Lawyers get bad stereotypes. The worst one a Chicago personal injury lawyer could get is that of being an ambulance chaser. It implies you are a scum bag and get your clients in unethical ways. Maybe you don’t show up at the hospital, but instead you make an unsolicited call to the injured person or show up at their house. Or you reach out to a relative of theirs.
It seems like an old fashioned stereotype, but the truth is that it still happens all of the time. I get calls every week from people who are looking to hire the right attorney. Some tell me flat out that they are confused who to hire because they were in a bad accident and have been contacted by ten law firms out of the blue.
This type of call is not a rare occurrence. It’s also common for someone to hire a lawyer and then call me a year or two later when things aren’t going well. I always ask how they found that attorney in the first place because usually I’ll look at their firm website and it’s obvious that they don’t have a strong track record. They’ll tell me that the attorney just showed up at their door and it took the “hassle” of having to look for a lawyer out of the way. They just assume the attorney will do a good job.
Let me be crystal clear, doing this is not just bottom feeding, but ambulance chasing or otherwise going after someone that hasn’t contacted you first is unethical and could cause the lawyer to lose their license. We see it happening with two types of law firms. The first is the young, “aggressive” guy who doesn’t have any morals and only sees dollar signs. They aren’t worried about getting caught because they have no conscience and they certainly don’t care about the clients. Their main goal is trying to make money for themselves. In one recent case we were called on, the lawyer tried to get the client to settle even though she needed a surgery.
The other attorneys we see doing this are older lawyers in their 60’s or 70’s. The internet has taken away their old way of marketing which was the Yellow Pages and they can’t keep up with online advertising. Many of them don’t even have websites and if they do, they aren’t very functional. For them this unethical chasing of clients is the only way to get business and they don’t worry about the ethical risk because they are so old that if they lose their license to practice law it’s ok as their career is pretty much done anyway.
The ARDC, the Illinois licensing board for attorneys, does a great job punishing lawyers who steal from their clients, neglect cases or lie to the court. That said, I can’t recall the last time I read about an Illinois personal injury attorney being suspended from practice for ambulance chasing. It’s still happening a ton and until the ARDC cracks down on it, it will remain alive and well. And the injured clients will continue to be poorly served.