June 3, 2019
This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters.
Expand 30-day ban on attorney solicitations, says NJSBA
Following a yearlong examination of the onslaught of attorney solicitations following motor vehicle accidents and violations, the New Jersey State Bar Association offered recommendations to address the issue. In a letter to Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, then-President John E. Keefe Jr. urged a two-prong approach involving legislation and a rules amendment to clarify how and when accident information can be obtained and what can be done once that information is acquired.
“The committee discovered that, with today’s technology, the issue has expanded from a plethora of paper letters sent to victims within days of an accident,” said Keefe. “Mobile phone apps allow text and email messages to be sent, and geotargeted marketing allows pop-up ads to appear on victims’ social media sites as they await treatment in a hospital or doctor’s office.”
For the Court, the ad hoc committee recommended that the Rules of Professional Conduct 7.3(b)(4), which already places a 30-day ban on solicitations following a mass disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy, be expanded to apply to accidents as well. A similar recommendation was made 10 years ago by the Court’s Professional Responsibility Rules Committee, but the proposal was rejected. Given the proliferation of social media and other technological advances since that time, the association urged reconsideration of the issue.
For the Legislature, the association urged support for S-815 (Scutari), with an amendment to shift the ban from 90 days to 30, consistent with the ban on mass disasters in RPC 7.3(b)(4). The amendment would also make it less problematic in cases where tort claim notices would have to be filed.
The legislation would cure the practice of “trolling police blotters” and preying on vulnerable individuals following an accident, said Keefe. “These practices prey on the vulnerable, give the legal profession a bad name and ultimately make it less likely that individuals will eventually seek out the legal assistance they really need.”