The U.S. attorney's office has joined in warning lawyers that they will be fined if they violate federal laws barring unsolicited communications with family members of Flight 5191 crash victims.
"We are also concerned that victims' families may be subjected in this time of grief to unsolicited, and thus improper, communications concerning the accident by attorneys and law firms seeking to obtain clients for subsequent litigation," said U.S. Attorney Amul R. Thapar.
The U.S. attorney's warning follows a similar one issued earlier this week by Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo and after attorneys' ads provoked consternation and criticism Wednesday.
Steve Downey, president of the Kentucky Academy of Trial Attorneys, said the problem was caused by "a few out-of-state attorneys whose untimely advertisements in the Lexington Herald-Leader exhibited insensitivity" to those who lost loved ones in the crash, which killed 49.
Kentucky trial attorneys "expressed shock and sadness over the tasteless actions of these out-of-state law firms," Downey said.
Three newspaper ads were pulled from the Herald-Leader yesterday after advertisements published Wednesday failed to follow state advertising rules for lawyers.
The Kentucky Bar Association determined the ads didn't meet its rules that require lawyer ads be submitted at time of publication for review. One of the ads also violated rules by mentioning expertise in a special area of law, and another appeared to be a message to family members. Attorneys can receive private reprimands or license suspensions.
Until 45 days after a plane crash, federal law prohibits attorneys from contacting victims' families about possible personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. A $1,000 fine can be imposed for each violation.monitoring the lawyers
U.S. attorney warns against contacting families
Family members who feel they've been wrongfully contacted by an attorney can contact the National Transportation Safety Board office of Transportation Disaster Assistance at (202) 314-6185.