RI Personal Injury Lawyer: Alfred Gemma

Alfred Gemma RI Personal Injury Lawyer Alfred Gemma

Alfred Gemma is the President and Founder of Gemma Law Associates, Inc.

Fifty-five years ago, Alfred Gemma’s father gave him advice that proved to be providential. Alfred had just completed his undergraduate studies at Brown University and begun interviewing for a job with various companies. None of them really appealed to him.

Alfred’s father, Alfred Sr., had immigrated to the U.S. along with his wife, Emily, and the two operated a successful small grocery story in Providence, Gemma’s Market.

But he didn’t want his son to follow in his career footsteps. He thought his son was cut out to be a lawyer. After his post-college job interviews proved to be less than exciting, Alfred agreed.

“I finally thought, Hey, maybe I’ll take his advice,” recalls Alfred, 76.

A Career Dedicated to Serving the Injured

After earning his J.D. in 1959 from the University of Chicago, where he was a member of the Law Review, Alfred spent six months working for a law firm before striking out on his own. He remained a solo practitioner for five years before adding a second lawyer to the operation.

Today, Gemma Law Associates, Inc., numbers six lawyers, including Alfred’s sons Peter and Mark, who joined the firm in 1990 and 1997, respectively, and who now manage the firm.

In addition to maintaining a busy law practice over the years, Gemma has been active in Democratic politics, serving on the Democratic State Committee and the Democratic Representative Committee and with the American Association for Justice and the Rhode Island Association for Justice.

Gemma says he has stayed active in these organizations in an effort to maintain access to justice for people who are wronged and injured.

“There’s just been much more of a concerted effort to keep the public away from lawyers, and to some extent it’s working,” he says. “People come to us after they’ve been seriously injured and they say, ‘Gee, I’ve got all these medical bills, and the insurance company gave me 500 bucks and I signed off because I didn’t realize how seriously I was injured.’”

“We help people get compensated for other people’s negligence,” he says. “We protect the public from negligence and wrongdoing of companies and people, and we make them whole.”

“Usually, when people come to us, there’s very substantial medical and wage losses. We take cases on contingency, so they don’t have to pay any money up front, which is important to them because they don’t have any money, they’re injured, they’re out of work, and we attempt to make them whole after the negligence of someone else.”

“So it isn’t just financial; it’s being able to help these people.”

Gemma says that being an effective advocate for injured persons requires more than just a pugnacious frame of mind. While zealousness is important, he says, it’s important to be respected by your legal opponents for seeking fair outcomes.

He’s finding more time to indulge in some of his other favorite activities, including reading up on financial investments and spending time with his 11 grandchildren.

Mark Gemma RI Personal Injury Lawyer Mark Gemma

Principal

mark@gemmalaw.com

With a father and brother already practicing law together at Gemma Law Associates, Inc., Mark Gemma knew exactly what he was getting into when he decided to become a personal injury lawyer.

“Back when I was in college and deciding what to do for a living, I watched my father and brother,” Gemma said. “My father had been practicing this type of law for decades and I saw how many people he and my brother were helping with this firm.”

But there was something else about personal injury that appealed to the aspiring lawyer. Not only were his father and brother able to help the injured, they also enjoyed careers that allowed them to interact directly with their clients in meaningful, important relationships.

“I saw that they got to deal with the clients directly, and I saw that they got to be in court a lot,” Gemma said. “Those things really attracted me, not only to being a lawyer, but to being a lawyer at my dad’s firm.”

Recognized for Legal Ability and Ethics

Today, 12 years after joining the firm, Mark Gemma has become a successful attorney in his own right, recognized nationally for his legal ability and commitment to legal ethics. In December 2009, Gemma received the distinction of an AV Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest recognition of legal excellence of its kind. In addition to serving as President of the Rhode Island Association of Justice, Gemma is the President of the Council of Presidents for American Association of Justice.

“Because these honors and distinctions come from my peers, and from the judges familiar with my work, these achievements mean a great deal to me,” Gemma said.

Making a Difference in Accident Victim’s Lives

The most meaningful part of Gemma’s job continues to be the relationships he forms while representing accident victims and other injured individuals. Among the most memorable clients was a car crash survivor that Gemma represented early in his career.

“This woman required multiple surgeries and was very significantly injured,” Gemma said. “For a while, I struggled to get her insurance company to pay up to the limits of her policy, and I think she began to wonder why her case was taking as long as it did.”

The case eventually entered binding arbitration. In his closing arguments, Gemma was able to include personal details about the woman’s life and her injures.

