Who is The Florida Bike Guy & Why Did He Become a Bicycle Accident Lawyer?

Video Transcription:

Jim Dodson - Hi, it's Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy, welcome to our livestream. So who is Jim Dodson and why is he a bike lawyer? It kind of occurred to me the other day that, I spend a lot of time talking on a lot of topics here on our livestream. I was having a conversation actually yesterday, with a client of mine who's a Navy SEAL retired, and he didn't know I'd been in the service. And I thought well, this is kind of interesting, 'cause he knows, we've talked and he knows me and I’m representing him. So I thought I would just sort of give you the backstory on who I am, what drew me to what I'm doing now, and why I think we have a unique voice for Florida cyclists in terms of helping and representing after a crash.

So you know, the backstory on me is that I'm a native Floridian, grew up in Central Florida. Way before Disney World came along when it was much quieter. My mom was born in the same town I was born in, so we've got pretty deep roots in Florida. That was up in Sanford, spent my early years making boats and going up and down the St. Johns River, water skiing and doing all the things we did in Central Florida back in the day. And I, you know, obviously graduated from high school, went to Florida State where I met my wife, and went on to go to law school at Florida State.

When I got through with law school, I had a commitment with ROTC and we went on active duty with the Air Force, I spent four years, as a judge advocate, a JAG officer in the Air Force. And then when we got out we had sort of a decision to make whether we were going to return to Florida or just sort of, you know, commit and stay on active duty with the Air Force. My brother was a career Air Force officer pilot, but we made the decision to come back to Florida, got a job at the State Attorney's Office in Clearwater and began as a young prosecutor. Started out doing misdemeanor cases as a little pup lawyer.

Quickly kind of moved up the chain to become part of the habitual felony offender program, which was, back in that day, kind of a novel thing. All we handled were the most serious crimes, by the most serious felons and the idea was simply no rehabilitation, but incarceration. It was a unique opportunity, one of the people on my team, went on to become the United States Attorney for Tampa in the Tampa division and I went over to work with Bob Merkel after I finished five and a half years at the State Attorney's Office here locally, and then was with the U.S. Attorney's Office for several years, but I was in the Civil Division. So I was, you know, doing doing collections for the U.S. Attorney's Office, but the main thing that we did that I enjoyed was I was defending the U.S. government in medical malpractice cases brought against military doctors at the VA, or the various military installations around the state. We had many back then which have now closed Patrick Air Force Base, over in East Coast, we had Naval Training Center in Orlando, those who've gone, as well as MacDill and the things that are here currently.

So I enjoyed that, we worked very hard, kind of cut my teeth on civil cases doing medical malpractice defense. But then I, you know, graduated out of there, went to private practice with people that I had known from the State Attorney's Office here back in Clearwater, stayed there, became managing partner of a firm with 13 lawyers. But I was looking for something a little simpler, honestly, had a vision for what I wanted to do in our own practice. And I left and formed Jim Dodson Law, that was 20 years ago, and had been really gratified by the ability to help people that we've helped throughout our years here representing injured clients and really, in the last 10 years, focusing on our cycling cases.

You know, I think that one of the things that I wanted to have in a law firm was, first off we were not gonna be a mass advertiser, you know, we don't do TV, radio and all the things that attract a volume practice and what we have is people who are referred to our practice, who know us come through other lawyers who trusted us, and that was really how we built the basic basis for Jim Dodson Law. We wanted to have a relationship with our clients, we knew them, they knew us, they trusted us and there was kind of accountability, mutual accountability, they would stay on track in terms of getting better, and we would do what we are obligated to do to help a client recover not only financially but physically to get back into their life and enjoying what they enjoyed.

You know, on a kind of on a personal note, I met my wife at Florida State, and we have been married since then, we have two children. My daughter went out of state to school, went up to New York on an internship that she graduated college and met her husband there, and kind of a cute story, she was sitting in Central Park and he came over and asked her for a piece of newspaper and they started dating, obviously got married. They lived in Manhattan for five years, and they moved to Charlotte for five years, and then San Francisco for 10 years. And fortunately for us, a year and a half or so ago, they moved back to Tampa, along with their four daughters now currently between the age of four and 14. So we're really blessed and fortunate to have our daughter and her family in Tampa, which is close to us, because for the 10 years before that, she had been on the west coast in San Francisco, my son and his wife were in L.A., my son went out of state to school, UNC, went to medical school at UCLA and stayed there, also has a PhD in molecular biology and is what that what is known in that world as an MD PhD. They moved to Salt Lake City about five years ago and he's with Intermountain, his wife is a dermatologist, she's in private practice there so, and they've got two kids between five and seven, actually, so it's it's been very interesting.

