After an accident, is it worth it to call 411-PAIN or ASK GARY?
An auto accident can dramatically change your life within seconds, leaving you injured, stressed, and confused. You know you need help, but who do you call?
Well, the for-profit client referral service 1-800-411-PAIN would love for you to choose their business. After all, they are working for a profit and are constantly trying to find new customers that will make them money.
Recently, there’s been much discussion on whether these attorney referral services have the best interest of the consumer in mind or if they are illegally soliciting to clients in order to grow their businesses instead of thoroughly helping people who have been injured in a car accident.
Officials from the Florida Department of Financial Services has said there are ongoing criminal investigations against “legal” private lawyer referral firms that register with the Bar and “illegal” firms that don’t. The Bar does not directly regulate lawyer referral services, but prohibits attorneys from using services that do not comply with Bar rules, including the rules on lawyer solicitation and advertising .
For years, as for-profit client referral services started to become a booming business, the high court considered these agencies very “questionable”. Due to their nature, the Florida Supreme Court restricted the circumstances under which Florida attorneys could accept referrals from these companies.
Recently, the court stated in a 6 to 1 ruling, that “while the actions we take today may be viewed by some as severe, we conclude it is absolutely necessary to protect the public from referral services that improperly utilize lawyers to direct clients to undesired, unnecessary or even harmful treatment or services. Our actions today will also prevent conflicts of interest, such as where a lawyer feels compelled or pressured to refer a client to another business operated or controlled by the owner of the referral service so that the lawyer may continue to receive referrals from that service”.
The judge’s suggested that the Florida Bar go back and revise their proposed rule to develop a new one that would prevent attorneys from accepting referrals from any service that is not owned or operated by a lawyer. 411 PAIN, of course, is not operated by an attorney or anyone associated with the Florida Bar. Instead, the company is owned and operated by a chiropractor, the very people who are benefiting from injured clients. This fact highlights a clear case of conflict of interest.
An Example of the Dilemma
Kentucky resident Tracy Branham said she signed a contract with a law firm after being injured in a car accident in 2007. Although she selected the firm without going through a referral service, the firm is affiliated with a service that also does medical referrals. The firm, Branham said, falsely told her to use her car insurance for treatment and never told her she could use her health insurance.
At the law firm’s advice, she was seen by doctors affiliated with a clinic owned by the referral service and eventually flown to Florida for surgery at another clinic owned by the service.
Branham said she eventually sought treatment through her regular health insurance, and those doctors told her the surgery was unnecessary and may have worsened her condition.
“I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do. I thought I was doing what the lawyers told me to do,” she said .
Branham’s case clearly demonstrates the issue with allowing attorneys to affiliate themselves with healthcare-owned lawyer referral services. Instead of doing what was right and necessary to help their client recover from their injuries, the attorneys had their current and future interests in mind when they instead decided to treat Branham with a doctor who was far away and who performed a surgery she may have not needed. This type of decision is in direct opposition to the more obvious route, which would be having your client treat at a center near their home and only have surgeries they absolutely need.
Opponents to “Severe” Ruling
Nonetheless, there’s been some pushback regarding the authority of this law to impede on the business it is addressing. The Florida Bar’s board of governors recommended allowing law firms to join these services if the firms were under no obligation to help generate business by referring clients to others using a referral agency. Furthermore, although the Supreme Court has the authority to regulate lawyers, it cannot force that authority to regulate non-lawyers. Fort Lauderdale appellate attorney, Bruce Rogow said, “The danger of such an approach is to diminish the ability for people to obtain counsel and appropriate other services… the need for people to receive information and make choices for themselves is unnecessarily inhibited by the direction the court is point to” .
Many, such as Rogow, hope that the Florida Bar’s board of governors comes up with a broader rule that will stress the importance of access to information about legal rights and remedies. Even the referral services, such as 411-Pain, fought back saying that there is already existing regulation in place that requires referral agencies to follow the same rules as attorneys when it comes to contacting customers.
Choosing an Attorney on Merit – Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
Agencies who are used as referral services for lawyers must act cautiously with their advertisements and endorsements because the Florida Supreme Court will be keeping a close eye on their businesses. Until there is a different interpretation of a law that the Bar provides to the Supreme Court, it is advised that you use these services carefully. While not all of for-profit referral services are out to make profits for the sake of greediness instead of public health, until the legal gray area is clearer, people should go to lawyers for advice. If you live in the Clearwater/Tampa Bay area, the car accident lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA have the experience to handle your personal injury case effectively.
There are a multitude of factors that affect the value of your personal injury lawsuit. In fact, even the quality of attorney that a Plaintiff hires to represent them can greatly affect the outcome of their case. That is why it is of the utmost importance that a personal injury claimant (and eventual Plaintiff) carefully vets their choice for representation. Not only will the attorney hired be the best person to help evaluate your case from an objective position, but their reputation will also play a role in the amount of value placed on your case by the insurance company and eventually, a jury.
Contact Tampa Bay Area Personal Injury Firm
If you or a loved one have been injured in an automobile, motorcycle, or trucking accident, you should consult with a law firm with experience handling automobile accident personal injury claims to ensure that you, the victim, receive the maximum compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering, or future loss of income. The Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA serves personal injury clients all over the state of Florida from their conveniently located offices in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and New Port Richey.
Call for a case evaluation today and rest assured that our team is ready and willing to take the case as far as necessary to reach an appropriate resolution for your case.
For additional information about lawyer referral services, please visit the following link: https://www.dolmanlaw.com/truth-411-pain-lawyer-referral-services/
You can contact the attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA in one of the following ways:
- Call Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA at (727) 451-6900
- Complete this online contact form
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Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756