Ft. Lauderdale-based 411-PAIN is once again among the topic of controversy
surrounding Florida-based, for-profit lawyer referral services. State
Farm recently initiated a suit against 1-800-ASK-GARY with allegations
of fraud and deceptive practices. The suit is once again bringing scrutiny
upon lawyer referral services as a whole in the state of Florida.
411-PAIN, a competitor of 1-800-ASK-GARY, has already been forced to make
changes after undergoing a Florida Attorney General investigation for
misleading advertising and representation. This article may give you a
better understanding of the underlying issues of the current
State Farm v. ASK-GARY case and its eventual outcome, along with long-standing public criticisms
of for-profit lawyer referral services in Florida.
411-PAIN – Consumer Complaints and Scrutiny
The Florida Bar states that the purpose of its lawyer referral service
is to make it easier for the general public to find proper legal representation.
Both national and local resources are provided to callers who contact
the Florida Bar Lawyer Referral service. However, the Florida Bar does
not have legal jurisdiction over non-attorney organizations; it only governs
those registered with the Florida Bar to practice law in Florida.
In 2010 a consumer class-action lawsuit claiming fraudulent misrepresentations
was filed against 411-PAIN because the company’s television commercials
incorporated actors posing as police offers enticing viewers, “After
911, call 411! Let them explain to you the $10,000 of injury and lost
wage benefits you may be entitled to.”
Unwitting viewers often called following insinuations of $10,000 settlements.
The ads never explained that this is a limited benefit which is quickly
consumed by medical clinics and attorneys, alleged to be affiliated with
the 411-PAIN network.
This is exactly what happened in the twenty-one cases of complaints reported
to the Florida AG from 2008 to 2011. One of the cases involved Jazzmill
Rodriguez of Deltona who was in a car accident in the summer of 2011.
Rodriguez called the referral line assuming she would be provided with
a list of personal injury attorneys near Deltona. Instead, she was simply
assigned an attorney and sent directly to Florida Injury, a pain clinic,
where a paralegal, not an attorney, met her. The paralegal and clinic
staff advised Rodriguez to return for daily treatments for the next ten days.
“Florida Injury exhausted her $10,000 of personal injury protection
(PIP) in just over two months. PIP is required in every auto insurance
policy in Florida. By the time her coverage was exhausted, the law firm
that 411-Pain referred her to told Rodriguez she had no case – The
other driver had no bodily injury coverage that she could sue for.”
PIP is a limited benefit in the state of Florida, and Rodriguez was left
in the cold, with no real avenue for medical follow-up. Rodriguez complained,
“They waited until I racked up almost $15,000 in chiropractor treatment.”
Nobody explained the process to Rodriguez until it was too late.
Florida AG Investigation
Numerous scenarios similar to Rodriguez’ occurred enough times to
prompt a state attorney investigation. By mid-2012, the AG’s office
determined that 411-PAIN “must change its advertising practices
and contribute $550,000 to charity” as part of a settlement agreement
over alleged misrepresentation. Critics feel the ruling was a mere “slap
on the wrist,” and that these pain clinics exhaust PIP benefits
deliberately and inefficiently.
Important things to Know about Reputable Attorneys and Ethics
A reputable, trustworthy lawyer will:
- Always meet with you, in person, at his/her office. In cases of severe
injury, a lawyer may come to your home if necessary.
- Never send you directly to a medical clinic prior to meeting with you and
discussing your case.
- Never meet you at a medical clinic or similar location for an initial consultation.
- Never dictate a medical treatment plan. He/she should objectively advise
you of any filing timelines that could affect your case.
- Never take on clients who don’t truly require representation or advise
clients to pursue costly medical treatment if he/she feels there is no
valid case for a claim.
If your lawyer referral service fails to follow these guidelines in any
way, it may be time to pursue other options. Don’t underestimate
your own self-efficacy in selecting an attorney using the resources you
have available to you.
Click Orlando – State leaders probing accident referral services
like 411 Pain –http://www.clickorlando.com/news/State-leaders-probing-accident-referral-services-like-411-Pain/-/1637132/8776776/-/k2sryn/-/index.html
Miami NewTimes News – Crash Course: 411-PAIN network will line their
pockets with your insurance money –
Orlando Sentinel – 411-PAIN ordered to change ads, contribute to
charity as part of settlement –