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Photo by E Max
The Claims Journal (an insurance industry periodical) recently published an interesting study. The California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) studied workers’ compensation claims involving spinal fusion surgery. According to the researchers most of these claims were initially reported as back strains.

The study is interesting. Yet, the results are not surprising. I have represented people in serious Alabama workers’ compensation and personal injury claims for over twenty years. In workers’ compensation claims, employers and their insurance carriers frequently under-report serious injuries. It’s not unusual for a workplace back injury to be under-reported as a mere strain even where the worker is experiencing symptoms classically associated with more serious spinal problems.

Employers and insurance companies initially under-report injuries in order to save their costs. Yet, the long-term impact on an injured worker can be tremendous. Here are three ways employers and their insurance companies under-report workplace injuries.

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Law library books by Janet LindenmuthI’m disappointed by lawyers who claim to be specialists in ALL legal fields. It’s an impossible claim. It’s a claim that diminishes the legal profession. It’s a claim that will harm clients. If you hear a lawyer advertise as a specialist in all legal matters, my advice is to call someone else.

We actually have lawyers in Huntsville with billboards and videos marketing themselves as specialists in all legal fields. They want your case. Tax issue? Sign up. Estate issue? Sign up. Family law problem? Sign up. DUI? Sign up. Personal injury claim? Sign up. That kind of advertising makes the legal profession look bad. Why? In truth, if your case is complicated, these lawyers would quickly be in way over their heads.

Would you ask a foot specialist to treat you for an infectious disease? Would you ask a foot specialist to treat you for a traumatic brain injury? Of course not. In the legal field, why hire a DUI lawyer for your personal injury claim? If anybody loses in these scenarios, it is you as the consumer.

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Photo by KSAT 12
In recent days, we again saw the deadly toll of distracted driving on our highways. A church choir in Texas was returning from its annual retreat when the unthinkable happened. A pickup truck suddenly veered from its lane and into the path of their bus. The two vehicles collided head-on. According to news reports, thirteen senior citizens from the same church died in the crash. One church member survived the crash itself but currently remains in critical condition from her injuries.

The photographs and video of the crash scene are difficult to view. The vehicles look like mangled pieces of steel destroyed by the impact. But, this was not an accident. It was avoidable. The pickup truck driver chose to disregard completely the safety of others and caused the deadly crash. What choice did this driver make? He chose to drive distracted for miles down the highway putting many lives in danger. He chose to put his attention on texting instead of the roadway.

Distracted driving leaves a path of destruction across the highways of Alabama and all other states. In Alabama, we recently saw a driver receive jail time for a deadly distracted driving crash. In Georgia, a commercial truck driver plowed into a car of nursing students causing another deadly crash.

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Many lawyers advertise for personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. One group of Huntsville DUI lawyers recently put their names on billboards and began claiming specialties as varied as personal injury and elder law. Anyone can advertise. Any attorney can say they handle personal injury cases. While many lawyers advertise, few have real expertise in court.

It’s different with defense attorneys. Insurance companies hire good attorneys with trial skills. Insurance company lawyers regularly handle cases through trial and appeal. Does your injury attorney have similar skills? If you hire a billboard lawyer, you may get a lawyer who is quickly in over his head. And, you will suffer as a result.

A local advertising lawyer (who has a billboard) recently called me and started asking questions about distracted driving. A person hurt in a car accident had hired him. He did not know how to handle the case. While answering his questions, I kept thinking about the person hurt in the wreck. Was this person getting an attorney with experience handling these serious claims? No. This advertising lawyer marketed himself as a personal injury attorney but did not know how to handle a basic claim. And, this advertising lawyer had no intention of fighting for his client at trial if needed. He just wanted information needed to speak intelligently with the insurance adjuster.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.