Brehm Bell, Attorney At Law
- by Ellis Anderson
When you’re driving on a highway two states away, don’t expect to see a billboard with an upside down photograph of Brehm Bell.
This hometown attorney prefers a different approach, one that depends on word-of-mouth references from former clients, more than advertising.
And Bell’s happy working on his own home turf, advocating for people he grew up with on the Mississippi coast.
“This is my home and I invest my time in this community, so why would I want to go elsewhere?” says Bell. “There are more than enough people right here in Hancock County – where I grew up – who need my help.”
Like when he explains how the insurance claims process has changed dramatically over the past several years. Accidents that involve personal injury, now more than ever, can present a mine-field of obstacles for someone who’s been hurt.
“Five years ago, if you had an accident, in many instances, you could handle things yourself,” says Bell. “Now, almost everyone needs an attorney advocating for them. The liens, the paperwork, the processes – it’s all gotten extremely complicated, time-consuming and confusing.”
As an example, he cites the way accident victims often sign paperwork in the emergency room – a decision that can negatively impact their health insurance for years to come. One type of form is called an “assignment of interest.” That means that the hospital will try to get payment from an insurance company first (which will pay full price on procedures), rather than a person’s health insurance (which gets a big discount on charges).
“When you’ve been in an accident and you’re in an emergency room, you’re usually stressed and hurting and just want to be seen by a doctor,” says Bell.
That’s the main reason that Bell has come up with a handout listing the things people should do – or not – if they’re in a serious accident. He recommends you keep the card in your vehicle’s glove box (click here to download the pdf and store on your mobile phone).
One of the items on the list is (if you’re able), take photos of the scene with your mobile device and get the names and contact information of any witnesses. Another item stresses that the police should always be called, or there might be negative consequences up the line. Talk to no one except the police about the accident. If someone starts pressing you for information, simply tell them you can discuss it at a later time.
Bell can attest to the need for the tips. He’s been a trial lawyer for the entire 28 years of his legal career, specializing in personal injury. He’s also served on the board of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association for ten years so keeps up with legislation and what’s happening in his field statewide.
After someone’s been injured in an accident, they can call Bell’s office. Within 48 hours, they’ll be speaking directly to the attorney. Unlike “big-box” billboard attorneys, Bell personally handles all the cases he takes on. And his solo practice allows him to give one-on-one attention to clients.
Bell says, “It’s important that insurance companies know you have an attorney who is a part of the community. It matters. A representative from another place won’t have the in-depth knowledge of our county. But if you’re injured and can’t work, I understand all the ways you’re being affected on a personal basis.”
Bell’s concern for his community carries over to his personal life, where he and his wife, Jenny, volunteer for several organizations. Brehm focuses on education, and has served as chair of the Hancock Chamber’s education committee, helping found the annual teachers appreciation dinner and the popular Bookworms program. He and Sherry Ponder were pivotal in persuading Pearl River Community College to open a branch in Hancock County. Bell also sponsors an annual scholarship that goes to a local high school graduate who has expressed an interest in law.
“I just try to live in my world and help my people,” he says.
“I tell my clients ‘you just need to focus on getting well,’” Bell continues. “I’ll handle the claim part.”
While Bell says that this country couldn’t have been built without the insurance industry, he also says that now corporate offices sometimes press people to take quick settlements - before they know the full extent of their injuries.