Many law firms in Southern California use an unscrupulous tactic for trying to obtain cases. Ambulance chasers are sent out whenever there’s a traffic accident. These “solicitors”, “runners”, or “cappers” as they may be called operate with the goal of helping secure new clients. In doing so, they’re take advantage of an accident victim when they’re most physically and emotionally vulnerable.
In return for soliciting personal injury accident victims, ambulance chasers are compensated by the law firms they work for. They’re methods may seem quite unethical. Additionally, they are illegal in 21 states.
Ambulance Chasing Is a Code of Ethics Violation
The practice violates the American Bar Association’s Code of Professional Ethics, Canon 28. In fact, licensed attorneys can be held accountable for soliciting clients in an unlawful manner. California’s anti-ambulance chasing law was enacted in 2011, with the passing of the Business and Professions Code Section 6152. It makes being a runner or capper for any attorney or business, whether public or private, an illegal act.
Under California law, a lawyer who employs ambulance chasers may face a $15,000 fine or 1 year in a county jail.
Lawyers recommended by cappers are often inexperienced with the victim’s type of case. This alone violates state law. California law also voids any contract secured through ambulance chasing. That means any fees charged to you can be recovered. However, it is not illegal for someone to recommend an attorney without compensation; the law intervenes when someone requests payment for doing so, while exercising unsafe and questionable practices.
How Do Runners and Cappers Operate?
Ambulance chasers seem to know instantly that an accident has occurred. The strategies they employ include using police and emergency scanners. Therefore, they can be at the scene to refer their lawyer to victims. They may also work with insiders who are paid to provide your information to a runner. Information obtained from tow truck drivers, police department employees, or hospital staff can be used to track you down.
The next step is to convince you their lawyer can help with your case. Solicitors are extremely manipulative. They may pretend to be a witness to your accident and make recommendations on a lawyer, and even promise a large financial recovery in the hopes of you signing an agreement to work with their employer.
A runner may also pretend to help by calling a tow truck. It may seem like a helpful act, but the tow truck driver that works with the ambulance chaser will provide them with as much information as possible. Various methods of obtaining your personal information may be used (some may be illegal), to send you letters or make phone calls.
Their intent may be self-serving, but ambulance chasers often seem friendly and helpful. Soliciting your case on behalf of a law firm, which may not represent your best interest, is illegal. You can report an ambulance chaser (or their employer/supporting law firm) by filing a complaint with the State Bar of California.
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