Personal Injury lawyers don't have the greatest reputation. Why is
this true? Part of the reason is that we are considered "ambulance
chasers" that aggressively pursue accident victims. However, there
are laws and rules that have been established by the Florida legislature
and by the Florida Bar (which sets up the rules for lawyers) that say
we are not supposed to solicit accident victims. I play by those rules.
Unfortunately, not all law firms do. When a law firm breaks the rules,
the reputation of all lawyers suffers.
Recently, I have heard of a drastic increase in accident victims receiving
calls or text messages from various people, looking to "help",
even on the same day the accident occurred. These criminals usually claim
they are from an insurance company, an "accident resource center",
a "medical clinic" or even a law firm. They convince the victim
that they need to go to a certain medical clinic, where they can receive
treatment. Sometimes they even offer a cash bribe if the victim goes to
that clinic or lawyer. These phone calls often come from an "untraceable"
phone number, so it is difficult for the authorities to catch and prosecute them.
The following laws and rules govern this behavior in Florida:
Florida Statute 877.02 "Solicitation of legal services" says that it is illegal for
any person or his or her representative to directly solicit an accident
victim. This includes phone calls, emails, or any other method of direct
or indirect contact. Any person who violates this law is guilty of a first
Florida Statute 316.066 "Written reports of crashes" forbids anyone not involved in
car accident, or their lawyer or insurance company, from obtaining a car
accident report for 60 days after the accident. Anyone who obtains a car
accident report must swear on a written document that they will not use
the accident report for the purpose of commercial solicitation. This law
can be interpreted to prevent doctors, lawyers, or anyone else from contacting
a car accident victim for any business purpose, after obtaining the information
from a car accident report. Anyone guilty of violating this law has committed
a third degree felony.
Florida Bar Rule 4-7.18 outlines the rules for lawyers' direct contact with prospective clients.
Lawyers may not attempt to contact prospective clients by any means for
30 days after the accident. However, attorneys may send a letter to prospective
clients more than 30 days after the accident, as long as the letter includes
some very specific contents that are listed in the Rule. A lawyer who
violates this Rule is subject to discipline by the Bar, including the
loss of his or her license to practice law.
As you can see, there are laws and rules already in place in Florida to
prevent "ambulance chasing". Unfortunately, the public is unaware
that these communications are actually illegal. If you have been the victim
of illegal solicitation by a lawyer or some other business, report the
lawyer to the Florida Bar by filing a Complaint at FloridaBar.org, or
report the crime to the police, so that these crimes will be stopped.
As a Personal Injury lawyer, I have taken an oath to follow the law. If
you have been contacted by a lawyer who violated that oath, you might
not want that unethical lawyer to represent you in your case.