If you’re wondering why personal injury lawyers are often called ambulance chasers, an open-and-shut civil suit among seven South Florida law firms provides an answer. Four firms that often represent people injured in accidents such as car crashes sued three competing firms, claiming that they illegally solicited clients.
The lawsuit alleged that the three firms used non-employees, known in the legal trade as “runners,” to direct injured people to those law firms. You see, it’s illegal for attorneys to chase an ambulance up the street, down the hill and over to a hospital in order to sign the banged-up occupant as a client. It’s also against the law for attorneys to pay other people to knock on the doors of patients’ rooms and homes to do the same.
However, some law firms bend or break the solicitation rules. Almost every personal injury attorney knows of at least one firm that’s engaged in the practice. It’s a dirty, little not-that secret which the Florida Bar does little about.
When the situation gets out of control, the offended firms do what they know best: go to court. After all, top attorneys at firms like these regularly make $400 or more an hour suing insurance companies like ours for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims. One PIP case can produce upwards of $50,000 in fees, even if the client collects only a few bucks.
That makes runners a source of irritation to the firms that are losing out on the sprint to sign clients. Along with some language about how integrity and the reputation of lawyers are being damaged, the lawsuit says that people working indirectly for the defendants put injured people in touch with their lawyers. For example, an employee of Broward Health Medical Center arranged a meeting between an injured patient and an attorney, according to the lawsuit.
The defendants responded with threats and indignation.
“The true headline, if any, ought to be that these attorneys have abused the judicial process and are maliciously prosecuting false and unsustainable legal claims to serve their own personal and political interests,” one attorney told the Daily Business Review.
The news article may have also prompted the two sides to figure out that publicity helped no one. According to the Broward County Clerk of Court, the lawsuit is done. No details were available, but you can guess that if seven law firms shut down a case in less than two months, they have decided it is better to settle their differences in private.
We’re not going to publicize the names of the law firms here. They neither need nor deserve the attention. But if you want look them up, here’s the case number: CACE13-00031.