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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Exposing the Dangers of Hospital Runners

There is a pervasive problem that occurs with alarming frequency in the hospitals of this great nation. No, I am not talking about medical malpractice, even though that does occur at an alarming rate, according to a recent Harvard University study. I am talking about the problem of "hospital runners." These despicable individuals are paid cash bribes to perform the illegal solicitation of personal injury victims sitting in their hospital rooms. Accident victims have often become targets of fraud and poor legal advice. Disreputable, non qualified "ambulance chasers" (sleazy attorneys) are paying these "runners" cash to invade hospital rooms uninvited to try to obtain a signature on a lawyers' retainer for legal services in starting a lawsuit for the victim's personal injuries. The seriously injured are targeted as "sitting ducks" since they are immobilized and often sedated by medication in a hospital room. The fees and expenses are sometimes outrageous and the inflated promises made are never kept. NEVER HIRE AN ATTORNEY WHO APPROACHES YOU WITHOUT BEING INVITED THROUGH THE SOLICITATION OF A "RUNNER!" A "runner" is any non lawyer personnel or his agent (paid in cash illegally) for the sole and express purpose of direct solicitation of injury victims in hospitals. Often they go by the thinly disguised term of "investigator." Sometimes, unfortunately, they are the hospital employees themselves! This is an illegal and unethical practice. It is prohibited by law because it is damaging to clients' rights as clients rarely get decent representation this way and certainly are dealing with unethical persons from the start. They should not be surprised when their case is ruined and their valuable rights are lost. I have seen many horror stories.
This practice is illegal unethical and causes immediate disbarment to the attorney, if discovered. These are the "ambulance chasers" everyone hates and which give honest professional trial lawyers a bad name. These runners, of course, are soliciting people at their lowest moment when they are in their hospital beds, often under heavy medication, unable to think clearly or clouded by distress and grief. This is a high pressure tactic utilized to attract vulnerable accident victims as clients without attempting to build a solid practice based on reputation and consistent results. Making these victims legally obligated while in their hospital beds to these unethical lawyers is a sad commentary on the American legal system. Often what is being implicated by thinly veiled reference is that the injured victim might not receive the proper medical treatment if they do not sign these papers NOW.
This entire practice is forbidden by law. WHY? This never results in good representation. These are usually upstart lawyers, as no reputable firm would ever engage in this sort of practice. It is perfectly appropriate to be brought to a client in a hospital by a friend, relative or pastor (or someone of strong reputation that you trust) to help provide needed counsel in a time of need. That is not what I am speaking about. Our law firm quite often visits seriously injured clients in their hospital beds through the invitation of a concerned friend or pastor. That is very different. A "runner" is not concerned for anything but his bribe. The "ambulance chaser" he works for is concerned for nothing but his fee. Be careful who you sign papers for in a hospital.
This problem has cost our firm thousands of hours in hard work, scholarly research, teaching time, years of experience and countless dollars in advertising costs to get this message across. It is frustrating to have this process circumvented by dishonest people and to see our clients get hurt legally by these evil people. The sad reality is that any lawyer--no matter how inept--can settle a case for ONE-THIRD of its value. This happens all the time. There are countless horror stories where victims had their cases settled for a fraction of what they deserved. I personally was involved in a case where the client's prior lawyer demanded he settle for $600,000 "or else." Thankfully they did not and they changed lawyers to our firm. They came to our office where the case was properly handled and tried to verdict. They received $4.6 million dollars for the same case that the prior lawyer was willing to practically "give away." This is all too common.
The governing authorities do not police this activity adequately so this flagrant abuse of direct client solicitation continues to this day. If you are a pastor or a loved one of someone injured, lying in a hospital bed, do not allow the victim to speak to these crooks or their representatives. Anyone who engages in these practices cannot help your loved one or parishioner brother/sister. This is an awful problem that deserves to be exposed.