“Did you hear about the lawyer hurt in the accident? An ambulance stopped suddenly!”
There are no shortage of lawyer jokes, and rightly so. There are many attorneys across the country that try to capitalize on other people’s misfortunes. “Ambulance chasing,” a term used to describe attorneys that target you for representation the moment that you are injured, is one of the ways in which they do this.
Although it is not unheard of to actually be chased by a lawyer while you are in an ambulance, the term also encompasses other approaches, like meeting an attorney in a doctor’s office, receiving a lawyer’s contact information from a nurse in a hospital, or receiving a phone call from an attorney at home after an accident. Now, there is nothing wrong with the attorney coming to meet you in the hospital, but this should happen only after you or a family member has contacted said attorney.
Aside from “ambulance chasing” being an unseemly act, many of these attorneys will not provide you with adequate representation, nor will they put your interest first. With this in mind, here are three tips to help you avoid “ambulance chasers”:
Use your instincts:
Would you trust this man with representing you in front of insurance companies and in the courtroom? Use your best judgment when choosing an attorney, and do not be afraid to explore multiple options. This is not to say that you must turn down every attorney that attempts to represent you in a lawsuit, but remember that you have the right to take your time when making a decision.
Do your research
In addition to using your instincts, use the power of Google! The internet can be a great resource for determining if previous clients had a pleasant experience with the lawyer you are considering. Every state bar association houses an organization that licenses and disciplines attorneys. You can search the name of barred attorneys in your state to discover if they have ever been reprimanded by the state bar. In California, search the names of attorneys here.
Understand the agreement and get it in writing
One of the best ways to ensure that you receive great representation is to get everything you agree to with your lawyer in writing. Lawyers have to be paid for the time they spend on a case, but be sure you understand how you are being billed. Is it an hourly rate or based on a contingent fee? Do you have to reimburse your attorney for expenses? Make sure your lawyer explains all of this to you, and then get it in writing.
“Ambulance chasing” is an unfortunate side effect of the practice of law. After an accident, most people are at the height of their pain, anger, and confusion. Do not let these emotions lead to a rushed decision that you may later regret when seeking compensation for your injuries.