“More money is on the way for the victims of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse.
Governor Mitch Daniels authorized an additional $6 million for victims Wednesday. The money will be split among the estates of the seven people killed and the dozens injured.”
Well, that’s good, isn’t it? The fact that the state was able to discover more money in the budget for people who were either terribly injured or for the families of those who were killed is positive, right?
Well, yes and no.
To be sure, the folks who are recovering from this utter disaster probably need all the money that they can get. But considering that the initial amount of money that they can receive was already limited, and since the pool of victims was so wide, that additional $6 million probably won’t amount to much.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with this particular disaster, it happened on August 13, 2011 at the Indiana State Fair. High-velocity winds caused an enormous stage to collapse between acts at a musical concert. Seven people were killed and 43 were injured, many of them severely.
It was a terrible tragedy, and it happened on the state of Indiana’s watch. There will no doubt be all sorts of finger pointing involving the people who set up the stage and the people who decided to keep the show going, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the state of Indiana. And that is exactly the problem.
We would like to think of states as being benevolent entities that do their best to look after their citizens, but in recent years state governments have taken their cues from profit minded private groups like corporations. The bottom line has become something that needs to be minded, no matter what the costs to the well being of the general public. So just as private corporations have lobbied for caps on damages in the event that they are found liable for injuries to the public, states have done the same.
Indiana has a $5 million cap on damages that arise from a single event. Bear in mind that this isn’t $5 million per person. This is $5 million per event. So for the sake of argument, let’s say that a public power line falls on a public swimming pool because the power line has not been properly maintained. All of the theoretical victims of that event (and their families) would only be entitled to a maximum of $5 million. If there were forty people in that pool, then each one of those people, whether they survived or not, would only receive $125,000. And that’s under optimal legal conditions.
For those who survived this theoretical electrocution, $125,000 might cover their time in the emergency room, but then again, it might not. For the family members of those who died, $125,000 might be a poor equivalent for the life of their loved one, particularly if that person was the primary earner in the household.
If we use this formula of $5,000,000 and apply it to the 50 casualties involved in the stage collapse, each victim gets $100,000. That’s even less than the swimming pool scenario. If you add the $6 million that the state “found,” then each person would theoretically get $220,000. But the divvying up doesn’t actually work like that. They have to take all sorts of things into consideration to determine which victim gets how much. Was anyone injured in a permanent way? As in crippled? Were any of the people who died primary money earners, or were they simply “dependents?”
This is the sort of cruel and heartless arithmetic that has to be done in Indiana thanks to damage caps. It doesn’t matter if the divvying up process will leave everyone involved with funds that are completely inadequate to their needs. It doesn’t matter that Indiana was negligent and responsible. The cap is $5 million, and that’s that. After all, we don’t want anyone “gaming the system,” now do we?
Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington, D.C.personal injury law firm. We are current offering legal assistance to those who have been injured in an accident that occurred due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one has been injured in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.