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Why Should you Never Hire a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney from an In-Person or Phone Solicitation?

After you have been injured in a car accident, slip-and-fall accident, or another type of injury accident caused by the negligence of someone else, you might be contacted by someone stating that they are a paralegal or case representative. This person might show up at your hospital room with flowers or call you on the phone when you never contacted the law firm they represent. Called runners, these people are paid by unscrupulous personal injury attorneys to try to convince accident victims to retain their law firms to represent them. In exchange, the law firm pays the runner a commission for convincing the victim to sign on as a client. This type of conduct is illegal because it takes advantage of people when they are at their most vulnerable.

What is an Ambulance Chaser?

"Ambulance chaser" is a pejorative term used to refer to unscrupulous lawyers and their runners who literally chase ambulances. These types of lawyers pay paramedics, nurses, police officers, and others to give them injury victims' contact information. The lawyers or their runners will then illegally contact the injured victims to try to talk them into signing representation agreements. If an attorney or runner illegally solicited you, and you signed a representation agreement, you should ask yourself about what you should do.

Is Ambulance Chasing Illegal?

Using runners to solicit business for a lawyer or law firm is illegal in California under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6152.[1] If an attorney or law firm uses runners to unlawfully solicit prospective clients, they can face up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $15,000 for a first offense. For a second offense, an attorney or law firm can face up to 12 months in jail or from two to four years in prison and a fine of $15,000.

Despite this law, unscrupulous lawyers across Los Angeles regularly engage in unlawful solicitation to try to drum up business. You should steer clear of lawyers and firms who engage in this type of practice. If an attorney is willing to break the law just to try to get you to sign a representation agreement, you should consider what else that lawyer might do with your case and any settlement money paid by the insurance company if he or she represents you.

Why Does It Matter How Attorneys Get Clients?

The conduct of a lawyer is important. Lawyers are required to follow the law and the California Rules of Professional Conduct. Under Cal. Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 7.3, attorneys are prohibited from soliciting professional employment for financial gain in-person, by telephone, or electronically from someone who does not have a close personal relationship with the attorney, is not a family member, or has not had any past professional relationship with the lawyer.[2] Communications or advertisements that are directed toward the general public are not prohibited but must clearly state that they are advertisements.

Ambulance chasers break the law and impair the rights of victims. They also engage in behavior to try to convince people suffering from the pain and shock of their accidents and are in vulnerable states. Injured victims that are illegally solicited right after their accidents might also be under the influence of medications and unable to think clearly about whether or not to sign representation agreements with attorneys. Attorneys who engage in this type of conduct make members of the public view the legal profession with skepticism and cause harm to its reputation overall.

Lawyers who illegally solicit professional employment from accident victims create bad reputations for lawyers in general because of their inappropriate and illegal conduct. The legal system is in place so that people can peacefully resolve legal disputes, and it has rules to promote fairness and honesty. Attorneys are officers of the court. If they are allowed to break the law and cheat to get business, then the public will have a negative view of the system as a whole.

Are You a Victim of Illegal Solicitation?

Many people who have been injured in accidents or have lost loved ones have been scammed by the illegal solicitation of runners and attorneys without knowing it. You might be the victim of unlawful solicitation by an attorney or law firm if one of the following things happened to you:

  • Someone called you on the phone claiming your family member asked them to call you, but your family member later states they did not do so.
  • Someone claiming to represent a lawyer or claiming to be a lawyer approached you at your loved one's funeral and pressured you to sign a representation agreement while you were grieving.
  • Someone you did not know showed up at your hospital room, claimed to be a case representative for a law firm, and asked you questions about your injuries.
  • A police officer at the scene of your accident told you to call a particular attorney for help.
  • A mechanic or tow truck driver tried to convince you to contact a specific law firm or attorney.
  • A person acting on behalf of a lawyer or the attorney himself or herself gave you gifts to convince you to sign a representation agreement.

Scrupulous attorneys do not offer sign-up incentives, gifts, or bonuses to try to convince people to become their clients. They also do not hire telemarketers to make unsolicited telephone calls to people who have been injured in accidents. They never approach people without being contacted by the victims first during the sensitive times immediately after an accident when you are in the hospital or at a funeral. Good attorneys also would never do something that could result in a jail or prison sentence and the loss of their licenses to practice law.

If you have already signed a representation agreement, think about how you were put into contact with the attorney. If the lawyer or a runner contacted you without you requesting contact, they broke the law and the ethics rules of lawyers in California.

Can You Get Your Money Back?

Under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6154, any representation agreement or contract signed with an attorney who has engaged in illegal solicitation and/or has used runners is null and void.[3] If the attorney secured a settlement for you and a judgment is issued against him or her for unlawful solicitation, the order will include divestment of the attorney's fees from your settlement funds. These fees and funds will be recoverable by you as civil penalties, allowing you to recover them.

What Should I Do If My Attorney Illegally Solicited Me?

Even if you like your attorney and believe that he or she is doing an okay job on your case, he or she has broken the law if he or she illegally solicited you. Attorneys who are willing to break the law and put their licenses on the line for financial gain may also be likelier to engage in other unethical practices when they represent you.

You should consider filing a complaint against the attorney with The State Bar of California since he or she engaged in unethical and illegal behavior. You might also want to contact law enforcement to report the lawyer for breaking the law against unlawful solicitation.

Consult the Experienced Attorneys at the Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers

At the Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers, our experienced attorneys never engage in illegal and unethical practices to try to solicit business from accident victims. When you reach out to us, you will be speaking to attorneys from the beginning of your case until its conclusion. We would never risk our licenses to practice law or the strong reputation we have established over the past 26 years by engaging in unlawful behavior. Call us today to request a free consultation at 866.966.5240.

Sources

[1] Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6152.
[2] Cal. Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 7.3.
[3] Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6154.
[4] http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Complaints-Claims/How-to-File-a-Complaint/Why-File-a-Complaint

Client Reviews
★★★★★
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
★★★★★
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
★★★★★
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
★★★★★
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
★★★★★
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
★★★★★
I believe I made the best choice with Steven M Sweat, Personal Injury. I was very reluctant to go forward with my personal injury claim. I had a valid claim and I needed a professional attorney to handle it. I felt so much better when I let Steven take my case. His team did everything right and I am very satisfied. Stia P.
★★★★★
I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.