Ambulance Chaser

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"Slow down or I'll sue!"
"The Lawyer sees that he's losing this case. He sees an ambulance go by and chases after it."
—A defeat quote for the Lawyer enemy, Superhero League of Hoboken

Spill some coffee on your lap? Suspect your morbid obesity is someone else's fault? Want a Frivolous Lawsuit and want it now? The Ambulance Chaser is your man!

This morally unscrupulous lawyer can usually be found representing the plaintiff in trumped-up, junk lawsuits and perpetrating courtroom antics. He will find the right doctors, extract the right testimony, and badger the right witnesses to make sure you're compensated for whatever it was that may or may not have actually been done to you. That, or harass the defendant until he settles just to be rid of this annoying creature.

This trope is usually played for laughs, as the more corrupt the Ambulance Chaser, the more ridiculous his or her cases will be.

The name originates from the cultural perception that lawyers will take on cases regardless of merit for the sake of money. Ergo, when a lawyer sees an ambulance blazing by, he jumps to the conclusion that someone has been injured, and therefore, requires legal representation as he must have been injured by someone.

Often shows up when Sued for Superheroics. For the dramatic, defense attorney version, see Amoral Attorney.

Examples of Ambulance Chaser include:


Film[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Verdict has Paul Newman as an Ambulance Chaser who discovers he cares.
  • In Revenge of the Nerds III, Dudley "Booger" Dawson from the first film is an attorney, and he gets a call from the new-generation Tri-Lambs to help them out of legal trouble. He says he's on his way to meet a client. In fact, he's literally tailgating an ambulance.
  • Deck Shifflet from The Rainmaker qualifies except for one thing: he hasn't managed to pass the bar exam.
  • "Whiplash Willie" Gingrich (Walter Matthau) in Billy Wilder's The Fortune Cookie.
  • Our page image is Roland T. Flakfizer from Brain Donors, who is a literal Ambulance Chaser—his very first appearance in the film features him chasing an ambulance on foot to the scene of an automobile accident, where he immediately begins to yell about the impending lawsuits he plans to file.
  • Joe Adler of the Mike Judge movie Extract is usually thought of as this. Judge apparently based him on a Real Life lawyer.
  • In Interstate 60, the protagonist Neal comes across a town called Morlaw while on the titular road, in which all the residents are lawyers and everybody sues everybody. While in a lawyer's office, Neal sees an ambulance driving by, with a HORDE of other lawyers running after it.
  • In Rat Race, an attorney was nearby when a man got run over by an ambulance and was ready to make this man into a client. Knowing the attorney's reputation, the driver quickly agreed to give the man a ride.
  • The Amoral Attorney in North is introduced in this manner

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Stanley Hastings from the Stanley Hastings series is a self-described ambulance chaser.
  • The werewolf lawyers in Barking by Tom Holt do, in fact, have an instinctive tendency to chase ambulances.
  • Mitchell Stephens of The Sweet Hereafter says he knows he comes across as this, but he doesn't care - his real goal is to make lawsuits so costly for corporations that they'll take the time and spend the money on safety, instead of cutting costs and putting other people at risk.
  • Anna's lawyer in My Sister's Keeper travels with a service dog, despite the fact that (as everyone he meets is constantly noting) he isn't blind. Unwilling to admit that he suffers from epilepsy, his sarcastic responses to that observation are a running gag in the book. One is, "I'm a lawyer. He chases ambulances for me."


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Shameless A pair of them get Frank to sue Yvonne, and when he drops the case he gets a bill for a thousand pounds.
    • The US version has Frank's lawyer who can be found pouring water on stairs leading to train stations. When the water freezes and someone slips on the ice, he is right there to offer his services to sue the city.
  • The attorney from the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Gets Stuck in Traffic".
  • Jackie Chiles, Kramer's attorney from Seinfeld, who was a caricature of Real Life defense attorney Johnnie Cochran.
  • Barry Zuckercorn and, later, Bob Loblaw in Arrested Development.

