How SC Ethics Rules Help Insurance Companies
Attorneys belong to one of the few professions that are strictly regulated by ethics rules that govern how they practice law, conduct business, and interact with other litigants and the public.
One of these rules prohibits an attorney from contacting a victim of an auto accident or disaster for a period of 30 days after the accident, which provides ample time for insurance agents to contact the victims, get statements from them, and attempt to settle their case before they consult with a plaintiff’s lawyer.
I can agree with the reasons for the rule. But, do you think it is ok to block attorneys from speaking to an accident victim while allowing insurance companies to contact that same accident victim?
Rule 7.3: Solicitation of Clients
South Carolina’s rules on solicitation of potential clients is carefully drafted to protect the public from over-reaching by over-zealous attorneys.
The portion that applies to recent accident victims, Rule 7.3(b)(3), says that a lawyer cannot directly solicit representation of an accident victim until more than 30 days after the accident including written, telephone, email, and in -person solicitation. This applies even if the accident victim is an attorney themselves, has a prior professional relationship with the attorney, and even if they are a family member of the attorney.
The “Comments” below the Rule explain the Bar’s reasoning for the general prohibitions on direct solicitation:
There is a potential for abuse when a solicitation involves direct in person or live telephone or real time electronic contact by a lawyer with someone known to need legal services. These forms of contact subject a person to the private importuning of the trained advocate in a direct interpersonal encounter. The person, who may already feel overwhelmed by the circumstances giving rise to the need for legal services, may find it difficult to fully evaluate all available alternatives with reasoned judgment and appropriate self interest in the face of the lawyer’s presence and insistence upon being retained immediately. The situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and overreaching.
Why Shouldn’t Insurance Companies Have Similar Restrictions?
Now imagine this same reasoning, with a few tweaks, for why we should prohibit insurance companies from attempting to gain statements or settle cases until 30 days after an auto accident:
There is a potential for abuse when an insurance company’s attempt to question or obtain a release of liability from an unrepresented accident victim involves direct in person or live telephone or real time electronic contact by an insurance company’s representative. These forms of contact subject a person to the private importuning of the trained advocate in a direct interpersonal encounter. The unrepresented person, who may already feel overwhelmed by the circumstances giving rise to the need for legal services, may find it difficult to fully evaluate all available alternatives with reasoned judgment and appropriate self interest in the face of the agent’s presence and insistence upon taking a statement or obtaining a release of liability. The situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and overreaching.
The ethics rule prohibiting attorneys from contacting an accident victim within 30 days sounds reasonable. But does it help accident victims, or is it an under-the-radar boon to insurance companies? Trained insurance agents are no less dangerous than trained attorneys-at-law.
The difference is that insurance agents are not usually showing up to help after an accident. Their primary concern is limiting their company’s liability and protecting their company’s bottom line, and the best way to do that is to get to the accident victims early before they have retained counsel to represent them and advise them as to what their rights are.
Were You Contacted by an Insurance Company After Your Accident?
Do not give any statements to insurance companies and do not sign any papers until you have consulted with your personal injury lawyer. You will need to notify your own insurance company that the accident happened, but do not give a detailed statement to even your own insurance company. Let your attorney talk to the insurance company. 1) Do not risk making a statement that you may regret later; and 2) Do not take a chance on signing a release of liability before you know the full extent of the injuries and how much compensation you are entitled to.
The Myrtle Beach auto accident attorneys at Coastal Law, LLC, will meet with you, investigate your accident, and obtain all medical records and other evidence that is needed to prove your damages. We will negotiate on your behalf, leaving nothing on the table, and fight for you in court when the insurance company does not pay what they owe.
You can schedule a free consultation now to discuss the facts of your case by calling (843) 488-5000 or filling out our online form.
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Contact Coastal Law to discuss your situation.
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