“Later, before we even heard how much we had obtained for her, she stopped by the office and told me how much it meant to her that I devoted myself to her case the way I did, and that I was able to speak about her the way I did in the closing argument,” Gemma said. “She told me that she knew she had a lawyer who really understood her situation. What she said was very important to me, and it felt even better when we learned that she had been awarded an amount far beyond the limits of her policy. I have been fortunate to have many client relationships like this since then, but being able to help this woman will always stand out in my memory.”

Unfortunately, Gemma has seen situations where a client comes to his office when it’s too late for him to help.

“It is incredibly important for a person or family to seek legal representation in the beginning, right after the injury, before entering any agreement with the insurance company,” Gemma said. “I have seen it all too many times when people come to see me after they have resolved a claim and they are having second thoughts about their case and they don’t think they were treated fairly. In this situation, there is usually nothing I can do for them. They have already signed their rights away.”

Taking on the Insurance Companies

The experience a lawyer has in dealing with insurance companies can be a crucial factor in settlement negotiations, Gemma said.

“A person who is injured often may not know anything about the process they are getting into,” Gemma said. “They don’t have the experience or the familiarity required to negotiate with an insurance company. They don’t have any way to know what an insurance company might be willing to pay. They may have no idea how valuable their case may be.”

Gemma also said it is important for potential clients to understand that an attorney from Gemma Law Associates, Inc., can usually negotiate a larger settlement, even when legal fees are taken into account, than clients would receive if they handled the claim themselves.

Serving his Clients, Serving his Community

Among the skills important to being a successful lawyer, few rank as highly as the ability to listen and communicate, according to Gemma.

“I think if I have any innate abilities that help me as a lawyer, it is my ability to listen to people and really connect with people,” Gemma said. “I think that has helped me understand clients and their needs and help them with what they are looking for. I think this same communication skill transfers to juries as well, in terms of connecting to jurors and dealing with them on a face-to-face basis.”

When he’s not at his office or at the courthouse, Gemma lives an active life, both on the tennis courts and in his community.

“I play competitive tennis locally and I have played since high school,” Gemma said. “In terms of community involvement I have really become passionate about a program called The Tomorrow Fund.”

The Tomorrow Fund is a non-profit organization that supports children with cancer who are treated at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.

Like many lawyers, Gemma’s profession has influenced his taste in entertainment. His favorite legal movie is The Verdict with Paul Newman.

“The writer of that film went to Boston College, where I went to college,” Gemma said. “And the character played by Paul Newman also went to Boston College.”

His favorite legal book is A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr.

“That was also set in Massachusetts,” Gemma said, “Right here in my own backyard.”

Peter Gemma RI Personal Injury Lawyer Peter Gemma

Principal

peter@gemmalaw.com

Peter Gemma grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. Even when he was young, Peter knew what it would be like to practice law in his hometown. His father, Alfred Gemma, had been practicing law in Providence since the 1960s. As a teenager, Peter knew he might follow in his father’s footsteps and become an attorney.

After receiving his B.A. degree in English from Clark University in 1987, he decided the time had come to pursue a career in the law. He enrolled at Suffolk University Law School in Boston and obtained his J.D. there in 1990.

He soon returned home to join his father’s firm, and seven years later his younger brother Mark followed suit, making Gemma Law Associates a true family law firm. The lawyers in the Gemma family intend to provide legal help in the Providence community for years to come.

Peter’s practice focuses on civil litigation—primarily cases involving personal injury, products liability, premises liability, auto accidents and construction accidents. Over the course of his career, he has had numerous significant verdicts and settlements, many of them in the six- and seven-figure range.

Peter’s Commitment to his Rhode Island Community

He’s also maintained the firm’s commitment to the community in other ways. His volunteer efforts include assisting the McAuley House, a service of McAuley Ministries which provides food, shelter, and basic needs for indigent people; SquashBusters, an after-school program that provides educational tutoring and sports opportunities for city youths; the Providence Little League; and the Ronald McDonald House.

“We want to give back to the community,” he says. “We’re in an economic climate here in Providence where we see a lot of people who are indigent and who have a lot of problems. So we try to help out where we can.”

He brings the same spirit of commitment to his day-to-day law practice.

“It’s important to me that I’m able to help people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the courts,” he says. “They wouldn’t be able to afford to hire lawyers on their own if weren’t for the contingency-fee arrangement that we provide.”

His busy professional life and community commitments limit his personal time; but when he has it, he enjoys running, playing squash, and traveling.

Henry S. Monti

Associate

henry@gemmalaw.com

Henry S. Monti truly loves being a trial lawyer.

