Uncertainty surrounds compensation for Boston bomb victims

Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:19pm EDT
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* Fund established but guidelines remain unclear

* Insurance may apply if gov't confirms terrorism

* Past disasters show funds can get stuck in limbo

By Ben Berkowitz

BOSTON, April 17 (Reuters) - Victims of the Boston Marathon bombings will eventually win some kind of compensation, but it is far too early to know how much money there will be, whether private donors or insurers will provide most of it, and how long it might take to distribute.

Late on Tuesday, state and city officials said they had established One Fund Boston, designed as a central source of compensation for victims. John Hancock, a Boston-based insurer owned by Manulife Financial Corp, has contributed $1 million in seed money. Boston law firm Goodwin Procter will run it.

What happens next will depend in part on whether individual victims choose to hire lawyers to press their own claims. Judging from previous catastrophes, experts say victims have an easier path if they settle with a central relief fund, rather than pursue lawsuits against governments, race sponsors or perpetrators.

A fund is "the easiest, the fairest and the quickest way to go," said Marc Bern, a lawyer who represented thousands of workers at the World Trade Center site in litigation over illnesses related to the 9/11 attacks.

"The most important thing for the victims of these kinds of tragedies is a quick solution," he said, even if that means surrendering the right to sue others for even more compensation later.   Continued...