Beware of Lawyer Scammers

One of our clients in a personal injury case recently received two letters from lawyers in Dallas offering to “help” resolve a hospital lien that had been filed here in Brazos County by St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. According to the letter, the lawyers were contacting our client because they had reviewed Brazos County’s hospital lien records and discovered the filing. The lawyers advised our client to “move quickly to ensure the hospital does not receive all the proceeds from your auto accident and leave you still owing money.” The lawyers said they had “extensive knowledge resolving hospital liens,” wanted to help, and offered a “free lien evaluation.”

Nowhere in the letter does the law firm directly solicit our client to hire the firm to represent him in regard to the car wreck that caused the injuries which led to the filing of the hospital lien. Nevertheless, this is the true intent of the letter and no reasonable lawyer who knows the slightest bit about personal injury cases or hospital liens could argue otherwise.

Not many years ago lawyers were buying the crash reports (accident reports) created by law enforcement agencies following their investigations of traffic incidents. The lawyers would then send letters to those involved and offer to represent them. This form of lawyer solicitation was so abused that a new crash report form was created whereby a person involved in a wreck could elect whether they did or did not want to be contacted by a lawyer. Most people say they do not. Therefore, lawyers are now buying hospital lien information that is filed in public records for the purpose of solicitation.

Texas law grants to hospitals the right to file a lien to secure the payment of fees charged for the delivery of emergency medical services. The lien “attaches to” the patient’s claim against the person who caused the wreck. This means the patient has to pay the hospital out of the proceeds he or she receives from a settlement or, if there is a successful trial, a judgment. The lien does not attach to someone’s home, real or personal property, paycheck or bank accounts. However, the lawyer solicitation letter sent to our client does not say any of that. Instead, the letter is written with the intent that a layperson will be sufficiently alarmed to call the law firm.

In my opinion, this form of solicitation is a scam and should be stopped by the Legislature and the State Bar of Texas.