Like all businesses, personal injury lawyers need a product to sell and customers who will buy that product. In the case of personal injury lawyers, the product they are selling is lawsuits –and their customers are each and every one of us as their potential plaintiffs.

The challenge for personal injury lawyers is that most people don’t wake up every day and think “I really need to join a lawsuit.”

That means personal injury lawyers have to aggressively push their product and convince people that they should be suing someone, that they are probably injured in some way, and that they should join a lawsuit now to get the cash settlements they deserve.

That’s why personal injury lawyers spent almost $900 million on television ads in 2015 and more than $50 million on Google keyword advertising alone. These online ads often direct consumers to “fishing sites,” or websites run by personal injury lawyers that appear to provide medical information but are really designed to sign up plaintiffs for lawsuits and collect data on potential clients.

It’s not just personal injury lawyers we have to watch out for when it comes to these types of solicitation. Drumming up lawsuits is a big business that has spurred a booming industry of lawsuit lead-generation companies to help identify and solicit potential plaintiffs. These non-lawyer marketers aggressively contact consumers and ask questions about their health to identify and recruit plaintiffs for lawsuits. If these firms aren’t getting their information from fishing sites, one might wonder how they got ahold of the personal information they use to target specific consumers about specific health issues.

These companies then sell these lawsuit leads to personal injury lawyers. Take the example of Jesse Levine and his lead generation company, which exists to generate potential plaintiffs. Once a lead has been identified by this company, Levine sells these leads to personal injury lawyers for $500 to $2000 a piece, depending on how thoroughly they are vetted and the likelihood the lead will result in a settlement. On its own, the lead generation firm has become its own profitable business model. In fact, one marketing firm has admitted to generating an average of 60,000 mass tort leads annually. And that’s just one lead generator.

These personal injury lawyers and lead generation firms have become quite good at targeting us with ads and solicitations to convince us we need to join a lawsuit. But we need to stop for a second and think: if we didn’t know we needed to be in a lawsuit until we saw an ad or someone approached us about it, have we really been hurt? Do we really need to sue? Or are we being lured into the lawsuit mill?

For all these reasons, we must be on guard against solicitations to join a lawsuit. When a personal injury lawyer or lead-generation firm contacts you or you see a television or online ad claiming you might be in harm’s way or eligible for a payout, remember the motivation behind these tactics: to generate lawsuits and enrich personal injury lawyers – not to help consumers.

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