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3/24/2015 By Christopher Monahan

“If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to financial compensation.” 
“If you or a loved one has mesothelioma, and it’s causing you terrible chest pain and difficulty breathing … we feel your pain!”
“Hold the big multi-million dollar companies RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS!”

Chances are, you’ve heard a phrase like one of these in a television commercial from an asbestos plaintiff firm. These firms are trying to raise the public’s awareness of asbestos litigation and the potential financial compensation from these cases.

The average amount spent by plaintiff firms on television advertising has increased from about $5 million a year in 2004 to over $30 million a year since 2009. Four firms (Sokolove Law Offices; Maune, Raichle, Hartley, French & Mudd, LLC; Pulaski & Middleman, P.L.L.C.; and Weitz & Luxenberg P.C.) account for over 50% of the total amount spent on television commercials since 2009.

Expensive Clicks and Other Avenues

In addition to television advertising, asbestos plaintiff firms have grown their presence on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube. Google keyword advertising (Google AdWords) also has exploded over the last few years and alone surpassed $50 million a year by plaintiff firms. It’s estimated that during that same time period, Apple only spent $20 million a year on Google AdWords for the iPhone and iPad.

Insurance is the most expensive industry for Google AdWords, and “mesothelioma” is the most expensive keyword. Google AdWords Keyword Planner shows that the current cost-per-click of the phrase “mesothelioma lawyer” in the active asbestos jurisdiction, Illinois, was over $300. By comparison, the cost for the phrase “smart phone” was only $6. That is one expensive click!

Why the Digital Ad Push?

There are a number of reasons why digital advertising has increased over the years. Since 2000, a number of large asbestos defendants filed for bankruptcy protection and emerged between 2006 and 2009 with nearly $20 billion in bankruptcy trust assets. Given the limited number of mesothelioma cases nationwide, how could this large sum of money not create an incentive for plaintiff firms to recruit claimants?

From the 1980s through the early 2000s, asbestos plaintiff firms used to conduct on-site screenings at factories, plants, industrial worksites, and union halls to find potential asbestos claimants. While successful, it required many resources to maintain and manage over the years, and not all firms had the ability to recruit in this manner. Through digital advertising, plaintiff firms can more easily and more effectively reach larger numbers of people nationwide.

That desire for nationwide reach is also behind a rise in national television advertising, as opposed to local television advertising. National television advertising by plaintiff firms increased from 26% in 2004 to 67% in 2011. One reason: tort reform over the years now allows claims to be filed in different venues, as opposed to just local jurisdictions. Also, trusts now allow filings in multiple states and jurisdictions, and they have been willing to pay lung cancer claims and other non-malignant claims, as there are not strict qualification standards.

The Bet They’re Waging

Asbestos plaintiff firms are betting that the contingency fees collected from claim resolutions will be greater than advertising and recruiting costs. Since 2006, asbestos bankruptcy trusts have paid out over $15 billion to claimants and over $1.2 billion since 2009 to lung cancer claimants alone. Not even factoring payments from resolutions in the tort system and considering conservative contingency fees of 25%, it’s easy to see why plaintiff firms are making this bet.

What do you think of these practices by asbestos plaintiff firms? Do you think we’ll continue to see a rise in digital advertising by asbestos plaintiff firms?

Christopher Monahan

About Christopher Monahan

Chris Monahan leads KCIC’s Chicago office, handling both business development and marketing responsibilities as well as claims management and analysis for new and existing clients.

Learn More About Christopher