Several months after New Times raised questions about the 1-800-411-PAIN Referral Service, the Florida Bar is taking a closer look at the local company and its competitors.
At its annual convention this summer, the bar held a public hearing on for-profit lawyer referral services. The bar has received written criticism about 411-PAIN, a Broward-based company that solicits clients who have been in car accidents. Last fall, two former clients filed a class-action lawsuit accusing 411-PAIN of false advertising, deceptive trade practices, and a civil conspiracy. The company denied the allegations.
When clients call 411-PAIN, they are sent to chiropractor clinics and also given referrals
to lawyers who handle car accident injury cases. The company's owner is chiropractor Robert Cash Lewin, and the 411-PAIN network includes 36 medical clinics and about 100 attorneys in Florida.
The company is registered with the Florida Bar, and at the bar hearing, a lawyer for 411-PAIN submitted a letter defending his client.
"Although the Florida Supreme Court has allowed private lawyer referral services for more than a quarter century, only recently has The Florida Bar begun to scrutinize their operation," Tim Chinaris wrote.
"Historically, private lawyer referral services operated quietly and attracted little attention from the Bar. In the past few years, however, some services have advertised heavily and started to provide significant competition to established personal injury law firms. Not coincidentally, the Bar has now turned its attention to these services. It is no secret that some lawyers and law firms would like to drive private lawyer referral services out of business because the services attract clients that used to go to those lawyers. The committee should not permit itself to be used as a cover for blatantly anti-competitive regulation action."
But an investigator for the Florida Department of Financial Services, which looks into insurance fraud, expressed skepticism about businesses that offer referrals to both doctors and lawyers -- sometimes all in the same location.
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"Why does a lawyer have an office in a doctor's office, and why is the lawyer signing up clients in a doctor's office, and why is that allowed by the Florida Bar?" Howard Pohl asked at the hearing.