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Maximum Medical ImprovementEarlier this week, I saw a blog post titled “What Happens To Workers’ Compensation When You Reach MMI?” It’s a good question. It’s one we frequently answer for callers to our office. Unfortunately, that other blog post really failed to answer the question. Instead, it simply listed a number of different types of injury. It was short on answers but long on SEO keywords. So, I’ll try to discuss several actual events that are often triggered by Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).

What is MMI? Maximum medical improvement is that point in time where the injured worker has reached their maximum healing. Does it mean you are totally healed? In some cases, yes. But, in many cases the worker is not totally healed. Instead, the worker is left with a permanent disability. Some people suffer permanent injuries and need continuing care to maintain their level of function. Under our work comp system, you are entitled to medical care for your injuries.

So, let’s discuss the two biggest events triggered by the MMI date in an Alabama workers’ compensation claim. And, I’ll add that the date of MMI is not always clear or agreed-upon.

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Huntsville Truck Accident & Injury AttorneysThe video was startling. It shows the inside of a bus. Passengers are calmly sitting while the bus driver waits at a red light. Without warning, one side of the bus crumples as a truck crashes into it. Passengers are sent flying around the bus. Several of them suffer bad injuries. In any situation, it’s really startling to see a person fly through the air after an impact. It’s traumatic just watching this video knowing what these passengers are about to endure.

Yes, Huntsville equips its bus fleet with interior cameras. What happened in this crash? Since the camera only shows the bus interior, I’ll tell you what happened. The bus driver was properly sitting at an intersection along Bob Wallace Avenue waiting on a green light. Suddenly, a large and fully loaded dump truck crashed into a small pick-up truck at the intersection. That crash toppled the dump truck to its side and sent it sliding along the wet road right into the stopped bus. Of course, both the pick-up and dump truck drivers claimed the other one was at fault.

A search of recent local headlines shows that serious dump truck accidents are a frequent occurrence. A November headline from WHNT reads “1 Dead After Dump Truck Crashes At Quarry” about another Huntsville accident. An August article on a local CBS affiliate discusses a fatal dump truck crash in Cullman County. An October headline from WAAY discusses an overturned dump truck accident on Highway 72 in Madison County. I could continue with many more recent accidents.

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Blackwell Law Firm: Alabama Injury AttorneysSeveral months ago, a Department of Labor (DOL) official published an article on the agency’s website discussing three troubling trends with workers’ compensation benefits. You can read that article at Trends In Workers’ Comp. These trends are certainly true in AlabamaI’ll discuss each of these harmful trends below:

1. The Number Of Workers Covered By Workers Compensation Has Decreased

We need to remember the purposes of workers’ compensation. Our work comp systems were originally implemented to provide a couple basic benefits — Medical care and a basic disability benefit. These are essential benefits for injured workers.

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Television! Radio! Social Media! You cannot escape the ads for mass torts. Have you been injured by .  .  . [insert drug or device]. These are serious claims. Every year, many people are injured by dangerous products or drugs. They are also difficult claims to prepare in court. So, why are lawyers asking for your case if they really are not going to prepare your case in court? Why advertise for anything simply to refer it for a cut of the case???

I’m not writing to criticize lawyers who actually work these cases. The real problem are lawyers thinking first of volume fees instead of maximizing individual damages.

I’m not alone in my thinking. A 2021 study revealed almost 2/3 of plaintiffs in mass tort cases were unhappy with their lawyers. Think about that! I receive calls constantly from people unhappy with the large volume firm handling their case. Many of these people are the victim of someone marketing for their case simply to refer it to a large firm elsewhere for part of the fee. While 2/3 of the plaintiffs were unhappy, I would add that a lot of other plaintiffs unknowingly received less than they should have in settlement due to this arrangement. To me, that’s the biggest problem — Volume operations that don’t prepare each individual case for its maximum value.

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Add-a-little-bit-of-body-text-300x300Crash! A negligent driver just crashed into your car. In an instant everything changes. If you were injured in a car accident, the weeks and months after the accident can be a blur of doctor appointments and medical bills. Medical visits. Medical bills. Missed work. It can be overwhelming. I get it. I read and summarize medical records for my clients on a daily basis.

The last thing you expect is for the other driver’s insurance adjuster to simply disregard some of your medical bills. Yet, that’s what adjusters do every day. How do you prevent the adjuster from disregarding or discounting important medical costs? You need to seek skilled legal counsel who is willing to file your case and prepare the claim for court. First, you need to understand some of the big reasons why adjusters ignore or disregard some of your medical bills. That’s the topic for today. Why is the adjuster ignoring or discounting my medical bills? Here are two big reasons.

The Adjuster Claims Some Treatment Is NOT Related To The Car Accident

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Pedestrian Accident Attorneys Of Blackwell Law FirmI’ve written several articles about car accidents involving pedestrians. Over the years, I’ve also investigated and represented many clients as their pedestrian accident attorney. Pedestrian cases are very difficult in Alabama due to some of our specific laws. They are also difficult due to perceptions that favor car drivers. Because of these difficulties, pedestrian accident cases require a skilled approach for success. You can read some of my prior articles on the topic on this blog.

