The Truth About “Ambulance Chasers”

 

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The Truth About "Ambulance Chasers"
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The Truth About “Ambulance Chasers” Have you ever heard of personal injury solicitation or ambulance chasing? Personal injury solicitation happens when a random person shows up at an accident scene to offer legal services. These people arrive unannounced and uninvited to solicit. They are called runners or investigators, or victim advocates.  Runners could be working alone or under the guise of a law firm. Often, they sell the case to the law firms they work with for anywhere from 500 to $1,000. Here's the first problem: it is illegal for a law firm or anyone else to come up to somebody after a crash and sell them personal injury attorney services. It's a criminal activity and becomes a criminal conspiracy if multiple people are involved.  The second problem is that as a victim, if you listen to such people either after the crash, at the hospital, or when you're back home, you become a victim of criminal conspiracy. And nine times out of ten, you're likely to get poor representation for your injury case. Why? Good law firms are not that desperate, and good lawyers don't commit crimes to get new business.  So beware of runners and desperate lawyers who offer the absolute minimum in terms of representation. How do you identify runners, so you don't fall victim, and what can you do about it? How do you choose a good lawyer for your injury case?  Learn more in this episode of the David vs. Goliath podcast with elite personal injury lawyer Matt Dolman and his guest, Brent Sibley, Esq. They discuss the menace of personal injury solicitation, how it works, what to do if approached to avoid falling victim, and why you should never agree to work with runners. 

In this episode: 

  • [00:49]  Matt Dolman welcomes his guest, Brent Sibley, Esq.
  • [02:14] Matt introduces the topic of the day: personal injury solicitation 
  • [04:25] Personal injury solicitation is a criminal activity: Brent explains how it plays out
  • [06:11] Why you're likely to get poor legal representation from solicitors 
  • [06:54] Double victim: the sad price you pay for agreeing to personal injury solicitation
  • [07:27] The hand of the law is coming, some law firms are already in trouble 
  • [09:13] Beware of desperate lawyers, how to identify personal injury solicitation runners and what to do about it

