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Don’t Be Wooed by an Ambulance Chaser

After you’ve been in a car accident, the last thing you want is to be approached by an opportunist. Unfortunately, those who have been pursued by an ambulance chaser know all too well that when opportunity knocks, this person will be more than happy to give you services you need in hopes that you will be able to reward them handsomely with a settlement check from your insurance company.

The only problem with ambulance chasing is that at the very least it’s unethical and in some states, it’s illegal. So if you have been in a car accident, don’t be wooed by the promises of ambulance chasers.

What Are Ambulance Chasers?

An ambulance chaser could be a lawyer, or even small-practice doctor or chiropractor who calls or comes knocking on your door after you’ve had an auto accident. Depending on who contacts you, they could want different things.

The lawyer probably wants to help you seek damages in addition to the auto insurance claims you’re about to file. The lawyer wants to make it seem as though you were injured (even if you weren’t) and now need money for medical bills. Since the lawyer is helping you get this money you supposedly deserve, you give him a cut of the settlement in return.

If a medical doctor or chiropractor approaches you after an accident then they are looking for money as well, but their goal is to get you into their office, convince you that you’ve been injured more severely than you thought and have you utilize their services until you get back on your feet.

You may have already received a big check from the insurance company or they may convince you to pursue one. The idea, however, is that they’ll vouch for you in saying that your injuries from an accident require hefty medical bills and that somebody’s insurance company needs to pay for the costs.

Why It’s Illegal in Some States

In some states, ambulance chasing is viewed as an unethical practice and in other states it is considered auto insurance fraud. No matter what, it’s not a good idea to get involved in the practice if you’re not really injured because it means you’re lying to receive money.

The states that have recognized ambulance chasing as one of many insurance scams include California, New York and Texas. Currently, the State Bar of California dispatches investigators to disaster scenes to make sure that ambulance chasers are stopped from soliciting business.

Texas has a law in force called Barratry that recognizes ambulance chasing as a full-on crime and does not allow the practice to occur without prosecution. In New York City, because no-fault accident coverage (no one has to be at fault in an accident for an insurer to pay claims to both parties) is mandatory, the state wants to ensure that nobody is able to claim money unethically.

However, fraudulent claims are not the only problem that the authorities have with this practice. Another is that it has a negative effect on auto insurance rates. If enough claims are filed and payouts are made, insurance companies will  need to raise rates across the board.

This has already occurred in New York with its no-fault auto insurance provision. Because claims payouts increased nearly 55 percent between 2004 and 2009, policyholders began seeing significant increases in their premiums.

How They Convince You to Do Wrong

If ambulance chasing is such a big problem then you may wonder how in the world chasers are able to convince people to take part in their schemes. In actuality, it’s something similar to waving a carrot in front of a hungry rabbit.

Think about it; if you’ve been in an accident and need money to pay for your medical bills and your health insurance can’t cover everything, or you need additional money to pay for bills while you’re out of work, the idea of getting more sounds good.

Lawyers who practice ambulance chasing have a way of convincing you that you’re due more than you’re receiving and the fact that most will work under contingency (they will only get paid if you get paid) means that you don’t have to come up with any money to get representation. It can be an extremely enticing proposition.

The same goes for doctors and chiropractors who are willing to run x-rays and come up with physical therapy plans. When they’re done, you will have suffered more injuries than you could have ever imagined (on paper) and will need regular medical attention and medication for months or years to come.

In both cases, they have a way of making insurance fraud look appealing. Since it’s so easy to get wooed by these fast talkers, you have to work that much harder to not be lured in.

How to Avoid Ambulance Chasers

There’s no doubt that you could be persuaded by an ambulance chaser to take their advice, but depending on the state you live in, if you willingly and knowingly break the law by doing so, you could find yourself being sued along with your partner in crime.

A few ways to avoid getting pulled into this practice include:

  • Ignoring opportunists at the accident scene: If a lawyer or doctor tries to pass you a card to call them later, just ignore them as they’re probably opportunists. Whatever you do, don’t give out your information.
  • Not responding to phone calls, door knocks or mail: If ambulance chasers somehow gain access to your phone number, knock on your door or start sending you mail, don’t respond to any advancements.
  • Contacting a reputable doctor or attorney on your own: If you find that you have indeed been injured and need medical attention, simply seek assistance from reputable parties on your own.

If you think that you are being persuaded by an ambulance chaser then you could contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau to report the scam. This way, you won’t find yourself in the middle of something that could cause you major problems down the line.

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This entry was posted on Friday, November 12th, 2010 and is filed under Auto Insurance. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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