As personal injury attorneys, we can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to fight negative perceptions as being “ambulance chasers.” But the unfortunate truth is, there are some unethical lawyers out there who don’t mind giving the rest of us a bad reputation by doing just that. These bad players are a big part of why we advertise—to give injury victims an informed choice about who they are hiring.
If you’ve ever received a phone call, letter, or email from a lawyer shortly after an accident who you didn’t contact first or who you didn’t provide your information to, you may have been a victim of one of these unethical lawyers!
When you are contacted unsolicited by a lawyer after an accident, it’s likely they received your personal information through underhanded or even illegal means, sometimes even by paying a police officer or healthcare worker.
Read on, or watch our Legal Break video on this topic, to learn more about this improper practice, and what to do if it happens to you.
What Are The Rules About Solicitation?
The American Bar Association (ABA) has published clear guidelines about solicitation.
In this situation, solicitation means “a communication initiated by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm that is directed to a specific person… that offers to provide, or reasonably can be understood as offering to provide, legal services.”
These rules essentially state that lawyers cannot contact potential clients for the sole purpose of leading a client to their office. In other words, cold calling and misleading victims is not allowed.
An exception is made for mailed material which is clearly marked as advertisement when it is sent after an appropriate amount of time, usually after more than 30 days have passed since the accident.
Lawyers who break these guidelines for professional conduct could face a variety of penalties, including disbarment (being unable to practice law in that jurisdiction again).
What Should I Do If a Lawyer Cold Calls Me After an Accident?
Hang up the phone! If something feels off during your conversation, listen to your gut, because it’s probably right.
Because this behavior is unethical and against state bar association rules, you should make sure to report the lawyer who called you to your state’s bar association.
NOTE: It can often be difficult to actually catch the scoundrels because many may not work for a law firm at all! Some of these “ambulance chasers” are just opportunists and “businessmen” who plan to sell your case to law firms and doctors once they get you to agree to sign. While I strongly suspect that the associated lawyers know the origin of the cases they purchase, it is hard to prove.
Additionally, you should be extra cautious about any unsolicited phone call you get after an accident, because they may not only be posing as lawyers either. They may be posing as a doctor at the hospital where you received treatment and offer to make a recommendation for a lawyer, but the outcome is the same. You end up stuck with a lawyer you don’t know, didn’t choose yourself, and who may not provide the best service.
How Should I Go About Finding My Own Lawyer?
The best way to find a lawyer is to ask trusted friends and family for recommendations, read reviews online, look at their website, and most importantly, talk to them yourself!!
Many personal injury firms will offer consultations so you can discuss your case with a lawyer beforehand. This can give you a better idea of what you can expect if you decide to hire that firm, as well as let you get to know the lawyer, and form your own impressions of them!
At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, your initial consultation is always free, and you are under no obligation to hire us simply because you spoke to one of our lawyers.