People commonly research purchases and business transactions carefully, but if they are injured in an accident, they may be susceptible to unscrupulous tactics of “ambulance chasing” and end up with subpar legal representation. Called “case runners,” ambulance chasers use aggressive tactics to get personal information about accident victims and steer them toward the highest paying attorneys and doctors. Accident victims are in the midst of a crisis and may make rushed decisions that aren’t in their best interest.
This practice is illegal and unethical. Case runners, who may call themselves investigators, are seeking a payout without regard to accident victims receiving medical care or proper legal representation.
According to the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.3, ambulance chasing is strictly forbidden in the state of Michigan. In fact, lawyers who are found guilty of illegal solicitation may face criminal penalties.
Attorneys will also face disciplinary actions from the State Bar of Michigan. These penalties are harsh and they are intended to discourage ambulance chasing. Personal injury attorneys must abide by strict guidelines when contacting a potential client. They must not contact an accident victim in any way for a minimum of 30 days following a motor vehicle accident. This includes phone calls, emails, face-to-face interactions, and written communication. Third parties working on behalf of a lawyer are also prohibited from contacting a potential client for at least 30 days.
In addition, attorneys must wait for 30 days before requesting the accident report to look up the victim’s contact information. These rules, set forth in Michigan’s legislation, are designed to protect accident victims from dishonest and crafty lawyers. These attorneys are usually just in it for a quick paycheck, and will not provide the representation you need to succeed.
The name comes from the fact that the most egregious behavior of this practice is literally chasing ambulances to hospitals to speak to the victim while they are being treated. While this attorney practice is distasteful everywhere, once again it is illegal in Michigan and could completely eliminate the attorney’s right to collect fees for a case.
Although they don’t physically chase after an ambulance, ambulance chasers employ aggressive tactics and can take advantage of people during a vulnerable time shortly after an accident. They are unknown to the victim but will visit them in the hospital, call soon after an accident occurs, inquire about injuries, and refer accident victims to medical care and legal representation. They may even offer accident victims transportation or money. Some even solicit services in hospital lobbies.
Police reports are public records that contain the contact information of the parties involved in the incident. Attorneys are prohibited from using such records for 30 days after the incident and may not employ others to search for this information as well. Unexpected calls or visits after an accident are a definite red flag.
If you suspect you’re being solicited, hang up the phone or tell the person to leave. Seek an honest and reputable personal injury attorney. Personal injury attorneys can also help those who have fallen victim to a scheme and initially sought insufficient representation.
According to MCL 750.410(1), an official contract for attorney fees in any personal injury case will be “void” if the contract was created after the plaintiff was solicited unlawfully. The same is also true if the contract was solicited by someone working for the personal injury attorney. In effect, you can’t be charged attorney fees for your case, win or lose, if “ambulance chasing” methods were used to get your attention or signature, even if that “chaser” was a third-party.
But who would send a third-party stranger to try to get cases immediately after accidents? According to recent reports in Detroit and throughout Michigan, plenty of attorneys would try this suspicious tactic. The new trend is sending out an “investigator” who is interested in the accident for some sort of study, only this person just so happens to know an attorney the victim should call if they want to make a claim.
Most attorneys are ethical, putting their clients’ needs first and avoiding conflicts of interest. Like many fields, some unethical players can give others a bad name. Reputable and honest personal injury attorneys understand that accident victims may not be aware of their rights. They follow professional conduct rules for soliciting clients and understand the dangers of case runners and seek to protect their clients’ rights. Ethical attorneys will keep their clients informed and avoid any conflicts of interest. They will also work to put a stop to illegal solicitations by case runners.
Look for an attorney who has experience handling your specific type of case and placing client needs first. Accident victims should first focus on their health. Hiring an attorney may be necessary in cases where medical bills and loss of income are substantial, and the responsible party’s insurance company is uncooperative. A personal injury lawyer can work with insurance companies and others to seek fair compensation in the most efficient manner possible. They may persuade the insurance company to settle, or they may seek a trial.
Reputable personal injury lawyers want to help their clients and provide the best representation possible, placing their clients’ needs first. Case runners only seek a payout and don’t have your best interests at heart. Attorneys who engage in this illegal and unethical practice don’t have their clients’ best interests in mind.
Case runners and attorneys who profit from their tactics violate the law and harm accident victims. Accident victims, who may be taking strong pain medication at the time, may agree to representation that doesn’t meet their needs. Case runners and unethical lawyers will pursue representation that meets their needs instead of your needs. Critical investigation and research into the circumstances of your case could be delayed.
By law, you have the responsibility to reach out and contact an attorney after an accident, not the other way around. If you’re contacted in any way by an attorney persuading you to hire a particular lawyer within 30 days of the crash, this is breaking the law. You should immediately contact law enforcement and the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission and give them the name, contact information, and any details you know about the attorney.
At Goodman Acker, P.C., we value honesty and integrity and hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards. Our Detroit and Grand Rapids personal injury lawyers have guided numerous clients to successful outcomes in a variety of cases. If you have been injured in a car accident or other type of accident, we will tirelessly fight on your behalf as you seek justice from those responsible. Contact our office online or by phone to receive a free, no-obligation consultation with our trusted and reputable attorneys.
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