There is a news story floating around today about the NTSB reporting a law firm to the Illinois State Bar for allegedly making inappropriate contact with Chinese victims of Asiana Flight 214. I do not know anything about the specific facts of that case or that firm – or if the NTSB’s allegations have any merit – but the victims of Asiana 214 should bear in mind that that U.S. federal law prohibits any attorney or representative of an attorney from making contact with them sooner than forty-five days following the accident.
Since this crash occurred on July 6, 2013, victims and their families cannot be legally contacted in any fashion before August 20, 2013. Moreover, virtually all state bar rules prohibit direct in-person or telephonic solicitation by attorneys or their agents at any time.
Unfortunately, there are some shysters out there who will ignore the rules and disrespect your rights and your privacy. And sometimes they are sneaky. They may send someone to you or another family member or friend who is pretending to be someone else and by pure coincidence (wink wink) this person happens to know of a law firm that is already handling several of these cases. What luck!
The victims of Asiana 214 should be on guard. There were reports a few years ago following a crash in the Bahamas of a law firm who sent case runners down to pose as Red Cross representatives in order to sign up the victims’ family members.
None of us should tolerate that. If you were aboard Asiana 214 and anyone contacts you about legal representation before August 20, 2013 – report them. Get the firm’s name and call the state bar association for the state in which they practice. The California Bar, Texas Bar or the bar for wherever will pop right up in Google. Do the same if anyone contacts you personally or telephonically – ever. After 45 days, mail contact is legal, but no firm I know of that is qualified to handle these cases ever mails out solicitation letters. So you can throw those in the trash.
If you were aboard Asiana 214 and you are looking for an attorney, take your time and do your homework. Google is a great resource. Find a few firms and check out their credentials. Make sure the attorneys have actual aviation experience and also experience handling these sorts of cases. There are not too many that fit the bill, so you can narrow it down pretty quickly.
Then talk to or preferably meet with the attorneys. Make sure that they are the type of person or people that you can form a good personal relationship with. You will be dealing with them frequently over the coming months and on an issue that is vitally important to you. If you are not going to be comfortable calling them or if you get the sense that you are not going to be one of their highest priorities, move on to the next qualified attorney. You will find the right fit.
And, until you find the attorney of your choice, do not sign anything or enter into any sort of agreements with the airline or any other potential defendant. All of that can wait and you do not want to end up waiving any of your right or claims.