Lawyer Prosecuted for Illegal Solicitation of Clients

In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act. A key component of this law was to prevent attorneys from contacting members of a victim’s family for at least forty-five (45) days after an airline crash. After a crash involving serious injuries or deaths, families need to be left alone to tend to family matters. They do not need to be besieged by attorneys seeking to profit upon their misfortunes. In recognition of the fact that oftentimes members of the Bar fail to adhere to the high standards of professionalism we would hope would be adhered to without this law, Congress passed this law to protect victims of these tragedies.
We read last week that a Detroit lawyer has been ordered to pay $5,000.00 to settle a Complaint against him filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Michigan concerning a violation of this Act. Allegedly, the lawyer sent a solicitation lawyer from his Detroit office directly to a victim’s family within twelve (12) days of a tragic crash. The case apparently was investigated by the Inspector General’s Office for the United States Department of Transportation and resulted in the civil fine imposed on the attorney.
Unfortunately, lawyers oftentimes approach victims in hospitals right after tragedies and in other contexts where it is inappropriate to do so. Yes, clients need to be advised of their rights and yes, clients need legal advice when dealing with tragedies affecting their loved ones. But, clients do not need to be solicited directly by attorneys when they are grieving or dealing with the results of a tragic event. Clients should reach out to attorneys when they are ready to do so and they should not be besieged and bombarded by those seeking to profit from their misfortune.

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