It has been 21 years since the September 11th terrorist attacks, and our country still feels the effects. While the TV cameras and news headlines have focused most of the attention on the first responders to the attacks, countless more workers stayed behind during the year that followed to do the physically hazardous and mentally traumatizing work of cleaning up the colossal destruction.
When New York City’s financial district was coated in toxic dust from the pulverized twin towers, these workers cleaned the entire area and carted off the debris to landfills in Staten Island. They stopped only to pay their respects when they happened upon the remains of the thousands of victims who perished in the attacks. Most of them were provided at best woefully inadequate equipment to protect them from the toxic environment in which they immersed themselves day after day, while the federal government misled them into believing that their health was not at risk. Many of them were immigrants who came to the US in hope of a better life and ended up giving far more of themselves to their newly adopted country in terms of their very health than they ever could have anticipated.
Schotter Millican, LLP is proud to represent 9/11 rescue, recovery, and cleanup workers and volunteers both in Workers’ Compensation claims under Article 8-A of the New York Workers’ Compensation Law and in federal Victims Compensation Fund (Zadroga Act) claims.
Laws and Programs Supporting 9/11 Rescue, Recovery, and Cleanup Workers and Volunteers
In response to the tragedy that occurred on September 11th, several laws and programs have been put in place to protect the rights and health of workers and volunteers who are still affected by the event and its aftermath.
Article 8-A of the New York Workers’ Compensation Law has been vital in ensuring that workers and volunteers who participated in post-9/11 rescue, recovery, or cleanup work are taken care of. Article 8-A provides benefits such as medical expenses, mental health counseling, and lost wages. In addition, this law provides death benefits to the families of workers and volunteers were killed as a result of the terrorist attacks, whether they were first responders who died on 9/11 itself or cleanup workers who succumbed to related illnesses many years later.
To qualify for Article 8-A, you must have been either a worker or a volunteer who participated in 9/11-related rescue, recovery, or cleanup efforts within what the law calls the “zone of danger” at any time between September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2002.
The “zone of danger” includes all of the following places:
- Anywhere in Manhattan south of Canal Street.
- The Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island.
- The New York city morgue or the temporary morgue on pier locations on the west side of Manhattan.
- The barges between the west side of Manhattan and the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island.
Additionally, in order to qualify for Article 8-A, you must have been diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition. The law, however, is very expansive as to what conditions qualify. The most typical conditions include the following:
- Aerodigestive Illnesses - Diseases and illnesses that affect the respiratory and digestive systems.
- Chronic Rhinosinusitis
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Reactive Upper Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RUDS)
- Mental Illnesses
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Anxiety and Depression
- Various Cancers
- Skin Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
Yet even orthopedic conditions like back injuries can be qualifying if there is medical evidence linking them to 9/11-related work, thanks to an appellate court precedent established by one of our partners.
Finally, Article 8-A provides all kinds of legal presumptions in favor of 9/11 rescue, recovery, or cleanup participants that are not found in ordinary workers’ compensation claims. The most important of these is the very broad statute of limitations, which the state legislature continually extends into the future so that those who sacrificed their health or even their lives to respond to 9/11 are not barred from recovery due to the passage of time. This is particularly important given that cancers and other latent conditions from this work can take years or even decades to show up. Article 8-A also mandates that the Workers’ Compensation Board choose a date of disablement that is “most beneficial” to the injured worker, so that the statute of limitations clock does not start to run on or close to 9/11 but in most cases starts much more recently, ensuring that even today, more than two decades after 9/11, it still may not be too late for you to start a case.
Still, the time to file is not infinite, and if you believe you did 9/11-related work that qualifies, you should take the necessary steps as soon as possible to preserve your rights under Article 8-A. More specifically, you must do the following two things:
- Register with the Workers’ Compensation Board as a 9/11 participant by submitting a notarized form WTC-12; AND
- File a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board on a form C-3, which is not the same thing as registering as a 9/11 participant
Our attorneys will of course happily help you complete all of the necessary paperwork and ensure that it is filed promptly and properly.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is a law that was passed in 2010 to provide health care and financial compensation to first responders (and volunteers/survivors) who were exposed to hazardous materials at the World Trade Center site following the terrorist attacks. Reauthorized in 2015, first responders and other 9/11 participants can receive benefits for their illnesses until 2090. Our office handles these claims in addition to Article 8-A workers’ compensation claims.
World Trade Center Health Program
The James Zadroga Act saw the creation of the World Trade Center Health Program. The WTC Health Program was created in 2010 to provide medical monitoring and treatment for those exposed to the toxins. Our office has an ongoing relationship with Mount Sinai’s World Trade Center Health Program, as this program treats most of our Article 8-A and Zadroga Act clients.
Fighting For the Rights of 9/11’s Forgotten Workers
The physical and emotional scars can last a lifetime for those who were injured in the September 11th terrorist attacks. At Schotter Millican, LLP, we are committed to fighting for the rights of these brave men and women. We have represented numerous clients who were first responders on September 11, 2001 and countless more who cleaned up the destruction it left during the year that followed, and we understand the unique challenges they face. We are dedicated to helping them get the compensation they deserve for their injuries.
If you were involved in the rescue, recovery, or cleanup efforts of 9/11 and now suffer from medical conditions arising from those efforts, call us today at (718) 550-0610 or fill out our form online for a free consultation.