. Non-economic loss may also be awarded in a deceased claim based on the pain and suffering the claimant experienced during their lifetime resulting from the 9/11-related physical condition, as well as lost future earnings.

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

If you lost a loved one to COVID-19 who had filed a VCF claim for an eligible 9/11-related health condition, you may be able to pursue the compensation they were entitled to receive from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. 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.