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Alabama Workers Compensation AttorneysMany workers’ compensation callers express the same frustration — The treating doctor is only treating one of my injuries while ignoring the others. I hear some version of this frustration every week. It’s common. Today, we’ll discuss a couple reasons why it occurs.

Here’s an example of what often happens — You suffer a serious work-related accident. For one recent client, it was a fall from a ladder. You hurt several different body parts in the accident. However, one of those body parts may initially appear to be the most injured. In my ladder example, the worker fell. He injured both knees, his hips and his back. However, one knee was really swollen, badly swollen. He could not put any weight on it. So, that’s the injured body part work comp focused on treating to the exclusion of the others. It’s wrong. That worker is entitled to care for all his work-related injuries.

Often, the employer only lists the most pressing injury in its written report. If you work around Huntsville, the employer is likely to send you for medical care initially to Occupational Health Group (OHG). When you go to OHG, those doctors are only listing or looking at the one body part. When the OHG doctor finally refers you to an orthopedic, it’s just for the one body part. In my example involving the worker who fell from a ladder, the orthopedic only saw him for his swollen knee.

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Blackwell Law Firm: Alabama Personal Injury LawyersCrash!!! You hear the sound of crushing metal. Your body is slammed around the inside of your car. What is happening? In an instant, another driver ran a red light and slammed into you. In the hours and days after the crash, you start hurting badly. You are worried about your health and future. Now, you are dealing with pain, medical care and bills. Today, I want to talk about those medical bills and a common problem in many Alabama car accident cases.

When you see the doctor, it’s easy to tell him/her just to bill the other driver’s automobile insurance company. After all, the other driver was at fault. The insurance company for that negligent driver should pay your bills! While this sounds reasonable, it’s a mistake. It’s a mistake to tell your medical providers to bill the automobile insurer. It’s a mistake made by many accident victims. It’s a mistake that is often encouraged by insurance adjusters and even billboard lawyers who are not looking out for you! It can have a tremendous impact on your injury claim.

It’s an easy mistake to make. First, the other driver should pay. Second, many adjusters imply that you should send your bills. Many adjusters imply the insurance company will pay your medical bills as incurred. Keep in mind, these adjusters are just trying to get information from you.

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Is-That-Nursing-Home-Providing-Good-Care-300x300Last week I wrote a post titled Who’s Watching Your Elderly Relative In The Nursing Home? At the time, I had been taking depositions in a couple different Alabama nursing home abuse cases. While taking the deposition of one facility’s Director of Nursing, the witness basically admitted her facility only purchased a rulebook to get licensed. This Director of Nursing testified her facility obtained a canned rulebook years ago to get licensed. Since then, the rulebook sat on the shelf gathering dust. She could not testify to any of her own facility’s specific procedures.

Think about that — A facility full of caregivers with no common procedures. All caregivers are left to act as they deem appropriate. We also took the depositions of several different CNAs who provided care at the facility. Most of them had never worked with any other providers. So, they had no prior experience. This facility hired them and turned them loose on its elderly residents with no explicit policies.

When we reviewed the medical chart at the nursing home, we found almost nothing. By nothing, I mean almost nothing was charted despite doctor’s orders to monitor the elderly resident carefully due to his health condition. In my post last week I discussed the nursing home’s response to questions on its lack of charting. In response, the witnesses testified they only “chart by exception.”

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Alabama Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect AttorneysA recent news article tells the story of a tragic nursing home death. An elderly resident was found dead in a wooded area near the facility. How did it happen? How could a nursing home lose a resident?

The elderly assisted living resident had been absent from the facility for several days. You would think one of the nurses would have noticed? The facility now claims it thought the resident was on an outing with family. Instead, the elderly resident had wandered from the home. Nobody saw her leave. Nobody signed her out. You would think the nursing home followed a sign-out procedure for residents leaving with family???

The nursing home failed to monitor its elderly residents. A simple check-in / check-out procedure (if followed) would have prevented this death. How can a nursing home fail to follow such a basic procedure? While that nursing home was not in Alabama, we have plenty of facilities in our state that also fail to monitor their elderly residents.

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Blackwell-Law-Firm-Alabama-Accident-Injury-Lawyers-256-261-1315-300x300In a post earlier this year I asked, Is Dollar General An Unsafe Work Environment? I wrote that post after OSHA issued over $300,000 in citations due to safety issues at one of the company’s Alabama stores.

Over the years, I’ve represented numerous Dollar General employees who were injured on-the-job. In my past cases, these employees were far, far overworked. They functioned in an unsafe and understaffed environment. They were subjected to daily tasks that put them at risk of serious personal injury. I’ve represented Dollar General employees with work comp claims caused by falling from unsafe heights, tripping over store hazards, climbing into store dumpsters as required, falling from dangerous ladders and unloading heavy truckloads of merchandise with little help. Some of these workers suffer permanent, disabling injuries that altered their lives.

