Attorney Thomas F. Shebell, III
Fighting For The Injured In New Jersey
In thirty years of representing injured people, I do my best to treat each person’s case as the most important one I’ve ever handled. My goal is to treat each client as I would expect to be treated.
I became a lawyer to help make a positive change in people’s lives.
As a boy, my parents stressed the importance of living life by basic, universal truths. To name a few —Treat others as you want to be treated. When you make a mistake, accept responsibility. Actions speak louder than words. When you take on a job, do it right. It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry.
I try to live by those “universal truths” and hope that others will try to do the same. I believe most people want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, many people and corporations have either neglected, or turned a blind eye to, people’s fundamental right to be safe and free from harm, just to avoid responsibility.
The end result of the refusal to accept corporate or personal accountability is that I meet people every day who suffer from physical and emotional injuries that could have and should have been prevented. For the past 30 years, I’ve fought to help people recover money to make up for harm and losses from those that have caused their life-changing injuries. “Money” for Civil Justice is a poor substitute for the preventable horrors that I’ve seen over the years, but it is all our law will allow.
Fighting For Justice
The use of the word “money” or “compensation” when it comes to talking about an injury lawsuit is viewed by some people as a dirty word. People often think of the McDonald’s hot coffee case, as an instance of supposed “jackpot justice” (for the true facts of the case, watch the documentary “Hot Coffee”). Some people still view plaintiff’s injury lawyers as “ambulance chasers.” People are entitled to their opinions, but until you or a loved one has walked in one of my client’s shoes and had their quality of life taken away, in fairness, that anti-plaintiff bias is misplaced.
So, if someone’s neglect or intentional conduct takes away another person’s quality of life and causes life-long pain, do you simply walk away? Do you seek revenge – an eye for an eye? The law does not allow an eye for an eye justice. The only remedy the law allows against someone who has taken away your health, or your freedom (often one in the same) is money. Money is the only civilized way to equalize and balance the harm suffered by one person and to hold another accountable for their actions.
Day after day, I see people of all walks of life that suffer from preventable medical neglect, car crashes, dangerous conditions of property, dangerous and defective products, corporate wrongdoing, and the like. The most common emotion I see is fear and a sense of loss… sometimes hopelessness. Followed by questions, such as, why did this happen, how can I prevent this happening to someone else, how do we make sure that the person who did this to me is held accountable?
I have never represented one client in 30 years, not one, who would trade their health and happiness for a settlement or jury verdict of even substantial damages.
Early on, I grew up with the law. My grandfather, father, and uncles were all trial lawyers. As a boy, I would often spend Saturday mornings with my dad at my family’s law practice on Bangs Avenue in Asbury Park, learning about peoples’ problems. When my dad, Thomas F. Shebell, Jr., became a judge in the Monmouth County Superior Court, I would go to the court house in Freehold with him on many Saturday mornings. I felt at home in the halls of the court house and the courtroom. In the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to be a trial lawyer.
A Commitment To Fight For Justice
When I attended Providence College, I buried my thoughts of being a lawyer, perhaps because I feared living in my father’s shadow. Instead, I became interested in creative writing and poetry. By my senior year, I fell in love with my wife, Michelle, and knew I would never be able to support us as a writer. By the time we got engaged eight months later, I made the decision to attend law school at the Dickinson School of Law, in Pennsylvania (now Penn State Law School). I graduated law school in 1991, and moved back to Monmouth County with Michelle, and our first daughter, Mackie.
I then had the privilege to Clerk for Justice Daniel J. O’Hern, of the New Jersey Supreme Court, for one year. Within one week of finishing my clerkship with Justice O’Hern, I tried my first jury trial as an associate at Drazin & Warsaw, in Red Bank, New Jersey. Over the course of the next three years, I tried over fifty jury trials to verdict, mostly in Monmouth, Middlesex, Hudson, and Ocean counties. Since that time, I’ve continued to try cases throughout the state.
Benjamin Franklin once said — “You do well in life, by doing good.” My goal in life and the law is to “do good.” To me, each client is as unique as each human’s fingerprints and each “case” deserves singular attention. Every client that enters my office is a human being who needs help. I truly care about each person that I represent. I actively and reflectively listen when people talk with me. I often try to reverse roles with clients, and even defendants, to better understand the view from their perspective.
I also know what it feels like, firsthand, to have times when we are vulnerable, weak, fearful, and suffering. I know what it’s like to suffer the long-term effects of injuries after being struck by a car while cycling back in 2001. I know what it is like to spend weeks in a hospital bed, to have operation after operation — to literally count the seconds, minutes, and hours for waves of pain to pass… to stare at the clock on the wall waiting for night to become morning. The nights are always the worst.
Compassion For Clients
I’ve walked in many of my clients’ shoes and taken the difficult journey back from injuries to just about every part of my body. After 29 orthopedic operations over 18 years, my body will never be the same. Sometimes, I don’t move or bend too well. Sometimes I can barely tie my shoelaces. I wake up with some degree of pain every day. I don’t sleep too well on most nights. I often wonder if I will be able to walk upright as I get older. I sometimes worry about whether I will be able to do the simple things with my wife, kids, and, hopefully, grandkids one day.
