Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

January 24, 2014

Attorney's book explores his specialty

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — Batesville attorney William J. “B.J.” Kelley II of the Craig, Kelley & Faultless law firm decided to write a book entitled “Soft Tissue Injuries and Hard Ball Tactics” because “no matter what I did or what I personally told people about how things really are, there was still a huge disconnect between what most people believe, and what really happens to people who have been injured in wrecks.” He wanted to convey “the real give-and-take that occurs between insurance companies, attorneys and people who’ve been injured.”

The book also answers questions he’s been asked by physicians and chiropractors regarding the application of the various insurance coverages after a crash. “There are a lot of misconceptions out there. For instance, some people think that you can’t, or shouldn’t, use your own health insurance after you’ve been in a wreck – and that’s just not true.”

The 92-page book, published last April and available through online vendors, took about four months to complete on his office computer, on weekends and at home. “I organized the book by topic in outline form and then went from there. I wanted it to be well organized into chapters, sections and subsections so that someone who wanted to answer a particular question could go right to that section.”

The most challenging aspects of writing “Soft Tissue Injuries and Hard Ball Tactics” were the time-consuming research and footnotes. Kelley reports, “I mostly used textbooks and other books, scholarly articles and Web sites with access to medical and engineering articles .... It was a good exercise to go through. Sometimes I knew something was true, but still needed to prove it, which was ultimately important for the book’s credibility.”

Why the book should be read: Because it addresses a topic that many people think they know and understand, but really don’t. We’ve become so inundated by television commercials and 15-second sound bites that are pushed on us by corporations with huge abilities to spend money that we often form opinions about things based on what is essentially advertising. So, we believe what the big companies want us to believe, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Five revelations: 1. We (plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers) don’t file lawsuits unless the insurance carriers give us little or no choice. We always prefer to resolve the claims without a lawsuit if possible. 2. When we do go to trial on an accident case, we are legally obligated to sue the person who caused the accident. We aren’t allowed to name the insurance company or even tell the jury that the person has insurance. This gives the insurance companies kind of a built-in advantage. 3. Soft tissue injuries that may start off as a simple case of whiplash can lead to long-term pain and problems. This isn’t always the case, but it can happen. 4. Wrecks that don’t have much vehicle damage can still result in a lot of damage to an occupant. Just like wrecks that involve huge vehicle damage can result in little or no damage to the occupant. 5. Insurance carriers are in business to make profits. That doesn’t mean that they’re bad. In fact, they have a right to make money.

More writing ahead: I’ve written a nonfiction book about the journey from small-town Indiana high school football to the Ivy League based on our son Connor’s experiences. It deals with competition, recruiting, the application process – all of the things we learned through trial and error. I’m hoping to re-work the book before the end of 2014, then I’ll see if the story is interesting enough to publish. I’d really like to do a fictional book sometime about being a personal injury lawyer. I also would like to write a book on the John Hunt Morgan raid. It’s really a crazy story and it’s the only Civil War event that happened anywhere near us.

By the numbers: Over 20 years, I estimate that I have personally negotiated and resolved more than 5,000 personal injury cases.

Why it’s called a job: Every time I go up against a big insurance company, it’s a challenge. It’s always a David-and-Goliath contest, but someone has to do it. Otherwise, there’s no check and balance in the system. Also, when you win a jury trial and prove that your client is a deserving person, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

Degrees: Emory University, 1981; and Georgetown University Law School with honors (cum laude), 1985.

Accolades: Top 100 Trial Lawyer, according to the National Trial Lawyers; and a Top 100 Litigator, says the American Society of Legal Advocates.

Early career: I was admitted into the Attorney General’s Honors Program, which, according to the Department of Justice, is “the most prestigious federal entry-level attorney hiring program of its kind.” I handled cases and trials in federal courts all across the United States.

Coming home: In 1992, after spending 10 years in Washington, D.C., I and my wife, Lisa, a pediatrician, moved back to my hometown to raise our children.

Proudest achievement: Having two really wonderful kids, Connor, who attends Princeton University; and Emily, who attends Indiana University.

Other Batesville family ties: Parents Bill and Kim Kelley, sister Betsy Ertel and brother-in-law Tom Ertel.

Best pastimes: Playing the guitar, reading biographies and history, biking, hunting and fishing.

Anticipating: Our son’s final year of college football. They won the Ivy League last year and if they could do it again, it would be historic for Princeton.