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State “Victim Compensation Fund” Proposal Gaining Support

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Monday, October 29, 2007   

St. Paul, MN – A proposal to provide compensation to victims of disasters, including those in the I-35 bridge collapse, is getting support from the legal community. Joe Crumley with the Minnesota Association for Justice says current law limits the state's liability to $1 million for all claims, which may not cover even one person's expenses.

"When a family member is injured or killed, it can be a horrible trauma for a family. It's only fair that they avoid having to deal with some of the financial problems that result."

The bridge collapse killed 13 and injured 100, and has prompted lawmakers to hold a series of hearings to consider a compensation fund. The legislation is expected to be introduced during the next session.

State Representative Ryan Winkler says he plans to introduce the "Disaster Victim Compensation Fund" bill because victims' needs are immediate, long-lasting, and expensive.

"The fund is a separate pool of money that disaster victims could tap into to meet their economic and medical losses, and potentially their pain and suffering expense loss, in exchange for waiving their right to sue the state of Minnesota through traditional litigation."

Winkler explains it's a matter of balancing financial, and human, priorities.

"We already have a budget of $400 million to reconstruct the bridge's physical infrastructure. We don't have any budget, and we've paid no attention whatsoever to the reconstruction of the lives of the people who were affected. We need to honor the human toll that this tragedy has taken."

He says it would be modeled on the compensation fund Congress established following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and would retroactively cover the victims and families of the bridge collapse. Governor Pawlenty has hinted at support through a spokesman, who says the Governor believes "the state should assist survivors and the families of victims."


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