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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.

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497364007_b28f03366a_z-300x225The lawyer appears and asks for your case. His ads are simple — Smile. Act Confident. Tell Viewers To Call. In his advertisements, one local Huntsville lawyer claims, “we have the lawyer to fix your problem.” Does he? Can he fix all your problems?

The advertising lawyer wants your case. That much is true. Yet, his law firm website (in the fine print) discloses a little more truth he hopes you won’t notice. While his firm takes personal injury clients, they refer the serious ones to outside lawyers for work. That begs the question — Why advertise for cases you don’t really handle through trial and appeal? The answer is simple. For firms who simply sign up cases, it’s not about the client or the case. If the lawyer cared about the client or the case, he or she would not be asking for cases they really did not handle. He would not claim expertise in every legal area possible. No, the answer comes down to fee (money). The smiling advertising lawyer wants the case to get a quick settlement or referral fee. Often, that is NOT in your best interest. And, he hopes you don’t know that.

If you are the injury victim who needs a lawyer, this can be a bad deal for you. Here are four ways it can be a bad deal for you:

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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Truck Accident VictimsYou have been driving a dark stretch of rural Interstate or highway in Alabama at night. You have car trouble and must slow or stop. Suddenly, you are struck from behind by a large commercial truck.

It’s not a farfetched scenario. Some people must drive at night for work. Others choose to take long trips at night when our roads are less congested. If you have driven at night on the Interstate in Alabama, you will also see many large eighteen wheeler trucks. On poorly lit stretches of rural highways, it is absolutely essential that all drivers can see. And, all drivers must see far enough ahead to stop safely when necessary.

This is the exact scenario of some recent clients. A family was traveling through Alabama on the Interstate. While on a rural stretch of the roadway, they blew a tire and their SUV flipped. None of them suffered injuries (at this point). As they were trying to exit the overturned SUV, a large eighteen wheeler struck them. This rural stretch of Interstate was largely flat but unlit. The commercial trucker took no evasive action until just before the impact. He tried to swerve only at the last moment before the crash. He did not see the SUV or people in his path until too late. Why did the trucker not see the objects right in front of his truck until it was too late? After investigating the scene and vehicles, our experts concluded the trucker was driving too fast. He was overdriving his headlights. He did not see the distressed family in time to avoid a tragic crash. That crash left a family without a wife and mother.

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roundabout-39394_1280-300x300It’s been almost 30 years since I was a Freshman at the University of South Alabama (USA). Driving on campus meant regularly using the large roundabout that connected my dorm to the academic buildings. For most students at USA (back then), this was the first roundabout ever seen. The design was largely unknown in Alabama. Since then, the concept has grown in use due to traffic and safety issues.

Now, I regularly drive the roundabout in downtown Huntsville near the civic center. Yet, you still see some drivers hesitate as they approach — uncertain as to a road design unfamiliar to them. After watching an uncertain driver at that roundabout yesterday, I decided to write this post.

Roundabouts are a frequent safety feature of roads in Europe. In the United States, they are less common. But, the number of roundabouts is increasing. Are roundabouts a safer alternative that reduces serious roadway injuries? Highway experts say, YES. While the focus of my blog is personal injury and safety, highway experts say roundabouts provide several important benefits.