Sharks circling heroes -- sick workers told to avoid predatory lawyers who are after Zadroga cash
Ground Zero responders are being warned to stay away from personal injury lawyers trying to cash in on the recently passed 9/11 Zadroga health bill. Sick workers have been bombarded by lawyers with letters and calls since Christmas urging them to sign up - or risk missing out.
"Everybody should stand fast," said John Feal, head of the FealGood Foundation, which lobbied hard for the $4.3 billion James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, passed by Congress last week.
Lawyers are eligible to take 10% of an ill responder's compensation under the federal measure.
President Obama is set to sign the proposal into law as soon as Monday.
The barrage of letters from the Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern law firm, which secured an earlier 9/11 lawsuit settlement, has confused - and even frightened - some sick workers and their families.
In bold type, the firm's letters blare, "Attention: You must return your release immediately or risk being ineligible" for the Zadroga bill.
The firm did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
Lawyer Noah Kushlefsky, who has handled cases under the existing Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, urged caution for ill responders and their families.
"Everybody should wait," Kushlefsky said. "Any alarmism is a bit premature."
The Daily News revealed this week that Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, which has pocketed more than $100 million suing the city over Sept. 11, bought Web ads touting Zadroga-Act.com with the tease:
"WTC Compensation Fund: Free Consultation. Call Us Today."
Firm partner Marc Bern defended his outfit's marketing campaign.
"We're experienced. We're the ones that have the knowledge of what happened at Ground Zero with respect to these cases," he told The News. "We're the ones that have litigated from day one."
The Zadroga bill, which shrank from $7.2 billion to $4.3 billion amid GOP criticism, was ultimately approved by the Senate with a unanimous voice vote on Dec.22.
"With this vote, Congress repaid a long-overdue debt and answered the emergency calls of thousands of ailing 9/11 first responders and survivors," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), a key sponsor of the plan.