DIRECT CONTACT BY LAWYERS

Should a lawyer or lawyer/medical referral service contact you after your car accident?

I was recently speaking with a friend that was involved in a car accident. She told me shortly after her accident she started getting calls from lawyers wanting to represent her in an injury claim. She also started getting advertisements in the mail the next day after her accident from lawyers wanting to represent her.

In addition she received a call from a well known doctor/lawyer referral service that went something like this: "We just wanted to find out how you were doing after your accident". My friend was very annoyed with these calls and asked me if this was legal or ethical.

The short answer to this question is, this type of conduct is unethical and illegal.

It is a violation of the Florida Rules of Professional Responsibility for a lawyer, or someone on the lawyers behalf, to contact you after a car accident. These forms of communication are known as solicitation and are prohibited in Florida, as set forth in the Florida Rules of Professional Responsibility for Attorneys. (Rule 4-7.18). The only type of lawyer contact that is allowed is an advertisement in the mail, no sooner than 30 days after your accident.

In addition, it is a criminal violation in the State of Florida to use information from accident reports to contact accident victims in order to solicit medical or legal services. Florida Statute 119.105).

Some clients have even reported that a lawyer met them at a medical clinic and insisted that they sign a contract with the lawyer before they could receive treatment at the clinic. This type of contact by a lawyer or lawyers representative is unethical and strictly prohibited.

If you are solicited by a lawyer or someone working for a lawyer and you did not initiate the contact, you should immediately report that lawyer to the Florida Bar.

You should never hire a lawyer when their first contact with you is a solicitation in violation of the Florida code of ethics for lawyers and a criminal misdemeanor.

That is not the type of lawyer to hire. They are telling you by their actions up front that they are unethical and don’t mind doing something that is illegal.

If you want to read more, below you can find the exact wording in the Lawyer Ethical Rules on Solicitation and the Florida Criminal Statute on use of police reports to contact accident victims:

SOLICITATION PROHIBITED BY LAWYER ETHICS RULES

Florida Bar Rule 4-7.18 Direct Contact with Prospective Clients RULE 4-7.18 DIRECT CONTACT WITH PROSPECTIVE CLIENTS – (a) Solicitation. Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer may not: (1) solicit, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit on the lawyer's behalf, professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship, in person or otherwise, when a significant motive for the lawyer's doing so is the lawyer's pecuniary gain. The term "solicit" includes contact in person, by telephone, telegraph, or facsimile, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient and includes any written form of communication, including any electronic mail communication, directed to a specific recipient and not meeting the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule and rules 4-7.11 through 4-7.17 of these rules.

(2) enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule. (b) Written Communication. (1) A lawyer may not send, or knowingly permit to be sent, on the lawyer's behalf or on behalf of the lawyer's firm or partner, an associate, or any other lawyer affiliated with the lawyer or the lawyer's firm, a written communication directly or indirectly to a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining professional employment if: (A) the written communication concerns an action for personal injury or wrongful death or otherwise relates to an accident or disaster involving the person to whom the communication is addressed or a relative of that person, unless the accident or disaster occurred more than 30 days prior to the mailing of the communication;

USE OF POLICE REPORTS TO CONTACT ACCIDENT VICTIMS IS CRIMINAL

Use of information on a police report for purposes of solicitation is illegal in Florida, as set forth in Florida Statutes. Here is the exact statute that prohibits such use of information contained in police reports.

Florida Statute 119.105 Protection of victims of crimes or accidents.—Police reports are public records except as otherwise made exempt or confidential. Every person is allowed to examine nonexempt or non confidential police reports. A person who comes into possession of exempt or confidential information contained in police reports may not use that information for any commercial solicitation of the victims or relatives of the victims of the reported crimes or accidents and may not knowingly disclose such information to any third party for the purpose of such solicitation during the period of time that information remains exempt or confidential. This section does not prohibit the publication of such information to the general public by any news media legally entitled to possess that information or the use of such information for any other data collection or analysis purposes by those entitled to possess that information.

119.10 Violation of chapter; penalties.— (1) Any public officer who: (a) Violates any provision of this chapter commits a noncriminal infraction, punishable by fine not exceeding $500.

(b) Knowingly violates the provisions of s. 119.07(1) is subject to suspension and removal or impeachment and, in addition, commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. (2) Any person who willfully and knowingly violates:

(a) Any of the provisions of this chapter commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. (b) Section 119.105 commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

CONCLUSION

If you are solicited by a lawyer or someone working for a lawyer and you did not initiate the contact, you should immediately report that lawyer to the Florida Bar, and do not hire a lawyer if their first contact with you is violating their own code of ethics and violating Florida Law. That is not the type of lawyer to hire.

For more information or for a free consultation, contact The Law Offices of Charles D. Scott, PLLC Injury and Family Law Attorneys, by calling 727-300-4878 or view our web site http://www.yourstpetelawyers.com

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