February 25, 2010

Instead of dashing to the scene of an accident, lawyers in need of clients dash to blog posts about accidents.

There are computer programs that find blog posts about, say, motorcycle deaths and then drop comments that seem to be from an ordinary person sympathizing about the death and dropping a link to a website offering to help you with legal claims. I know this because I just got a comment on an old post of mine — "The mystery of Bob Dylan's motorcycle crash." It contained some key words like "very seriously injured" (in the phrase "not very seriously injured") and "ambulance" (in "no ambulance was called to the scene") and "died" (in "he would have died if" he hadn't, after the accident, changed the way he lived).

This morning I discovered the comment — already deleted — from "John" — who sounds like a caring individual: "I feel very sad to know about the cause of Bob Dylan’s death...." Now, the program didn't quite work the way it was supposed to, because the accident happened long ago, Bob Dylan didn't die, and, however much I may love Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan is not one of my loved ones. So I'm not the target of the material that follows about the nature of motorcycle accidents and how "it is best to look over your case with a personal injury attorney beforehand to see if you have a strong case for a accident death claim."

But I can see how the comment is meant to work. It's supposed to appear on the genuinely sad blog posts written by people who have suffered a terrible personal loss and are touched that a stranger would say "I feel very sad to know about the cause of [name]’s death...."

46 comments:

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Methadras said...

When Obi Wan was talking about a Den of scum and villainy, I think he meant the Lawyers Bar, not the one on Mos Eisley.

Pogo said...

Every ecosystem has its scavengers and bottomfeeders.


Serious question: is this behavior taught in law school, or at CLE conferences? Is it understood but unspoken, or learned at the hem of senior partners?

gardeningasylum said...

It's not just lawyers - I get a lot of florist spam comments.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Pogo said: "Serious question: is this behavior taught in law school, or at CLE conferences? Is it understood but unspoken, or learned at the hem of senior partners?"

It certainly wasn't taught at my school (graduated last year), and we were warned against things like direct contacts within a certain time period after a tragedy (although the rule didn't consider this sort of thing).

I would say that this is mostly just creative ingenuity, perhaps passed on by word of mouth. We lawyers are pretty desparate these days, I'm sad to say.

- Lyssa

rhhardin said...

Catch 22 chapter 31, letter from the commander:

Dear Mrs., Mr., Miss, or Mr. and Mrs. Daneeka: Words cannot express the deep personal grief I experienced when your husband, son, father, or brother was killed, wounded, or reported missing in action.

Pogo said...

I have 3 lawyers in my family. I'd like to tweak them about this, but given the lack of purity in medicine and doctors being outright evil, I'd best shut the hell up.


VW: rankle: the right ankle.
'Lankle' is the left one.

vet66 said...

This may be the trial lawyers strategy of adjusting to changing times regarding tort reform. They will go the Henry Ford route of more cases to make up for smaller payouts.

I see saturated advertisements involving Yaz/Yasmin on television trying to gin up clients. Of course this discourages the development of new drugs in a timely manner. When the new drugs are brought to market they have a built in percentage to cover the cost of future lawsuits.

The question remains, how many people die as a result of drugs not brought to market in a reasonable time versus those who die as a result of side effects? In short, do the drugs save more patients than they kill? As a sidebar, I wonder if bureaucrats and data input people kill more patients than the drugs? I worry more about infections in the hospital killing me than drugs.

WV: sompagne

No doubt!

rhhardin said...

Of course this can be combatted with obviously form emails to the lawyers.

Pogo said...

"...how many people die as a result of drugs not brought to market in a reasonable time"...

Someone oughta sue the evil drug companies for failing to develop those lifesaving drugs!

traditionalguy said...

When the money disappears from ones life, the need to get money inspires creative solutions. Suing people is a way to steal with a fountain pen. The good news for attorneys is that sued people need a defense to hold off the wolves since the sued person has little money either. This is the legal system's version of buying guns and ammo because mobs of intelligent and desperate people are out to survive as best they can.The stimulus checks seem to have gone to some one else who had a better attorney.

Sheepman said...

There's scam baiting to fight third world fraudsters. Perhaps we should have scum baiting for unethical lawyers.

HKatz said...

So instead of ambulance chaser, what should the new name for them be?

Fred4Pres said...

The image ambulance chasing lawyers dashing to the scenes of accidents is funny but probably pretty rare. Instead they just put about fifty ads in the local yellow pages and that manages to net in car accident cases

Most great lawyers, especially in personal injury, get referred cases because they have a reputation of getting good results for their clients.

vet66 said...

Ambulance chasing is so yesterday. The preferred moniker is "hearse chasers" from the privacy and comfort of your laptop at Starbucks. Let your fingers do the talking and all that as "I feel your pain" for a price.

WV; sicreall

as in sick really.

The Drill SGT said...

vet66 said...
Ambulance chasing is so yesterday. The preferred moniker is "hearse chasers" from the privacy and comfort of your laptop at Starbucks.


My image is Frank Calvin (Paul Newman) bending over the bereaved widow and slipping her his card.

The Verdict, 1982

MadisonMan said...

Drill, I thought of the exact same movie! Great scene.

