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Why You Should be Wary of Unsolicited Contact From a Lawyer After an Accident

Getting hurt in a serious accident can be devastating, and it can also be disorienting. In this difficult time, you are likely trying to figure out how to obtain medical care and to account for lost wages. As such, it can be confusing to receive a call from a personal injury attorney with whom you have never made contact. In other words, you might get a cold call from a personal injury lawyer promising to help you with your case. This type of unsolicited contact from a lawyer has given the field of personal injury law a bad reputation, suggesting that personal injury attorneys chase down clients in order to make money. It is critical to understand that this type of cold-calling practice is unethical. Not only is it unethical, but it is prohibited according to standards set by the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.

To be clear, if you receive an email, a phone call, or any other type of communication from a personal injury attorney after an accident, you should exercise caution. It is possible that the personal injury lawyer unlawfully obtained your contact information. Even if the lawyer obtained your contact information lawfully, the means of obtaining that information may have been unethical. You should not agree to work with a lawyer who solicits your business this way. It is important to learn more about professional rules for lawyers, and how you should respond to this type of cold-calling practice.

What are Ohio Rules for Lawyers Soliciting Potential Clients?

The American Bar Association and the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct establish ethical marketing and solicitation practices for lawyers. Under set rules, there are certain ways that lawyers can advertise ethically, and ways of solicitation that are considered unethical and unprofessional.

According to the ABA, the term solicitation “denotes a communication initiated by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm that is directed to a specific person the lawyer knows or reasonably should know needs legal services in a particular matter and that offers to provide, or reasonably can be understood as offering to provide, legal services for that matter.” In other words, solicitation involves a lawyer making the initial contact with prospective or potential clients. There are ways in which lawyers can solicit or advertise, and ways that they cannot do so according to professional rules.

The Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct largely mirror language concerning solicitation set forth by the ABA. Since these rules specifically govern lawyers and the legal profession in the Hamilton area, it is important to understand what type of solicitation is permitted. Here are the relevant parts of what Rule 7.3 of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct says:

(a) A lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless either of the following applies:

  • (1) The person contacted is a lawyer; or
  • (2) The person contacted has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.

(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment by written, recorded, or electronic communication or by in-person, telephone, or real-time electronic contact even when not otherwise prohibited by division (a), if any of the following applies:

  • (1) The person being solicited has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer;
  • (2) The solicitation involves coercion, duress, or harassment; or
  • (3) The lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the person to whom the communication is a minor or an incompetent or that the person’s physical, emotional, or mental state makes it unlikely that the person could exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer.

(c) Unless the recipient of the communication is a person specified in division (a)(1) or (2) of this rule, every written, recorded, or electronic communication from a lawyer soliciting professional employment from anyone whom the lawyer reasonably believes to be in need of legal services in a particular matter shall comply with all of the following:

  • (1) Disclose accurately and fully the manner in which the lawyer or law firm became aware of the identity and specific legal needs of the addressee;
  • (2) Disclaim or refrain from expressing any predetermined evaluation of the merits of the addressee’s case; and
  • (3) Conspicuously include in its text and on the outside envelope, if any, and at the beginning and ending of any recorded or electronic communication the recital — “ADVERTISING MATERIAL” or “ADVERTISEMENT ONLY.”

In sum, if you have not tried to contact a lawyer first after suffering injuries in an accident, and no one in your family and no one with whom you have a close relationship has tried to contact a lawyer on your behalf, a lawyer cannot contact you first. There are also various other circumstances in which a lawyer cannot contact or continue to contact you after an accident. When a lawyer does contact you lawfully based on the above language, there are further rules by which the lawyer must abide.

What Should I Do if a Lawyer Contacted Me First?

If you receive unsolicited contact from a lawyer, you should cease any and all communication. While it can feel difficult to simply hang up the phone or to delete a text message, you should do just that. In the event a personal injury lawyer calls you, you should know that you do not have to talk. You have various rights under Ohio law. You do not have to provide any information to a person who calls you soliciting you as a client. In addition, you do not have to make any kind of statement. Moreover, you should never provide any kind of payment for legal services over the phone when you receive unsolicited contact from a lawyer.

It is important to remember that unethical solicitation from a lawyer can come in different forms. You might receive a phone call, for example, on your cell phone or at your place of employment. A close friend or family member could also receive an unethical solicitation call designed to get your business. Communications sent unethically and unlawfully from personal injury lawyers can also come via electronic communication methods. Indeed, you may receive a text message or an email.

Sometimes these types of solicitations will come from a person claiming to be a law firm or a lawyer, but they will actually come from a scammer who has no legal training and is not licensed to practice law anywhere. After any kind of accident, you should be aware of the possibility of scam calls. Accordingly, you should be wary of any unsolicited contact from a lawyer you receive to help you seek compensation. In some cases, these unethical and unlawful calls will come from an actual lawyer. When that happens, you can report the lawyer to the Ohio Bar by filing a grievance.

