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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Injured People Across AlabamaI watched as the other driver sped through a red light in downtown Huntsville. He ran the light without causing a crash. Others are not so fortunate. Running a red light is one of the most reckless and risky acts of driving. Are more drivers running red lights? Research indicates they are. From 2012 – 2016 (the latest data), deaths in red light running crashes increased annually. Overall, red light deaths increased 17% during this time. In 2016, over 800 people died in the United States from crashes caused by drivers running a red light.

If more drivers are running red lights, the question is why. Why are more drivers running red lights? What can be done to reduce this danger? Traffic researchers believe several factors contribute to the growing problem. These factors include:

I.      DISTRACTED DRIVERS

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Blackwell Law Firm -- Alabama Personal Injury LawyersWe have been investigating claims related to defective 3M earplugs used by members of our armed forces. Why are these defective earplugs an important issue? To answer that question, we need to examine first the impact of hearing loss and tinnitus on our veterans. I thought hearing loss and tinnitus among veterans may be a good topic for this post.

Veterans Suffer Significant Hearing Loss And Tinnitus Problems

Are hearing problems a major issue for veterans? Here is what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says about the issue:

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Huntsville Work Comp Attorneys - Blackwell Law FirmA new study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) asks whether employees injured at work are more likely to file under workers’ compensation instead of group health insurance when their group health plan has a higher deductible. That’s interesting but it misses the real issue. The real question is why an injured worker would ever consider seeking medical care outside the workers’ compensation system at all. Really? Workers’ compensation systems were enacted in Alabama (and other states) to provide basic benefits like medical treatment. If those systems worked as intended, this would be a non-issue. Yet, workers consider using private health insurance because the work comp system has largely failed its primary purpose.

I speak with injured workers on a daily basis. Almost all of them have one goal. They want to get better and resume their normal life with work and family.

The WCRI research article wrongly frames the issue as a decision based simply upon medical deductibles. Let’s really examine why an injured worker would consider private health insurance (instead of work comp) in the first place. Injured workers should face NO barriers obtaining necessary medical care under workers compensation. But, they do. Those barriers are substantial and unjust. Here are three big ones:

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Huntsville Truck Accident LawyersCommercial truck driver health is a safety issue on our highways. In past articles, I’ve discussed the serious health problems truck drivers suffer. Truckers suffer much higher rates of problems like diabetes, sleep apnea and morbid obesity. These health conditions can slow driver reactions and concentration — putting everyone at risk for needless injury or death. The long hours of sedentary work away from home in many truck driving jobs contributes to these health issues and makes medical care difficult.

Medical certification requirements for commercial truckers are an important part of highway safety. But, the system only works if medical certifications are legitimate, honest and fair. Unfortunately, they are not. Too many unsafe commercial drivers are allowed on our highways.

The Federal regulations have allowed truly unqualified medical examiners to issue certifications. A chiropractor may be qualified to perform therapeutic treatments for a pulled lower back muscle but is he or she really qualified to certify a trucker with dangerous sleep apnea? The Federal regulations have also allowed unhealthy truckers on our roads. Let’s look again at sleep apnea. It can be a big safety issue. Yet, unsafe drivers are routinely certified without requiring medical treatment or monitoring for the condition. The rules fail to adequately address specific health issues like sleep apnea, diabetes, morbid obesity or drug dependence. I’ve written several articles about these issues in the past. For more information on sleep apnea and truck safety, you can read my article titled Sleep Apnea:  Government Chooses Trucking Industry Over Safety.

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Alabama Car Accident LawyersHurt in a car wreck? Have a claim for your injuries? For most people, the rules and procedures are unfamiliar territory. Hopefully, a car crash injury is something you will never experience.

Each state has its own laws and rules related to car accidents. While most rules serve an important purpose, a few are unfair and unjust. Some of these unjust rules can unfairly harm your potential claim. Many of these unfair rules should have been changed long ago. Here are five bad rules that can unjustly harm your Alabama car crash claim:

I.      Alabama Guest Passenger Statute

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Blackwell Law Firm: Helping Alabama FamiliesWhat is Alabama’s Survival Statute? Ask yourself, what potential claims survive death and can be filed by an Estate? In our office, we specialize in Alabama personal injury claims. If an injury victim dies BEFORE he can file a personal injury case, will his Estate or heirs be able to file the claim? Alabama’s Survival Statute sets those rules. And, UN-filed personal injury claims do not survive the death of the victim in Alabama.

