Can I Take Money From Someone to Hire a Lawyer?

Someone offered me money to see a lawyer and doctor after my accident. What’s up with that? Is that legit?

Is Taking Money to See a Personal Injury Lawyer or Doctor Legal?

No. Taking money to see a personal injury lawyer or doctor is illegal. You can be implicated in insurance fraud, ruin your case, and even be assaulted by the runner who paid you (we’ll go into details on that below).

Runners will pay you cash because they’re not foolish enough to leave a paper trail with a check.

Everyone involved with runners violates the law, including the runner, personal injury lawyer, doctor, and the person taking the money (you). Lawyers and doctors are periodically arrested.

What Is a Runner?

A person who offers to give you money to see a lawyer and a doctor is called a runner.

Runners illegally approach people at accident scenes or roam the halls in hospitals looking for injured people to refer them to a particular lawyer and a doctor or medical clinic. Both the lawyer and the doctor pay the runner.

A runner may try to send you to a lawyer and a doctor without offering you money, but if the runner senses any reluctance from you, the runner will offer you money. Keep reading to find out how much money a runner will pay you.

Runners aren’t the only ones who illegally get paid to send accident victims to lawyers and doctors. See how EMTs in the ambulance crew and people working in the hospital ER may also illegally refer you to doctors and lawyers.

What Is an Ambulance Chaser?

Ambulance chasers are personal injury lawyers and doctors who illegally pay money to a runner to get clients and patients.

Some people refer to personal injury lawyers as ambulance chasers, but only a very few personal injury lawyers illegally pay runners to get cases.

Many people are unaware, but there are a few doctors who are also ambulance chasers and illegally pay runners to get patients injured in accidents.

An ambulance at an accident with a pedestrian hit by car in Nassau County, Long Island, NY

This ambulance didn’t have any ambulance chasers but some in NYC have several!

Reasons You Shouldn’t Take Money to See a Lawyer or a Doctor

You don’t want to be forced into being treated by a doctor willing to pay to get you as a patient, and you don’t want to be forced into being represented by a lawyer willing to pay to get you as a client.

It’s far more important to get good medical treatment and a good personal injury lawyer.

You May Get Unnecessary Surgery

Accident victims who are paid by a runner are referred to a medical clinic, where they often receive unnecessary surgery by an unscrupulous doctor. The doctor wants to make a lot of money for performing surgery on you that you don’t need.

New York No-Fault will either pay the doctor if you had a car accident or if you had another type of accident, the doctor will put a large lien against your personal injury settlement money.

Insurance Companies Know Which Lawyers and Doctors Are Ambulance Chasers

Insurance companies know who these lawyers and doctors are. If you are represented by a lawyer known to the insurance company, you will not get a good settlement.

Taking money from a runner may result in your lawyer settling your case for pennies on the dollar or completely ruining your case.

If you are treated by a doctor known to the insurance company, the insurance company will try to deny many of your medical bills.

If Your Doctor or Lawyer Is Arrested, Your Case Will Become Worthless

If your doctor is arrested, the insurance company will suspect your medical records are fraudulent and won’t settle your case. Your doctor will not be able to testify on your behalf at a trial if the insurance company won’t settle.

If your lawyer is arrested, the insurance company will suspect every case the lawyer had, and the insurance company will never settle your case. You will need a new lawyer, and you may not be able to find a new lawyer willing to take over your case.

Don’t Take Money to Change Your Lawyer

If you take money from someone who asks you to change your lawyer and see the accident lawyer they recommend, your case may be delayed for years and ruined.

After you realize you made a mistake, it will be difficult to find another new lawyer willing to take your case, and even if you do, your current lawyer will likely not back down easily and further delay your case.

A personal injury law firm filed a lawsuit against two competitor injury law firms, claiming they used runners at pain management medical clinics to convince accident clients to switch attorneys by offering Uber rides to the new lawyer’s office from a doctor’s office and cash money.

