West Virginia Lawyers Dump $1.5 Million Into TV Ads
New report shines a light on the nearly 40,000 local ads from 2019’s third quarter; $71 million spent on national ads
JANUARY 28, 2020 (WASHINGTON) – West Virginia television viewers saw approximately 38,200 local legal services advertisements in the third quarter of 2019 (July-September). The lawyers, their firms and others who purchased these local legal services ads spent $1.5 million during the three-month span.
In addition to the local ads, West Virginia viewers also were exposed to $71 million worth of national legal services ads. These 45,000 ads were shown on national broadcasts as well as cable networks, as opposed to just airing locally. Approximately 60% of those ads solicited claims related to alleged injuries caused by pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices and agricultural products.
Television viewers were exposed to 13 days’ worth of local trial lawyer advertisements in the three-month span. That’s more vacation time than the average American gets each year. To see every ad that aired, you would have to spend all of your vacation time, plus your first two weekends of the year watching lawyer’s TV ads.
To further put into perspective how frequently local legal services ads run on Charleston televisions, when compared with ads for furniture stores, they run seven times as often. In Clarksburg, when compared with ads for home centers and hardware stores, legal services ads run six times as often.
The new report from the American Tort Reform Association comes as ads are gaining new attention from federal regulators. The Federal Trade Commission sent letters to various law firms and others, flagging their ads soliciting clients for personal injury lawsuits against drug manufacturers as potentially “unlawful.”
A Public Opinion Strategies survey found that three-quarters of Americans saw ads by law firms about pharmaceutical lawsuits in 2016. Further, the survey states that one-in-four people who saw one of these ads concerning a medicine they take, say they would immediately stop taking the medicine without consulting their doctor.
“Misleading advertisements drum up fear in an attempt to gain clients, but there are serious repercussions and in the worst scenarios, the cost can be human life,” Tiger Joyce, President of the American Tort Reform Association said.
A recent FDA study shows the real-life consequences of these ads. The report found 66 reports of adverse events following patients discontinuing their blood thinner medication (Pradaxa, Xarelto, Eliquis or Savaysa) after viewing a lawyer advertisement.
The median patient age was 70 and 98% stopped medication use without consulting with their doctor. Thirty-three patients experienced a stroke, 24 experienced another serious injury, and seven people died.
Dr. Ilana Kutinsky, doctor for one of the deceased, stated before Congress: “Patients are dying because they are afraid to take the medications prescribed for them due to the fear brought on by these negative and one-sided campaigns.”
“Viewers are inundated with the fill-in-the-blank ‘If you or a loved one’-type ads, and this report highlights the need for legislation to protect the public from false and misleading advertisements,” Joyce said.
As West Virginia’s 2020 legislative session begins, we expect to see bills addressing the problematic advertising practice.
During their 2019 legislative sessions, both Texas and Tennessee passed bills addressing the deceptive nature of many of these ads. Texas’s bill created parameters to ensure that consumers are aware these are paid advertisements by lawyers –not government-sanctioned announcements. Tennessee’s bill disallows use of government agency logos, the word “recall” if a product hasn’t been recalled and requires disclosure that the ads are paid advertisements for lawyers.
Long included in ATRA’s “Judicial Hellholes” report, West Virginia now is on the report’s “Watch List.”
“Taking action on deceptive legal advertisements would be another step forward for West Virginia to continue the improvements we’ve seen over past years,” Joyce said.
View the full report on legal services advertising in West Virginia at ATRA.org.