Transcript

Welcome to the latest episode of the Dolman Law Group podcast. I'm Matt Dolman, the Dolman Law Group, this is Brent Sibley, the Sibley Law Firm, and together we've combined our law firms to create Sibley Dolman. Brent, tell us about the new law firm.   Thanks, Matt. Man, I'm excited about the new law firm. This is going to be really cool. So Matt and I have both been practicing personal injury law for a while now and we met a couple years ago working on a case, either I sent a case over to him or he sent a case over to me, I don't even remember now. But we just got to talking and we're both young guys building our practices up and really excited about... We recently switched over to being completely cloud based and we're in the cloud now, we're very, very ready to grow operations. So we're building a statewide practice. We have five offices in my neck of the woods down in South Florida. However, we are gearing up to start the northward expansion. And then hopefully-   And I'm obvious in Clearwater, Newport, Richey, St. Petersburg, Sarasota now. So pretty much statewide. I mean we haven't hit North Florida yet, but in Miami we have Doral, North Miami Beach, Aventura. We're also in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton. So all together between the two of us, we have nine offices.   Yeah. Well I didn't realize it was up to that high already. But yeah-   It grows quick.   It's happening quickly. But definitely exciting times ahead and the northward expansion is on.   Well today, we're here to talk about personal injury solicitation. A lot of consumers are probably not aware of just how slimy the personal injury business is. We pride ourselves at my firm and Brent's firm and together at our combined firm of personal attention to our personal injury clients. Most firms probably do not offer that. I mean I'm giving a generalization here. I'm not staying at all firms in the same way, but many firms you never get to talk to the attorney. But today, we're going to discuss an area that's unique to personal injury that you probably do not see in other areas of law. In fact, I would be almost certain you don't. And it brings up the aspect and the pejorative tone of what is known as an ambulance chaser.   And it's sad that we have to discuss this, but you'd be surprised that after a car accident, many times and especially in South Florida, you'll see what is called runners or investigators that work for the law firm who show up at the accident scene. And when we call solicitation, they were not invited or asked by the personal injury victim, they just show up unannounced, uninvited, and again, solicit the services of either law firm or their own individual business which then markets the case to a law firm. Oftentimes, they're paid anywhere from 500 to $1,000 by the law firm for the case, so that individual who's a runner could be working on his own or under the guise of a law firm. And tell me a little bit more about this, Brent. Tell the audience, what have you seen down in South Florida? And what can personal injury victims expect?   Yeah. So thanks, Matt. And this is really a great question for me. I'm sure it happens on your coast too. But man-   It does happen up here. I know South Florida's got that on savior reputation. It's a little bit more of an aggressive environment down there. It's kill what you catch down there.   Yeah.   It's pretty aggressive up here as well. I mean personal injury's aggressive anywhere.   Yeah.   But South Florida's really notorious for it.   Yeah. And it's an ongoing string, but we just recently had yet another big announcement where I think the FBI brought another well known firm down and several attorneys have completely been disbarred, meaning losing their license forever. And I think some are even possibly be facing actual jail time too. So with that being said, South Florida is like-   The FBI actually hammered one recently.   Yeah. South Florida is the crème de la crème of the worst of the world in this business. So I've seen it all and I've spoken to clients that have actually been solicited. So the first thing you need to realize as a victim or even maybe a family member or a friend of someone who's been a victim of a car crash case is this, the law is very clear despite what some people would have you believe. You cannot solicit, you cannot come up to somebody after a crash and sell them personal injury attorney services in any way. And the law is also very clear that if you can't do it as an attorney, you can't do it as somebody... I can't say, "Whoa, I'm not allowed to go talk to this guy and give him my business card. So I'll just pay Joe, my paralegal, to do it." Also just as illegal, there's no reduction at all.   No.   You cannot use a conduit to do something that you can't do. So the first thing you need to understand is it's illegal. It's a criminal activity. Then when you start adding multiple people into the mix, it becomes a criminal conspiracy. So the most common thing is you're in the hospital after an accident or you just came home from the hospital and you get a text, you get a phone call, or you get a knock at your door. And it's somebody who wants to talk about your personal injury case and wants to probably help you find a doctor's office and an attorney to represent you. And if you go down that path and you even entertain the idea of that for a split second, you're basically a victim now of this criminal conspiracy where you yourself are not committing a crime. However, you are now the victim. After being the victim of the car crash, now on top of that, you're going to be the victim of this criminal conspiracy. And most likely, you're going to get pretty poor representation.   No question.   And yeah, so that's-   Good law firms are not that. That's where they're searching the emergency room or hospital beds for the next client or soliciting individual that's at the scene of the car crash or going to their homes, or making phone calls to accident victims immediately after the accident within days of it.   Well good lawyers don't commit crimes to get new business. I mean that's what it is.   That's the overarching theme.   Yeah. That's the theme is that these people are committing crimes to get the business.   Correct.   And good lawyers to have plenty of cases from various sources.   Based on the reputation.   Based on the fact that they're great lawyers and people know them, that they do a really good job for their clients and they send them business as a result of that. So that's the proper way that the business gets handled. And by the way, like I said, you're going to be a victim here, if you let someone come to your house and sign you up and then you sign their paperwork, what they are going to do... And I know this because I've talked to these people under the guise of being interested because I wanted to know how it worked because it happens to us all the time. They will take your case and they will just actually sell your case to a lawyer.   Yeah.   So he knows his scumbag attorneys, the guys who break the law, who are willing to break the law to get business, and he will just take your file and he will sell it to an attorney for cash. And then that guy's out the picture forever. He gets a new burner cell phone and then he's gone.   