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Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersThe first time this happened, I was shocked. Although I have now heard the same story many times, I am still a little shocked (and a lot disgusted) each time. What is the story? It goes something like this —

The office phone rings. The caller wants to discuss his car accident and see if we can help. However, he already has a lawyer. It’s a billboard law firm! He’s really unhappy with that law firm. When I hear that someone is unhappy with a local lawyer who works hard for his or her clients, I counsel the caller to sit down and talk with the lawyer. Often, it’s just an issue of communication. But, this is different. Sitting down with the billboard lawyer may be difficult or impossible. Why?

Many times, the caller has never even spoken with his lawyer. This is the part that shocks me! (Think on that for just a minute. The person has a lawyer he has never even met.). After his car accident, investigators simply came to his hospital room or home. In some cases, the “investigators” were simply “case runners” who showed up without invitation. In other cases, the process started when the person called the number from a billboard or television commercial. Regardless, the “investigators” promise a lawyer will take care of him, present papers, and get his signature. Yet, when he calls the lawyer’s office some weeks or months later asking about his case, he gets no answers. Maybe he talks with a legal assistant. Maybe. Usually, he only speaks with a receptionist who knows nothing about his specific case. I doubt the settlement mill lawyer (or even the paralegal) will call him back until the case is settled. What’s clear is that:

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BLACKWELL-LAW-FIRM-Alabama-Accident-and-Injury-Lawyers-256-261-1315-300x300Truck Driving Is A Solitary Profession

We spend much of our lives at work. For many of us that means going to the office, factory or construction site. We see and speak with other people throughout the day.

Truck driving is different. Truckers may spend long, solitary hours on the road. Miles and miles of highway pass as the hours turn from day to night. In past articles, I’ve written about some of the health problems commonly seen in truckers. Many of those health problems are tied to long, sedentary work days.

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Blackwell Law Firm: Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersI read an interesting article last week in a work comp blog where the author asks the question:  What’s Next for Pain — Pharma? The author then discusses available medications he believes could serve as alternatives to prescription opioids. Opioid abuse is a major issue nationwide.

The article’s author is an executive at a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) in the work comp industry. I started the article with a little bias and hesitation. If you work for a PBM, your main concern centers on prescriptions — reimbursement and cost. After suing a different PBM several years ago, I developed a healthy degree of skepticism as to whether drug payers are really interested in patients. I don’t say that to judge the author or his company.

I will say this author begins with the right issue. He points out that as opioid prescriptions decline, providers and payers have not embraced other treatment modalities. That is an important issue for injured people suffering chronic pain. We must address and treat hurting people. The author then discusses several alternative medication therapies. I represent many injured workers facing chronic pain. So, the discussion of alternative treatments peaked my interest.

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Blackwell Law Firm -- Helping The Injured In AlabamaIt’s been quite a year for the Alabama Legislature. Lost in the nationwide attention generated by other controversial legislation — Two proposals that directly impact Alabama personal injury cases. These include (1) proposed distracted driving hands-free legislation; and, (2) proposed hospital lien legislation. I’ve discussed both proposals in prior blog articles.

Hospital liens are a huge issue in Alabama personal injury cases. Many local hospitals (including Huntsville Hospital near my office) routinely slap liens on patients who might have a personal injury claim. If you have private health insurance, like Blue Cross, this can be very frustrating. When you go to the hospital or doctor, you expect your health insurance to cover the charges. After all, you probably paid premiums for that health coverage.

Yet, hospitals routinely ignore health insurance coverage in favor of asserting liens. For that matter, other medical providers (like chiropractors and physical therapists) try to work around health insurance whenever possible in personal injury cases as well. Although these other providers don’t have a protective statute like our hospital lien statute, they will routinely refuse to bill Blue Cross and instead try to get the patient to sign some direct agreement giving them a lien. We routinely hear how injury victims were manipulated by providers into agreements allowing inflated medical charges to be taken from their proceeds.

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Blackwell Law Firm Fights Insurance Company DenialsYou suffered a work-related accident. You properly reported the accident to your company. You did everything correctly. Now, you expect work comp to provide medical care. After all, that’s how workers’ compensation should work. If you are like most people, all you really want is to heal as quickly as possible.

What happens next? Many companies have an occupational doctor or medical clinic to treat injured employees. Some people call them “gatekeepers.” Some of these “gatekeepers” wrongly and unjustly try to lock the gate to real medical care. In northern Alabama, we have just a couple clinics that handle almost all initial workplace accidents and injuries. These occupational clinics are supposed to treat injuries. Their doctors are supposed to help you. Don’t doctors take an oath to help their patients?

