What do you call 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.
We’ve all heard them. Jokes about attorneys have long been a fixture in the American social climate. The term ambulance chaser, also known as barratry, is a professional slur for predatory lawyers whose aggressive and unethical pursuit of injured clients at a disaster site has cultivated a deep distrust of legal practitioners within our society.
According to the term, lawyers are accused of taking advantage of tragedy and misfortune of accident victims to make a fast buck. As the saying goes, lawyers will aggressively follow an ambulance from an accident scene to the hospital in hopes of convincing the victim to file a case.
Is There Any Truth to This Stereotype?
Although there are certainly lawyers who cross the line with aggressive solicitation, the majority of lawyers and attorneys stay well within the boundaries of how we’re supposed to operate. In fact, ambulance chasing is a punishable offense by law. If such ruthless greed and unethical behavior were as pervasive in the legal industry as it’s portrayed in pop culture, there would be hardly any left with a license to practice law. What incentive does a good lawyer have to break these rules and risk being permanently disbarred or thrown in jail?
That’s right – there are strict rules and guidelines for how lawyers help their clients get the justice and compensation they deserve. In addition to following the state rules in which they operate, a lawyer must also follow guidelines established by the American Bar Association (ABA). According to the ABA’s own guidelines, lawyers must follow a strict policy when it comes to contacting a potential client.
The ABA’s rule 7.3 states that a lawyer shall not solicit a professional employment in person with the motive of financial gain, unless the prospective client is a lawyer or has a close personal or family relationship with the lawyer.
That means, figuratively and literally, that unless a lawyer already knows the person in the ambulance, they can’t chase them down to ask for their business.
How Does a Term Like Ambulance Chaser Become so Popular?
For most people, the legal industry is a completely different environment than what’s portrayed on television and film. It’s easy to joke about things we don’t understand.
It’s true that most people, fortunately, go without needing legal representation for the majority of their lives, but when the unexpected does happen hiring a lawyer is often the only way to successfully navigate the legal system.
While a number of dishonest attorneys do take advantage of vulnerable people, the insurance industry plays its own hand in cultivating the ambulance chasing lawyer myth. Insurance providers of the at-fault party in a personal injury case do not want accident victims to secure the professional services of a lawyer. They know that if they can convince you to not file a legal claim against the person who caused your injuries, they’re more likely to pocket that money.
With that bit of perspective, it’s fair to assume insurance companies, not lawyers, are more likely to profit from your injuries without facing legal repercussions. Your lawyer is only concerned with getting the person who caused the accident to do the right thing.