By Court Koenning
It's a shame we still see individuals attempt to take advantage of others when they are most vulnerable, as in the wake of an accident or following the death of a loved one.
But that's exactly what some lawyers and others in the legal community do: prey on these people through unsolicited calls and visits during a time of grieving.
It's called barratry, and it's illegal, but as we've seen recently in cities across Texas, the practice is alive and well and, until someone gets caught, very lucrative.
The recent arrest of a Houston-area lawmaker is shining a light on this practice and just how pervasive it remains in Texas. This lawmaker was arrested in March and implicated in an aggressive, sophisticated operation that may involve several other lawyers and local chiropractors in the area.
In San Antonio, a complicated, high-profile lawsuit pits lawyer against lawyer as one accuses the other of improperly soliciting clients, and using his mother-in-law to do so.
Consumers must be aware that barratry, also called ambulance chasing, is illegal, and they need to know what it looks like. Barratry can take the form of unsolicited inquiries to your hospital room or home after an accident, as well as unwelcome calls to family members of victims during their time of healing.
And, the “ask” is always the same: Would you hire a particular personal injury firm to represent you in court?
It's a downright despicable practice, but one that has the power to unite some very nontraditional allies, from consumer watchdog groups like Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) to many members of the legal community.
In spite of Texas' many victories in advancing common sense legal reforms, graft and corruption remain a pervasive force. While it is a felony offense, far too often unscrupulous attorneys still engage in barratry, demonstrating little care for victims beyond the opportunity to obtain exorbitant legal fees.
If you or someone you know is illegally solicited by a personal injury trial lawyer, do the right thing and report it.
The State Bar of Texas has a hotline available to take reports and address concerns over barratry: (800) 204-2222, ext. 9.
Texans need to serve as watchdogs and call out ambulance chasers.
Men, women, small business owners, attorneys and the media are all well equipped to root out ambulance chasing at its source.
Together, we can stop this despicable and illegal activity and give victims and loved ones the private time they deserve after an injury or accident.
Court Koenning is with Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse.