The Texas Legislature recently approved a new barratry fine when it passed Texas Senate Bill 1761F which added Texas Government Code Section 82.0651 to provide that any accident victim who is solicited by a lawyer or his investigator is entitled to receive a $10,000 penalty in addition to actual damages and attorneys’ fees necessary to collect the $10,000 penalty even though the victim declined the solicited employment. Section 82.0651 went into effect on September 1, 2011. The changes to the law are designed to curb a growing problem with barratry, which is also commonly known as ambulance chasing, case running, and illegal solicitation by lawyers or their so-called investigators.
Texas Penal Code Section 38.12 makes it a crime for any person for economic gain(payment) to solicit legal employment , either in person or by telephone, for himself or for another. Texas Government Code Section 82.0651 provides that a person who is solicited by conduct which violates Penal Code Section 38.12 or the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of Texas is entitled to receive the ten thousand dollar penalty. For those accident victims who are persuaded by illegal solicitation to hire a lawyer Section 82.0561 that the victims may recover all attorneys fees and expenses paid under the contract, actual damages paid under the contract, and attorneys fee necessary to enforce these rights.
It should be emphasized that the legitimate recommendation of an ethical attorney by friends, family, former clients, etc. is encouraged and is not in any way intended to be discouraged by the changes to the barratry laws. It is the conduct of the lawyer in soliciting employment or paying others to solicit employment that gives rise to the penalties.
Victims who are illegally solicited should preserve evidence of the illegal solicitation such as the phone number used, name of the solicitor, documents, lawyer’s name and witness information and contact the authorities.