Consider this: You have been injured in a serious Wilmington traffic accident. You’ve been in your hospital bed for a little over a day, adjusting to your broken clavicle and grateful for the morphine drip to relieve the pain. You’re a little surprised when a young man you’ve never met before shows up at your door and introduces himself.
“Look,” he says. “I know you’re not at your best right now, so I’ll be brief. You got pretty banged up in that truck crash on I-40 the other day. You really need to sue the trucker who ran into you—I think your case should be worth mid-six figures, at least. Anyway, I have a lawyer friend who is great at handling this sort of thing, and I know that he’ll cut you a deal on legal fees once you’re out of the hospital. Give him a call.”
The guy hands you a business card, wishes you a quick recovery, and then scoots down the hall.
If you weren’t so addled from the painkillers, you would ask yourself some questions about what just happened. Who is this guy? How does he know about you and your injuries? Why would his lawyer friend give you a discount? Just exactly what is going on here?
Congratulations. You just met a case runner.
Deep into an ethical gray area
If this whole interaction seems a little fishy, that’s because it is.
A case runner is an agent hired by a law firm to solicit clients. He may show up at a hospital or at the home of an accident victim, claiming inside knowledge about the legal system or the insurance claims process. He appears to be friendly and concerned about the injured person’s condition, and he works hard to convince her that he shares her values, economic background, or other common traits.
It’s rather like an elaborate con game. The ultimate goal of this encounter is to convince the injured person to hire a particular lawyer—the secret employer of the case runner. The accident victim may be persuaded she’s consulting this lawyer because of his special expertise or because he offers a financial discount. In reality, it’s the case runner who will receive a bonus if the injured person becomes a client.
Using case runners is unethical. It’s an inherently deceptive practice that takes advantage of the weakened and confused state of an accident victim. The practice of using case runners is in conflict with the intent of the Rules of Professional Conflict of the North Carolina State Bar.
Avoid getting entangled with case runners
Never sign a contract for legal representation until you have met your attorney in his or her office. Virtually all legitimate injury attorneys in North Carolina welcome new clients to their offices and will schedule an initial consultation at no charge to evaluate your case. An attorney who insists on meeting at your home may not want you to see his office (or he may not even have one).
If you have been injured in New Hanover County or the surrounding area, call the Wilmington personal injury lawyers of Speaks Law Firm at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233. We maintain the highest ethical standards in our legal practice and welcome visitors to our office by appointment. Give us the opportunity to show how our honest and forthright approach can get you the compensation you deserve for your case.