Ohio bills seek to stop ‘ambulance chaser’ calls after car wrecks

From The Journal News

After traffic wrecks, Ohio drivers often receive a second jolt shortly afterward: A bombardment of calls from people working to get them to visit chiropractors, auto-body shops and other businesses.

Sometimes the phone calls start ringing motorists’ cell phones in less than one business hour after the crash. One friend of an Ohio Senate aide started receiving calls before police cleared the scene of the accident she was involved in.

Shortly after the calls start, letters and packages start arriving in the mail from lawyers and other businesses seeking to represent the motorists. The mail volume can rival that of a high-school senior being wooed by colleges across the country.

After State Rep. Catherine Ingram was involved in a wreck several months ago, she realized, “It was kind of like, ‘Wait a minute. These guys call you at 7 in the morning, and they’ve got your cell phone number. And that makes no sense. And it’s constant — and it was (calls) from all over the state,” she said.

“Same thing with my aide, who was just in an accident … and he was getting calls, and they were telling him that they were the pain-and-injury folks,” Ingram said.

In the news release announcing a bill to curtail such contacts, she called the callers and their clients “ambulance chasers.”

Ingram (D-Cincinnati) and State Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) have introduced two bills taking different approaches to eliminating such contacts.

Ingram’s House Bill 331 would ban companies from contacting people using information from the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s database that contains information about recent wrecks, including closely held cell phone numbers. It would also require the state’s attorney general to establish a hotline for people to report unwanted contacts. Companies with pre-existing relationships with a driver would be allowed to make contact.

Kunze’s Senate Bill 148 would let people involved in wrecks check a box indicating whether or not they wish to receive the solicitations.

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