Can I be contacted by an attorney after I have an accident? 

Andrea Pleimling-Smith, Attorney and Partner GBCR&P

Andrea Pleimling-Smith

Solicitation by attorneys

If you are involved in an accident, you need to know your rights with respect to solicitation by attorneys.  This practice is prohibited by the Florida Bar.  Violating these rules can result in strict sanctions for the attorney or law firm involved.   

IF an attorney or someone working on their behalf calls or contacts you after being in an accident and offers legal services, this is against the Florida Bar Rules of Professional Responsibility (there is an exception in cases of familial or prior professional relationships).  

This prohibition on solicitation includes contact at emergency rooms, hospitals and clinics by persons offering a lawyer’s services – this type of conduct is expressly prohibited.  You have the right to choose who you hire as an attorney.  Who you hire as an attorney should have no effect on the medical treatment that you receive.  

The following rule is applicable to the above-referenced situation:

Rule 4-7.4 Direct Contact with Prospective Clients 

(a) Solicitation. 

Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship, in person or otherwise, when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. A lawyer shall not permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit in the lawyer’s behalf. A lawyer shall not enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, telegraph, or facsimile, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient and includes (i) any written form of communication directed to a specific recipient and not meeting the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule, and (ii) any electronic mail communication directed to a specific recipient and not meeting the requirements of subdivision (c) of rule 4-7.6.

Advertising by attorneys

There are very specific rules regarding lawyers contacting prospective clients via advertising as well.  An attorney or law firm cannot send out mail solicitation materials to a person involved in an accident until a period of 30 days has elapsed.  All advertisements from attorneys must be clearly designated as such.  The following rule is applicable:   

Rule 4-7.4 Direct Contact with Prospective Clients

  1. b) Written Communication. 

(1) A lawyer shall not send, or knowingly permit to be sent, on the lawyer’s behalf or on behalf of the lawyer’s firm or partner, an associate, or any other lawyer affiliated with the lawyer or the lawyer’s firm, a written communication directly or indirectly to a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining professional employment if: the written communication concerns an action for personal injury or wrongful death or otherwise relates to an accident or disaster involving the person to whom the communication is addressed or a relative of that person, unless the accident or disaster occurred more than 30 days prior to the mailing of the communication…

These rules apply to all types of communication, whether it is print, e-mail, text message, telephone or direct contact.

Attorneys cannot solicit clients who are already represented by counsel.  This includes sending letters and direct communications through the attorney themselves, or anyone working on the attorney’s behalf.  If this type of conduct occurs it should be reported, as it is a violation of the ethical responsibilities placed upon attorneys.

Unfortunately, it has become all too common for accident victims to experience violations of these rules.  You should not feel pressured to hire an attorney and you should not be contacted directly, or via a third party solicitation.  After you are in an accident you are at your most vulnerable, don’t let yourself be misled.   

If you or a loved one is injured, please call the attorneys at the Fort Myers law firm of Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A., as soon as possible after the incident.  The personal injury attorneys at Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A., will be happy to assist you in handling all aspects of your case.  There are six Southwest Florida locations to choose from: Fort Myers (2 offices), Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, Naples and Port Charlotte. Consultations are free.

By Andrea P. Smith, Attorney