An auto accident attorney in Arlington, Virginia, whose name I am intentionally omitting because to include it serves no purpose, had his license to practice law revoked for 18 months recently, because of the unbelievably stupid, illegal and unethical things he did in handling a routine auto accident case.
The attorney took on a case involving a woman who was a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident in Washington, DC. The first “problem” the attorney created was that someone went to this woman’s home to attempt to have the woman retain the attorney. She had not called any attorney, so clearly, this was a case involving what is called “runners”, and it is illegal. Attorneys CANNOT solicit accident victims, they must wait to have the potential client call them.
The woman did hire the attorney, not knowing these rules.
The woman soon thereafter called the attorney and explained she was having financial problems, so the attorney lent her money. Again, illegal and unethical. An attorney cannot lend a client money, except for minor fees connected to the case, such as paying for copies of medical records and to obtain a police accident report.
As the case progressed, the woman tried to reach the attorney on numerous occasions. The attorney never returned her calls. Another ethical violation!
During the course of the case, the attorney signed the woman’s name to an authorization (a medical release) allowing him to obtain her medical records. Another violation!
The attorney eventually settled the case without first obtaining the woman’s permission to do so. The woman never even knew the attorney was attempting to make that settlement! When the settlement check arrived from the insurance company, the attorney signed the woman’s name on an insurance “Release” and he then himself notarized it, attesting in the notary clause that the woman “personally appeared” before him. He also signed the woman’s name on the insurance company check and deposited the check into his trust account.
The attorney prepared a Settlement Statement which indicated that he would recover the money he previously loaned to the client from the settlement funds, in addition to his fee.
The woman refused to accept the settlement and hired another lawyer.
The new lawyer correctly filed a Bar Complaint against the first lawyer, and resolved the auto accident case for the woman. The resolution included the first attorney giving the woman $6000.00 from his own money, which represented the difference between the settlement he reached for her and the settlement the second attorney reached (as the insurance company was not bound to pay more, because the first attorney appeared to have had “authority” to settle the woman’s case).
The Virginia State Bar revoked the first lawyer’s license to practice law for 18 months, and this action was confirmed by a 3 judge panel of the Arlington Circuit Court when the lawyer appealed the Bar’s punishment.
Morale of the story: Do I need to provide this?
Please feel free to go to my website and read a few of the articles, where I detail how I handle cases. This Arlington attorney is clearly an abberation.