(1)LAWYER SUGGESTS CALLING FROM THE ACCIDENT SCENE
Some television commercials advise you to call a lawyer, or some type of lawyer referral service directly from the scene of a car accident. Their reason for giving this advice, is probably that they want to get their lawyer on your injury case before some one else does. What they don’t tell you is that there is no valid reason to call a lawyer or referral service from the scene. They further don’t tell you that you have four (4) years from the date of the accident to bring a claim for your injury. Actually calling a lawyer or referral service from the scene may distract you from what you should be doing, taking photos with your smart phone, getting witness statements, and speaking with the police or paramedics about what happened. Further if your case goes to trial, the fact that you called a lawyer or lawyer referral service from the accident scene may be used against you by the insurance defense lawyer. Your primary objective should be to see that you and your passengers are all ok, and if you or anyone is injured, to seek appropriate medical care at an emergency room or with a doctor of your own choosing. Under Florida law you must see a doctor within fourteen (14) days, so relax, take your time, and choose wisely. There will be time to speak with a lawyer as well, there is no need to talk to a lawyer at the accident scene.
(2) LAWYER CONTACTS YOU AFTER AN ACCIDENT
Should a lawyer or lawyer/medical referral service contact you after your car accident?
I was recently speaking with a friend that was involved in a car accident. She told me shortly after her accident she started getting calls from lawyers wanting to represent her in an injury claim. She also started getting advertisements in the mail the next day after her accident from lawyers wanting to represent her.
In addition she received a call from a well known doctor/lawyer referral service that went something like this: “We just wanted to find out how you were doing after your accident”. My friend was very annoyed with these calls and asked me if this was legal or ethical.
The short answer to this question is, this type of conduct is unethical and illegal.
It is a violation of the Florida Rules of Professional Responsibility for a lawyer, or someone on the lawyers behalf, to contact you after a car accident. These forms of communication are known as solicitation and are prohibited in Florida, as set forth in the Florida Rules of Professional Responsibility for Attorneys. (Rule 4-7.18). The only type of lawyer contact that is allowed is an advertisement in the mail, no sooner than 30 days after your accident.
In addition, it is a criminal violation in the State of Florida to use information from accident reports to contact accident victims in order to solicit medical or legal services. Florida Statute 119.105). In addition, it is a criminal violation in the State of Florida to use information from accident reports to contact accident victims in order to solicit medical or legal services. Florida Statute 119.105).
(3) LAWYER SHOWS UP AT MEDICAL CLINIC WITH CONTRACT
Some clients have even reported that a lawyer met them at a medical clinic and insisted that they sign a contract with the lawyer before they could receive treatment at the clinic. This type of contact by a lawyer or lawyers representative is unethical and strictly prohibited.
If you are solicited by a lawyer or someone working for a lawyer and you did not initiate the contact, you should immediately report that lawyer to the Florida Bar.
You should never hire a lawyer when their first contact with you is a solicitation in violation of the Florida code of ethics for lawyers and a criminal misdemeanor.
That is not the type of lawyer to hire. They are telling you by their actions up front that they are unethical and don’t mind doing something that is illegal.
(4) LAWYER SENDS A RUNNER TO YOUR HOUSE OR HOSPITAL WITH A CONTRACT
The TV Advertisement Said, “A Lawyer Will Come to Your House”
I recently saw an advertisement for a lawyer, that said if you call that lawyer, the lawyer will come to your house, even after business hours. If that was true, it would be a nice convenience for the potential injury client, but if a “lawyer” is not coming to your house, and instead it is a “contract runner” or other non-lawyer, then the advertisement is false, misleading and deceptive at best.
When you hire a lawyer, you are entitled to meet with a lawyer to discuss your case and sign a contract for legal representation. You should be able to sit down face to face with the lawyer you are hiring to discuss your case and sign the contract for representation. This meeting is perhaps the most important meeting you will have with your lawyer. In addition, even when an actual lawyer comes to your house, you miss out on the opportunity to see what the lawyers office looks like, meet the legal staff, and see how you are treated when you visit the firm. The only contact you may have is with the person that came to your house or hospital room.
Often high volume law firms that advertise on television employ contract runners, but may call them “investigators”. These are usually non-lawyers, anyone with a drivers license, that will come out to your home or hospital room, sometimes in the middle of the night, with a contract for legal representation.
