A civil claim against an attorney that is unique to Texas is a barratry claim or a claim against an attorney for the wrongful solicitation of a client. Lawyers at the Kassab Law Firm have handled more than 1500 civil barratry claims and are experienced in pursuing, litigating and recovering on these types of claims against lawyers.
What Is Barratry?
Barratry, commonly known as “ambulance chasing”, is the practice of illegally soliciting clients. Texas lawyers are prohibited from initiating personal contact with potential clients who have not invited such contact. Lawyers who encourage their clients to file lawsuits, despite knowing there is no basis for litigation and thus only looking to profit through legal fees, are considered to be committing barratry as well.
My Lawyer Advertises on Television. Is That Barratry?
In a word: no. Paid advertising and “legal” marketing are both permissible under Texas law. The difference between advertising and barratry is that legal advertising requires potential clients to contact the attorney. In order for barratry to take place, the attorney (and/or a paid representative) must initiate contact with the client. There are other forms of barratry as well, such as when a lawyer files a claim on behalf of a client without authority.
How Do I Know Whether I’m a Victim of Barratry?
You may be a victim of barratry if after an accident:
- You are contacted by an attorney or someone you do not know on behalf of an attorney either in person or by telephone and solicited or requested to hire the attorney.
- You are offered money to hire an attorney.
- You are contacted in person or by telephone by the attorney within 30 days from the date of the accident.
- An attorney filed a claim or lawsuit on your behalf without your consent.
What Happens to Lawyers Who Commit Barratry?
The Texas penal code considers barratry to be a misdemeanor offense on the first conviction, but a third-degree felony offense on subsequent convictions.
Texas law also allows victims of barratry to collect a $10,000 penalty for each illegal phone or in-person solicitation by a lawyer or his/her representative. If the victim entered into a contract with the attorney as a result of the barratry, the victim can void that contract and recover any attorney’s fees or expenses that the client paid the lawyer under the contract. Victims are also entitled to actual damages arising from the illegal conduct as well as attorney’s fees.
I’m a Victim of Barratry. What Should I Do Now?
Immediately make note of who contacted you and when. Be sure to save any business cards or contact information left by that person. Document the events regarding the illegal solicitation in as much detail as possible.
Next, contact a law firm like the Kassab Law Firm to inquire about what your rights are.