I am thankful to be alive and am able to work full-time. I am a lot more fortunate than many of the people that I represent, who have jobs that demand physical labor, or those who can’t get the medical care they need or have physical or emotional injuries that cannot be fixed by even the best modern medicine has to offer. One thing is for sure — I bring these thoughts from years of often hard living, pain, and frustration into every persons’ case that I work for.
At my firm, we fight to preserve your right to be compensated for injuries caused by the neglect of others. The defense team for the insurance companies and most corporations have one goal — to make money. Every corporate decision is a cost-benefit-risk analysis, designed to maximize profits for their executives and shareholders.
The lawyers that I’ve chosen to join the fight at my firm are thoughtful and compassionate warriors. We fight for core human, civil rights and values that include human happiness, enjoyment, emotional, and physical well-being.
At Shebell & Shebell, LLC we see plaintiff’s trial lawyers as resistance fighters against the insurance industry and corporate power structure. My greatest fear is the indifference of good people — jurors chosen from our community — who may choose to do nothing in the face of injustice. Armed with the true facts, I have seen jurors recognize the importance of holding people accountable, of restoring human dignity, of valuing human losses, and, by delivering a just verdict, to make our communities a safe place to live.
Giving Clients Our Best Effort
At the end of the day, I ask myself these questions… Did I give my client 100 percent of my best? Did I fight for a cause that I believe will further my client’s interests? Did I bring a safety issue caused by dangerous conduct or a harmful product to the public’s awareness? Did I arm jurors with the evidence and guidance they need to deliver a meaningful verdict for my client, for the right reasons?
If I can say yes to those questions, then I’ve had a good day. Although I have helped thousands of clients over the years, I have also suffered the pain of losing cases. Justice denied to good, honest, and deserving people injured through no fault of their own. Every day, I strive to improve as a human being and trial lawyer.
After trying about 80 jury trials to verdict, I wanted to improve as a trial lawyer, father, husband, and human being. In the summer of 2014, I was chosen to spend three weeks in Wyoming, learning different trial skills from one of the best trial lawyers of our time — Gerry Spence. At Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College, Spence and a special group of trial lawyers and psychologists reinforce what many lawyers have forgotten — what it means to be a human being, caring for another human being.
Trials are not about the lawyer and his or her ego. A trial is about giving jurors the true story of what happened to our client – a regular human being. It is about honoring, respecting, and trusting in the incredible power of ordinary people – jurors – to do the right thing. Before trial, I always go to a client’s home, sometimes several times, to better understand who that person really is, and how their injuries have affected the quality of their lives.
If you need my help, you can reach out to me until 11 p.m. every day. I can be reached at the office at 732-663-1122, or by e-mail. My mobile number is usually the best way to reach me, at 732-614-3628, again until 11 p.m., unless it’s an emergency. I do my best to return phone calls or e-mails on the same day or night of the call.
Board-Certified In Civil Trial Law
The Board on Attorney Certification was established by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in 1980 for the purpose of helping consumers find attorneys who have a recognized level of competence in particular fields of law. Attorneys may be designated by the Supreme Court as “Certified Attorneys” if they:
- are able to demonstrate sufficient levels of experience, education, knowledge and skill in a specific area of law or practice
- have passed a rigorous examination
- and have been recognized by their peers as having sufficient skills and reputation in the designated specialty.
An attorney must be a member in good standing of the New Jersey Bar for at least five years; taken a specific number of continuing legal education courses in the three years prior to filing an application; demonstrate substantial involvement in preparation of litigated matters; demonstrate an unblemished reputation by submitting a list of attorneys and judges who will attest to the applicant’s character and ability; and pass a written examination covering various aspects of practice in the designated specialty. Approximately only two percent of all lawyers in the State of New Jersey have received the designation of Certified Civil Trial Attorney.
- Member, New Jersey Supreme Court Civil Practice Committee
- Co-chairperson, Monmouth County Civil Practice Committee
- Certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Civil Trial Attorney
- Fellow of the American Bar Foundation
- General Counsel for the Boro of Fair Haven Fire Department
- Member, Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum
- Member, Monmouth Bar Association General Welfare Committee
- Member, American Association for Justice
- Member, New Jersey Association for Justice
- Member, Trial Attorneys of New Jersey
- Member, NJ State Bar Association
- Member, Super Lawyers 2012-2019
- Member, National Trial Lawyers Top 100
- Member, America’s Top 100 Attorneys in Medical Malpractice Litigation
- New Jersey, 1991
- Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College, 2014
- The Dickinson School of Law, 1991, J.D.
- Providence College, 1988, B.A.
- New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. O’Hern, Law Clerk, 1991 – 1992
- Drazin and Warshaw, P.C., Associate Trial Attorney, 1992 – 1995