A national law firm with a history of fighting for the rights of injured and sickened Ground Zero first responders has announced its intention to continue representing any 9/11 terrorist attack rescue and recovery worker in Zadroga Act claims, whether or not it is able to collect a fee for those services. In a statement issued yesterday, Matthew McCauley, the lead attorney in Parker Waichman LLP’s WTC/Zadroga group characterized the firm’s work with Ground Zero responders as “personal” and expressed a desire to see to it that these individuals receive all of the compensation they deserve.
The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which became law in December 2010, reopened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for five years to provide payment for job and economic losses for first responders, those trapped in the buildings, and local residents, who suffered illness or injuries related to the toxic dust. Any sickened Ground Zero worker with a covered illness is entitled to make a claim under the Zadroga Act, even those who participated in the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement. That settlement, which was finalized in 2010 by New York City, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and a number of contractors involved in Ground Zero clean-up efforts, set aside more than $600 million for 9/11 first responders who suffered respiratory ailments and other health problems because of their exposure to toxic dust.
Under the terms of the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement, attorneys are entitled to collect a 25% fee of any compensation their clients recover. However, if those same clients are also granted Zadroga Act compensation, their lawyers are prohibited from collecting another fee for assistance rendered on those claims. However, in cases where a law firm did not assist a client with a settlement claim, the firm may assess a 10% fee for Zadroga Act assistance.
Many experts agree that good legal representation is vital if sickened Ground Zero workers want to maximize their Zadroga Act recoveries. But yesterday, we reported that some law firms that made millions in fees representing claimants in the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement were now refusing to assist their clients with Zadroga Act claims because of the law’s fee stipulations. Now, in a statement issued yesterday, Parker Waichman LLP made it clear that it was not among those law firms.
“While it’s true for all of our clients, this group truly exemplifies our belief that it is not just business – it’s personal,” McCauley, himself a former NYPD Officer and WTC First Responder, said in the firm’s statement. “We want these first responders to get what they need and justly deserve.”
McCauley pointed out that Parker Waichman LLP, which worked with Ground Zero first responders and their advocates to get the Zadroga Act passed, is continuing to work to have cancer included as a covered illness under the law. The firm is currently representing several cancer victims who developed their illness after working at Ground Zero. Parker Waichman LLP is also working pro bono on behalf of an Air Traffic Controller who has been excluded from PTSD benefits provided by the Zadroga Act because he was not physically at a site, despite being in contact with one of the United Airline flights on 9/11 until the end, McCauley said.
According to Parker Waichman LLP’s statement, the firm has a dedicated staff of retired firefighters and policemen waiting to help Zadroga Act claimants. Parker Waichman LLP has vowed to continue to assist any injured or sickened Ground Zero first responder with Zadroga Act claims, regardless of their participation in the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement.