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Alabama Car Accident Lawyers at Blackwell Law FirmIt’s not an Alabama car accident case. Rather, it’s a recent New Jersey case. Yet, it provides a valuable lesson for car accident victims in Alabama and elsewhere. Be careful what you sign! The case started as a car accident that left an innocent driver with personal injuries and car damage. Fortunately, the negligent driver who caused the crash had liability coverage.

The morning after the accident, an insurance claims adjuster called the injured driver and asked to “inspect” her damaged car. That’s OK. After getting permission, the claims adjuster arrived with “paperwork” to “expedite the property damage claim.” The injured driver signed the paperwork. Rather than property damage paperwork, the document was a general release of all claims. By signing, the injured driver released all her claims for both personal injury and property damage.

If you read some of our past articles, you know we believe accident victims can often resolve property damage claims without the need for a lawyer. The same is true for minor injury claims. Unfortunately, we have an entire industry of settlement mill lawyers smiling from billboards and skimming attorney fees from minor cases that could have been resolved without them.

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Blackwell Law Firm: Alabama Car Accident & Injury AttorneysYou suffer a car accident. A few days later you get a call. It’s a chiropractor. That’s right. A chiropractor you’ve never met is now calling you. He asks if you are hurt. He suggests you schedule an appointment. If you are not hurt, he may still offer to help. If you show any interest, he suddenly suggests a specific lawyer.

One moment you are sitting in your den. The very next moment you have a strange chiropractor and strange lawyer ready to “work” your case. What started as a personal injury scam in other states has now made its way to Alabama.

Let me just stop at this point and tell you the obvious. This is a scam to enrich the chiropractor and lawyer at your expense. Ethical lawyers don’t call you out of the blue. Good trial lawyers don’t chase ambulances or make deals with chiropractors to chase cases. When your case is done, the ambulance chasing chiropractor and lawyer will walk away with the bulk of your settlement. Don’t think I’m criticizing all chiropractors. I’m certainly not. I’m only criticizing those lawyers and those chiropractors who engage in this bad behavior.

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Blackwell Law Firm in HuntsvilleSovereign immunity. Most personal injury lawyers shudder at the phrase! We occasionally deal with this issue in our personal injury cases. When we do, we are usually explaining to callers the difficulty or impossibility of suing the state for damages.

How about a slightly different issue — tribal sovereign immunity. Native American tribes are not independent political entities. They are not states, like Alabama. They have often been called “domestic dependent nations” and are subject to control by the U.S. Congress. Tribes retain some historic sovereign authority unless Congress acts. If you find the relationship confusing, you would not be the only one.

A current case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court presents an interesting issue of tribal sovereign immunity. It involves a car accident and the Poarch Creek tribe in Alabama. The Alabama Supreme Court framed its decision like this:  The doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity affords no protection to tribes with regard to tort claims asserted against them by non-tribe members.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Car Accident & Injury LawyersVenue and forum selection. I started to write on this issue months ago. At that point, the Alabama Supreme Court had issued several recent (and very debatable) decisions on the topic. I know – venue sounds like a pretty boring topic for non-lawyers. So, I chose other topics. Now I’ve come full circle back to venue after the Alabama Supreme Court again ruled against another personal injury victim on this issue.

In simple terms, venue is the county (or counties) in Alabama where a case can be filed. Specific rules govern the proper counties for filing a personal injury (or any other) case. Often, venue can be proper in more than one county. That brings a choice. And, it leads to a question raised by the recent spate of venue decisions. Why is our Supreme Court so quick to interfere with the properly chosen venue of an injury victim?

Even when a case has been filed in a proper venue, a specific Alabama statute gives courts the power to transfer the case for “the interest of justice” or the “convenience of parties and witnesses.” It’s called “forum non conveniens.” Convenience? Interest of justice? Those are some pretty subjective terms. Should the court be quick to force transfers when the issue may be gray?

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Alabama Personal Injury Specialists - Blackwell Law FirmThrough the years, I’ve represented a number of personal injury victims who suffered Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This condition is also known as reflex sympathy dystrophy (RSD). You may have never even heard of it. Yet, CRPS is a devastating condition for patients. So, when I recently read the account of a person suffering from CRPS it sounded familiar. It sounded like the stories of pain my past clients have tearfully related. How does the patient’s story begin? How does the patient describe her pain?

