An attorney who represents injured people and their families will inevitably hear jokes about “ambulance chasing.” I tell young lawyers to be prepared for that, and to have a sense of humor about themselves and their work.
But in recent years real ambulance chasing has become a cancer on my profession. “Direct solicitation” of injured people – usually by lawyers and chiropractors – is a serious problem. When I am talking to someone who was recently hurt in a car crash, they will often tell me that their phone “has been ringing off the hook,” and that they have received many letters and packages in the mail from lawyers and chiropractors wanting to represent and treat them. One potential client even said that she was told her “claim would be closed” if she didn’t get immediate treatment from the chiropractor in question.
Unfortunately, the law mostly protects this nonsense, and when these direct solicitors step over the line, they are almost never held accountable. So they keep going.
Why does this matter? It matters because it diminishes the integrity of the legal system, and it makes valid cases harder to win. At the trial of an automobile accident, personal injury or malpractice case, jurors may come in to the courtroom with a built-in negative bias against the injured party because they, or someone they know, was inundated with silly solicitations after some minor car crash. The jury may assume that you and your lawyer are part of this sad trend, and hold it against you.
Insurance companies and their lawyers have no interest in stopping direct solicitation. They know that solicitation – and the negative bias it creates among citizens who serve on juries – helps them settle cases for less money than they fairly owe.
The vast majority of attorneys – this author included – dislike direct solicitation, and take no part in it. But some lawyers invest a lot of money in this type of “marketing.” On their own, or using middle-men, they search through police reports and contact whomever they suspect was not “at fault.” These law firms often run a volume-business based on quick settlements, and may not care how their solicitations damage the claims of honest folks with legitimate injuries.
If you are injured and feel that you need a lawyer, don’t hire the first one who calls, or the one with the glossiest brochure. Talk to friends, search the internet, or call your local bar association.
Some attorneys chase ambulances. Don’t let let them catch you.