By Sherry Jackson
With 27 years as a trial attorney, Christopher Zachar, owner of Zachar Law Firm, prides himself on his work ethic and commitment to his clients.
He grew up in Iowa, played high school and college football, worked in cornfields from dawn to dusk and understood the meaning of hard work at a young age. In fact, Zachar says really he is still just a “good ole’ hard-working, Midwestern boy” with a passion for doing what is right. “Attorneys are supposed to work for their clients—it is our job,” Zachar says.
He then continues: “If someone has been injured in an accident and they start researching personal injury law firms for help, how do they know which attorney to choose? All law firms sell a good story, but how do you know which are really good, which will provide the best service and get you the best result? Who will you be able to contact regularly, rely on to have a good reputation and be experienced enough to handle your case competently? How can you really know?”
According to Zachar, people should look for an injury law firm that 1) focuses only on injury cases, 2) one with experience and 3) one that actually files lawsuits when needed. Law firms that do not regularly file lawsuits for their clients are the firms that are just not willing to put in the time and effort to get a client the very best result. Zachar says a law firm must be willing to file a lawsuit, if necessary. If not, then you are simply caving in to the insurance company’s last best offer every time.
As an undergraduate at ASU, Zachar was at a crossroads, trying to decide his career path. He had always held family friends who were attorneys in high regard but had not thought seriously about pursuing a law career. He decided to take an attorney friend out to lunch to pick his brain and ask questions. After that conversation, Zachar decided a career in law was the absolutely right direction.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from ASU in 1989 and his law degree from the University of Arizona College of Law in 1992. He is admitted to practice law in all city, county and state courts in Arizona. After passing the Arizona State Bar exam, Zachar worked for a personal injury firm for about three years before opening the doors to Zachar Law Firm in 1996, focusing only on personal injury and wrongful death cases. He is a Certified Specialist in Injury and Death law (less than 3% of Arizona attorneys are certified specialists) and has been named a SuperLawyer of the Southwest recently for 13th year in a row. In 2010, he was admitted as a member to the U.S. Supreme Court, sworn in personally by the full court in Washington, D.C.
According to the State Bar of Arizona Board of Legal Specialization, only lawyers who have “demonstrated superior knowledge, skill, integrity, professionalism and competence in a specific area of law, to better serve the public,” can achieve the certification. Zachar has been a Certified Specialist since 2003.
Attorneys must be willing to do what is needed to get their clients the best result for their case. If that next step is filing a lawsuit, is your attorney willing and prepared to do that? You better know that when you make your attorney decision. Not all firms are set up or prepared to do that, but it’s what Zachar Law Firm does. In fact, there are numerous personal injury firms (even some advertising firms) who send their cases to Zachar to litigate. They know litigation means a lot of work and costs for the firm. Zachar Law Firm accepts the responsibility to do what is needed to get the best results.
Maricopa County can be a difficult place to negotiate motor vehicle cases, Zachar says, because insurance companies have changed the perception of accidents, lawyers and lawsuits. Insurance companies have spent a lot of money over the years to make society believe that injury claims and injury lawsuits are only made by “greedy people”, and that there are too many lawsuits and too many frivolous lawsuits. It is simply not true.
Zachar explains: The court system was established in the United States Constitution in 1787 as a part of the judicial branch of our government. You know why? Because our forefathers knew, if we were to live in a free, lawful and peaceful country, that we would need a peaceful, orderly and organized way of resolving our disputes (no more ‘eye for and eye’ justice). Hence, the court system as we know it was developed. Indeed, that is all the court system is—a place to help people resolve disputes. The term “lawsuit” is simply the document that starts the formal process. So, how can it possibly be bad or greedy for a citizen to seek a legal, peaceful and orderly means to resolve his/her dispute? Of course, it is not, but that is what insurance companies want the public to believe. Tell them “everyone is just trying to get rich”, and watch the system deal with that.
Because of the harsh climate created by insurance companies, most personal injury law firms encourage clients to just settle for the low insurance company offers. Many of the personal injury law firms simply take the last insurance company offer, settle and move on to the next one. And, sadly, the injured victim does not know the difference.
