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The Scoop

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Attorneys barred from immediately contacting accident victims

Statement issued Friday:

The Indiana Supreme Court amended attorney conduct rules to prevent lawyers from contacting accident victims immediately after an accident, which is an already difficult time for victims and their families. Changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct include a provision prohibiting solicitation in personal injury or wrongful death cases within 30 days of an accident or disaster. Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard signed the order amending the Rules of Professional Conduct October 14th at an Indiana State Bar Association (ISBA) event.

The ISBA Special Committee on Lawyer Advertizing Rules made recommendations to the Court regarding potential changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct. At the Court’s request, the Court’s Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure reviewed the proposed amendments, published them for comment and after further deliberations made its report to the Court.

The changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct can be read in entirety at http://courts.in.gov/orders/rule-amendments/2010/prof-conduct-1014.pdf. Briefly, the changes include an amendment to Rule 7.3(b)(3). This provision prohibits attorneys from making in-person, written or electronic solicitations in cases involving personal injury or wrongful death within 30 days of an accident or disaster. The order states, “This restriction is reasonably required by the sensitized state of the potential clients, who may be either injured or grieving over the loss of a family member, and the abuses that experience has shown exist in this type of solicitation.”

The Court also implemented changes to more directly follow the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The rules are reorganized to more closely group together provisions associated with attorney communication in general and provisions specifically dealing with attorney advertising efforts. The Court made the final determination on the rule changes which are effective January 1, 2011.

The Court hopes that these changes will assist citizens in obtaining information necessary to make informed choices regarding legal services. Chief Justice Shepard explained, “Indiana is fortunate the overwhelming majority of attorneys act in a reasonable and honorable manner. These rule changes are designed to ensure that practice continues.”

Attorneys who do not follow the Rules of Professional Conduct can be charged with misconduct. The Indiana Supreme Court has final authority over attorney discipline. To obtain information on an attorney’s status with the Court visit courts.in.gov/citizens. A section titled, “look up an attorney’s status with the bar” allows visitors to learn whether an attorney has been disciplined by the Court.

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