WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 19, 2001 – The United States Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform today commended the trial lawyer community for its willingness to handle claims free of charge through the Victims’ Compensation Fund, but expressed concern about potential ‘bait and switch’.
“We sincerely hope this is not a deceptive ‘bait and switch’ strategy designed to mass market trial lawyer services under the guise of humanitarian outreach,” said James Wootton, Chamber Institute for Legal Reform president. “While the stated goal of the trial lawyers is laudable, the potential for abuse is great.”
The trial lawyers have formed a new group – Trial Lawyers Care – to handle claims through the Victims’ Compensation Fund established by Congress and President Bush to speed financial relief to victims of terrorism and their families.
Although the group’s Web site – highlighted in recent full-page, newspaper ads – is designed to capture the names of potential clients as well as the claims they would make, it also emphasizes that “claimants are not required to use the Fund” and “will be giving up their right to file a lawsuit” if they do. Once victims supply personal information, trial lawyers could use this data as a basis for coordinating mass litigation, according to the Institute for Legal Reform.
“If America’s trial lawyers are sincere in their commitment to help some victims for free, they should also be willing to pledge that they will charge reasonable fees to help other victims that want to pursue a lawsuit – fees that are based on actual hours worked. If they are unwilling to do that, then the true motives behind this seemingly generous offer will be revealed,” Wootton said.
“Personal injury lawyers are the same individuals who profit financially from a tort system that yields only 40 cents to victims for every dollar provided for compensation,” Wootton concluded.