Dolman Law Group is an award winning Clearwater car accident and personal injury law firm. Matthew Dolman has been selected as a Florida Super Lawyers in 2013, 2014 and 2015 by his colleagues. Mr. Dolman has been nominated as a top 100 trial attorney and top 40 under 40 by National Trial Lawyers. He is a lifetime member of both the Million Dollar and Multi-Million Dollar Advocacy Forum.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Proposed Changes To The Florida Referral Rule For Lawyers May Be Questionable
Proposed rule changes submitted to the Florida Supreme Court on August
15, would remove some restrictions for lawyer’s participation in for-profit
If approved the amended rule would apply to attorney matching websites
like Avvo and Legal Zoom as well as non-lawyer owned referral services. The
malpractice insurance requirement would be eliminated and rules requiring
certain disclaimers in the services ads would be removed.
In addition, a few requirements prohibiting lawyers from working with
services that coerce them into providing cross referrals or fail to document
their compliance with bar rules will be added.
“You want to make sure that any of the advertising from any of the
companies is honest, it’s truthful, it’s not misleading to the public,” said
Florida Bar President Bill Schiffino to the Daily Business Review. “You don’t
want any inappropriate fee-sharing. You want to make sure that there’s no conflicts
of interest. While we cannot regulate these entities – we have no jurisdiction
over an internet provider – we do have jurisdiction over the lawyers.”
The amendments were approved last month at a meeting of the Florida
board of governors in Miami.
Floridians have been bombarded with ads on TV, radio and billboards
targeting car accident victims and slip and fall cases. After receiving a large
number of complaints about referrals to affiliated legal and medical care that
was sub-standard the association began an investigation. The services such as
ASK-GARY and 411-PAIN maintain that they followed the rules. Note that both of
those services are owned by chiropractors.
At their meeting on July 29, the board of governors had to take into
consideration how the current rule might be a hindrance to consumers seeking
lawyers and young lawyers looking for referrals, as the national online
matching services had grown considerably.
John Stewart, a Vero Beach Attorney with the firm of Rossway Swan
Tierney Barry Lacey & Oliver, who heads the bar technology committee, put
it this way. “The overall intention was to ensure that the traditional core
values for the profession were protected while still allowing the companies
that operate within the regulatory framework to operate.”
The term ‘lawyer referral service” would be eliminated under the
amended rule and changed to the term “qualifying provider” due to the fact that
some states do not allow for-profit referral services or define them
differently. The revised term would include online matching services,
directories, group or pooled advertising programs, as well as tip or lead
programs. The services would no longer have to include in their advertisements
disclaimers that lawyers have to pay to participate or that they are lawyer
One prominent issue that arose when it came to creating the amendments
was a Florida Supreme Court Directive that the new rule should keep lawyers
from working with referral services not owned and operated by lawyers.
411-PAIN and ASK-GARY, two of the largest referral services in the
state are owned by chiropractors, not lawyers.
Gainesville lawyer Carl Schwait, head of the bars committee on
professional ethics said that the boards constitutional expert advised the
board of governors that such a restriction could interfere with rights to
commerce and free speech. The group could not find a rational basis for
changing the rule.
“We can just as easily regulate the lawyers involved by working with
qualified providers, whether or not the qualified providers are owned by a
member of the bar,” Schwait said.
Schwait continued by saying that he was pleased that the proposed
amendments draw a “bright line in the sand” about what lawyers need to know
about referral services.
One of the two local bar associations that issued resolutions against
the proposed changes was Broward County.
The association did not agree with requirement of malpractice
insurance from being removed. Charles Morehead, the president of the Broward
County Bar Association said lawyer referral services often advertise to less
sophisticated consumers and may be offering lawyers who are incompetent to
handle the cases at hand.
“All safeguards for the public are basically being deleted,” he said.
Beware of Lawyer
As stated in the above content, lawyer referral services have been
subject to a vast number of complaints. Many are owned by chiropractors and
medical clinics who are paid by attorneys for referrals. The attorney in return
refers the injured client to the chiropractor who uses up all of the clients'
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) when they, in fact, should have been seeing a
medical specialist for proper care. After that scenario, the unqualified lawyer
convinces the client to settle out of court for compensation that is far below
the cost of future medical bills, lost income over a lifetime and the value of
their pain and suffering. The lawyer receives his fee for doing little work and
moves on to the next case tossed to him by the referral service. Now add to
that -- the attorney has no malpractice insurance. There is little chance of
the victim recovering what he deserves.
At Dolman Law, we never pay a referral service for our clients and do
not refer our clients to substandard medical care. If you need an attorney for
a personal injury case, look on a legitimate lawyer rating site such as
Avvo.com where real clients refer attorneys based on actual experiences. Feel
free to check us out and then call for a free, no obligation, consultation with
a highly rated personal injury attorney. At Dolman Law, we put our clients
first. Call us today at 727-451-6900 for a free consultation.
Dolman Law Group 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 727-451-6900