The American Bar Association (ABA) has suggested ways to help speed the fair resolution of claims against the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001. The group recommends that final fund regulations go into immediate effect on December 21, 2001, without the usual 30-day waiting period. This would promote fairness and allow victims to get reliable information about their rights, according to the ABA.
Charitable gifts should not be deducted from the amount of awards to victims, the group says. To reduce funds in this manner would "be contrary to the spirit of charitable giving." The ABA also commented on claim format, documentation, procedures for hearings and presentation of evidence, and basic eligibility criteria. It suggested that claimants receive help in filing claims by providing informational web sites, toll-free telephone numbers, intake offices, and expedited processing for those in dire financial need. Also, the use of experts by claimants should not be prohibited.
The ABA guidelines were filed in response to a Justice Department request for public comment. Although they are not official ABA policy, the suggestions do reflect analysis by experts in various ABA sections. "Just as Congress moved quickly to provide help for those most grievously harmed by the terrorist attacks, the ABA is moving quickly to assist the Justice Department in creating a non-adversarial process to get help to the victims," said ABA President Robert E. Hirshon.
Alan Brayton of Brayton Purcell serves on the leadership Council of the Tort and Insurance Practice Section, one of the sections which was instrumental in helping craft the ABA guidelines. As part of the Brayton Purcell pro bono program, the firm will provide free representation to victims and their families desiring to file claims with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.