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Have you heard of the term “ambulance chaser?” It refers to attorneys and other individualssometimes chiropractors and other alternative medicine practitioners—that go after accident victims in order to make a profit. Instead of waiting for the victim to contact them first, an ambulance chaser deliberately seeks out people who have been involved in accidents to make them clients. Sometimes it is not the attorneys themselves, but people they have hired known as “runners” or “cappers,” who solicit victims. A runner or capper is defined as someone who acts as an agent for an attorney or law firm and actively solicits business for the attorney.
Not only does this practice reflect poorly on the personal injury law profession, but it is also illegal. In California, an attorney or a capper/runner who solicits business in a hospital, court, public or private place, or in any private property, has violated the law. The punishment for this activity includes jail time and fines. Moreover, any contract between the attorney and the victim, if procured in violation of the law, is also void.
How Do Ambulance Chasers Find Clients?
There are a few different ways these unethical attorneys and their associates find clients. Some use police scanners so they can be the first to hear about accidents. They then go to the scene and try to solicit business from the accident victims. Not surprisingly, people can be very vulnerable and emotional in the moments right after a serious accident. Runners and cappers take advantage of the vulnerable state of these victims, and usually lure them in with promises of large settlements. They try to convince victims to sign agreements to use their attorney—to lock them in early and ensure they don’t seek counsel elsewhere. They may even act as “witnesses” to the accident, so they can take pictures of the scene and secure more information about the victims. Some will even arrive with a tow truck driver (who they have hired) to help move the victim’s car, and consequently obtain more information about the victim.
Another way these scammers obtain information about accident victims is by having an “insider” within various agencies, such as emergency rooms or law enforcement offices. If the insider hears about an accident, he/she supplies the attorney with information on accident victims in exchange for compensation. The ambulance chaser can then corner the victims and/or their families at the hospital, or even at their homes. Providing these exploitative attorneys with victims’ personal information in exchange for money is also illegal and unethical. Unfortunately, there are people who did it, and they are contributing to the problem.
Soliciting by mail is also a common approach. If you have been involved in an accident, you might remember receiving letters in the mail from personal injury attorneys. While sending an accident victim a letter is not technically against the law, in order to send out those letters, the attorneys have to be accessing victims’ information in some way, like accessing police reports or medical records. Thus, it is still a questionable practice and you should be wary of an attorney who contacts you this way.
What Should You Do if You Have Been Solicited by an Ambulance Chaser?
If you believe that an attorney has unethically solicited for your business by any of these means, you should report the attorney to the state bar. They will investigate the claim and determine whether to discipline the attorney. Reporting ambulance chasers to the proper authorities can help keep others from being scammed by them in the future.
The bottom line is these types of attorneys are unethical. They are willing to break the law and violate a victim’s right to privacy just to obtain clients. Someone like that is not going to be looking out for your best interests. If you have been injured, you have the right to decide whether or not you want legal representation, and you have the right to make an informed decision about who you want representing you. Ambulance chasers who try to get you to sign a contract with them right after your accident don’t want you to make an informed decision—they want you to decide when you are most vulnerable. Refuse to sign any contracts with anyone who tries to make you a client at the scene of your accident or in the days that follow, and report anyone who harasses you in order to get you as a client.
If you have been injured and would like to consult with a personal injury attorney, make sure you seek out a reputable law firm that does not have a track record for ambulance chasing or other unethical behavior. If you have concerns, you can always look up your attorney through the State Bar of California. It will list your attorney’s status, as well as any administrative and disciplinary actions.
“Ambulance chasers take advantage of accident victims without regard for their privacy or interests. Their conduct is unethical and we do not ever condone this kind of behavior,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.
Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured in an auto accident and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today at (760) 777-7777 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.
DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.
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