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Indiana sets up special process for state fair claims

September 19, 2011

The state on Monday asked families of those killed or injured in a deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair to complete a new customized claim form by Nov. 1 so the state can expedite settlements.

"Our focus and our priority will be on compensating the families of those who died and those who were injured in the State Fair tragedy so that they are treated equitably," Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a news release.

The attorney general's office said the new form is available online at the agency's website and by calling 800-760-4616.

The form allows victims to apply for payments from the Indiana Tort Claim Fund. As of Monday, the agency said 21 claims had been filed against the $5 million fund, along with a handful of lawsuits. Traditionally, a tort claim can be a precursor to a lawsuit, but the state is working with victims compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg to develop a process for paying claims without going to court.

However, the amount of money available for victims of the stage collapse is limited because the law limits caps the state's liability at $700,000 per person or a total of $5 million per incident. Seven people died and more than 40 were injured as a result of the Aug. 13 accident.

The attorney general's office said people have 270 days in which to file a tort claim under state law, but it urged people to file by Nov. 1 because the funds will likely be exhausted after that.

The state has hired an Indianapolis claims management firm to process the forms. The attorney general's office said the money would be distributed under a "streamlined" process and guidelines being developed by Feinberg.

The state urged people who had already filed tort claims to also fill out the new forms.

Feinberg is also working with the Indiana State Fair Commission to develop a system for distributing private charitable donations intended for victims of the stage collapse.

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