More than 1,000 people who claim they were injured after the World Trade Center Twin Towers collapsed following the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York recently had to decide whether they wanted to pursue lawsuits or attempt to get money through a compensation fund, the Associated Press reports.

Our mesothelioma lawyers reported on our blog in September that a recent study showed that firefighters, medical personnel and others around the towers after the collapse were more likely to end up with exposure to asbestos compared to others who weren’t near the aftermath that day.

As we have reported time and time again, asbestos exposure can lead to major medical problems, including mesothelioma. This is a rare and incurable form of cancer.

It is so devastating because patients don’t realize they have mesothelioma until years and sometimes decades after they have first been exposed. Many men and women who were teenagers when they enlisted in the armed forces were exposed to asbestos before most realized it was dangerous and they are now suffering today. Others who worked in steel mills, in the oil and gas industry or in manufacturing may have worked on equipment or with products that contained asbestos.

On January 2, the deadline passed for people to decide whether they wanted to go forward with lawsuits claiming their health was ruined by dust and smoke from the collapsed towers or if they would rather drop the litigation and apply for benefits from the government.

Lawmakers set aside $2.76 billion in federal taxpayer dollars last winter, though that amount was lower than a previously proposed amount, that would pay for those who were diagnosed with illnesses that were a result of spending time in the disaster zone. As many recall, a haze of ash spread over the Ground Zero area for many months following the attacks.

Rescue crews scoured for live bodies, while recovery crews later worked to clean up the rubble from the giant towers. To be considered for part of the money, applicants had to dismiss any lawsuits and give up the right to sue ever again. Anyone who still had a lawsuit pending on Jan. 3 forfeited the right to apply for the compensation fund.

The program allows people to get money for their sickness without having to prove it was a result of the terrorist attacks. But it could take months or years before the applicants know how much money they could eventually get. They must endure the gamble of not knowing whether a trial would be quicker or more profitable. This program is as suspect as many other such government programs.

The other problem is that the fund was limited to some breathing ailments, such as asthma, scarred lungs and other respiratory problems. The list of illnesses doesn’t include cancer, which scientists have yet to conclusively link to the toxins within the trade center. Some have dropped their lawsuits even if cancer is one day added to the list.

The article suggests that New Yorkers other than emergency crew workers could one day apply for the fund as well, spreading its money thin. If the list of illnesses is expanded, that could cut down on how much is available as well.

Frequently Asked Questions: Mesothelioma & Asbestos

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  • What is the life expectancy for someone with mesothelioma?
  • Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?

The Ferraro Law Firm provides comprehensive legal services, including mesothelioma legal help. Call (888) 554-2030 for a free and confidential consultation. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.