Michael Haggard is one of the country’s top attorneys, a champion of numerous causes and a winning youth football coach. But what truly defines him is his role as a family man: husband of his wife Bekki and father of daughter Madison and son Carson.
“My father Andy Haggard, who founded The Haggard Law Firm and was my partner for many years, taught me that being a successful trial lawyer requires hard work, but that maintaining a balance with your family life is just as important,” says Michael Haggard. “More than once I’ve said to a judge ‘Your Honor, with your permission, may we continue tomorrow…my son has a football game at 5:30 that I’d like to attend’.”
Beyond that of family man Haggard describes himself as having three different lives. First is his role as Managing Partner of The Haggard Law Firm, one of the country’s top firms specializing in litigating personal injury and wrongful death cases. He recently won a case involving a victim who died on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines ship after being denied proper medical care and given medication by the ship’s doctor that exacerbated his condition.
“When we accept a case like that one, we look at it from two perspectives, “says Haggard. “First, how can we win the case and help the family rebuild their lives? And second, is there an opportunity to take it from the courtroom to the legislature and work to get laws changed, in Florida and nationally, to prevent these tragedies from happening again?”
After former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s granddaughter drowned in a hot tub accident when the drain suction held her underwater, Haggard not only took on the case and won it, he was also instrumental in the passage of a bill in the U.S. Congress that requires pump cut-off switches in hot tubs to prevent suction entrapments. There hasn’t been a suction entrapment death in the United States ever since.
The Haggard Firm is also a leader in trying cases involving negligent security.
“We’re handling several of the Parkland school shooting cases,” says Haggard. “There simply must be a step up in school security. Most people don’t mind. When that lockdown call comes, they certainly appreciate it. Everyone has to agree that there is a gun violence problem when the United States has had 290 school shootings and the rest of the world has had just 29.”
Haggard describes his “second life” as being a champion of the cause to finding a cure for Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), an inherited condition that can prove fatal without lifelong kidney dialysis or kidney transplant.
Diagnosed with the disease in his early 30’s, doctors monitored Haggard’s condition until 2016 when he underwent a kidney transplant at Tampa General Hospital. He started a fundraiser, Casino for a Cure, which takes place every May and to date has raised more than $1 million.
“What’s really exciting is that we now have our first drug that slows the progress of the
disease,” he says.
He was very fortunate to find a living donor in his brother in law Allen Buckhalt, an Army Blackhawk Helicopter pilot who was deemed by doctors to be an excellent match for Haggard. Buckhalt deployed to a combat zone just six months after being a living donor.
“Allen and I are strong advocates of the living donor program, having been through it ourselves and knowing how safe it is for both donor and patient,” says Haggard. “All that’s required is a blood type match and that the donor be healthy. It’s a very common procedure these days.”
Haggard’s “third life” takes place on athletic fields, where he’s one of South Florida’s most enthusiastic coaches. As soon as his daughter Madison and son Carson were old enough to start playing competitive sports (they both chose football), Haggard went “head over heels” into coaching after a day at work.
“I love being a trial lawyer but I also have a lot of fun coaching football with assistant coaches Johan Betancourt and David Charlton,” he says. “We coached the Suniland Sun Devils for years and ended up winning four Superbowls, including the year I was transplanted. Some of these kids come from very tough neighborhoods and it was pretty emotional for me when they sent me off with handwritten notes. I was back in just over three weeks because I couldn’t wait to see the kids.”
What motivates Haggard is not only winning on the field, but giving these young football players some tools to succeed in life.
He says, “I show them a chart that shows what the average NFL career of 3.5 years pays out, versus the lifelong career of a college graduate. I encourage them to find something they love, and follow their dream.”
At the end of every long day spent in court, addressing the Legislature, attending a Board Meeting of the PKD Foundation or coaching football, Haggard looks forward to coming home to Bekki, Madison, a lacrosse player and cross country runner at Palmer Trinity School, and Carson, a football quarterback at Gulliver.
Michael Haggard…Pinecrest’s Renaissance Man / Family Man.
The Haggard Law Firm can be reached at 305-446-5700 and at www.haggardlawfirm.com.