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    In this episode of Settlement Nation we chat with Jim Avery, a plaintiff attorney and the owner of Avery Injury Law in Missouri. Jim is a three-time combat veteran in the United States Marine Corps and Army National Guard, touring both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Jim shares his story about serving in units that performed IED destruction missions and how he thrives under pressure, both in and out of the courtroom. He also covers what it was like to receive a $1 million settlement in his second year practicing law, using techniques he learned from Running with the Bulls, as well as advice he has for other newer attorneys.

     

    Courtney Barber:

    Welcome, everyone, to Settlement Nation. I am Courtney Barber and today, I am joined by my co-host, Chris Bua, as well as Jim Avery, a trial attorney all the way from Missouri. Now, Jim has committed his civilian life to fighting for those injured and is a three-time combat veteran in both the United States Marine Corps and the Missouri Army National Guard, and toured in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Courtney Barber:

    Jim started his law firm after suffering a serious personal injury himself. So, he knows what his own clients go through, and received a $1 million settlement in his second year of practicing. Jim also received a great verdict today in a case where he used the methods he learned in Running with the Bulls, which we're also going to discuss. So, welcome, Jim.

    Jim Avery:

    Thank you. Thanks for having me.

    Chris Bua:

    Thanks for coming on, Jim. So, when we were doing some research on you, one of the things that I really liked was your tagline for your law firm, which was 'Making personal injuries personal'. So, one, have you trademarked that? Two, if not, why not? And then, if you could, maybe just speak to how you live that phrase out in the way that you represent your clients.

    Jim Avery:

    Yeah. So, no, I haven't trademarked it. I guess I'll be doing that as soon as this podcast is over. I guess when I started my firm, I tried to think of something that was personal to me. A personal injury case, most people don't even know how to handle them themselves.

    Jim Avery:

    I think what differentiates me from other law firms in my area is a lot of people are turn and burn law firms. For me, it's personal. When I'm done with my case, I'm usually friends. 99% of the time, I become friends with my clients. I may not know them ahead of time, but by the time it's over... I had a guy call me the other day and I asked him how is his dog and I knew his dog's name. I haven't talked to the guy in a year and a half. So, for me, it is personal.

    Courtney Barber:

    Absolutely. From here, we want to transition a little bit into your military background, because that really stood out for me. We met last year at a Trial by Human event in Santa Barbara. You told me you had been a three-time combat veteran and you did IED destruction. Can you tell everyone, and put in some gory details as well, about what it was like being in the military for so long and working in that line of defense?

    Jim Avery:

    Yeah, sure. So, I'm actually still in the Army National Guard. I'm waiting on my retirement process to occur. So, as you said, I've been in three different wars. When I was in the Marine Corps, I went to Somalia with the Marine Corps. And with the Army National Guard, I went to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Jim Avery:

    In Iraq, I was enlisted. I became an officer maybe two years after my tour in Iraq, so, I was the machine gunner on top of the vehicle. My unit was tasked with destroying IEDs. We were actually one of the first units that drove around Baghdad looking for roadside bombs. It was interesting.

    Jim Avery:

    When we first got there, we didn't have any special equipment. We got the special equipment a few months into our tour, and that equipment is... You can Google it, but one of them is called the Buffalo. It's this huge thing that has a V-shaped hole on the bottom of the vehicle to deter a blast. If you are blasted, it goes out instead of coming up on top of the vehicle. It's got a big mechanical arm. That vehicle was actually in one of the Transformers movies.

    Courtney Barber:

    Wow!

    Jim Avery:

    It was just one of the bad guys. I didn't drive in that vehicle. I rode around on a different vehicle, another up-armored vehicle that was designed for my disposal in South Africa, is where it originally was made for. I was the guy that drove around, sticking out of the vehicle with the 50 cal machine gun on top. That's the really big machine gun that if you got shot by it, it would probably cut you in half. That's how big the rounds are. I was that guy.

    Jim Avery:

    My unit was successful. In that tour we didn't lose anybody. We had a lot of blasts around us and we had a lot of pretty scary times, but luckily, we made it out of there without losing anybody on that tour.

