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Lawmaker floats idea of victims’ compensation fund

In the current budget year, the state of Washington is on track to pay 60-million dollars to settle damage and personal injury lawsuits filed against the state. That has some lawmakers alarmed, especially in light of the state’s multi-billion dollar budget crisis. Now, one state representative has an idea for a 9-11 style victims’ compensation fund.

Following the September 11th attacks, Congress created a fund to compensate the victims and their families if they agreed not to file a lawsuit. The advantage for the victims: they could avoid potentially years of litigation. The risk: they would be possibly undercompensated.

Now, Washington State Representative Deb Eddy wonders if a similar approach might help cash-strapped Washington. The state’s payouts for foster care abuse, traffic accidents and parolee crimes have doubled in the past five years. Eddy, a suburban Seattle Democrat, says the 9-11 Fund is just one example of how this might work:

“Years ago in this state we established the workman’s compensation fund because we recognized that using litigation was far more expensive than simply setting up a fund and making sure these people were taken care of.”

Eddy, a lawyer by training, is working on several proposals to rein-in Washington’s legal costs.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.