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137 – How Michael Leizerman Won $18 million in a Tough Case

As a trucking trial lawyer, if you are compassionate, people can walk all over you and you won’t get good results, you need to be both fierce and compassionate. 

On this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael Cowen and Michael Leizerman discuss the ins and outs of wrongful death litigation. Leizerman draws on his experience as a truck accident lawyer and shares the strategies he used to win a recent $18 million verdict.

He emphasizes the need to have open communication with the victim’s family and draw on their love for the victim. He also stresses that while the client comes first, it is also important to create a compassionate atmosphere by treating the defendant with fairness and compassion. However this compassion needs to be accompanied with fierceness.

Tune in for an in-depth discussion on litigating wrongful death cases, and learn how to draw out the story from the victim’s family, cross-examine defendants, and use a combination of compassion and fierceness to build a strong case.

Featured Guest

Name:  Michael Leizerman

About:   Michael Leizerman is a founder of The Law Firm for Truck Safety, which handles truck accident litigation across the United States.  He is the co-founder of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (ATAA). He concentrates his practice in select catastrophic injury truck collision cases across the country.

Michael was the first Chair of AAJ’s Trucking Litigation Group. He is the author of the treatise Litigating Truck Accident Cases.  Michael has taken 15 truck and bus cases to trial since 2006. He has received record-breaking truck accident settlements and verdicts across the country, including multiple verdicts with punitive damages. Michael is also the author of the Trial Guides book The Zen Lawyer: Winning with Mindfulness

Company: The Law Firm for Truck Safety LLP

Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter

Episode Highlights 

[02:55] Handling the case in a way that is healing and cathartic: There is usually a lot of pressure to settle wrongful death cases because of the fear of retraumatizing the client. However, an attitude readjustment can help. Talking to the client from day one and discussing outcome goals is important.

[04:50] Spend a lot of time with clients before depositions: In wrongful death cases it is important to prepare clients to talk about the victim with love, since they are the experts on their relationship with the victim.

[07:32] The trial can serve as a healing process: One can be a compassionate lawyer by wishing well for all beings. While there is a duty to the client, you need not be harmful to the defendant. It is also important to help the victim’s family keep hope alive.

[11:43] Getting yourself in the mindset to be present for the client: Team up with other lawyers in the firm so that you can take a break, or take breaks when the client needs them. Meeting clients at their homes—a place where clients are comfortable–helps them open up. By being willing to enter the client’s world you can discover things that transcend demographics.

[17:02] The death of Dylan Monty, a 21 year old: The way the facts are presented can help with showing accountability, habit, and fault.

[22:22] Being fierce and compassionate: While some situations require a lawyer to call out the opposing party, lawyers also need to show compassion.

[28:00] Palpable Loss: By sharing stories during direct examination, the jury can be shown what was taken from the victim’s family. 

[34:31] Cross-examining with compassion: Thanking the truck driver for owning up to his part while asking what he is actually owning up to, and having the victim’s family sit out of the courtroom during cross-examination created a compassionate atmosphere.

[40: 00] Traits of a great lawyer: Listening, presence, being vulnerable, and having the courage to stand up are the skills of great lawyers.

[42:00] Growing The Law Firm for Truck Safety: To build the firm, Leizerman focused on choosing partners who shared his same values, were trucking lawyers, and who were both compassionate and fierce.

[44:17] ATAA: The Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys is a group of over 1,200 lawyers and paralegals that focuses on plaintiff’s trucking work. Education, safety advocacy, and sharing knowledge are its primary goals.

[52:02] Zen Lawyer Workshop: Leizerman, along with others, will be teaching at a retreat and workshop in October. For more information see thezenlawyer.com.

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In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

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