Chattanooga has voted in favor of redacting personal information when releasing accident reports after a federal lawsuit challenged the effectiveness of an ethics rule that requires attorneys to wait at least 30 days before contacting people who were involved in serious car crashes. Many believed that the original law was not serving its purpose because attorneys were contacting victims of accidents in as little as five days following a car wreck in Chattanooga.
Personal information such as driver’s license numbers, names, and addresses will only be provided to people involved in the accidents, the lawyers of the people involved in the crash, and to insurance companies. Anyone requesting the information has to prove they are entitled to the information. People who request the information for wrongful purposes, such as solicitation, could face misdemeanor charges. Violators could spend a maximum of 11 months and 29 days behind bars.
The lawsuit was filed in September after a woman, who was in a car crash, received a call from a medical company offering to refer her to an out-of-town attorney just a few days after her car accident.
Many people are still confused about what this new law means for them and the benefit they will receive from this new protection.
If you have recently been involved in a car crash in Chattanooga, this new law means that your personal information is safe from anyone looking to profit from your accident. It’s common practice that out-of-town law firms will try to represent you after an accident. Often times, these law firms will get your information from public crash reports or from hospitals.
Victims of the Woodmore bus crash that occurred in Chattanooga last year were hounded by unethical out-of-town lawyers (and some fake lawyers) who kept trying to get the victims to file a wrongful death suit. Many out-of-town attorneys try to contact victims because it means that they can charge higher rates, citing travel expenses or any other extra time that is spent researching the laws of the area the client lives in. Not only does this become more expensive for you, but the attorney may not even be effective when they represent you because they are unaware of how different the local laws might be.
There have also been cases where fake attorneys have tried to cash in on victim’s grief. A mother whose child was killed in the Woodmore school bus crash was told by a local funeral home that she would be referred to an attorney through the funeral home. The mother was forced to sit down with the fake lawyer in the funeral home and sign a fake legal agreement. This trickery was possible because the personal information of the victim was readily available to the public in the form of crash reports.
The redaction of personal information in car crash reports will protect you. You won’t have to worry about unsolicited offers from out-of-town attorneys or from opportunistic professionals looking to capitalize on your stressful situation. It is your right to be protected from unethical business practices that try to pry on you in your time of need.
If you have any questions about Chattanooga’s new redaction laws or questions regarding what to do after a serious car accident, contact Dennis & King today for a free consultation.