Today, we’re joined by personal injury attorney Vaughn Wamsley to discuss the car accident that changed his life, and how he turned a traumatic experience into a positive life event…
Vaughn Wamsley is a successful businessman and personal injury attorney in Indianapolis.
In order to be successful, you need to be able to move past and overcome adversities that come your way and Vaughn is no exception.
Vaughn tells us the different companies he’s started, the accident that changed his life, and how he managed to turn a traumatic car accident into an invaluable life lesson…
“My mouth was wired shut, I couldn’t do anything, I had to learn to walk with balance beams.” – Vaughn Wamsley
“It was beaten down and I was going to make a comeback no matter what it took.” – Vaughn Wamsley
02:11 – Where Vaughn got his inspiration to become a personal injury attorney.
04:33 – The van conversion business Vaughn started and his experience flipping houses.
07:39 – Why Vaughn started his own painting company in high school.
09:01 – The car accident that changed Vaughn’s life.
14:31 – How Vaughn came to terms with his injury, what it taught him, and how he recovered from it.
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BEN: Vaughn Wamsley is a successful personal injury attorney in Indianapolis. He has an interesting story about second chances. Being successful requires moving past adversity. Even when everything looks like it’s lost. It shows his sheer determination, one defeat after another, but he keeps going. A big part of his story is about his bike accident, which changed his life forever. We’ve edited out several potential graphic details to make it appropriate for our audience. But some portions remain in order to grasp the severity of the incident. Listener discretion is advised. Hey, welcome back to Money with Mak and G. We have a special guest today Mr. Vaughn Wamsley, who is a very well known personal injury attorney here in Indianapolis and we’d like to get his story and we also brought along here Mr. Tony Petrucciani, how are you doing today Tony?
TONY: Doing good. How you doing? Doing well, sir.
BEN: Doing well. We need to work on your English there. But Vaughn Great to have you. You’re looking good. You’re looking nice and healthy. I think you have a golf game later on today. So you’re probably pretty excited about that. Right? We’ll see. We’ll say, well, we’ve known Vaughn ran into him. He’s on billboards across Indianapolis, and probably even further out. And we know he’s seen his commercials on TV. But he has a really unique story. And as we talk about money, and we talk about successful people and how it really requires continuing to push through sometimes difficult times and living a little bit on the edge where things almost fall apart. But you bring it back and good things happen. We think that you just have a fantastic story. So thanks for being here to share, share with us.
VAUGHN: Love to, if it can help people do it.
BEN: That’s exactly what we like. But you have we usually just kind of start at the beginning. You know, just a very quick start. Back when you were growing up and we know you’re an attorney, maybe a little bit of how you got there. Ted about your family like Hey, I grew up in a family of six and I always want to be attorney because I like to fight with all my brothers and sisters and we kind of go from there.
VAUGHN: Well, I grew up minutes. I grew up in Minnesota as a matter of fact, I grew up in Lake Minnetonka, my dad’s vice president Tonka Toys. Oh no way and I tested the mighty for I have. I have my dad actually went to Caterpillar scaled them down and built the bulldozer, the front loader, the mighty dump truck and the crane and I tested him. President research and development I have a picture of him in 1971 stockholders report standing behind the mighty for it. And I have all four. I have all four of them in house.
BEN: That’s awesome.
VAUGHN: That’s pretty cool. So I was just test dummy in France. I wrote him down. Urbandale lane or whatever road he lived on. And the man I say run on my set and the mighty dump truck and my boat was too big and expanded the flanges and they ended up having to build a heavier gauge metal. Plastic tires weren’t thick enough so I made those thicker.
BEN: Overweight or what?
TONY: What I love about this is Vaughn was a very early practice of getting into the accidents.
VAUGHN: Crash and Burn baby.
BEN: Yeah, we’ll talk about that. So maybe some of your influences just being a successful guy know a little bit about money is the fact that your dad was a pretty successful guy in his own right because of this?
