“Ambulance chaser” is a phrase that’s commonly heard in reference to personal injury cases. While it’s usually applied to the attorney on the case, the stereotype more accurately describes another involved party: the case runner.
Case runners are individuals hired by unethical attorneys who are on the hunt for new clients. These runners are not licensed or experienced legal professionals.
Instead, they are middlemen who approach victims at the scene of an accident, pushing the services of a personal injury lawyer. Sometimes, runners will also coerce the victim into visiting a doctor with whom the runner also has an agreement.
Obviously, this method of obtaining new clients is unethical. But is it illegal? Discover the answer to this question and more below.
Is Ambulance Chasing Legal?
Ambulance chasing is illegal in 21 states, including Texas. According to the Texas Penal Code, barratry (or case running) is both unethical and criminal. So, if you fall victim to improper solicitation, you may be able to recover attorney’s fees, plus $10,000.
Unfortunately, the law against barratry is largely unenforced – leading some to describe the situation as an ambulance-chasing epidemic within the state.
Although the practice is illegal, case runners continue to make appearances at crash sites. After listening to police scanners, these individuals will arrive at the scene, offer bribes to the victims, provide false information, and even offer to drive certain victims to a medical office.
If a runner doesn’t arrive at the scene on time to make contact with a victim, they may look elsewhere for information. Ambulance chasers are known to offer bribes to ambulance drivers, hospital workers, and police officers for access to a victim’s personal information.
From there, the runner may harass a victim with house visits, phone calls, and more. Unfortunately, the unethical and illegal nature of these actions does not seem to deter runners in any way.
Because the potential financial reward is significant, these runners will often stop at nothing to attract a new client.
How to Spot an Ambulance Chaser
After a serious car accident, victims often suffer from confusion, painful injuries, and even shock. Naturally, this puts a person in a vulnerable state, which is a fact ambulance chasers take advantage of.
To protect yourself from falling victim to a case runner, watch for these telltale signs that you’ve been approached by one:
- You receive a call shortly after the accident from a stranger
- A non-medical person asks about your injuries at the scene of the accident
- A stranger refers you to or offers a ride to a “medical clinic” at the scene
- A strange refers you to a personal injury lawyer
- You are offered money at the scene
These are just a few of the warning signs that an ambulance chaser has approached you. Tell the person to go away if you ever find yourself in such a situation. Make it clear that you are not interested in the runner’s help.
After an accident, you want to work with someone who both understands and respects your personal rights. Fortunately, it’s not hard to find a reputable personal injury attorney who will do just that.
How to Find the Right Attorney for Your Case
In the chaotic aftermath of an accident, choosing a qualified attorney may seem like a daunting task. The truth is that finding a good attorney is easier than you might think. These tips will help you get started:
- Ask people you know for referrals
- Review the credentials and track records of potential attorneys
- Call to schedule a consultation
Once you are face to face with a potential attorney, you’ll be able to determine whether it’s a good fit. From there, you’ll have everything you need to pursue legal action.