Unfortunately, there are lawyers out there who will try to solicit cases, illegally and unethically. Those lawyers are usually unqualified to handle complex and serious cases. Unless you already know the lawyer, have been represented by the lawyer before, or have a family or close personal connection with the lawyer, he or she is not supposed to contact you.
Beware of any lawyer or “investigator” who drops by your home or hospital room uninvited or anyone who offers you money or other benefits to get you to sign up with them. Such conduct is illegal and unethical on the part of the lawyer or law firm.
Please report any such solicitations to the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, the State Bar of Georgia, or the Alabama State Bar (depending on which state you are in). If you are in another state, call the state bar association, and report the illegal solicitation.
Do not sign a representation contract until you have thoroughly checked out the lawyer you are considering.
Beware of “Investigators
We have had many reports of so-called “investigators” calling or even dropping in on injured persons or their family members at the hospital claiming to be investigating the case. They are really just trying to solicit the case for an unethical, and probably unqualified, lawyer. If you did not initiate the call and invite the “investigator” to visit you, tell him or her to leave immediately or you will report them to the bar association.
Beware of Anyone Offering Cash, Loans or Other Benefits
It is also illegal and unethical for lawyers to offer cash or other benefits to a prospective client or family in order to get the case. Lawyers are prohibited from loaning money to clients in personal injury or death cases for any purpose other than advancing court costs and expenses of litigation. Examples of the latter include: obtaining medical records, retaining an accident reconstruction expert, paying court reporter and videographer fees for depositions, preparing courtroom exhibits or animations.
Beware of TV Advertising Lawyers
Lawyers advertising on television are usually looking for cases they can settle quickly and earn a fast fee, rather than diligently working the case through for the benefit of the injured client. They are often speaking for high volume settlement mills – law firms that rarely try cases. Such firms are unwilling to invest the time and resources that serious cases require. If they can’t get a quick settlement they often bail out, and either withdraw from the case, or just refer it to another lawyer. Trucking cases require a big investment of time and resources on the front end, as soon after the wreck as possible, and the lawyer you choose must be willing to commit his or her expertise, time and resources to the case immediately.
Beware of Lawsuit Loans and Predatory Lenders
Serious accident can cause a lot of financial difficulty. You can’t work, and the bills just keep coming in. It is very tempting to obtain a cash advance or non-recourse loan against your lawsuit. While your lawyers is prohibited from loaning you money for anything other than court costs and expenses of litigation, there are lots of other entities out there who will loan you money against your lawsuit, but the costs are very high. Be careful. Beware of any lawyer suggesting that you accept such an advance or loan, particularly at the outset of the case. Our firm usually discourages clients from accepting cash advances or loans from third parties.
Personal injury or wrongful death cases can take years to settle or come to trial. The interest rates on a typical lawsuit loan are very high, comparable to payday loans, perhaps 50% or more. On a $25,000 lawsuit loan, the interest alone may cost you $12,500 or more in just one year. Consider other resources, like insurance proceeds, disability payments, or loans from friends and relatives. You lawyer can assist you in exploring other options for assistance.
Direct Solicitation of Cases By Lawyers Is Prohibited
The ABA (American Bar Association) Model Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit lawyers from soliciting potential clients for a case, unless the potential client “has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.” (Rule 7.3) A lawyer is not supposed to contact an injured person, or the victim’s family or friends, unless he or she already has a family or close personal connection with the injured person, or has represented that person before. Uninvited home or hospital visits, telephone calls or other electronic contact (email, or other messaging) for the purpose of soliciting a case is prohibited.
The Aba Model Rules Are a National Standard, With Variations Adopted by Each State:
Tennessee: Rule 7.3(a) provides:
“A lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment from a potential client when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted: (1) is a lawyer; or (2) has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer; or (3) has initiated a contact with the lawyer.”
Georgia: Rule 7.3(d) provides:
“A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment as a private practitioner for the lawyer, a partner or associate through direct personal contact or through live telephone contact, with a nonlawyer who has not sought advice regarding employment of a lawyer.”
Alabama: Rule 7.3(a) provides:
“A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no familial or current or prior professional relationship, in person or otherwise, when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. A lawyer shall not permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit on the lawyer’s behalf. A lawyer shall not enter into an agreement for or charge or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, telegraph, or facsimile transmission, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient and includes contact by any written form of communication directed to a specific recipient and not meeting the requirements of subdivision (b)(2) of this rule.”