The “best result” varies depending on the facts of each case. Zachar spends the time necessary to educate his clients on how the legal system works so they can understand what to expect in the process, and so when it comes to a decision time, they are better prepared to make the right choice because they understand it.
Zachar’s recalls his best-case result: In December 2015, a Maricopa County jury awarded $47.5 million to two families whose wives/mothers were killed in a head-on collision on Interstate 10. The jury found the state of Arizona negligent for failing to have median barriers in place, which would have saved these women’s lives. Three years earlier, in February 2012, a Maricopa County jury awarded Zachar’s clients $7.8 million for the same circumstance (this case was first turned away by a top law firm in California and a top law firm in Arizona). Zachar’s reputation for taking the tough cases has been cemented in the legal community. Many attorneys reach out to Zachar for help given his work ethic, commitment to his clients and trial skills.
On top of all of this, Zachar Law Firm has a strict policy that the firm will not take a fee higher than the amount its client receives in a settlement, even if it is lower than the percentage agreed to. Zachar explains that “clients hire attorneys us help them, not to help ourselves.”
Zachar once had a client with a slip and fall injury. No other attorney would even talk to her. ZLF took the case, rejected the low offer from the insurance company, filed a lawsuit, put in the work necessary to prove her case and eventually got a good settlement offer. The client was so appreciative that she agreed to settle only if Zachar agreed to share the settlement amount equally, which amounted to a higher fee to Zachar Law Firm than what was first agreed to. “That doesn’t happen every day,” Zachar says with a laugh, but it is a case that I will always remember—having a client so appreciative of our hard work, when no one else would even talk to her.
Every case doesn’t have to go to court. About 25% of Zachar Law Firm’s cases proceed to a lawsuit, and each case and client is independently evaluated. It really depends on the case, the client and the offer. Regardless of what insurance companies want people to think, injured people are not trying to “get rich”. They want to get their bills paid, lost wages reimbursed for missing work and then something for their pain and trouble the accident caused them. That’s it. Unfortunately, in today’s climate, many times that means filing a lawsuit.
Attorneys who practice personal injury law, with the goal of truly helping their clients, must be ready and willing to file a lawsuit. Why? Because insurance companies must know you are serious and must know you are willing to take the case as far as necessary to get your client the best result. Again, this requires time, a financial investment and a lot of hard work. If not, you will never get the best result for your injured client because the insurance companies will know that this attorney or firm “settles everything.” So, they lowball the offer.
Zachar Law Firm gets better offers for its clients because the insurance companies know that ZLF is serious about filing a lawsuit if the offer is just too low. ZLF simply will do what is necessary to get the best result. No one wants to have to file a lawsuit, and most cases do not—but if the insurance company does not believe that you are prepared to do just that, how will you ever get the best result?
As hard as he works and as much as he loves the practice of law, Zachar’s family comes first. His wife, Michelle, and their three kids, Tommy, Macrina and Danielle, love to travel, explore new places and spend as much time together as they can. Having his own firm has given Zachar the flexibility to never miss the kids’ events and be extensively involved in school activities and organizations, as well as various local charities in which he is interested. Zachar Law Firm supports and volunteers with local charities including Ronald McDonald House and Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation.
“There is a good balance. I do not feel overburdened ‘most of the time’.” he says with a laugh. Zachar is very proud of the firm he has built and is most proud of the people and staff of the Zachar Law Firm. “We have an experienced, caring staff, who work really hard for our clients. Our folks’ bond with clients and look out for them as they would friends or family.”
Every day, Zachar strives to meet his duty to his clients, his staff and the legal profession. At Zachar Law Firm, it isn’t just about a good monetary recovery. It’s about making sure the client is getting the care they need and then, turning the page after a rough patch of road. The firm guides clients through that uncertain path, and ZLF attorneys and staff have been doing this for the last 24 years.
Personal Injury and Wrongful Death law are all ZLF has ever done, and it is all it does now. And, Zachar Law Firm will continue to do it the old fashioned way, with hard work, to continue meeting and exceeding client the expectations, confidence and trust when they decide to retain Zachar Law Firm.
714 E. Rose Lane, Phoenix