Q: WHAT IS AMBULANCE CHASING?
A: “Ambulance Chasing,” “Ambulance Chaser,” or “Case Runner,” refers to a person who regularly contacts accident victims after they have been involved in an accident. The Ambulance Chaser will commonly represent to be from a body shop, doctor’s office, or insurance company. The goal of the ambulance chaser is to ultimately receive payment for illegally referring the case to a lawyer. Lawyers who directly or indirectly compensate people who are soliciting cases are engaging in barratry, which is a felony in the State of Texas and punishable by jail, a fine, and can lead to disbarment.
Q: HOW DOES AMBULANCE CHASING AFFECT THE LEGAL SYSTEM?
A: An Ambulance Chaser’s compensation is usually tied directly to the number of accident victims that he or she is able to lure into a body shop, doctor’s office or attorney’s office. The ambulance chaser is motivated by greed and chases as many accident victims as possible, often resulting in one of the following undesirable outcomes:
1) Accident victims who are taken to a lawyer by a case runner will usually be under-represented by that lawyer because the lawyer is less likely to file a lawsuit for fear that a full investigation may reveal that the case was illegally obtained. Under-representation always leads to less money for the accident victim;
2) Since case runners are financially motivated by the sheer number of accidents they manage to illegally refer to a lawyer, they often target people who are not injured and convince them to see a doctor and hire a lawyer. Referring uninjured accident victims to shady lawyers results in frivolous or fraudulent insurance claims being filed.
Q: HOW DO AMBULANCE CHASER FIND THEIR VICTIMS?
A: Ambulance chasers have various ways of finding out who has recently been involved in an accident.
1) Although many police departments have now digitized their radios, there are still police departments that use radios that can be received by police scanners. Case runners can monitor multiple frequencies and often arrive at accident scenes before the police, giving the case runner an opportunity to pose as an “eyewitness” or otherwise gain the victim’s trust by offering to “help” the victim;
2) Case runners can also buy all of the police reports involving motor vehicle accidents in any given week. On June 18, 2015 a new law went into effect to keep case runners from buying police reports. Unfortunately there are still police departments in Texas that are unaware that it is illegal to sell police reports in bulk to the general public. (Tex. Transp. Code §550.65) The case runner will spend hundreds of dollars each week, buying all of the police reports, in order to identify the accident victims. The case runner will then arrive at the accident victim’s home or workplace, and offer some sort of help without revealing that they are being paid to illegally solicit the case.
Q: WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR PRESENT ATTORNEY USED A CASE RUNNER TO GET YOUR CASE?
A: Clients often think that they are stuck with their lawyer. It’s important to know, however, that an accident victim can always switch lawyers, especially if the lawyer solicited their case. If you confront the lawyer that solicited your case, he or she is likely to deny your allegations and then threaten to retain an interest in your case. It is illegal to keep on interest in a case that was wrongfully obtained. Talk to a reputable attorney about disassociating yourself from that other lawyer. If the case was solicited, releasing the other lawyer’s interest is usually not a problem.
Q: WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU ARE APPROACHED BY AN AMBULANCE CHASER OR CASE RUNNER
A: These are the suggested steps to follow:
Step 1: Call the police and file a police report. Provide the officer with the names and telephone numbers of all the people that were mentioned by the case runner, including the name of the body shop, doctor’s office and lawyer’s office. Provide the officer with copies of the business cards that are normally given out by case runners. Save all voicemail messages left by case runners;
Step 2: File a complaint against the lawyer that solicited or attempted to solicit your business by calling the State Bar of Texas at: 1-800-932-1900. You can also file a grievance online at www.texasbar.com. The State Bar of Texas takes these complaints very seriously and will determine if legal action is required against the lawyer that solicited your case; and
Step 3: Hire a reputable attorney to file a lawsuit for the injuries resulting from the car accident. In addition, you can also file a lawsuit (a separate lawsuit) against the people that illegally solicited your case. Texas law allows victims of barratry to recover money damages and/or a penalty of $10,000. Moreover, your new lawyer can seek attorney’s fees for filing this separate lawsuit in order to maximize your monetary compensation.
AMBULANCE CHASING IS A SERIOUS OFFENSE.
Don’t be a victim!
Report Ambulance Chasing!
Call the State Bar of Texas if you have been Solicited!