A key member of the Garfinkel Schwartz team we’d like to introduce is Florida legal assistant Bennett Garfinkel, son of Alan Bennett Garfinkel, Esq. (the founder of Garfinkel Schwartz, P.A.) and grandson of John M. Schwartz, Esq.
You may learn more about Bennett by watching the following video on the Garfinkel Schwartz YouTube channel called, “Medical Researcher Legal Assistant Bennett Garfinkel.”
Bennett carries on the legacy and demonstrates the passion and dedication of both of his parents–he is half a Garfinkel and half a Schwartz—epitomizing the close family ties within our firm.
Bennett empathizes with our clients with a passion that can only come out of experiencing similar hardships, intractable chronic pain, and surviving five major spinal reconstructive surgeries by the age of only 23.
Bennett’s chronic pain was both debilitating and gave him drive to achieve academically and volunteer abroad as a trauma medic. Bennett graduated from Rollins College with honors with a degree in psychology.
Bennett was awarded the highest departmental honors for outstanding research in neurobiology while simultaneously earning EMT licensure. Bennett then worked on the the front lines as a volunteer conflict zone medic in Central America.
Immediately after graduation, Bennett volunteered with the Red Cross and worked as a field medic, surgical technician, and community health advisor. He worked alongside international staff of Doctors Without Borders in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, during the height of “la Geurra de Drogas”—the drug war and relatd political instability in the region in 2011.
“I know how it feels to be shot at trying to help people, and fearing for my life working on the front lines of an active conflict zone abroad to help those who desperately needed it, so I relate to many of our clients in similarly dangerous situations,” Bennett said.
“When I was in Honduras, the capital city of Tegucigalpa was considered the most dangerous place on earth, with military and civilian casualties often outnumbering Al-Qaeda enclaves such as the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan or Fallujah, Baghdad in Iraq. I empathize and understand how these terrifying images of death and destruction become indelibly etched in one’s mind, evoking flashbacks of fear.
“Helping and learning this area of law allows me to do that, and I love sharing my own experience and research in emerging clinical science and new medical treatments to help our clients,” Bennett said.
Bennett’s background in psychology, emergency field medicine, assisting in trauma surgeries, and his own struggle with chronic pain motivate him to help others suffering from stigmatized neurological illnesses such as chronic pain, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury.
In 2012, Bennett returned to the States planning to enter medical school when his grandfather, John Schwartz, Esq., passed away sadly and unexpectedly. Bennett decided to carry on the wonderful legacy of his grandfather’s and great grandfather’s work with military contractors, veterans, dockworkers, sailors, and other legally under-represented groups.
When Bennett graduates from law school, he will be the fourth generation in the family to fight with intelligence, experience, dignity, and especially empathy for the medical benefits of any injured individual.
Bennett wanted to be a physician so he could help those in similar predicaments, and in both his experiences as a battlefield medic and eight years of persevering through chronic pain, Bennett accumulated a great deal of medical knowledge that comes in handy as the lead medical and legal researcher for Garfinkel Schwartz, P.A.
Bennett’s final motivation to enter the legal profession comes from the passion, care, and family values he observed in his grandfather’s firm. Bennett intends to fulfill his great-grandfather’s and grandfather’s legacy, and proudly remembers the personal relationships John Schwartz cultivated over many years.
“Even as a young child, I remember that my grandfather’s clients all loved him. He invited his clients to come over to his home for dinner, and I met many of his clients at holiday celebrations throughout my youth.
“I never realized until later in life how odd this is for lawyers, far too many of whom are detached and unemotional about their clients. I feel so lucky to have grown up with a father and grandfather who are exceptionally skilled, intelligent, and caring attorneys,” Bennett said. “I am confident that our family here at Garfinkel Schwartz, P.A. will treat each and every one of our clients with dignity, dedication, and respect.
“We will fight with unmatched knowledge in these specific areas of law—Longshore Act and Defense Base Act law–because we feel that our clients are members of our family. Our family has decades of experience, extreme dedication and passion to ensure that our clients not only receive just compensation for their injuries, but also the best medical care available.”