    Jim Avery:

    Now, when I went to Afghanistan, it was a different environment altogether. It's nothing like Iraq. It's a lot more dangerous, in my opinion. These people, they've been fighting wars for centuries there in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, we did lose several people in our tour there. I was an officer, so I was no longer driving around on top of vehicles like something out of Mad Max, but my unit was still tasked with finding IEDs and destroying them. I was just more in the control center for that tour.

    Courtney Barber:

    And what are some of the things, obviously, this is a very pressurized situation. What is it like to work, Jim, under this type of pressure daily?

    Jim Avery:

    It's interesting. So, when I was in Iraq, when we first started out, everybody was afraid to go get the bombs. We originally had to dismount our vehicles, go up to the bomb, maybe dig it up, and then we would destroy it. We would have our own explosives. So, we would do a controlled blast. But halfway through the tour, everybody was fighting over who got to go blow it up, because it was exciting and fun.

    Jim Avery:

    As we got close to the end of our tour, everybody started pointing fingers, telling everybody else it was their turn because we knew that we had made it through alive and we didn't want to have that one event maybe be the one that prevented us from coming home. The pressure though, you don't really realize the pressure you're under until you come home and you have a chance to decompress.

    Jim Avery:

    I went back to work. At the time, I was actually in the Missouri House of Representatives. I was a state representative while I deployed. So, I actually got re-elected when I was in Iraq. When I got back, I went to work literally the next day. So, I got home, the next morning I was at the Capitol. I never really decompressed. So, I don't think I realized it, but I had suffered from some minor PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

    Jim Avery:

    When I got back from Afghanistan, I had more of a chance to decompress. I was a motorcyclist. I used to ride motorcycles and I started having panic attacks on the motorcycle because of PTSD. Something about driving down the highway correlated with my time driving around looking for bombs. That was the end of me being a motorcycle rider. I went home one day after having a panic attack, parked my motorcycle, and that was it for me. I never rode a motorcycle again, but now my PTSD is under control and I don't have the same anxiety that I used to.

    Courtney Barber:

    That's really interesting reflection there on your time. How did it go from, say, coming back, you're working, to then transitioning into law? Then, from the time that you had serving our country, what were some of those maybe tools or things that you learned that helped you in the courtroom now?

    Jim Avery:

    Well, I think I kind of have an attitude about me. I think probably most trial attorneys, I would say we're mostly Type A personalities. So, whenever I have to go, even for a hearing before a judge... I don't know. It's probably the Marine Corps inflated my ego a little bit, I guess. I don't know. My Army friends have given me a nickname, which I can't say because this is somewhat family friendly, but the initials of my army nickname are J.M.F.A. And my first name is Jim and my last name is Avery. You guys can figure out the rest.

    Jim Avery:

    I know this sound strange. I even have it put inside of my suits, that says, "This suit is custom-made for J.M.F.A." But it spells it out. Because when I walk into a courtroom, I want the confidence that I have to know that I've been through all that I've been through. There's nothing that really scares me in life.

    Jim Avery:

    When you are holding a bomb in your hands, that can blow up, going into a courtroom is easy. There's nothing that they can do to me that's going to blow my arm off or take my head off or kill me. So, going into court is not a scary thing for me. Will I always be nervous? Of course, even a hearing because I want it to work out in my favor, but I'm definitely not scared.

    Courtney Barber:

    Actually, just speaking of verdicts and settlements, this is a great segue into the next question that I was going to ask you. We spoke a little bit about some of the success that you've had. A lot of our guests, they are trial attorneys and listeners of trial attorneys, and they love to hear stories from the people that we have on the show; success stories, how you did it, bits and pieces of how you put a case together. You mentioned to me you had your first million dollar settlement in your second year as an attorney, which is amazing because you haven't been an attorney for that long, considering your long military career. Can you tell us a little bit about that whole case?

