People are at their most vulnerable after a serious car crash. They’re in pain, anxious about the future, foggy on medication or emotionally overwhelmed. In many instances, they’re not in the best frame of mind to make important decisions.
Unfortunately, it’s just at that low point that unscrupulous members of the legal profession and their representatives choose to strike. A person you don’t know urges you to hire an attorney you’ve never heard of, or you get an unexpected visit in the hospital or at your home from someone eager to “sign you up.” And all too often, the high-pressure sales job results in an accident victim retaining an ethically challenged attorney who may not care at all about representing the best interests of the client.
Attorneys who seek out vulnerable accident victims and solicit them to retain their services, either directly or through intermediaries, are known in the profession as ambulance chasers. Such solicitations are clearly unethical — and, in many states, illegal. But that hasn’t stopped the practice. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself from these operators.
WHAT IS AMBULANCE CHASING?
Ambulance chasing can take many forms. Quite literally, it might involve a lawyer showing up in an emergency room and handing out business cards to patients. But the approach is rarely that blatant. Some attorneys use “runners” who monitor police calls, accident reports, or other information on bad crashes and may make the initial contact. Others have financial arrangements with first responders or emergency room personnel, who will recommend a certain attorney to their patients — and receive a kickback for their trouble.
All of these solicitation efforts are fraught with conflicts of interest or other ethical problems. For example, a patient might feel coerced into hiring a particular lawyer that a treatment provider recommends, fearful that he or she won’t receive adequate medical care otherwise. Rule 7.3 of the American Bar Association prohibits soliciting “professional employment by live person-to-person contact” for pecuniary gain. It’s perfectly legal for an attorney to advertise legal services to the general public, but it’s not okay for an attorney to contact a particular accident victim unless there is a prior personal or professional relationship with that person.
Most personal injury attorneys are conscientious about honoring the ban on solicitation. Those who seek to get around it are on a slippery slope that might also involve exaggerating their qualifications, misrepresenting their record of successful verdicts, engaging in misleading advertising, and other unethical behavior. They are not, in any event, the kind of lawyers that anyone would want representing them in court.
HOW TO DO IT RIGHT
The process of hiring a personal injury attorney is much too important to leave to chance (or coercion). It should be an informed decision that you make on your own, without pressure from other parties or under stress.
No single approach to the task is right for all, but word of mouth can play an important role. If people you know and trust have used a particular attorney and had good results, that’s worth knowing about. Recommendations from family and friends and reviews from reliable sources can be very helpful, too. But do your own research as well. Among the questions that should be answered to your satisfaction:
What’s the firm’s track record?
How long has it been in business?
What sort of resources and expertise does it have to offer?
What do past clients have to say about it?
These are precisely the kind of questions that the ambulance chasers don’t want you to ask. Take the time to investigate, and you’re more likely to find the attorney you need to bring your case to a successful conclusion.
THE CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS AT FDAZAR
For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Thornton, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Greenwood Village, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night at 800-716-9032, or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.