On Wednesday, truck accident lawyer Steven M. Gursten was honored by Michigan Lawyers Weekly among the state’s top 25 attorneys. The group of elite lawyers includes Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer, director of the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office James Neuhard and Norman Fell, founder of the Cooley Law School Innocence Project.
Steve was chosen for his efforts in making dangerous truck companies safer, and for receiving both the top Michigan settlement and personal injury auto accident jury verdict in 2008, according to a year-end verdicts and settlements report by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.
For his work to increase safety compliance by dangerous trucking companies and unfit truck drivers, Steve notes that as Michigan has no bad faith law or punitive damages, there is very little deterrent for those that knowingly break the law and put profits over safety. In Michigan, there is approximately one in three trucks on the road with dangerous, out-of-service safety violations. Steve feels the only way to prevent truck accidents is for truck accident lawyers to aggressively hold bad trucking companies accountable — by litigating serious truck accident cases and fighting for better enforcement of truck safety laws and regulations.
Below is an excerpt of Steve’s story, as appeared in the Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leaders in the Law special section:
Gursten, Koltonow, Gursten, Christensen & Raitt, PC, Southfield
Practice specialty: Personal-injury litigation
Law school: Fordham University, 1995
He is a personal-injury lawyer, but Steven Gursten tends to slip out of character.
For one thing, he said he hopes to become “a lot less busy” by forcing trucking companies to adhere to safety standards.
Then there’s what he pinpointed as the secret to his success: “If you really want to excel in your profession, you can’t be in it to make the most money.”
Certainly that’s not the popular stereotype of the opportunistic personal-injury lawyer.
No, Gursten said he is trying to bring back what he calls the original intent of his practice area: “Helping people and making a difference.”
As a partner at Michigan Auto Law (Gursten, Koltonow, Gursten & Raitt, PC), he said he hopes that attitude will help him change the public’s perceptions of his chosen specialty.
“I’ve been consistently trying for 10 years to break the conventional model of what is a personal-injury lawyer,” he said.
But, he acknowledged with a laugh, “We’re fighting a losing battle.”
If that proves true, it would be one of the few battles Gursten, 39, hasn’t won in his nearly 14-year career, a career that has seen several multimillion-dollar verdicts in his clients’ favor.
In September 2008, he settled a case against Utica Transit Mix and Supply Co. for $3.9 million after one of the company’s gravel trucks struck and killed motorist Patrick Nunez. It was revealed the driver of the truck had not been properly trained and was on powerful anti-seizure medication that impaired his response time.
Gursten blames the tragedy on lax trucking-safety regulations in Michigan, something he hopes to change through litigating rogue companies.
“This doesn’t happen in other states,” he said. “This was such a needless, preventable death.”
As a member of the board of governors for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, Gursten has worked on legislative changes to make trucking companies safer.
Additionally, Steve was named a 2005 Michigan Lawyers Weekly Lawyer of the Year, based on his record-breaking pain and suffering settlement of $9 million in an automobile accident case.