You might have heard the term “ambulance chaser” and wondered what it means. This is often a denigrating term reserved for some personal injury lawyers. This term refers to a lawyer who listens for an ambulance, follows it, and then talks to the victim inside the ambulance about representing them in a personal injury case.
Ambulance chasing is generally frowned upon and not used by reputable personal injury lawyers like those at established firms. If you have been approached by an ambulance-chasing lawyer or their representative, contact a reputable personal injury lawyer who will not try to take advantage of you.
Is Ambulance Chasing Legal in California?
Rule 7.3 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct specifically prohibits contacting an accident victim in person, by live telephone call, or through electronic contact to solicit legal work when a lawyer has a significant motive based on financial gain.
There are a few exceptions, such as when the victim is:
- Another lawyer
- Someone with whom the lawyer has a family, close personal, or previous professional relationship
Some lawyers may try to circumvent these rules by having a third party, such as a paralegal, investigator, or contractor, approach the client. However, all attorneys are expected to uphold the professional rules of conduct, ensure that their staff follows these rules, and respect the spirit of the rules.
Drawbacks of Ambulance Chasing
The rule against in-person solicitation of clients is put in place because the rule-makers are concerned about legal clients being coerced or entering into legal agreements under duress. After an accident, victims may be confused and potentially under medical care. They may find it difficult to make a rational decision about legal representation when they are worried about their health, confused about their rights, and stressed about the situation.
Additionally, ambulance chasers may operate schemes in which they work out arrangements with other professionals like doctors or chiropractors to send their clients to them for medical care. Doing this can limit the victim’s right to choose their own provider and may violate the rules on splitting fees with non-lawyers.
Other unscrupulous behavior of ambulance chaser lawyers and their agents may include:
- Making bribes to accident victims
- Providing false information to accident victims
- Charging other professionals referral fees
- Preventing victims from getting the care they need
- Paying others to refer accident victims to them, such as hospital workers or police officers
- Harassing accident victims until they agree to sign the lawyer’s unreasonable retainer fee agreement
The more time accident victims spend with these swindlers, the less time they will be focusing on their health and advancing their legal claims.
Signs That An Ambulance Chaser Has Contacted You
Some signs that you may have been contacted by an ambulance chaser are:
- You receive unsolicited phone calls, emails, or visits from personal injury lawyers or agents that work for them
- The agents visit you in your hospital room without you knowing it
- You find out you signed papers with someone while you were under the influence of pain medication or trying to recover from your injuries
- Agents refer you to a particular medical clinic or drive you there
- Agents offer to pay you money to sign a retainer agreement
Lawyers who break ethical rules may also break other rules, such as meeting filing deadlines or upholding their duties to clients. Avoid ambulance chasers and contact an honest personal injury lawyer instead. A good lawyer will ensure that you understand your legal rights and options and agree to speak to you during a free, no-pressure, no-obligation consultation.