An ambulance chaser is defined as a lawyer who seeks out accident victims as clients and encourages them to sue for damages. But unlike the stereotypical lawyer chasing an ambulance, the actual “chasing” is done by the lawyer’s “investigators,” or “runners.” After all, the lawyer has got to keep his distance and maintain deniability!
“Ambulance chasing” is unethical in all states under the Rules of Professional Conduct and illegal in most every state. Unfortunately, this “practice” which gives all lawyers everywhere a bad name, is very common and often goes unpunished. Just look at any disaster where scores of people are injured and you’ll find the “chasers” literally walking through the rumble!
Ambulance chasers do not care about your well-being. What could be more unsettling or disturbing than lying in your hospital bed after a serious accident and having some stranger approach you with a business card, a retainer and a pen! The line is usually the same… he tells you he works in the hospital and wants to help you recover money for your injuries. He’s got this great lawyer; all you have to do is sign on the dotted line and everything will be taken care of. What he doesn’t tell you is that once he delivers your signed retainer to the lawyer, he will be handsomely paid!
What makes this behavior so appalling is the you, the accident victim, are a captive audience. You’re in pain, most likely medicated, and you are being asked to make a very serious decision about legal representation. Unfortunately many succumb to this slick sales pitch and sign on the dotted line.
As a general rule, lawyers who resort to ambulance chasing are not the most skilled or respected lawyers around. Since they can’t compete honestly in the legal marketplace, they reverse the normal order of business … instead of waiting for the potential client to seek them out, they seek out the client! The sad part is that these lawyers not only give all lawyers a bad reputation, they take business away from those lawyers who are skilled, qualified, experienced and play by the rules.
If you’re an accident victim and someone tries to solicit your claim, just tell that person where to go… literally! And you can also mentioned where you will go as soon as you’re able … to the appropriate Bar Association to file a complaint!