There are any number of unpleasant nicknames that people have for lawyers, and one of the most common and easily recognized is “ambulance chaser.” Ambulance chasing refers to the practice of lawyers, or their employees or representatives, chasing down people who have been injured in a car accident and trying to convince the injured parties to let them be represented by the chasing lawyer because they can get them the biggest settlement. The chase-er cares the most about the chase-ee, don’tcha see, or they wouldn’t have spent all that effort chasing after a speeding ambulance to get to the hospital.
Lawyers were making so much money at this game, that others wanted in. Unethical medical providers and medical clinics and insurance brokers tried to get in on the game, too. There came to be a whole underground industry of folks who worked for law enforcement, hospitals, wrecker services, and doctors’ offices who got paid to give information to people who stood to benefit from knowing who had been injured.
This became a big problem, once upon a time, so big that the legislature felt compelled to react. O.C.G.A. 33-24-53 is titled “Prohibitions on release of information relating to parties of motor vehicle collision for personal financial gain; exceptions; punishments.” But it is really the anti-ambulance chasing law. It tries to put the kibosh on the chase-ers finding out where the ambulances are in the first place by making it a crime for anyone to make money by selling information
The first time you get caught doing it, it is a misdemeanor, and you will be jailed for “not less than 30 days” and assessed a fine of up to $1,000.00. Lest you think that might just be worth it, because you stand to make a good bit more than that from the folks who are willing to pay you, if you get caught more than once, it is a felony, and you could be put in prison for up to ten years and assessed a fine of not more than $100,000.00 per violation.
This is different, of course, than advertising, or giving a personal referral to a trusted colleague. We’re talking a paid, shady business arrangement. Honestly, as a lawyer who spends a good deal of my day trying to fight the stereotypes of our reputation, it irritates me when lawyers and law offices do this kind of thing to damage our reputations further. Not necessary, guys. Uncool. And, as it turns out, a crime.
Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. It is being offered for informational purposes only.