Yeah, and it's an epidemic in South Florida. We know six lawyers and individuals, I think some individuals are associated with different medical clinics, have been arrested. So six actual attorneys and I think it was another four or five individuals are associated with medical clinics that were arrested as part of an FBI investigation along with the Broward County Sheriff's Office. Now again, we presume that everyone's innocent until proven guilty. So I don't want to just jump out there and say all these individuals were guilty, but a few of them have already pled out.   Yeah.   And one I think has actually already been sentenced. So this is very common. You'd be surprised there's more law firms that do this than you would ever expect. And it's against a law in Florida to solicit the victim of a car or motorcycle crash within 60 days of that car or motorcycle accident. It's against the law in Florida to solicit someone who's been injured in a car or motorcycle crash in the emergency room or a hospital. It is against the law in Florida to solicit someone who's been injured in a car or motorcycle crash by calling them on the phone. These actions are illegal. These are performed by very desperate lawyers or scumbag attorneys who hire independent investigators or independent runners, if you will, that pull the case, claim that they're victim advocates, that they're working on behalf of the victim, no one's that nice, and pulling the case and selling it to a lawyer.   Absolutely. And it's just a shame because generally what happens to these people is they get the absolute minimum in terms of representation.   Oh, course.   So if they're hurt and they have a good case or even a decent case, they're going to just get the absolute minimum and it's a bad situation. It's just really awful.   It's likely to be an awful law firm. A lawyer's not very competent. If you had a good reputation, you certainly would not be doing that. So you've got lawyers already breaking the law to obtain a case. How desperate is that lawyer? How good of a service do you think you're actually going to get?   Absolutely. And I've had this happen to my clients. These people are not smart. Sometimes they're pretty clever, but they sometimes make big mistakes. And I've had existing clients who got me, they hired me maybe the day of the crash, one of their friends was represented by me. They've hired me right away, but someone else maybe paid off the tow truck driver or paid off the dispatch person and they got their cell phone number. And so one of these runners has called my existing client that I've already met with and signed them up-   Talking to me as well. Yeah.   And they'll either go to their house or they'll talk to them. So what I did was I made a little checklist, a little thing for my clients to ask these people. Usually they start realizing that something's going on because I have my clients asking them what their name is, what's the law firm that they work for or who do they work for? And then these people obviously don't want to tell you that information and they usually just wiggle off the phone and they get away from you. But obviously, when someone doesn't want to tell you what their name is or who they work for, you don't want to do business with that kind of a person.   Of course.   I mean that's common sense.   Yes, goes with obvious reason. What should you do if you get that phone call or the knock of the door? Well I would suggest A, capture the phone number. If they don't want to give you the name, please capture the phone number and make a quick call to the local Sheriff's office, call law enforcement and make a report to the Florida bar. Hopefully, they will investigate the claim. I can't guarantee they will and the Florida bar is inundated with the amount of claims they get, they only have so many resources. But hopefully, the Sheriff's office will make an inquiry and figure out whose phone number that belongs to and maybe they can dig a little bit deeper. If they get enough complaints about the same number, obviously that's going to spark an investigation. So don't assume you're the first person that's calling either. So try to get their phone number, try to get as much information, maybe the individual's name and who they work for.   And by the way, you don't have to do this all yourself too. If you do have a case, take a minute, tell the person you'll call them back, do five minutes of Google research, find a real personal injury attorney like me or Matt or a thousand other good ones, hire that person and then that attorney will help you document this illegal activity because we want to clean up this business just as much as everybody else. In fact, more than anybody else. So guys like me and Matt will help you. We'll help catch the bad guys so to speak.   Yeah, it's the bad lawyers, the bad apples like these individuals, the awful scumbag, whether they're investigators or victim advocates or runners, whatever you want to call them, I mean they're all runners, that give us all terrible name. That's what creates the pejorative tone of the term ambulance chaser.   Yeah. Be a little bit skeptical. Don't take some random person's word for it and don't let them intimidate you and say, "Whoa, you don't trust me?" "No, ma'am, or no, sir. I don't trust you. I don't know who you are. I don't know who you work for. I don't know anything about you. I absolutely don't trust you."   Yeah. "Ironic that you're showing up at the scene or showing up at my house. Who invited you?" Don't let them intimidate you, you're better than that. Don't let that happen.   So again, call law enforcement, call the Florida bar, or let your attorney know who this individual is and we can investigate this further. We certainly don't want these actions to continue. It's an epidemic in our profession. Hopefully, we can cut an end to this.   Yeah. And the most important thing is even if you don't care about cleaning up society or any of those other stuff that we do that me and Matt really do care about, do it for selfish purposes, do it for yourself. Don't go with a place like this because you're doing yourself a big disservice. Don't do that to yourself. It's horrible.   Agreed. Well that concludes the latest episode of the Dolman Law Group podcast now to be known as I guess Sibley Dolman podcast. Brent Sibley, I really appreciate you coming on. And-   Thanks, Matt.   I thank my audience for listening to us. Thank you.   Thanks, guys.  

💡 Meet Your Host 💡

Name Matthew A. Dolman, Esq. Title: Partner at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Specialty: Matt is a nationally recognized insurance and personal injury attorney and focuses much of his practice on the litigation of catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida.  Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram   

💡 Featured Guest 💡

Name Brent Sibley, Esq. Title: Personal Injury Lawyer with Modern Injury Lawyers Specialty: Brent is committed to providing aggressive and effective legal representation and counsel to individuals who have sustained personal injury in serious accidents. He formerly ran Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP covering Aventura, North Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Doral, and Boca Raton. Connect:  LinkedIn 

🔑 Relevant Resources 🔑

The insights and views presented in “David vs. Goliath” are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The information presented is not a substitute for consulting with an attorney. Nor does tuning in to this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Any case result information provided on any portion of this podcast should not be understood as a promise of any particular result in a future case. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers: Big firm results, small firm personal attention.