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Michigan Supreme Court considers 30-day waiting period for lawyer solicitation of accident victims by mail

January 7, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan injury lawyer says Court would be wise to act, increase period to 90 days and broaden wait period for insurance companies and others as well

I don’t like injury lawyer solicitation. It gives the profession a black eye. I’ve been outspoken about this issue and have written about it repeatedly.

Now, after a recent hearing, the Michigan Supreme Court is finally considering a change to injury lawyer advertising and direct mail solicitation of people who have been injured in car accidents. One of the proposed changes prohibits injury lawyers from sending direct mail to accident victims within the first 30 days after an injury or death.

As I’ve said before, such restrictions will go a long way in protecting accident victims because frankly, most of the attorneys who are soliciting are the ones not qualified enough to really help car accident victims to begin with. A 30-day waiting period would also halt the predatory practices of unscrupulous “ambulance chasing” injury attorneys in this state in our current race to the bottom as they attempt to out-shout each other and be the first to contact someone after a tragedy.

Most of my own clients are referred to me from other lawyers, including other Michigan injury lawyers, and I am always amazed at how widespread the practice has become in this state. As many of my clients come to me weeks or months after, I get to see all the glossy mailings and promises made by all the other injury lawyers by the time they come across my desk. The practice has exploded in recent years, and I can now name about a half-dozen Michigan injury lawyers who are sending mail (and probably bribing police officers to give them early access to UD-10s) to car accident victims. And I don’t like it one bit.

I believe 30 days should be a minimum waiting period, and that 90 days would be more effective when it comes to attorney solicitation rules.

There are good reasons to stop insurance companies from contacting accident victims and leveling the playing field

But we also must level the playing field. That means insurance company investigators and claims adjusters shouldn’t have unfettered access to people but the injury lawyers cannot. That would make things even worse.

Auto insurance companies are starting to contact people immediately following an accident as well. Why? They save money by getting these people to settle early. The insurance industry says a pain and suffering settlement with a lawyer involved is on average, four times higher (and that’s the average). In other words it incorporates the average of settlements with good lawyers and bad lawyers. So Insurance adjusters and investigators are trying to settle potentially very significant claims, often for pennies on the dollar, by throwing in a few hundred dollars while negotiating mini-torts.

In one now famous case, an insurance company for a trucking company bought a car (it was a Buick, as everyone wonders immediately what kind of car) for one widow after her husband was killed in a terrible truck accident. I’ve heard but cannot verify this part: the economic losses that the widow and her children were entitled to in that case would have been calculated at over $2 million. That takes predatory solicitation to a whole new level.

Stop the ” victim accident services” from contacting accident victims

The Michigan Supreme Court must also come down hard on these new quasi- medical legal front organizations that are specifically formed to get around the law on lawyers contacting accident victims.

Instead of injury lawyers doing it directly, they team up with a chiropractor or physical therapy outfit, or just an “entrepreneur” and call themselves something like “Michigan accident services.” These organizations aggressively solicit/harass accident victims by repeatedly calling and showing with up information packages. In turn, potential personal injury cases are funneled to the connected injury lawyers by the chiropractors or therapy groups that are fronting these accident services organizations.

Ultimately, it comes to this: having someone who has something really bad happen to them like being involved in a car accident and then having that person get a bunch of mail from injury lawyers (and insurance companies, and chiropractors) within days only gives the legal professionals a black eye. We as lawyers fail the public trust.

Steve Gursten is one of the nation’s top personal injury lawyers. He is head of Michigan Auto Law and president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. Steve has received the highest verdict in the state for a car accident or truck accident victim in 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Steve frequently blogs about insurance company abuse and Michigan auto accident laws, and is available for comment.

Related information to protect yourself:

Michigan Supreme Court backs down on attorney solicitation

Protecting the public from attorney solicitation

How to find the best Michigan auto accident lawyer

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (248) 353-7575 for help from one of our Michigan injury lawyers.

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