You may have heard the term ambulance chaser when referring to personal injury cases and attorneys.
Sometimes it’s a reference to people who are called case runners. A case runner is hired by an attorney who’s unethical to find new clients. A case runner isn’t a licensed or experienced professional in the legal industry.
Rather, case runners are middlemen who will quite literally go to the scene of an accident and try and convince someone to use the services of the personal injury attorney they work for.
Runners might also try and convince the victim into visiting a doctor they work with.
This isn’t ethical behavior, and sometimes it might even be illegal.
Below, we talk more about the concept of ambulance chasers and why some people mistakenly think all personal injury attorneys behave unethically, which isn’t the reality.
The Legality of Ambulance Chasing
The concept of ambulance chasing is illegal in 21 states. For example, according to the Texas Penal Code, case running, which is called barratry, is unethical and criminal behavior. If you were to be the victim of this illegal solicitation following an accident, you might be able to recover attorney’s fees plus $10,000.
While technically illegal, that doesn’t necessarily mean the laws against barratry are strictly enforced, which is why you probably continue to see ambulance chasing going on.
So How Does an Ambulance Chaser Know Where to Go?
Many times, these scammers will listen to police scanners and then arrive at the scene of the accidents they hear about. They might try to bribe the victim or even offer to drive them to get medical care.
If an ambulance chaser doesn’t get to the scene fast enough to talk with the victim, they may try to find their information in other ways. There are even instances of ambulance chasers bribing hospital workers and police officers in an attempt to get access to the personal information of a victim.
The runner might then go on to harass the victim at their home or through phone calls.
Red Flags You’re Dealing With an Ambulance Chaser
When you’re in an accident, it can be very scary. You may feel frightened and shaken up. A lot of people are in shock after an accident, and you might feel confused, or you could be experiencing physical pain. These are all things that can make you vulnerable, creating the prime target from the perspective of the runner.
There are certain signs you should be mindful of that could indicate you’re dealing with an ambulance chaser.
For example, maybe a stranger refers you to a personal injury attorney or shows up at the scene of your accident, offering to give you a ride to a doctor’s office or clinic.
If you get a call shortly after an accident or someone who’s not a first responder begins asking you about your injuries while you’re at the scene of the accident.
Being offered money is also a red flag you should watch for.
If you find yourself perhaps being approached by an ambulance chaser, you should make it clear you aren’t interested in anything they’re offering.
What if Your Attorney Is an Ambulance Chaser?
When we talk about the phrase ambulance chaser, there are actually two very different scenarios that people may be referring to.
The one above is when there is a runner present who is showing up at the scene of accidents and almost chasing you in the literal sense.
Then, we also hear the term applied to personal injury attorneys. Personal injury attorneys get a bad reputation because of the unethical behaviors of some in their industry.
In reality, they can be extremely helpful to have on your side when you need them, but you have to be careful to choose someone who’s not only skilled but is going to behave appropriately.
There are so-called personal injury mills to be aware of. These are firms of personal injury attorneys where they will try and go through as many clients and cases as possible, and they’ll often do so with settlements that are well below what they could have received. Their focus is more on volume and getting money that way, rather than providing quality legal services to fewer clients.
Signs a personal injury attorney might be an ambulance chaser include only speaking to you once and then having your case be handled by a paralegal from there. You might never hear directly from the attorney again.
An ambulance chaser could begin charging you fees before your case settles, or they could discuss settling before your injuries are fully healed. An ambulance chase might tell you what your case is worth before they even think about all the varying sources of compensation that could be available to you.
One of the biggest reasons overall that a personal injury lawyer can get a bad reputation or be described as an ambulance chaser is because of poor communication with their clients.
A good personal injury attorney works very hard on each case, and it’s a complex field with a lot of obstacles an attorney must deal with.
Another reason the industry gets a bad reputation, outside of poor communication, is unrealistic guarantees. People can see flashy billboards and advertisements or listen to the false promises of an unscrupulous personal injury attorney and feel like they’re going to be hitting the jackpot with their case.
The law doesn’t work this way, and an attorney shouldn’t promise any particular outcome or make a claim on dollar amounts. If you’re talking to an attorney and they’re making guarantees, you should look elsewhere.
There may be a time when you rely on the skills and services of a personal injury attorney, and they can change your life in a good way. Unfortunately, there are bad apples out there, as is the case in all fields, so you must be careful to choose the right person to represent you from the start.