VAUGHN: Very successful. They call them Mr. RV and Elkhart. As you may know el coche the RV capital of the world, Mr. RV. Yeah, he basically was vice president, coachmen Harmon he has over a lot of different reason effects talked me into starting an RV Corporation and when I was 26 years old, really his youngest one day we’re starting IV Corporation bought a company out of Canada called bowler, the fiberglass RV. And I was about 17 footer. And it was fiberglass. We changed the gel color to match the van conversion. So I did as I started setting up with Van conversions. Very high end deal and if you had a Chevy 17 Silver I get Chevy 17 Jocko and match it with a silver van conversion.
BEN: That’s pretty cool.
VAUGHN: That was when I was in law school at Notre Dame.
BEN: Because aren’t there more more millionaires in northern Indiana than anywhere in Indiana for sure, but a much bigger swath of the United States and there’s like the RVs that are put together. My dad got a custom one of the full size vans and we started learning about that man up there they’re all doing that.
VAUGHN: Well that’s the Van Conversion I paired up with both well with bivouac and a couple other ones and I actually shipped them and sold them along with the Van Conversion actually sold some of them to Mercedes Benz dealers, they actually put them in the showroom these are very high end Van Conversion Yeah. And now the RV trailer that went along with the Vancouver’s in the match to the for instance if it had Chevy 17 and had charcoal trim Yeah, carry that back to the RV and I broke them the mold they’re obviously very aerodynamic because mashed up with them. anchorage looks like a twin. I saw 1.3 million in three months.
BEN: So you’re just like a really detailed guy a real really strong. What do you call it work ethic? You kind of jump in full force and you’re doing some really cool stuff at 26. But, you know, that was kind of even your big story was before that. Right?
VAUGHN: Right. Well, so I started flipping houses in college.ai in Bloomington. And Mark Cuban and I were in some of the same classes. I know Mark. You’re kidding. Now he has he has he had across the street Dunhill, which is rare. I’ve never done it. I was hit by a car within half a block that area. And we need to go into that. Yeah. And I was south of there on 16th Street flipping buy houses single family residences. I buy them on an option to purchase. Yep, actually leased them with an option to purchase. Fill in with other college students to pay for the mortgage payment. Sure. I started a roofing and painting company. I went around and I hired guys who could also had other skills besides paying their plumbers, electricians. And they would basically I would use the profits from other work that I was doing other like I did, Long John Silver’s down in Bloomington, I did some of the jobs. I used the profit to pay them to work on my houses. About three of them Panama Dover Gray, same color. I’d have these I’ve had these painting parties where I get a kegger and have these guys out.
BEN: And then you probably get nobody to come for a CAGR. Right.
VAUGHN: Well, we had Dire Straits playing and stuff, they’d come out there and one day and we’ve done that, and then I mean, these guys did not do a good job. It wasn’t a normal level of performance. So I had to come on, you know, fix the work.
TONY: And instead to get them pizza, you got them fish and chips. Long johns.
BEN: Here, toilets were backed up by the painting jobs worked very good.
VAUGHN: I’ll tell you what, it was fun. It made a lot of money. I made more money than almost everybody except Cuba, and he was already ahead of me.
BEN: Wow. Yeah. He’s gonna be hard to catch right there. That’s cool.
TONY: You’re almost there.
BEN: Yeah. But the funny part was is, you know, up at Purdue, you I was originally at Purdue University, and I put together a shirt based on the rivalry between IU and Purdue. And I was buying the T shirts actually from the guy who made them at Indiana University, really, and so that whole thing, I got excited about business. You know, my dad wasn’t really a business dude. And so I’m like making more money than I’ve ever seen. And then I decided to go down to IU. But it sounds like you already had it in your blood. You could see opportunities really go after him.
VAUGHN: I pretty much did start a painting company. I started at home in 1978 when the RV industry crashed. Even my dad, his VP of coachman couldn’t give me a job. There was no jobs. So my best friend, Garrett Hagee and I started a painting company and we hired all our friends to do the prep. After a while we get so much work did a good job that we didn’t. We didn’t want to do all the prep. We just want to be the Prima Donna painters. You’re pretty good painters, prima donna painters. We take the last month off and bought a 260 Xeon. He and I took off what’s Colorado from my backpack. And there was no jobs available that summer. And we made so much money that we hired our friends. They made money because of us. So that started in high school.
