Lawyers offer victims some free TLC

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by Michael P. Mayko
Connecticut Post

October 16, 2001

BRIDGEPORT — They call themselves Trial Lawyers Care, Inc.

They've set up a Web site and toll-free telephone numbers in both English and Spanish.

And for the next two years, they'll be providing free legal services to the more than 10,000 injured and to the families of those killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

"It's the right thing to do," said Richard Bieder, a partner in Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. "As soon as I saw the plane go into that building, I was wondering what I could do to help."

Bieder has been named to TLC's board of directors. For the past three weeks, he's been involved in recruiting volunteers and setting up the group's Web site.

Bieder said that about 2,000 lawyers from across the country have volunteered. Of those about 100 are from Connecticut.

He said each of the volunteer lawyers has practiced for at least five years and been involved in at least 15 trials or settlements involving personal injuries or deaths.

"And not one of them is going to take one penny for their work," Bieder promised.

Additionally, the lawyers will attempt to have out-of-pocket costs -- such as obtaining medical records, tax records and expert reports -- provided free to the clients, or at least have the bills delayed until the government makes a payment.

"Considering the risks, including injury and death, taken by firemen and police," Bieder said, "I believe I can represent victims and not take a fee."

Bieder sees a good possibility that most of the victims will file their claims through the federal Victims Compensation Fund rather than filing a lawsuit.

Congress passed a law setting aside a large pool of money for the victims. The rules and regulations are expected to be in place by late December. Congress has stipulated that each case must be settled within 120 days after a claim is filed and payment made within 20 days of an order.

Under the preliminary rules, a hearing officer will be appointed to look at each case and determine the victim's award.

Already nearly 20 victims have called.

There is no limit on the amount of the award. However, benefits received from life insurance proceeds will be deducted from the award.

Bieder said that, preliminarily, this process seems like a good idea.

"Consider that it's been eight years and the cases brought from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing haven't gone to trial yet," he said.

He also said that there may be only a limited amount of money available from defendants if lawsuits are brought.

For information on using TLC to process claims, visit the Web site or call the toll-free numbers: 1-888-780-8637 for English, or 1-888-780-8682 for Spanish.