To sum up, if you are contacted by anyone who says they want to provide you with legal counsel after an accident:

  • Know that you can hang up — you do not need to talk;
  • Be aware that you could become the target of an unscrupulous personal injury lawyer or a scam artist;
  • Recognize that scam artists might claim to be lawyers and may target you, seeking a retainer;
  • Never give any personal information to a lawyer (or alleged lawyer) who calls to offer personal injury services;
  • Do not provide any kind of payment or give credit card or bank information to a lawyer (or alleged lawyer) who says they can offer you personal injury assistance; and
  • File a grievance with the Ohio Bar if you are solicited by an actual lawyer in a manner that violates the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.

How Can I Find an Ethical Personal Injury Lawyer?

To find an ethical, reliable, and trustworthy personal injury lawyer, many injury victims begin by asking for recommendations from family members, friends, or colleagues. Someone you know and trust might be able to recommend a lawyer to you. If you do not know anyone who can recommend experienced legal counsel, you should do your own research. You can often learn a significant amount of information about lawyers on the internet. It is important to recognize that it is ethical and lawful for lawyers to advertise on their websites. Indeed, most personal injury lawyers need to maintain up-to-date websites in which they engage in some form of advertising to show potential clients that they are reliable and trustworthy.

In addition to exploring a lawyer’s website, you can obtain information about the lawyer’s or law firm’s history through the Ohio Bar. You can also obtain reviews of the lawyer from previous clients. It is also important to meet with a lawyer and to ask key questions.

What Questions Should I Ask a Lawyer Before I Hire Them to Handle a Personal Injury Case?

You can often learn a significant amount of information about a personal injury lawyer by scheduling a consultation. When you meet with a lawyer, you should plan to ask a range of questions. Those questions should give you information about the lawyer’s practices, previous work with clients, ethics, and communication methods. Examples of questions you should ask a lawyer to determine if the firm is a good fit for you might include:

  • What types of personal injury cases do you regularly handle?
  • How long have you been practicing law in Ohio?
  • Can you tell me more about your experience taking cases to court?
  • What kind of damages award should I expect to receive?
  • How will I pay you?
  • When we communicate, can I use email, phone, text, or other forms of communication?
  • Will a lawyer work on my case, or should I expect to correspond with a paralegal?

The best lawyers will be honest and will not make promises that cannot be fulfilled.

Remember That a Lawyer Should Not Contact You First

What is the key takeaway concerning communication with a lawyer after an accident of any type? You should not work with a lawyer who makes contact with you first. People who are seriously injured in accidents and incidents resulting from other parties’ negligence or reckless behavior often need the services of an experienced Ohio personal injury attorney. A personal injury lawyer can help to ensure that the case is handled smoothly and that the injured person has the best chance of obtaining compensation.

After a serious accident, you should never have to worry about your lawyer’s ethics. You should feel confident trusting the lawyer you hire and knowing that the lawyer has your best interests in mind. It is also important to know that the lawyer has a strong history of success. The best personal injury lawyers are committed to providing ethical, tailored representation to every client they serve. When a personal injury attorney is cold-calling potential or prospective clients, that attorney is violating ethics rules. There are many ethical and effective personal injury attorneys, and you do not need a lawyer who solicits you this way. You should always focus on hiring the best lawyer for your case, which will be an attorney who complies with ethics rules.

Contact an Experienced Hamilton Personal Injury Attorney for Assistance

After an accident, the best way to find an Ohio personal injury attorney you can trust is to do your research and to trust your instincts. Oftentimes, friends or family members may know of an experienced and dedicated personal injury lawyer who can assist you. When you will need to find an attorney without assistance from friends or family members, it is important to do thorough research. You will most likely begin looking for an attorney online, like we mentioned above.

You should review the lawyer’s website thoroughly, you should explore reviews, and research the lawyer’s history with the Ohio bar. It is also critical to meet with a lawyer before you decide to hire them. When you meet with a lawyer in person and get clear answers to questions and concerns, you will have a better understanding of what to expect in your case. If you do not feel comfortable after meeting a lawyer in person or speaking on the phone, move on. You do not have to hire a lawyer with whom you do not feel comfortable.

At Kruger & Hodges, we are committed to providing tailored representation in a range of personal injury cases. We know how critical it is to have an experienced and dedicated personal injury attorney on your side. With years of experience handling injury cases in Ohio, our firm can assist you with a range of injury law matters. Do not hesitate to get in touch with an experienced Hamilton personal injury attorney who can help you. Contact Kruger & Hodges today for more information.

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