“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed – being a lawyer in that setting,” says Henry, a board-certified civil trial expert. “I love representing my client and advocating for them before a judge and jury in the courtroom.”

Henry developed his taste for trial work at the start of his legal career, serving at first as a public defender and later as a special assistant attorney general. During his two-year tenure with the attorney general’s office, he tried more than 30 jury cases, including four involving homicides.

“By trying so many cases during that short period of time, I was able to develop the skills that are needed to become a trial lawyer,” Henry says. “Preparation is one key. Another key is that you have to be relaxed, and you have to establish a rapport with the jury.”

Preparing Each Case for Trial

For more than two decades, Henry has used his trial skills at Gemma Law Associates, Inc. to protect the rights and interests of personal injury victims, including those who have been harmed in automobile accidentstruck accidents and slip and falls.

“Only a small percentage of our cases actually go to trial. Most can be resolved through mediation or arbitration, which is great for the client because it can be quicker and less expensive,” Henry says. “However, to be successful in mediation or arbitration, you have to prepare every case as if it is going to trial.”

Getting Involved in the Community

A past president of the Rhode Island Trial Lawyers Association, Henry lectures frequently on trial practice and personal injury law. He also has served on the Board of Governors for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and is a member of the Rhode Island Bar Association.

He has been licensed to practice law in Rhode Island since 1982 and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

When he isn’t practicing law, Henry serves on the Board of Governors for Bradley Hospital, a mental health facility for children, and he enjoys sailing.

A native of Providence, Rhode Island, Henry earned his undergraduate degree, cum laude, as a member of the honors program at Providence College. He went to receive his law degree from St. John’s University School of Law, where he was a St. Thomas Moore Scholar.

Charles Vucci

Associate

charles@gemmalaw.com

As the lead workers’ compensation attorney for Gemma Law Associates, Inc., Charles J. Vucci understands that many of his clients are hesitant to speak with him at first.

“They think that if they talk to an attorney, it’s going to cost them their jobs,” Charles says. “But the truth is that the law entitles you to compensation if you are harmed at work, and the law strictly prohibits an employer from retaliating against you.”

Once his clients get past that initial hurdle, it doesn’t take long for them to realize they are working with a skilled and experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

Dedicated to Helping Rhode Island’s Injured Workers

Throughout most of his legal career, Charles has been dedicated to helping secure benefits for Rhode Island workers with work-related illnesses and injuries, including benefits that cover medical care, lost wages and temporary and permanent disability.

“People want to make sure they are getting paid when they are out of work,” Charles says. “They need someone to make sure they’re getting their checks, and that they’re getting their medical treatment or reimbursement for their prescriptions. That’s why I’m here – to take those headaches away from them while they are recovering.”

For instance, some medical providers will refuse to examine or treat an injured or ill worker unless they have received authorization from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier.

“Nothing in Rhode Island workers’ compensation law says that the medical providers need that authorization before they see you,” Charles says. “That’s a disagreement that often happens, and you need an attorney to protect your rights in that situation.”

Charles points out that Gemma Law Associates, Inc., provides free legal representation to workers’ compensation claimants. If a claim lump sum settles, the firm is entitled to receive an attorney fee from that settlement.

Workers Seeking Benefits Should Get Experienced Legal Help

Charles strongly encourages injured workers to receive legal advice and representation.

“The employer is being guided by legal counsel who considers the best interests of their client first – not the interests of the injured worker,” he says.

“Employees have that same right to legal counsel. So, if injured employees don’t exercise that right, they are only receiving information from one source, the employer’s representative, and that information may be right or wrong. They have no way of finding out unless they hire their own attorney.”

Charles believes that his clients deserve a workers’ compensation attorney who will be thorough and straightforward with them about their cases.

“I will tell them what is going to happen, and what they need to do to prepare for it,” he says.

More Than 20 Years of Workers’ Compensation Experience

Charles has practiced in the area of workers’ compensation law since becoming a licensed attorney in 1987, including an initial stint as a workers’ compensation defense attorney.

During his career, he has served on the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Bench Bar Committee and as a member of the Rhode Island Association for Justice’s workers’ compensation section.

He is admitted to practice in Rhode Island’s state and federal courts as well as the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

A native of North Providence, Rhode Island, Charles graduated cum laude from Providence College in 1983, where he studied political science. He earned his law degree from the Wake Forest University School of Law in 1987.

When he isn’t practicing law, Charles enjoys reading and working outdoors.

Robert B. Jacquard

Of Counsel