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Marshall Shapo describes some of the problems in his penetrating book this way: Within ten days of the tragedy of September 11th, Congress created a Victim Compensation Fund for those who were injured or lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks of that day. That Fund paid out more than seven billion dollars to surviving victims and families of those who died, with awards to families averaging over two million and one award reaching approximately $8.6 million. Was the Fund a good idea? If there are terrorist attacks in the future that kill or injure hundreds or even thousands of people, should Congress provide the same kind of compensation to victims and families? Why has Congress not made provision for similar benefits for victims of the Oklahoma City bombing? Why are the payments made to families of soldiers who die in combat only a few thousand dollars?
When the Victims' Compensation Fund was established after 9/11, it set off a series of debates on the logic of compensation for victims of terrorist acts. Why do we compensate for injuries, and how do injuries and deaths caused by acts of terrorism differ from those caused by more ordinary means? What criteria should we consider when determining compensation: the financial need or deprivation or the survivors? The degree of negligence of a public or private entity?
In this thought provoking study, Shapo draws on the basic concepts of injury law, including tort and compensation law, to delve into the questions and present a framework for future lawmakers faced with shaping compensation programs for terrorist victims. With its limitless contradictions, constraints, and competing demands, the terrain of compensation is at best murky. Shapo unravels the tangled lines of reasoning, casting an impartial eye on the legal, political and social logics of the Victims' Compensation Fund and those likely to come into play for any future crises.