After you’ve suffered injuries in an accident, you may get blindsided by attorneys or other individuals pushing you to hire legal counsel to pursue a personal injury claim. Because an accident can put an injury victim in a vulnerable position, state and federal laws and regulations restrict how attorneys may solicit prospective clients.
Attorneys who break these rules to solicit injured victims may face various consequences, including state bar disciplinary proceedings or civil/criminal actions. If you’ve had an accident, you should know what lawyers can and cannot do to solicit you to hire their firm for your personal injury claim.
If you believe you’ve been pressured into entering an agreement with an attorney, call De Castroverde Personal Injury & Accident today. We can review your situation in a free consultation to determine whether you’ve been subjected to attorney solicitation and can get out of the agreement.
Rules on Attorney Solicitation
Each state bar publishes rules of professional conduct for attorneys based on the Model Rules of Professional Conduct created by the American Bar Association. The Model Rules contain several rules that govern how lawyers may solicit prospective clients.
Rule 7.3 of the Model Rules states that a lawyer may not solicit by live person-to-person contact for the lawyer’s or firm’s financial gain unless the solicitation involves another lawyer, a person who has a familial, close personal, or prior business relationship with the lawyer or firm, or a person who routinely uses the type of legal services offered by the lawyer or firm for business purposes. Even in these circumstances, a lawyer may not solicit a party who has informed the lawyer they do not wish to receive solicitation. Lawyers may not use harassment, coercion, or duress in solicitations.
Rule 7.1 also prohibits lawyers from making false or misleading statements about themselves or their services. False or misleading statements include statements that contain a material misrepresentation of fact or law or that omit a fact necessary to make the statement not misleading.
Finally, under Rule 7.2, a lawyer may not compensate anyone for recommending the lawyer’s services except to pay reasonable costs of permissible advertisements or communications, usual fees of a legal services plan or a qualified lawyer referral service, the purchase price of a law practice, or as part of a referral agreement permitted by the rules.
Various state and federal laws also restrict attorney solicitations. For example, federal law prohibits lawyers and law firms from soliciting aviation accident victims or their families within the first 45 days of the accident.
What Is Illegal Solicitation?
Illegal attorney solicitation occurs when a lawyer, either personally or through third parties, attempts to solicit a prospective client’s business in a manner that violates the rules of professional conduct governing attorneys or state or federal law.
Can Attorneys Be Punished for Soliciting Clients?
Attorneys who solicit prospective clients in a manner that violates the rules of professional conduct or state or federal law may face various consequences for their actions. For example, an attorney who breaches the rules of professional conduct may face disciplinary action from the state bar, including a formal reprimand, suspension from practicing law, or revocation of their license to practice law.
Ways Unscrupulous Attorneys Get Around Restrictions on Client Solicitation
Because rules of professional conduct and state and federal laws restrict attorneys’ ability to solicit prospective clients directly, some personal injury lawyers try to skirt these rules by relying on other parties to solicit clients for them. These parties, sometimes called “runners” or “cappers,” frequently assist injured victims right after an accident.
Runners or cappers commonly include tow truck operators, rideshare drivers, emergency medical technicians, hospital employees, auto repair shops, general contractors, and insurance adjusters. Runners or cappers may casually mention that they know a good lawyer or law firm as they hitch up your damaged vehicle, treat your accident injuries, or give you a quote to repair your damaged vehicle or property.
However, using runners or cappers to solicit personal injury clients violates state legal ethics rules. Nevada law also makes it illegal to solicit an accident victim to hire a lawyer or law firm in exchange for compensation from the lawyer or to conspire with someone to solicit accident victims in exchange for compensation.
Although a stranger who helps you right after an accident may genuinely recommend a lawyer they’ve had a good experience with, watch out for warning signs that a person might work for a lawyer or law firm to drum up business for the practice, such as the person having the lawyer’s business cards, insisting you contact the lawyer as soon as possible, or even offering to drive you to the lawyer’s office.
What Should You Do If You’ve Had an Attorney Illegally Solicit You
When you feel pressured to hire a specific personal injury attorney or law firm after getting hurt in an accident, you can take steps to protect your rights and interests. First, remember that you have no obligation to hire an attorney until you feel ready. If you receive an in-person solicitation from a lawyer, law firm, runner, or capper working for a lawyer, do not feel pressured to hire the lawyer on the spot. Take time to research an attorney that someone refers you to.
If a lawyer or their runner or capper continues to harass you to hire the lawyer or firm, you can report the attorney to the state bar, which may initiate disciplinary proceedings against the attorney for violating the rules of professional conduct. And suppose you’ve already entered a fee agreement with an attorney that used a runner or capper to solicit your business. In that case, state law makes that fee agreement void, allowing you to get out of the contract if you don’t want that attorney to represent you.
Finally, if you feel that you entered a fee agreement with an attorney under pressure, duress, or coercion, you can seek alternative legal counsel dedicated to serving your interests instead of maximizing its profits. Contact De Castroverde Personal Injury & Accident today for a free case evaluation to discuss your legal options and to get to know our attorneys and staff. We offer a no-pressure environment to make our clients feel at ease, and our attorneys take the time to help you understand your legal rights and options, so you have the information you need to make the best decisions for your interests and future.
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