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Wake-up call: duplicate Camp Lejeune claims have surpassed 10%

Erin Hively Oct 13, 2022

Just three weeks after the PACT Act was signed, SimplyConvert found that 7% of Camp Lejeune clients had signed with multiple law firms. Six weeks later, that number had surpassed 10%. Camp Lejeune advertising is seemingly everywhere, and clients who have not heard from their lawyers are looking elsewhere for help.

This is a wake-up call for lawyers who are not communicating with their clients: the number of dually-represented clients will skyrocket if law firms don’t start paying attention now.

In a September 27th email to lawyers working on Camp Lejeune claims, an attorney with the Navy Tort Claims Unit urged attorneys to check for clients who may have signed with multiple law firms.

“Most law firms have internal methods to detect duplicate claims, however, claimants may become confused about their status as clients and either hire another attorney to represent them and/or file a pro se claim,” she wrote. “We’ve already caught a few. Please make sure you are providing [the] claimant’s address, phone number, and email information, either on the claim form or via the permissive CSV file as TCU uses that information to detect duplicate claims. If you fail to provide that information, TCU will accept the claim as “properly presented”/ ”perfected,” however, the lack of information may result in TCUs inability to detect a duplicate claim filed by another firm, or by the claimant themselves.”

She noted that duplicate filings for a claimant could have serious negative impacts.

“Please note that while TCU attempts to screen duplicate claims and notify impacted attorneys, it is not our responsibility to do so. Further, as [a] practice pointer and to drive home the importance of good data, if a claimant files two claims for the same injury one as a pro se claim and the other through their attorney, depending on the circumstances, there could be serious adverse legal consequences for the claimant. I, personally, would not want to risk a claimant filing a pro se claim that undercuts the one filed by their attorney on their behalf.” (bold/italics added)

If your client previously signed with another firm, or if they retain another firm after signing your contract for any number of reasons, your firm and the other firm will both end up investing valuable time and money into developing the client’s case. The more time and money invested, the more difficult it will be to unravel.

Moreover, you never want to be in a situation where opposing counsel is notifying you about dually-represented clients. The sooner these issues are addressed, the better the outcome will be for all parties. Ultimately, the client will need to decide which firm will represent them going forward — whether that’s your firm, the other firm, or both with a co-counsel agreement.

Discovering duplicate representation issues before firm resources are spent and putting measures in place to prevent new duplicate representation issues will protect your firm from major headaches and save significant time and money in the long run.

6 Tips to Address Dual Representation Matters in the Camp Lejeune Litigation

So what should firms do? Here are five tips for addressing dual representation issues now, while preventing them in the future:

  1. Check your client inventory and address any dual representation issues immediately. SimplyConvert's Mass Tort Client Duplicate DetectorTM is a tech-forward solution that protects law firm mass tort inventories from duplicate signings, starting at intake. The Duplicate DetectorTM scans your inventory for clients that have signed with multiple law firms, allowing you to address duplicate representation matters before you spend time and money developing cases. Learn more and sign up for the next Duplicate DetectorTM processing here.

  2. Tell your clients not to create duplicate claims. Warn them about the risks of submitting a claim form on their own and unintentionally creating a pro se claim for themselves. Tell your clients not to sign up with other firms — some may not understand the harm in having multiple law firms working on their behalf.

  3. Follow-up with new clients as quickly as possible. We can’t emphasize this enough: your timeliness in reaching out to a new client after they sign your retainer agreement can make or break your relationship. SimplyConvert notifies you the instant a contract is signed. From there we recommend creating a procedure to ensure that each new client hears from you according to the follow-up standard you set. Automation tools can help ensure that your follow-up process happens, whether you’re out of the office or attending to other matters. For more on this, check out our 5 Tips for Making a Great First Impression on New Clients blog post.

  4. Develop a plan to keep your clients engaged for the long haul with regular updates from your firm. Marine veterans, family members, and civilian workers have waited years for justice, and they are following news about the Camp Lejeune water contamination litigation closely. Make sure they are hearing from you on a regular basis. Hosting virtual town-hall meetings or sending email blasts, newsletters, and videos are easy ways to share information. There will be times when there isn’t any new information about the litigation to share, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t communicate with your clients. Use these times as an opportunity to tell clients about the information you need them to gather in the future, introduce members of your firm, or simply tell them about the current phase of the litigation process.

  5. Give clear instructions and keep the lines of communication open. Tell your clients what you need from them and instruct them on how to provide it to you — whether the information should be sent to your firm via email, hard copy, or uploaded to an online site, such as SimplyConvert’s secure client portal. If you’re using SimplyConvert’s secure client portal, show your clients where to look for updates and how to edit the information they’ve already provided if something changes (i.e. update a mailing address or add a newly diagnosed condition). Most importantly, make sure you respond when they reach out to you. Even if you don’t have an immediate answer to their question, let them know you’ll get back to them when you do.

  6. Set appropriate expectations. Clients need to understand that they will not receive compensation overnight. They need to have a sense for what your firm is doing to advocate for them. They also need to know what they can do to help with the process and how much work will be required of them. Setting the right expectations upfront will pave the road for a much smoother relationship with your clients in the long run.

Find existing duplicate representation issues in your Camp Lejeune client inventory now and utilize the tips above to prevent them from happening in the future. You’ll be happy you did so early on this litigation knowing you’ve saved yourself and your clients from serious frustration down the road.

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