The “Pit Bull” Lawyer

The “Pit Bull” Lawyer

Over the years, it has been said that clients want a “bull dog” lawyer or a “pit bull” lawyer.

Although the true definition of this is uncertain sometimes, it can be presumed that would entail an angry lawyer. Does a client benefit from a mean lawyer? A win-at-all-costs lawyer? A lawyer who refuses to concede anything? A lawyer set to crush the opposition?

No. This lawyer will not further a client’s interests any more than any other type of lawyer. And, this lawyer often makes things worse for the client.

Firm? Yes. But, as an experienced trial lawyer once said, “You don’t have to be ‘cross’ to ‘cross-examine.’” Friendly and firm can co-exist.

What quality should you be looking for?

Persistence. The lawyer who is always moving the case forward gets the best results. Rather than a “pit bull,” you want a “hound dog.” This lawyer always has the ball in the other side’s court and pushing the other side to respond. In the world of litigation, persistence is aggressive.

Your opponent invariably does not really care how mean or nasty your lawyer is. If your lawyer makes them work and spend money, they hate that. If your lawyer turns over the stones and uncovers the evidence that will make your opponent lose in court, they really hate that. That is when settlements happen.

Contact Us for Results

If you are looking for a persistent attorney, contact us at Fields, Dehmlow & Vessels, LLC. Ethan Vessels is one of fewer than 100 National Board of Trial Advocacy board-certified civil trial advocates in Ohio. Ethan limits his practice exclusively to civil cases involving significant damage: serious personal injury, oil and gas litigation, employee benefits litigation, insurance disputes, wrongful death, and business litigation. Ethan often represents the little guy against the big guy. In the majority of his cases, Ethan works on a contingent fee, sharing the financial risks of litigation with his clients. Give us a call today at 740.374.5346 or fill out our contact form and we will get in touch with you.


Herniated Discs

As discussed in my previous post regarding neck and back injuries, auto collisions can cause painful spinal injuries.  Less common than sprains or strains is the herniated disc.

There are 33 vertebrae in the human spine.  These are divided into four sections: cervical  (neck), thoracic  (mid-back between the rib cage), lumbar  (the lower back), and the sacral vertebrae (in the hip structure, including the tail bone).   There is a cushion between each vertebra that acts as a “shock absorber” if you will.  This disc has a flexible, solid outer shell with a gelatinous fluid within.

The outer shell of these discs can rupture, bulge, or herniate (a balloon-like bulge).  When this happens, the disc can press on the spinal cord or press on other nerves that exit the vertebrae into other parts of the body.  This can be very painful.  The bulging disc interrupts the normal function of the nerves.  Those suffering from herniated or bulging discs can experience electrical shock sensations in their arms or legs, numbness, muscle weakness, and sometimes even problems with bowel or urinary function. Herniated discs are usually diagnosed using an MRI.

Auto collisions and other spinal trauma can cause herniated discs.  Disc injuries are most common at the C5-6 vertebrae in the neck and at L5-S1 in the low back.  Sometimes these injuries are so serious that they require surgery.

Insurance companies and their doctors and lawyers invariably argue that the disc herniation was not caused by the trauma.  They usually claim that the bulging or herniated disc existed before the trauma and was caused by aging alone.  Or, they will try to find some other trauma to blame.  Or, they will claim that the bulging is “minor” and not pressing on any nerves.

This is where lawyering makes a difference.  Your lawyer should investigate: (1) Have you ever suffered from similar symptoms in the past? (2) Are there gaps in treatment or reporting of symptoms?  (3) What do your doctors say?  (4) What does the MRI show?

When confronting the insurance companies and their doctors, your lawyer must make clear that: (1) your disc injuries arose because of the trauma you suffered in this incident; (2) these symptoms did not spontaneously arise;  (3) there is no other logical explanation for your disc injury symptoms; and (4) your herniated disc is indeed painful and debilitating. Your lawyer must provide clarity.


-Ethan Vessels

Why Hire a “Personal Injury” Lawyer for Your Business Case?

Why Hire a “Personal Injury” Lawyer for Your Business Case?

Should you consider hiring a “personal injury” lawyer to represent your business in court? Yes.

Years ago, lawyers did not limit their practices to the degree that they do today. There were simply trial lawyers who did everything. Abraham Lincoln routinely would represent individuals and businesses. (And yes, there were personal injury cases in the 1840’s and 50’s.) He was known only as a good courtroom lawyer. This was common even into the 1950’s and 1960’s.

In recent decades, lawyers began to classify themselves as “personal injury” lawyers or “business litigators” or “collection” lawyers or even “antitrust” lawyers. But the pendulum is swinging back. There are a number of us who routinely accept personal injury, medical malpractice, and business cases.

There are advantages to using the plaintiff’s “personal injury” lawyer in your business case.

