It’s no surprise Tim Dollar is considered one of the top trial lawyers in America. He’s tried to verdict more than 250 jury trials, including numerous cases as a special prosecutor for the Jackson County, Mo. Prosecutor’s Office. In fact, Dollar is so effective in the courtroom, Jackson County has continued to contract with him for important homicide cases every year for the past 28 years.
Dollar is the first to tell you that having a compelling argument, command of the facts and a righteous cause does not necessarily translate to success in the courtroom. “You have to connect with a jury on a very personal level,” he says.
“And that means completely putting yourself in the shoes of your client,” says Dollar. “That’s hard to do when your phone is ringing off the hook, emails are streaming in and you are trying to manage staff and administrative issues on a daily basis.” Often trial lawyers don’t take that necessary reflection time. “You have to get away, meditate, be quiet and completely understand every nuance of what your clients went through, what they have suffered and what the impact has been on their lives,” he emphasizes. “Generalities don’t cut it in the courtroom.”
This essential homework helps juries understand that Dollar’s argument is genuine. “The second you are not genuine, you’re done,” he reflects. “How you communicate the message is just as important. We passionately communicate with people at their level in everyday language, not in a lawyerly sort of a way.”
Knowledge of the subject at hand is also critically important. “Whether it’s trucking, medical negligence or nursing home abuse, you have to be as knowledgeable about that discipline as any expert in the field,” Dollar says. “You can’t successfully cross-examine a doctor about a surgical procedure unless you know as much about that surgical procedure as he does.”
People also need to understand that a truck crash is not a typical car accident. “You need very specialized expertise,” says Dollar. “And we have it. That’s why we’re so successful in truck crash cases,” he observes. “Jeff Burns is the foremost expert on federal motor carrier regulations in the country, bar none."
“Juries believe in rules,” Dollar says. “You have to establish the rule and then let the jury find that the defendants have violated that rule. We don’t shove that down their throats, we guide them so they can reach that conclusion by themselves. And once they’ve reached that point, they’re with you,” he says with conviction.
Dollar notes his firm has learned from experience that families of victims are not motivated by big settlements. “In the weeks and months after a child has died needlessly in a truck crash,” says Burns, there isn’t a parent in the world who gives a damn about the money. At that point, all they can think about is making sense of the tragedy. They want answers. But most of all they want someone held accountable.”
"It’s not enough for a defendant to say they’re sorry," Dollar says. “Companies often think giving people a lot of money is a way of saying sorry, but it’s not nearly enough. True accountability involves repentance,” he emphasizes. “Repentance means they’re not going to let that happen again and that’s what is truly important to survivors.”
Hundreds of cases have taught Dollar that families understand that nothing will turn back the clock. He recalls a high-profile case he prosecuted where a father, who had lost his son in a tragic truck crash and fire, told a moving story to the jury. “Although many would consider this boy to the perfect son,” Dollar recalls, “the father chose to recall that his son often borrowed and misplaced tools.” There wasn’t one jury member who wasn’t moved when the father said, “I would give up my arms and legs to come home and find my tools out of place just one more time.”
“But if our clients feel they’ve held someone accountable and made them repent and change their behavior,” he says, “they know lives in the future are going to be saved. Then and only then, can they move on with their own lives.”
Dollar notes you have to change with the times to be effective. “It’s important for a trial lawyer to understand that things have changed dramatically in just the last 15 years, thanks to the onslaught of media attention,” he says. Dollar says his firm well understands that information is perceived differently today, and that juries may come to a case with a negative opinion about plaintiffs’ attorneys. “If you don't get that, you might as well go home,” Dollar says.
But some of his acquired knowledge has stood the test of time. Dollar learned a lot about the art of persuasion by listening to his father, a well-known local preacher, and by participating on debate teams in high school and college. “My father always joked that our jobs were very similar,” Dollar recalls. “He told me he preached on Sundays and I started my preaching on Mondays.” And of course, his father noted, they were looking for slightly different outcomes.
