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Blackwell Law Firm - Personal Injury Lawyers In HuntsvilleAnother Huntsville personal injury law firm recently published its list of “expectations” for new client consultations. Their list is a good technical list. Potential clients need to know that good personal injury attorneys typically offer free and confidential consultations. And, potential clients need to know what to expect at these meetings. So, I’ll start by repeating the other firm’s list, but, in my own words. Then, I’ll tell you what I really consider the main purpose of our new client interviews. Here is my interpretation of what you can expect at a new client consultation:

  • Who Are You? The other law firm lists this as the “collection of demographic / biographical” information. That’s true. But, it’s broader than that. If you are a potential new client, I want to get to know you better. You are more than simply your age and address. Your lawyer needs to know you better in order to advocate for you. I prefer to call this the “get to know you” part of the interview. At the end of this post, you will learn why it is important for me to know more about you.
  • What Happened? The other firm lists this as “recounting the incident.” The essence is to find out what happened to you. Yes, I want you to “recount” the facts of the accident. But, I also want to know your thoughts and perceptions of the events. For example, I’ve personally experienced a wreck. The strongest memory for me is the smell of the airbag right after it exploded. Years later, I can still describe it in detail.
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Huntsville Personal Injury Attorneys - Blackwell Law FirmTexting while driving puts all of us at risk. How can we expect our children to be safe drivers if we do not lead by example? We must lead by example. Because of that, I’ve written several posts discussing distracted driving among both parents and professional drivers. You can read a few of those posts here:

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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Alabama TBI VictimsWe have prepared many cases involving traumatic brain injury (TBI). This includes TBI caused by both automobile accidents and workplace accidents. TBI cases are very different than your “normal” car wreck or personal injury case.

Do you think routine medical professionals typically understand TBI? Think again. TBI is often misunderstood by medical professionals. Many medical professionals have wrong opinions about TBI. I’ve heard non-specialists WRONGLY state a patient has no TBI because a CT scan came back normal. In truth, many patients with mild TBI have normal scans. I’ve heard non-specialists WRONGLY assume a person with a “mild” TBI will always recover fully. Wrong again. While many mild TBI patients do recover, some continue to suffer long-term or permanent impairments. Many doctors and nurses do NOT understand this injury. That lack of understanding also makes TBI cases very difficult.

Because so many people fail to understand TBI cases, we advocate for strong family involvement. The injured person’s closest family and friends are typically in the best position to observe changes in behavior, emotion, memory or cognitive ability. We also recommend testing and treatment by specialists.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersLook at the drivers around you. Do you see many of them staring at their phones instead of the road? I do. I also talk daily with clients who suffered serious personal injuries in car crashes caused by these distracted drivers.

Distracted driving is a frequent topic for us. We have long-advocated an approach to the problem that involves safety laws, education and technology. All three approaches are needed. Safety laws help but they do not solve the problem by themselves. That’s our opinion.

A new study by a California company, Zendrive, supports our belief that safety laws alone cannot solve the problem of distracted driving. You can read about the recent Zendrive study at the website for the Claims Journal an insurance industry periodical. You can also read about the study in a recent Bloomberg article. Each separate article provides interesting insights into the study. According to reports, Zendrive monitored several million drivers. Before I discuss some of the actual results, the Claims Journal article notes Zendrive “is likely discounting the danger” since it only records phone use when the device is actually moving around inside a car. In other words, if your phone is mounted to the dash, your use may not have been recorded. What are a couple of the interesting facts reported by the Claims Journal and Bloomberg articles? Here are a couple:

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Blackwell Law Firm - Personal Injury Lawyers For AlabamaDuring the last few weeks, we have really been focused on preparing for a few upcoming trials. First up on the docket was a truck crash jury trial in Guntersville. At our office, Jennifer McKown was the primary attorney on this one. It has been her sole focus the past couple weeks.

As we prepared for these trials, I’m reminded that good trial preparation requires you to maintain your focus. You must always remember your goal and don’t get sidetracked. Winston Churchill once said:

You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersSeveral years ago, I had the honor of representing another Huntsville personal injury attorney who was hit by an SUV while riding his bicycle. After the crash, the SUV driver paused just briefly to see that the bicyclist had lived. Then, he fled the scene. He was never identified. The bicyclist suffered a severe neck injury. I was honored that he asked me to handle his case. This injured attorney had been practicing trial work for years and knew lawyers across northern Alabama. Because law enforcement was never able to identify the driver who caused the crash, we pursued claims against the bicyclist’s insurance company for uninsured motorist benefits (UIM). Let this be a lesson to everyone — It is very important for you to have UIM coverage on your policy. You can read more about that issue in a special section of our law firm website.

