What is the average compensation for 9/11 victims?

Robert A. Grochow
January 10, 2022

September 11, 2001, is a day none of us will ever forget. We felt sorrow, disbelief, and pain as we witnessed the terrorist attacks and the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York City. 

First responders, volunteers, clean-up workers, and thousands of loved ones showed the bravery, compassion, and dedication that restored hope. They displayed the resiliency of Americans in the face of tragedy as they showed up at Ground Zero to volunteer, putting the best of humanity on display daily.

Their heroism has come to the misfortune of being diagnosed with 9/11-related illnesses or cancer, even decades after the tragic events, due to toxic exposure left in the aftermath.

Gregory Cannata & Associates has been honored to play a role in supporting the families of September 11 victims and those diagnosed with 9/11-related cancer or illness recover compensation from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). 

We’ve helped thousands of individuals and family members understand their eligibility, file a VCF claim, and answer many common questions about the process and payouts, including the average compensation for 9/11 victims.

In this article you learn about the Victim Compensation Fund, how WTC VCF claims are evaluated, and general eligibility guidelines.

If you have questions about the claims process, your eligibility to recover compensation or average payouts, it’s important to speak with an experienced 9/11 attorney

Call 1-888-982-8428 or contact us online to speak with an experienced 9/11 VCF lawyer at Gregory Cannata & Associates.

What is the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund?

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund ("VCF") was created to provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001, or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.

In July 2019, the signing of the "Never Forget the Heroes, James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act" fully funded the VCF. All eligible claims would be paid with the filing deadline extended to October 1, 2090.

A common name used for this fund is often the WTC or World Trade Center Victim Fund.

What is the average compensation for 9/11 victims?

In the early years of the WTC Victim Fund, claims for personal injury were awarded amounts that ranged from $500 to $8.6 million. 

Death claims averaged a compensation amount of $2,082,128. The lowest compensation amount was $87.02. 

Since this period, Gregory Cannata & Associates has recovered over $300 million for individuals with 9/11 related cancer or illness. Some of those awards are:

  • $2,761,648 for a first responder with cancer and economic loss
  • $2,380,557 for a dock worker with respiratory and orthopedic illness and economic loss
  • $1,986,118 for a communications worker with respiratory disease and economic loss
  • $1,505,737 for an office worker with cancer and financial loss

Thankfully, compensation is available to anyone present in the impact zone and developed 9/11 related illnesses. To see more recent awards our clients have received, click here.


Payouts across the different claimant categories of 9/11 victims

Claimants are divided into several categories: the location where harm was incurred and the capacity or responder status within that geography.  In 2019, the VCF paid nearly 26,000 claimants in the amount of $6 billion.

The following table shows the number of awarded claimants and payout amounts for the claimant categories.

Claimant Category

Number of Awarded Claimants

Payout Amount

First Responder - New York

18,213

$4,273,923,287

Non-Responder NYC - Other Capacity

3,551

$888,702,178

Non-Responder NYC - Cleaning and Maintenance

732

$94,006,674

Resident Within NYC Exposure Zone

632

$141,524,390

No Response

410

$75,241,165

NYC - Other Capacity

215

$58,116,927

First Responder - Pentagon

36

$11,059,484

Non-Responder - Pentagon

16

$3,823,901


How is 9/11 victim compensation calculated?

As required by the VCF act, your final award will be calculated using the basic formula: non-economic loss plus economic loss, minus collateral offsets. 

Each award is calculated individually, and a free consultation with a Victim Compensation Fund lawyer will tell you your estimated award and what needs to happen to secure it.

On average, the fund will award:

Respiratory and related illnesses - up to $90,000

Cancers - up to $250,000. Primary basal cell cancer or squamous cell carcinoma are exceptions with awards up to $90,000. (View eligible 9/11-related cancers)

While the fund generally does not award compound awards even in the face of multiple illnesses, there are a few exceptions. In a small number of cases, awards have exceeded $250,000, up to $300,000 - $325,000, for severe illness.

While illness has a cost to health (non-economic loss) associated with it, it can also result in tremendous economic loss. The fund will award for loss of earnings and, sometimes, the cost of replacement services. Replacement services would be things you normally do but cannot, such as housework or gardening.

Loss of earnings compensation can be a large number, often much larger than health claims, based on the age and earning potential of a claimant. Generally, the fund will recognize the loss of income to a standard retirement age of 65. Pension benefits and fringe benefits are calculated into this number as well.

Taxes that are typically paid will be deducted from the settlement amount. Alternatives not calculated into the settlement number would be benefits that are also received elsewhere, like Social Security Disability, workers' compensation, work-related disability pensions, etc. This is to ensure the claimant is made whole but not double paid.

