Were you approached by someone after your car crash who encouraged you to hire a specific lawyer? You might have been in the waiting room of a hospital or have received something in the mail. Either way, the practice of going out and soliciting business directly from the potential client in a personal injury case is a serious breach of the rules of attorney ethics in Virginia.
Unlike the insurance companies, who are not prohibited from calling you or coming by your house to take a statement or get you to sign a release, it is illegal in Virginia for a lawyer to come to you (before you ask them to) and try to sign you up as a client. It is just as illegal for a personal injury lawyer to send a staff member or independent contractor to do his dirty work.
People who come out to get you to sign on with a certain lawyer (who you’ve probably never met) are called “runners.” And they are illegal in most states. Most people might question why you would want to hire a lawyer who you’d never met. But these “runners,” who sometimes call themselves “investigators” are skilled at high-pressure sales. They’ll tell you about mounting hospital bills and lost wages. And then they’ll tell you about the “easy money” there is to be made as a personal injury plaintiff. Of course, it’s only “easy money” if you’re not actually hurt, but fabricate your injuries. It’s only easy money if you’re scamming the system. This practice hurts the real victims of auto accidents.
Virginia Courts take this very seriously. Recently, one man who made a career out of going out and getting clients for lawyers was sentenced to prison for 26 months. In his case, he had been working with claimants, chiropractors and the lawyer to fake or magnify injuries. These false claims amounted to somewhere between $400,000 and $1 million in insurance settlements, according to Virginia Lawyers Weekly. Of course, the collateral damage is that it gives all Plaintiffs and their lawyers a bad name.
We want clients to come to us because they have decided that we are the best personal injury law firm firm in Virginia for their case. Or because (as the majority of our clients do) they know someone who thinks that we did a good job on their case.