Chasing Metrolink crash victims

by Walter Olson on October 8, 2008

Aggressive solicitation by lawyers has been raising hackles in Los Angeles since the commuter train crash. (Carol J. Williams, “Lawyers swoop in after the Metrolink crash, looking for clients”, L.A. Times, Oct. 5)(earlier)(via Stier, Mass Tort Prof).

{ 5 comments }

1 PhilG 10.08.08 at 12:36 pm

As is usual in a situation like this, there will be a market in lawyers signing up victims and then selling them to other lawyers for a referral fee, with victims sometimes even being sold more than once. The going rate for a referral fee is around a third or so of the contingency fee. The victims will be unaware that they are being sold back and forth like that for money, being told that it is in their “best interest”. Interestingly, lawyers are the only professionals that consider it ethical to trade clients for referral fees like that; all other professions such as doctors consider it unethical. You would think that a victim could get a discount on the contingency fee by going directly to a lawyer who will actually be handling the case and saving him or her from paying a referral fee. But the bar associations claim giving a client a discount because the lawyer is not paying a referral fee is “unethical” according to them because then a client coming in through a referral fee would be paying more than a client where the lawyer does not have to pay a referral fee, and so the bar associations will punish a lawyer for discounting the contingency fee to a client where he or she does not have to pay a referral fee. Interesting logic!

2 E-Bell 10.08.08 at 1:48 pm

^^ I’ve never known of a bar association that would sanction an attorney for lowering their fee – no matter what the reason.

3 Todd Rogers 10.08.08 at 2:11 pm

Given the attention paid to the alleged behavior of the train driver just prior to the accident (sending a text message) what are the odds that his cell phone provider will be named in the suits for failure to adequately warn? Even though, as I pull out my Verizon manual, where it clearly says not to use text, dial numbers, search for contacts, etc…while operating dangerous machinery, I must assume that because his manual probably did not include “do not operate commuter train through switch-lines,” that his provider will not be given a pass.

4 nevins 10.08.08 at 3:22 pm

“As is usual in a situation like this, there will be a market in lawyers signing up victims and then selling them to other lawyers…”

I smell a whole industry springing up here. Potential torts can be packaged in large bundles and sold as investments. A rating agency will be needed to grade the tort quality as Prime, sub-prime, alt-A, etc. These will be traded back and forth until the book value exceeds the present value of everything on the earth. Finally the whole house of cards comes crashing down and congress (a bunch of lawyers) rushes in for the bail out…

5 Todd Rogers 10.08.08 at 4:32 pm

Some of these politicians will suggest that everyone deserves to own…er..I mean file and win a lawsuit and the two factions will point fingers at each other until Bill O’Reilly lures one of the congressmen on to his pulpit and puts the smack down on him.

Props to nevins.

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