A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“In the ballpark” ("In the ball park,” also “In the same ballpark,” “In the right ballpark") (11/21)
“Can someone give me a rough idea of how much a ball park would cost?” (11/20)
“Can someone give me a rough idea of how much a ballpark would cost?” (11/20)
Ballpark Figure (Ball Park Figure; Ball Park Estimate) (11/20)
Ballpark Estimate (Ball Park Estimate; Ball Park Figure) (11/20)
More new entries...

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z


Entry from July 15, 2004
Ambulance Chaser
"Ambulance chaser" is another derogatory term for a lawyer (see also the 1840s term"shyster"). An "ambulance chaser" preys on accident victims to sign them up to represent them -- the image given is that this type of lawyer chases ambulances. The term "ambulance chaser" comes from 1890s New York City.

"Ambulance chaser" was popularized by an article in the New York (NY) Sun on May 30, 1896, after a man was run over by a wagon on Grand Street.

"Ambulance chasing" was printed in the New York (NY) Sun on August 5, 1897.


Wikipedia: Ambulance chasing
Ambulance chasing, sometimes known as barratry, is a professional slur which refers to a lawyer soliciting for clients at a disaster site. The term "ambulance chasing" comes from the stereotype of lawyers that follow ambulances to the emergency room to find clients. The phrase ambulance chaser is also used more loosely as a derogatory term for a personal injury lawyer.

Description
Ambulance chasing is prohibited in the United States. Such conduct violates Rule 7.3 of the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Some bar associations strongly enforce rules against barratry. For example, the State Bar of California dispatches investigators to large-scale disaster scenes to discourage ambulance chasers, and to catch any who attempt to solicit business from disaster victims at the scene.

Wiktionary: ambulance chaser
Noun
ambulance chaser
(plural ambulance chasers)
1. (derogatory) An unethical attorney who solicits business at the scenes of accidents or in hospitals, in exchange for a percentage of the damages that will be recovered in the case.
2. (by extension) An attorney who engages in unethical behavior.
3. (derogatory) An unethical funeral director or person who engages in the unlicensed sale of preneeds or other services to those who do not yet need them in an attempt to increase business.

(Historical Dictionary of American Slang)
ambulance-chaser n
a lawyer or lawyer's agent who obtains clients by inciting accident victims to sue for damages, or through similar unethical practices; pettifogger.
1897 Congressional Record (July 24) 2961, in Dictionary of Americanisms: In New York City, there is a style of lawyers known to the profession as "ambulance-chasers," because they are on hand whenever there is a railway wreck, or a street-car collision, or gasoline explosion with...their offers of professional service.
1934 in Ruhm Detective 104: A cheap, lousy ambulance chaser.
1936 Duncan Over Wall 28: They appointed me a lousy ambulance chaser who was a scrammer.
1953 American Thesaurus of Slang (ed. 2) 504: Ambulance chaser or lawyer...a lawyer who specializes in damage suits for accident victims, hence a second-rate lawyer.
1982 Mamet Verdict (film): He's had four cases in the last three years. He's an ambulance chaser.

Old Fulton New York Post Cards
30 May 1896, New York (NY) Sun, pg. 7, col. 2:
Anybody who doubts the activity of the lawyers known as "ambulance chasers" would be convinced of their alertness after a short experience in one of the accidents that happening every day. Victims of any sort of accident are very promptly deluged with cards and advertisements of such attorneys; but it used to be necessary for the lawyers to wait until the cases were published in the newspapers. Now such delay rarely occurs. The method of acquainting themselves with such matters has been brought down to a science and offers to obtain legal redress reach the victims of misfortune rapidly. One instance of especial promptness happened the other day when a man was run over by a wagon in Grand street. This occurred at half past 8 in the morning and before 10 a lawyer had interviewed him and made arrangements to take his case. Such rapidity is exceptional, but instances little short of it are to be noticed every day. Many of these accidents from driving take place on the crowded streets of the east side and there the news travels quickly to the offices of the lawyers who make a specialty of such practice. They are soon on the spot and the victim is readily traced to his home or the hospital to which he may have been carried. The "ambulance chaser" who waits to learn of an accident from the newspapers is regarded now as a very unenterprising lawyer.