We love our grandkids. Of course, we see them in the newsletter a lot, but you know, kind of on how I got into the whole cycling thing. My son and I were mountain bikers. When he was started in college, we really began riding mountain bikes in earnest. He went to North Carolina, we would ride up there, there's some great mountain biking parks up there near Brevard and we have, you know, he went out west, we mountain biked in Los Angeles, excuse me, in L.A., that area up in Central California, went to Alaska on a mountain biking trip one time, and we have continued, he actually is currently a mountain biker in Salt Lake City they have mountains around the city, he can leave his home, and be in the mountains riding in just a few minutes and really enjoys that. It's an elevation out there, which kind of gives me some, takes the wind out of my sails a little bit to start off at seven or 8000 feet, so our last trip was really summer before last, we went to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on a mountain biking trip with a group and had a great time, that was four days. The most difficult part for me, however, was starting out at 9500 feet, which was kind of a challenge from the from the standpoint of being winded.

So in 2011, I ended up with my first road bike and became you know, more serious in terms of road biking. Mountain biking is much less a part of my life anymore. But I realized right away that there was a real need in the road cycling community for a trusted voice on the issues that are unique to road cyclists. You know what, what I know is that every advertising law firm advertises that they do bicycle cases, but there's a difference between doing a bicycle case and being a bicycle lawyer. There's a difference between understanding road position, there's understanding the mechanics of how crashes occur, understanding why someone on a bicycle would ride in a particular place at a particular time, whether they would be on the sidewalk or not on the sidewalk and now, all the things just come with being out there doing the sport that we love so, we really began in earnest to make my presence known in the cycling community, for my goal of being a trusted voice for cyclists, and I'm happy that you know, over the course of the last years, we have developed a lot of resources which we share with the cycling community, because I know people simply didn't understand a lot issues about how to ride safely and not the mechanics of calling out what have you, but what do you need to wear to be seen? What kind of lighting do you need to be seen? And if you're on your bike, what kind of insurance do you have to have, in order to protect yourself against the 40% of the drivers in Florida that really have no insurance that's gonna help you at all? So we began to develop these resources and communicate this message to the cycling community, and it's really been well received.

You know, I'm just gratified that we have this presence because it is something that, at the end of the day, I feel that we've helped people. A lot of people know who I am, not because I've represented them, but because they have read something that I've published or they've heard me speak, or they've learned something about how to protect themselves or ride more safely from things that we put on the airwaves or have talked to talk to some group about, and that's a really positive feeling to have.

The other thing is that working with cyclists is a totally different experience as a as an injury lawyer than working with what I would call people who were, you know, been involved in a car accident or something else. It's just a totally different mindset, in the sense that virtually every cyclist we work with is focused on, how quickly can I get back on my bike and get back on the road? That is not the focus of so many people who are injured who don't have a passion to return to the sport or to an activity that they really are drawn to. And that's a totally different experience in terms of being a lawyer and getting a result for a client and doing something that's meaningful to them. I think what I hear more often than that about why people are so appreciative of the work that we do is the sense that they can turn over the issue to us and focus on what they need to do without worrying about what to say to the next phone call that comes in, or am I saying or doing something that could be detrimental to to the case that I might have? And I think people are commonly expressed that desire sort of to be at peace about it. And okay, Jim, I'm gonna turn this over and trust it to your team.

We have assembled a really unique group of people here at Jim Dodson Law, and I think that when people see me out in public, they see me and have no idea what's going on. A lot of people who deal with our office know about Kati, Kati is that wonderful, warm, energetic voice of welcome that you see it like events and, you know, you talk to on the phone. Kati's well known, probably more well known than I am in some circles, but Kati is not my legal assistant. Kati does not handle the legal work on cases, she is sort of our presence, our voice, our face and what have you, everywhere we go.

But I've been blessed to have, I've had one legal assistant my entire career, she was the first one that walked in the door when I had my first job, and been fortunate to have Judi be involved with our firm ever since, and she's unbelievable. She's a big quintessential type A personality, nothing gets missed. Clients who deal with her know that and appreciate it. We affectionately call her lawyer aware, although she's not a lawyer, she's done this work for so many years, she knows clearly as much as I know in many areas of what we do more than I know. There she is, and so we're really blessed to have Judi and she's a total gift to our clients.

