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Ambulance Chasers

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Gerry Oginski
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The first time I heard the term "ambulance chaser" I must have been in college. I had no idea what it meant. I had no idea it was a derogatory term. In fact, I had no idea what personal injury lawyers did or why someone would call them an ambulance chaser.

That all changed when I went to law school and decided to be a medical malpractice and personal injury trial lawyer. I learned that some people referred to personal injury lawyers as "ambulance chasers" to reflect an attorney's eagerness to get accident cases in order to make money. Many felt that lawyers encouraged the public to actively bring lawsuits just to generate fees for these over-eager and zealous attorneys.

Yet the more I learned about the world of a personal injury and the attorneys who handled significant cases, the more I realized that these were hard-working, ethical people who had a true desire to to help injured victims recover compensation. These were not the 'money-grubbing', no-holds-barred people, described in the press. These lawyers wanted to reform the way businesses made defective products; they saw ways to help the little guy when nobody else would. Would they earn money by helping? Yes. Would they lose money if they lost. Definitely.

Long gone are the days when accident attorneys trolled the emergency rooms for trauma victims, handing out cards. Long gone are the days when lawyers descended on plane crash victims as soon as the news reports went live. Long gone are the days when a lawyer would hang around a funeral home waiting to talk to a widow. This type of conduct is notoriously evident in the Paul Newman movie, "The Verdict," where Paul Newman plays a down-and-out injury attorney trolling for cases wherever he can find them.

There have always been lawyers who skate on the border of what might be considered questionable conduct. However, I am happy to say that the great majority of my colleagues are on the right side of justice and do everything possible to help when tragedy strikes.

Imagine if there were no trial lawyers to speak out for those who could not. There would be no recalls of defective toys; defective cars or defective medications. If there were no trial lawyers, businesses would have free rein to limit wages to workers and fail to pay them compensation if they were injured on the job. If there were no trial lawyers, companies would never change the way they built their products since there would be no incentive for them to change if their product caused someone harm.

If there were no trial lawyers, you would be unable to navigate your way through the legal system when you broke your hip after tripping and falling on a broken sidewalk that had not been fixed for five years. No trial lawyers means you'd have no idea what to do when an oncoming car crossed the double yellow line crashing into you head-on and you're in the hospital for the next seven months recuperating from permanent brain injuries. You'd be at the mercy of the car insurance company and would probably accept whatever they wanted to pay you.

Trial attorneys are advocates for injured victims. It's that simple. If you call that advocate an 'ambulance chaser' or any other derogatory term, that's your choice. However, that advocate would stand up for you if you were injured because of someone else's carelessness. What would you call that lawyer then? "Friend," perhaps?

Category: General

Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer

1 Comments to "Ambulance Chasers"

In general, you're right, but sometimes bad things happen in medicine that aren't proven to be anyone's fault. In those situations, all parties lose. Since reading of a case like this last month, I've been thinking enough about it to wonder out loud if this is the only way to achieve justice. You can find my thoughts at www.pilchermd.com, in a piece called "Would 'No Fault' Be A Better Way?" I really don't know, but I felt the need to ask the question.
Posted by Chuck Pilcher MD FACEP on January 23, 2010 at 07:51 PM

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