BEN: But see that this is exactly one of the points that we keep talking about, right, Tony? We’re talking about like a company and how they have to pivot. So you got smashed, right in the RV industry. But you picked up and you said hey, this isn’t the end of me. I’m going to still make something work. So you got out there, you started this other thing. And now it’s successful, you’re younger, so you’re taking some risk and kind of having some fun.
VAUGHN: So the order was started, started doing real, real estate flipping houses. And then this is an actually, I did a little little bit of me I guess the painting part was last year in high school and then through college, started flipping houses and then I got hit by a car and may 5 1982 I was riding my bicycle home. It was interesting. It was the last day of school, it was May 5 Actually, it was the evening of May 4, I graduate of May 5. The graduations we held the Indiana University football field Stadium, which is right where I get hit right and so I’m at the SEC same time I’m looking I’m in top gear and that’s because I kept the for evidence. And I’m writing a lot right along the line doing everything right and he turns left in front of me to enter that park and he hits me so hard that I totaled his car out my left shoulder and actually flew horizontally through the air. It’ll just blow the roof line. And the glass is supposed to break in pieces and catch you didn’t it didn’t stop me I hit so hard pull my scalp back and fractured my skull at 96 stitches. 96 broke my nose and broke my John eight places. Major Major TBI traumatic brain injury. Yeah, I think God had his hand in there. I know God controls everything. And I honestly believe it’s for my good. I think he really knew I needed to be humbled at that point in my life. I was, you know, not well.
BEN: We kind of giggle because we know that Vaughn is definitely special very smart guy. Humility may or may not be your strongest suit, let’s say it that way.
VAUGHN: And comes with success and I would offer this as don’t get caught up in yourself. Don’t think you did it because even up to a few years ago, I thought it was all me, all Vaughn.
BEN: You were destined for huge success. And now you’re you’re you’re hit and you move into a coma, right. And I don’t know how you get to Texas.
VAUGHN: So, I wake up. I get hit on May 5. I wake up on July 31, and Dallas rehabilitation center in Texas. My dad, who’s an entrepreneur as well has started a company called amp not so good. They hired him to start a company called amp tech. They merged a bunch of companies together. One of them was a limousine stretch car, an ambulance company and a hertz hearse company. So they were all applied to what my situation was right? And yes, he had a turboprop Lear jet type things. They flew me down in his private jet. We had a house it was like Jr, hewing. It was like an indoor pool. He could swim from the inside to the outside. And like, it was like a dream for me because I really didn’t know what happened to me.
VAUGHN: So this is two months later?
VAUGHN: Three months.
BEN: Oh, if they said May to July. May, June, July.
VAUGHN: You’re right. Too much. May 5th, so all the May.
BEN: All May, all of June or July. Oh, all at the end of July. Okay, so 31st. I thought you said June.
VAUGHN: July 31.
BEN: So you’re down there. Now you’re waking up and…
VAUGHN: I’m 38 pounds lighter.
BEN: How much were you before?
VAUGHN: About 200? I was about 172.
BEN: Okay, so that’s a big difference at that point.
VAUGHN: I looked like a POW. And I asked my mom what happened to me and she goes, you got hit on your bike. And the night a friend of mine had a TS 185 Suzuki, and I’ve been driving it all over. And I’d taken it to next and I remember, only I couldn’t remember anything other than driving that ts 185 Suzuki through the Sigep house rear sliding doors not their front door. Like an animal.
BEN: I think if you didn’t get caught with that, because being a lawyer today might be a little bit… He knew some guys.
TONY: It’s funny because you know Ben went to IU and his nickname there was flounder.
BEN: Do you know what that means?
TONY: Animal House.
BEN: Oh, I did.
TONY: You deal with young people. They just…..
VAUGHN: As far as you know. When I came out of I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t spell cat or dog. I had several tests. My IQ is 75. I may get a little emotional here, guys. They said you’ll never get out of them. I told my parents are looking for a convalescent home, you’ll never get out. He’ll never be able to live independently. Because you won’t be able perform the activities of daily living by himself. He’ll need someone to help them.
BEN: So you can’t walk you pretty much. I think I heard that maybe you couldn’t talk.
