For the past 40 years, Ralph Pelaia has been working in the legal profession securing verdicts and settlements for personal injury victims and the surviving family members who have lost love ones in car, truck and motorcycle accidents throughout Texas. Since 1987, upon relocating from South Florida, Pelaia has maintained an office in Gilmer and Longview, Texas.
Since the early ‘70s and ‘80s, Ralph has tried and resolved many multi-million-dollar wreck cases, from wrongful death to catastrophic injuries in both Florida and Texas. In 1978, in Broward County, Florida, Ralph handled a record setting case (for that time) involving an 18- year-old girl whose injury in a wreck left her in a comatose state. In 1989, he obtained a more than $10 million record verdict in Dallas, Texas on behalf of a minor child.
“Financial compensation through the civil court process is the only retribution for personal injury victims”, speaks Ralph.
He continues by saying, “You know, I learned early not to be another lawyer in a ‘blue suit’ and to be the ‘voice of people’ both before with the liability claims adjuster, and after instituting a lawsuit with opposing council.”
He speaks with Lawyer Monthly about his expertise and how over the past 40 years, personal injury has changed.
You have worked in personal injury over the past 40 years; how has the sector changed? Do you think we are now of a more cautious and litigious generation?
I would say so, yes. Jurors in East Texas have become increasingly more conservative over the last several decades and the laws concerning insurance companies are more favourable towards them. Insurance companies want to litigate more frequently and making settlements without litigation is a rare thing.
Wrongful death cases can be challenging; how do you channel the emotion to obtain the best results for your clients?
To be prayerful and appreciative that we have a society that makes justice available for all.
From this, can you share your most challenging case yet?
I think it would have to be a case I dealt with in 1989. It was a medical malpractice case involving pediatric and surgeon in Dallas. It involved a three year old child who fractured his distal humorous in a fall, and was taken to the hospital and every one of the nurses and doctors were aware of “compartment syndrome” developing in the child and it causing harm, yet they failed to act thereby a condition known as “Volkmann’s ischemic contracture”. The surgeon had changed the records, so it would show the condition developed when he was released and their pediatrician, while involving himself early on, acted like he did not know the increasing danger of what would have eventually happened to this child. The Hospital decided to settle and the surgeon also settled, so the remaining case went to trial in Dallas against the pediatrician. We had attempted to resolve with the pediatrician, but they made a $2,500,000 offer which was rejected. The jury, in the end, gave us A $10,900,000 verdict.
With motor vehicles becoming ‘smarter’, and with ‘driverless cars’ eager to get on the road, how do you see these developments transforming the personal injury sector?
I think attorneys will have to adapt themselves in the world of software and computers. However, I think this new invention is still years away from changing anything in the time being.
What different aspects must you touch on when obtaining a settlement focusing on mental anguish, opposed to physical detriment?
One must emphasize and realise how the mind often is more affected than the body.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We must always be mindful of our unique history and call upon ourselves to be well invested in history.
Ralph Pelaia Jr., attended University of Notre Dame, graduated in 1973 honors, clerked for United States District Judge Peter T Fay Southern District of Florida in 1973-1975 and was an Insurance Defence Lawyer until 1978. He now has a private practice: Ralph Pelaia Jr. and Associates.
After moving to East Texas in 1986, he is now practicing in Longview Texas and Dallas.
He has been voted: “Best Lawyer of East Texas”, awarded by citizens of Gregg County, Texas, 2009-13; “Best of East Texas”, Readers’ Choice Award, Longview News-Journal, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14; “Best Law Firm in East Texas”, Longview News-Journal, 2015-16. He has been selected as: Rue Ratings’ Best Attorneys of America, 2014; Litigator Awards™, Trial Lawyer Board of Regents™, 2014; “Top 100 Trial Lawyers”, The National Trial Lawyers.
He is a Member of the following: Upshur County Bar Association; Gregg County Bar Association; Broward County Bar Association; Dade County Bar Association; Northeast Texas Bar Association; The Florida Bar; State Bar of Texas; Federal Bar Association; American Bar Association; Broward County Trial Lawyers Association; Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers; Texas Trial Lawyers Association; American Association for Justice; Texas Municipal Courts Association (Judicial Division). He is also a life member of: Million Dollar Advocates Forum and, the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
At the Pelaia Law Center, we believe in qualified and affordable legal representation and we work closely with our clients to secure the best legal outcome in each case. If you were hurt in a car wreck, motorcycle accident, or eighteen wheeler truck accident in Texas, you will need experienced legal representation to secure the maximum compensation for your injuries.
In summary, these are the items of damages that Ralph Pelaia will obtain for you either by settlement prior to litigation or jury verdict in the State of Texas:
- Lost wages
- Medical care
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
In a case involving the death of a loved one, Texas law also allows certain family members to file a claim for wrongful death. Damages awarded in a wrongful death claim may include:
- Loss of companionship
- Mental anguish
- Pecuniary loss – the loss of care, maintenance, and financial support resulting from the death of victims who were primary wage-earners within their family.