Loblaw: Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else... noticed?

  • One of these goes after the main character in JAG, and apparently this particular Ambulance Chaser is so good that the lawyer has to get himself a lawyer!
    • The latter point is Truth in Television - lawyers almost never represent themselves. They have more sense. The old saying is that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.
  • The Valeyard from the Doctor Who story arc Trial of a Time Lord story arc appeared to be this at first. He isn't. He's actually much worse.
  • One of the villains in Reaper was one who returned from the dead with leech powers. Bloodsucking attorney indeed.
  • Referenced in Pushing Daisies, when the main characters, a private investigation team, see a cropduster crash into a building. They then go over there and Chuck says that she's asking without any judgement whether this behaviour qualifies as ambulance chasing. Emerson says "if you're asking without any judgement then yes it does."
  • Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad is a clear example, though with a little darker background.
  • An episode of Lois and Clark features one.
  • The Rockford Files episode "The Attractive Nuisance" features one.
  • Claire Sawyer, future lawyer, from Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide works with her fellow middle schoolers and will work up lawsuits on anyone someone asks her to, no matter how ridiculous the case is.
  • Arnold Ripner, a recurring character on Barney Miller.
  • A Night Court episode has Bull's cousin as one of these, who sues Roz after Bull borrows her gun and shoots himself in the foot.
  • "Douglas Wambaugh for the Defense, your Honor"
  • On Dharma and Greg, Greg at one point got his own practice and swore he wouldn't be an ambulance chaser. However, business was very slow and he started to get depressed. Then one night, he heard an ambulance park right outside his building. After pausing to consider, he made his decision:

Greg: It's not chasing if it's parked.

  • Franklin and Bash has the titular characters acting as Lighter and Softer versions in the first episode before they move to a large law firm.
  • An episode of Tales from the Crypt dealt with an unscrupulous lawyer being held in a small town which metes out Disproportionate Retribution through it's court system. The lawyer was going to be given ten lashes for having too many numbers on her license plate. As a Fate Worse Than Death, she winds up replacing the defense attorney... and is going to remain as such until someone from the outside world stumbles into town and replaces her.
  • A character in Brazilian soap opera "Caminho das Índias" was a labor attorney who encouraged his potential clients to fake injuries to sue their employers.


MMORPG[edit | hide]

  • In Toontown Online, one of the cogs are called Ambulance Chasers. Too bad there aren't any real ambulances in the game.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Frequently representing Simpson family until 1998, Lionel Hutz (AKA Miguel Sanchez, AKA Dr. Nguyen Van Phuoc) is an unscrupulous, unqualified failure, and the only lawyer willing to represent Homer in his various trumped-up junk lawsuits (e.g., this exchange from "New Kid On the Block"):

Homer: All you can eat ... Ha!
Hutz: Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film The Neverending Story.
Homer: So, do you think I have a case?
Hutz: I don't use the word "hero" very often, but you ... are the greatest hero ... in American history.

    • In his first appearance, during his meeting with the Simpsons in his office, he hears an ambulance go by and starts to leave, before suppressing the urge and resuming his talk with Homer.
    • In the episode "Bart Gets Hit by a Car", Hutz is said to have literally been chasing the ambulance Bart was taken away in.
  • Stan Freezoid in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, who casually hands out his cards to people who slip on the trail of ice he leaves behind.
  • In Disney's |Hercules, one of the townspeople dismiss Hercules as "just another chariot chaser."
  • In Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, there was an episode featuring a Swedish lawyer named Pjerry Nelson, who was voted as most likely to become an ambulance chaser.
  • There is Joe Addler from Beavis and Butthead, who pretty much embodies this trope, including having ads on TV about lawsuits concerning whiplash damage, and taking on frivolous sexual harrasment cases. In one episode, when asked if he had ever been jailed for contempt of court, he answers that "he belives that was among the charges, yes."
    • There is in fact a lawyer in texas called Jim Adler who has advertisements on television, make of this what you will


