INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - We're taking a closer look at Kenneth Feinberg, the attorney who will help settle the lawsuits of the state fair accident victims. Feinberg has a long history with this kind of work. He helped decide how much money victims would get after the BP Oil spill, The Virginia Tech shootings, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In the country's collective grief, most supported a government fund that would help compensate the victims. But the devil is indeed in those proverbial details, and the details of compensation allocation divided, insulted, and angered many on both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum.
Ken Feinberg is the high-powered Washington lawyer who created the controversial formula to allocate $7 billion to 5,560 9/11 victims.
In his book, What is Life Worth, he details how the experience changed him, and he also describes how the formula worked. For example, assuming the victim died, first he looked at the person's age and income, and calculated what the victim's earnings would have been over the rest of his lifetime. Add more if the victim is married, and more for each dependent. Then tack on a fixed amount for pain and suffering. Using this formula, a Wall Street broker's spouse was due more than that of a firefighter. And that angered a number of survivors.
But then Feinberg subtracted the money the family got from any source other than charity. That included life insurance, pensions, and social security death benefits. This move angered the families of high income victims. In the end, the average 9/11 victim's family received about two million dollars.
Of course, Indiana's compensation for collapse victims will be far less because of the state cap of $5 million divided among some 50 victims.
And victims like Angela Fisher, a woman who has filed suit claiming emotional distress, likely will not be eligible. After 9/11, Feinberg only included those hurt physically.
While we don't know whether Feinberg plans to apply a similar formula when allocating money to the state fair victims, his past decisions give us a great deal of insight into how Ken Feinberg works. Next week, he's coming to Indianapolis. 24-hour news 8 plans to introduce you to the man who has the task of calculating the incalculable - the value of a life.
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