The Kentucky-and-Indiana attorney has devoted his practice to the underserved and his life to those who put themselves in harm’s way for their country.
The Karl Truman Law Office is celebrating its 25th year in business this year. But it could be said Karl Truman’s career as a legal professional actually began in 1961, in the very first moments of his life.
His father, a Deputy Attorney General for the state of Ohio, was at a jury trial on the day Karl was born. “He left the courtroom to go to the hospital,” said Truman. “Then, after I was born, he went back to court to present his closing arguments to the jury.”
Truman has been a practicing attorney for 29 years, since graduating from the University of Louisville School of Law in 1987. In 1991, after serving in the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s office– including promotion to Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, quite an accomplishment for someone so recently out of law school – Truman decided to fulfill his dream of running his own business.
“So I rented a small space in Jeffersonville and opened the Truman Law Office,” he said. And it truly was the Truman Law Office. “I was all by myself. I answered my own phones, did all my own typing, stuffed my own envelopes and licked the stamps.”
Six months later, he hired a secretary and was on his way. Today, he has two offices – one in Jeffersonville, one in Louisville – and he’s licensed to practice law in both states. He has two other attorneys on staff among 18 employees who include support staff, paralegals and investigators.
“My case load is evenly split between Kentucky and Indiana,” he noted. “I feel I’m always having to fight the perception that I’m an ‘Indiana lawyer.’ ”
Being licensed in both states is critical, he believes, to the quality of service he’s able to offer.
Sometimes, I think, consumers have the perception that ‘a lawyer is a lawyer.’ But in a market like ours, it’s not uncommon for a Kentucky resident to have a claim in Indiana, or vice-versa. And many attorneys in either state feel they can handle a case in the other jurisdiction as long as they don’t have to appear in court.”
The result, said Truman, is the possibility of a case being poorly handled, to the detriment of the client. “State laws vary, and an attorney untrained in that state is bound to be unfamiliar with some of the particulars. And that’s going to lead to maybe missing something important.”
He became a board certified civil trial specialist (a certification process administered by the National Board of Trial Advocacy), a process that, he said, “less than one percent of all attorneys have gone through. But I feel the practice of law is too complicated to try and do everything.”
Truman has focused his practice on handling negligence claims and injury-type claims, representing the victims of auto accidents and other types of accidents, workers compensation claims, social security disability claims and veterans disability claims.
Advocacy for Veterans
His advocacy for military veterans’ rights goes back to his boyhood. Here, too, he was influenced by his father, who served in the United States Merchant Marine during World War II.
As a boy growing up in Taylorsville, Ky., Karl enjoyed listening to his father’s stories about service on board a large cargo “liberty” ship (President Roosevelt’s “ugly ducklings”) in the Mediterranean. They were stories about the service and drama of military action, but also about the human condition during war. “I remember him telling me about being docked in Naples, and of the local children diving into the water whenever the garbage was tossed overboard,” Truman recalled. “I think it implanted in me a feeling of compassion about people in need through no fault of their own.”
When he was a boy, his father was an attorney for the Army Corps of Engineers, and Truman says he always enjoyed being in the Army environment with his father.
As an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky, Truman went through the Army ROTC program. A proud memory was that of his parents pinning on his gold second lieutenant’s bar.
He stayed in the Army Reserve for 28 years and also spent some time in the Army National Guard. In 1991, during the Gulf War, his reserve unit was called up and he went to Fort Knox as a training operations officer in brigade headquarters. But Desert Storm was over before he could be deployed overseas.
His commitment to the military led to his advocacy for veterans seeking benefits from the Veterans Administration. He regards it as “a shame and an embarrassment that the VA is not given the resources to properly help the veterans. The average length of time it takes to get through a VA disability claim is five or six years. That’s unconscionable. The VA is so short-staffed at the regional office level that a claim might sit on a shelf for a year before anyone sees it. Is that any way to serve those who have served us?”
The most important thing the Karl Truman Law Office does on behalf of its veteran clients is to make sure every claim is properly documented so as to cut through the time it takes for the claims examiners to assemble all the records and various paperwork they need.
Truman is proud to say his practice has helped collect hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of past-due benefits for veteran clients – and never collected a fee for any of that work.
Honor Flights and Flightless
Flights Karl Truman’s advocacy for veterans doesn’t stop there. He’s on the board of directors of Honor Flight Bluegrass, the local chapter of Honor Flight Network, a non-profit organization “dedicated to providing veterans with honor and closure.”
