Adding disclaimers to legal advertising is a good idea

By David Yates | Apr 8, 2019

If you enjoy watching commercials for legal services, Texas is the place to be. Over a six-month period last year, TV viewers in our three largest media markets got to watch nearly 200,000 of these ads.

Some advertising is entertaining, of course, and some is informative. Some, sad to say, is neither one nor the other. Some is downright dull or misleading. Watching it can bore you. 

Some of the commercials for legal services that we get to see here in Texas fall into the misleading – if not deceptive – category, and that’s a concern because misleading people about the medicines they are taking can be hazardous to their health.

According to a survey by Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse, eight out of 10 Texas doctors agree that “personal injury lawsuit ads can lead patients to stop taking medicines as prescribed.”

Though he says he just ignores such ads himself, state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake recognizes that they “can be confusing and misleading and sometimes a cause for needless anxiety. That’s because in order to catch people’s attention and compel them to sign up for legal services, the ads sometimes use scare tactics, such as sometimes claiming a drug has been recalled when it hasn’t or is under investigation by the FDA when it isn’t.

“This has led people to stop taking critical medications without consulting their doctors, leading to serious harm.”  

Capriglione has introduced HB 2251 to increase transparency in attorney health care advertising by requiring “commonsense disclosures,” such as who is paying for the ad, whether the featured lawyer or firm will actually handle the touted suit, an affirmation that the content of the ad is not meant to be construed as medical advice, and a warning that discontinuing prescribed medicines without consulting a physician can be dangerous.

Lots of other merchants are obliged to add disclaimers to their advertising. Lawyers should at least be held to the same standard, if not a higher one.

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