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Circuit Court Labels 411-Pain As “Inherently Misleading”

08.19.2016 by | General

Injury Attorney

If you have a pulse, you have heard the annoying advertisements from those medical and attorney referral services such as 411-Pain. They are literally everywhere: radio, billboards, internet, and TV. So, who are these companies telling you to call them immediately after a car accident?

411-Pain is not a law firm and does not practice law. 411-Pain is essentially a company that spends massive amounts of money trying to lure accident victims into calling them after a tragedy. Once a person calls 411-Pain, they refer the victim to a random attorney—one that pays to participate in the network and is not referred on merit or specialization—in your area.  411-Pain operates as a middleman, making money off of injured people by sending them to an attorney who pays a monthly subscription fee to the service.

Calling 411-Pain is a “crapshoot” when it comes to hiring an attorney. If someone calls 411-Pain, they have absolutely no way of knowing if the attorney has any real personal injury experience.  411-Pain’s website states, “411 PAIN’s network of attorneys are well versed in personal injury law…” [1] This an extremely misleading statement. The only qualification for an attorney to join 411-Pain’s referral network is a monthly membership fee. Any attorney who is unable to build clientele the merited way—through word of mouth and proven results—can pay 411-Pain to do the leg work for them. This is unfortunate. Innocent accident victims are enticed by their catchy commercials and then referred by 411-Pain to attorneys who may have little experience.

For example, Ganesh Sohan and Bryan Rodriguez were rear-ended while driving to the beach on a hot afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Although the two young men did not think they were hurt, they called the police anyway to file a report. Later that day, Sohan felt pain and stiffness in his hand and back and Rodriguez felt pain in his upper-back. By the next day, the two could barely sleep or get out of bed because the pain was so severe.

Sohan remembered that catchy jingle he had heard on TV and decided to call them. He had a job that required physical labor and didn’t know where to turn for help relieving his pain.

“411-PAIN, I hear it all the time,” Sohan said. “If I see it on TV, it’s somewhere I could trust to go to.” He wrongfully assumed that if a company has a huge marketing budget and media presence than they must be legitimate.

What Sohan and Rodriguez didn’t know is that the $10,000 411-PAIN said they may be eligible for, wouldn’t go to them. It would go directly to the medical clinic. And the advice he thought he was going to get from a lawyer, never came. Instead the lawyer just used his case to sue the other driver’s insurance company.

Day after day, Sohan received medical treatment at the 411-PAIN owner’s chiropractic clinic, Broward Rehab. The medical bills racked up and Sohan’s pain never went away. By the time it was over, Sohan’s bill was $15,000—which his Personal Injury Protection will only cover 80% of $10,000—leaving the young man with over $5,000 in medical bills, still in pain, and unable to fully return to work.

One of the problems with these medical and lawyer referral services is that they stay within their own network—that’s kind of the point. That raises the question of whether the referral service is sending patients to the best possible doctors and lawyers or whether it’s just trying to keep the business and money “in the family.” What if the patient needs surgery? Or if they need a service that isn’t provided by the in-network clinics?

“Maybe I should be going to an osteopath, or maybe I should be going to a surgeon,” says J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America. “I’d want to get advice on what is the specialty I need. If all they do is pump everybody into the chiropractors, that’s not appropriate either.” [2]

A former Florida state representative, and now mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, is an outspoken critic of companies like 411-Pain. He has offered some of the harshest criticisms of these private referral services:

Several years ago, new players came into the business purporting to be referral services, legal and medical. They set up their businesses, I believe, in such a manner to avoid the rules that the rest of us have to play by and follow. They can’t be suspended or fined, and they can’t be disbarred for an improper ad. There are some who would say actions have been taken to thwart unethical conduct of some of the referral services, and to those who make that claim, I say, ‘Bunk.’ Anyone who has listened to the radio or watched television within the past week has probably seen examples of ads that at best are questionable and at worst violate our rules.’” [3]

The United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit also had harsh words when describing the tactics of 411-Pain.  In March of 2014, the referral service was back in court over their questionable advertising tactics. During the court case titled, 1-800-411-Pain Referral Service, LLC v. Otto, 411-Pain was condemned for the way they were doing business in Minnesota.

The Eighth Circuit concluded that 411-Pain’s advertising, “inherently misleads consumers, because it implies that consumers will receive a floor of benefits, potentially up to $40,000, when, in fact, many consumers will receive nothing.” [4]

The Eighth Circuit further scolded 411-Pain’s deceptive use of police officers in their advertisements. Their advertisements frequently use law enforcement or EMT impersonators to manipulate people into thinking authority figures endorse their services.

The actor pretending to be a police officer appears next to a car and say, “I arrive at all types of accidents: auto, motorcycle, slip-and-fall, and work injuries. And I always tell everyone to call 411-PAIN. According to Florida law, you may be entitled to a minimum of $10,000 in injury protection and lost wages, whether you’re at fault or not. Remember, after 911, call 411.”

The court stated that, “The actor-officer’s support for 411-Pain imbues the company with a faux-sense of official legitimacy that ‘inherently misleads’ viewers.”

If they are really a genuine company which provides legitimate services, than what’s with all the trickery?

When The Florida Bar—the unified association that governs, regulates, and disciplines attorneys—has something to say on the matter, their statement carries weight. Gary Blankenship, the senior editor of The Florida Bar News, stated the following in regards to companies like 411-Pain:

“Some ads for lawyer and medical referral services mislead by implying victims will get money if they’ve been in accidents. Some encourage those involved in accidents—but not injured—to file meritless claims….[Investigators for a special committee of the bar association] also questioned whether private referral services are providing their claimed educational benefits to the public, and asserted in some cases patients referred to some medical clinics are pressured to hire lawyers.” [5]

Additionally, the panel of experts for the Bar’s Special Committee on Lawyer Referral Services (the same referenced above) debated legal challenges to two of the bigger referral services.

One of the attorney panel members stated, “His clients felt that that [411-PAIN]’s ads promised they would receive money for injuries, and instead all the money went to clinics, and, in some cases, clients wound up owing money to clinics.” [6]

At the Dolman Law Group, we pride ourselves on not being associated with pay-for-client lawyer referral services. It is vital to us that our clients request our services on their own freewill, at the recommendation of a satisfied or knowledgeable party. We also urge you to do your homework and research us. Because, when someone is looking to hire an attorney, it is essential that they make an educated decision. Do not fall for the catchy jingles and trickery of attorney referral services. When searching for an attorney, ask people in your trusted network of family and friends about who they have had experience with in the past. Hiring an attorney is an important decision that can have vast consequences on your family’s future. You deserve an attorney that will sit down with you, face-to-face, and explain all of your options. At the Dolman Law Group, every client meets with their attorney face-to-face. Please call us today if you have any questions at (727) 451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

(727) 451-6900

https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/

References:

[1] 411-PAIN, “About” page, referenced 18 August 2016.
[2] Lisa Rab, “Crash Course: 411-PAIN network will line their pockets with your insurance money,” from FloridaBar.org, 09 Dec 2010.
[3] Gary Blankenship, “Questions raised about for-profit referral services,” The Florida Bar News, 15 July 2011.
[4] http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-8th-circuit/1659624.html
[5] Gary Blankenship, “Investigators find fraud associated with some lawyer referral services,” The Florida Bar News, 15 October 2011.
[6] Ibid