Minnesota Bridge Injury Compensation to Involve Tough Decisions


The tragic collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis last year was a disturbing nexus of public policy failures and personal loss, as individuals dealt with the losses and injuries of family members and public officials dealt with the brunt of the blame for what many saw as a very preventable incident.

In May, after a nine-month fight, lawmakers passed into law a compensation package for the 170 survivors of the bridge collapse, as well as the surviving relatives of the 13 individuals who died in the accident. Though the state is by law required only to provide compensation of $1 million for the entire incident, lawmakers urged the state to make an exceptional case of the bridge collapse. Their solution was a generous $36.6 million package.

However, though the money problem has been solved, the problem of how to distribute the money has come to be front and center.

The two major problems that a four-person panel of injury lawyers face in distributing the funds are that 170 people to be compensated means a substantial effort to make sure the money is distributed equitably, and when dealing with this kind of tragedy, dealing with mourning family members and recovering injury victims can be quite tense. Compounding the predicament of who gets the money is the policy passed as part of the compensation: all offers made will be final with no appeal possible, and victims will have just 45 days to accept.

The injury compensation amounts will likely be significant, but with no appeal possible, some individuals may find themselves short of the money they need for their injuries. Those with the most severe injuries will have their compensation drawn from a smaller pool of $12.6 million, while the larger share, $24 million, will go to family members of those killed and those with lesser injuries, with a likely cap of $400,000 per individual.

All of these factors will go into the decision over who gets allotted what, which, when dealing with a class of injured members involved in a lawsuit, is never easy. The individual victims will likely be caught between dissatisfaction if they feel their amount is too low in comparison to others, and gratitude that, given Minnesota's injury compensation cap, they were given as much as they were given at all.

In any case, the panel has until February 28, 2009 to offer compensation. Thus, many will seek advice from injury lawyers in realistically preparing for how much they can expect.

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