“Everyone takes their disability to a different direction that they choose for themselves. You decide whether the disability limits you or not, and how you conduct yourself and live with it,” says Omer Yavetz, a disabled IDF veteran, wheelchair-bound after he was wounded in a battle in the Rotem outpost during the first Lebanon war.
Attorney Yavetz ended up in the field he works in today after his severe injury. Following an extended period of rehabilitation in Tel Hashomer hospital, he decided to study law, become a lawyer and dedicate his life to disabled IDF veterans and people injured in terror attacks. And indeed, together with his partner Tzachi Biton, he now heads the Yavetz-Biton law firm, which specializes in military and security matters.
“I began my professional path in the world of law in 1989, and since then I have dealt with disabled IDF veterans, with the Disabilities Law and with the rights of people with disabilities in general, both with the National Insurance Institute and particularly in dealing with people injured in terror attacks and work-related accidents,” says Attorney Yavetz. “For two years I worked in the Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office until I started out as a self-employed lawyer. I specialized in the field of rights recognition and determining disability levels and dealing with the rights of people with disabilities, both of people injured in terror attacks and disabled IDF veterans. In 1999 I wrote the first reference book in Israel on the subject of the rights of people with disabilities, and it has been quoted in the Supreme Court and in other courts.”
Attorney Yavetz has written another two books together with his partner Attorney Tzachi Biton, who also handles cases of people injured in terror attacks and the rights of people with disabilities. Apart from his professional activity, Attorney Yavetz also has a long record of public activity in which he has worked to advance people with disabilities in Israel as a representative of the Bar Association in the Knesset, in the numerous discussions in which he took part on the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law, in voluntary work with the Organization of Disabled IDF Veterans, as a council member in the organization, as chair of the Severely Disabled committee and more.
“The treatment I received after my injury was very good,” emphasizes Attorney Yavetz. “In my case there were no questions and my situation was relatively clear, but I saw people who regrettably received poor treatment. It’s not easy to be an injured IDF veteran in this country, and when it comes to recognizing the rights of people with disabilities, they do not always receive the benefits they are entitled to from the Ministry of Defense. What helps our firm to stand out and be unique is the ability to access those benefits. Most firms deal only with claims and rights recognition because it is supposedly the easiest thing, but there is also the field of benefits, which is complex – such as subsistence remuneration, rehabilitation, payment for academic studies – and most firms do not deal with this complex field.”
Attorney Yavetz adds that the reason that led him to open his own firm was the difficult incident that he experienced himself. “My own case led me to become very well versed in this field and also pushed me to take an interest in and deal with medicine and law and the connection between them,” he says. “This necessitates extensive knowledge and experience in this field and it is a leading factor in our firm. We have a deep understanding of medicine, which helps me to understand whether what happened to a particular person occurred due to their military service and what the important questions are. It is important to understand what injury a person has, to identify the causes and see whether it is possible to connect them to their military service or their service conditions, or to treatment they received during their military service or even to wounds or damage to a particular organ. This is one of our advantages – we are able to analyze things, understand and give correct advice to a client as to whether the injury is eligible for compensation or has coverage, and whether it is possible to connect it to their military service or to national insurance or to a claim for damages.”
Straight into the deep end
Another thing that sets Yavetz and Biton apart is the description that it was given by its owners: a firm for military and security matters. Attorney Yavetz explains that he chose to call the firm this as he and his partner understand these fields, among other things due to their work in the beginning in the State Attorney’s Office.
“I have worked all these years with soldiers, although to begin with I didn’t think of calling the firm that. It’s something that has developed,” admits Attorney Yavetz “At first I began to do what I knew and learned in the State Attorney’s office as an intern, which was dealing with Ministry of Defense cases and damages cases. They threw me straight into the deep end, and two days after I arrived, I was already representing a client in court. I learned the field, acquired professional expertise in it and thus I reached where I am.”
Attorney Yavetz adds that at the beginning of his internship he thought that like in his case, everyone who is wounded immediately receives all their rights. “I was shocked when I discovered that this is not the case, and that it is necessary to manage cases and fight with lawyers,” he says. “I began to learn the field and it took me a decade to understand that there is no rule book, no source of information that you can learn from. I didn’t like that, so I wrote the first book about the Disabilities Law and it became the legal and professional textbook on dealing with wounded IDF veterans.”
In the wake of the book and also due to the experience he accumulated in representing injured IDF veterans, many people contacted Yavetz-Biton asking them to conduct their struggle to realize their rights. “We are contacted by people who have read about us or heard of us by word of mouth, and we also have returning clients,” says Attorney Yavetz. “I have had many cases of a father who was disabled, and a son who was also injured during his service. It happens that a client who was here as a soldier returns after 25 years, and suddenly he is a father who says that his son has also been injured. We talk with everyone who arrives or phones, in order to understand whether we can help them or not. Afterwards we give initial advice free of charge, during which we find out what their case involves and whether it is possible to help them with the process. If they decide to continue, we ask for materials, they sign documents and we begin to extract information from all kinds of sources and build the case to be presented.
The initial investigation relating to the case, Yavetz and Biton explain, is what leads to percentages of success that are “not bad at all,” in their words. “We take cases with a chance, and we hardly ever deal with hopeless cases. If the person insists and wants to go ahead with a low chance we are prepared to do so, but we want them to be aware of their chances,” Attorney Yavetz concludes. “There have been cases where even with a low chance we have succeeded, but we always tell the client the whole truth. We do good work, look after our clients well and are very professional. We try to give the client their money’s worth. It’s a no-brainer to take someone’s money and not see success. True, we are human beings and sometimes it doesn’t work out, but we are a boutique law firm that knows how to do special things and this is our big advantage.”