Personal injury lawyer ads are no joke

Jennifer Harris Apr. 1, 2016, 8:45am


April Fool’s Day is a great time to look at all the ways we can be fooled. But one thing we should absolutely not be fooled by is the sensational personal injury lawyer advertisements we see all around us.

As consumers, we’re used to ads that promise all sorts of things. From “As Seen on TV” products that promise to grow hair back after you’ve gone bald, to machines and supplements that promise to erase fat without a change in diet or exercise, we’ve all seen – and, in some cases, fallen – for this advertising.

Countless American consumers have been fooled by these ads and have purchased absurd items they may not have needed. But there’s another type of ad that can cause much bigger problems than a collection of unwanted products that didn’t deliver the amazing results promised on TV. The endless lawsuit ads that fill the airwaves.

Last year, almost $900 million was spent on television ads to enlist people in lawsuits. This advertising encourages people to view our legal system as an ATM to “get the money they deserve.” It depicts lawsuits as an easy win with no downside: “our clients win big money, you’d don’t pay if you don’t win.” These ads are the fuel that feeds a multi-billion dollar litigation machine and encourages the abuse of our legal system.

That’s bad enough, but what is worse, is that these ads can actually hurt people.

Many ads ominously warn about the dangers of every health condition, treatment, or drug, with a laundry list of side effects and health dangers. These ads are so common that consumers today may be getting more information about a health care treatment from sensationalized personal injury lawyer ads than they are from doctors or other health care professionals.

These ads, intended to scare people into suing, can also mislead consumers and scare them away from treatments they need – with dangerous results. Consumers need to be on guard against these types of claims and understand that what lawsuit ads don’t say can hurt them.

When it comes to our health, we cannot allow ourselves to rely solely on claims made in ads. Facts matter when our health is involved – that’s why ads from pharmaceutical companies are so heavily regulated.

Conversely, personal injury lawyer ads are largely unregulated; they’re not subject to the same level of oversight and disclosure as advertising for other industries. When was the last time you saw a lawsuit ad with disclaimers that not all plaintiffs win, that you could end up paying big for a lawsuit, or that there is a low probability of experiencing an adverse effect?

When it comes to April Fool’s Day and silly ads for products we don’t really need, the stakes are pretty low. But when it comes to believing every claim in personal injury lawyer advertising, it’s no joking matter.

Don’t be fooled – keep in mind that these ads are about generating lawsuits, not fully informing consumers. If you have concerns about your health, ask your doctor – not a lawyer.

Jennifer Harris is the executive director for Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse.

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