This month we have a legal article with a difference – the legal spotlight being on our Principal, Henry Carus. Henry joins the About the Law program on 3CW every fortnight to talk about a personal injury legal topic. Recently he shared his own story with presenter Jing Jing, going right back to how his family lost everything in Cuba, his father’s death as a result of medical negligence and having to learn a new culture and language to survive – all setbacks that allow him to understand the difficulties many of his clients are facing
Below is a copy of the transcript from the interview:
Q What will be our topic for this week?
A Well, we have spent a lot of time discussing personal injury compensation law and discussing matters that our firm has handled in that area of the law.
It is fair to say that I provide these interviews and the information to assist your general audience understand the law, and also to feel more comfortable in seeking the assistance of a personal injury lawyer.
Today I would like to go one step further with that thought.
Q What do you mean?
A Well, the name of our firm is Henry Carus & Associates. We have some incredible persons working with us, lawyers, law clerks, and other support persons.
But the firm is guided by myself, not just in its administration but in its spirit – what is it trying to achieve as a firm.
Q And so you think it would be helpful to talk about yourself?
A Yes, we have our own stories of how we have come to be who we are, and work in the fields that we work in.
I am a personal injury lawyer, looking for support for those that have been seriously injured, and love what I do.
There are aspects of my past that I can now see have led me easily to this area of the law, and more importantly, motivate me each and every day to achieve for others.
Q So, where would you like to begin?
A I would like to begin with an understanding of my background.
Some of my clients may think that I am an Australian born lawyer, and some who catch my accent, think I am an American born lawyer now practicing in Australia. Neither of those two are accurate.
I was born in Cuba in 1958, at that time my family was a middle class family hoping for the best with the change of government in Cuba – which happened a year later in 1959. My first language is Spanish.
The change in government in a few short years led to the loss of my family of all its possessions, home, business and bank accounts, as all was nationalized and taken over by the government.
Q What did your family do?
A We left, and we left with basically nothing but our clothes in 2 suitcases per person.
We left for America and eventually settled into a working class suburb of New York City, which consisted of people with a background from Ireland and Italy. No one there spoke Spanish.
I had to learn a whole new language and culture immediately, just to be able to enter primary school.
Q You believe that experience has guided you to personal injury law?
A It is part of the picture.
You see, many of my clients are immigrants to Australia, just like your audience today.
They struggle to understand the culture and language, and to therefore protect themselves and seek what they are entitled to under the law.
Looking back at my family, I can see that we suffered by reason of our own ignorance of the law.
Q In what way?
A It relates to my father, who died at age 49 when I was 16 years old.
He had a history of heart disease, and he was in hospital, a private hospital for care when he died.
He died in the middle of the night, when he had a heart attack while still in the hospital.
Now, with experience in personal injury law, I am pretty certain the hospital was negligent in allowing him to die.
Q Why do you believe that?
A He was in for care after recent heart pains, and was therefore at risk of another heart attack.
The private hospital was small, and so they did not keep on staff through the night any doctor who could respond to a Code Blue (emergency care needed alert) and instead, the nurses had to call the needed doctor at his home and wait till his arrival some time later.
Q And you say the time delay was the real cause of his death?
Q Did your family do anything at that time?
A No, my mother was in total shock, having to suddenly take care of 4 children on her own, and where she was not working.
Our extended family had all recently arrived from Cuba and that country had no history of suing doctors or hospitals for negligence.
We did nothing except try to survive.
Q And you mentioned a recent matter relates to all this?
A Yes, it does.
About two years ago one of our clients first came to us about medical care she received in hospital.
She thought that the hospital had done her wrong, and was seeking our advices.
She was honest and said she had been to one of those large firms in town – Maurice Blackburn – first.
Q What did that firm tell her?
A They told her after looking at her medical records that she did not have a claim and would not help her.
Q What did you say?
A We said the opposite. We said we could help her.
Q Did you tell her she would win?
A No, we told her she had a good chance at winning but there are no guarantees. She was happy with that as it at least gave her a chance.
Q Has the matter finished now?
A Yes, we settled her claim this week, and the hospital and doctor involved paid her $300,000.
So, she went from a firm that said no way they could help to our firm that gave her a chance and then eventually compensation to assist her and her family for the rest of their lives.
Q And you go back to your personal story for the inspiration to take on these matters?
A You got it.
I always reflect on what would have happened to our family if we had the knowledge and support to seek compensation after our father died.
Our lives would have been a bit better, in terms of our health, education and work opportunities.
Q And are there any good aspects to your personal story?
A Yes, you are reading my mind.
The setbacks in losing all in Cuba, in having to move to another country and learn a new culture and language, and to survive on my own since I was 16 years old has given me incredible experiences that allow me to truly understand the difficulties that my clients have when:
- They are injured and feel they are going to lose all – their work, careers, home and family support;
- The confusion about the law, in its complicated language and ideas;
- And if they come from a non-English background, the challenges of understanding the values of this culture and what they are entitled to from the law.
Q And you bring that all into your practice as a law firm acting for those injured?
A Yes, one of the compliments I regularly receive is from my clients when they say that they can sense I am aware of their difficulties.
I do not need to tell my clients my whole story for them to understand I will be acting for their best interests.
There are many law firms out there, and anyone choosing a law firm has to be able to say that they TRUST the firm, and that can be hard when the firm is just this large creature with no clear person guiding the firm.
Q What do you mean?
A Well most of the large firms are just layers of persons who deal with matters in a rather process oriented manner, and the likelihood of you creating a personal relationship with one senior solicitor is almost impossible.
Q And your firm is different?
A Yes, I personally could never select such a firm to help me.
Whenever I have personally worked with a lawyer, I have worked with one person who I trust to guide me. I look to form that close personal relationship at all times.
I do so, as it is the person who you can trust over time to give you the needed guidance and assistance every step of the way.
With my firm, I am that person.
I review all the work, deal with all matters in one way or another and when it comes to major decisions I am there, whether it be a conference, mediation or trial.
It is why we have called the firm Henry Carus & Associates.
I still guide this firm with the values and experience gained in life.
If anyone is in need of an experienced and caring personal injury lawyer, I would be honoured to have them entrust their matter to me and my firm.