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Geese in Engines, Vultures on Land?

Passengers on U.S. Air flight 1549 had barely found time to thank their lucky stars yesterday when Carl Malamud, founder of public.resource.org, discovered a legal referral Web site offering legal assistance to those involved in the Hudson plane crash. Malamud posted the link to Twitter, where it spread like viral wildfire, eliciting comments from others on Twitter such as, "Ambulance chasers def got to the Hudson River quickly." The page, from attorney-referral service AttorneyOne, said this:

If you or a loved one are in need of legal assistance concerning Hudson Plane Crash you should get a lawyer on your side immediately. You will pay no attorney fees unless you win your case.

Email up to 10 Hudson Plane Crash law firms in one click; by filling out the simple Free Case Evaluation form.

For additional info on Hudson Plane Crash use the related topic links on the far right.

That was quick, even by the standards of a profession known for its ambulance chasers. As it turned out, however, the site had nothing to do with that Hudson plane crash. As Walter Olson explained at his blog, Overlawyered, a small bit of sleuthing on his part found that the page existed well before yesterday's crash:

Indeed, it was a website prearranged just to be sitting there should a plane crash take place connected with the town of Hudson, Ohio. A bit of URL-tinkering confirms that one can generate a similar AttorneyOne page hawking attorneys’ services for a hypothetical plane crash in Chillicothe, Ohio. So don't compare this sort of thing to online ambulance chasing. It's more like camping out online and waiting for the accident to come to you.

OK, that one turned out to be a false alarm, but lawyers elsewhere are no doubt packing their briefcases at this very moment. If so, they may force a test of New York's new attorney ethics rules governing solicitation, observes Eric Turkewitz at New York Personal Injury Law Blog. The new rules, which prohibit solicitation within 30 days of a mass disaster, came into effect in the wake of the 2003 Staten Island Ferry disaster, he explains, when lawyers raced to place ads in the Staten Island newspaper on the day it happened. Will lawyers respect the 30-day rule? No doubt, we'll find out soon enough.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 16, 2009 at 11:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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