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Drawing from Beinecke Library (License link: CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Insurance Journal recently reported the story of a client solicitation and kickback scheme involving several Florida attorneys. The arrested Florida attorneys were charged with paying solicitors for clients and then arranging kickbacks from medical providers. It’s an awful scheme that harms people who are genuinely hurt and need counsel. And, it’s a black eye to both the legal and medical professions.

Every day, I hear the stories of people who are genuinely hurt and need help. Injured people already face struggles — problems with medical care, sudden expenses, potential job loss, the loss of their vehicle, and sometimes, long-term pain or disability. It’s a big list of real worries. Injured people already face an uphill battle against insurance companies who sow the seeds of false doubt at every stage.

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Last Friday, I spoke at a workers’ compensation seminar in Birmingham. If you have read this blog in the past, then you know my strong feelings that lawyers should be life-long students of their legal specialty. That’s why our firm members routinely teach at seminars on topics involving personal injury, workers’ compensation, defective products, experts and trials. I’ve also been candid in my past blog posts that lawyers who populate billboard and television advertisements diminish the legal profession and too often harm clients. We even have a law firm in Huntsville now advertising on billboards for injury clients it secretly intends to refer for profit to another firm. In my opinion, that is dishonest and unethical. But, let me get back to the topic of this post — last week’s workers’ compensation seminar.

I believe this recent workers’ compensation seminar was one of the best yet. The credit for planning the seminar goes to attorney David Nomberg of the Nomberg Law Firm in Birmingham. I’ve known David and his brother Bernard for years. They are among the best workers’ compensation attorneys in Alabama. Bernard and I began our careers (over two decades ago) at the same Birmingham trial law firm handling cases throughout Alabama. I’m thankful David invited me to speak at this seminar.

David asked me to speak on workers’ compensation trial strategies. I have tried these cases in counties throughout Alabama. I have a specific philosophy about workers’ compensation cases. My philosophy about workers’ compensation and general personal injury cases is simple — Clients deserve a lawyer who will prepare their case for trial. Many lawyers will not do that. Better preparation leads to better trials and better settlements.

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insurance-1991216_1280-300x211Another driver crashed into you. You suffered personal injuries in the car accident. Now, you need medical care. Medical Bills. Lost Wages. Disability. Pain and Suffering. You may be worried about several issues. So, you decide to make a claim.

After making a claim, you learn more bad news. The driver who caused the crash is bankrupt. You learn the other driver has actually filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy seeking to discharge all of his or her debts. Can you still recover compensation for your personal injuries? In most cases, the answer is yes.

At our office, we have helped many injured accident victims recover compensation even when the driver who caused the crash is bankrupt. These issues can require legal guidance. An experienced personal injury attorney willing to fight for his or her clients can help. But, be careful who you hire. Many billboard and television advertising attorneys talk a big game but are unwilling (or unable due to a lack of real courtroom expertise) to do the real legal work needed.

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Commercial Truck On HighwayIn 2015, large commercial trucks were involved in more than 400,000 police-reported crashes on our nation’s roads and highways. Over 4,000 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes. Many other crashes caused serious and permanent personal injuries. Truck safety is an important issue for all drivers. Truck safety is a frequent topic of discussion on this blog. In past posts, I’ve discussed trucking topics such as the medical certification process for truckers, trucker health issues, current highway safety regulations and the danger of distracted driving among commercial drivers.

In the last two decades, our cars and trucks have become much safer. Available designs and technologies have improved vehicle safety for everyone. When it comes to commercial trucking, several available technologies could promise to increase safety significantly. What are a few of those available safety technologies?

Lane Departure Warning Systems

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Photo by R. BauerA recent truck crash in Indiana highlights the importance of “Move Over” laws. The Indiana case involved a tow truck driver preparing to tow a disabled vehicle from the right shoulder of the Interstate. While helping stranded travelers and their disabled vehicle, an oncoming eighteen wheeler suddenly plowed into his tow truck. The tow truck driver had his yellow lights activated. The approaching tractor-trailer could have moved into another lane away from the tow truck. Yet, it did not.

Did the eighteen wheeler stop after the crash? No. The trucker fled the accident scene leaving the severely injured tow truck driver. One of the stranded passengers was a nurse. She saved his life. Yet, because of his severe injuries, the tow truck driver still required a leg amputation at the hospital.

