Published on:

Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal InjuryDo Alabama hospitals treat accident victims differently? The short answer is, YES. If you are an accident victim, you can pay the price for the hospital’s actions. An article published earlier this year in another state tells the story. That story is titled “Man says hospital went after car crash settlement instead of insurance.” That story leads with the following:

You can’t tell the difference in the emergency room. It happens when the hospital is ready to collect its money.

Many of us have some type of health coverage. Blue Cross. Medicare. Tricare. United Health. You assume the hospital will first submit the bill to your health coverage provider. After all, you paid for the coverage. The hospital may even have a contract with your health provider requiring it to submit the bill. Yet, hospitals often treat accident victims differently.

Published on:

Blackwell Law Firm - North Alabama AttorneysWorker safety is far too often a one-way street. Following a major injury or workplace death, families are left to pay the long-term price. On the other hand, the cost to companies is often small and short-term.

The latest Congressional proposal is a prime example of unfairness for workers. Our leaders are currently proposing massive spending for infrastructure. Who pays for the infrastructure improvements? We do. The money comes from taxes paid by workers. Don’t get me wrong — We need infrastructure improvements. I support improving our failing roadways and bridges. It takes both money and labor to accomplish that task. While using our tax money for the work, Congress also wants to use our labor with no regard for worker safety. How? Certain leaders in Congress are proposing to alter Federal law in an effort to provide greater protection for their construction industry friends. That’s wrong.

I’ve already seen the worst when it comes to safety on Federally-funded projects. I previously represented a steel worker who fell over 20 feet on a construction site at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. My client lived. But, the fall left him permanently disabled. After being hired in that case, we began a thorough investigation. What we found was beyond disturbing. We discovered a general contractor with no regard for site safety. We discovered a general contractor with no safety plan for the equipment or process at issue. Interestingly, the general contractor advertised its “safety awards” on its corporate website. These fake safety awards looked pretty on the internet – with pictures of nice trophies. Yet, at trial the contractor’s executive admitted its fake safety awards just considered the safety of site management (not the actual laborers). It was all a sham. We also learned that safety is really not a factor when hiring site contractors.

Published on:

Blackwell Law FirmIn a prior post, I asked “Can A Simple Blood Test Reveal Traumatic Brain Injury?” At the time, the research looked promising. After writing that prior post, we continued to follow developments. Now, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a blood test for this purpose.

Why is a blood test for traumatic brain injury (TBI) significant? In a short answer — Many TBI victims suffer without a diagnosis, without treatment and without understanding. Following a traumatic incident, emergency rooms frequently fail to diagnose TBI cases.

Think about it. After a serious accident, you rush to the hospital. Suddenly, you are in a crowded emergency room. It can be a chaotic scene. While emergency rooms are designed to handle “emergencies” like yours, they are also overflowing with patients who lack the resources or finances to seek basic care elsewhere. Emergency room physicians and nurses work hard. They have hard jobs. They work to treat all patients. But, life and death issues take priority. They must. With so many patients and so many problems, many significant TBI cases go undiagnosed and untreated. After all, many TBI patients look normal.

Published on:

2543453615_9e9b04de1b_z-300x225We share our roads and highways with large commercial trucks on a daily basis. These large commercial trucks have rear guards to protect passenger cars. If you rear-end an eighteen-wheeler, you are protected from going under the back of the truck. Why do large trucks not also have side guards? That’s a question safety advocates have long asked.

Commercial trucks can have a very high ground clearance. I’m sure you’ve been in the lane next to a large eighteen-wheeler. If you are in a small passenger car, you may even look over and think that your entire vehicle could go under the truck. That is the danger. In a side impact, a passenger car can slide under the body of the truck. That causes the truck body to crash through the car windows and into the passengers. A simple collision can become deadly. These under-ride crashes can cause horrible head and upper body injuries, including decapitation. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated almost 300 car passengers were killed in side-impact collisions with a semi-truck in 2016.

We need to remember — Deadly side impacts are not limited to passenger cars. In urban areas, commercial trucks frequently share our roads with pedestrians and bicyclists. A Department of Transportation study also revealed a substantial number of death in side crashes involving both pedestrians and bicyclists.

Published on:

courtroom-898931_1920-300x226I know — Lawyer advertisements are everywhere. Billboards. Television. Youtube. Those advertising lawyers all try to project confidence while asking for your case. “We got this” says a local Huntsville lawyer with new billboards and a Youtube video. In fact, this Huntsville lawyer who tells you he has your situation handled really intends to refer the serious injury cases to outside trial lawyers. Ask him about his deal with an outside law firm. What does he really have handled? A quick settlement or a referral fee.

Why am I discussing this topic? Well, I was recently sitting in a Morgan County courtroom. My client’s injury case was set for trial. We were present and ready. As I looked around the courtroom, one thing was obvious. That was — Not a single one of the lawyers I see smiling from billboards was present. In fact, not a single one of those billboard (or Youtube or television) lawyers had any cases on the docket. I did see some really good lawyers in the room. But, those good lawyers were NOT on billboards.

We’ve all seen the commercials. In fact, some of these advertising lawyers even record their ads with a courtroom backdrop. If that’s not laughable, I don’t know what is. You don’t see those lawyers anywhere near a courthouse or deposition because they work on volume. They want your case. They intend to settle as soon as possible. Insurance companies love settlement mill lawyers because they can settle cases with them for a fraction of their value. It’s a shameful practice that diminishes my profession.

