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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.

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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.

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truck-1565478_1920-300x201What are the most common causes of fatal occupational injuries? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 data, the six top causes of work-related deaths include:

  1. Transportation incidents
  2. Injuries due to workplace violence from people or animals
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Blackwell Law Firm - Alabama Personal Injury LawFall protection. A recent OSHA penalty following a fatal fall serves as a strong reminder of two things:

  • Falls from heights are a leading cause of workplace injuries and deaths.
  • Simple safety steps can prevent most serious falls.
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What do we need in trial judges? Honesty. Integrity. Fairness. Respect for both the law and the citizens standing before them. Legal Scholarship. Those are all necessary to make a good trial judge. What else is important? Courtroom experience. At least, a basic level of courtroom experience is necessary. At least, tell us you have been in a courtroom!

I handle personal injury and damage cases across northern Alabama. We are fortunate in our local state courts. We currently have a good bench of state judges who came to their positions with an understanding of the process. Most of them came to the bench after serving as lawyers before their local courts.

I can say the same for the men and women I’ve appeared before in Federal Court. They have been well-qualified. And, they take their roles as judges very seriously. As citizens, we count on them to be fair and skilled in their work. They understand their position and work hard to fulfill it. That is true whether these judges were appointed by a past Republican President or past Democrat President. Like our state court judges, most of them came to the bench after working as lawyers in their respective Federal Districts.

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Blackwell Law FirmDistracted driving is a huge problem on Alabama highways — much worse than reported. In a prior post, I discussed a study that analyzed distractions due solely to cell phones. That study, limited just to cell phone distraction, revealed distracted driving causes far more crashes than reported by government data. Of course, cell phones are not the only distraction causing crashes on our highways. Drivers face numerous other distractions. We discuss these distractions on our law firm website and in many of our blog posts.

How can we reduce distracted driving injuries? Outside the courtroom, our firm is committed to advocating for highway safety. Safety advocates have largely focused on three areas to combat distracted driving — education, law enforcement and technology.  When it comes to technology, you would expect car manufacturers to lead the charge for safety. Do they? Not always. General Motors (GM) is actually introducing an App called Marketplace that creates more risks of distracted driving crashes. A number of safety advocates share my concern with GM’s actions.

What is GM doing? GM has created a touchscreen App that will be included in new car models and will allow drivers to shop while driving. Here is what USA Today reported about the new touchscreen App:

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Blackwell Law Firm - HuntsvilleYou suffered a severe personal injury and need a lawyer. How do you find the right lawyer? It’s a topic I’ve discussed in past posts. One piece of advice — Avoid the many attorneys you see smiling from billboards. Here are a few of my past posts on the topic of finding a personal injury lawyer:

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Blackwell Law Firm - Personal InjuryThe holiday season can be very busy. For many of us, our work year is coming to a close. Our children may have many holiday-related programs at school. Add to that already busy schedule — shopping for Christmas gifts, holiday parties, travel for family gatherings. It equals a very busy time. We spend much of that time in our cars on the road.

With all the extra activity, do drivers face an increased risk of accidents and injuries? That’s the question highway researchers asked. Researchers from The University of Alabama Center for Advanced Public Safety examined the data. The University of Alabama study analyzed 10 years of Alabama car crash data during the days surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

After collecting and analyzing the data, computer science professor Dr. David Brown noted “the shopping days before Christmas are perilous.” That’s quite a statement. Although just my personal observation, I also think the days right before Christmas are the worst traffic days in Huntsville. Now that I have a teen driver in my house, I have discussed with him the expected holiday traffic around Huntsville.

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Blackwell Law Firm - HuntsvilleWhat are the most common risks of personal injury for workers? Each year, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reveals its data on the top 10 workplace safety violations. OSHA lists the most commonly cited violations for the year.

Because I frequently represent workers hurt on large industrial or construction worksites, I study the annual reports. Two issues are clear to me:

  1. The same safety hazards typically dominate the list every single year.
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16687020074_db03aa8ce2_z-300x171Alabama has a significant problem with uninsured drivers. At our firm, we help families suffering because of a personal injury. Car accidents and commercial truck crashes cause many of the injuries we see. Imagine suffering a severe injury only to learn the responsible person has no insurance to help with your damages. That is the scenario many hurt individuals face. Too often, negligent drivers causing injuries on our highways are uninsured. That’s why our firm has long advocated that you purchase sufficient uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage to protect yourself and your family.

Want to know more about why you need sufficient uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage? You can read an article we wrote earlier this year titled Alabama Drivers Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage. You need adequate uninsured/underinsured coverage (also frequently called UIM coverage) to protect your family against both uninsured and underinsured drivers. Too many insured drivers carry the minimum amount possible which is unlikely to compensate you fully for any serious injury.

How bad is the problem of uninsured drivers in Alabama? The Insurance Information Institute has compiled some startling statistics. According to their statistics, Alabama ranks in the top 10 for the most uninsured drivers on the road. That’s certainly not a good category in which to rank within the top 10. In 2015, approximately 18.4% of the drivers in Alabama were uninsured. That’s a huge percentage of people driving cars all around you each day.