ATRA found that viewers saw approximately 38,200 advertisements for local legal services in the third quarter. In addition, viewers were also exposed to $71 million worth of national legal services ads.
The 45,000 advertisements were shown on national broadcasts and cable networks instead of just airing locally. Approximately 60 percent of those advertisements solicited claims related to alleged injuries caused by pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices and agricultural products.
Also in that three-month span, television viewers were exposed to 13 days' worth of local trial lawyer advertisements if you played every advertisement back-to-back, according to ATRA.
The organization found that advertisements for local legal services ran seven times more frequently than advertisements for furniture stores in the Charleston area, while they ran six times more frequently than home centers and hardware stores in Clarksburg.
The new report from the ATRA comes as ads are gaining new attention from federal regulators, with the Federal Trade Commission sending letters to various law firms and others, flagging their ads soliciting clients for personal injury lawsuits against drug manufacturers as potentially “unlawful.”
ATRA President Tiger Joyce said misleading advertisements drum up fear in an attempt to gain clients, but that there are serious repercussions in the worst scenarios.
A Public Opinion Strategies survey found that three-quarters of Americans saw ads by law firms about pharmaceutical lawsuits in 2016 and 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.
A recent Food and Drug Administration study also shows the real-life consequences of these ads. The report found 66 reports of adverse events following patients discontinuing their blood thinner medication like Pradaxa, Xarelto, Eliquis or Savaysa after viewing a lawyer advertisement.
Of those who stopped using their medication from the advertisements, the median patient age was 70 and 98 percent of the stopped using their medication without consulting with their doctor. Seven people died, while 33 experienced a stroke and 24 experienced other serious injuries.
“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 in a press release.
ATRA said it expects to see bills addressing the advertising practice during West Virginia's 2020 legislative session.
“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.