Ambulance Chasing, Solicitation and Barratry – Know Your Rights 

Has Cesar Ornelas approached you uninvitedly? Click here to learn more about his schemes.


Lawyers are not allowed to call you or come to your home uninvited to solicit your case. Lawyers are not allowed to pay non-lawyers for referring clients. This type of solicitation is called barratry, and it’s against the law. Lawyers who engage in this type of “ambulance chasing” can lose their license and even go to jail. Sometimes the crooked lawyers pay people who work for the following to refer cases to the lawyers:

  • Towing service,
  • Health care workers,
  • First responders, and
  • Funeral Directors.

If anyone you don’t know well tries to refer you to a lawyer, you should be suspicious about whether they may be getting paid illegally to do so.

Often these “case runners” will call you out of the blue, or drop off business cards or pretend to be:

  • With a grief counseling service,
  • A fake non-profit victims assistance program,
  • Somebody falsely claiming to be with the Mexican Consulate,
  • Falsely claiming to be with LULAC, or
  • Posing as clergy.

These case runners often claim that they know a lawyer who will pay for the funeral expenses for a loved one who was killed in an accident.

What if they offer to pay the funeral expenses?

 It’s ok for a lawyer to advance money for a funeral, our law firm does that for our clients. See our webpage—Client Advances. A client advance is like a loan, but you don’t have to pay it back unless we win your case, and we don’t charge interest.

What’s not ok is for the lawyers to pay the case runners or the funeral directors a secret commission for sending you their way. If anybody says they know a lawyer who will pay for a funeral, or if a funeral director suggests that you hire a certain lawyer who will pay for the funeral, that funeral director is probably being paid a kickback by that lawyer.

Why does it matter to you?

It’s a bad deal for the client to get caught in one of these barratry schemes. The lawyers who are willing to break the law to get cases are the worst lawyers. These “case running” lawyers usually refer the cases to more experienced lawyers but keep up to half of the fees on the case for doing nothing. If a lawyer is willing to break the law and deceive you at the start of the case, that’s not a good foundation for an attorney-client relationship. 

What Should you do if you were Solicited? 

If you were solicited, you have rights. If you hired the lawyer and the case is already over, you may be able to sue that lawyer and get your fees back.  If the case is still pending, you may have the right to terminate that contract and pay the lawyer nothing, even if the case is almost finished. If you were solicited and did not hire that lawyer, you still have the right to collect a $10,000 penalty from that lawyer. If you have any questions about a situation, we can evaluate your claim and advise you on how to proceed. We can even refer you to lawyers who specialize in suing other lawyers. Lawyers who engage in solicitation and barratry can be disciplined by the State Bar. If you were solicited, please report it to us using the form below, and we can help you file a grievance with the State Bar. If you would rather make an anonymous report, you can also do that with the form below. 












Resources

Texas Center for Legal Ethics: Rule 7.03 Relating to Prohibited Solicitations & Payments.

Texas Penal Code § 38.12 Barratry and Solicitation of Professional Employment.

Report barratry to the State Bar of Texas..