When Congress reauthorized the Zadroga Act, renewing the Victim Compensation Fund for five years, some substantive changes were made. The new law places a cap on pain and suffering awards for cancer at $250,000 and for non-cancer illnesses at $90,000. But that does not mean new claimants will necessarily receive lower awards than previous claimants for a number of reasons:
- These cap amounts, which have now been codified, were the unofficial standard under which the first VCF operated.
- The new rule interprets the law to mean the cap applies per cancer or illness, not per patient. The Special Master has discretion to award more than the cap amount to claimants who are suffering from more than one type of cancer or non-cancer illness.
- The cap does not apply to economic damages, such as medical expenses, loss of income and the cost of services to perform necessary tasks a victim can no longer manage.
- The cap only applies to noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.
In short, the decision to codify the caps within the Reauthorization Act does not substantially change your potential award. But you should also be aware that any award the VCF authorizes for you cannot be greater than your total losses. The VCF reduces your award if you have collateral sources of compensation, such as private insurance. Therefore, if you have a valid claim, your final award should be the total of your economic losses and your noneconomic losses minus any offsets from collateral sources.
If you have questions about your eligibility for Zadroga Act benefits, our experienced attorneys can help you find answers. Call Barasch, McGarry, Salzman & Penson at [ln::phone] or contact our office online.