COVID-19 Legal Services Television Advertising
National and Select State Data
Liability protections needed at state level
As state legislatures across the country meet and determine how best to handle the pandemic’s continuous impacts, new data from the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) demonstrates the need to prioritize liability protection.
From March through December 2020, 176,053 TV advertisements for legal services and/or soliciting legal claims mentioning COVID-19 or coronavirus aired in the United States at an estimated cost of $34.4 million. When compared with legal services ads soliciting medical device claims, three times as many COVID-19 legal services ads aired. During that same time period, 7,734 lawsuits related to COVID-19 were filed in the U.S.
“These numbers show just how important it is for state legislatures to enact legislative solutions to support health care providers, businesses, and their employees who have been on the frontlines, responding to the pandemic,” ATRA President Tiger Joyce said.
To date, 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some level of COVID-19 liability protections.
“While a national solution would create a more predictable system for all and would ease the burden on companies that operate across state lines, the onus has fallen on the states,” Joyce said. “Legislatures must enact reasonable liability protections for businesses, health care providers and countless other organizations to protect them from entrepreneurial trial attorneys who seek to profit from the pandemic.”
Florida came in at the top both for spending on these ads and the total number of ads aired. Florida accounted for approximately 20% of all legal services TV ads and spending on ads mentioning COVID-19 or coronavirus that aired from March through December 2020. An estimated $6.6 million were spent to air nearly 35,000 legal services ads related to the pandemic.
The state’s legislature is now quickly moving on a handful of bills to provide liability protections to health care providers (S.B. 74) as well as for individuals, businesses, and other organizations (S.B. 72 and H.B. 7).
Recent polling reveals broad bipartisan support for elected officials to respond to pandemic-related issues – rather than trial lawyers filing lawsuits to address such concerns. Key findings show that 74% of respondents believe that the government should support small businesses affected by COVID-19 with grants or loans, versus 6% who said lawyers should help small businesses pursue legal claims instead.
“The data show that Americans are tired of trial lawyers’ schemes,” Joyce said. “When it comes to COVID-19 recovery efforts, the evidence is clear – a majority of Americans want their elected officials – not trial lawyers – to handle COVID-19 relief and aid.”
Despite the lack of public support for COVID-19 litigation, law firms marketed their services aggressively . Moreover, an analysis by the Wall Street Journal found that dozens of top law firms received millions in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Some firms spent those dollars to increase their advertising, including a Southern U.S. powerhouse personal injury law firm, Morgan & Morgan. ATRA’s report found that Morgan & Morgan was the top sponsor for COVID-19 legal services TV ads from March through December, airing approximately 70,000 ads at a cost of $10.5 million.
“This money was meant to help struggling businesses cover operating expenses including rent and employee salaries and benefits, but at least some of the money was used by law firms to recruit potential plaintiffs for future litigation,” Joyce said. “Unfortunately, it’s healthcare and frontline workers, small businesses and employees, who will ultimately pay the price when astronomical litigation costs force them to close or raise prices, simply to keep up.”
The full report is available at ATRA.org.
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