Runners – Ambulance chasing

At PLOEG AND BROWN P.C. we represent many clients in regards to their personal injury matters.  Most of our clients refer their family and friends to us because they are satisfied with the results that we were able to achieve.  This is how law firms should retain new clients, through their hard work and reputation.

Unfortunately there are less reputable law firms and attorneys who use intermediaries to directly contact injured persons and solicit them for services.  This practice is commonly known as “ambulance chasing” and is prohibited by the State Bar Association.

Georgia State Bar Rule 7.3 “DIRECT CONTACT WITH PROSEPTIVE CLIENTS” states:  “A lawyer shall not send, or knowingly permit to be sent, on behalf of the lawyer, the lawyer’s firm, lawyer’s partner, associate or any other lawyer affiliated with the lawyer or the lawyer’s firm, a written communication to a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining professional employment if:

    1. it has been made known to the lawyer that a person does not desire to receive communications from the lawyer;
    2. the communication involves coercion, duress, fraud, overreaching, harassment, intimidation or undue influence;
    3. the written communication concerns an action for personal injury or wrongful death or otherwise relates to an accident or disaster involving the person to whom the communication is addressed or a relative of that person, unless the accident or disaster occurred more than 30 days prior to the mailing of the communication; or
    4. the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the physical, emotional or mental state of the person is such that the person could not exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer.
  1. Also included in the prohibited types of personal contact are direct, personal contact through an intermediary and live contact by telephone.

Basically Rule 7.3 prohibits an attorney from making direct contact with an injured person for the purpose of soliciting his or her services.  This rule was created to prevent lawyers from contacting injured persons who may be overcome with pain and be medicated to the point where they don’t even know what that they are making an agreement to hire an attorney.  The logic is that it would be unfair for the injured person who may not be able to make a proper decision about representation and therefore would be signing a contract for which he or she does not clearly understand.  The rule is clear and yet there are attorneys that ignore this rule on a daily basis.

In the past year, we have represented clients who were injured in an automobile accident who have told us that an attorney called them the day after the accident to speak to them about representation.  The client stated that he had NO IDEA how the attorney got his number.  The client did not give his number to anyone except the police officer who wrote the accident report and did not tell anyone about the accident.

Another client, told us that a chiropractor called him the day after his accident.  The chiropractor told him the call was to make an appointment for treatment.  The chiropractor even told the client which attorney he was supposed to sign up with and that he could sign the attorney’s retainer agreement at the office when he came in for treatment.  Again, the client stated that he had no idea how the chiropractor obtained his phone number as he only gave it to the police officer who wrote the accident report.

There seems to be pattern here.  It would seem that someone working at the police department with access to automobile accident reports is using the information off those reports and giving it to personal injury attorneys who then directly contact the injured person in violation of Rule 7.3.  The person doing this is known as a “runner” because they run around gathering the contact information from injured persons (in this case off of police reports) in order to give it to attorneys and/or chiropractors who then give a “finder’s fee” to the runner for the information.

It would seem that the days of “ambulance chasers” are alive and well.  These types of attorneys give the legal profession a bad name.  We would hope that if you are involved in an automobile accident and receive a phone call from an attorney, chiropractor, or anyone you do not know personally, then you would have the good sense to not hire that attorney.  If the attorney is willing to break the rules of professional conduct, then what kind of representation do you think you will get from him/her?