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Did a lawyer approach you at the hospital?

When you are in the hospital after an accident, either for your own injury or for a loved one, it is an emotional and vulnerable time. Your mind is overrun with questions. What do I do next? Who will pay the bills? What will happen if I can't return to work?

It can seem like a blessing to have a helpful attorney or their representative approach you at the hospital with answers. However, this person is breaking the law. Unless you asked for a referral or know the attorney -- as a friend, a relative or as an attorney you have worked with previously -- the New York Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit solicitation by a lawyer or their representative. A representative can be any individual who refers clients to the attorney in exchange for a fee, including hospital employees who look for potential clients for a lawyer.

There is a rule against solicitation

Under Rule 7.3, a lawyer cannot engage in solicitation in person, by phone or in real-time, computer-based communication "unless the recipient is a close friend, relative, former client or existing client."

Furthermore, if the solicitation relates to a specific incident, an attorney cannot solicit the client "before the 30th day after the date of the incident." There is an exception for cases that must be filed within 30 days. In those situations, the attorney must wait until 15 days have passed after the incident.

What to do if you are solicited

An attorney who is willing to break the professional rules of attorney conduct is not an advocate you want on your side. If you are approached by a lawyer or their representative at the hospital, do not contact that firm about your case. You can also report the firm for misconduct by submitting a written complaint to the State of New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division.

Conduct your own research to find an attorney who can help you. Ask friends and relatives for a referral, research your case online, and meet with a number of attorneys to find one who you feel comfortable working with after a serious injury or the loss of a loved one in a fatal accident.

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