If you read any of my posts, you know I talk a lot about traffic and accident studies. A recent study by Smart Growth America reveals a continued trend in the wrong direction — Accidents and deaths involving pedestrians struck by cars continue to increase.

You can read the Smart Growth America study HERE. I’ll discuss a couple observations from the study in this post. First, I wanted to quote one of the introductory paragraphs from the study. It’s very interesting:

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Alabama Disability & Accident LawyersThe 11th Circuit recently released a new decision denying a FMLA leave claim. I only occasionally write about FMLA issues. However, these issues can arise in many of our Alabama workers’ compensation claims. In many larger companies covered by FMLA, injured workers are dealing with both systems at the same time. FMLA issues can also arise, from time-to-time, in some of our other personal injury claims where an employee needs leave to deal with a serious health issue. I’ve also represented clients in FMLA cases in our Federal Court system. So, I stay up-to-date on new case decisions under the FMLA.

Back to the recent 11th Circuit decision. In the recent case of Walker v. United Parcel Services (UPS), the 11th Circuit affirmed a lower court decision against a worker who had pursued FMLA interference and retaliation claims. Basically, the decision comes down to this — The worker failed to support his claim with any documentation. By that I mean, the worker apparently failed to provide any real documentation at all.

Keep in mind, the rules are pretty favorable for a worker needing leave. Once an employee gives notice that potentially qualifying leave is needed, the employer must determine whether the absence actually qualifies for FMLA leave. The worker does not need any special knowledge of FMLA. He just needs to let his employer know he needs time. So, it’s a pretty loose standard with much of the burden on the employer. However, an employer may require the employee to support the leave with a certification from his health care provider. That was the issue in this case.

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Alabama Workers Compensation AttorneysMany workers’ compensation callers express the same frustration — The treating doctor is only treating one of my injuries while ignoring the others. I hear some version of this frustration every week. It’s common. Today, we’ll discuss a couple reasons why it occurs.

Here’s an example of what often happens — You suffer a serious work-related accident. For one recent client, it was a fall from a ladder. You hurt several different body parts in the accident. However, one of those body parts may initially appear to be the most injured. In my ladder example, the worker fell. He injured both knees, his hips and his back. However, one knee was really swollen, badly swollen. He could not put any weight on it. So, that’s the injured body part work comp focused on treating to the exclusion of the others. It’s wrong. That worker is entitled to care for all his work-related injuries.

Often, the employer only lists the most pressing injury in its written report. If you work around Huntsville, the employer is likely to send you for medical care initially to Occupational Health Group (OHG). When you go to OHG, those doctors are only listing or looking at the one body part. When the OHG doctor finally refers you to an orthopedic, it’s just for the one body part. In my example involving the worker who fell from a ladder, the orthopedic only saw him for his swollen knee.

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Blackwell Law Firm: Alabama Personal Injury LawyersCrash!!! You hear the sound of crushing metal. Your body is slammed around the inside of your car. What is happening? In an instant, another driver ran a red light and slammed into you. In the hours and days after the crash, you start hurting badly. You are worried about your health and future. Now, you are dealing with pain, medical care and bills. Today, I want to talk about those medical bills and a common problem in many Alabama car accident cases.

When you see the doctor, it’s easy to tell him/her just to bill the other driver’s automobile insurance company. After all, the other driver was at fault. The insurance company for that negligent driver should pay your bills! While this sounds reasonable, it’s a mistake. It’s a mistake to tell your medical providers to bill the automobile insurer. It’s a mistake made by many accident victims. It’s a mistake that is often encouraged by insurance adjusters and even billboard lawyers who are not looking out for you! It can have a tremendous impact on your injury claim.

It’s an easy mistake to make. First, the other driver should pay. Second, many adjusters imply that you should send your bills. Many adjusters imply the insurance company will pay your medical bills as incurred. Keep in mind, these adjusters are just trying to get information from you.

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Is-That-Nursing-Home-Providing-Good-Care-300x300Last week I wrote a post titled Who’s Watching Your Elderly Relative In The Nursing Home? At the time, I had been taking depositions in a couple different Alabama nursing home abuse cases. While taking the deposition of one facility’s Director of Nursing, the witness basically admitted her facility only purchased a rulebook to get licensed. This Director of Nursing testified her facility obtained a canned rulebook years ago to get licensed. Since then, the rulebook sat on the shelf gathering dust. She could not testify to any of her own facility’s specific procedures.

Think about that — A facility full of caregivers with no common procedures. All caregivers are left to act as they deem appropriate. We also took the depositions of several different CNAs who provided care at the facility. Most of them had never worked with any other providers. So, they had no prior experience. This facility hired them and turned them loose on its elderly residents with no explicit policies.

When we reviewed the medical chart at the nursing home, we found almost nothing. By nothing, I mean almost nothing was charted despite doctor’s orders to monitor the elderly resident carefully due to his health condition. In my post last week I discussed the nursing home’s response to questions on its lack of charting. In response, the witnesses testified they only “chart by exception.”

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