In the lawyer bicyclist case, we worked with the medical professionals to present the evidence of his serious injury. When the insurance company refused to fairly evaluate the matter, we went to trial. We successfully won a verdict compensating him for his full damages.

I think of that case every time I read about hit and run incidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists. I also think about the Pokemon fad. I can remember leaving my Huntsville office at night during that ridiculous fad. As I drove through downtown, I would see people staring into their cellphones while walking. Often, these people would cross streets with zero awareness of the traffic around them. How dangerous.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury AttorneysWe see it all the time in the medical records. Regardless of whether the injury is from a car accident, workplace incident or something else, many doctors ask the question. Rate your pain on a one to ten scale? Sometimes, the patient is even given a form with numbers and faces to complete.

How do you rate your pain on a one to ten scale? I’ve never understood how patients can do it. In my practice, I’ve often been surprised by pain scale responses. I’ve seen people hurt so severely they are really in terrible agony. Yet, they will stoicly rate their pain as a 5 out of 10. At the same time, I’ve seen a few people with pretty minor injuries tell the doctor their pain is a 10 out of 10. The problem is that pain is subjective and there is zero standard for a person to use a pain scale.

I’ve long had problems with the pain scale. Recently, I read an article from a physician who argues “the pain scale” contributes to our nation’s opioid crisis. I’ve never considered that issue. But, I guess a patient statement of significantly-rated pain in the medical records may be used to prescribe pain medications. It’s an article titledThe Pain Scale Shares The Blame For The Opioid Crisis In America. It’s an interesting and thoughtful perspective on a critical issue.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersIn May 2017, an Alabama Circuit Court Judge in Birmingham declared Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act unconstitutional. What were the reasons why? Our law placed caps on benefits for workers suffering a permanent partial disability and on the attorneys who help those injured workers. The Birmingham case was later resolved and the Act remains in force. So, workers’ compensation benefits continue to be provided in Alabama. Yet, the decision started discussions about the unjust nature of our Act.

The cap on benefits for partially disabled workers is especially unfair and unjust. The cap was enacted decades ago. While everything else has been adjusted for inflation, the cap has not. The result — partially disabled workers receive a benefit placing their families below the poverty level. That is a horrible way for us to treat the working men and women in our communities.

Following the Judge’s decision, a task force formed to propose changes in our workers’ compensation laws. I’ve been concerned since the beginning. Why? My concern is this — What important benefits will workers lose in exchange for a modest increase in partial disability benefits? My concern is real. Across the United States, we have seen a slow erosion of workers’ compensation benefits. In other states, task forces and legislative proposals gave workers something small in  exchange for taking other more valuable benefits. Repeatedly, other state legislatures de-valued their most important resource — the working men and women of their state. If I’m worried this Alabama task force will “dangle” a carrot of increasing one benefit while taking others, I’ve seen it elsewhere.

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dog-900215_1920-copy-300x256DOG BITE INJURIES ARE FREQUENT

Homeowners’ liability insurance is an issue in many personal injury cases. Clearly, a huge percentage of personal injury cases are traditional automobile accidents covered by automobile insurance. Yet, many other claims involve different types of events triggering homeowners’ coverage. Our firm is currently handling several different types of injury cases where this coverage is available for our injured clients.

What is one source of injury that is frequently addressed by homeowners’ coverage? Dog bites and animal attacks. Most of us know the old saying, some dogs are more bark than bite. Think about that small neighborhood dog that never seems to stay quiet. That dog may be harmless. But, other dogs can cause very serious and permanent injuries. Too often, the victims are children. Over the years, we’ve helped clients who suffered dog bite injuries so severe they even required plastic surgery.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersWhat is Alabama’s Move Over Law? The law began as a protection for police helping or citing motorists along the highway. We have all seen a police officer on the roadside doing his or her job. The officer must stand just feet from cars traveling at high speeds. It is a very dangerous position. Many police officers have been injured or killed over the years by passing motorists. If you ask any law enforcement officer, they will admit this is one of the scariest parts of their job.

Eventually, our original Blue Light Law was amended to include other workers who must also perform their jobs on the side of our highways. These include paramedics, firefighters, wrecker drivers, utility workers, sanitation employees. All of these individuals work at significant personal risk.

At our office, we have seen the tragic results of drivers who refuse to slow or move for emergency personnel. Several years ago, we represented the family of a young paramedic struck and killed by a passing driver. This paramedic was helping a hurt motorist on the shoulder of the Interstate. Despite flashing lights from two patrol cars and the ambulance, a reckless driver sped down the icy highway without slowing or moving to the far lane. The driver lost control. He struck the paramedic, killing her.