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Alot has changed since the 1970s, when attorney Ron Gilbert began litigating aquatics-related injury cases — but not his passion for aquatic safety.

Gilbert’s reputation as a leading plaintiff attorney in the area of aquatics-related spinal cord injuries started with his first case, Corbin v Coleco (settled in 1986), which involved a diving accident. As an industry safety advocate, he has played an active role in helping set industry safety standards, precedents and regulations, most notably in the area of shallow-water diving accident prevention.

He started his firm, Ron R. Gilbert, PC, based in Fenton, Mich., in 1984, and has since worked on hundreds of cases involving spinal cord and aquatics injuries. He has represented more than 200 victims of aquatics-related spinal cord injuries in more than 35 states and was instrumental in the Michigan State Legislature’s decision to enact a mandatory minimum depth of 5 feet for competitive swimming starting blocks, which has become the industry standard.

Fueled by his passion for his work, Gilbert volunteers his time serving more than 30 related organizations and standards commissions, including the American National Standards Institute, the American Society for Testing and Materials, the National Swimming Pool Safety Committee and the Aquatic Injury Safety Foundation. In addition, he’s on the board of directors of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, and is the founding chairman of the Foundation for Spinal Cord Injury Prevention, Care & Cure, and the Foundation for Aquatic Injury Prevention. Gilbert’s organizations are nonprofit educational groups working to prevent spinal cord and aquatics injuries.

“The simple fact is that many of the diving-related injuries that I saw could have been prevented through intervention, such as warning signs, gates or overhead obstructions that would make diving impossible,” Gilbert says. “I would like to think that my success has brought about the awareness that has set the stage for changes in standards.”