A Word of Caution About Illegal Solicitation
A serious car accident brings a flood of extreme stress, physical and emotional pain, and confusion. Sadly, there are some lawyers who capitalize on these moments of distress and use them to their advantage.
Ambulance-Chasers”: Who Are They?
Ambulance-chasing is a term that has popped up to describe lawyers who proactively approach victims of a car accident. Approaching victims without their invitation in order to try to earn the ability to represent them is illegal in Nevada and many other states. However, these lawyers have gotten clever about how to escape the law. Most employ “runners” (also known as “cappers”).
Beware of the “Runner”
Runners constantly monitor police scanners or social media to watch for reports of Las Vegas car accidents or other serious incidents. Once they get wind of an accident, they hurry to the scene to speak to you or other victims. These illegal runners or “cappers” will not disclose to you that they are actually being paid by unscrupulous and dishonest law firms to convince you to hire “their lawyer.” These runners often employ disguises. Most pretend to be an unassuming rideshare driver, a tow truck driver, or a helpful witness who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Typically, the interaction starts out innocently enough. However, soon the runner will offer to send photos, video, or information to their lawyer — who, as luck would have it, would be willing and able to represent you, too. In a moment of distress, many victims agree, only to find themselves represented by an attorney they weren’t able to probably vet.
However, ambulance-chasing lawyers don’t stop there. Sometimes, they employ informants at hospitals, doctor’s offices, insurance agencies, or tow truck companies. These informants share your private information with runners who then contact you to share their incredibly positive experiences with their lawyer, who helped them in a similar situation. These informants and runners are paid hundreds and thousands of dollars under the table when you or other victims they lure sign agreements with the ambulance-chasing law firm.
Of course, not everyone you meet who recommends an attorney is attempting illegal solicitation. However, if a stranger approaches you and pushes you to hire a lawyer, don’t listen.
The Real Impact of Unethical Ambulance-Chasers
Any lawyer who uses illegal tactics to win clients is not a lawyer you can trust with your case. You can bet that a lawyer who illegally pays a capper would also take shortcuts in the handling of your case. And when an accident leaves you with thousands of dollars of medical debt, you need the best representation to ensure your life can get back on track. Unfortunately for the victims of ambulance-chasing attorneys, many insurance companies have caught on to their scheme. These insurance companies do even more to fight these cases and avoid paying, which ultimately only serves to hurt you, the victim.
What to Do if You Suspect You Were Illegally Solicited After an Accident
If you now realize that you were pushed to hire a lawyer in the hours or days following an accident by a “friendly” stranger, you could be the victim of illegal solicitation.
If your personal injury case is currently pending, end your contract with your current lawyer immediately. Not only does Nevada law recognize illegal solicitation by a lawyer or “capper” to be a crime, but the same law also provides you – the innocent victim – with a legal remedy. Pursuant to NRS 7.045(4), a client who has been improperly solicited in this way has a right for three years to void the contingency fee agreement. And if a client invokes that right then the soliciting attorney cannot charge the client any fee. Once you have fired your unscrupulous former lawyer, then take time to review reputable personal injury attorneys, set up interviews, and hire someone you feel good about. No matter your situation, you always deserve fair, honest, and capable legal representation.