    Jim Avery:

    Yeah. So, I guess I should start by telling everybody I'm a newer attorney. I'm going on my fourth year. I was lucky that when I became a lawyer, I started working for a great firm in St. Louis called Schultz and Myers. I had a great mentor. His name's Josh Myers. Josh, he was awesome. He turned me on to Nick Rowley and his methods from day one. I was not going to be doing things the old-school way like a lot of older lawyers. Luckily, Josh is on the younger side of being a lawyer. He's younger than me actually. It's nice having a mentor younger than me. He told me to look at as many books and videos from some of the key lawyers. I never did things the, and I'm using air quotes, the 'traditional way'.

    Jim Avery:

    I got my first million dollar settlement with the help of Josh and his leadership. I had a girl that was on an ATV with her uncle and he was drunk and he crashed this ATV and he destroyed this poor little girl's arm. His homeowners paid right away. The other insurance company for the people that actually own the ATV, they denied coverage. We immediately start setting them up for bad faith because they were denying coverage.

    Jim Avery:

    It was only when we got the other party of the defense on the homeowners to hire their own attorney, we got in touch with him. Long story short, he requested the whole claims file and that sent off alarm bells at the insurance company. When that happened, they immediately called us, I mean, the next day and offered to pay the policy limits. They admitted they screwed up.

    Jim Avery:

    Now, we could have maybe gone to trial on that. Well, we could have gone to trial on that and gotten more money, but we also had to consider, do we want to put a 10-year-old little girl through a trial and have to relive and rehash the fact that her arm is so messed up, that she'll wear one of these decorative sleeves that people wear? Some people have tattoo sleeves, the little slip-on things. This poor little girl wears one of these things now every day.

    Jim Avery:

    We spoke with her family and we made the best decision for her, which was to just go ahead and settle the case. Here I was in my second year of being a lawyer and I had already reached a million dollar settlement.

    Courtney Barber:

    Which is something that doesn't happen to everyone. I think, as you said, your job is to fight for the plaintiff and get the best justice for them, which is exactly what you did. You spoke a little bit about Nick Rowley, who his name keeps coming up. So, we hope that he's listening and realizes that we're trying to get him on the show one day and his book Running with the Bulls. You had mentioned that you used some of the methods and tools from Running with the Bulls to get another great settlement. You want to tell everyone a little bit about that?

    Jim Avery:

    Yeah, I do. I'd love to. I'll never forget the day that Josh Myers, my mentor at the time, and we're still friends even though I left and started my own firm, but Josh said, "Hey, you need to buy this book." So, I went online and I looked and I was like, "$165 for a book? Are you kidding me?" I'll never forget Josh said, "Listen, you're going to spend $165. How much are you going to make from that?" And I said, "All right." And he said if I didn't make $165 more on my next case, he'd pay me back.

    Jim Avery:

    So, I bought the book reluctantly. When it came, I opened it. I read it, and at first I was like, "I mean, I know of this guy, but what's going on here?" I didn't set it down. I finished it over the weekend. I went into work. One benefit of being a new lawyer is I don't have old bad habits. One of the downfalls is, though, maybe I'm just too new and too stupid not to know any better, but that's also to me a benefit.

    Jim Avery:

    So, I started firing off demand letters, similar to the ones in the book. They give you examples. I had instant great results to the point where now, and even shortly thereafter when I started posting, "Hey, I got this $300,000 policy limit, half a million dollar policy limit settlement." I have lawyers that have been lawyers for more than 20 years that are calling me now asking me for advice, and my advice to them every time is, "Go read Running with the Bulls."

    Jim Avery:

    I have people that thank me, other lawyers that are way more experienced than me that are thanking me for telling them to read the book. I just hired my first associate. So, I opened my firm in April and I have over 200 clients. So, I thought I need additional help. So, I hired my first associate. She's been a criminal defense attorney for six years. She starts next week. Running with the Bulls is sitting on her chair of her desk. I already bought her the book. I'm not giving her my book because I use it all the time. So, I already got her her own copy.

    Chris Bua:

    That's great. So, earlier, you mentioned the attitude that you have while you're at trial and when you're in a courtroom. Let's reverse a little bit, and let's talk about some of the things that you do to prep for those trials. So, what are some of the things that you think really get you the best results that maybe other attorneys could learn from?