In a lawsuit against their law firm, lawyers Gonzalez and Levenson claimed that Steinger, Iscoe & Greene had a “no surgery, no case” policy, used nonlawyers to do work that is only allowed to be done by lawyers, and illegally paid money to runners to get cases. This is not the kind of law firm you want for your injury case.

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Runners Are Dangerous

The people offering to pay you are dangerous scammers called “runners.” They are violating the law and can go to jail, so they won’t hesitate to be violent.

We have known accident victims who took money from a runner and were later violently assaulted by the runner when the lawyer dropped the case, and the runner wanted the money back.

Why Is Someone Offering to Pay Me When I Had an Accident?

Runners will offer you money because they get paid a lot of money by both an ambulance-chasing lawyer and an ambulance-chasing doctor.

Runners will offer you money after an accident only if you use their personal injury lawyer and are treated by their doctor.

The runner may send you directly to a lawyer who will send you to a doctor, but runners will often send you to a medical office first, where you will be given a retainer from a personal injury lawyer to sign.

Find out how you can ruin your case if you go to a medical office recommended by a runner or a medical office that calls you after you go to the emergency room.

How Much Will I Be Paid When I Have an Accident?

A runner will usually pay you up to $1,500 cash. The runner will then get $1,500 from the lawyer and $1,500 from the doctor. The runner will pocket $1,500 or even more if they pay you less.

But you could have to pay the money out of your pocket later if the lawyer drops your case and the runner demands his money back!

Why Are Personal Injury Lawyers and Doctors Paying for My Case?

Lawyers who pay for accident cases are willing to risk getting caught for doing so illegally because the legal fee of 1/3 of your settlement is a lot of money. If your case is settled for $450,000, your personal injury lawyer will earn $150,000. That kind of money sometimes makes people do illegal things.

Doctors who pay runners to steer patients to their offices do so for the same reason. They can fraudulently bill no-fault insurance, another insurance company, or Medicare for tens of thousands of dollars. These doctors may even get paid by MRI facilities.

If there is no insurance to pay the doctor, the doctor will place a lien on your personal injury settlement for a lot of money.

Will I Get a Good Lawyer?

It’s impossible to know if the accident lawyer will be a good lawyer because we don’t know which lawyer the runner works with.

We can say that an accident attorney willing to do something illegal, risk his or her lawyer’s license, and go to prison is likely to be desperate and probably not a good lawyer.

We know that it’s not a lawyer you can trust, either to settle your case for what it’s worth or that the lawyer won’t send you for unnecessary surgery that could ruin your life.

A personal injury lawyer, George Constantine, was convicted of fraud against insurance companies in a scheme set up by a doctor involving several lawyers and doctors. The lawyer sent his clients to orthopedic surgeons for unnecessary surgeries. This is another lawyer, convicted in the same scheme, who also sent his clients to orthopedic surgeons for unnecessary surgeries.

That personal injury lawyer was working with a doctor, Peter Kalkanis. I was introduced to Dr. Kalkanis at a Barbara Streisand concert. At the end of the concert, Dr. Kalkanis was locked out of his car, and I let him and his wife sit in my car while he waited for someone. He invited me to dinner and offered to send me 50-100 personal injury cases per month! While I could have made millions of dollars, it sounded very suspicious. He then hinted at how much he wanted. I declined, and I never saw him again. He was later arrested.

What If I Don’t Like the Lawyer I Get?

This can be a big problem. Legally, you can change your personal injury lawyer anytime you want to.

But if you don’t like the personal injury lawyer used by the runner who paid you money and you change to a new personal injury attorney, you may get a visit from the runner who wants his money back. We had a client who was assaulted when she could not pay the money back.

You can also have a problem if the lawyer recommended by the runner decides that he or she doesn’t want to represent you any longer. That happens a lot when you get a lawyer through a runner. The lawyer may drop your case, but the runner will want the money back.

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What Happens If I Don’t Use the Runner’s Lawyer or Doctor?

If you take the money and don’t use the runner’s lawyer or doctor, you can have some big problems, as seen in these examples.