Every year, Honor Flight takes groups of World War II vets to Washington, D.C., to visit the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall. If you consider that the youngest of these vets might have been an 18-year-old boy who enlisted early in 1945, the arithmetic says that they’re pretty much all in their 90s today.
“These are servicemen who’ve never visited the memorial that honors their service and now can’t get there, for reasons of age or illness or finances,” Truman explained. “Without the activities of Honor Flight, they never would get there.”
It’s an emotional day for all of them, Truman included. “We leave at 6 a.m. from Louisville International Airport for Washington. Tour buses are there to meet us and a police escort accompanies us into town. First we visit the World War II memorial, then the Korean War and Vietnam memorials, and finally to Arlington Cemetery to see the changing of the guard.”
They return to Louisville at 9:30 p.m. and there’s a welcome-home ceremony for them at the airport.
“It’s just an honor to participate in that,” Truman said. “I’ve met some incredible vets and heard their stories. And to think they’d never have had the opportunity to go there without this.”
In August, the Truman Law Office and Honor Flight Bluegrass partnered in sponsoring an event called Flightless Dinner for those WWII vets whose health doesn’t permit them to make the flight to Washington.
The highlight of the day, at Bowman Field, was the appearance of a World War II-vintage B-25 Mitchell bomber, the kind of plane Gen. Jimmy Doolittle used for his April 1942 bombing raid on Japan off the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean.
“We took four of the vets up in the bomber from Bowman Field and around Louisville,” said Truman. “Some of them literally had tears of joy from the experience.”
The guest speaker for the event was Brian Duffy, a Gulf War veteran who’s commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. There were about 170 in attendance, including the veterans and their families.
“This was the second year we’ve done this dinner, and my hope is to continue honoring these vets who’ve done so much for our country, as long as we have vets to honor,” Truman said.
He’s also involved with Team RWB (as in red, white and blue), which promotes veterans’ physical activity through running and sports. Every year, the national organization conducts a nationwide flag relay to commemorate 9/11. Last year, the relay came through Kentucky, and he participated in running the flag to Frankfort.
Recognizing Veterans’ Service at Home
This year, the Truman Law Office will be sponsoring the Kentucky Veterans of the Year and the inaugural Indiana Veterans of the Year banquets.
The mission of these two awards is to highlight the contributions of veterans and the great value they add to society as they continue to serve their communities after serving the country. Both a male and a female veteran of the year will be designated. They are nominated by their community and chosen by a committee that knows neither the veterans’ names nor the communities they represent.
“We are striving to show the public that veterans are strong and courageous people who are making a positive change in the lives of others, whether on a national level or just on a personal level – like the veteran who mows the widow lady’s yard next door,” said Jeanine Truman, marketing director of the Truman Law Office (who also is married to Karl Truman).
Both banquets will fall the week of Veterans Day. The Kentucky Veterans of the Year banquet is 6 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Brown & Williamson Club inside Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The featured speaker will be MG (Ret.) Robert S. Silverthorn Jr. Gold Star parents Tommy and Cathy Mullins will entertain. The night will include a Nominees Honor Ceremony and the award ceremony.
The Indiana Veterans of the Year Banquet is 6 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at The Grand in downtown New Albany. Silouan Green, who speaks and writes about post-crisis healing and rebuilding, will be the featured speaker. DJ Troy Stephens, a VA employee, will entertain. This night will also include a Nominees Honor Ceremony and the award ceremony.
For information on advertising, sponsorships or getting involved, go to these website links:http://www.indianaveteransoftheyear.org/sponsor-opportunities.html http://www.kentuckyveteransoftheyear.org/
The Truman Law Ofﬁce Commitment
Truman’s commitments to the community don’t end with his service to veterans. He also devotes a great deal of time to such organizations as the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky, Home of the Innocents, Louisville Kids Fair, Wayside Christian Mission, WHAS Crusade for Children, Clark County Democrats, Sheppards Hands, St. Baldrick’s Foundation for children with cancer, Silver Creek and Jeffersonville high schools and the Better Business Bureau.
“I get excited about community involvement,” said Truman. “It’s important to give back to our communities in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Many of the attorneys that you see on TV don’t, in fact, live here. I am a small local businessman, and as such, it’s important for me to be involved.”
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