The original founding partner of the firm, Bill Wagner has represented plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout his entire career dating back to 1961.
Bill Wagner grew up in Lake Worth, Florida, and graduated from Lake Worth High School in 1951. He attended undergraduate school at the University of Florida and later graduated with honors from the University of Florida College of Law in 1960. He practiced law in Miami at Nichols, Gaither, Beckham, Colson, Spence, and Hicks, where he became a partner. Thereafter, in 1967, he formed the partnership of Wagner, Cunningham, & Vaughan, which later became Wagner, Vaughan & McLaughlin until 2015.
Bill’s dedication to plaintiffs’ rights has led to a long history of active leadership in professional organizations. The Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers (now named Florida Justice Association) elected him to its 1972-1973 presidency, as well as sixteen years of board membership — and in 1992 honored him with its highest recognition, the Perry Nichols Award. He has also served as president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (now known as the American Association for Justice), the first national organization of lawyers whose main practice is representing those damaged by the fault of others, and was an officer or a member of its Board of Governors for more than sixteen years. He is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, considered to be the premier professional trial organization in America. Bill was selected for the first publication of The Best Lawyers in America and has continued to be chosen for that honor every year since, for more than 25 years.
Over his distinguished career, Bill has been honored with more awards than can be listed here. Within the past few years, the Florida Justice Association honored him with its Lawyer to Legacy 2012 Eagle Legend Award, and the Tampa Bay Trial Lawyers Association presented him with its highest “Champion of Justice” Award. He received the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Outstanding Lawyer Award in 2000 and was presented with the Florida Trial Lawyer of the Year Award by the Florida Chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates in 1997. As a member of the Southern Trial Lawyers Association, he has received its prestigious War Horse Award.
Bill’s personal interest in flying led to his obtaining a commercial pilot’s license, with multi-engine, instrument, seaplane and helicopter ratings, which has given him a rare insight into aviation equipment, operations, and accidents. He served as an original member of and chaired the Florida Bar’s Aviation Law Certification Committee, was the first plaintiffs’ board-certified aviation lawyer on Florida’s west coast, and remained board-certified in aviation for many decades, until 2013.
Bill was born Frederick William Wagner, but most of his life has been known by and called “Bill.” He has three adult sons. His eldest son, Alan Wagner, is also an attorney and has been president of Wagner McLaughlin since 2004. Bill’s son Darryl Wagner is a retired Lieutenant with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department, Florida; and Bill’s youngest son, Thomas Wagner, until his recent retirement was in project-management with Verizon Communications in Tampa.
- Admitted to The Florida Bar in 1960
- Admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967
- Earned LL.B. from the University of Florida College of Law in 1960 (replaced by J.D. in 1968)
- Received B.A. from the University of Florida in 1955
- President, American Association for Justice, 1988-1989
- President, Florida Justice Association, 1972-1973
- Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer, The Florida Bar, for many decades until 2013
- Certified Civil Trial Advocate, National Board of Trial Advocacy
- Appointed by The Florida Bar to test and certify aviation attorneys as the then-only plaintiff’s board-certified aviation attorney on the west coast
- Sustaining Member, Lawyer Pilots Bar Association
- Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers
- Fellow, International Academy of Trial Lawyers
- Diplomate, American Board of Trial Advocates
- Emeritus Member, Governing Council of the American Law Institute
- Founder, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice (now known as Public Citizen)
- Emeritus Member, Florida Board of Bar Examiners
- Former Member, Board of Governors of The Florida Bar
- Former Member, Florida Supreme Court’s Committee on Standard Civil Jury Instructions
- Former Trustee, Florida Supreme Court Historical Society
- International Member, Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) in Great Britain
- Former International Member, Australian Lawyers Alliance
- International Member, Pan-European Organization of Personal Injury Lawyers
- Life Fellow, American Bar Foundation
- Life Fellow, Pound Civil Justice Institute (formerly the Roscoe Pound Foundation)
- Former Trustee, Hillsborough County Bar Foundation
- Who’s Who is America, In Law, and In the World
- ‘AV’ Rating by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory