Bar Issues Scathing Report on Medical / Legal Referral Services

Bar Issues Scathing Report on Medical / Legal Referral Services

In the last few years, they’ve been impossible to avoid: an onslaught of radio ads, TV ads, and billboards for companies calling themselves medical/legal referral services. These companies promise to arrange medical care and legal consultations for people involved in auto accidents.

Because of concerns about how these companies operate and the claims they make, the Florida Bar recently formed a committee to study them. The result of the committee’s work was a scathing report released in July 2012.

A few passages from the committe’s report will get the point across. For example, the committee cited a 2010 article from a Miami publication (the Miami New Times)which contained the following statements about one such company:

In addition to outlining the history of 411-PAIN, the article also focused on its operational practices with a case history of unsophisticated accident victims who called 411-PAIN and received a variety of treatment modalities they did not understand and for which no explanation was given.

According to the committee, the New Times article also noted 411-PAIN’s aggressive marketing program. The article observed that 411-PAIN “made no secret about courting African American and Latino consumers through R&B and hip hop radio stations, catchy jingles and outlandish spokespersons.”

Lawyers associated with 411-PAIN were also criticized in the article for failing to look out for their clients and described other unsavory practices at some referral services. One witness was apparently threatened by his former employer because he made unflattering statements about that employer at a public hearing.

If true, these reports are deeply troubling. People involved in auto accidents suffer enough. They should not be manipulated or duped by organizations who want to cash in on their no-fault automobile insurance benefits. They should also not be lured with the promise of benefits which actually will be used to pay health care providers. This is especially true in cases where the care and treatment does little to help the person recover from injury.

The committee’s report ended with recommendations for increased restrictions on lawyers who participate in referral services. We applaud the committee for bringing this matter to the public’s attention and making its recommendations. We hope the Florida Bar will take the recommendations seriously and act quickly.

In the meantime, we urge auto accident victims to be very careful when making decisions about medical care and legal representation. Two old sayings apply here: (1) buyer beware, and (2) if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Anyone interested in reading further can see the full report on the Bar’s website, www.floridabar.org, under Report of the Special Committee on Lawyer Referral Services.

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