BACKGROUND OF HENRY CARUS
My Background – Childhood
I was born in Habana, Cuba as the third child of a middle class working family.
My father was a self-made man who worked for his own education and became the Finance Office at a Textile Factory. He later opened up his own children’s clothing store and employed my mother and aunt there.
1958 Cuba was in a state of flux. There had been in government the longstanding dictatorship of Batista which was being threatened by a social democratic revolution led by Fidel Castro. Fidel, as he was commonly called, was promising the formation of a democratic government and had increasingly gained the support from much of the middle class, including my parents.
I was born on 15 July 1958. The revolution successfully took command of the country in January 1959. Cuba immediately went into a state of major change where within a short period of time it was obvious a democratic government was not being delivered but instead a communist regime.
By January 1961 my family had lost all of its possessions, the business, business assets and our home and bank accounts – all had been confiscated by the communist government and nationalised as assets of the country.
In January 1961, my family left Cuba with only possessions that could be packed into 2 suitcases per person and flew to Miami, Florida. We had some friends in the United States but the future was very uncertain as Miami in 1961 was a very small town. Within a short period of time, my family moved to New York City where there were better prospects of finding work as a labourer.
Eventually we settled into a working class Irish and Italian neighbourhood in Queens, New York. We were the only Latino family for many years to come. We settled into the area and my family eventually became superintendents of an apartment building where we resided. In addition, my father worked two outside jobs – one during the day as a restaurant/half member in the Princeton Club, a private club operated for the benefits of Princeton University alumni. In the evenings he worked at Neilson in an office environment.
My mother stayed at home to care for my brother (6 years older), sister (2 years older), myself and my younger sister who was later born in 1964.
We lived in a small 2 bedroom apartment where my mother still resides to this day.
Woodside in Queens was a working class neighbourhood consisting of second generation immigrants who were predominately Catholic. We lived across the street from St Teresa’s Church and Elementary School where we were educated. My entire education was in fact within Catholic Institutions: McLancy High School, Manhattan College and St John’s University School of Law.
My family expended a considerable amount of its resources assisting all of our other family members immigrate from Cuba that being my aunts and uncles, many of whom resided in our neighbourhood for considerable periods of time.
The locals of Woodside in Queens looked dis-favourably at Latinos during that time so my childhood friends consisted primarily of family and relatives.
Teenager in New York
When I was entering my junior year of High School at just the age of 16, my father died of essentially a heart attack. His death has always had a profound impact on me as it was, in some ways, unexpected. He had a history of heart disease and was in hospital due to a recent heart attack. However, he was due to be discharged the day that he died. He died in the early morning hours. A Code Blue was called but there was no doctor was on staff to respond to the Code Blue. The Code Blue was attended to by hospital staff but I have always felt his death could have been prevented had a doctor been at the hospital on duty at the time.
Thereafter, I had to fend for myself in all matters: financial support, education decisions and career direction. It was a challenging path with many mistakes, but as they say you learn from your mistakes.
College – Law School
In order to pay my way through college and Law School, I had to enter the labour force and worked evenings, weekends and even during school holidays/breaks. I was fortunate enough to receive a small scholarship to Law School.
I believe that my family history and personal upbringing have influenced me to look towards a career in social justice and as such I took courses in political science (Government) and history at Manhattan College.
I felt a strong calling to use my skills to help others, and thought the field of politics would be appropriate in achieving that. I was advised that a Law School Degree would be helpful for a career in politics, hence, the motivation behind my attendance at Law School at St John’s University.
Local exposure to politics whilst in Law School lead me to realise that a political career was probably not suited to my personality as I felt there was a considerable lack of ethics in the political world.
Career – Personal Injury Lawyer
After graduating Law School and exploring my career options, I eventually settled for a career in Personal Injury Law. I chose Personal Injury over other areas of Law for its ability to provide a level of social justice.
My view is that we create a society where there are arrangements to allow for the injured to be compensated for their injury or, in other words, assistance in rebuilding their lives after an accident. We do so by means of private insurance and insurance arrangements.
Those arrangements exist for motor vehicle accidents, accidents in a public area and for the consequences of negligence from professionals such as doctors.
I came to first practice in this area of Law while working with small firms who acted for the injured persons and then expanded my knowledge of that area of Law by working for insurance companies.
My experience made it very clear to me that the insurance world had a role to play in assisting our community, so long as it performed its role correctly. That being through the deliverance of compensation to those entitled because they have been injured and their injury had been caused by the fault of another person or entity. It provided me with great satisfaction being able to achieve compensation for someone injured and, in particular, I am grateful for getting to know an injured person after their accident all the way through until I am able to personally deliver compensation to them at or after a trial.
In New York City I eventually became known as a Trial Lawyer. A large measure of my time as a trial lawyer was spent in Court.
