When it comes to dealing with loss and making sense of the financial aftermath of tragedy and disasters, author and attorney Kenneth Feinberg, unfortunately, is a pro. Feinberg’s latest task is to administer the One Fund Boston, which will distribute financial help to families who lost loved ones and to those seriously injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. He also administered the funds of the September 11 victims and those affected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf.
“If the governor and the mayor have made one thing clear to me, it’s get the money out the door,” Feinberg said soon after the bombing.
Watch Feinberg, who has helped families and loved ones deal with some of the most significant disasters in recent American history, discuss how to create order after tragic loss and how to be a good mediator:
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“You try to create order. Understand, the cases I’m involved in – 9/11, Virginia Tech shootings, BP oil spill – it’s very hard to create order,” Feinberg told genConnect. “What you can do is try to at least provide compensation so that the victims of these terrible tragedies have some order in their financial lives.”
Feinberg, an attorney in Washington and the former administrator of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, has also helped administer finances after events such as the Virginia Tech shootings and the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast. He is also the author of a new book, Who Gets What: Fair Compensation after Tragedy and Financial Upheaval, which highlights the problems of using money as a way to address wrongs and reflect individual worth.
What is his biggest takeaway from these tragedies and disasters?
“When individuals confront tragedies, or confront disorder,” he said, “they should try, if they can, to step back and try to avoid making purely emotional, off-the-cuff, immediate decisions without seeking the help of others who can provide some objective grounding in how they can go about solving this.”
But how does one go about putting a dollar sign on human life?
“You can’t do it,” Feinberg stressed. “I am not engaged in the moral challenge of trying to calculate what your lost loved one is worth – no one can do that. All I try to do is what judges and juries do everyday … what would the victim have earned but for this tragedy? What was the pain and suffering and emotional distress associated with it?”
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