    Jim Avery:

    I have this kid that got bit by a dog. I sent a regular demand first for the policy limits. It's only a $100,000. They tell me that they'll pay $26,000. I send a Nick Rowley... I call it a Nick Rowley demand, which basically spells out to them if they don't pay the limits, I'm going to file a lawsuit. I'm going to get more than the policy limits. They're going to do all these things that they shouldn't be doing to their client, and they should pay me the policy limits. If they don't, this is their one and only chance to pay it. Otherwise, we're moving forward, and we're never ever, ever talking to policy limits again.

    Jim Avery:

    So, their response was, "Hey, congratulations, we're going to pay you $29,000." So, I sent them a thank you letter, and I said, "Thank you, we're no longer talking about the policy. I was clear about that. We're withdrawing our offer and we'll file a lawsuit. Please let your insured know that they expect to be served with a lawsuit."

    Jim Avery:

    So, I filed the lawsuit. They hired outside defense counsel, and their outside defense counsel called me and said that they would be willing to pay the policy limits at that point. So, we're still in litigation, so I can't get into too many more details, but I will say that we turned down their offer to pay the $100,000 policy limits. Through discovery, I found out that not only has that dog not only bitten my client, he's also either nipped at, is the word that they like to use, nipped at or bitten three other people. So, my client was the fourth one.

    Chris Bua:

    Wow!

    Jim Avery:

    One of them was a little girl that lived across the street. In the deposition, the defendants denied that that dog ever attacked her. So, the defendants are either liars or they have a horrible memory.

    Chris Bua:

    Well, if that case does go to trial, we're going to have you back on as a guest and we'll do a quick 10-minute update on an episode.

    Jim Avery:

    Perfect.

    Chris Bua:

    I look forward to that. Also, I know that you do workers' comp work. With COVID affecting so much in 2020, I imagine it's had a pretty significant impact on workers' comp or will have an impact in the future. I want to get your perspective on how maybe it's impacted current cases, and then, what about the impact that might come down in 2021, 2022 from people not being in the workforce as much as they were before?

    Jim Avery:

    That's a good question. So, let me give you a little backstory. So, not only do I do work comp, but I also used to be one of the commissioners for the Division of Workers' Compensation. It was my job immediately before being a lawyer. While I was in law school, I was going to law school part-time, I was appointed by the Governor of Missouri to be on the labor commission. So, I was one of the commissioners.

    Jim Avery:

    We were the highest level of appeal, administrative appeal, on work comp cases. So, a work comp judge would make a decision and if either side appealed, it would come to the commission. I was on a panel of three. I represented business. There was a labor person that represented the employees, and there was an attorney. So, there were two lay people. I was one of the lay people. So, I actually resigned from that position after I passed the bar and got into personal injury law.

    Jim Avery:

    I actually have a case now, and I'm working with another lawyer on it. I have a client who was a paramedic and she contracted some sort of disease during the whole coronavirus, some sort of respiratory disease. It's affected her greatly. Her lung capacity is minimal at best. She was in intensive care for about four months and she almost died several times. The employer, which is a public entity, I can't say which one, but they actually denied the claim.

    Jim Avery:

    I suspect we'll see a lot of COVID-related work comp claims, moving forward. In Missouri, we do have some language for paramedics and firefighters. That's what this will fall under, and for my client, respiratory diseases. But I think in other states you'll see more work comp claims related to COVID.

    Chris Bua:

    So, do you think with unemployment rising though that the impact of claims that are in the pipeline is going to be significant in 2021, 2022, or do you think it's going to not have much of an impact at all?

    Jim Avery:

    I mean, honestly, for me, I don't see much of an impact. I'm still super busy. I get a lot of PI (personal injury) cases. I'm bringing in 10 or 12 cases a month for personal injury. Then, work comp, I think there'll be a little bit of low in comp, but comp takes so long to process through. From the time you file a claim to the time that it's resolved, it's probably two to three years, on average.

    Jim Avery:

    I think it's going to spread out enough that it won't have a huge impact on most firms that do a lot of comp, but the process itself is slowing down a little bit because our courts are closed. Both our work comp courts and our civil courts are closed in St. Louis.

