NEW YORK – With the deadline for applications to the Sept. 11 victims' compensation fund only hours away, more than 90 percent of families who lost loved ones have filed claims, the fund's chief administrator said Monday.
The fund had received claims from about 92 percent of eligible families as of Monday morning, said Kenneth Feinberg (search), the program's special master. He had said he hoped to reach 90 percent enrollment by the program's deadline at midnight Monday.
Among those not filing claims were 73 people who insisted on suing the airlines instead, he said. But many said grief prevented them from filing.
"I've met families, individual families, who look at me and say, 'Mr. Feinberg, thank you for coming, thank you for the application, I simply cannot put pen to paper. ... I'm paralyzed,'" he said in an interview on CBS' "The Early Show."
The fund had also received more than 3,000 claims from those injured in the attacks, Feinberg said.
The compensation fund, created by Congress to help victims and protect the airline industry from possibly crippling litigation, had paid out nearly $1.5 billion as of last week.
When it was first launched, many Sept. 11 families criticized the program as a tightfisted effort to protect airlines from negligence claims and put dollar values on individual lives. But claims to the fund have increased to 50 to 60 a day in recent weeks.
He said administering the fund had been "absolutely harrowing."
"Day after day, meeting with these families, I think you appreciate more than ever the value of life and how precious it really is," he said.
The death toll from the attacks is 2,976.