Dollar received his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas, and his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His practice includes tractor-trailer crashes, nursing home abuse, insurance bad faith claims and many other areas of general personal injury. Dollar is far from your typical attorney. His passion for the law and his obsession with finding justice for his clients are obvious from the moment you meet him.
He has a national reputation in the courtroom as one of the most sought-after trial attorneys in the country. Future lawyers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law have benefited from Dollar’s many years of experience. For more than 20 years, he was an adjunct professor of law, teaching The Art of Trial Advocacy, and is a frequent lecturer on programs of continuing legal education for The Missouri Bar, The University of Missouri-Kansas City, The Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, and The American Association for Justice.
In 1996, Dollar was the recipient of the Lon O. Hocker Memorial Trial Attorney Award, an honor reserved for attorneys who have demonstrated excellence in trial work in the state of Missouri.
Dollar also served on the 16th Circuit Bar Ethics Committee. This panel reviews complaints brought against other lawyers to determine whether probable cause exists that ethical violations have occurred. The commission serves with the approval of the Supreme Court of Missouri. He was elected by his peers in the Jackson County, Missouri Bar to the Judicial Nominating Commission, responsible for interviewing and recommending to the Missouri Governor a panel of three attorneys to fill the vacant judicial seats.
Dollar is on the executive committee of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (MATA), an organization devoted to protecting the rights of victims and our civil justice system. He was outspoken in his opposition to tort reform and testified often before the legislature against such measures. He was president of MATA in 2012-2013.
Dollar’s tireless advocacy of nursing home residents earned him an appearance on the ABC news program 20/20, as a spokesperson for nursing home abuse victims. He has fought for years to upgrade the conditions of nursing homes and improve the treatment of the elderly residents.
His reputation in the legal community has brought him many accolades from his peers. Martindale-Hubbell is generally regarded as the gold standard for rating attorneys nationally. Martindale-Hubbell seeks peer ratings of professional standards of conduct and ethics, reliability, diligence and other criteria relevant to the discharge of professional responsibilities. Dollar has received an AV rating, which is the highest level of professional excellence and signifies that Dollar has reached the standard of preeminent attorney. A lawyer must be admitted to the bar for 10 years or more to receive an AV rating.
He’s been recognized multiple times as one of the top attorneys in the land by Best Lawyers in America and the Best of the Bar. Dollar was recently named one of the top 100 lawyers in the Missouri-Kansas edition of Super Lawyers magazine. Tim has appeared in jurisdictions throughout the country, including Missouri, Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Iowa and Hawaii -- over 33 states in all.
RISK OF PROCEDURE DEFENSE - Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, Combatting the Risk of the Procedure Defense in Medical Malpractice Cases, 1997.
EFFECTIVE USE OF WRITTEN DISCOVERY, 2000.
ROLE OF THE LNC IN NURSING HOME NEGLIGENCE - Annual Conference for Legal Nurse Consultants – 2000.
MOTIONS ADVOCACY – Opening Statements & Closing Arguments, Kansas City Missouri Bar Association CLE, 1999.
TAKING, DEFENDING AND USING DEPOSITIONS, Kansas City Missouri Bar Association CLE, 1999.
THE USE OF EXAMINATIONS UNDER OATH IN INSURANCE FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS - Association of Insurance Special Investigators, Overland Park, Kansas, 1995.
CAPITAL LITIGATION FROM A PROSECUTOR'S VIEWPOINT - University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 1993.
LITIGATION SPECIALTY SEMINAR, Specialty Seminars, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri, 1993.
PORNOGRAPHY AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT – The Prosecutor's View, University of Missouri - Kansas City, 1989-1992.
DAMAGES IN THE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASE, Kansas City, Missouri Bar Association CLE, 1991.
CROSS-EXAMINATION OF DEFENDANTS IN HOMICIDE CASES, Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, 1990.
TRIAL ADVOCACY - Adjunct Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 1985.
TRIAL ADVOCACY - Instructor, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 1984.
Slattery vs. Estes Express Lines - $40.8 Million Recovery
Bresette vs. Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport - Confidential Settlement
Anthony Jones and Lester Pruett vs. Rand Construction - $36.3 Million Judgment