Published on:

Blackwell Law Firm
A new year means a new push to harm disabled workers in Alabama. The current effort — a proposal by Decatur State Senator Arthur Orr. This is not a new effort. Senator Orr has renewed his yearly effort to cut-off medical and disability benefits for severely injured Alabama workers. Senator Orr’s proposal will harm our communities by pushing disabled workers off insurance benefits and on to taxpayer-funded government benefits. It’s a bad idea.

What are the changes Senator Orr continues to seek:

  • Legislation that severely and arbitrarily limits medical benefits for ALL injured workers in Alabama.
Published on:

Photo by Dierk Schaefer
Are traumatic brain injuries (TBI) being diagnosed by emergency rooms? It’s a topic of concern in our personal injury practice. We frequently help families struggling because a loved one suffers a TBI from an accident. We regularly see these injuries in both car accidents and work-related job site accidents. Traumatic brain injuries can drastically change the lives of individuals as well as entire families.

Early documentation and diagnosis are frequent issues in our TBI cases. Why do many TBI victims lack early diagnosis or treatment? Initially, emergency rooms focus on immediate life-saving issues. A mild TBI may not be immediately life-threatening. Emergency rooms often neglect to document or diagnose broader cases of head trauma. This lack of documentation and care may continue beyond the initial ER visit. Later physicians are often inexperienced in mild traumatic brain injuries. These physicians may focus on the particular physical injury within their specialty while neglecting a TBI. Insurance companies also contribute to the problem with proper care. In workers’ compensation cases where the insurance company selects your doctors, insurers routinely ignore complaints. For insurance companies, it’s about saving money instead of providing care. These patients may never see a physician experienced or skilled with TBI issues.

The delayed diagnosis of TBI cases has two very bad effects. First, delays in diagnosis impact healing. Second, delays in diagnosis make it much more difficult to prove an accident caused your injury in court. Causation (did the accident cause your TBI) can become a huge issue in these cases.

Published on:

Photo by Mark Goebel
In June, I wrote a post discussing distracted driving by commercial truck drivers. You can read the post here: Distracted Driving And Commercial Trucks — A Deadly Combination. That post discusses a terrible distracted driving case where a truck driver crashed into a group of nursing students.

The crash killed five nursing students and severely injured others. Afterwards, the trucking company quietly settled claims from the families of the nursing students killed. However, one of the severely injured nursing students and her lawyer prepared for trial.

In January, a jury awarded $15 Million to this surviving nursing student. The student suffers from a traumatic brain injury caused by the crash. I have two instant takeaways from the jury verdict.

Published on:

Car_crash_1-300x181
You were a passenger in a car. The driver of that car caused an accident. You suffered personal injury. Now, the insurance company has denied your claim. Why? The insurance company says you cannot make a claim because of Alabama’s Guest Passenger Statute.

Many people are not familiar with this Alabama law. It is an old law. Most other states repealed similar laws long ago. Many people learn of this law only when the insurance company denies their car accident injury claim. What should you do? First, do not accept the insurance company denial without consulting an attorney. It’s important you consult an attorney who specializes in personal injury claims. And, it’s important that attorney has actual trial experience. Many of the lawyers advertising on billboards and television for personal injury claims only want cases they can easily settle.

While the Guest Passenger Statute does bar many claims, it is not absolute. A skilled attorney will understand this law and whether it truly applies to your claim.

Published on:

Better-Call-Saul-Billboard
The billboards went up practically overnight. Major roads were covered. The faces, the names, a telephone number. Call us, it said. This firm wants everyone to call with any legal issue.

It’s easy to get a billboard. You just need to take a picture and have it plastered on the billboard with a few words and a phone number. Add a few fake awards and you have yourself a marketing winner. Does that make the person a good lawyer? Does it make the person a skilled lawyer you should trust? No.

The Huntsville area firm that decided practically overnight to enter the billboard game is a perfect example. It’s an association of attorneys who spent their careers primarily defending clients with small criminal charges. I’m not criticizing their skills as DUI defense lawyers. But, to claim suddenly that you have expertise in entirely different legal areas? I just don’t think it’s right. But, these lawyers want the volume of cases. So, they decided to expand. Suddenly, they started advertising for everything — domestic, immigration, elder law and even personal injury.

Published on:

Webster_County_Nebraska_courthouse_courtroom_3-300x205
I was driving to court when I heard a local Huntsville lawyer on the radio. The lawyer begged for calls. He claimed expertise in legal fields as different as real estate, domestic, criminal, immigration and even personal injury. He did it all! And, he wanted you to call him for everything. Really? The law is complex. You won’t see that advertising lawyer handling all those different matters. He’s more marketer than lawyer.

