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Get ready for quick calls after wreck

By Andrew Wolfson The Courier-Journal

The next time you're in a car wreck, get ready to be inundated with come-ons from chiropractors, tow truck drivers and legal finance companies, maybe before you even leave the scene.

Ruling for a Louisville chiropractic clinic, a federal judge has struck down Kentucky's anti-solicitation law, which had barred anyone from soliciting an accident victim within 30 days of a wreck.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson said in a June 12 ruling that the law violates commercial free speech rights and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law because it carved out an exception for insurance companies.

Louisville attorney John D. Cox, who represented the Metro Pain Relief Center, said the ruling will benefit consumers by making it more likely for them to find out they are eligible for medical treatment under Kentucky's no-fault insurance law.

He also said it will protect them from being "preyed on" by insurers that may try to persuade them to enter cheap settlements. "It protects them from hearing just one side of the story," Cox said.

But David Klapheke, who represents State Farm, said that if the ruling stands, it will invade the privacy interests of accident victims and keep them from making "clear and informed choices."

He said State Farm may appeal or ask the General Assembly to rewrite the law.

The ruling doesn't apply to lawyers, who are still barred from soliciting clients by mail within 30 days of an accident.

Simpson's 25-page opinion sheds light on the shadowy network of runners and clinics that seek to profit from the minimum $10,000 worth of medical coverage guaranteed under state law to car wreck victims, regardless of whether they caused the accident.

The dispute arose Aug. 31, 2012, when a car driven by Brittany Harris collided with another vehicle at the intersection of 18th and Saint Louis streets, and two of her passengers, Gayle Spence and Nakisha Murray, allegedly were injured.

Arriving on the scene, a representative from "1-866-GET-PAID," a legal financing company, passed out information about its services, according to the opinion.

Spence and Murray later visited the company's offices at 1904 Crums Lane, where they were referred to the clinic, about two miles north on Dixie Highway.

The clinic treated them, then sought payment from State Farm, Harris' insurer. But the insurer refused to pay on the grounds that the clinic had violated the anti-solicitation law, which also prohibits allowing someone else to solicit for you.

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