The Drill SGT said...

whoops Frank Galvin

I also loved:

Absence of Malice

traditionalguy said...

To put suing people for money damages into context, you have to consider the alternative, which is the careless bullies get what they want at the expense of the innocent and destroyed people. End of story. That is as arrogant as an act of Eminent Domain with no right to compensation. The private actors need to have liability insurance and need to face being sued for the damages they cause. The gripers here need to watch True Grit again to see a down and dirty view of the legal system at work. As shocking as Rooster Cogburn type attornies are to tea sipping intellectuals, we get results and we serve a real purpose.

Popville said...

The issue is Bot Networks, not Lawyers, and it's only going to get worse.

NP: Shelby Flint - The Lily

traditionalguy said...

About lawsuits for damages. The paradigm still happens all the time. A wealthy man who has money to hire migrant labor for personal servant work has them driving aroud on work errands and the servant is at fault in an accident that ruins another person's life. Is the wealthy man shielded from the costs of his business that he had being done by a poor man? The Personal Injury Attorney creates a recovery where NONE was offered. Rich people usually get that way byrefusing to pay for the costs of life, but weaseling out of paying.

TMink said...

Pogo asked: "Serious question: is this behavior taught in law school, or at CLE conferences? Is it understood but unspoken, or learned at the hem of senior partners?"

There is another possibility. Does the profession intrigue and draw folks who are more likely to do this sort of thing?

For psychologists there are three classic motivations: Wanting to help; wanting to know; wanting to be around people who are more ill or damaged than you think you are.

I wonder what the classic motivations for being a trial lawyer are.

Suggestions?

Trey

Big Mike said...

Professor Althouse, I always assumed that how to chase ambulances was a normal L3 class.

traditionalguy said...

Trey...Being a lawyer can be attractive in a noblesse oblige role for the upper class kids, or an open door to getting rich for the ambitious kids who know wealthy lawyers in town. The actual practice opens the mind to the scheming and self centered motivations of most people when any "money" is involved. The lawyer soon learns that every case is his client's case for money against someone else, and his client's case for money from the attorney either by non payment of billed fees or by a malpractice suit. Our ethics Forbade advertising, much less runners at hospitals. Then the FTC ruled in the late 1970s that we were a price fixing monopoy and all rules against advertising for the cases were gone forever. The bsecret is to remember that all lawyers charge high fees...the trick is to find a relationship with a lawyer who is worthy of those fees.

LordSomber said...

I wonder if they're gonna sue Free Willy for killing that animal trainer yesterday.

tim maguire said...

I'd be very surprised if the ethics committee in "John's" state didn't find this bit of deceptive advertising worthy of investigation.

john said...

It wasn't me.

Fred4Pres said...

Paul Neuman is not bad, but the Verdict is not the best example of the sleazy personal injury attorney...

Tom Hulce in Fearless brings Ambulance Chasing to its artistic zenith.

Although Bill Murray's performance in the dreck of a movie Wild Things was quite amazing too.

Toren said...

I was in a car/motorcycle accident about 20 years ago. Being on the motorcycle, I lost. It was a bona-fide accident--a large patch of spilled motor oil from somebody's junker caused me to slide under a car waiting at a four-way stop. The cops reported it as "no fault" and I went off to the hospital to get my arm rebuilt.
While there, due to a miscommunication, my room phone number was given to my relations incorrectly. The only time it rang was the morning after my surgery, when a lawyer called (hmm, wonder who at the hospital was getting a payoff?) and asked to represent me. I explained to him it was an accident and the police report would show this. "No, no," he said, "You don't understand. SOMEBODY owes you money." I spoke terrible words to him and hung up the phone.
Oh yes, Virginia, there are ambulance chasers. And as anyone who has watched commercials on late night TV it is a huge business, one that WE pay for every time we buy insurance or pay for a prescription.
I await with interest the cost of the Toyota fiasco.

Bruce Hayden said...

Serious question: is this behavior taught in law school, or at CLE conferences? Is it understood but unspoken, or learned at the hem of senior partners?

Neither. And, indeed, it is likely unethical. As you pointed out, there are bottom feeders in every field. It is just that in law, they are more visible because they have big billboards and advertise on TV.

But since we have dueling professions here, I was reminded of one of my male bonding ski trips. I am invariably the only attorney allowed (and only allowed because I practice patent, and not tort litigation law). This is because we usually have 3 or 4 MDs (depending on the year) along. One of them brought up legal ethics, and my response was that while we have honesty pounded into us in our (mandatory) ethics CLE classes, they were getting CME credit for creative billing fraud by learning how to creatively upcode.

Bruce Hayden said...

I wonder what the classic motivations for being a trial lawyer are.

1) $$$
2) ego
3) thrill
(and you wonder why John Edwards got in trouble?)

But you need to keep in mind that the term "trial attorney" is really a misnomer. For one thing, ambulance chasers, etc. are not trial attorneys, because they almost never got to trial. Rather, they pretty much just call up the insurance company, try to make a deal, and if they fail, send the clients to the real tort plaintiffs' trial attorneys, the ones who really do take the cases to court, and who, it turns out, really don't advertise much, nor run after clients. Their reputations w/i the legal community is what gets them their business, and they are the ones making the really big money.

