You may have heard that, if you were involved in an accident, you need to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. So it may seem convenient when one shows up at your hospital door, ready to sign onto your case. They may even offer to pay for your ride home or promise to talk to the doctors about getting your medical bills lowered.
But far from being good samaritans, these lawyers may, in fact, be ambulance chasers. Read on to learn about ambulance chasing and why it’s a huge ethics violation.
What Is Ambulance Chasing?
Before we dive into the ethics of ambulance chasing, let’s talk about what it is.
“Ambulance chasing” is the practice of seeking out accident victims, often while they’re still in the hospital, to solicit legal services to them. The practice got its name from the image of lawyers chasing behind ambulances to find their next “clients.”
These days, ambulance chasing has gone digital. Many people who use this practice have police scanners and will listen for accidents that may result in injuries. They may also have connections with EMTs, first responders, and even hospital staff who let them know when accident victims come in.
It Takes Advantage of Victims
It probably won’t shock you to learn that ambulance chasing is highly unethical and, in fact, is illegal in many states. One of the biggest problems with ambulance chasing is that it takes advantage of victims when they’re at their most vulnerable.
After an accident, victims are frightened, in pain, and often on heavy medications. They may be worrying about what their healing process will look like, how they’ll return to work, and how they’ll pay the pile of medical bills they’re sure to face.
Ambulance chasers take advantage of that fear and play off it to pursue their own goals. They may play up the financial devastation of an accident even more to make a victim so desperate that they’ll sign anything out of sheer terror and despair.
It Doesn’t Deliver Results
At first glance, it can be hard to understand why seeking out an accident victim to talk about legal representation is a bad thing. After all, it is important to get to work on personal injury cases as soon as possible after the accident.
The problem is that these lawyers aren’t interested in actually providing quality work for the victims they pursue.
Ambulance chasers’ primary goal is to get victims to sign contracts agreeing to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees. Once those contracts are on the books, the lawyers quit working on the case and often disappear altogether.
They don’t get the results they promise to their clients – they just take the money and run.
How to Spot an Ambulance Chaser
If you’ve been injured, it can be hard to tell which lawyers you can trust and which are ambulance chasers.
Luckily, there are a few telltale signs that you might be dealing with an ambulance chaser.
- Someone you don’t know shows up at the hospital. – Often, ambulance chasers will employ runners to find victims at the hospital and offer “help.” They may even offer you a ride or offer to pay for certain services. Be suspicious of any strangers who aren’t first responders or medical staff offering help after an accident.
- A stranger calls you and knows about your accident. – Ambulance chasers may hang out in hospital lobbies and look through sign-in sheets to get information about accident victims. If someone you don’t know calls you and knows all about your accident, hang up the phone.
- A lawyer continues pushing you to sign a contract. – A good personal injury lawyer will never badger you about your case. If someone is constantly calling you and telling you to sign a contract or if they’re pushing you to sign papers while you’re still in the hospital, tell them to leave.
- They make grand promises. – Depending on the nature of your injuries, you might, in fact, be entitled to a large sum of money after your accident. But a good personal injury lawyer isn’t going to promise you that money right out of the gate. If someone is telling you they can definitely get you millions, run away.
- They ask you to pay up front. – Personal injury lawyers usually work on a contingency basis, meaning that their fee comes out of any money they recover for you. This means that, until your case is settled, you shouldn’t have to pay a dime. If someone is making you pay thousands of dollars up front, there’s a good chance they’ll vanish after your check clears.
Hiring a personal injury attorney to represent you should be a personal choice. If someone is trying to coerce, intimidate, or pressure you into hiring them to work on your case, you run the other direction.
Get Quality Representation
Being involved in an accident is terrifying, and when you’re trying to recover, the last thing you need is an ambulance chaser banging down your door. Not only is ambulance chasing unethical, it’s illegal in many states. Keep an eye out for strangers offering help for seemingly no reason, lawyers pushing you to sign a contract, and agreements that require you to pay up front.
If you’d like to learn more about ethical conduct in business, check out the rest of our informative articles.