Scroll through the list of the most expensive Google search terms and you’ll find phrases like “Top personal injury lawyers” and “El Paso accident lawyer.” A recent study conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, or ILR, found that some of these ads cost personal injury lawyers nearly $700 every time someone clicks on it.
This large cost is indicative of a growing trend that should trouble any Texan who values the integrity of our civil justice system. The increasing volume of misleading personal injury lawyer advertising is putting greed ahead of justice. Furthermore, this devious practice can clog courts with questionable lawsuits, delaying or denying justice for those with legitimate legal claims.
According to the ILR study, personal injury lawyers in the U.S. were projected to spend a total of $892 million in television advertising in 2015, up from $531 million in 2008. The vast sums invested in these largely unregulated ads prove that lining the pockets of personal injury lawyers is paramount to consumer safety and well-being.
The recent U.S. chamber study placed several Texas cities atop the national rankings of personal injury lawyer advertising. The 68 percent growth in personal injury lawyer advertising on television during the past eight years has been most evident in Houston, ranked among the top 10 U.S. television markets for trial lawyer advertising in 2015.
As more Texans rely on the Internet and television for health information, it’s important to distinguish between helpful resources and misleading lawsuit advertising. Many ads attempt to shape consumers’ decisions, steering them away from doctors and toward questionable lawsuits.
Consumers need to understand the motives behind personal injury lawyer advertising. Personal injury lawyers are acting in their own self-interest, which is often not in the best interest of patients. Texans should guard against personal injury lawyers and recruiters who make contact to enlarge their own bank accounts. It’s nothing more than “ambulance chasing.”
Consumers with questions about their medical care and health should ask their doctor, not a personal injury lawyer. Additionally, patients should be wary of any attempt by a personal injury lawyer to steer them to a specific doctor.
Misleading personal injury advertising can put people’s health at risk. However, there is a way to avoid the consequences of this greedy practice.
Don’t let a lawyer be your doctor.
This op-ed column first appeared in the San Antonio Express-News and versions have been published in publications across the state in 2016.