Ambulance chasing is illegal in 21 states, including California. Here, a violator could face a year in county jail or a fine of up to $15,000.1 The strategies lawyers use to advertise their services are strictly regulated in California. Breaking the law can result in professional sanctions and disbarment. It can certainly impact a request for settlement funding if a lawyer is found to have engaged in such behavior or someone was injured as a result of it.
What Is Ambulance Chasing?
It is a practice in which lawyers or someone they hire seek out victims of accidents. Attorneys sometimes have “witnesses” out in the field and report back to their boss when an accident occurs. A lawyer may also watch the news and seek out victims of reported accidents. Other legal professionals hire investigators or runners to find leads; oftentimes these people happen to be tow truck drivers, first responders, insurance adjusters, and even hospital employees or police officers.
How Runners Help Capture Leads
The ambulance chaser can approach the victim directly, on the scene of the accident or later at the hospital or their home. They can also obtain the victim’s contact information and forward it to the lawyer. But a runner can also obtain information from police reports, police scanners, and other public sources of information.
Ambulance chasing, as illegal as it is, isn’t always so obvious. A lawyer may not be pursuing your ambulance in plain sight. Someone may visit you in the hospital who you don’t know, or approach a reception desk and ask a nurse for information in exchange for payment. Or, you may receive a call at home from someone who knows of the accident.
Why Is Ambulance Chasing Illegal?
The American Bar Association considers ambulance chasing to be unethical. It’s a sign that the attorney is only looking to make a profit. When a runner sends a client to an attorney, that doesn’t mean they’re the right lawyer to take on the case. The attorney can then profit off a percentage of a personal injury case if it is successful. Reasons to be suspicious include:
- Promises of large financial recoveries are made upfront.
- The injured person is lured to a law office to sign forms.
- An ambulance chaser calls their own tow truck company.
- You get one letter after another from a lawyer or firm.
- Someone approaches you or the hospital staff to obtain personal information.
There are Rules and Regulations for Advertising
Lawyers have many ways to advertise that are ethical and legal. They can use billboards or banners. Websites are effective for advertising and providing detailed information about legal services. So long as advertisements don’t contain false or misleading statements, the attorney is on the right side of the law. For example, guaranteeing a case outcome is prohibited as is harassing prospective clients.
If you find yourself a client of an ambulance chaser, their fees can be recovered per the California Business and Professions Code section 6154. You can recover additional civil penalties as well. County and state prosecutors can issue other fines and penalties, so an attorney who engages in unethical tactics like illegal ambulance chasing can find themselves in a lot of legal and financial trouble.
Take Your Time. Apply for Settlement Funding
Finding a trustworthy attorney and winning a fair settlement takes time. Fund Capital America provides various funding options and other services to help you along, including non-recourse cash advances to cover medical bills, mortgage payments, rent, groceries, and other obligations and necessities while you await a settlement. Apply now to see if you qualify for our settlement acceleration program. For assistance, call 855-870-2274.