2 June 1896, The Post (Camden, NJ), pg. 2, col. 1:
"AMBULANCE chasers" is the name given to New York lawyers who closely follow up accidents to get damage suits. It is related that a man was run over by a wagon on Grand street the other morning at half-past eight, and at ten o'clock a lawyer had seen him and arranged to bring a suit. Surely, there are no "ambulance chasers" in Camden.

2 June 1896, The Evening Journal (Jersey City, NJ), pg. 4, col. 4:
WORSE THAN SHYSTERING.
Paterson Press.
"Ambulance chasers" is the name given to New York lawyers who follow up accidents closely to get jobs for damage suits. It is related that a man was run over by a wagon on Grand Street, the other morning, at 8:30, and before 10 o'clock a lawyer had seen him and arranged to bring suit. The "ambulance chaser" who wait to learn of a accident from the newspapers is regarded now as "dead slow." Of course we have no Paterson lawyers as enterprising as that.

Chronicling America
12 September 1896, Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, UT), pg. 3, col. 4:
"AMBULANCE CHASERS"
Pettifogging Lawyers Who Hunt Up
Cases in Which They Can Get
Jobs.
Anybody who doubts the activity of the lawyers known as "ambulance chasers" will be convinced of their alertness after a short experience in one of the accidents happening every day. Victims of any sort of accidents are very promptly deluged with cards and advertisements of such attorneys: but it used to be necessary for the lawyers to wait until the cases were published in the newspapers. Now such delay rarely occurs. The method of acquainting themselves with such matters has been brought down to a science, and offers to obtain legal redress reach the victims of the misfortune rapidly. One instance of especial promptness happened the other day, when a man was run over by a wagon in Grand street. This occurred at half past 8 in the morning, and before 10 a lawyer had interviewed him and made arrangements to undertake the case. Such rapidity is rather exceptional, but instances little short of it are to be noticed every day. Many of these accidents from driving take place on the crowded streets of the East Side, and there the news travels quickly to the offices of the lawyers who make a specialty of such practice. They are seen on the spot, and the victim is readily traced to his home or the hospital to which he may have been carried. The "ambulance chaser" who waits to learn of an accident from the newspapers is regarded now as a very unenterprising lawyer. -- New York Sun.

Chronicling America
2 August 1897, New York (NY) Sun, pg. 9, col. 2:
AMBULANCE CHASERS IN ST. LOUIS.
An Occupation the Object of Which Is to Breed Lawsuits.
From the St. Louis Republic
There are about half a dozen men in this city who make a living in rather a peculiar manner. They have come to be known as "ambulance chasers," and one or more of them can be found on the scene of almost every accident.

The occupation of the "ambulance chaser" is rather a new one, although the methods he uses have been used to gain the same ends for years back. The "ambulance chaser" is in the employ of some lawyer who makes a specialty of handling damage suits.

When an accident of any sort happened the "ambulance chaser" is right to the front in the crowd which gathers. He gets the name and address of the person who is injured, or if the victim is so badly injured that he cannot give his name and address the lawyer's agent follows the ambulance to the dispensary, where he usually finds a way to learn what he wishes.

In a few days he calls on the person who was injured and explains to him what a good case he has if he will sue for damages. If the injured person has not sufficient means to prosecute the suit, or shows a disinclination to do so, the "chaser" gets in his fine work and offers to find an attorney who will take the case and carry it through to completion for a percentage of the amount gained as damages. All this at no cost to the plaintiff, for if the suit is lost the lawyer gets no pay. The smooth "chaser" usually succeeds in getting the case on these terms.

5 August 1897, The Sun (New York, NY), pg. 7, col. 3:
"THE SUN reprinted the other day from a St. Louis paper an account of the growth there of that branch of the legal practice known as ambulance chasing," said a New York lawyer. "It may have developed greatly in St. Louis and other towns, but New York's practitioners of that sharp art would give its followers elsewhere cards and spades and beat them."

Urban Dictionary
ambulance chaser
1. A lawyer specialising in personal injury claims usually representing people against local authorities or large companies.
2. Derogative description for a personal injury lawyer who specifically seeks out clients for tripping and slipping cases against big companies. Certainly in the US, this is because the lawyer's fee will be a percentage of the client's damages award - therefore making it profitable to find injured former employees of big companies.
(...)
by Richter September 20, 2003
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWorkers/People • Thursday, July 15, 2004 • Permalink