We have Kathy, who's a friendly voice when you call the office, answers the phone. She is the one who's gonna take the initial call on so many occasions and get people kind of started in the direction that we need to go. There we are with Kathy, and we, several years ago, well, probably five or six years ago, I began to work with a retired claims adjuster named Mark, who has worked with lawyers across the state, since he retired as a major case guy from a traveler's insurance company. And I talked to mark about 18 months ago, and we worked out a deal where he would come in to work in our office several days a week, so that I'd have access to him exclusively for the benefit of our clients. And so he brings a perspective which is so helpful to our clients of understanding what needs to be said, in communication to an insurance company that most lawyers frankly don't understand, what is the letter they don't wanna see, what's the letter they have to see? And really just kind of having his 30 years of experience as a claims person, behind the scenes being now working for my clients, our clients, and Mark has a unique gift and we're very appreciative of his work as well.

There are other people that work here, I've got a lawyer, Jennifer, in Atlanta who does research and writing for us. We have someone out of state who does writing for us, but you never see that, she does writing for us particularly on the internet and some of the things we do. And we have another person, Cassy, who has worked with us for almost nine years. Cassy is known as a big affectionate dog lover, a magnificent painter of animals, she commissions work for dogs and other animals, kind of taking your pet and expressing their personality through painting. But she does all of the work in terms of laying out the newsletter, working on the content of the website, so a lot of people, it's a little bit like an iceberg. You see the tip, but many people don't know the depth of the ice beneath the surface. And I just thought I'd mention that to you.

Oh, and Hannah. We are blessed to have Hannah. Hannah is a student at USF and we have been having USF students come in for a year or two as interns. Hannah definitely is a star intern, she's amazing. She's gonna go to law school in the fall. Hannah is a great help to us doing a lot of things. Some people see her deliver bagels in the local community, and she's going around, visit some people that we have relationships with and she's very helpful in all that we do.

So I'm blessed to have an amazing team. It makes the work here so much more pleasant, and it makes it a much more efficient and helpful environment for our clients. At the end of the day, that's what this is all about, is getting them past their injury into a life that they want to live, and recovering. We have represented cyclists across the state, from coast to coast, and from every type of injury I think you can imagine practically, even up into those terrible cases where someone's life is taken on a cycling crash.  You know, I think we write about some of the most common injuries we run into. But you know, I think based, when you have an emphasis in your practice like we do, you see the same things over and over again, so you get an understanding of various injuries, how they affect people and how they can to recover, and more importantly, how we need to relate that to an insurance company in terms of describing the impact of an injury on someone's life and trying to translate that into being recognized and taken seriously by claims adjuster in terms of putting full value on a case. We clearly have the history and the ability to try cases if we need to, but our emphasis is honestly to try to get cases settled without that. Frankly, it saves our clients money, because attorneys fees can go up when lawsuits are involved, and the costs definitely go up. So we have this balance of trying to provide all this information to an insurance company at an early stage to get cases settled for full and fair value without necessarily having to file a lawsuit in every case.

So that's sort of who Jim Dodson is and why I do what I do. I am so blessed to be able to work with with great people and represent fantastic clients across Florida. I want to be there for you if you have been involved in a cycling crash, quite frankly, in a motor vehicle crash, and you need us, you have a question, you wonder if you have a claim, you wonder if it's something that can someone can help you with, simply call or fill out a form on our website and I'll be happy to give you an answer, because I think sometimes having an answer, sometimes the answer is there is no claim for some reason, and I'd be happy to tell you that so you don't waste your energy just wondering about something that wouldn't ever go anywhere. And that's as helpful in some situations as actually picking up, you know, working with a client from start to finish, because I think sometimes people will just need to know, and it puts your mind at ease knowing whether there's something can be done or not. Obviously where there's a major injury, that's a much more clear cut situation.

So we're here to help you. If we can help you after a crash, call us. It doesn't matter where you are in Florida. And we have an offer, Kati's running the trailer on the screen this morning for our waterproof bike case, I always like to joke that these come with a lifetime warranty. You know, if this thing gets lost or breaks or whatever, just call us, we'll send you another one. Always tell you can put away your sandwich bag and use our, what we call a jersey bin or bike phone case,

So that's our story from the Jim Dodson Law here on this Facebook live program. I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you on the road. Take care, bye.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.