Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, on Wednesday introduced a bill to limit fees attorneys may charge for filing claims for victims of atomic test fallout or uranium mining radiation.
Under Hansen's bill, lawyers would be barred from representing victims under contingency fee arrangements for filing initial claims. Individuals could still hire lawyers, but on straight fee arrangements.For appeals, if an alleged victim was turned down, an attorney could receive up to 10 percent of the award.
Hansen said "the whole purpose of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was to compensate those individuals who have suffered the consequences of America's entry into the nuclear age. Yet the ink on the President's signature wasn't even dry when a handful of greedy lawyers were circulating letters and holding meetings saying claimants would need a lawyer. That's nonsense. This in an entitlement program, not a lawsuit. You no more need a lawyer for this than you would need to apply for Social Security."
Appeals, he conceded, may be more complex and require legal help.
The Justice Department is drafting the regulations now that will govern compensation payments. According to Hansen and aides to Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, that work is going well. They said the regulations are expected to be announced no later than April 1, with final adoption by April 15.