There are those who love going into court. In law school, I could usually pick them out - they sat in the back of the class and were just getting their ticket punched. The real law that we were learning was mostly irrelevant to them. Partly it was the performing that they love. Also, the thrill. Probably the closest thing in the legal community to ER docs in the medical field.

I am not one of them, but it is a thrill. I tried a week long jury trial, and it was one of the most fun things I have ever done. I just couldn't do it for a living (besides, I wouldn't be that good - I just won because I had the better client).

Much of the rest of litigation is just pushing paper back and forth, going through it, and negotiating. In a smaller firm, that probably isn't too bad, but in big firms, it can be horrible, given the millions of documents that are sometimes involved. Those who are good at it tend to be driven and have pretty bad OCD.

Robert said...

Attention sleazy and non-sleazy lawyers: do not spam blog posts to get business.

Instead, hire high-value copywriters like myself (cough, cough) to produce web content sites for you on the topics where you litigate, so that you get organic visitors to your law firm, whom you can easily convert to clients.

Reasonable rates!

Gary L. Britt, CPA, J.D. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gary L. Britt, CPA, J.D. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gary L. Britt, CPA, J.D. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gary L. Britt, CPA, J.D. said...

Gee, no sense of humor or irony here amongst the gods.

Gary L. Britt, CPA, J.D.

theoldperfesser said...

I would bet large green that this comment was posted not by the law firm but by their search engine optimization marketing firm.

If you don't have the nofollow tag attribute turned on, you pass a little link love to every website linked to from your comment sections. Link love is a very valuable thing - the original Google patent was based on ranking websites based on how many other sites linked to them. While it has gotten way more sophisticated and complex since then, it's still true that links from topically relevant pages can boost a site's standing in the search engines.

If you link high in the organic searches for "motorcycle accident attorney" (or even high on a geographically targeted variant such as Wisconsin motorcycle accident attorney) it can be worth a lot of money. I took a quick look, and while it varies, it looks like if you were to get a paid Google Adwords ad to show up for searches on "motorcycle accident attorney" you might be paying upwards of $40.00 for each and every click on that ad. Spend a minute thinking about that math, and you can see why it might be attractive to pay a search engine optimization consultant to get you high rankings in the Google organic (non-paid) results.

The attorney who has hired this consultant probably doesn't know exactly where the consultant is posting, and might not even know what techniques the SEO consultant is using (proprietary know how, and all that). It can raise interesting professional responsibility issues that the attorney might not know where their website URL has been placed and how it has been presented, but it doesn't mean that they are personally visiting blogs and posting links. Odds on, the SEO consultant is using a robotic program to search for pages using valuable keywords. If a human is involved, it might well be someone sitting with 100 other keyboard jockeys in non air-conditioned concrete block building somewhere in India.

If you want to minimize such postings, make sure your blog comments have the nofollow tag enabled. That will prevent the passage of link juice. It won't stop all the bots, because they can't all be bothered to see who has enabled the tag, but it might cut back some.

Gary L. Britt, CPA, J.D. said...

perfesser,

I made similar points in the messages that were deleted by the admin gods. However, I don't believe you are correct about the nofollow tag. Links contained in sites with the nofollow tag are still indexed by Google and I believe Yahoo. They still show up in Google (and I believe Yahoo) search engine results, and they still count as backlinks for website rankings.

Gary L. Britt, CPA, J.D., Attorney At Law

Carolyn Elefant said...

This topic has been addressed extensively at sites like Eric Turkewitz's NY Personal Injury Attorney
http://www.newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com/2009/11/new-spam-comment-policy-for-law-firms.html,
Mark Bennett's Defending People and Social Media Tyro -http://www.ivi3.com/blog/2009/12/the-spammers-lament/

The issue has moved beyond ethics to the question of whether bloggers ought to "call out" those who engage in comment spam (as Eric also uncovered & notes in his post, even sites like Martindale Hubbell engage in comment spam on behalf of customers). In short, this is lawyer self policing at its finest.

Gary L. Britt, CPA, J.D. said...

Carolyn,

What is comment spam?

Is it a post made by a computer program that makes semi-sense and really adds nothing to the discussion, and includes a link to a website?

Is it a post made by a real person with relevant and on point commentary, that possibly even adds new and relevant to the topic points of view and information to the discussion, and includes a link to a website?

Is any commentary, for example Stephen Hawking commenting in an astrophysics blog on a discussion of blackholes and includes a link to a website spam to you? If not then what is your criteria for drawing the lines between what is and isn't comment spam?

Gary L. Britt, CPA, J.D., Attorney At Law

Isaias valencia said...

Oh yes, Virginia, there are ambulance chasers. And as anyone who has watched commercials on late night TV it is a huge business, one that WE pay for every time we buy insurance or pay for a prescription.
I await with interest the cost of the Toyota fiasco. Thank You, Ramji & Associates: Houston Personal Injury Attorney

joe said...

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Tom McCollum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh Green Rock said...

It's still true that links from topically relevant pages can boost a site's standing in the search engines.
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