It’s 4 a.m., and once again I’m unable to sleep.

.  .  .

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Blackwell Law Firm - Alabama Personal Injury LawyersThis month’s TRIAL Magazine discusses a tragic eighteen wheeler crash. What happened in that crash? Around 1:30 am, a large commercial truck slammed into the rear of a pickup truck on a rural stretch of western Interstate. The crash killed a young mother and one of her children. Another child was left severely injured. The evidence at trial in that case revealed the commercial truck never slowed or took any evasive action before slamming into the pickup truck.

That case raised significant questions involving issues of independent contractors as drivers, control over drivers and company safety programs. If you need a lawyer in a trucking injury case, you should find one who understands these issues. Why were these issues in that case? The company (a worldwide distribution company) hired drivers it called “contractors” or “independent contractors.” Yet, the company did not treat these drivers as independent contractors. Instead, the company controlled every detail of driver operations down to the details of how to park the truck. As many lawyers know, it’s not what the company calls its people, but rather, the realities of control. While the company controlled all aspects of driver operations, it had NO driver safety training requirements or programs. That’s a classic case of profits over people. If you put drivers on the highway and control their actions for your profit, you should also exercise some safety responsibility for them.

We drive alongside big trucks everyday on our highways. Many trucking companies and truckers care deeply about safety. But, not all of them do. Next time you see a company name or logo on the side of a large truck, ask yourself:  Does that company have a REAL safety program to prevent needless injury?

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Commercial Truck

Truck Side Underride Crashes Are Deadly For Drivers, Cyclists And Pedestrians

Many of you have experienced it. You are driving down the Interstate. Suddenly, you are side-by-side with a large commercial truck. The vehicles are just feet from each other. You look over. Those trucks look really big when you are right next to them. If you are driving a passenger car, it could almost fit underneath that big truck. Almost. What happens when a car actually crashes into (or under) the side of a large commercial truck? Underride crashes with commercial trucks present some of the most devastating physical injuries. An NBC news report says it all:

Side Underride Crashes Kill 200 People A Year. Will Congress Act?

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highway-1666635_1920-300x200Truck crash cases are very different than car accident cases. This is true for several reasons. Commercial trucks can cause much more physical damage.  Commercial trucks also operate and maneuver differently than cars. Face it — that truck is much heavier and bigger than your car.

The differences don’t stop with weight, size and maneuverability. Commercial truck drivers often feel pressure to drive long miles for long hours to make deliveries. Truck driver fatigue is a major safety issue. So is truck driver health. I’ve written previously about both of these serious safety issues affecting highway safety.

Don’t forget, trucking companies and their drivers are also subject to specific safety regulations. We could discuss these differences over many blog posts. Here, I want to discuss briefly just one. That is — The Rapid Response Team!

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meeting-room-10270_1920-300x225I started to title this post Four Reasons Why Personal Injury Mediations Fail (And One Reason Why They Should Fail). That title is too long. So, I’ll primarily address four reasons why personal injury mediations do NOT succeed. Then, I’ll end with some commentary about an occasion when mediations should fail.

Our law firm philosophy is clear. We prepare all cases for trial. We believe preparation leads to better long-term results both at trial and settlement. When we survey all the lawyers mass-advertising on billboards, television and radio, it is clear many attorneys view matters differently. Those mass-advertising lawyers are usually about quantity rather than quality. That’s a sad commentary on our profession.

Let me return to my discussion of personal injury mediations. What are some reasons why a personal injury mediation may fail? Here are four:

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billboard-3220111_1920-300x164“Do you have a billboard?” I was sitting with a group of parents at a recent school event when one mother innocently asked me the question. “I thought I saw your name on a billboard.”

“No,” I politely answered. What I really felt like saying — “Never. I know a lot of lawyers and would personally never hire one who is on a billboard.” For our firm, it is a matter of professionalism. At their core, all legal matters are personal. Sometimes, these very personal matters require detailed preparation and special study. What do you typically get with a billboard lawyer? You get the false bravado of a lawyer with a manufactured smile or stare telling you some catch phrase to get your business. Catch phrases like:

  • “We got this”