I’ve written previously about the dangers emergency responders face on our highways. Police. Paramedics. Tow truck drivers. Utility workers. These individuals work to protect us. Their jobs often place them close to high traffic areas.

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Blackwell Law FirmOur highways are littered with attorney billboards. Daytime television channels are filled with lawyer commercials. Attorney advertisements are everywhere. More correctly — Advertising attorneys are everywhere except the courtroom. You rarely see these billboard and television lawyers helping real clients in real courts. Most billboard and television lawyers advertise simply for a volume of cases they can easily settle. Our profession should be better.

Now, Huntsville even has one local law firm advertising for cases it actually intends to refer rather than handle. That is, the firm wants the cases just to refer them. People with legal problems deserve better than the current (and misleading) world of attorney advertising.

Consider the Huntsville firm now advertising constantly on billboards and radio. Overnight, that firm (a DUI firm) plastered new billboards along highways in Huntsville, Decatur and Athens. Suddenly, that firm started advertising for all types of cases. The website for this new billboard law firm even had a page for wrongful death cases. Nothing is more difficult for a family than the death of a loved one. During a time of grief and loss, a family does not need the added problems caused by inexperienced legal counsel.

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Blackwell Law FirmAs a personal injury attorney, I often follow other trials and verdicts across Alabama. Recently, some excellent attorneys obtained a great verdict for their injured client in south Alabama. During that trial, the insurance company attorney argued that the personal injury victim could not be hurt because he waited 21 days to seek medical care. The argument:  A delay in getting medical care means you were not hurt!

The truth, short delays or gaps in medical care are common. They are very common. What are some reasons personal injury victims delay initial medical care? Here are seven common reasons:

  • A Dislike Of Medical Visits/Appointments. Who does like medical visits? Sitting in waiting rooms for hours. Endless forms. Doctors/nurses poking and prodding you. After an accident, you may be hurting. But, you are hopeful a few days or weeks of rest and you will be better. So, you wait and see. That’s normal. Yet, if you make a claim later, the insurance company will use your delay against you.
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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Accident Victims
Elderly driving is a sensitive topic. It is a very sensitive topic for many families dealing with elderly relatives. We all value our independence and freedom. Driving is a key part of living independently. Yet, the topic has been on my mind lately. I have been preparing two car accident cases for trial involving serious crashes caused by elderly drivers. In one, the elderly driver crashed into five separate cars on a highway in Huntsville. She should have stopped driving long before the car crash.

I understand the difficulty in talking to our elderly loved ones about their driving. How do you tell your parents or grandparents it may be time to consider driving alternatives (or giving up their keys completely)? I’ve had those conversations with several elderly relatives. Many of my elderly relatives live in and around Decatur, Alabama. One by one, we have had the conversations necessary to prevent them from hurting themselves or someone else on our roads.

How does aging affect safe driving? The aging process can affect safe driving in many ways. Here are a few:

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Blackwell Law Firm -- Help For The Injured
Distracted driving is a major cause of needless highway injuries and deaths. Months ago, I wrote that parents must lead by example in order to reduce the rate of teenage distracted driving. My prior post is Distracted Driving: Parents Must Lead By Example. In that earlier post, I wrote:

Our public safety officials have worked hard to educate young drivers on this issue. However, education of our young drivers is much less effective if we don’t lead by example. It is difficult in a busy world to not be distracted while driving. Yet, we must work hard to practice safe habits that our children will see and absorb.

A new survey reveals parents may be a large part of the problem. According to the new survey, “parents are the most distracted drivers on our roads.” Ford Motor Company surveyed drivers in New Zealand and Australia. According to the results:

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truck-945364_1280-300x183The U.S. Department of Transportation is halting its effort to better diagnose and evaluate truckers suffering from dangerous sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a major safety issue among commercial truck drivers as well as railroad workers. Here is the lead paragraph from a recent Bloomberg article discussing this sudden announcement:

The Trump administration is halting a year-old effort to seek better ways to diagnose truckers and railroad workers who have sleep apnea, a health condition linked to deadly accidents.

What is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a breathing-related sleep disorder. A person suffering sleep apnea will have interruptions in his or her breathing during sleep. How can sleep apnea affect driving? Truckers must be very alert while driving on our highways. By impacting sleep, the disorder can greatly affect daytime alertness, performance and fatigue. Our firm has seen the tragic results of these problems in past cases.