You are not required to have an attorney to file a claim with the VCF. You are free to consult with attorneys and you should make your own decision as to whether you wish to engage an attorney. The VCF does not recommend specific attorneys nor do we provide any type of referral.
The VCF will not reimburse individuals for fees charged by their attorneys. Such fees must be paid by the claimant. Under the VCF Act, attorneys may not charge any individual more than 10% of the amount of the individual’s VCF award. The Special Master will not comment on any disagreement about payment of fees that may occur between an attorney and client.
Attorneys who also charged their client a fee in connection with certain other September 11th- related litigation and settlements may only charge that client for representation for the VCF if the attorney’s total charge for both representations does not exceed 10% of the client’s total award in the other September 11th-related litigation (for more information, see Section 406(e) of the VCF Act).
a. “Non-routine” expenses
Under the VCF’s regulations, attorneys may charge a claimant for expenses that are routinely incurred in the course of providing legal services, as long as those expenses and attorney fees do not exceed the 10% cap. This includes any fees related to proceedings in Surrogate’s Court or probate court, including but not limited to the appointment of a Personal Representative or petitions to remove limitations in Letters of Administration.
The following expenses are never reimbursable for VCF claims:
- Obtaining routine supporting documents
- Costs of printing, mailing, delivery, messenger services, and telephone calls
- Staff expenses
- Any litigation expenses related to a claimant’s 9/11-related lawsuit (e.g., court filing fees, depositions costs), as such expenses are not related to the submission of a VCF claim
The Special Master will allow an attorney to charge you for non-routine expenses in excess of the 10% limitation if the expense is considered to be outside of the normal expenses incurred in the course of submitting a claim to the VCF. One example of this type of expense is to obtain copies of medical records in order to:
- Demonstrate the severity of an eligible injury and/or whether the victim is disabled (i.e., unable to work at full capacity) because of the eligible injury
- Demonstrate the impact of the injury on the victim – including records of medical treatments, prognosis, and limitations on the victim’s activities – for purposes of determining non-economic loss
The following expenses are reimbursable without prior approval of itemized expenses from the Special Master:
- Medical record expenses described above IF
- the expenses consist only of the amount charged by the facility that maintains the records;
- the records were obtained specifically for the VCF claim; and
- the claimant/attorney made efforts to limit the request to those records that appeared necessary for the VCF claim.
- Translation expenses to have a document that is substantive to the claim and provided in a language other than English translated by a certified translator
- Fees for a certified interpreter to accompany a non-English speaking claimant to a hearing. Note: use of bilingual law firm personnel to serve as interpreters does not qualify for reimbursement.
The Special Master believes that other eligible non-routine expenses will be rare and requires that the reimbursement of all other expenses be specifically authorized by the Special Master. Possible examples might be:
- Travel expenses for necessary meetings with a client located more than 100 miles from the law firm office
- The costs of economist analysis/reports where the victim’s economic loss requires the valuation of a business
If you believe your attorney has charged you for unapproved expenses, you may raise the matter with the VCF by calling the Helpline.
To add a new attorney or change the attorney on your claim, you will need to provide the VCF with the information about your new attorney and complete and submit a Claim Form Signature Page to allow the VCF to communicate with your attorney about your claim. Your attorney will need to complete and submit Exhibit C if the law firm has not already submitted this document to the VCF.
Follow the steps below based on your specific situation to update the attorney information in your claim:
- If you did not previously have an attorney associated with your claim and you are adding one for the first time, you can add the attorney’s name and contact information under “Claim Details” in your online claim. Once you log in to your claim, click on the VCF number in the left column of the Summary Table to access the “Claim Details” screen. Once you have added the information, call the VCF Helpline to request online access be granted to your claim for your attorney.
- If you previously authorized the VCF to communicate with an attorney and you now want to revoke this authorization because the attorney no longer represents you, you will need to complete the “Change of Attorney Form.” You can also use this form to add a different attorney to your claim. Once you submit the form, the VCF will update the information in your claim.
If you need to change or remove the attorney on your claim, you should do so by submitting the Change of Attorney Form. You should not submit a new registration or claim simply for purposes of changing your attorney. This applies even if your existing claim has already been paid and you intend to amend it to seek additional compensation.
If you submitted documents directing the VCF to pay your claim through your attorney, and you want to change these instructions, please read the information in Section 3.5: “Changing your payment information.” You should be aware that, regardless of how you receive payment from the VCF, you are liable for any agreement related to attorney fees as specified in your contract with your attorney.
You can call the Helpline for assistance with any of the following:
- If your attorney registered you through the VCF’s online claim system, and you would like to gain access to your claim.
- If you have hired an attorney to file a claim on your behalf and would like information on the status of your claim.