Personal injury lawyer Paul Hergott doesn’t mind hopping atop the soapbox.
“Almost all road accidents and incidents are about inattention,” said the owner of Hergott Law.
“Hands-free and hand-held are almost the same when you are driving a car. You should simply turn your phone off and give driving your 100 per cent attention.”
Hergott has started a petition at Change.org/p/government-of-british-columbia-ban-all-cell-phone-use-while-driving to convince the provincial government to make both hands-free and hand-held against the law.
“The petition on the website has only been clicked on by 47 people,” said Hergott.
“That shows how little support there is for this kind of crackdown.”
But Hergott proceeds undaunted.
“If we want to reduce crashes we have to make public safety No. 1,” he said.
“Society and government is not doing enough. There’s a need for so much more public awareness.”
In fact, Hergott would be happy if he’s put out of business.
Virtually all his law practice is representing those injured in traffic accidents.
If everyone started to pay more attention, crashes and injuries would be drastically reduced, rendering his area of practice redundant.
Because all B.C. motorists have to be insured through the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, the bulk of Hergott’s work is representing injured clients in cases against ICBC.
“I act only for the injured, never ICBC or other insurance companies,” he stressed.
While firms that deal exclusively in personal injury law are more common in bigger cities, Hergott’s is the the only such specialized practice in the Okanagan.
“I also practice personal injury law differently than a lot of other lawyers,” he said.
“Some lawyers like to prolong cases because it can increase the award for the injured client. But that can also mean longer suffering for the injured. I try to facilitate recovery for victims, come to agreements quickly and do what’s best for my client.”
As a passionate proponent of road safety, Hergott organizes the local annual event marking the National Day of Remembrance.
“We’ve been setting up in the parking lot of Orchard Park mall for five years in a row now,” he said.
“We have speakers from the police and fire departments and ambulance and representatives from MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and Designated Dads.”
While turnout at the event is good and the messages for road safety are poignant, Hergott sometimes feels the day of remembrance isn’t having much impact.
“People continue to use their phones while driving and people continue to get injured as a result,” he said.
“But, all I need is one person to get the message or not get injured and it make it all worthwhile.”
After earning a business degree at the University of Regina and his law degree at the University of Victoria, Hergott articled at a law firm in Nanaimo.
When he moved to Kelowna 22 years ago, he worked at Bassett & Co. for 10 years.
There, he was effectively a firm within a firm because he was the only one doing litigation.
So in 2007, he struck out on his own to found Hergott Law and practice exclusively in personal injury law.
Hergott credits his parents, former Catholic missionaries who raised their sons on a farm in Melville, Sask., for instilling a strong work ethic and humility.
Hergott is married to Terri and their three kids, Cassidy, 15, Morgan, 13, and Caden, 11, are heavily involved in the Kelowna Actors Studio.