Here is an example of economic loss: A 50-year-old with cancer that can't work, and earns $150,000 a year, is considered to be unable to work for 15 years plus loss of pension benefits, etc. 

Generally, the fund will max out at $200,000 a year. That could put the example payout into the $2 million range even with taxes and public benefits deducted. A more exact number is contingent on each case and how well presented, documented, and calculated.

On top of this compensation, the fund will pay in the event of death from an allowable illness. A death from cancer would pay the surviving spouse $250,000. Dependents are also calculated into the equation, so the surviving spouse with two children would receive $250,000 plus an extra $300,000 for the dependants. Additionally, loss of income is calculated into the settlement for the period between initial illness and death and then from death until the age of 65.

General VCF Eligibility

To be eligible to receive compensation from the WTC Victim Fund, it must be proven that you were south of Canal Street for any period between the dates of September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002. It is not required that you were present on September 11.

Several exceptions to this rule do exist, like being at the city morgue bodies were brought to, being present at the Staten Island Landfills to which toxic waste was taken, being present at clean-off locations for fire trucks, and working on barges where debris might have been deposited.

Figuring the amount of time present to qualify for a claim is based on a complex chart from the WTC Health Program. Timeline matters, as the closer one was to September 11 in their involvement, the fewer hours of exposure required. 

These hours can range from four to four hundred when calculating compensation for an illness listed as a certified illness by the Victim Compensation Fund. It must also be certified as an illness by the WTC Health Program.

The prior chart shows that both first responders and non-first responders qualify. Non-first responders can be construction workers, clean-up workers, toxic waste workers, residents in the affected area, office workers, cab drivers, and students. This list is by no means inclusive of all non-first responders.

The Basis of your WTC VCF Claim

Generally, the basis for a claim is exposure to airborne toxins outside of or in buildings in the defined area. This comprises the majority of claims. Orthopedic injuries, while less common, are also covered and caused by running from the towers or an accident during debris removal, among other causes.

Filing for and Receiving VCF Compensation

The process of filing for and receiving an award can be complex, intensive, and paperwork heavy.

The WTC Victim Fund prides itself on having a reputation of being fair, faithful to its statute, and defensible to taxpayers. A mission that includes the administration of funds to be directed for their intended use also means a very rigorous process for proving presence in an affected zone, showing economic loss or hardship, and certifying a disability or disease.

With the exception of death, every claim must first go through the World Trade Center Health Program. If no other coverage is available, this program provides medical coverage until 2090. It also provides monitoring. Most importantly, it provides the "certificate of illness" essential to entrance into the compensation fund.

Proof of presence is a requirement for compensation and coverage. To prove one's presence in lower Manhattan (south of Canal Street) for a period of time between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002, two sources are necessary. 

These can include a work letter verification, proof of residence, or affidavits by co-workers or friends who have "eyes on" of their presence. These are becoming harder and harder to obtain as time goes on due to the simple changes in everyone's lives, like moves or changes in employment.

The World Trade Center Victim Fund can be complex to navigate and require extensive work and negotiation in order to receive compensation. As shown, compensation sums are often very generous as is deserved by those that have suffered health impacts or loss of a spouse.

Navigating the process and receiving the proper compensation require experts for the best results. Especially complex cases are those that involve death claims and more serious cancers, as high levels of compensation are on the line and properly navigating the process is crucial to success.

A lawyer experienced with WTC Victim Fund cases will work to help obtain proof of presence, calculate the proper amount for the claim, and establish participation in the World Trade Center Health Program. Your attorney's job is to make the process as easy as possible. For more complex WTC Victim Fund compensation claims, an experienced attorney must remove stress from the process and ensure the highest payout benefits from using accomplished and caring legal counsel.

Gregory Cannata & Associates has years of experience in providing professional, matter-of-fact, and compassionate legal representation to secure the appropriate victim compensation payouts. 

While the calculations and arguments for a particular payout can be complex, expert lawyers can secure the proper compensation for 9/11 victims as mistakes or lack of knowledge are eliminated from the equation.

We work tirelessly for every client to make the process of filing a claim easy and successful. Every client is taken through the whole process of producing proof of presence, enrollment in the WTC health program, and securing the compensation they deserve. Service and compassion are the keys to our impeccable track record.

Gregory Cannata & Associates is honored to play a role in supporting the September 11 families in their pursuit. 

Call 1-888-982-8428 or complete the online claim evaluation form today to discuss your eligibility to recover compensation with an experienced 9/11 VCF lawyer at Gregory Cannata & Associates.


Robert A. Grochow
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Robert Grochow has over 30 years of experience as a personal injury lawyer in New York, serving as co-counsel in over a thousand cases. He has also received recognition as one of New York’s “Most Honest Lawyers” from the National Law Journal/Washington Post.

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