VAUGHN: On my mouth storage shadowbrook eight places 12 weeks later is still by wired shut doesn’t go well, especially when your rehab place gives you fish when you should be eating pureed food and shakes and they get me into some food but my master wired shut it’s got rubber bands and I got a fish bone in my throat almost killed me. My parents went through the roof on that one. But the bottom line is I was….
BEN: You could do nothing.
VAUGHN: I couldn’t do anything. And I learned how to walk with the balance beams on both sides man. I mean there were the Dallas Cowboys a couple of Dallas one guy and had a farm implement fall on I’m in Dallas Cowboys are coming in and stuff and I was kind of after a while became apparent. I was gonna be their poster boy because when I found out what happened to me I had an injury like no other injury is an injury of your very self. Right? And it’s like you hurt your arm or something. But aside, when I figured out what happened to me, that’s when I started doing it was like a Rocky Balboa thing. I started doing sit ups and push ups in my room. I started my right leg drag. I get hit and left up front parietal lobe. So I messed up my right side.
BEN: So with your brain not working though, how long did it take you from the time that you had the accident to three months later when you woke up? Was it the following week? Was it two months later when you figure it out? Oh my gosh…
VAUGHN: Several months at least….
BEN: Because I’m thinking that this is not this is not a quick thing.
VAUGHN: No. Several months later, first I was mad at God. I shook my fist at him. And I was really, really mad.
BEN: Because you were graduating college, but then you’re heading to law school, right? You want to go to law schools. And then this happens and I’m trying to put it into sequence so people can understand.
VAUGHN: So yeah, I’d taken the law school admission test and I did well on it. I didn’t apply till April and some I got accepted. I must say an extra spot or something. Threw it to one of their own, I guess I don’t know. But….
BEN: That’s April month before graduation…
VAUGHN: I got hit. I got accepted middle mid April. I got hit on May 5. So to accept accepted I got hit. So I’m going in, you know I’m making money in real estate. And I’ve got several Miss Indiana with my girlfriend.
BEN: Miss Indiana?
BEN: All right.
VAUGHN: I mean, I had a lot of things going Life was good for you. Yeah, it was going last God’s already done. So I live for it didn’t take any skill. He just had to try real hard and I’m good at that. Right. So I had a lot of things go from his SATs. When I woke up. I said, God, you took everything from me. In fact, he gave me everything because I was on the wrong track. It was all about me. It’s all about me making money. That’s all I cared about and me being successful, rather than serving other people and loving other people.
BEN: Right, which so you get whacked and you’re just like….
VAUGHN: Yeah, come out of it and come out of it…
BEN: ….That days….
VAUGHN: Yeah. And I’m like, you know, I forgot find out what happened. My mom say get hit by a car and then I got mad at God. I was wearing diapers when he came out of my coma. Was incontinent. My master word shut. I can’t spell cat or dog. So I started actually walking around once I learned how to walk and start walking around outside of the Dallas rehabilitation. I started in my right leg was dragging my right arm screwed up my left, I got hit. So I messed up my right side. And then I started actually jogging and then started running and ran like something you’d see on a, you know, a cyclops or one of those, you know, the living dead or whatever. It’s like an ad, right. And it took a while. I mean, actually….
BEN: So what’s a while?
I was down there about a year in Dallas.
BEN: So the three months that you woke up down there for a year.
VAUGHN: Yeah, totally, totally year and then my dad’s company went under because the guy they were did does he did some shenanigans and we hadn’t sold their house yet. And now we go back up and I’m living my same room that I was in high school. So I’m living home in Elkhart again, my old house we never sold it. And it’s like in my old house, I old room that was in you know, I come home sometimes during college, but he says down there doing my entrepreneurs to a phrase, I’ve been home for years, and live in mom and dad again, age 22.
We’re in diapers….
VAUGHN: I got finally, but I’m like, you know, it took a while to get my brain back. My dad gave me a job in this county department. I got a job at TGIF. If you guys liked his story, I worked at TGI Fridays, down in Dallas has their corporate office hired me and I worked with a little department. I wouldn’t be the one who makes sure that the credit cards and the food groups and the different areas. We’re trying to match what’s being consumed and what we need to replace and stuff like that..
BEN: Some of the metrics.