This can be a big deal. A really big deal. Here is an example — Your neighbor suffers devastating injuries when struck head-on by an intoxicated driver. He is rushed to the hospital. He spends months receiving costly, specialized medical care. His bills grow and grow. Because he cannot return promptly to work, he loses his job. His damages are huge. He is not the only one suffering. His family suffers as well. If your neighbor files a personal injury case, he can try to recover all his damages and losses. What if your neighbor dies? If he filed his case, then his Estate can continue to pursue the claims. What if your neighbor dies before he could file his case? Then, his UN-filed personal injury claim dies with him. His Estate cannot file a personal injury lawsuit. His Estate will face huge claims by the medical providers with no ability to recover money to pay those claims. Is this scenario fair? Is it fair that an Estate can maintain a personal injury claim in one scenario but not the other? Certainly not.

Wait. Doesn’t Alabama allow wrongful death claims? Yes. If the personal injury victim dies FROM his injuries, then his heirs can pursue a wrongful death claim. Yet, this scenario remains unfair for two reasons. First, this provides NO help for the Estate where the personal injury victim died of an unrelated cause. No wrongful death cases exists if the death is unrelated to the injuries. Second, under unique Alabama law, you cannot recover compensatory damages in a wrongful death claim. In Alabama, only punitive damages are recoverable in wrongful death claims. So, the Estate is still left unable to recover for huge medical expenses, lost wages and other specific injury-related costs.

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Blackwell Law Firm: Helping Personal Injury Victims In AlabamaLast week, I began discussing eight mistakes personal injury victims make during medical visits. You can read the first four mistakes with my advice, here. Today, I’m going to finish this topic with a discussion of four more mistakes. My hope is that you make the most of your visits and the treatment offered you. Your health and healing should be your top priority. With that in mind, here are four additional mistakes with my commentary about each:

     V.  Stopping Treatment Before Completion

This issue frustrates doctors. The doctor recommended a course of treatment because he or she felt it necessary to treat your injury. You should complete treatment. If you do not want to complete a specific course of treatment, you should talk with your doctor. Do not simply quit.

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Blackwell Law Firm Helps Alabama Injury VictimsDoctor visits can be uncomfortable and unfamiliar. You worry about treatment, recovery and cost. You worry about missing work or other activities. You wait for an appointment (maybe a long time). When you finally see the doctor, he or she is very busy. You are rushed to an examination room and have just moments to discuss your injury. The whole process is stressful.

I spend a lot of time reading about doctor visits from the medical records. In personal injury cases, the medical records are critical. Documentation is key. If you have a workers’ compensation claim, the insurance carrier will only approve prescribed treatment if the medical documentation supports it. If you have any type of personal injury case (whether car accident, workers’ compensation or anything else), the insurance company will only factor issues into its settlement offers if the documentation justifies them. If your claim eventually goes to trial, you will need the doctor’s testimony. When the doctor testifies, he will likely stick to the facts and issues documented in the medical records. Documentation is essential at every stage — Treatment, Negotiation and Trial.

At every visit, the doctor documents your history, treatment and condition. Because of that, an open and honest dialogue is essential. You need to pick a skilled and caring physician. Then, you also need to communicate properly regarding the injuries and treatment.

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money-2033591_1920-300x300From “good hands” to “good neighbor,” major insurance companies market themselves as caring for the consumer. Do they? We’ve all seen the countless advertisements. Do you really believe the insurance company has your interest at heart?

What happens when you are hurt and really need the insurance? Insurance companies work hard to avoid paying the true value of claims involving injuries. In car wreck claims, savvy adjusters immediately start looking for ways to deny or dispute valid claims. What are some immediate actions designed to reduce or deny your injury claim? Adjusters start by recording you on the telephone. We have even seen adjusters try to obtain damaging recordings from people who are on pain medications immediately after an accident. Adjusters start by sending you forms to sign — which the company can use to dig through your history and records. Adjusters promise to pay your medical bills, encouraging you to send them. Yet, that’s not how it really works.

Adjusters have huge advantages over you. They know the system. They know how it works. On the other hand, you are probably unfamiliar with the system. You are relying on fairness and honesty to get through a stressful process. While a car accident upends your life, it’s just a normal day for the insurance company.

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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.