The derogatory term ‘ambulance chaser’ generally refers to personal injury attorneys who use unethical and illegal methods to solicit clients (e.g. following ambulances to gain access to injured people). Attorneys of that ilk typically do not personally do any of the ‘chasing.’ Instead, they hire a ‘runner,’ ‘capper,’ or a ‘steerer’ who solicits on their behalf. They then pay that person a fee, which is unethical.
Is Solicitation Illegal for Lawyers in Illinois?
The American Bar Association prohibits lawyers—or anyone working on their behalf, including case runners and steerers—from soliciting individuals who they know or suspect of needing legal services.
Illinois state law mirrors the American Bar Association’s rule, stating that it is illegal for lawyers to solicit clients in person, by phone, or through instant messaging platforms. Illinois law is less clear on the use of case runners working on behalf of lawyers, but the state’s Legal Business Solicitation Act specifically prohibits individuals who aren’t lawyers from soliciting potential clients.
There are a few exceptions. For example, a lawyer can offer their services to someone who is part of their family, a close friend, or someone they have previously worked with, as well as if the person they’re ‘soliciting’ is a lawyer or otherwise regularly uses their type of service.
In short, solicitation and “ambulance chasing” from lawyers is illegal in Illinois and prohibited by the American Bar Association.
How to Recognize an Ambulance Chaser
Fortunately, ambulance chasers are fairly easy to identify. First, remember that if a lawyer or someone claiming to work for a lawyer approaches you, it’s best to avoid engaging in any services. If a lawyer is willing to break the law to get you as a client, you are justified in assuming they will be unethical while representing you. You can’t trust this type of lawyer. Some other tell-tale signs of ambulance chasers and case runners include:
- Being contacted or visited by a stranger while in the hospital
- Being referred to a specific doctor (sometimes case runners will work for a physician and will get a commission for all new clients they bring to a doctor)
- A stranger shows up at the scene of your accident or in the hospital and refers you to an attorney
- A stranger ‘guarantees’ that they have a lawyer who can win your case
Ambulance chasers and case runners will often listen to police scanners, allowing them to arrive quickly at the scene of an accident and recommend an attorney. While it is common for a trusted contact to refer you to an attorney following an accident, it is uncommon for strangers to show up to do so.
In addition to showing up out of the blue, some case runners will use connections with hospital staff, paramedics, police officers, and tow-truck drivers to gather more information about you, such as your name, address, phone number, and more.
Generally speaking, ambulance chasers can be identified by their disregard for your privacy and their persistence, especially after you have been through a traumatizing experience.
How to Deal With Ambulance Chasers
Being solicited by an attorney can be intimidating. These unethical lawyers will stoke fear and doubt so that you will retain their services. However, their goal is always personal gain, not protecting you.
If you are solicited, ask the person to leave. Take a picture of them. If you are at home, don’t open the door or let them inside. If you are at a hospital, tell the staff that you do not know them and that you need them to leave. Avoid telling them about your accident, injuries, or other details. Document as much as you can of the encounter with pictures and videos. These unethical people know they are doing something wrong and they don’t want to get caught.
Understand that some of the things these people tell you may be true; having a lawyer if you have been injured in an accident is important. However, you should be the one to determine which attorney is the best fit for you. If you feel like you are being pressured, listen to your gut and stay away from them.
How to Find a Lawyer You Can Trust
Ambulance chasing lawyers are by no means representative of our profession. They are a small group that, unfortunately, gives our profession a bad name. It’s vital for you to recognize not only the signs of an ambulance chaser, but also the signs of a trustworthy lawyer.
For example, many times ‘settlement mills’ will run massive advertising campaigns with billboards, bus wraps, and television ads. Clients enticed by these ads are quick to find that these firms are more interested in settling hundreds of cases quickly than fighting for every penny a client deserves.
On the other hand, there are boutique law firms that will work directly with you throughout the process, helping you understand how each decision will impact the outcome of your case, and are dedicated to maximizing the value of your case the right way.
To find a lawyer you can trust, start with people you know. Ask if any friends or family know people who have worked with a personal injury attorney. Follow up with some of those people to understand their experience, and contact the attorney.
Remember, you are in charge when hiring a lawyer. Therefore, you should treat your initial conversations with them like a job interview and ask questions to better understand their abilities. Additionally, make sure you are interviewing several attorneys to find the best fit for your case. If you don’t like or trust your potential attorney, it is clearly not the right fit.
Finally, ensure that your personal injury attorney works on a contingency-fee basis. Dedicated and responsible personal injury lawyers will not charge you any fees until your case is resolved. If a lawyer charges you fees upfront, it should be a serious red flag.
About the Lewis Law Firm
Brian Lewis has been serving those injured due to someone else’s negligence for the last 25 years. In that time, he and his dedicated team have secured over $100 million in settlements and verdicts for clients in the Chicagoland area. The personal attention that Brian and his team bring to each case ensures that each client gets the full compensation they’re entitled to and nothing less.
Brian serves clients throughout Illinois, with the majority of his cases located in Cook and Lake County. To learn more or schedule an initial free consultation, contact the Lewis Law Firm today.