Published on:

Blackwell Law FirmIf you have suffered a serious work-related injury, you may know the frustration. You report the accident. You ask for medical care. Then, your employer sends you to its “occupational” doctor. In Huntsville and many other communities, we have an “occupational” health clinic that typically serves this purpose.

You arrive at the occupational health clinic thinking you will get care. Does the occupational doctor ignore your pain or problems? Does the occupational doctor seem more concerned with the drug test than your injury? Does the occupational doctor misconstrue your history to claim the injury was a pre-existing problem? Or, does the occupational doctor simply neglect your care as long as possible? I’ve heard all the common frustrations. Trust me, they call that physician the “company doctor” for a very good reason.

If you continue to hurt, the occupational doctor may eventually refer you to a specialist. Now, you have a whole new set of frustrations. It takes forever to get an appointment. Afterwards, the insurance company (falsely) claims it never received the specialist’s reports or recommendations for treatment. You sit. You wait. You cannot get the treatment needed to heal. The insurance company uses “paperwork” and “approval” tactics to delay your treatment.

Published on:

AccidentYou suffered an injury at work and have an Alabama workers’ compensation claim. Is that your only claim? Did someone (other than your employer) negligently cause the injury? If so, you might have both a workers’ compensation claim against your employer and a personal injury claim against the negligent third-party. It’s an important issue. Why? Although workers’ compensation provides important benefits, those benefits are limited. Workers’ compensation benefits do not cover all your potential damages. Although third-party cases allow you to claim all your damages, they may be completely disputed. These are important issues to many of my injured clients. They are issues I’ve discussed on my law firm website. And, they are issues we often handle to help our injured clients.

A recent legal article in Illinois discusses a case in that state. What happened? In that case, an electrician was installing lighting on an apartment balcony. Suddenly, the balcony railing failed. The electrician fell to his death. Afterwards, an investigation revealed a different company (NOT the electrician’s employer) had negligently installed the railing. The electrician’s family had a claim for death benefits under workers’ compensation laws in Illinois. The family also had a third-party negligence claim for wrongful death against the separate company that installed the railing.

Over the years, I’ve prepared numerous workers’ compensation and third-party negligence claims. Transportation injuries. Car accidents. Construction-related accidents. Industrial site incidents. These are frequently areas where a third-party (someone other than your employer) may have caused your on-the-job injury. Because these claims involve two areas of the law, they can be complex. They can require special skill to maximize your total recovery between the claims. After handling these claims for years, I would offer three key pieces of advice:

Published on:

First Notice Of InjuryThe rate of workplace accidents is much higher than reported. That’s long been my opinion. I’ve spent over two decades listening to workers talk about their injuries. I frequently hear stories of accidents reported late or not reported at all. And, I hear many stories of workers who reported their accident to the supervisor. Yet, the supervisor failed to forward the report properly.

Why are so many accidents and injuries unreported? Several reasons exist. One of the most common reasons some companies fail to report employee injuries — An effort to avoid injury claims costs. Because of weak reporting rules and the lack of worker protection laws, the companies that choose to ignore proper reporting often calculate it is easier simply to terminate the employee when needed.

My opinion that accidents are underreported is based on experience handling workers’ compensation cases. A recent study in Michigan now provides data to support my position. Michigan State University researchers collected data over a period of several years. While their study is limited to Michigan, the issues are similar in Alabama. What does the data collected in Michigan reveal?

Published on:

scaffold-14253_640-300x201A widow recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit over the fatal fall of her husband in the workplace. The news article tells a story all too familiar to me. What happened? The worker was standing on a mobile scaffold and installing tile. The mobile scaffold toppled backwards, causing the worker to fall.

Falls from heights are a leading cause of workplace fatalities. And, this new wrongful death case highlights another example of a fall that could have easily been prevented. In the last decade, I’ve represented numerous workers and their families involving work site falls. Falls from scissors lifts. Falls from scaffolds. Falls from other mobile platforms. Falls from unmarked openings. Falls from unstable support structures. I’ve had cases involving each of them. All these terrible fall accidents have a common issue — They all could have been prevented with a little advance safety planning by management. In every one of them, an accident altered the life of a worker and his/her family in an instant.

In the new wrongful death case, the widow alleges the scaffold equipment was not working properly. She also alleges the scaffold equipment did not come with written materials explaining proper operations. I’m not surprised. That’s a common issue. I’ve seen it in several of my fall injury cases. In my past cases, I’ve seen workers asked to operate complex mobile lifts at heights with zero training and zero instruction. I’ve seen workers asked to operate mobile lifts with no ground-level supervision or spotter. I’ve seen workers asked to operate mobile lifts with no consideration of co-workers moving around them on the site. Management simply ignored the risks.

Published on:

Blackwell Law Firm - HuntsvilleA Fortune magazine article asks the question, “What happens to your employer if you die at work?” The article details the work-related death of a Walmart employee. The author then makes his point:

The ugly truth is that when it comes to ensuring your safety on the job, your employer has very little to lose.

Since that Fortune article, some Federal worker safety standards have actually decreased. And, in Alabama, we’ve annually seen an effort to reduce already unjustly low workers’ compensation benefits (including basic medical care) needed by injured workers. I’ve written in prior years about this annual effort to lessen basic benefits. I’ll continue to oppose those unjust proposals.