Even though a lawsuit watchdog group is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to enact stricter guidelines on personal injury lawyer ads, its director says his effort is not intended to limit free speech.
"People still have a right to sue," said David Knowles, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW). "Personal injury attorneys also have a right to advertise. This is about the aggressive recruiting of people to file suit even though they have not been harmed."
Personal injury law firms Brown & Crouppen of St. Louis and Binder & Binder of New York--frequent television advertisers in the St. Louis metropolitan market--were contacted for comment. By press time, phone calls had not been returned.
A recent report issued by I-LAW shows that three out of four Illinois citizens say personal injury lawyer advertising encourages people to sue even if they have not been injured.
The poll, conducted by Braun Research, surveyed 400 Illinois residents recently. It also discovered that 80 percent of respondents believe frivolous lawsuits increase healthcare costs.
"Some irresponsible personal injury lawyers are trying to cash in by encouraging people to play the lawsuit lottery," Knowles said in a statement.
Knowles said his group is launching a statewide campaign to educate the public about the "harmful effects" of personal injury lawyer advertising on Illinois consumers' healthcare.
Consumers will be asked to sign petitions calling on the FTC for stricter personal injury lawyer advertising.
"We've all seen those personal injury lawyer ads on TV and now on the Internet that say that if we've ever taken a certain kind of drug, we might be able to get some money," he said.
"Those ads often mislead, needlessly scare patients and encourage uninjured people to sue."
Knowles said the poll, which had a five percent margin of error, found that 83 percent of the people surveyed believe that personal injury lawyers who file health care lawsuits are more interested in making money than in helping patients.
And, 82 percent of respondents were concerned that frivolous health care lawsuits will make it harder for them to get affordable health care.
"Aggressive advertising by personal injury lawyers has generated a well-known lawsuit epidemic in Illinois," Knowles said. "And, now that epidemic is creating a healthcare crisis here."