by Jim Bea Sampaga
As people would say, Hawaii is a paradise. But paradise isn’t accident-proof.
In the first three months of 2021, there were 25 traffic-related fatalities. Aside from motor-related accidents, accidents can occur anytime and anywhere including at work, military, public places and even at home.
When it comes to personal injury and accidents, it is best to talk to a lawyer to get the best possible legal help. Personal injury lawyers are dedicated to upholding the individual’s right to proper and fair coverage and compensation.
“I advocate for people who have been injured in an accident at no fault of their own. Our firm represents people who are injured due to a motor vehicle accident, motorcycle/moped accident, pedestrian accident, or premises liability accident,” personal injury lawyer Atty. George Alejandro told Hawaii Filipino Chronicle.
Alejandro is a lawyer at Hawaii’s leading personal injury firm, Recovery Law Center. As the only Filipino lawyer at the firm, it’s important for him to represent and empower his Filipino clients.
“Most of the Filipino clients that I have encountered and/or represented are very respectful and timid. They appreciate and respect their lawyer’s analysis of their case and are amenable to their lawyer’s suggestions of how the case should proceed,” Alejandro said.
Personal injury cases are daunting and Alejandro said that Filipino clients would often request an interpreter at depositions or in arbitration proceedings.
“I guess it’s their “timidness” and respect for the legal process—they don’t want to do no wrong. After all, going through the legal process can be a frightening experience,” he explained.
Accidents can happen in a blink of an eye. Its sudden nature that will catch anyone off-guard. But doing certain things after an accident can greatly help you and your case says Alejandro as he lists tips to do when it comes to personal injury accidents.
Calling 911 is a must and having a police report generated is ideal. “You want to avoid a “he said-she said” scenario later,” said Alejandro. “You want to have an independent third party (police officer) memorialize the accident in a report.”
Moreover, Alejandro encourages getting the contact information of bystanders who witnessed the accident. “So, that they can provide a statement of what they saw. Witness testimony can always strengthen an injury claim,” he explained.
Mobile phones are also handy when an accident happens as it will be easier to get pictures and videos of the accident scene. He said that documenting anything relevant such as visible injuries, vehicle damage, debris, license plates and registration labels will help strengthen your case.
“This is not an exhaustive list,” Alejandro said. “But these are helpful in assisting your personal injury lawyer better assess your claim.”
Working at a law firm is no easy task. It’s about making sure every aspect of the case is documented and verified. Clients must be informed. There are court hearings to prepare for. Alejandro said there is no ordinary workday at Recovery Law Center.
“Before I start my day, I generally go through my emails and tend to what is urgently needed. Whether it be responding to opposing attorneys or responding to client inquiries. I prepare my clients for depositions and inform them of the process and what they can expect at a deposition. I also conduct depositions wherein in I question witnesses about their knowledge of the case. I attend court hearings and arbitrations, and constantly update my case files in preparation for trial,” he said.
“So, my day at the office is never boring. There is always a variety of work to be done.”
Born in Ilocos Norte, Philippines, Alejandro and his family moved to Hawaii in the ‘70s. He grew up in Oahu and admits he didn’t have any difficulty assimilating into Hawaii.
Before he became a lawyer, Alejandro wanted to become a doctor because of his family and relatives who are in the medical field. That quickly changed when he took a biology course in college.
“I remember how much I hated the subject… At that point, the idea of studying medicine was out of the question. So, I decided to change gears and study accounting,” he said. “I figured accounting was a respectable profession without further education beyond a bachelor’s degree.”
Alejandro worked in the accounting field for a while after receiving his bachelor’s degree. However, he admits he “didn’t find accounting fulfilling enough.”
“There was still something missing in my work life,” he said. “Since I didn’t become a doctor, I guess I will try law school. [And] that is how I ended up in law school.”
With professional experiences of being an accountant and lawyer, Alejandro shared that it prepared him immensely for his work at the Recovery Law Center.
“The field of accounting teaches you to be very detail-oriented. Being detail-oriented is very helpful in my work as a lawyer. When you look at the evidence and try to put the pieces together in a case, you want to make sure that you went through the facts/evidence with a fine-toothed comb making sure you didn’t miss anything along the way,” he shared.
When asked about his realizations as a Filipino lawyer in Hawaii, he told Hawaii Filipino Chronicle that Filipinos are truly community-oriented and value a close-knit community.
“They are helpful to one another in times of need. As I previously stated, Filipinos tend to be mild-timid in character. I realized that understanding their culture and my ability to speak llocano helps to break that barrier. Also, being a Filipino allows me to relate to the Filipino community on a personal and cultural level,” he shared.
From wanting to become a doctor to working in accounting and now, serving as a personal injury lawyer, Alejandro advises aspiring Filipino lawyers that studying law takes dedication.
“Don’t be a lawyer because your parents tell you to be. Going to law school takes dedication, a voluminous amount of reading case laws, and often time sleepless nights,” he said.
“However, if law is your ultimate dream, then follow it. Take undergraduate classes that teach you analytical skills (such as logic) and classes that require a great deal of oral presentations. As a lawyer, you will need to get used to public speaking. You will need to advocate and articulate your client’s position in front of an audience-whether in front of a judge, jury, or arbitrator. ln addition, taking undergraduate classes that require extensive writing will help hone your writing skills. Advocacy requires both written and oral communications.”
In addition, Alejandro emphasizes that the journey to becoming a lawyer will require “your desire, drive and stamina.”
“Keep that dream alive and don’t give up,” he said.
“Yes, law school is not an easy endeavor, but if you stick it out and stay on course, at the end of the journey you will say, l made it.”
by Jim Bea Sampaga