Lawyer Warns Accident Victims Not To Fall Victim To Touts In Hospitals

Lawyer Warns Accident Victims Not To Fall Victim To Touts In Hospitals
Lawyer Warns Accident Victims Not To Fall Victim To Touts In Hospitals

Lawyers warn that if you have been injured in an accident, it’s important to be aware that you might be approached in hospital by touts offering legal services. This is increasingly common in South African hospitals and emergency rooms, and even at road accident sites.


Kirstie Haslam, partner at DSC Attorneys says that touts approach people who are confused, suffering and in pain. She stresses that it’s not in your interests to use the services promoted by touts as their behaviour is unethical and untrustworthy.

“At best, touting is a direct and persistent attempt to sell something to, or solicit work from, a person,” she explains. “At worst, it is straightforward fraud, involving illegal gathering of information without the accident victim’s knowledge or consent.”

The most common type of touting occurs in hospitals. It revolves around personal injury claims, especially Road Accident Fund (RAF) claims.

This practice has become so prevalent that it raised the ire of the former Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters. She described touts as vultures and “tsotsis” who were robbing the victims of accidents.

How to recognise touts in hospitals

“Be suspicious about recommendations or referrals you receive, both enroute to the hospital and once in the hospital,” Haslam advises. “Anyone you don’t know who approaches you or your family members to “recommend” an attorney or legal firm is probably a tout.”

For example, she says that you might find that a tow-truck driver, paramedic or even a police officer suggests you make a personal injury claim, and recommends a particular lawyer or legal firm.

Someone waiting alongside you in an emergency room might also do this. In South Africa, chances are that this person has been paid to work as a tout.

Similarly, Haslam says be suspicious if a stranger in a hospital setting approaches you and:

  • recommends you make a personal injury claim;
  • suggests you can get large sums of money as compensation for your injury;
  • offers contact details for a personal injury lawyer or firm;
  • suggests you sign a power of attorney for a law firm.


Unsolicited emails or phone calls

“If you or a family member has recently been in a road accident and you receive an unsolicited offer of legal assistance, it may be because your details were illegally sold to a tout,” she says.

A previous chief marketing officer for the Road Accident Fund, Nozipho Jafta, reported that certain police officers sold road accident reports and even commissioned claimant affidavits for touts.

In one scam that was uncovered, this went even further. Haslam says that corrupt members of the police gleaned sensitive information from accident reports and passed it to third-party agents.

The agents would then visit accident victims in poor communities, and convince them to lodge RAF claims through them. Doctors were even roped in to provide fraudulent medical reports.

The completed claim documents were then sold to unscrupulous lawyers.

Rules against touting in the legal profession

In South Africa, lawyers and their representatives are not allowed to approach potential clients directly for work.

The LPC (Legal Practice Council) has published a code of conduct which includes reference to touting. According to this code of conduct, it’s not legal (or ethical) for attorneys to:

  • approach potential clients face to face to promote their services;
  • employ or incentivise anyone to arrange referrals or introductions of clients;
  • make unsolicited visits or telephone calls, or send emails or letters, to anyone who has an existing attorney/client relationship.

Similar guidelines apply in the health profession. For example, Haslam says that professional guidelines published by the Health Professions Council Of South Africa (HPCSA) note that, “A practitioner shall not canvass or tout or allow canvassing or touting to be done for patients on his or her behalf…”

A rule of thumb to avoid falling victim to touts

“The key rule is to avoid engaging with anyone who approaches you directly, claiming to be a personal injury lawyer or legal agent,” says Haslam.

“Never, ever share information of a personal or medical nature with a stranger who approaches you at the scene of an accident or in a medical environment to offer you legal services.”

Touting is considered unethical – and sometimes it’s illegal. Haslam says that no credible attorney would risk being struck off the roll, and no reputable law firm would break one of the cardinal rules of its own profession.

Instead, if you have a personal injury claim, Haslam says you should contact an established, reputable law firm with a proven track record in personal injury law. “This is the best way to avoid scams and ensure you get only competent legal advice and assistance,” she concludes.

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