Monday, August 30, 2010

The Stories of Downwinders

I am starting a new blog series this week about the stories my Downwinder clients have shared with me over the years, and the process my clients go through to get the compensation they deserve. These stories are sad, but yet inspiring, and while I do not have the time to compile every story into a book, as I would like to do some day, I do have time to share them with you on this blog.  Enjoy!

Let me introduce you to Jose*, my first Downwinder client. He literally walked into my Prescott office by chance sometime in 2000 with no appointment made in advance and no referral from another lawyer. I invited him in to sit for a while, gave him a glass of water and decided to listen to his story.

Jose was a sweet, quiet and unassuming man, who had just recently lost his wife to lung cancer. Left with her four boys to raise on his own, and too many medical bills to mention, her death left him in a precarious financial situation. Jose had read a newspaper article about the Downwinder program in the local paper, and thought maybe he might qualify for the compensation. I read through that article, having never heard of the program before, and told him I did not think I could help. While it certainly sounded like an interesting program, it was definitely not my area of expertise. I explained to him gently that I had never filed a claim before, did not know how the program worked, and was clearly not the best attorney for the job. He considered those to be lousy excuses, and pleaded with me to represent him.

Setting all excuses aside, I decided to give it a try. I was a new attorney, and really had not figured out what my “niche” was going to be. Little did I know that it would take five years (yes, five!) to get Jose’s claim approved. The paperwork was complicated, and Jose’s common-law marriage to his wife was not recognized by the Department of Justice. I was concerned throughout the process that because Jose wouldn’t qualify for compensation because his wife had been a lifelong smoker. Much to my frustration, the Department of Justice denied the claim because of the common-law marriage issue. I decided not to give up and re-filed the claim on behalf of the four boys, several of whom were minors, and one of whom was stationed overseas in the military. What a process! The smoking issue because a non-issue, as I later learned that lung cancer is covered regardless of whether the victim was a smoker.

When the claim was finally approved, much to my surprise, Jose brought his entire family to meet me when the checks were issued. What a treat to meet this wonderful family that I had been working with for five years. About a year later, I went on to file a second claim on behalf of Jose and his sisters and brothers for their mom who had lost her battle with cancer.

And that is how it goes in this business. One claim sadly leads to another and another. I have filed claims for children who have lost both parents to cancer, and then have gone on to develop cancer themselves. It is sad to see so many family members lost to cancer, but for those who do survive, the money can make a huge difference.

Until next time, have a great week.
*Names have been changed.

1 comment:

  1. A very interesting read and a great post alltogether. thanks for sharing this information.

    Kianoosh Behshid