After decades of defending insurance companies, Haliczer, Pettis & Schwamm P. A. is switching sides. “We are refocusing our medical malpractice and personal injury litigation to the plaintiff’s side,” said James Haliczer, managing partner. “There’s no one better suited to advocate for plaintiffs than a firm with top-tier litigators who have successfully defended and investigated thousands of medical malpractice and personal injury cases.”
Founded by partners Haliczer, Eugene Pettis, and Richard Schwamm in 1996, the firm’s legal team has handled cases involving medical mistakes and other forms of negligence through the years, including a growing number of lawsuits by victims and their families. Most cases are handled on a contingency basis so there is no fee unless the firm recovers funds for its clients.
“Given the tumultuous state of healthcare in America, we have collectively decided to switch sides to help those who need it most,” said Pettis, adding that the firm’s medical malpractice experience is an important consideration in personal injury cases as well. “If someone is injured in a car accident, or trips and has a serious fall while shopping, an attorney who knows about medicine can connect the dots in the case for a jury, potentially leading to a higher award or settlement,” he said.
With offices in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, the firm has served clients from Pensacola to Key West. “We have obtained many $1 million-plus settlements and awards for individual clients,” said Schwamm, who leads the firm’s Orlando office. “We prefer helping a family that's lost a loved one or an individual who has suffered a permanent injury rather than defending these cases. With our strong team in place, we intend to continue delivering outstanding results for our clients.”
Decades of Litigation Experience
The firm’s three co-founders bring decades of litigation experience to every case. “We understand the defense strategies in malpractice and personal injury cases,” said Haliczer, who earned his law degree from Stetson University in 1981 and has been practicing in South Florida since 1982. “Incorporating that knowledge into our plaintiff’s practice provides an added value to our clients.”
Haliczer has been involved in dozens of trials involving numerous medical and legal malpractice, personal injury, wrongful death, commercial and construction litigation. He was named 2015 Miami “Lawyer of the Year” in medical malpractice law by Best Lawyers in America®. A member of the American Board of Trial Advocacy, Haliczer has lectured throughout the country on malpractice, general insurance law and risk management/quality assurance programs.
Pettis is a native of Fort Lauderdale, who has been practicing law since 1985. “My mom thought I should be a lawyer because I talked so much,” he said. After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science, he graduated from the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law in 1985.
“On my first day as a lawyer, I was in a trial in a case involving a brain-damaged baby,” he said. “Since then, I’ve tried nearly 100 medical malpractice and personal injury cases.”
Pettis was recognized as a Distinguished Attorney by the South Florida Legal Guide in its 2011 edition. Two years later, he became the first African-American to serve as president of The Florida Bar, demonstrating his leadership abilities and his passion for giving back to his profession and his community.
A member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, Pettis was recognized in 2013 as The Trial Lawyer of the Year by the board’s Fort Lauderdale chapter. He was named 2017 “Lawyer of the Year” by The Best Lawyers in America® for his work in plaintiff medical malpractice.
A native of New York who was raised in South Florida, Schwamm knew he wanted to be an attorney at an early age. He overcame a long-time stutter and lisp and then excelled in high school mock trial competitions before earning his law degree from Stetson University in 1991.
Today, Schwamm is a nationally recognized litigator and speaker in the area of medical malpractice litigation, including significant injury cases affecting families. “I am a vigorous advocate for children’s safety and fight for the legal rights of injured children and their families,” added Schwamm, who was selected for The Best Lawyers in America® 2018 edition for his work in plaintiff medical malpractice.
Building a Case
If you or a loved one has been a victim of someone else’s negligence, it’s important to engage an experienced legal team as quickly as possible, according to Haliczer. The firm’s investigators, nurses and medical experts can start gathering the facts to find out what went wrong and who is responsible.
Victims, friends and family members can also use their mobile phones to take photos and videos of conditions at an accident scene, Haliczer said. “Having photos of an accident scene keeps everyone honest,” he added. They can also provide invaluable evidence in the case, and result in a higher recovery.”
Because the firm’s attorneys have a wealth of experience in these cases, Haliczer, Pettis and Schwamm know top-tier medical experts in a wide range of disciplines who can evaluate their client’s conditions.
“We also have nurses who work in house for us who review medical records,” said Schwamm. “We also know forensic experts who can determine if a patient’s record has been changed after the fact.
Reflecting on the firm’s ability to serve clients, Haliczer said, “We understand the intersection of the health care and legal systems. By putting these two worlds together, we provide truly extraordinary advocacy for our clients.”
Advice for Avoiding Medical Malpractice
In today’s healthcare system, bad things happen to good people, says James Haliczer. “People are having a hard time finding the right care,” he said. ‘Then, problems can occur at any stage of the diagnostic, treatment and recovery process.”
For instance, a doctor might not inform you about treatment alternatives or the potential risks of a surgical procedure. The wrong medication might be prescribed or there might be serious side effects from a medical device. Other errors can occur during the rehabilitation or recovery process, such as missing the warning signs of another medical problem.
To reduce the risk of malpractice, Richard Schwamm says patients should try to learn as much as possible about an injury, disease or chronic condition. Then ask as many questions as possible. If you aren’t sure about provider’s recommendations, you can request a second opinion from another doctor.
“Many times, it’s a good idea to bring a family member or friend who can help you remember the questions and answers or write things down for you,” he said. “Ultimately, you have to be an advocate for yourself.”