The Balearic College of Lawyers has opened an investigation to determine the existence of an alleged illicit network of ‘ambulance chasers,’ lawyers who try to contact traffic accident victims through medical staff and the police. The practice of capturing clients in hospitals -all accident victims -- in exchange for excessive fees based on the promise of high compensation, hit the headlines recently in Barcelona, Valencia and Murcia, although it is not unknown in the Balearics. Joan Font, the dean of the Balearic College, will have talks next week with high ranking representatives of the police, Guardia Civil, doctors, and public and private hospitals. The aim is to find the extent of this “illegal practice,” inform lawyers and even expel them from the college if they continue to use these methods. This is the first time that the College of Lawyers has tried to tackle a situation considered “not very ethical” by some lawyers. The method consists of capturing clients from among patients in traumatology wards in public or private hospitals, especially if they have had an accident, to claim compensation quickly. This practice is considered “usual” by some lawyers and an investigation has been opened in the College of Lawyers of Barcelona into a case detected after an internal investigation by the Catalan health department. The irregularities were found in Catalan hospitals where staff, ward orderlies or nursing staff, acted as a bridge between lawyer and patients. The hospital workers, who were later paid by the lawyers, would tell accident victims of the possibility of taking legal action and gaining compensation, which is banned by the lawyers' code of practice. Font hopes to obtain more information from his meetings which will then be presented to the board of the College. At the moment he only has partial information on this practice, which, while not criminal, goes against statutory norms and code of practice. A spokesman for the College said that it is not a widespread practice in the Balearics, although he admitted that there had been a few cases of lawyers who “abused” the situation of victims or relatives. Font, who took office last December, replacing Lorenzo Ros, has taken it as a challenge to end this practice by fines, suspension or even expulsion of the office if repeated. It is one of his chief aims, as, he says, “a few“ cannot be allowed to damage the image of an entire collective. This was expressed in his campaign during the elections in the College of Lawyers. He also plans to set up a human rights committee to denounce violations of human rights by functionaries and authorities, and the administration in general, particularly in the cases of people without papers, crime victims and people on the fringes of society.

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