Legal Ethics Does Matter in Injury Cases

When I graduated from law school, I wanted to work for injured people. My undergraduate background was in biology and anatomy. I had job offers from three powerful personal injury firms. An Orlando firm was particularly attractive. The senior partner was the president of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers and would soon be the president of the National Trial Lawyers organization. However, I declined the offer from the West Palm firm because its ethical conduct was questionable. In the end, I came to Panama City to work with a great trial lawyer who had the highest of ethical standards, Marvin "Whitey" Urquhart. I wanted to learn the right way to practice law, and I think that I did.

We never chased cases. We weren't known as ambulance chasers, a derogatory phrase rightly deserved by some who run after people who are injured to sign up their cases in moments of great distress, when they are susceptible to being manipulated by a lawyer they didn't seek out. It's a later time. Behavior by some lawyers is different. But the ethical rules by which we are governed on this issue haven't changed in centuries; in fact, our ethical standards go back to the laws of England before we became a country. That predatory conduct isn't permitted by Florida's ethical standards. Unless the injured person is a current client, it is unethical for a lawyer to send his staff, friends, investigators, or anyone else to him to solicit a case.

In these times, some lawyers have taken to doing that by devious means. They develop liaisons with police, ambulance personnel, and hospital workers, who are paid by their firms to approach accident victims to refer cases to them. In exchange, they may be handsomely but illegally rewarded. It is as morally disgusting as it was centuries ago. Who would want a lawyer who has to get cases that way? Beware of their approaches and empty promises. To keep the legal system working the way it should, it would be wise to report this illegal behavior to the Florida Bar.

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