So, you were in a car accident where you were stopped at a ref light and you were rear ended. Your car is damaged and will need to be fixed. You are a little sore with your neck and upper back, but don’t really make too much of it.
Several days after the accident, you receive 12 letters in the mail from various personal injury lawyers offering to represent you in your car accident case. You are overwhelmed by the piles of letters and to some extent, even put out that the lawyers sent you such letters, after all, you didn’t contact any lawyer asking them to send you information. Isn’t this solicitation and unethical lawyer conduct? Where did the lawyers get the information that you were in an accident st all? Should you consider contacting one of the lawyers to represent you in your accident case? Should you call them and yell at them that they are a bunch of ambulance chasers and report them to the state bar? Should you just ignore all the mailings and like all other nuisance mail one receives every day in the mail, just Todd it in the garbage?
In the “old days” lawyers were not allowed to advertise their services; certainly even where lawyer advertising was initially allowed, a lawyer sending a letter to a prospective client offering their services would have been considered direct solicitation, which would have been considered unethical conduct on the part of the lawyer. Boy, have we gone a long way from the way one practiced law 30 years ago or so. One only has to turn on their television, and be bombarded with personal injury lawyers Doehring millions of dollars, advertising on TV for your business. Such advertising may also include, radio, newspapers, social media, internet streaming, billboards, and direct mail.
Lawyers in Wisconsin are allowed to send direct mail written materials to prospective clients to offer their services providing that all such written materials are clearly and conspicuously marked as “ADVERTISEMENT!” Further, the lawyer is required to submit all such written direct mail materials to the office of lawyer regulation (OLR). You may find it annoying or even offensive, but these are desperate times for injury lawyers and in a cut throat business where law firms are spending countless millions of dollars in marketing and advertising, and with a limited number of accidents every year, expect the practice of direct mail advertisements to continue, and may even increase in volume, as the technology inches towards self-autonomous vehicles, which in essence, may spell the end to personal injury cases as we know it.
Where do the lawyers get the information from in the first place that you were in an accident? Are they hanging out in the emergency room at the hospital, or at the police station? The general answer is that there are private companies that provide the accident reports to the accident lawyers; the lawyer usually has to subscribe to pay a fee or cost for the service and once that company sends the accident reports to the lawyer, the lawyer compiles their direct mail advertisement materials and sends it to you.
This is specifically legal and ethical as long as the lawyer follows the requirements of the SCR rules. It is not direct solicitation.
What should you do with it, once received? I guess that is your business. If you are not hurt in the accident or simply find the mailings offensive, just throw all of it in the garbage and forget about it. If on the other hand, you are legitimately hurt, and one of the mailings stands out to you, call the attorney and make an appointment to see if the attorney is a good fit for you, and if you want them to represent you on your injury case.