Barratry in Texas is Illegal – Taking Action
If you’re unsure whether or not you have been a victim of barratry in Texas, this article will inform you of the legal ramifications of solicitation and ambulance chasing (barratry), and how to take action if you have been the victim of barratry.
Barratry occurs when a lawyer, or someone acting with or on behalf of a lawyer, solicits or contacts potential clients who need a lawyer’s services in an unauthorized manner without the client reaching out first. These attorneys can try to persuade the potential client to file a lawsuit without knowing the full extent of the client’s situation.
At Sears Crawford, we sue lawyers for clients that have experienced barratry in Texas from an attorney. Below are some examples of barratry that we’ve seen come up again and again related to our clients.
If you’re planning on suing an attorney for barratry in Texas, an experienced Houston legal malpractice attorney from Sears Crawford can help you build a strong case should you hope to pursue charges.
Why is barratry illegal in Texas?
When someone is in need of legal help, who they choose to represent them should be their decision. When a lawyer commits barratry, they are ultimately attempting to take that decision-making ability away, by preying on the clients weakened physical or financial condition, following an injury or a loss. Many times attorneys, or someone sneakily acting on behalf of an attorney will show up at the clients hospital room to prey on them while they are still medicated and suffering from injuries or losses.
Barratry has long been a crime in Texas and is also prohibited by the ethical rules Governing attorney conduct. Tex. Disciplinary Rules Prof’l Conduct R. 7.03.; also see Neese v. Ted B. Lyon, Jr., Marquette W. Wolf, Ted B. Lyon & Assocs., P.C., 479 S.W.3d 368, 378 (Tex. App. 2015). The criminal prohibition of barratry is found in the Texas Penal Code. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 38.12 (entitled “Barratry and Solicitation of Professional Employment”). Section 38.12(a) of the Texas Penal Code identifies certain actions that constitute barratry and solicitation of professional employment, which includes but not limited to:
- With intent to obtain an economic benefit, the person knowingly institutes a suit or claim that the person has not been authorized to pursue;
- With intent to obtain an economic benefit, the person solicits employment, either in person or by telephone, for himself or another;
- With intent to obtain an economic benefit, the person pays, gives, or offers to pay third parties to solicit employment; and/or
- With intent to obtain an economic benefit, the person accepts or agrees to accept money or anything of value to solicit employment.
Further, a person commits a barratry if the person is a professional, who knowingly accepts employment within the scope of the person’s license, registration, or certification that results from the solicitation of employment in violation of Subsection (a). Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 38.12(b).
Moreover, a person commits barratry “if the person is an attorney [or] chiropractor. . . licensed to practice in this state . . . and with the intent to obtain professional employment for the person or for another, provides or knowingly permits to be provided to an individual who has not sought the person’s employment, legal representation, advice, or care, a written communication or a solicitation, including a solicitation in person or by telephone, that concerns an action for personal injury or . . . otherwise relates to an accident . . . before the 31st day after the date on which the accident . . . occurred[.]” Texas Penal Code § 38.12(d).
The Texas legislature enacted a statute establishing civil liability for prohibited barratry. Section 82.0651 of the Tex. Gov. Code, permits anyone who enters into a contract for legal services that was procured as a result of conduct violating Section 38.12 of the Texas Penal Code or Rule 7.03 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct to void the contract and recover damages, civil penalties ($10,000.00), and attorneys’ fees. This statute further mandates that “[t]his section shall be liberally construed and applied to promote its underlying purposes, which are to protect those in need of legal services against unethical, unlawful solicitation and to provide efficient and economical procedures to secure that protection.” See Tex. Gov. Code § 82.0651(e).
However, it is not illegal for a lawyer to approach you if they are not seeking payment for their services or have a prior or current attorney-client or familial relationship with you.
Clients who believe they have been a victim of barratry by an attorney or someone acting with or on behalf of an attorney (wrecker driver, chiropractor, nurse, etc) should contact the legal malpractice attorney Ross A. Sears II for a FREE consultation.
Attorneys who wish to avoid such claims, should review our article on how to avoid legal malpractice claims.
Examples of barratry
Some common examples of barratry include:
- Cold calling/texting;
- Approaching you personally, BEFORE you contact them or before you authorize them to contact you;
- Ambulance chasing*;
- Using wrecker drivers, chiropractors and others to have you sign a contract with the attorney
*What is an ambulance chaser? An ambulance chaser refers to an attorney or other person who “chases” after potential clients who have just gotten into an accident that may need legal representation and try to get their business during a stressful, disorienting time. This is typically done by unethical attorneys and is illegal in the state of Texas.
Should you hire an attorney for barratry in Texas?
Let’s say you were approached illegally by an attorney after an accident and decided to hire them for your case. If you realize you were solicited illegally after the case is over, you may be able to file a claim to get your fees back. If the case is still ongoing, you may be able to terminate the contract and not have to pay the lawyer a penny.
Now, let’s say you were approached illegally but did not hire the attorney. You can still sue the lawyers for up to $10,000 for each illegal solicitation.
If you decide to file a barratry lawsuit in Texas, it is best to hire an experienced attorney who can build a proper case and protect your rights. At Sears Crawford, we sue lawyers who do wrong by their clients all over the state of Texas. We have the tools and expertise to hold lawyers accountable.
Looking to Sue a Lawyer for Barratry in Texas? Call a Sears Crawford Attorney to Represent You.
If you’re looking to file a barratry lawsuit in Texas, don’t let just anyone represent you. The legal team at Sears Crawford has over 60 years of experience handling successful legal malpractice cases, and they will fight for the justice you deserve.
To schedule a free initial consultation, contact us online or call at 713-223-3333 today.
More Helpful Articles by Sears Crawford:
- 5 Things You Need to Know About Suing a Lawyer for Malpractice
- What is Considered Malpractice for an Attorney?
- Breach of Fiduciary Duty Examples