VAUGHN: Yeah, it was funny because my store was Indianapolis, one of Keystone. And the guy who was managing was a guy named Glenn Garmin comm gap because he had a gap and he was five he brought a little fight with me. He didn’t know that I was the one who was in charge. I like the whole bunch of stores. And then there’s a lady named Sidney about me and there’s four other girls I was working with working all women. He did not know that. I was over seeing his work.
VAUGHN: Okay. And so I was messing with him. I was really I was like a little kid I had the kind of the social grades of a six year old so I was like a child. And I was given him this as the wrong food group and stuff. And when we used to ride bike paths and blow them away and just leaving the dust. So after about two months of this hazing Cynthia report to him, he called me within 15 minutes we got that was funny because they would never let anything in that department go out of the department. You guys follow the story. They never let anything go out of our little cubby, reality little fort there’s four of us in this little cubby area until they’ve checked x I was an absolute idiot. I was making everything was mistakes everywhere. And they gave me a test somehow they figured out it wasn’t it and at this time remember I’m accepted to law school. I’m gonna go back home for a year and then the following summer is gonna go back to you redact donated to college life. And so I had this MasterCard beat to 10 packed up outside TGIF EPS. And this is very interesting because they give me a test because they realized that was an idiot. And I remember Sydney and the VP of TGIF they caught me caught me in their office for a meeting after the test. He looked like Pat say check. I think….
TONY: That should be an Attorney Letter.
VAUGHN: Yeah. And he goes, How do you think you know that test one? I got a pretty good on it. And Sydney looks at him. I can tell you I didn’t do really well. This by the way. I looked at each other. He goes, Well, you didn’t do so well. I said Oh, he goes we’re gonna have to let you go I said well that’s okay cuz I’m going to law school as a boat just like I had and you know think of it in my position I’d been beaten down and I was going to make a comeback no matter what it took that was the same drive I had on a little fire when I started all these businesses…
BEN: So april you got accepted to law school may you’re ready to graduate gotten an accident July you woke up in a coma and Texas in July in July about nine months or so later you said you’re down there and about a year you started to work at TGI Fridays…
VAUGHN: I started working there a lot sooner…
BEN: A lot sooner. But your mental capacity wasn’t up to snuff, right? Yeah, right?
BEN: You got accepted to law school back in April and you’re going hey, I’m going to I’m going to go to law school I feel like you’re you’re insane right.
VAUGHN: So here’s the funny part my cars already packed the timing was God has a sense of humor in my life. He may who knows me like Tony they’ll they’ll see stuff happen.
BEN: And your cars packed in Texas or….
VAUGHN: It’s packed in the parking lot of TGIF. It’s outside.
BEN: Where’s this TGIF?
VAUGHN: A midway Avenue on the north side of Dallas.
BEN: At Dallas, so you’re in Dallas? Okay got it.
VAUGHN: And and so my parents think had already come back or they were they’re moving back the same weekend or whatever.
BEN: So your dad’s having like pretty significant problems too because he just lost his….
VAUGHN: He hired an attorney to defend because they tried to put it on him and he got out of it and they had to pay for it.
BEN: And the other guy was doing some….
VAUGHN: He got in trouble.
BEN: So now you’ve got a whole bunch of trauma in your life from physical the mental the emotional, the family to everything.
VAUGHN: But the funniest part was I said, Yeah, I think that’s okay, that’s fine. I’m going to law school and then I had the letter in my jacket because I was owning that that was my I was gonna make a comeback. I was making the transition from the rehab to this job and even though I thought it was doing better than I was, I wasn’t doing as good as I thought it was right. But now I’m going on to the next stage go back to college since I said here’s my letter and they both read it and they displayed as you couldn’t see look on their face when they read that letter that was accepted in law school. They were like they didn’t know what to do.
BEN: By the way, which law school?
VAUGHN: IU Bloomington…
BEN: Obviously got accepted at IU…
VAUGHN: It was rated like 13 it was highly rated IU Bloomington is law hard again, Indianapolis it’s a very fairly theological earthy, I’m sorry, theoretical.
VAUGHN: Very abstract. It’s very, there’s different ways of teaching law and it’s a very conceptual.
BEN: Thanks for being here and join us for part two of this story next week. Please like subscribe and comment on the podcast. We’ll see you next week for more Money with Mak and G.