Although that Huntsville lawyer claimed to be a personal injury expert, I have not seen him at any civil trial dockets. None. I’ve practiced personal injury trial work for more than twenty years. I attend trial dockets regularly across northern Alabama. While the radio lawyer says he does it all, he really does not.

Curious about this Huntsville lawyer who claimed to do it all, I looked at his website. He did advertise for personal injury cases. But, stuck at the end of his personal injury page was the disclaimer. He advertises for injury cases but refers them to other lawyers. It’s in the fine print. In the fine print, you see the truth. He will likely send your case to a real personal injury lawyer if he is unable to get a quick settlement. That’s deceptive. It’s wrong. Hurt people deserve better.

Published on:

Photo by C. WilliamsOpioid abuse has become a serious safety issue in car accidents and commercial truck accidents. We frequently investigate personal injury claims caused by an impaired driver. How has the abuse of prescription opioids affecting the commercial trucking industry?

A study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine reveals troubling information. The use of alcohol and drugs among truck drivers on the highway is common. For people who routinely investigate serious commercial trucking accidents, the study simply confirms what they have already seen. Drugs and alcohol are a factor in many deadly commercial truck and car accidents.

The test data shows that alcohol, amphetamines (‘speed’), cannabis, and cocaine, are the most frequently used drugs by truck drivers on the road. That makes sense. In today’s environment, truckers are often paid by the mile and pushed to make hauls. Drugs like amphetamines and cocaine are stimulants which allow truckers to drive longer without sleep.

Published on:

A car crashes into you. You suffer personal injuries. You suddenly face problems with medical bills, pain or wage losses. Then, you discover another problem. The at-fault driver has too little or no insurance for your damages. This problem is not rare. It happens more than you think. Many drivers do not have the insurance necessary to cover the harm their negligent driving may cause.

Alabama law requires every driver to have liability insurance. But, the law requires only small limits of coverage. Some drivers choose to ignore the law and drive without coverage. Other drivers purchase only the bare minimum amount. That amount is far less than needed to cover the damages for anyone with a significant personal injury. Many injury victims have medical bills that exceed the minimum liability coverage limits required by law.

I wrote a series of articles in prior years discussing Alabama’s problem with uninsured drivers. These articles also detail efforts by Alabama officials to create a system of insurance verification – a system that would catch drivers who choose to ignore the law and put the rest of us in danger. When I wrote my first article on the topic in 2011, officials estimated up to 25% of Alabama’s drivers did not currently possess insurance coverage. In 2016, Governor Bentley announced the rate of uninsured drivers had dropped significantly. Yet, it still remains too high. You can read some of my prior articles at my other blog, The Alabama Litigation Review.

Published on:

Photo by KOMUnews

Emergency Rooms Fail To Diagnose Many Traumatic Brain Injuries

In past posts, I’ve discussed problems with emergency room protocols for accident victims who may be suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Emergency rooms often fail to diagnose significant cases of TBI as well as significant disc injuries in the spine. Our office regularly interviews victims of car accidents and work-related accidents with injuries left undiagnosed by emergency room personnel.

I get it. Emergency rooms are often crowded and chaotic. Emergency room professionals must worry about immediate life and death issues. Will the patient live? Is the patient at risk of paralysis? How do we stabilize the patient? These questions take priority. Yet, many significant TBI cases are left undiagnosed and untreated.

Published on:

A recent article I read tells the story of a bad Illinois workers’ compensation attorney. This bad attorney tried to make a bad settlement for his client. And, the bad attorney then tried to bully his client into accepting it. Although the article discusses an attorney in another state, it is not a unique story. It happens in Alabama as well. Too many attorneys fail to prepare their cases or go to trial when needed.

The story reminds me of a work comp case several years ago. I received a call from a man in nearby Athens who had suffered a very bad back injury. He had required spinal surgery for his injury and was now a chronic pain patient. He had not been able to work since the surgery. However, he already had a lawyer. His problem with that lawyer? His lawyer was trying to force him into accepting a settlement for an amount less than the defendant’s own expert concluded. This was not just a low offer. It was below what he would have received at trial if the court believed everything the employer argued. It was an unrealistically low offer. And, it should have been declined immediately.

When I heard the full story, I was shocked. Why was a lawyer trying to convince this clearly injured person to accept such a small amount? The injured worker had a good case. Why was a lawyer, any lawyer, trying to convince this clearly injured person to accept an offer below any reasonable expectation at trial? As I investigated the case, I learned the truth — that work comp lawyer was unwilling to fight for his clients in court. That lawyer had a track record of not preparing his cases. And, the insurance company offered a lower amount because it knew that lawyer’s track record. Make no mistake — insurance companies know which lawyers fight for their clients and which lawyers do not. It’s not just workers’ compensation cases. It also applies to car accidents. Insurance companies know the attorneys who accept far less than the full case value.