THE General Legal Council (GLC) is warning members of the profession found guilty of 'ambulance chasing' that they could face fines, suspension or be struck off the roll of attorneys.
Ambulance chasing has become the norm in some societies as lawyers compete for victims of accidents or medical malpractice and offer legal services to pursue financial settlements on their behalf.
The GLC, the watchdog of the country's legal profession, told The Sunday Gleaner that it has received complaints from members of the public who say they have been targeted by these lawyers.
The GLC warned that lawyers adjudged to be guilty of this unlawful practice could be at the receiving end of disciplinary action.
"The GLC has received reports of incidents such as you have described, and is encouraging affected persons to file formal complaints so that the reports can be investigated and disciplinary action taken, if appropriate," said Michael Hylton, chairman of the GLC.
Hylton warned that, "If proven, these actions would probably amount to breaches of the rules that govern the legal profession".
"Canon II(b) of the Legal Profession (Canons of Professional Ethics) Rules provides that an attorney shall not permit any act or thing which is likely or is intended to attract business unfairly or can reasonably be regarded as touting … ," Hylton pointed out.
Efforts to get a comment from the Jamaican Bar Association were unsuccessful, but Sunday Gleaner sources say some lawyers, like some undertakers, are flocking to hospitals in a bid to bag potential clients.
The sources say the lawyers are given persons' personal information from hospital insiders and from members of the police force who work at the stations where the automobile accidents are reported.
The sources further claim that some police personnel are handing out the business cards of lawyers to crash victims when they go to the stations to report the incidents.
John Smithsontold The Sunday Gleaner that he was involved in a car crash just before Easter this year.
According to Smithson, the matter was reported to the Ferry Police Station and he and a colleague, who was also travelling in the vehicle, were taken to the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) for treatment.
Three days later, Smithson received a call on his mobile phone from a lawyer who questioned if he had sustained injuries and if he was interested in pursuing legal action.
"I told them I was not interested and that was the end of the call," he added.
But the call left Smithson perturbed as he questioned how his personal information reached this ambulance-chasing attorney.
"My privacy was breached and something should be done about it," said Smithson, who is convinced that the leak happened at the hospital and not the police station.
But Godfrey Boyd, CEO of the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), said the leak does not have to be an inside job, because lawyers hang around the hospital grounds and seek potential clients.
"Lawyers are on the property, and they find a way to get the information. It doesn't have to be an inside job. You have lawyers that visit the campus just as you have undertakers that visit," said Boyd.
He told The Sunday Gleaner that a member of his staff received a similar call from a lawyer offering legal representation.
Name changed to protect identity.
Any person who has had this or a similar experience should file a formal complaint with the GLC by visiting its offices at 78 Harbour Street in Kingston, or contact the secretary of the council at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 922-2319.