Bill in NJ seeks to Curb Lawyer Solicitation

Side note: There is a new bill currently being debated by legislators in New Jersey. The bill, if passed, would establish a waiting period of 30 days for lawyers who would solicit defendants and accident victims through the mail. As it is now if you are issued a ticket you can expect to receive solicitations from lawyers in the days immediately following the issuance of the ticket. These solicitations are often constructed in a way as to scare the recipient into thinking that they “must” have legal representation or face the possibility of harsh fines or jail time. Victims of accidents, and medical malpractice, also receive similar mailings urging them to seek legal consul. Opponents of these mailings categorize them as “ambulance chasing via the US postal service”. Opponents speculate that these mailings are one of the factors contributing to the exceptionably high medical malpractice litigation rate in New Jersey. Proponents of the mail solicitations content that they should have the same right to contact an accident victim as the insurance company. New Jersey is facing a medical malpractice crisis. Sky-high medical malpractice insurance rates are forcing doctors to move their practices to neighboring states in an attempt to lower cost.

By James Osborne
Inquirer Staff Writer

Marcus Rayner was pulled over for speeding in North Jersey recently, and within days he had received a half-dozen letters from lawyers all over the state seeking to represent him.
Rayner, of Lambertville, heads a group advocating tort reform, so he knows how the game is played.

“I don’t find it offensive, but I can see how someone would,” he said. “It’s more of a personal-privacy issue.”

For decades there have been efforts to limit lawyers’ ability to solicit and advertise for clients, but those attempts have run up against court rulings that largely uphold their right to do so.

Now, New Jersey legislators are considering bills that would force lawyers and other professionals to wait 30 days before contacting defendants and accident victims whose information was drawn from public-records searches.

Most states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, prohibit lawyers from soliciting clients in person or over the telephone but make exception for the mail.

“It’s a consumer-protection issue,” said State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D., Union), a civil-litigation lawyer who sponsored the Senate bill. “We get calls from numerous people complaining about this. And it’s not just attorneys; it’s health-care professionals, investigators, chiropractors. It’s a pretty unseemly practice.”

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