Lawyer's Liability in Auto Insurance Fraud?

Here in massachusetts, the law enforcement is FINALLY doing something about massive auto insurance claims fraud…our insurance premiums are among the highest in the nation. Lawrence MA (a run-down old mill town) has been the epicenter of this activity…at one time the town boasted 35 chiropractic offices and over 70 law offices. Lawyers would employ “runners” to solicit new cases among recent car accident particpants.
Last week, 3 layers, 6 chiropractors, and a dozen others were indicted on autoinsurance claims fraud.
Anyway, my question is this: suppose you are a lawyer, representing a client who claims to have been injured in an auto accident. he (the client) tells you that his car was struck from behind, and that he is now in such pain that he is unable to work. Hence, you file a lawsuit on his behalf.
Now, you do not knopw anything to the contrary…yet you find later that this man has been “injured” in 12 previous accidents, remarkably similar to this one.
Since you depend on the client’s word, are youin any way liable if the client is found later to be lying?
Wha exactly is your obligation (as far as representing the client)?

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. I am not anyone’s lawyer (just my corp). This should not be construed to be a legal opinion of any weight, etc.

Hmmm…it’s been a while since my ethics class, so I’ll say this: It depends largely on where the case is at. I’m not a trial lawyer, but I would think that there is still time to recuse oneself from the case. There will be different nuances if this is a criminal case, but from your fact pattern, it suggests a civil action.

When exactly does the lawyer find out the client is lying, or is it merely a suspicion? I believe the Model Code of Professional Responsibility (the model code is a body of rules drafted and adopted by the ABA) does not make it a responsibility for the lawyer to discover the truth about the client, rather, the lawyer presents the client’s argument in the most favorable light.

If the lawyer does find the client to be lying, and it’s before trial, I don’t believe the lawyer can recuse himself, particularly if it is a criminal trial. He should counsel the client not to lie. I remember instances where the client suggests to lie, but it was not enough for the lawyer to recuse himself. Sorry no cites.

On the other hand, if the lawyer discovers the client to be lying while trial is in progress, the lawyer must recuse himself. This of course leads to a whole lot of other questions, like what is the client supposed to do; doesn’t it make the client look bad; isn’t this a violation of the client’s sixth amendment rights, etc.? (The answer is no).

Sorry, this is all off the top of my head, so it’s kind of a sloppy answer. Let me leave you with this anecdote:

I do remember my first year as a clerk during one summer of law school, I was clerking for a defense attorney, because I thought I wanted to be a hot shot criminal lawyer (oh so not the case now). I remember my partner telling me that it wasn’t our job to find the truth, and the client will usually confess to doing it anyway. We did happen to run into a rather convincing client who told us a very compelling story. When we went with our private investigator to check on an alibi and everything looked good. Then, I opened my big mouth and remarked on a portion of our client’s story to our witness who then told us exactly the opposite of what happened. From there, we pieced together what really happened and exposed the lie of our client. Needless to say, the case was coming to trial in three days and we had no defense. Long story short, we were able to piece something together and avoid the death penalty for our client.

Ask a simple question: you have taken on a client who claims to have been injured in a car accident. You find out that the man has filed 15 previous claims of this type. You also ask the man "Jose, WERE you REALLY rear-ended by Jesus at the intersection on June 12, as you claim in the police report? Jose answers :“Si”
You also find out that the “chiropractor” who treated Jose has a record of treating hundreds of “accident” victims.
Are YOU committting fraud if you continue to represent this man?

I my experience as a claims adjuster when attorneys are confronted evidence of their client’s repeated claims; the suit is dismissed or settled at a severely discounted rate. Usually it’s dismissed. If not I involve our Special Investigative Unit (former FBI, military intelligence or police detectives) who pursues the claimant and possibly the attorney under a fraud investigation registered in the state of the offence. Most attorneys don’t want to be thought of as handling fraudulent cases. Then of course there are those who set out to do just that. Unfortunately is seems the legal profession is very bad about policing its members.