Get to Know More About Bennett
Hi my name is Bennett Garfinkel and I’m the medical and legal researcher to lead counsel attorney Brian Wiklendt here at Garfinkel Schwartz.
I’m not an attorney, but my great grandfather, and grandfather was, my father is and I will soon beginning law school myself. Here at Garfinkel Schwartz our firm deals exclusively with contractors and longshoremen injured either while overseas or in America’s ports and harbors.
Helping: One Family at a Time
Our slogan here is one family, helping one family at a time and we feel it’s great to get to know your family so hopefully you can get to know our family so I’m here just to introduce myself and tell my story just a little bit.
When I began applying my medical knowledge and research experience to help the firm, my grandfather’s legacy left just an absolutely wonderful track record of truly helping individuals. My grandfather, John M. Schwartz, Esq. was very, very skilled in this job where he accrued decades of experience.
When he passed away in 2012 we decided to name our law firm in honor of my grandfather and great grandfather, both of whom worked with injured longshoremen, defense contractors, and workers on US military bases around the nation.
Personally, I have quite a bit of medical experience myself both practicing in the field as an emergency medical technician (similar to a front line medic in the military) in an active conflict zone, and on the other side of the coin as a patient. When I was 16, I was diagnosed with a multiple major spinal injuries and I had to have five major spinal surgeries.
Bachelor’s in Psychology with Honors, EMT Medic
In the past eight years I’ve received a bachelor’s with honors in psychology, winning the highest award for my honors thesis in neurobiology and psychophysics. During college, I also studied at night and on the weekends as an EMT medic and gained state and national licensure after hundreds of hours of hands-on practice in emergency rooms and ambulances in the United States.
I went to Rollins College in my hometown of Winter Park, Florida. Our offices of Garfinkel Schwartz, PA are just a few miles away in Maitland, very close to my alma mater. During the evenings, I am working towards a master’s degree there as well.
I started to study psychology and neuroscience because I was interested about human behavior and the nervous system, specifically interested in the science behind my own experiences with pain and spinal injuries. I was very interested in how nerves send signals and how the brain processes all of our perceptions. Major discoveries and advances in neuroscience happen every day, so to be able to learn the language and process of research science was and is awesome.
I was able to have an amazing opportunity of being able to meet and work closely under the principal researcher at the Rollins College Gustatory Neurobiology Lab, professor Dr. Steven St. John. He was my mentor, my honors thesis advisor, and an all around brilliant and great guy. His research focuses on the neural mechanisms of appetite and all about how our bodies regulate the essential nutrients such as sodium on which our bodies depend.
If you’re familiar with the hospital bags of the IV solution you’ll notice that it’s exactly 0.9% sodium chloride, which is the same level in the blood, and if the blood doesn’t have that exact level you die a pretty horrible death. So the brain has developed quite a few ways mechanisms to make sure that that level of sodium is precise.
I was very, very interested in this type of research. Working with laboratory animals in the research lab and with human participants, my focus in college studied the many ways our bodies regulate the essential nutrients we need to function. I was very interested in medicine and helping people through that route because of my own experiences as a patient and through all of my surgeries as well.
From Rollins College to Honduras
My interest in medicine led me to emergency medical technician’s state and national licensure. I would take classes and work on my research project during the day, and during the evenings I would study and work hands-on in the treatment of traumatic injuries.
As soon as I graduated from Rollins, my thesis newly done and my diploma in hand, I actually went to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. And I volunteered with the International Red Cross and while in country worked with Doctors without Borders.
At the time in 2011 it was the height of the drug war. A recent coup had destabilized the country politically, and the cartels and paramilitary groups were locked in a violent and bloody power struggle.
Honestly, I really had no idea of what I was getting myself into. I ended up staying over there for an extensive period of time when I realized just how dire the situation was.
The first day that I was there I was teaching CPR to the hospital orderlies with my rusty Spanish when a window just exploded from a stray mortar. And I’m in the hospital again and it’s in the middle of the city and there are automatic weapons firing with the percussion of mortars and grenades.
My first day on the job I had to take a bullet out of somebody by myself due to the shortage of staff and volume of the critical injuries. That was quite a culture shock. Nothing could have prepared me for experiences this intense.