    Courtney Barber:

    Jim, I want to get a little bit personal right now about recent injuries that have impacted you. We're not going to speak about the circumstances surrounding that so much, even though you do have some great shark bite scars now, which... We're going to turn that into you were trying to wrestle a great white in Australia story. But going through this experience, and I know that you've had some limitations due to the injuries that you've had, how has that affected you in terms of how you deal with your own clients now going through similar things?

    Jim Avery:

    I had a pretty major car crash two years ago. In 2018, I had about a 35 mile an hour impact crash that required me to have a surgery. We'll just say that the surgery didn't go as planned. And as a result, things aren't the way that they should be for me.

    Jim Avery:

    As you hinted, I can't say too much because there is going to be pending litigation on that, but I know what results can happen now, some of the complications from surgeries. When I'm telling a client they need to have surgery, that has a whole different meaning than it did prior to my crash. I can tell them first-hand what the risks are. I can show them what some of the downfalls of surgery are.

    Jim Avery:

    I'm probably not as quick now to suggest people go get a cervical spine surgery, for example, because the risks, they're real. I think that benefits me when I go to trial. If I ever have to go to trial on somebody that either did or didn't have a cervical spine surgery or some other type of surgery, I'm just using cervical spine surgery as an example, as Nick always likes to say, I can relate to the jury on this one. I'm not going to be talking like an attorney. I'm going to be talking as somebody that has experienced this first-hand.

    Jim Avery:

    I can get real upfront and personal with the jury and talk to them probably like no other lawyer can, or most lawyers can, because I've lived it. I don't only walk the walk, but I can talk the talk too because I've been there, done that and I have the t-shirt. I can talk about the real risks because I'm living them right now.

    Chris Bua:

    Well, Jim, we thank you so much for coming on. We have reached our last question. And this is a question we ask all of our guests. Since you are a newer attorney, it's actually interesting to hear your answer. What do you know now, or what have you learned along this way over the last four years that you wish you knew in the first year that you were practicing?

    Jim Avery:

    So, I knew you were going to ask me this question because I've listened to your other podcasts, and I've tried to get ahead of this one. I thought, I really was so lucky that I had a mentor that didn't want me to just go try to settle a case for 2x or 3x the policy limits. I learned, luckily, I'm always trying to set the insurance companies up. I just give them enough rope to do it, and they do it all the time, to set themselves up for bad faith.

    Jim Avery:

    I told Courtney in an email I had a case where the insurance company screwed up and I got the client 9x the policy limits. I would never have had that opportunity had it not been for the mentor I had, and the fact that I read Running with the Bulls. I'm not trying to promote Nick's book, but it really gave me the confidence to not be afraid to ask. I've always said this my whole life too, "The question to every answer you never ask is no." So, I'm not scared.

    Jim Avery:

    I guess, what do I wish I would have done five years ago? I wish I would have been a lawyer five years ago. I'd be a lot closer to retirement than I am now. I'd probably have my student loans paid off at this point, but... I went to the Santa Barbara Trial by Human training where I met Courtney and I talked to a bunch of people there that have their own firms and I asked them... One of the reasons I started my own firm, really, is because I talked to enough people there and they were like, "Listen, you've got enough cases. You'll get the experience on your own. Just go do it." So, here I am. I just wish I would have done this five years ago.

    Chris Bua:

    Well, Jim, we really appreciate you coming on. We sincerely thank you for your service to our country in the military. I mean, I come from a military family. I know how much that you guys go through and put in from hearing it from them. So, I really appreciate that. Where can someone reach out to you or how do they contact you if they want to either co-counsel a case or just ask you a question?

    Jim Avery:

    Sure. So, my email address is jim@averyinjurylaw.com. They could also call me. My cell phone number, I don't mind giving it out, is (314) 302-5553.

    Chris Bua:

    Great. Thanks again, Jim, and for all our listeners, thank you for listening. If you haven't subscribed, please hit that subscribe button, like our podcast, review it, so it shows up on more and more feeds from people looking for great legal content. Thank you again for joining us, and we'll look forward to the next episode. Thanks guys.

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