I learned firsthand, along with my mother and sister, what life is like when the family breadwinner is taken by disease or trauma. My father, Ken T. Miller, who was also an attorney, lost his life to brain cancer at the young age of 44. Despite my parents’ years of on-time premium payments, the insurance company didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Instead, they threw hurdles into my newly single mom’s path in order to delay payment. They created obstacles for her to overcome as she struggled to raise two children and make ends meet. If they did it to my mom, I knew they’d do it to someone else, and that’s why I’m committed to standing with the injured. My own mother has been there. I’ve been there and I know it’s not just about money—it’s about survival.
I graduated from Bishop T.K. Gorman Catholic School in Tyler, Texas, in 1975 then attended Tyler Junior College before heading off to North Texas State University. While there, I worked for a law firm as a clerk and an investigator. When I graduated in 1980, I went to work for the Longview law firm of Erskine, Smith & McMahon. After three years with the firm, the attorneys there wrote letters of introduction for me and called up a national insurance company. Soon after, I went to work for them as a claims adjuster. The work was excellent training for my future career as a personal injury attorney specializing in car, 18-wheeler and motorcycle wrecks, as well as oilfield injuries.
Although I respect that people working for insurance companies have to work, I still hate insurance companies. The job of claims adjusters is to prey on the unwary and document things that can later harm people and keep them from receiving what they need for healing and survival. I resigned from State Farm when I was accepted to Western Michigan University’s Thomas Cooley Law School in Lansing. I selected Cooley because the program allowed me to work and attend school year round. I didn’t have much money, so I worked as a janitor and in the law library and as a law clerk for a general law firm in Lansing. During that time, my wife, who has since passed away, was diagnosed with manic depression. Thankfully, since I was paying city taxes, her medical care was covered by a city health fund. I’m not sure what we would have done otherwise.
After law school, I returned to Tyler and went to work for Larry Woods. When he moved his practice elsewhere, I began my solo practice in October 1992. I handled workers compensation cases, accidents and criminal court appointments, but it didn’t take long for me to realize I needed to focus on helping accident and trauma victims, people living with injuries and the aftermath of the unexpected—people like my mom.