Example 1 — Her case was delayed, and she was assaulted

We represented a client who took money from two different runners just before we received a settlement offer on the case. Before we could settle the case, we received substitution letters from two different personal injury lawyers, both trying to take the case at the same time.

We ended up fighting with the other two lawyers, and the case was delayed. Finally, the other two lawyers gave up, and we settled the case. Approximately one year later, our client called to say that she was assaulted by a runner who demanded that she pay the money back.

Not only was our client’s case delayed preventing her from receiving the money she badly needed, but she was also physically assaulted and feared for her life.

Example 2 — She was probably threatened or assaulted

We received a call from a woman who said she was on a New York City bus that had an accident, but we were not interested in representing her.

Before calling us, she spoke with another lawyer who did not want to represent her. We believe she was sent to that lawyer by a runner because a week after we spoke with her, she called Rob Plevy. The transcript of that call is below, and you can listen to the recording.

We believe she called us by mistake, thinking we were the first lawyer she spoke with. She likely just clicked on our phone number on her cell phone, thinking it was the phone number of the other lawyer.

She was probably threatened by a runner who paid her money. The runner obviously wanted his money back because the personal injury lawyer he was working with did not want the case.

The call was recorded, and you can listen to it here:

This is a transcript of the call:

Rob Plevy: Attorney Rob Plevy, can I help you?
Caller: Yes, is this an attorney?
Rob Plevy: Yes.
Caller: Is this microphone on? I’m trying to record for quality assurance, is your microphone on sir?
Rob Plevy:  I think it might be.
Caller: Oh, no problem. That’s beautiful.
Caller: I’m just calling because we owe you some money.
Rob Plevy: Who’s this?
Caller: I wanted to pay you back. How’s that sound?
Rob Plevy: I don’t know who this is.
Caller: You said you don’t want the money back?
Rob Plevy: I don’t know who this is.
Caller: When you find out, give me a F’kin call back.

Example 3 — Our client could have ruined her $1 million-dollar case, twice!

We represented a woman who had neck surgery when she fell in a warehouse store when she was knocked over by a forklift. The warehouse store which went out of business had a $1 million insurance policy.

Before she had surgery on her neck, she had a car accident in which she damaged a dental implant and injured her breast. While she was still sitting in her car in the intersection at the accident scene, two runners, working for two different accident lawyers, came up to her offering her money. She told them that she had a lawyer and wasn’t interested.

If she had taken the money, she would have been sent straight to their medical clinic, where she would have been treated for neck and back pain which would have ruined her warehouse case.

She was taken to the hospital by ambulance, where her name and phone number were sold to a medical clinic. Again, this could have ruined her case! Read about why you should hang up if you get a call from a medical clinic and how it can ruin your case.

Fortunately, she never did get medical treatment for her neck, and we settled her warehouse case for the entire $1 million insurance policy.

Runners are dangerous criminals!  Signing with them will not only hurt your personal injury case, but if the runner’s accident lawyer ever decides to stop representing you, the runner will want the money back, and you could be assaulted!

Don’t take money from anyone when you have an accident. If you need money, we can get you a settlement cash advance loan which you don’t have to pay back until the end of your case, and you don’t have to pay anything if we don’t get money for you. We can even get you a cash advance loan on your case, which is paid to you monthly on a debit card.

See more answers to FAQs

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Phil Franckel is a well-known personal injury lawyer in New York since 1989. He is a Founding Partner of 1-800-HURT-911, LLP®, the Personal Injury Dream Team™, and a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. He has an Avvo Top 10  Rating, Avvo Client’s Choice Award with all 5-star reviews, Avvo Top Contributor Award, Multi-Million Dollar Trial Lawyers Award, and others. See Mr. Franckel’s bio for areas of expertise.

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Philip L. Franckel, Esq. is one of the HURT911® Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York; He has a 10 Avvo rating; Avvo Client’s Choice with all 5-star reviews; Avvo Top Contributor; and a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.

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