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Working for the Victims of 9/11 – Pro Bono

Mineola attorney Chris McGrath recalls legal work done for victims’ families.

After a firefighter falls in the line of duty, Chris McGrath is usually one of the attorneys the families turn to for representation in seeking a settlement.

One of the premier personal injury firms in the state of New York, McGrath’s law firm of had a specialty in handling matters involving firefighters, having represented all of the most horrendous fire cases over the last 30 years.

“When something happens to a firefighter the first firm they call is ours,” McGrath said.

After 9/11, there were hundreds of victims’ families of the uniformed firefighters’ association (UFA), which McGrath’s firm represented.

“They lost many of their members and we represented all of the families,” McGrath said.

While other firms charged for their services, McGrath’s group did the work pro bono. In total 362 victims’ families were helped through the specially dedicated unit of 10 attorneys and paralegals – the majority of which are still at the firm – who prosecuted the cases out of the Manhattan office. The unit was headed by attorneys Michael Block and Andrew Carboy, who had experience with litigation stemming from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

“We spent thousands of hours assisting these families for no compensation,” McGrath said.

While the Federal government established the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, a settlement fund for the victims, it was administrated by a mediator who would render a financial award based on papers prepared by attorneys which included medical records and economist reports.

“If we were then not satisfied with the award we would take an appeal for the family,” McGrath said.

Each appeal could take as long as two to 3 years, depending on the case.

“We tried to expedite it that’s why we put so many people on it for the families so many of the results changed quite fast,” McGrath said.

In total the firm recovered over $260 million for injured firefighters and their families.

“Every case was horrific because remember it affected these families. You go to work in the morning and people expect you to come home,” McGrath said, noting that in many of the cases they were dealing with expectant wives now widowed and young children left without a parent.

“We had a range of everybody,” he said. “I don’t think that one is separate from another as far as how bad it was, because it was bad.”

One case in particular involved a firefighter whose wife had terminal breast cancer. Together the couple left behind two children. “We put everything together for the two children and the guardian that the wife was going to appoint for them,” McGrath said.

The same group also represented more than 700 first responders – who got sick later from working at Ground Zero – and received a $700 million settlement in 2010.

“The most horrific cases, the responder cases, we represented them as well,” McGrath said.

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