Rick, The Ethical Ambulance Chaser?
I was approached this week by a man who had arrived at an accident scene before the police and the paramedics. Let’s call him Rick Chaser. Was Rick running cases to lawyers for money? No. He had a different and perfectly legal angle, albeit one that may strike you as just a bit edgy.
Rick has for the last 30 years made a living by documenting accident scenes and then selling his information to lawyers. He thoroughly photographs the scene and collects other useful information. He then contacts the lawyers, knowing that he has evidence unobtainable anywhere else.
What Rick does is distasteful. It’s also clever. He has carved a niche for himself that enables him to earn substantial income. Is it ethical? Is it legal? Sure it is. If he was bringing clients to lawyers in exchange for money, that would be illegal. But there is nothing illegal about using a police band radio to scout out accidents and then document the scene.
The photographs in Rick’s possession were important. My client was a passenger on a crowded city bus. If the driver of the car that hit the bus was 100% at fault, all of the injured passengers would have to split the minimal policy limits on the car. If there were 30 claimants and $30,000 in coverage, do the math. I had to prove that the bus driver shared substantially in the fault for the collision. The photos should help with that.
My client had taken photographs of the scene with his cell phone. His photos were ok, but not nearly as helpful as the ones I bought from our friend. This man understands what lawyers need and photographed every angle of the scene. I had no real choice but to buy the photos since they helped prove that the bus driver had pulled off from the bus stop when it was not safe to do so, thereby contributing to the crash. Without these photos, it would be one driver’s word against the other’s.
My duty to my client is that I zealously represent his interest, while always acting ethically. My duty required that I spend the money to obtain these photos. I had to pay $225 for five photographs. I also had to promise not to share them with any of the lawyers for other passengers. Rick intended to sell the photos to as many of them as he could. So while I came out of this transaction feeling a bit sullied, I also felt clear that I had done what I needed to do for my client.