New House Bills Provide 30 Day Buffer from Potential Ambulance Chasers
According to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, in 2012 there were approximately 1 million Michigan drivers and occupants in vehicles that were involved in accidents. Tragically, many of these accidents resulted in serious injuries or death. Moreover, traffic accidents spring various legal issues like denial of no-fault insurance benefits, automobile negligence claims, and wrongful death actions. Unfortunate for Personal Injury attorneys, over time, they have been labeled as “ambulance chasers” for helping millions of families and their legal issues; however, how soon is too soon for an attorney to contact a traffic accident victim about their potential legal issues?
On October 8, 2013, the Michigan House of Representatives passed HB 4770, and 4771, which now establishes a firm answer. Under HB 4770, it is unlawful for any person or organization that is granted access to traffic accident reports filed with a law enforcement agency to directly solicit traffic accident victims within 30 days. Violation of HB 4770 carries serious consequences, such as a misdemeanor conviction and fines for first-time offenders at $15,000 and for second-time offenders at $30,000 with a potential year in jail!
Under HB 4771, it is unlawful for a person to intentionally contact any traffic accident victim who suffered a personal injury or their family member through direct solicitation. This means that NO PERSON, lawyer or otherwise, can send you or a family member a targeted flyer or letter about your recent traffic accident, especially if you suffered a physical or mental injury or wrongful death. Similar to HB 4770, violation of HB 4771 carries the same significant fines and potential jail time. Further, HB 4772 codifies HB 4770 and 4771 under the Michigan Compiled Laws as M.C.L 750.503 “Unlawfully Accessing Motor Vehicle Accident Report.”
Both HB 4770 and 4771 overwhelmingly passed in the Michigan House of Representatives. Many of the proponents for the bills harped on the idea that these bills provide traffic accident victims and their families a dignified amount of time to recover from, at times, extremely traumatic events. Also, proponents emphasized that accident victims should be able to make informed decisions about their potential legal claims without any coercion. On the other hand, opponents for the bills argue that the potential consequences are too harsh because attorneys can now be double-dipped for violating solicitation rules. While it looks like these bills will be enacted into law soon, for some traffic accident victims and their families sometimes soon is too soon.
By: Fahd Haque, Law Clerk for Moss & Colella, P.C. If you have any questions, please email Fahd Haque at FHaque@mosscolella.com