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Attention attorneys: Get serious injury case leads for $5 a pop!

August 20, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

This is for the unethical ambulance chasing lawyers… Now let’s talk about how to stop them, starting with a ‘Do Not Mail’ registry

mailbox do not mail list

The problem of mail solicitation by aggressive, overreaching “ambulance chasing” lawyers is large and growing.

Currently, there are at least a dozen law firms and lawyers, who during the hours and days after an accident, are inundating accident victims with a barrage of mailers, brochures and packages of glossy promotional materials.

And it’s easy as pie for these unethical attorneys to obtain information about crash victims in Michigan. They can look up the information on their own using computer programs like TRACView. In addition, there are “information services businesses” that offer to track serious accidents for personal injury attorneys… and all for $5 a pop!

Consider this e-mail Michigan Auto Law received July 31, 2013 (reprinted verbatim with names redacted):

“I hope this message finds you well.  I’m writing to introduce myself & to see if I might be of service to your firm.

My name is **** ******** and I run a boutique information services business in ******* called ******** **** *** *******.  We offer a reporting service that tracks serious at-fault accidents (as reported in the media) for personal injury attorneys & just added Michigan to our coverage area.

Our system monitors the websites of local news, radio, and television outlets every couple hours.  We’ve then partnered with PeopleSmart, the leader in the aggregation of public records, to locate addresses for the not-at-fault parties.

Our reporting service is available for $5 per accident.  Accidents are sent by county (limit 3 firms per county).  Reports can be sent daily or weekly (same price).  We also offer a 20% discount for firms that are willing to accept all accidents in their state (which is usually just 5 per day, due to our reporting standards).

I’ve attached a sample report covering serious accidents we picked up in Michigan on 7/18 & 7/19.  If interested, just let me know which counties or area you are interested in & we can get you started.  Cancel anytime if you’re not satisfied (no contract).”

Given this egregious and offensive practice — that harms auto accident victims when they’re at their most vulnerable, and is a huge black eye for the legal profession — I’m proposing my “5-Point Plan to Protect Auto Accident Victims from Ambulance Chasing Lawyers.”

I believe the first step to protecting auto accident victims’ privacy is creating a “Do Not Mail” registry for crash victims in Michigan.

Modeled after the National “Do Not Call” registry, which allows consumers to stop telemarketers from making telephone solicitations, a “Do Not Mail” registry would allow Michigan auto accident victims to stop “ambulance chasing” lawyers from sending mail solicitations.

Here’s how it would work: Like the national “Do Not Call” list, www.donotcall.gov, where consumers register with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), auto accident victims could register for the “Do Not Mail” registry with the Michigan Supreme Court.

The Michigan Supreme Court could administer the “Do Not Mail” registry, as the FTC does,  by setting up a website that allows people to both register for the registry and to verify a person’s “Do Not Mail” registration status.

The “Do Not Mail” registry makes practical sense given the myriad of ways that determined “ambulance chasing” lawyers can access accident victim’s private, personal information.

Additionally, the “Do Not Mail” registry makes good, legal sense because it effectuates the Michigan Rule of Professional Conduct (Rule 7.3(b)(1)):

“A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from a prospective client by written … communication [i.e., “by letter or other writing … if … the prospective client has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer …”

Until then, people who do not want to receive mail solicitations from “ambulance chasing” attorneys can consider sending a certified letter to the State Bar of Michigan, the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, citing MRPC 7.3(b)(1).

In-person and telephone solicitation of accident victims and their families by lawyers is currently prohibited by the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct (Rule 7.3(a)) as well as U.S. Supreme Court and Michigan Supreme Court precedent.

Tomorrow, my blog series continues with why access to motor vehicle accident reports containing victims’ personal information should be permanently restricted.

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