JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Camp Lejeune toxic water survivors are finally able to seek justice following the signing of the Honoring Our PACT Act in August of 2022.
Members of Congress are still debating some factors for veterans filing claims.
Almost everyone has seen a legal advertisement directed towards the Camp Lejeune toxic water survivors, and legislators are hoping to prevent these attorneys from taking advantage of veterans by capping the legal fees.
“Approximately $20 million a month have been spent on these advertisements, most of which have been predatory, and most of which have been by firms that don’t really have the client’s best interest in mind,” said Elizabeth Hartman, commander of American Legion Post 539.
According to advocates, around 20,000 claims have been filed so far, with some attorneys asking for a large sum of money in return for representation.
“We have been seeing exorbitant fees across the board, anywhere from 40% to 60%, which when we consider how much the veteran is likely to win, they’re not really looking at taking home much at all after these exorbitant fees,” Hartman said.
Multiple bills have been introduced in Congress discussing capping the fees at anywhere from 20% to 33% to even 2% to 10%, which one survivor said will leave no lawyers wanting to take their cases.
“If they do two and ten, all of these lawyers, good lawyers that are fighting for us will drop out because, you know, they’ll be like us, they won’t be able to make no money either,” said one advocate, Brian Amburgey,
One attorney who helped write the Honoring Our PACT Act said if the fees are capped, he believes lawyers that need a study conducted in order to prove their case will likely drop their clients.
“These studies are going to cost anywhere from$100,000 to $300,000 per person. And so if you have a disease that’s not part of that target list of eight diseases, then you may get, you may not have a chance to go to court,” said Ed Bell, an attorney with Bell Legal Group.
Bell added there’s a better way to prevent retired service members from being preyed upon, by looking into false and misleading advertising.
“It shocked me more when I saw lawyers were making promises and statements that were untrue,” said Bell. “All of a sudden these lawyers would get on TV, and get out there and try to get these clients, I think it’s a scourge on our profession.”
Advocates added it’s important to do your research on the attorney you choose. They also want to remind survivors to file their claims before August of 2024.