HOUSTON – Dozens of lawsuits are in the works and more are coming up after the Astroworld Festival tragedy. As we learn more about the people who died at the festival, we know many others are recovering from injuries or trauma from the event. KPRC 2 Investigates has what you need to know before hiring an attorney for yourself, or even your teenager who may have been at the festival.
Thousands of people could be eligible to file a lawsuit in the Astroworld tragedy
If you or someone you know was one of the 55-thousand people at the Astroworld Festival last Friday night you might have a real case according to legal experts. Just hours after the tragedy, attorneys started signing on clients. But there are a few things to watch out for before signing on with an attorney.
“I think it’s proper, the lawsuits. There are two components to it. Number one, there are lawsuits being filed properly and early, because I know that the defendants had lawyers, there actually the night of the event,” said Attorney Randy Sorrels, Sorrels Law Firm, and past President of the State Bar of Texas. “To balance the side, you want to have people representing those injured folks, and those whose families lost loved ones on the one hand, and the insurance companies and the lawyers for the defendants on the other. So it’s a balancing of the two interests.”
Sorrels is not representing any Astroworld Festival clients, but he says lawyers are looking to make sure the rights of those people are represented, but that’s not the only thing they are looking for.
“They’re also looking from their own angle they could represent someone who is probably likely innocent in causing their own death of their own injury against a large number of defendants,” said Sorrels.
You don’t have to be physically injured to hire an attorney
There are a lot of reasons you might want to file a lawsuit and it’s not just for physical injuries.
“They’re going to be looking to recover their medical bills, any loss of earning capacity, they have any type of physical pain, mental anguish, which can be real in these situations,” said Sorrels. “PTSD is a real thing and PTSD occurs in situations like this.”
Red Flags to look out for when hiring an attorney
You should know some red flags that may make you think twice before signing on.
1. Attorneys should not call you
“If someone calls you directly, or approaches you without permission, that’s an illegal act,” explains Sorrels. “And you definitely want to report that to the State Bar of Texas.”
2. Attorneys should not offer you money
“If a lawyer is coming and offering you money upfront, that’s a big red flag to say, I probably need to stay away from this lawyer,” said Sorrels. “Without question, it’s a conduct that lawyers who do great work, don’t need to be involved in that conduct.”
Sorrels did explain that in rare cases a person may need money upfront to help pay for bills since they are out of work. There have been times when an attorney would front someone money to help, but it should not be offered in the beginning as you talk about signing on with that attorney.
3. Attorneys should not ask YOU for money
While attorneys could charge hourly rates, these cases are primarily handled on a contingency fee. This means the lawyer makes a percentage of the recovery that he or she makes on your behalf or on your family’s behalf. Most people go the contingency fee route in these cases, according to Sorrels.
4. Make sure you know who you are signing with
Sorrels recommends making sure your lawyer will be the one helping you and not just passing it to someone else.
“There are a whole bunch of lawyers in this city who look to gather these cases, and then send them to those lawyers because Texas legally has a referral fee that’s paid,” he explains. “You might as well skip the middleman and go directly to the person who’s going to be handling the case.”
5. Do your homework on the attorney before signing
“What you want to do is check into that lawyer’s background, look to see if they’re board-certified look to see if they’ve handled these types of cases before, look at their track record.”
With social media these days, often the best place to find true reviews is on the attorney’s social accounts. Google and Yelp also have reviews. You can also check to make sure an attorney is board certified and is licensed to be practicing in Texas. The State Bar of Texas is a good place to start. There’s also good information available from the Texas State Law Library online.
For now, investigators are still putting together evidence of the event.