All states have rules prohibiting attorneys from contacting or soliciting victims of accidents for a specific time period following their accident. The primary policy underlying these rules is to protect people who are injured or grieving the loss of a loved one, allowing them time to emotionally deal with important decision-making, including which lawyer to retain and the terms of the proposed representation. The rule is also supposed to limit aggressive and unseemly marketing techniques by personal injury lawyers in order to maintain the overall professional integrity of attorneys.
Even with this rule, we frequently learn that our clients, who have found us through legitimate means like social media or word of mouth, are directly solicited by “runners” soon after their accident or the loss of a loved one. We have also seen situations where “agents” working for lawyers in hospital emergency rooms or medical clinics slip people business cards for lawyers. [Other rules prohibit attorneys from sharing fees with non-attorneys or paying them to refer clients.]
Working with attorneys who are not only aggressive, but who are also ethical optimizes your chances of a successful result.
If you are approached by an attorney, an “investigator” or anyone claiming to work with an attorney within 30 days of an accident (15 days if a filing must be made within the first 30 days, such as a no-fault claim), you should avoid working with them at all costs. That unscrupulous behavior is a sign that you will not be able to trust your lawyer when it comes right down to it. And if you can’t trust your lawyer when you are hurt to help you, who can you trust?
The right way to find a lawyer is go online, read about attorneys, read their background and experience, look at their real accomplishments (not the hype), ask friends and family what their experience has been, or contact your local Bar Association for a referral, but under no circumstances should you agree to sign up with attorneys who are chasing after you in the aftermath of an accident or when you have just lost a family member.
The New York Rule is printed here in its entirety:
RULE 4.5: COMMUNICATION AFTER INCIDENTS INVOLVING PERSONAL INJURY OR WRONGFUL DEATH
(a) In the event of a specific incident involving potential claims for personal injury or wrongful death, no unsolicited communication shall be made to an individual injured in the incident or to a family member or legal representative of such an individual, by a lawyer or law firm, or by any associate, agent, employee or other representative of a lawyer or law firm representing actual or potential defendants or entities that may defend and/or indemnify said defendants, before the 30th day after the date of the incident, unless a filing must be made within 30 days of the incident as a legal prerequisite to the particular claim, in which case no unsolicited communication shall be made before the 15th day after the date of the incident.
Relevant provisions of related RULE 7.3 are also printed here:
RULE 7.3: SOLICITATION AND RECOMMENDATION OF PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYMENT
(a) A lawyer shall not engage in solicitation: (1) by in-person or telephone contact, or by real-time or interactive computer-accessed communication unless the recipient is a close friend, relative, former client or existing client; or (2) by any form of communication if: (i) the communication or contact violates Rule 4.5, Rule 7.1(a), or paragraph (e) of this Rule.