Most doctors take their responsibility seriously. Most doctors care deeply for their patients. I know many doctors who do. Yet, these few gatekeeper occupational clinics are NOT like most doctors. These clinics work for industry for a reason — Cost Savings. Fewer recorded injuries means cost savings. Less medical treatment means cost savings.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping The Injured In AlabamaIn a December 2018 post, I asked the question — Is the Alabama Supreme Court Biased Against Car Accident Victims on Venue Issues? At our office, we file and prepare many car accident and injury cases for trial. Where can a case properly be filed? Where is venue proper? Sometimes, venue is proper in more than one county. Sometimes, you have a choice. When you do, venue can be a huge issue. When we have a choice, we consider carefully which county may be better for the case.

How is our Supreme Court wading into the venue issue? In recent years, our Supreme Court issued several decisions using a principle called “forum non conveniens” to transfer cases. Forum non conveniens allows courts to transfer a case from the proper venue where filed to another proper venue for “the interest of justice” or the “convenience of parties and witnesses.” Should the court make subjective decisions on “convenience” to overrule a plaintiff’s chosen venue? Historically, the bar has been high. Historically, courts would defer to the chosen venue unless it had little or no connection at all to the case. I think courts should defer to the plaintiff’s proper choice of venue.

In its recent decisions, the Supreme Court forgot the deference which should be extended to the plaintiff’s choice of venue. Our Supreme Court repeatedly used the principal of forum non conveniens to transfer personal injury cases. In my 2018 post, I criticized the willingness of our Supreme Court to impose its subjective choice of venue on a plaintiff.

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Stop Impaired Driving. Prevent Needless Personal InjuryOn our law firm website, we have an entire page devoted to Impaired Driving Accidents. On that page, we discuss impaired driving from alcohol and illegal drugs. If you want more information, take a look. A recent Alabama Supreme Court case discusses an important issue in many alcohol-related accidents — Can a bar or restaurant be held responsible for the damage caused by a drunk driver? Laws that hold businesses liable for the injuries or damages caused by an intoxicated driver are called Dram Shop laws.

We have represented many Alabama families harmed by impaired drivers. Drunk driving crashes can be especially horrible. Often, the drunk driver is traveling too fast or the wrong way resulting in a high speed, head-on collision.

If you are injured, where do you look to recover your damages? In many Alabama car crashes, the impaired driver has little or no insurance. What happens when the reckless driver lacks insurance? Hopefully, you have uninsured / underinsured coverage (often called UIM) on your policy. Alabama law requires your policy to carry small minimum limits of UIM unless specifically waived by you. You should NEVER waive your UIM coverage. In fact, you probably have too little. This inexpensive coverage can be very important in the event of a serious accident.

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meeting-2710211_1280-300x154Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be backpacking with my oldest son. I’m trying to spend as much time as possible with him before he leaves for college in the Fall. So, I will be out of the office and not writing as much. In my absence, I’m posting a brief slideshow presenting four reasons why personal injury mediations fail.

At our firm, we follow a specific philosophy of preparing every single case as if it will go to trial. In a world of billboard lawyers who never step foot in a courtroom (and probably never have), our philosophy is different. We want to develop every aspect of the case so we can maximize the potential. It’s a slower approach. But, we believe the rewards in quality and recovery are far, far greater.

What is a mediation? In many personal injury cases, the court or defense lawyer will suggest a mediation. Mediation is a meeting where both sides sit down with a mediator who works to resolve the case or dispute. Typically, the mediator puts each side in a separate room. He or she then moves back-and-forth between the parties trying to get them closer in position. It’s non-binding. The mediator is NOT deciding the case. So, you can leave a mediation at any time and move forward. When our clients are being treated unfairly and unjustly, we stop the mediation and continue working the case toward trial.

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Alabama Car Accident LawyersThe Alabama Legislature has been debating bills that would prohibit the use of handheld devices like cellphones while driving. Last year, Georgia passed a similar hands-free law. Is hands-free safer? Will a hands-free law reduce needless car accidents and injuries in Alabama?

A National Safety Council public opinion poll indicates 80% of drivers believe hands-free devices are safer. Yet, safety experts remain doubtful. The Senior Director of the Transportation Initiative at the National Safety Council had this to say on the topic:

While many drivers honestly believe they are making the safe choice by using a hands-free device, it’s just not true.

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Huntsville Personal Injury AttorneysI’m not writing to debate the pros or cons of medical marijuana. I’ll leave that to others. It’s a debate playing out in many states. Last week, two Alabama Senators (both of whom are doctors) debated the topic in the Senate chamber. One Senator, an anesthesiologist, debated in support of medical marijuana. The other, an obstetrician, debated against it. The Alabama Legislature has been debating bills that would allow medical uses.

Again, I’m not writing to debate the proposed legislation. My blog deals with Alabama personal injury issues. How would legal marijuana impact Alabama workers’ compensation claims? I believe the issue intersects personal injury law in a number of ways. From car wrecks to work comp, it’s an issue that will impact claims. For today, let’s talk about possible impacts on work comp.

Impairment or intoxication from drugs and alcohol can be a defense to work-related injury claims in Alabama. While substances like alcohol may be legal (for adults), a delivery driver who injures himself in an accident caused by his own drunk driving is not going to receive full work comp benefits.