Tennessee's attorney general vows to take on any law firms that exploit the Woodmore crash victims

Herbert Slatery speaks about his appointment as attorney general in the Tennessee Supreme Court chamber in Nashville on Sept. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III warned Thursday he will use "the full authority of this office" on any predatory law firms seeking to profit from the Woodmore Elementary School bus tragedy.

"It is sad that some attorneys attempt to exploit the grief of others and put profit above sincere assistance," Slatery said in a public statement. "This deceptive behavior is not representative of our state's legal community and no credible attorney would act this way. Our office will pursue anyone attempting to take advantage of the families in Chattanooga."

Though his office could not confirm whether there's an investigation into any particular firm, Slatery's comments come on the heels of a Times Free Press report that found Woodmore victims were being heavily solicited in the days after the deadly Nov. 21 crash.

Slatery's release said predatory firms often use misleading information, offer incentives such as paying funeral costs in exchange for using their firm, promise millions in civil lawsuit awards, and contact victims within 30 days of a tragedy or accident.

"In some cases, salesmen hired by the law firm will portray themselves as licensed attorneys when they are not," he wrote. "We will use the full authority of this office to shut down this type of activity."

The Times Free Press report also included anecdotes from two women who said they were directed to the same Dallas firm while shopping for funeral caskets in the days after their childrens' deaths.

The Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct says attorneys must wait 30 days before they can contact people about litigation after a serious accident. That doesn't eliminate advertising or word-of-mouth referrals. But violations can result in suspension if the Tennessee Bar Association learns that an attorney is using any means to solicit people before the month is up.

Anyone who receives a suspicious solicitation or would like to file a complaint against an individual or company should contact the Consumer Division of the Attorney General's Office at 615-741-1671, the release states.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeter son@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow on Twitter @zackpeterson918.