In a press release just days ago, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) dropped the hammer on Dollar General. When OSHA issues a press release with this title, you know things are serious:

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Blackwell Law Firm - Alabama Accident & Injury AttorneysLast Friday, I spoke at a workers’ compensation seminar in Birmingham. Let me start by saying thank you to Birmingham attorney David Nomberg (Nomberg Law Firm) for organizing the event and asking if I would speak. I enjoyed teaching about return-to-work issues in Alabama law. I also enjoyed learning on different topics from the other speakers David scheduled. When I attend these seminars, I always leave with some great insights that help me better prepare and try my Alabama workers’ compensation cases.

What are return-to-work issues in Alabama’s comp law? Alabama workers’ compensation law has a special provision, often referred to as the Return-To-Work section. The Alabama Supreme Court and Court of Civil Appeals have only addressed this section directly in about 3 to 4 cases. And, two of those are mine. The first involved a workers’ compensation case I tried a number of years ago in Athens. My client suffered a really bad lower back injury while working at the local Steelcase plant that left him severely restricted. He tried unsuccessfully to keep working. The second involved a more recent case I tried in Guntersville. In the Guntersville case, my client suffered two accidents, underwent a spinal surgery, and returned to work unsuccessfully despite significant efforts to accommodate his restrictions. My client worked for the City of Guntersville, itself. Both of these guys were hard workers who did everything possible to keep working. Both suffered such severe injuries that they just could not continue. In both cases, we won full benefits for our clients at trial and through appeal. So, these are compensation issues I’ve debated for clients through the Alabama court system.

I have not written much on this blog about the Return-To-Work provision of our workers’ compensation laws. There is a reason for that. This section is a major provision that impacts many injured workers. But, it’s also a long section with some complicated issues. So, it’s an area that’s really difficult to discuss in a short blog post. Since I just returned from teaching on the topic, I thought I would try to touch on a few issues in this area of Alabama law.

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While reading a work comp journal this week, I noticed two cases involving the impact of intoxication on work comp claims. Neither case was from Alabama. The two cases reached opposite results. In one, the worker lost his claim and benefits were denied. In the other, the court awarded compensation benefits.

I’ve written previously about the impact of drug and alcohol impairment on Alabama workers’ compensation claims. I’ve also written about the impact of impairment on commercial truck accidents — But that’s another issue.

Most states have provisions in their work comp laws barring claims if the worker’s intoxication or impairment caused the accident. In lawyer terms, the question is usually whether or not the intoxication was the proximate cause of the accident. Every state has unique workers’ compensation laws. So, these provisions can vary from state-to-state.

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Untitled-design-3-300x300In April, I wrote about proposed Alabama legislation to exempt rideshare workers from workers compensation protections. Of course, the Alabama Legislature passed the legislation — It protected big companies at the expense of working men and women in our communities.

You can read my prior article at Alabama Legislature Helps Rideshare Services Avoid Providing Workers’ Compensation BenefitsIn recent years, large rideshare companies have lobbied at the state level to avoid providing essential workers’ compensation benefits to workers. The state-by-state battle has seen mixed results. Some states have protected workers while others (such as Alabama) have not. In Alabama, the rideshare companies found an ally in Senator Arthur Orr. Not a surprise. Senator Orr annually sponsors legislation to arbitrarily cut-off medical and disability benefits from our most disabled workers.

Rideshare Companies Can Afford To Care For Their Workers

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Alabama Personal Injury Attorneys For YouAn injured workers calls our office. They describe the accident. They tell us the insurance company provided some medical care. The insurance company may have even paid some compensation to them while off work. But, the insurance company suddenly told them it was now disputing the claim. That’s what prompted the call to our office. How can my employer provide some benefits and then turn around to dispute the claim?

It’s a good question. It really does not make sense. It seems wrong. But, Alabama law does allow your employer (or its insurance carrier) to pay some benefits and then later dispute the claim. The Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act (Section 25-5-56) specifically says:

In order to encourage advance payments, it is expressly provided that the payments shall not be construed as an admission of liability but shall be without prejudice.

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PROTECT-ALABAMA-WORKERS-300x300Injured workers often ask, “Why do I have to go to court if my case settled?” It’s a good question. The quick answer is that court approval of Alabama work comp settlements is meant to protect injured workers.

Let me give a little background. Alabama workers compensation benefits are limited. I think they are unfair for injured workers. Too many injured workers suffer needless hurdles and delays obtaining basic medical treatment. On top of that, disability benefits are often limited in both time and amount. The Alabama Legislature capped permanent partial benefits decades ago. Since then, the Legislature has ignored increases in the cost-of-living, leaving Alabama families with an injured breadwinner existing at the poverty level.

Our entire work comp system is unfair to workers. I’ve written multiple articles on this. Because the system is unfair, it’s even more important for seriously injured workers to obtain skilled legal counsel and fight for ALL available benefits. And, it becomes even more important for injured workers (with or without a lawyer) to have a safety system where a court can insure the insurance company is not taking advantage of them.

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