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • "Legal" Lee from the video game Saints Row acts like this, and his forte is insurance fraud. And he does, in fact, drive an ambulance.
  • Despite the games actually averting this through the thematics of the cases, at least one witness attempted to insult Phoenix Wright by calling him this. It worked. And the witness went DOOOOWN.
  • In Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Ken Rosenberg is often referred to as being one of these. Not that he doesn't come in handy whenever you get arrested, mind.
  • One U-Drive It mission in SimCity 4 has you driving an accident victim to an unscrupulous lawyer's office instead of straight to the hospital, so they can prepare a lawsuit.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Schlock Mercenary has the partnership collective, a hivemind of lawyer snakes. After a certain story arc, the protagonists are tasked with and paid for "administering punitive damages" against the collective for damage the Collective caused in a revenge plan against Tagon's Toughs. Mainly done by blowing up attorneys and their property. At a point in the comic, Toughs lost their ship and were pretty much broke, so they take on to patrolling coffee shops, ambulance companies and divorce courts.
  • In the anthropomorphic world of Kevin and Kell, the vast majority of lawyers are literally sharks. And they will take "an arm and a leg".
  • In a sequence from Wapsi Square starting more or less here, Bud the indestructible golem girl has a slight accident with the sidewalk. When she discovers that the hunk who comes to her assistance is actually an ambulance-chasing lawyer she decides to give him his comeuppance.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • In real life, in the United States, lawyers ARE NOT ALLOWED to ambulance-chase, in the sense of soliciting business at the scene of an accident or even too-soon thereafter. This is known as "barratry" (one of four legal definitions of the term, actually). State Bars have very strict rules governing how a lawyer can approach potential clients, rules you can be grieved to the Bar for violating. If a lawyer does do something like this, he will not do it in public. Within living memory, lawyers were not even allowed to advertise their services; it was considered just too vulgar for the legal profession. And, of course, there are other rules, violations also grievable, against ambulance-chasing in the sense of stirring up frivolous litigation. (By the way, another sense of "barratry" is persistently inciting others to engage in litigation, OR in quarrels or disputes OUTSIDE the courts.)
  • Anti-violence activist and ex-attorney Jack Thompson is infamous for this sort of behavior (among other things). If there's a controversy about the supposed evil of some video games, he'll be there to take the case (or comment on it). Eventually, the judges in Florida wised up to how much of a mockery he made of the legal process, and stripped him of his license. And there was much rejoicing.
  • Who hasn't been in a car wreck—no matter how minor, but one where the cops show up—and then gotten inundated with emails and phone calls from attorneys offering to help you settle for what you "deserve"?
    • As an attorney I can tell you that in many states this kind of behavior might violate the Bar Association's ethics rules. In-person solicitation of clients known to have a potential claim is generally not allowed (exceptions exist for close friends, family members etc.) If you're actively injured (still in a cast, undergoing treatment, etc.) and you get a call from a lawyer, consider filing a bar complaint.
    • As another attorney I can tell you, the above is true with regard to soliciting clients for personal injury suits; but, if you were charged with any crime or misdemeanor in the accident, it is perfectly all right for the criminal-defense firms, who routinely monitor the daily arrest reports, to flood your mailbox with letters. After all, the criminal defense lawyer's not trying to stir up any case—the case is already there if you have been charged, they're just offering to help you with it.
    • The civil lawyers generally take the reverse approach, advertising loudly on billboards and late-night television for anyone who was recently injured by an accident and/or medical malpractice.
  • All of those No-Win-No-Fee adverts that seem to have sprung up in the past few years. "If you've had an accident in the past that wasn't your fault, call xxxxxxx now!"
  • The UK version is an agency who phones people based on the road accident bureau passing on details of people who have had recent traffic accidents.