Lawyer greed layers tragedy on tragedy after rig explosion

The SE Texas Record Jun. 7, 2010, 10:49am

By Court Koenning

In the weeks since the tragic explosion at an off-shore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the nation has grieved with the families of the 11 workers lost and watched with baited breath to see what kind of impact coastal residents and businesses will experience if the oil spill reaches the shoreline.

Already, the families of the lost have been forever changed and in all likelihood, many whose livelihoods depend on the sea life and tourism around the Gulf waters will be affected as well.

What we don't know is what exactly happened to cause the explosion or what parties are responsible. We don't know who along the Gulf Coast will be impacted by the spill.

We do know however, that personal injury lawyers are wasting no time – nor are they bothering with definitive information – to start lining up business to line their pockets from this tragedy.

Just days after the disaster, some law firms launched online ads seeking clients. Others held public meetings in coastal communities to drum up more clients for their lawsuits.

This course of action is alarming because it could result in class action lawsuits filled with uninjured people, robbing the real victims of the compensation they need and deserve.

Unfortunately, this is a familiar refrain for personal injury lawyers who scramble to be first in line to make big bucks in the wake of disaster.

Earlier this year after the Toyota recall, we immediately saw the usual suspects associated with big class action lawsuits trolling for business from people who may or may not be harmed. In some news coverage, there was scarcely a mention of the victims who were lost in accidents, only bravado-filled declarations from lawyers about how much money was up for grabs.

Some lawyers' goal in instances like this is to build a large group of plaintiffs to jockey for a big payoff, most of which ends up in the lawyers' bank accounts.

No doubt the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against Ford Motor Company remember that they received a $500 voucher while the lawyers in the case walked away with $25 million.

The actual victims resulting from the rig explosion and oil spill deserve better than that.

In Texas, it's now against the law to compensate plaintiffs with coupons or vouchers unless that's how their lawyers are paid as well.

But there are no such requirements in all states or in federal class action lawsuits. Too often class action lawsuits made up of uninjured people only serve the personal injury lawyers and deprive legitimate victims of justice.

We have already seen some Texas law firms soliciting potential clients.

In their zeal to build a big class action lawsuits, personal injury lawyers are adding insult to injury for the real victims of the rig explosion and oil spill.

When real victims are denied their rightful compensation because lawyers get greedy it layers tragedy on tragedy.

Court Koenning is president of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Houston.

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