Friday, October 16, 2009

Phone Calls From Chiropractors And Attorneys After An Auto Accident

If you've been injured in an auto accident, you may receive a few phone calls. Here's what you need to know to protect yourself from some shady and perhaps even illegal practices.

The first series of calls may come from chiropractors who got your name by hiring "runners" to retrieve your accident report (which is a public record). The pitch? "We can help you and there's no need to pay the bills as we have an attorney who will work with us and pay your bills out of any settlement." Many will even offer you cab fare to arrange for your initial office visit. From there many will pressure you to sign forms where you give the chiropractor an interest in your injury claim. And, by the way, they will recommend an attorney, who will often be at the chiropractor's office, ready to "sign you up." These are nothing more than "mills" that are not intetested in your best interests. Many insurance companies are wise to these referral mills (because the same chiropractors and attorneys show up repeatedly on these claims) and you are at risk for ruining your claim by agreeing to this shady arrangement.

The next wave of phone calls you may receive is from a small group of attorneys or their office staff. THIS PRACTICE IS ILLEGAL IN OHIO AND VIOLATES OUR ETHICAL RULES. Any attorney engaging in this sleazy practice can be disciplined. These phone calls will take on various forms, according to Columbus personal injury attorney William Mann, who is also an expert in Ohio ethics law:
If attorney phone solicitations are done "right," they are very difficult to prove. The offending lawyers, when caught, say something such as, "Oh, we get dozens of phone calls a day from potential clients and friends and family of potential clients and we try to return all of them. We probably called X because we got a call from a friend or family member asking us to call him." Another scam is to direct contact a potential client and say,"I am investigating this accident and heard you had information about it.* * * Oh, you were injured in this accident, too! Well, since I am already working on this I would be happy to represent you as well." Another popular scam is to direct contact a potential client and say that you will be happy to come to their house and talk about the potential case. When you get there you give them some money, maybe $125 if it is a good case, in cash, for "cab fare," so that they can come to your office during the case if they sign your contract. It goes on and on but these are the scams that I hear about most often.

The overwhelming majority of attorneys do not pull these shenanigans. As usual, it takes only a handful of unscrupulous attorneys to give all of us a black eye.
Lesson: HANG UP THE PHONE! Do your research. Ask friends and family for a list of competent Ohio personal injury attorneys or firms. Hop on the Internet and find a firm that offers potential clients good information or practical advice on what to do after an auto accident. And just say no to "friendly" offers of cab fares and attorneys lurking in the back room of a chiropractor's office.

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