New York to Melbourne, Australia
In 1984 I met and Australian woman and we later married in 1985. We lived in New York City until 1994 when it came time to consider our options as to where we would like to raise a family. Between 1984 and 1994 I had travelled numerous times to Australia for holidays and to visit my wife’s family, who lived in Melbourne, Australia.
I had watched Melbourne transform itself in those 10 years considerably and by 1994 we formed a view that a future in Melbourne looked bright.
Whilst having extended family and friends in the New York City area, our primary focus was where we wished to raise a family. Our options in the New York City were its surrounding neighbourhoods or relocating to Melbourne, Australia. In the end, we decided to move to Melbourne where we re-established our careers here and raised our family.
I have been here now for 21+ years since that move and I can say that it has been a wonderful decision.
Life in Melbourne is rich in so many ways.
Upon moving to Melbourne, I was able to have my legal qualifications accepted after a short period of study and apprenticeship where I obtained my first employment at one of the top 10 national Law Firms in Australia, Phillips Fox. The firm had an extensive practice in Insurance Law and was a recognised national leader.
I was initially employed in the TAC team with the client being a government agency known as the TAC (Transport Accident Commission). Phillips Fox was the initial Law Firm used by the TAC and was their advisor during the period of time when the relevant legislation in relation to its existence was being drafted and after the commencement of its existence. In other words, Phillips Fox and its legal team have been the longest advisers to the TAC as of 1995 when I joined them.
The practice of law at a national Law Firm on behalf of a sophisticated government client was an invaluable experience in how the insurance compensation world operated in Victoria and in Australia and an insight into TAC at a time when it was relatively young in its existence.
While I was learning an enormous amount of Law dealing with local legislation and local Court practices, I was able to bring across my specific experience from New York City dealing with motor vehicle accidents on a Common Law level. In particular, it played considerable strength in addressing matters dealing with accident reconstruction where I used my years of being a Trial Lawyer.
Eventually, I transferred from the TAC team to another team at Phillips Fox that dealt primarily with Public Liability Law. While I enjoyed the TAC work, it was within the Public Liability team that my overall strengths flowered. In New York City I had worked for an insurance company whose primary client in Public Liability matters was the Trump Family, a family business that owned multiple properties throughout New York City.
Work from that client included public liability accidents of all types and my experience in those matters was of tremendous value when it came to managing matters within the Public Liability Team at Phillips Fox. In addition, the Public Liability team presented matters which I had never seen before which gave me a tremendous amount of growth as I handled claims on their behalf in Victoria, throughout Australia and even back in the United States where I successfully defended a multi-million dollar products liability claim in California.
By 1999 the Public Liability team had decided that it was wished to break away from Phillips Fox and create its own firm. I went with that team as a salaried partner. Our principal clients included international insurance companies, state investment insurance companies and state and local government agencies. The work was varied and exciting as our principle insurance client was growing its portfolio during those years.
In 2001 unfortunately our major insurance client had a financial collapse which created tremendous pressures on our Law Firm. I decided at that time it was best to step away from that practice and examine my options for the future.
The Beginning of Henry Carus + Associates
At that time, I was 43 years old and was looking for where I wished to apply my skills to serve others. While working for insurance companies had provided many benefits it lacked tremendously in the enrichment that comes from giving personal service to an individual.
I had also watched how other personal injury firms in Melbourne operated over these years, and I felt a better service could be delivered to those who have been injured.
I initially took a consultant’s position with another Plaintiff firm in Melbourne to confirm my calling and after a few years it became clear to me that I could deliver outstanding service. With that realization, Henry Carus + Associates was created.
At the time that I started my firm, I had no expectation or vision of what it could achieve. I simply focused on delivering the best possible service to each person that came to me seeking legal advice within Personal Injury Law. I felt privileged to have someone entrust me with their legal claim, knowing how much a successful outcome would mean to them and their families.
In 2009, I became an Accredited Personal Injury Lawyer as recognised by the Law Institute of Victoria, our local professional body. The Accreditation allows me to fairly present that I am knowledgeable in all areas of Personal Injury, with a high level of skill. Accreditation is not easily achieved.
Looking back over the last 13+ years, it is clear that the passion and drive that I have given is primarily responsible for the growth of the firm today. Many of our clients remain a part of my world and are continued loyal supporters.
Henry Carus + Associates Today
The firm opened its first office in Brighton in 2005 and we grew dramatically from a staff of 6 to almost 30 in just 8 short years and later opened our first City office in 2013.
Since 2013 we have added new staff and new office spaces in the City as we continue to personally deliver care and excellent service to our clients.
The firm represents clients who are personally injured in work accidents, car accidents, accidents in a public area, and by way of medical or professional negligence. We also engage in a vibrant practice representing those who have had entitlements for insurance that has been adversely effected by insurance companies in providing income protection or other forms of insurance.
These days I use all of the knowledge that I have gained as a Personal Injury Lawyer from New York City and while acting for insurance companies in Victoria to deliver a high level of service and success to our Personal Injury clients.