Car Accident Referral Services
Car accident referral services with their earworm jingles and easy-to-remember numbers and promises to connect Miami car accident injury victims with an attorney who will command results. Some even promise a dollar amount. At Gerson & Schwartz, P.A., our Miami Car accident lawyers recommend staying away from these services. Car accident referral services are not operated by lawyers or even law firms. These referral services will put you in touch with medical clinics and lawyers you might not know much about. Car accident referral services are generally frowned upon most reputable personal injury law firms in Miami, if not Florida.
Car accident referral services are a controversial topic particularly here in Florida. There have been repeated calls by members of the Florida Bar Association and others to ban predatory crash referral networks. Our Miami Car accident lawyers recommend to stay away from these services. In fact, members of the Florida Bar proposed amendments to the Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-7.22 – Lawyer Referral Services, which if adopted would prevent car accident victims from using any lawyer referral service not owned/ operated by a member of the Bar, but to expand that to include “matching services” not currently regulated by the Bar. That would have encompass providers like 411-PAIN as well as online startups like Avvo, requiring them to meet certain standards as a “qualifying provider,” even when they eschew the “accident referral service” title. The Florida Bar’s Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics argued this would be the only way to ensure companies aren’t fee-splitting with non-attorneys or engaging in misleading advertising practices. The rule change would also prohibit lawyers from using referral services that either require or pressure them to refer injury clients to certain other professionals (i.e., doctor or clinics). In 2017, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the rule change request, meaning consumers must continue to be wary.After a Car Accident Beware about Miami Car Accident Referral Services
Most car accident referral services or for-profit car accident referral services such as 1-800-411-PAIN are not operated or overseen by lawyers or anyone with legal experience. For example, car accident referral services like 411-PAIN was founded by a chiropractor. Victims are vulnerable callers and are directed to a “customer service representative,” who refer them to an attorney. Often these lawyers are paid to have their name on a list. That means accident victims are not getting the best personal injury lawyer for the job. Just a personal injury lawyer that made it onto the car accident referral list. These referral programs are positioned with various medical clinics and treatment facilities. Meanwhile, these companies are reaping the rewards.How Miami Attorney Referral Services Got Started
As the American Bar Association notes, lawyer referral services have been operating in the U.S. for the last five decades, established in response to requests by people looking for help finding the right kind of legal representative. When a Miami lawyer referral service acts ethically, it serves two purposes:
- Ascertain whether the problem is indeed legal (and referring to other non-legal services, if appropriate);
- Provide client with an unbiased referral to a lawyer with relevant experience.
Based on this model, the loyalty lies with the customer, not necessarily with participating law firms. However, with these for-profit services, lawyers pay a handsome sum for membership. That skews the ethics and stated purpose. The American Bar Association adopted a series of rules regarding lawyer referral services in 1989, with the goal of furthering consumer protection. In Florida, the Florida Bar’s Special Committee on Lawyer Referral Services was founded in 2011. The committee was formed following a flood of complaints on the lawyer referral service advertising practices, as well as the lack of regulation. The Bar’s then president noted there had been “explosive increases” in these services, and the fact there is significant involvement of non-attorneys, despite correspondence with the public over possible harm caused when they are called to assist with potentially complex legal issues. Most often, ads are directed at motor vehicle accident victims. As of right now, only six states, including Florida have rules outlining a code of conduct for referral services that lawyers seek to join, but the scope of those rules vary greatly. For example, Florida doesn’t directly regulate non-attorney-owned referral systems.Ethical Concerns Plague Miami Accident Referral Services
Most for-profit legal referral services got their start in the mid-1990s. This was before most people had cell phones, let alone smartphones. We’re no longer reliant on a Yellow Page ad to help us decipher the best service, and consumers of legal services are savvier today than ever.
So while these services are truly no longer necessary to find an experienced, skilled car accident attorney in Miami, they persist because these companies pour money into advertising. As noted in an expose by The Miami New Times, one service alone spent $13.2 million over the course of a dozen years, and social media marketing has garnered hundreds of thousands of “likes” on individual pages. Fans participate in contests on the service’s page for a chance to win $100 a pop.
The services rely heavily on the state’s current no-fault car accident system, which requires all drivers to carry a minimum $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which is supposed to cover 80 percent of your medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages up to that limit if you’re injured.
Some services, like 411-PAIN, advertise themselves as a “medical and legal referral service.” Representatives to the hotline may refer a caller to medical services they don’t necessarily need, ultimately saddling them with additional financial burden (because the costs will exceed the $10,000 limit) and potentially harming their chances of third-party recovery. While it is important to seek immediate medical attention following a traffic accident, the Times reported that clinics to which the referral service clients are often sent may be simply stacking up treatments rather than conducting proper patient diagnostics. Companies have been sued in the past for allegedly charging for treatments that were unnecessary or never received.
The bottom line is there is no special expertise or qualifications held by attorneys referred from these services, which often do not have car accident victims’ best interests in mind.
As a Miami personal injury law firm with a track record of more than four decades of success, Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. recognizes there are better ways to choose the firm best fitted to represent you in the event of a serious crash resulting in injury or wrongful death of a loved one. Legal claims need not be overcomplicated, but they are not always simple. It’s a decision that should be based on more than a 30-second commercial.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, please contact the Miami Car Accident Attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A., for a free consultation by calling 305-371-6000 or using our online contact form.