First, the plaintiff’s injury lawyer is accustomed to taking risk. The vast majority of personal injury lawyers charge a contingent fee, meaning that they are paid a percentage of the recovery. A personal injury lawyer may be more likely to share the risk in your business case.

Second, the plaintiff’s injury lawyer is accustomed to being efficient. Because of the contingent fee, plaintiff’s injury lawyers prefer not to waste time during litigation on things that don’t matter. The result is the reward.

On the other hand, and not to indict all “big firm” business litigators, the “corporate law firm” model inherently does not reward the efficient result. Most medium and large law firms bill by the hour. The more the lawyer does on the case, the more the lawyer earns. Many of these firms have a minimum number of hours that each lawyer must bill per year. As you can surmise, the lawyer has an incentive to “find things to do” on your case: a little more research, another deposition, file another motion. You pay the price.

Finally, the plaintiff’s injury lawyer is often a “trial lawyer.” Not always, but often. “But wait,” you say, “aren’t all litigators ‘trial lawyers’?”

No. They are not. The dirty secret of the litigation world is that many “litigators” have never tried a case in front of a judge or jury. They don’t advertise this. You assume that your surgeon routinely performs surgery. So, you assume that your “litigator” knows his or her way around the courtroom. You would feel deceived if your lawyer, touted as a litigator, has never actually tried a case. But, this is not rare at all. Particularly at the very large “corporate” law firms.

How does this happen? Medium and large firms usually hire their lawyers right out of law school. These lawyers spend years doing research, writing briefs, and other “litigation” support activities for partners in charge of the case. Rarely do these “associates” get to take depositions, go see judges, or handle routine hearings. Never are they trusted to try the case in court. Eventually, after seven to ten years, these new lawyers become partners in the large law firms—still having never tried a case.

Now, these new partners begin to represent businesses as the chief lawyer on the case. They don’t tell their client that they have never tried a case. They create work and bill. They take lengthy depositions (that do not necessarily help their chances at trial). They delegate tasks to younger associates on the case, creating more billable time. And, after a year or two, and hundreds of hours billed, this lawyer softens and begins to tell the client about all the things wrong with the case. The lawyer may even overstate the risks of the case. The lawyer starts to pressure the client to settle. Ultimately, growing weary of the mounting bills, the client settles. Every time.

Will a “trial lawyer” advise you to settle your business case? Yes. And he should—based on the facts. Not based on fear. The “trial lawyer” will tell you the straight facts as early as possible. Ultimately, however, if the facts favor your side, you may still need a judge or jury to get justice. Will you have a lawyer who knows how to do it? Will he know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it? Will he be afraid? Is he willing to put in the real work (not the “make work”) to win at trial?

A good “personal injury” plaintiff’s lawyer will try three or four trials per year. They know the risks and are accustomed to dealing with the risks.

When selecting a lawyer to prosecute your business case, consider hiring the injury lawyer. For whom you consider only a “personal injury lawyer” is in fact often your best “courtroom lawyer.”


-Ethan Vessels

Neck and Back Injuries

Neck and Back Injuries

I represent dozens of clients relating to personal injuries, and I have settled hundreds. What is the most common injury? Neck and back injuries are the most common, by far.

Why? The spine bears the force of auto collisions. Thankfully, these days, most of us wear our seat belts. This is good for preventing all kinds of trauma that can occur in an auto collision. But, the spine still suffers. When a car is hit, the kinetic force travels into our bodies. This causes our neck and back to violently bend in ways that it does not want to go.

The most common injury is the “whiplash” injury. During a collision, the weight of our head causes our neck to whip forward and then back violently. The muscles and ligaments surrounding the cervical spine (the neck) are stretched and torn, causing a sprain or strain injury. Whiplash is painful. The neck can be sore for months. It is not the same as getting a “crook” in your neck from sitting under the air conditioner too long.

Worse yet, neck injuries will often irritate the occipital nerve at the base the skull. This causes painful headaches. I have had some clients who developed these headaches permanently.

Just as with the neck, the mid- and low back can suffer the same “sprain or strain” injuries, which can take months to heal.

Sometimes, the injuries are worse than “sprain or strain” injuries. The trauma of the collision can damage the gelatinous discs between the vertebrae. Trauma can cause discs to bulge or “herniate” (a balloon-type bulge). The discs can also tear, allowing the acidic contents to leak from the disc. Herniated discs can be very painful, particularly if the disc presses on the nerves that exit the spine. Many of my clients with bulging or herniated discs report permanent pain and discomfort, along with numbness or tingling feelings in their arms or legs.

Generally, the harder the collision, the more likely it is to suffer neck and back injuries. But not always, I have had several doctors tell me that they have seen paralysis cases arising from relatively slow collisions.

-Ethan Vessels