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Blackwell Law Firm - Serious personal injury lawyersA recent article in an insurance industry periodical asks why hospitals charge auto insurers more than health insurers. The article then concludes hospitals use their market power against commercial insurers. Hospital charges are unfair. Hospitals regularly take advantage of people following automobile accidents. However, the insurance article asks the wrong question and reaches the wrong conclusion.

What is the correct question? The article should ask “why do patients with auto insurance claims pay more.” The real focus should be on the actual patients. After all, the patients ultimately bear the real cost of health care. And, patients seeking treatment following an automobile accident often pay more. The injured patient loses in two different ways. First, the patient probably paid health insurance premiums with the expectation of health coverage. Yet, their health insurance goes unused following a car accident or other personal injury. Second, the inflated medical charges not covered by your health insurance — These inflated charges were ultimately paid from the settlement money you needed to cover all your damages.

What is the correct conclusion? The article WRONGLY concludes the higher charges are the result of hospital market power. The article ends by quoting a professor at Johns Hopkins — “If market forces fail to generate a reasonable price for these patients, policymakers should step in to address this market failure.” I’m sure hospitals do use their market power to extract the highest reimbursement possible. However, we are NOT in this predicament solely because of true economic market power. At least not in Alabama. No, we are largely in this position because hospitals have already worked our actual policymakers to pass a law allowing them to place liens on medical care rather than simply bill health insurance. Policymakers have enacted special legislation giving hospitals the authority to interject themselves into liability cases for maximum payment. Let this special use of government legislative power sink in for a moment. Hospitals enjoy a lien privilege not held by others. It’s not called market forces or market failure when you use the political system to gain an unfair advantage. I call it an abuse of government that further harms people.

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sky-78113_1280-300x200Many employers fail to report workplace injuries. The reason is often very simple — These employers do not want to provide workers’ compensation benefits to their injured employees. Sometimes these non-reporting employers simply choose not to complete an accident report. If the injury later turns serious, the lack of a written report can make the injured worker’s claim difficult to prove. I’ve faced these reporting disputes countless times over the years. Although you may have told your supervisor, he or she may conveniently “forget” the conversation in the absence of a written report.

Sometimes these non-reporting employers use their plant first aid department to avoid accident reporting. How? For one Alabama poultry plant, the plant nurse typically labels complaints as some sort of arthritic / degenerative problem rather than a work-related injury. At a local manufacturing plant near Huntsville, the company first aid department often claims the problem is due to a lack of conditioning and does not report the condition as an accident. Since the facility primarily employs workers through a local temp agency, the company can easily let the worker go. I frequently deal with reporting / notice issues in my Alabama workers’ compensation cases.

When it comes to Alabama workers’ compensation claims, I believe accidents are far under-reported. Let’s look outside of the reporting requirement of workers’ compensation. What about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)? OSHA does not record and document all workplace accidents and injuries. Employers are only required to report fatalities and certain very serious injuries to OSHA. Under OSHA, employers must report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours of an incident, and in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of any eye, within 24 hours. Do employers properly report serious events to OSHA? No, they do not. I’ve handled a number of workplace fatality cases where the employer did not report the event to OSHA. I recently represented the family of a worker who collapsed and died after several days of heat stroke symptoms at a plant in northeast Alabama. The facility had no air conditioning and summer temperatures inside the plant often soared over 100 degrees. Despite several days of reports to the plant nurse prior to the death, the facility did not report the event to OSHA.

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Blackwell Law Firm fights for injured workersDo insurance companies underpay workers’ compensation benefits? Can you trust the work comp carrier to provide required benefits? I know the answers to these questions. But, don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at the insurance industry’s own research!

A recent article in the Claims Journal (an insurance industry publication) discussed settlement data gathered by insurance companies across the United States. Of course, the insurance companies complain that lawyers make claims much more costly for them. The real truth behind the data — Attorneys add substantial overall value to workers’ compensation claims. Here is a fact from their research:

Median values rose 739 percent when attorneys became involved in a claim.

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Fight Unfair Claims Delays And DenialsThe journal ProPublica previously published an investigative article on the companies who profit by handling workers’ compensation claims. These companies, the middlemen in claims, are largely unknown by the public. After all, they manufacture nothing. They produce nothing. They sell nothing of value to consumers.

The ProPublica article starts with a bizarre scene. Somehow the reporter gained entry into the private Las Vegas conference for these claims managers. This is what he saw:

A scantily clad acrobat dangles from the ceiling, performing flips and splits as machines puff smoke and neon lights bathe the dance floor in turquoise and magenta. Dancers in lingerie gyrate on poles to the booming techno. Actors dressed as aliens pose for selfies with partygoers. There’s an open bar and waiters weave through the crowd passing out chocolate truffles.

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Blackwell Law Firm helps Alabama personal injury victimsA large part of my work involves simply interviewing, and talking with, personal injury victims. One theme is clear in my interviews — People suffering a personal injury want to heal and return to their normal life. They want to recover. They are often worried they will not recover. Proper medical care is essential to recovery from serious injuries.

