Online shopping was big again this holiday season, and it’s a time when clothing, technology and appliance companies spend giant sums on online advertising, but the most expensive Google search terms in 2015 had nothing to do with the best shopping deals.

Scroll through the list of the most expensive search terms and you’ll find phrases like “Top personal injury lawyers” and “El Paso accident lawyer,” along with other generic accident and medical terms. A recent study conducted by U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) found that some of these terms cost personal injury lawyers nearly $700 every time someone clicks on the ad.

The large cost of these search terms is indicative of a growing trend that should trouble any Texan who values the integrity of our civil justice system. The increasing volume of misleading personal injury lawyer advertising is putting greed ahead of justice. Furthermore, this devious practice can clog our courts with questionable lawsuits, delaying or denying justice for those with legitimate legal claims.

According to the ILR study, personal injury lawyers in the U.S. are projected to spend a total of $892 million in television advertising in 2015 alone, up from $531 million in 2008.[1] The vast sums invested in these largely unregulated ads prove that lining the pockets of personal injury lawyers is paramount to consumer safety and wellbeing.

This growing problem directly impacts Texans, as the recent U.S. Chamber study placed several Texas cities atop the national rankings of personal injury lawyer advertising.

The 68 percent growth in personal injury lawyer advertising on television over the past eight years has been most evident in Houston. Texas’ second-largest media market ranked among the top 10 U.S. television markets for trial lawyer advertising in 2015.[2]

As more Texans rely on the Internet and television for health and medical information, it’s important to distinguish between helpful resources and misleading lawsuit advertising. Many of these advertisements attempt to shape consumers’ decisions, steering them away from qualified doctors and toward questionable lawsuits.

Consumers need to understand the facts and motives behind personal injury lawyer advertising, especially as their prominence grows across all media platforms in Texas.

Personal injury lawyers are acting in their own self-interest, which is often not in the best interest of patients and their families. Texans should guard themselves against personal injury lawyers and their recruiters who make contact not out of concern for people’s well-being but rather to selfishly enlarge their own bank accounts.  It’s nothing more than classic “ambulance chasing.”

Consumers with questions about their medical care and health should ask their doctor, not a personal injury lawyer. Additionally, patients should be wary of any attempt by a personal injury lawyer to steer them to a specific doctor.

Misleading personal injury advertising is a troubling trend that is anti-consumer and can put people’s health at risk. However, there is a way for Texans to avoid the dangerous consequences of this greedy practice.

Don’t let a lawyer be your doctor.

[1]“Trial Lawyer Advertising: Broadcast, Search and Social Strategies,” Institute of Legal Reform, Oct. 2015, Page 2.

[2] “Trial Lawyer Advertising: Broadcast, Search and Social Strategies,” Institute of Legal Reform, Oct. 2015, Exhibit 5, page 8.