By Ron J. Iocca
Two years ago my life was turned upside down, and I was fortunate to have access to an innovative product called Consumer Legal Funding. I was rear-ended in a bad car crash, and two disks in my neck broke. Because of the accident I lost my job. A stack of bills piled up, including several from my landlord. Eviction was on the horizon. I wanted to pay my bills, I wanted to live up to my responsibilities, I wanted to take care of my family, but I couldn’t find a way.
Before the car crash, I was meeting all my obligations. I had a good job. I was a lineman, climbing telephone poles. I was healthy and strong. Suddenly, I was temporarily crippled as a result of someone else’s dangerous actions. I had difficulty walking, let alone climbing a phone pole. As a result, I lost my job. But as we all know, life does not stop and the obligations we agree to do not go away.
I had no paycheck. I had huge medical bills. Meanwhile, the insurance that we rely upon to help in these situations was not coming through. Fault in the crash was not in question. But my insurance claim was delayed at every step. I had no other option but to consult with an attorney, and the attorney told me this happens to people all the time. I was penniless and at-risk of losing everything. The threat of eviction and homelessness was real.
When I thought I was at the end of my rope, I finally learned that Legal Funding provided an option for me. The company I contacted, Oasis Legal Finance, showed concern for me and my position at a time when I thought I was going to be left behind and abandoned by everyone. With its help, I was able to solve my financial problems. Legal Funding allowed me to get the funds I needed to pay my rent, medical bills, utility bills, and to put food on the table for my family. After two long years, I finally settled my claim and was reimbursed for my medical expenses and my loss of income. I was finally made whole, as insurance is supposed to do.
Today in Alabama, lawmakers are debating legislation to regulate the Consumer Legal Funding industry. The pieces of legislation, HB 160 and SB 68, have been designed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Insurance Industry to eliminate the option of Legal Funding and prevent consumers like me from getting the help we need when we need it.
I would like to ask our state legislators to look at the motivations of the U.S. Chamber and the Insurance Industry to bring forward such legislation. If the financial assistance of Legal Funding is not available, the insurance companies have the ability to take advantage of people like me facing financial pressure. I know I would not have been able to make it through those two painful years the case was being dragged out, and to get a fair settlement, had it not been for Legal Funding.
The accident I was involved in changed my life forever, but Legal Funding provided me with a beacon of hope. The money it provided, when no one else would help me, was a lifesaver. I know for a fact other people in Alabama are in similar situations right now. I urge the lawmakers in Montgomery to ensure that Consumer Legal Funding remains accessible to them, the way it was available to help me. Today, I am a landscaper and I am back on my feet. I want others to have the same chance to reclaim their lives.
I respectfully urge the legislators of Alabama to keep their constituents at the forefront of their decisions rather than the hired lobbyists who are coming into Alabama from Washington D.C. on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big insurance companies.
Ron Iocca is from Phenix City, Alabama. He has four children.