Can we Finally End Ambulance Chasing?

Car wreck injury victims leave the scene of their wreck dazed and confused. How do I get medical treatment if I don’t have health insurance? When is my property damage claim going to be settled? Frequently they get home from the hospital emergency room, clouded by pain medications, only to face a barrage of phone calls and knocks at their door from telemarketers and in-person case runners. Those telemarketers and case runners get paid a “bounty” for each patient they successfully deliver to a chiropractic clinic.

The terrible fact is, such telemarketing and in-person solicitation is completely legal in Texas! Representative Todd Smith (R-Tarrant) introduced House Bill 1519 legislative session to outlaw such conduct. But Governor Rick Perry vetoed the bill, even though it passed both the Texas House and Senate without a single “nay” vote. I was glad to testify in the House and the Senate on behalf of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association in favor of the bill. Why would the governor veto legislation designed to protect injury victims from unwanted strong-arm solicitation after an injury?

He gave two explanations. First, in an interview with The Texas Lawyer newspaper, his office explained that he vetoed

it because it was backed by the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. Then, his official veto statement said he vetoed it because the bill did not include a ban on lawyer solicitation. What?!!! Every Texas lawyer knows it is already a 3rd degree felony for a lawyer to solicit injury cases. Adding lawyers to HB 1519 would have decreased the penalty for lawyer solicitation from a 3rd degree felony to a Class A misdemeanor. The more likely explanation is that Governor Perry received campaign contributions from the folks who run the unethical (if not illegal) telemarketing and solicitation schemes.

Rep. Smith has courageously reintroduced the bill again this session as House Bill 148. Again, I was glad to testify on behalf of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association in favor of this important legislation. The bill has not yet made it to the House for a vote and, therefore, has not yet been considered in the Senate. Given the bills success in the last session, it is reasonable to expect it will again past both the House and Senate with little or no opposition.

It is my hope that the Governor will realize his error last time in vetoing this bill and allow it to become law. With the stroke of his pen, he can end an abusive and unethical practice that affects tens of thousands of Texans every year.

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