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Barratry Reform on the Horizon for Texas?

by Fidel Rodriguez, Jr.

Robert Ramirez Valdez, Sr. was arrested last summer for leading a large kickback scheme involving attorneys in Montgomery and Harris Counties in Texas. He was indicted on 13 charges of barratry - better known as "ambulance chasing." Attorneys would pay Valdez cash to comb incident reports, seek out the named individuals from the reports and then aggressively persuade them to sign legal representation agreements.

What is barratry?

Section 38.12 of the Texas Penal Code prohibits attorneys from approaching someone in person, on the phone, or in a direct written communication with an offer to represent them. Attorneys are also prohibited from offering cash or something else of value to a potential client or another lawyer in order to solicit business from them.

Penalties for barratry

Barratry may subject a lawyer to both criminal and disciplinary charges:

  • Lawyers who institute claims that they are not authorized to pursue, solicit business in person or by telephone, pay someone to solicit business for them, or accepts money or anything of value to solicit employment are committing a third-degree felony.
  • In addition to the criminal offenses, a lawyer found to have committed barratry could lose his or her license to practice law in the State of under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

Changes introduced to the law in 2009

The changes to the Texas Government Code in 2009 broadened the scope for clients to commence civil proceedings against attorneys that commit barratry. The 2009 reforms allow clients to:

  • Cancel any kind of fee agreement procured as a result of barratry
  • Have all attorney and other fees returned to them
  • Actual damages
  • Obtain compensation for legal fees connected with collecting their refunds
  • As of April of 2013, obtain a $10,000 penalty from the violator

No one should harass you into hiring them as your lawyer. The professional and experienced personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Fidel Rodriguez, Jr. advertise their services in accordance with Texas State Bar guidelines and give you time to make your own, informed decision as to who will provide you with the best possible legal service.

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