You should be aware that only a lawyer is legally allowed to give legal advice, including answering questions you might have about signing the contact to hire the lawyer. If a non-lawyer is advising you about a legal agreement, that would be a violation of the Florida Bar rules.
You should not agree to meet with a contract runner, and avoid hiring this type of firm. You should insist that you meet with the lawyer you are hiring. Unless the contract runner (investigator) is also a lawyer, that person is not allowed by law to answer any legal questions you might have about the contract or about the representation.
If your first contact with a law firm is a non-lawyer “contract runner” coming to your house at night, this should be a red flag, this should raise concern over whether you should hire this law firm. Only agree to meet with a real lawyer, not a contact runner, and if possible, meet at the lawyers office.
(5) LAWYER TOUTS THAT HE IS AGGRESSIVE
In law school, we are taught that ours is a noble and civil profession populated by genteel intellectuals guided in their every action by the rule of law. What a shock it is, then, when we encounter an “aggressive lawyer” for the first time, that one attorney who is the complete opposite of what we have been taught to expect. We are in a deposition, and this aggressive attorney may be rude, condescending, hostile, disruptive, vulgar, and/or disrespectful. We are caught by surprise and may not be prepared for how to react or respond. How we handle the situation reflects on the type of attorney we are, on our firms, on our clients, and on our profession in general.
For the general public, finding the right lawyer can be a daunting task. For some clients it may be their first experience with the legal system, aside from a traffic ticket.
It can be tempting to look for a lawyer who claims that he or she is aggressive. It is common to see on attorney’s website, or during your meeting with an attorney, the self-proclaimed declaration about how “aggressive” they are; a real “pit-bull” lawyer who loves to cross-examine the police, the defendant, the opposing party, or to make unreasonable demands to a claims adjuster. This is done with the belief that being “aggressive” will somehow get you, the client, a better result.
Here are some reasons to consider a calm, cool and confident lawyer:
1. Aggressive does not mean effective – An aggressive attorney often makes few friends in the courthouse. The judges often have little patience for certain aggressive tactics, such as refusing to agree to a new hearing date. An effective attorney will compromise on procedural issues, realizing that a case is won or lost with arguments and facts, not tricks. You will also find that fighting over such procedural issues often does little more than waste time and money. Ask any judge, and they will tell you that they are tired of lawyers who cannot get along with one another, who argue over the most minute aspects of their case, who accuse other lawyers of misdeeds, who complain about imagined slights, who hold hard-and-fast to deadlines without accommodation or courtesy, and the list goes on.
2. Aggressive attorneys have a harder time reaching settlements – You may think there is no way that you will settle your current case, however statistics show otherwise; upwards of 90 percent of cases settle before trial. Settling a case is far cheaper than going to trial, and attorneys fees are higher for trial, not to mention the extra cost of expert witnesses. Aggressive tactics, especially when dealing with claims adjusters may result in the claims adjuster digging in their heels and sticking with a low ball offer, ultimately resulting in your case having to go to trial rather than settle.
3. Aggressive attorneys are often not realistic – A good attorney will help you understand what the court is likely to consider in your case. He or she will explain the factors the court (or jury ) will consider in determining an award in your case. An aggressive attorney may not give you a reasonable or realistic assessment of the likely outcome, leaving you unprepared for the final settlement or jury award.
4. Aggressive attorneys may alienate the opposition – claims adjusters and defense lawyers are turned off by aggressive tactics, which may thereby reduce or eliminate the possibility of a reasonable settlement, and may result in low settlement offers.
5. “Aggressive” lawyers are often hated by other lawyers – Lawyers discuss among themselves how to handle these obnoxious fellow lawyers, and try to mentor younger lawyers to not behave that way. Good Lawyers Don’t Just “Try” Cases; Good Lawyers Try to “Resolve” Cases. If other lawyers hate you, then you will have an uphill battle when trying to resolve your clients case.
Family law attorneys can probably attest to this fact the most. Aggressive lawyers run up legal fees, eliminate any likelihood of cooperation between parents, and leave children as the victims of litigation. The same is true for civil litigation. Sparing with opposing counsel or writing aggressive letters or emails is useless. Engaging in aggressive behaviors does not change the facts or the law of your case
Overall, while it might initially be tempting to find an aggressive attorney for your case, you may ultimately find that a more calm and reasonable attorney will better suit your long term needs.
To be an effective lawyer, you need to win people over. You do that by being prepared, courteous, and firm. You don’t do it by being aggressive.