Did You Receive a Phone Call or Text from a Lawyer after a Car Accident?
The attorneys at Riddle & Brantley L.L.P. have received several complaints from clients and people in the community that they were called or texted by someone claiming to be a lawyer after an accident. Our passion for the last thirty years has been protecting those injured in car accidents in North Carolina so this was immediately concerning to us.
Our first thought was that some law firms have begun to employ this tactic in an attempt to quickly obtain clients who may have been injured in a car wreck. We believe this approach illegal under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), overly-intrusive, untimely, and can lead to people make quick, uninformed, decisions about who should handle their case. Also, lawyers have a code of ethics which they must follow as well general laws and regulations concerning unsolicited phone calls and texts so we are not sure if it is indeed a law firm who is doing this or another business doing this for a law firm or law firms.
More troublesome is that it may be someone pretending to be a lawyer so they can use your information or case details for some type of personal monetary gain or identity theft. This is only a possibility as no one knows for sure.
We are currently investigating whether these calls and texts violate any State or Federal law and whether an individual who receives them has a claim for compensation. We believe that these texts/calls do violate the TCPA. Under the TCPA, a business is not allowed to text you on your cell or home phone without first getting your permission. We have a lot of questions and concerns about this, and if you received a call or a text, we are sure you do to.Below are answers to some questions you may have.
How did they get my phone number?
Every police report contains information about each driver and the owners of the vehicles involved in the accident. This information usually consists of names, addresses, vehicle information, insurance information, and even phone numbers. We can only conclude that you received a call because your phone number was listed on the police report. Sometimes this personal information is redacted from the accident report but most accident reports that we see include this information as it pertains to all drivers.
Is a lawyer allowed to call or text me after an accident?
As mentioned above, we are not sure if it is actually a lawyer or law firm who contacted you. If it is, then this is a complicated question.
Lawyers have an ethical code which they must follow as well as the laws which apply to all citizens. Our ethical code allows lawyers to send victims of car accidents direct solicitations. This usually comes in the form of a mailer or flyer that you will receive in the mail. Many people find this information helpful, many do not, but they all have the choice to use that information or simply disregard it. It is our understanding that the current rules for solicitation do not address the specific tactic of calling or texting a victim who has been in an accident. It is also our understanding that the use of a recorded communication or a text to a potential client is not a clear violation of our ethical rules so long as it meets several other requirements which are necessary in that communication. However, there are general rules on solicitations which all citizens, especially lawyers, must follow. Most importantly, lawyers may not violate other laws that in place to protect people.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act restricts telephone solicitations and the use of automated telephone equipment. The TCPA limits the use of automatic dialing systems, artificial or prerecorded voice messages, text messages and fax machines. Under the Telephone Consumer Protection act, The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire satellite and cable.
The FCC has rules in effect that address unsolicited telephone marketing calls and that ban text messages sent to a mobile phone using an autodialer unless you previously gave consent to receive the message or the message is sent for emergency purposes. To learn more visit https://www.fcc.gov/what-we-do
North Carolina has provisions similar to the TCPA which prohibits unwanted telephone solicitations. North Carolina General Statute 75-104 states that no person shall use an automatic dialing and recorded message player to make an unsolicited phone call unless the person making the call is a tax exempt charitable or civic organization, a political party or candidate, a government official, or a polling organization. North Carolina has not expanded this to include text messages; however, current legislation has been proposed to include this prohibition.
Whether the text or phone call you received violates any of these rules or laws will depend on the details of that call or text. We welcome you to contact us if you have concerns that a phone call or text you receive does violate the law.
What should you do if a lawyer calls or texts you after an accident?
Be suspicious. You did not call them. They called you. That is bizarre.
We first recommend that you find out what specific lawyer or law firm has contacted you and make sure they are in fact a licensed attorney and are capable of handling your case. Be very careful not to disclose personal information over the phone because you did not contact them, they contacted you. We advise any potential client to ask a lot of questions and make sure you are comfortable before hiring a law firm. This includes asking about their experience handling matters similar to yours and their track record for success
Is there any way I can prevent a lawyer from calling or texting me after an accident?
The Federal Communications Commission helps consumers who may have received unwanted phone calls and texts. The Federal Communications Commission operates under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act which is intended to provide clarity on the law, set rules, take enforcement action, and provides resources to those who have concerns about unwanted calls and texts. One option to prevent unwanted calls is to register on the Do Not Call List by visiting https://www.donotcall.gov/
If you continue to receive unwanted telephone calls or text messages then you can issue a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. Furthermore, you may have a claim for compensation.
If you receive a text from law firm that you have not contacted, please call us so we can help you get answers.