Help Us Stop Ambulance Chasing in Texas
If you’re injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, one of the most helpful things you can do is seek out honest, impartial advice from a legal expert that truly understands your situation and has your best interests at heart.
In our experience, the majority of personal injury attorneys are honest, ethical people who truly care for their clients. However, there are also many overzealous lawyers who use questionable or outright illegal tactics to solicit cases. Commonly called “ambulance chasers,” these lawyers do not have your best interests at heart. They are looking to make a quick buck. But in the chaotic first few days and weeks after a life-changing accident, it may be hard to tell the difference.
In this blog, we’ll talk about what ambulance chasing is and how to protect yourself from it. We will also tell you what to do if you’re a victim of ambulance chasing.
What Is Ambulance Chasing?
In simplest terms, ambulance chasing refers to lawyers (or their investigators or other representatives) illegally initiating contact with and offering services to accident victims. The legal term for this is “barratry.”
Ambulance chasing takes advantage of innocent victims at a vulnerable time in their lives. In the first few days and weeks after an accident, personal injury victims and their family members often feel overwhelmed, frightened, and confused. This can make them targets for abuse.
Once the attorney has a potential client’s information, they might use unethical, high-pressure tactics such as harassment, making misleading promises about the case, or even offering payment up front in return for a client signing with the firm.
How Do Attorneys Get Your Information After an Accident?
Although they might not literally follow ambulances to the hospital, there are several tactics an unethical attorney might use to get your information. For example, they might:
- Develop partnerships with professionals who are frequently in contact with accident victims, such as first responders, doctors, insurance adjusters, tow truck drivers, mechanics, etc. These people act as “runners” for the lawyer and either refer accident victims to the lawyer, or simply give the lawyer names and contact information.
- Browse social media profiles for people posting about recent accidents.
- Look for recent news stories about accidents.
- Listen to police scanners.
- Obtain recent accident reports and other public records.
Is Ambulance Chasing Illegal in Texas?
Yes. In Texas, the law prohibits lawyers initiating personal contact with potential clients who have not invited the contact. Ambulance chasing is a serious offense under the Texas Penal Code and a third-degree felony in many cases.
Barratry is also thoroughly condemned and an explicit violation of the codes of ethics maintained by the American Bar Association, Texas Bar Association, and many other legal organizations.
Unfortunately, despite the harsh potential legal and professional penalties, the practice of ambulance chasing is still fairly widespread in many parts of Texas. That’s because barratry is often very hard to prove and is frequently unenforced.
How Can I Tell If I’ve Been a Victim of Ambulance Chasing?
Ambulance chasing usually involves some or all of the following tactics by a lawyer or a lawyer’s representative:
- Directly contacting a potential client—in person, by phone, through social media, email, or any other means—with the intent of being hired for legal assistance.
- Paying or offering to pay you money or anything of value to solicit you as a client.
- Unwanted solicitation before the 31st day after the accident occurred.
- Unwanted solicitation to you or a relative that has indicated a desire not to be contacted.
- Unwanted solicitation that involves coercion, duress, fraud, overreaching, harassment, intimidation, or undue influence.
- Unwanted solicitation that contains a false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, or unfair statement or claim.
Be wary if anyone you don’t know calls you on the phone and knows that you’ve been in an accident, or even visits you in the hospital.
What Should I Do If I Have Been a Victim of Ambulance Chasing?
If a lawyer you don’t know (or their representative) initiated contact with you and offered to represent you, immediately make note of who contacted you and preserve any business cards or contact information left by that person. Document and record the events surrounding the illegal solicitation with as much detail as possible before consulting an attorney about a possible barratry claim.
If you’ve already signed a retainer with the lawyer, you have civil remedies available to you. Clients contacted as a result of ambulance chasing can void employment contracts with lawyers that were illegally obtained. The law also allows people to collect a $10,000 penalty for each illegal phone or in-person solicitation by a lawyer; this remedy can include actual damages arising from the illegal conduct as well as attorney’s fees.
Tips for Hiring a Reputable Personal Injury Lawyer
Speaking with a personal injury lawyer relatively soon after an accident is usually one of the best things accident victims can do if they wish to obtain fair compensation for their injury. But it is critically important that the lawyer you hire is not just an expert in personal injury law, but also maintains the highest standards of integrity, honesty, and professionalism.
A lawyer who uses ambulance chasing tactics is showing that they are willing to break the law, violate ethical codes, and mislead vulnerable injury victims in order to make as much profit as possible. Would you really trust them to have your best interests at heart?
Rather than hiring any attorney who calls you out of the blue, take some time and do your research:
- Does the lawyer have a good reputation in the community?
- Does the lawyer have any special qualifications or recognition, such as board certifications?
- Does the lawyer have any history of ethical misconduct? (You can use the Find a Lawyer tool on the State Bar of Texas website to look up your attorney’s profile and see if they have any public disciplinary history.)
- What are the lawyer’s online reviews like?
- Does the lawyer have a solid track record of success in cases similar to yours? Are they willing to take cases to trial and fight for their clients, or do they go for a quick, easy settlement?
- If you’ve already met with the lawyer, were you treated with kindness, respect, and understanding? Did they seem interested in you and your story? Did they provide honest advice, or did it seem like they were making unreasonable promises or guarantees?
Contact Our Experienced Lawyers Today
A great, honest attorney will always put your needs first.
At Roberts & Roberts, we pride ourselves on helping our clients take care of everything. We work hard, we’re available 24/7, and we’ll help you get whatever you need—a rental car, a referral to the right medical specialist, fair compensation for your injuries, and more. Our commitment to integrity, protecting the public, and getting the best possible results for our clients is why we’re East Texas’ best-known law firm, and still going strong after more than 40 years.
Whether you’ve been a victim of ambulance chasing and need to report professional misconduct, or you’re just looking for the right attorney to represent you after an accident, give us a call today at 903-597-6000 or contact us online. The call costs you nothing… it could mean everything.
Texas Penal Code § 38.12
Rodriguez, R. (October 2017). The Ambulance Chasing Epidemic in Texas. St. Mary’s Journal on Legal Malpractice & Ethics, Vol. 7 (No. 9), 354-375. Retrieved from https://commons.stmarytx.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1029&context=lmej
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
Justin is an attorney at Roberts & Roberts and focuses his practice on mass tort litigation, where he specializes in helping individuals who are harmed by recalled or unsafe pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices. He has earned recognition as a “Top 40 Under 40” Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers. Prior to joining Roberts & Roberts, Justin served as an attorney in all three branches of Texas’s state government, including as a Briefing Attorney on the Texas Supreme Court. He also represented electric and natural gas utilities in complex regulatory proceedings before the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Railroad Commission of Texas. Justin is a published author in the St. Mary’s Law Journal.