There’s nothing fun about seeing unfair adjustments to your car insurance, especially when a lawyer is involved. But unfortunately, just as there are crooked cops, you can find some lawyers who are willing to use the law to their advantage to add a few bucks to their pockets.
The name of the game is ambulance chasing and the payoff can be big for the lawyers. Unfortunately, the party that gets sued (and very often, their auto insurance company) will bore the brunt of this practice. And in the worst case scenarios, you could not only see your auto insurance rates go up, but find yourself in trouble with the law.
What is a Case Runner?
If you’ve never heard of a case runner (or ambulance chaser), now’s the time to get educated. This is the lawyer who knocks on your door, gives you a call or sends you urgent mail after you’ve had an auto accident. This greedy lawyer is looking to “help” you seek damages from the party you were in the car crash with–even if there are no damages to seek.
You’ve probably seen the “Have you been in an accident” commercials from local law firms that want to help you “collect the money you deserve.” In some cases, you may actually deserve money after being injured and paying medical bills due to an accident. If you can’t afford a lawyer then these guys may be who you’re looking for.
But the case runner is different. This lawyer will pursue you–not the other way around. And they will be willing to help you seek money from the other party or their insurance company even if you weren’t injured.
In every sense of the word, what they do is unethical. And in some cases, it’s downright unlawful.
Ambulance Chasing is Against the Law in Some States
California and New York are just two of the states where ambulance chasing is against the law. Both states take steps on a regular basis to ensure that lawyers do not commit this crime.
For instance, the State Bar of California is known for dispatching investigators to large disaster scenes with the specific goal of discouraging ambulance chasers from soliciting business from disaster victims at the scene.
And an anonymous New York Times reader mentioned that he worked as an insurance fraud investigator in New York City for a major auto insurance company to stop ambulance chasers from initiating claims. Because the state has a no fault accident coverage requirement that allows accident victims to receive money for medical bills and more whether they were at fault or not, lawyers in the state love to make as many claims as possible.
In Texas, the act, known as Barratry, was a full-on crime until a judge overturned a portion of it in May 2010. According to his judgment, lawyers and medical professionals are now able to contact victims within 30 days of an accident. But in the case of lawyers, they can only contact victims charged in wrongful death lawsuits–not standard accident victims.
In these states, if a lawyer is caught soliciting a victim of an accident, he may be suspended indefinitely or even prosecuted by law. However, if he gets away with it, he has made thousands of dollars since he mostly likely works as a contingency attorney (he only gets paid if you win) and will take a large portion of your winnings for his work.
In some other states, the act is not against the law, but it is strongly discouraged. This means, it is up to you to gain the upper hand by not allowing this person to pull you into a scheme that was primarily meant to benefit him, not you.
Everyone’s Auto Insurance Increases Thanks to Greedy Lawyers
What’s most unfortunate about lawyers taking advantage of the system in this way is that it ends up affecting auto insurance, not just among the two parties involved, but across the board. For instance, in the United Kingdom, ambulance chasers have forced an increase in car insurance of 35 percent.
Increases like these come from rises in the number of personal injury claims that auto insurance companies have to pay. When companies have to keep paying out claims, they’re going to raise premiums. And when premiums increase, the policyholders suffer.
And that’s not all that could go wrong with your coverage as a result of the greedy lawyer. If it is discovered that you have committed insurance fraud with a lawyer, unless you can prove that you were completely oblivious to the scam, getting dropped from your insurance is a huge possibility.
Getting with another insurance company would be that much more difficult (and costly) because now you have a serious blemish on your record. When you count all of the issues that can arise from this practice, it quickly becomes something that’s not worth it to most.
Of course, lawyers and even some citizens who support them have argued that it’s the insurance industry that victimizes those involved in accidents, not the attorneys. They say that insurance companies don’t want to pay out enough for the accidents so it’s up to lawyers like this to save the accident victims.
But what about those victims who weren’t injured at all? How do lawyers justify making a claim for an injury that doesn’t exist?
Well, it turns out that the problem is bigger than any single car accident. There are too many lawyers competing for the same jobs, leaving many unemployed. When they’re sitting in their offices (most likely at home) twiddling their thumbs trying to come up with ways to make money, they create harebrained schemes to stay afloat.
They know that the insurance industry has money to pay and with their knowledge of the law and cunning gift of persuasion they may be able to get a few bucks out of it. This means that the innocent parties involved in an accident can become victims of an over-loaded industry with folks who have nothing better to do than make money by abusing their profession.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Despite all of the information provided against greedy lawyers, it’s more than a notion to say that you won’t be tempted to grab at the carrot being dangled in front of you if you’re approached by a case runner.
See, the problem with fast-talking lawyers is they know exactly what to say to get you to do what they want. They’re talented in the gift of gab and use your human nature to their advantage to convince you that you are due damages for your accident and would be nothing short of a fool if you didn’t get what you’re due.
With you not knowing the law thoroughly, you’re likely to go through with it. And the lawyer is banking on this. With vital information in the lawyer’s hands, the process can begin.
If you want to avoid getting caught up in a problem that is much bigger than you than it’s good to consider contacting the National Insurance Crime Bureau if you suspect that that you’re being taken advantage of by a case runner.
But to avoid getting too involved in the first place–and contributing to an increase in auto insurance rates–the next time you’re in a car accident and receive a call from a lawyer knowing that you haven’t been injured, instead of being sucked in by the art of persuasion, do yourself a favor and politely hang up the phone.