At our office, we spend a lot of time talking with hurting people. And, we spend a lot of time reading medical records. In many cases, communication issues between the doctor and patient delay or hinder medical treatment. In some cases, miscommunication issues get documented and become serious hurdles to medical treatment as well as any injury claims. We try to advise our clients throughout the process to help their treatment and recovery progress.

A recent research article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine deals with the issue of patient-physician communications. The article uses the phrase “patient-centered” medical care. That’s a good phrase. Medical care should be patient-centered. Yet, it is instead too often centered around the insurance company or the flow of the medical facility. According to the research in this article, physicians only elicit the patient’s problems and agenda in 36% of visits. The researchers actually concluded:

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Alabama Work Comp Claims: Blackwell Law FirmHurt on the job in Alabama? Our workers’ compensation laws provide valuable medical and disability benefits. You may need those benefits. You may not realize the importance of those benefits at the time of the accident. Many of our clients in both workers’ compensation claims and car accidents do NOT realize the extent of their injuries at the beginning.

Our workers’ compensation laws require injured workers to provide prompt notice of an accident. If you do not, then you cannot later recover workers’ compensation benefits. Notice seems simple. Yet, it is a frequent issue in many cases.

Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act talks in terms of “written” notice. Yet, our courts allow claims where notice is only oral and not provided in writing. I could give you a long legal lecture on how and why these notice requirements developed. That’s a different discussion for another day. I will say this — Alabama provides a standard accident notice for employers. You can find a copy HERE. If you suffer an accident and injury, make sure it is completed.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Alabama Personal Injury LawyersYou are injured from an accident. You are pursuing a claim for damages or compensation. Suddenly, the insurance carrier wants you to see its doctor for an examination. If your case involves a car accident or work comp claim, you may face this request. Sometimes, the insurance carrier even calls its request an “independent medical exam.” Yet, these exams are neither independent nor fair.

Before I talk about the biased insurance company doctor, let me say that these biased doctors are small in number. Lawyers who frequently prepare and try cases will tell you they see the same few bad ones repeatedly. Doctors are like any other profession. Almost all of them are dedicated to serving their patients. The same rule applies to lawyers, accountants, and any other professional. But, a few bad apples exist.

With lawyers, the bad apples are those settlement mill lawyers making promises while refusing to do the work really needed to help clients. When it comes to automobile accident, workers’ compensation or disability claims, we see a few doctors who seemingly make their living issuing misleading reports so claims can be denied. In both the legal and medical professions, the bad ones want to make money pushing paper instead of getting to the heart of their clients’ stories and losses. One sure sign of biased doctors is that many of them have little or no medical practice outside insurance company evaluations. Good doctors actually treat patients. Good doctors don’t make their living generating claims reports.

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safety-44441_1280-300x150Last year, a flash fire at an Alabama car dealership in Jasper killed one employee and severely injured several others. What caused that fire? Flammable chemicals being stored improperly. After the flash fire, OSHA inspected the dealership and issued several serious citations for improperly storing a flammable chemical in a dangerous location. Plus, OSHA cited the dealership for not even developing a hazard communication program for its dangerous chemicals.

For the families of these dealership employees, no penalty or punishment will ever restore their loved ones. Hopefully, OSHA’s action will spur other local companies to take needed safety steps.

Does your workplace handle chemicals safely? For me, the question is front and center. Why? I’ve spent several days this month in deposition over a Huntsville injury case involving the issue.

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In 2016, I wrote a post titled Distracted Driving: Parents Must Lead By Example. In my prior post, I noted that 95% of the parents who admitted to distracted driving also admitted they did so in front of their children. If we expect our children to drive safely, we must lead by example! That means practicing what we preach about distracted driving.

I frequently write about distracted driving on this blog. Why? I write about the topic because it is a key factor in so many serious car crashes we investigate at our law firm. The cell phone is the primary device distracting drivers. Yet, it is not the only form of distraction. We have seen many others.

Education and technology. Many of our articles discuss these two issues which can reduce deadly distracted driving. Yet, education will fall short if parents do not show safe and healthy behavior.

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Blackwell Law Firm: Huntsville Personal Injury AttorneysI remember listening as the doctor testified about his trips to Las Vegas. That’s where the medical device company took him to “discuss” its product. After these trips to Las Vegas, the doctor returned home and began implanting the product into countless Alabama patients.

At the time, I was surprised. Shocked. But, that was also the first time I had deposed an implanting doctor in one of these cases. In the years since, I have seen far too many instances of drug and device companies trying to tempt physicians into prescribing or implanting certain products.

In some cases, the physician may not even be fully trained in the potential issues of the drug or product at issue. I think this is an issue with transvaginal mesh implants. These products were heavily marketed to local physicians and regularly implanted in women. Yet, the potential problems from mesh implants can be tremendous. When problems occur, the same implanting physicians are often unable to help. I recently deposed a surgeon at a major research hospital who has tried to help one of my clients suffering from implanted mesh. Here is what that specialist said: