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What does a state cap on damages mean? The offers to the victims of the Indianapolis State Fair collapse show what happens when lives and injuries are devalued.

December 9, 2011
Lightning and high winds on Aug. 13, 2011, blew dust on the infield of the track of the Indiana State Fair grandstands prior to a Sugarland concert. Seven people died  and more than 40 were injured.
Earlier I wrote on the collapse of the stage of the State Fair stage when winds toppled the stage of fans awaiting to see the band Sugarland.  A total of one hundred and one have now filed for claims.  But the state of Indiana caps damages  for a single incident at $5 million and all damages, even for at the most crippling injuries,  $700,000  What did this mean in concrete terms? The state has now offered a settlement to the victims.
Here are the numbers:
Death, regardless of who was killed, is worth $300,000. Up to twenty thousand dollars more can be received by families of concert goers who lingered in hospitals before dying.
Permanent  body paralysis is valued at $503,052 for a 17-year old boy. Approximately $165,000 is set aside for the future expenses of a paraplegic from the waist down.
Surviving victims with physical injuries will receive compensation for 65  percent of the medical expenses through Nov. 15.
A total of 65  other survivors will receive compensation, at little as 101 dollars.
Do the victims receive full compensation for medical expenses?
No. They have been offered 65%.
Do the victims receive any money for future medical expenses?
Do the victims receive any money to cover the psychological costs of therapy of witnessing the deaths of their loved ones or suffering crippling injuries?

Fox News reports that  Lisa Hite, one of the survivors, who has already  incurred  more than $43,000 for her injuries and will have surgery on her foot on December 19th,  said “I’ve had better days,”when she had heard of Tuesday’s news.  She has been offered $7,000.

Under the law, could the offer be more generous?  Of course not.  Once there is a cap on a single incident, then the greater the wreckage of innocents’ lives, the less there is to make any of the victims whole.   The cap, by its very nature, devalues the worth of a human life and thrust the tried-and-true evaluation of a person’s worth by jury into an exercise by bean counters as to how to divide up limited funds.

The victims have until Monday to decide whether or not to accept the offer.  But each acceptance of an offer will deplete the funds.  So it is a dangerous gamble to wait. Is this the kind of justice we want for ourselves or our children?

For more, see:

Indiana offers $300K to stage collapse victims – 

Indiana sends offer to stage collapse victims –Tom LoBianco, The Chicago Tribune


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