Thousands of people lost their lives on September 11, 2001. But those who lost their lives that day were not the only victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center. In the 16 years since that tragedy, many have experienced the after-effects of breathing in the air while near Ground Zero. If you were living, working, volunteering or visiting Lower Manhattan in the days, weeks and months after September 11, 2001, and you’ve been diagnosed with a certain cancer of respiratory illness, you may be entitled to financial assistance. Rockaway native and attorney Bill Kelly may be able to help stake your claim.
Bill Kelly of McCarthy/Kelly LLP has joined forces with Barasch and Kreindler law firms that fought for the Zadroga Act, to help those whose illnesses may be connected to being exposed to the dust in the air below Canal Street in Lower Manhattan. Those who were in the area following the collapse of the World Trade Center were exposed to asbestos, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, crystalline silica and other dangerous toxins. A long-term study showed that the 9/11 dust was connected to 68 types of cancer, plus lung disease and respiratory illnesses. Over the years, many first responders who were down at Ground Zero have been impacted, with some even dying as 9/11 continues to claim victims. However, those beyond first responders may have also been impacted.
As someone originally from Rockaway, which was heavily impacted by loss on 9/11, Kelly is looking to help those in the neighborhood who may have been impacted by the dust following the event. “I was born and raised in Rockaway and my family has been there for more than 100 years, so I know tons of people that not only worked downtown, but also firemen from the area. Also, my brother-in-law, an FDNY Battalion Chief and Rockaway native, was diagnosed with 9/11 dust related respiratory illness that forced him into retirement at the FDNY. Many friends of mine from Rockaway have been diagnosed with cancers and respiratory illnesses in connection with working downtown after 9/11 so I’m motivated to help people make claims,” Kelly said.
This isn’t the first time McCarty/ Kelly LLP has been focused on helping Rockaway residents. Over the past few years, they’ve been working hard to represent hundreds of Hurricane Sandy victims with flood claims. “That occupied several years of our work and it’s kind of winding down now, so 9/11 dust exposure victims is the next thing we’re returning our focus to. It’s something we had been working on, but we can now devote more resources to it, so we’ve teamed up with law firms that were instrumental in creating the law that allows this—the Zadroga Act,” Kelly said. The Zadroga Act was established to compensate people with 9/11 dust-related illnesses with $7.3 billion worth of funding.
Kelly says that anyone who was in the area for up to eight months following September 11, 2001, could be entitled to compensation if they have been diagnosed with a certain cancer or illness. “We’ve spoken to everyone from first responders to a guy who worked on the Statue of Liberty ferry that was diagnosed with a respiratory illness to a Rockaway client that worked an office job at 1 Centre Street and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with no family history of the disease. Thousands of people could have been affected by this,” Kelly said.
Kelly and his firm are willing to help people with no strings attached, unless they win the case. “Our team will evaluate all claims at no cost. There is no fee unless we win. If we win the fee is only 10 percent.,” Kelly said. A person may have a valid claim if they were present in lower Manhattan, below Canal Street between September 11, 2001 and May 20, 2002; they have been diagnosed with cancer or a respiratory illness, which needs to be on the approved list of illnesses connected to the dust, and they have their illness certified by the WTC Health Program. The client only has two year to file the claim after certification by the WTC Health Program, Worker’s Comp or the Social Security Administration. The final date to file a claim is December 18, 2020.
Kelly encourages those who may be impacted to see if they qualify. “The government doesn’t give money away. These funds are there to compensate people because they were wrongfully exposed to lethal poisons. The government said the air was safe so people returned to lower Manhattan. Later the government admitted that the air was highly toxic. People breathed the toxic air for months and months without knowing the truth. When the truth was revealed and the government admitted that the air was highly toxic it was too late. People were never given the choice to make an educated decision on whether or not to go back downtown. People were deceived. Now years later thousands of people are sick and dying,” Kelly said.
“People will benefit from filing the claim because the illnesses caused by 9/11 dust are life-altering and in some cases life-ending. The federal government specifically made these funds available to people who inhaled 9/11 dust because these funds are necessary to care for the victims and their families. The diseases and illnesses caused by 9/11 dust are causing people to become disabled, shortening working lives, etc. There are thousands of people out there that don’t realize they are entitled to and deserving of these funds. We need to get the word out.”
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