Obviously, in America, I’m not licensed to do that kind of field surgery. But there really were so few medical resources and qualified personnel over in Honduras, coupled with so many traumatic injuries on civilians and combatants alike—so much violence.
It was certainly a life changing experience. I ended up staying over there for quite awhile really immersing myself in the culture. I learned quite a bit—maybe a little bit too much—about trauma medicine and battlefield medicine in a conflict zone where resources were scarce and we had to triage and prioritize treatments.
I think with my experiences over there that I can relate to a lot of our clients who have seen this type of violence, these type of gun battles overhead while they’re trying to help a wounded colleague. In the field, sometimes skirmishes would erupt around me, and I had to do everything I could to keep my patient alive and not get hit by a bullet or a piece of shrapnel myself. It was a terrifying, but extremely rewarding experience—I was actually able to save lives.
Respect, Understanding for Battlefield Issues
Honduras was very intense and I certainly have flashbacks and memories. And I can definitely empathize with some of the trauma that you experienced even as an onlooker or bystander, much less when you’re actually involved in the battle or in helping the injured people that have been shot or worse.
Constantly in Honduras there were machete attacks on groups of people, indiscriminate use of automatic weapons and grenades and all sorts of weaponry you’d find on any modern battlefield.
Actually at the time when I was in Honduras there were more casualties than in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan, the most dangerous place for U.S. troops in the War on Terror.
So being in a battle zone for that long kind of gives me a perspective on how intense those experiences can be, which is another reason that I really enjoy talking with our clients here at Garfinkel Schwartz because their experiences over in Iraq, Afghanistan or other places which they’ve been sent overseas either anti-piracy or building in dangerous areas in Africa.
My own spinal surgeries also help me to connect with injured longshoremen or civilian workers on US military bases across the country. Chronic back pain is extremely difficult to cope with. If you’re working on a port or you’re civilian employed at Fort Bragg, Fort Campbell, or Joint-Base Lewis McChord (just to name a few), for instance, and you sustain an injury on the job, our firm is capable and competent to help you recover lost or owed wages and the excellent medical care you deserve.
Our clients have such amazing stories and talking to them is always wonderful. So that’s just a little bit about me, some of my experiences. Because I’ve been through quite a few surgeries myself, so I can honestly empathize with our clients on a lot of levels.
I know firsthand that when you’re sick and injured it’s really difficult to deal with all of life’s challenges. Medical bills are just one more worry to add to the fact you might have trouble even getting out of bed or walking to your mailbox; these predicaments are extremely complicated.
And when you’re recovering from a surgery or subject to an injury from environmental toxins or something like that, it becomes overwhelming.
Your job is to get better and ours is to help. And my main job here at Garfinkel Schwartz is to coordinate a lot of the medical care for our clients and provide research to debunk absurd insurance company denials for legitimate claims.
Provides Medical and Legal Research, Client Resources
I help to find psychologists, neuropsychologists, I help find surgeons, I help find pulmonary specialists that can help with injuries, we refer people to orthopedic surgeons or psychiatrists.
I’m not a doctor myself, I’m not a lawyer, but I do help coordinate these kinds of services for our clients that are very important. I help find research that supports if you were exposed to environmental toxins overseas. I have research that can help support the fact that your injury was because of your exposure overseas.
That’s very important to the court case to prove that your injury was sustained overseas and thus the contractor and the insurance company has to pay your medical bills and your lost wages that’s very important. The same goes for work-related injuries on America’s ports or military bases.
I take a lot of pride in being able to help that and I really do feel my medical experience both as a patient and helping overseas and at home has allowed me to be fluent in those areas and help individuals get the medical care and the compensation they deserve.
So that’s just a little bit about me, Bennett Garfinkel, the medical researcher here and the legal assistant to lead attorney Brian Wiklendt.
And this is again named in this firm is named in my grandfather’s honor so we do have quite a bit of a family legacy in helping contractors and longshoremen that are overseas or in America’s ports and harbors.
I really appreciate you guys reading this and hopefully you can get to know all us much better, again this is Bennett Garfinkel coming to you from the Maitland office of Garfinkel Schwartz in Central Florida and we also have another office in Cocoa Beach Florida on the Space Coast. Thank you.