Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Blackwell Law Firm - Car Accident & Injury LawyersVenue and forum selection. I started to write on this issue months ago. At that point, the Alabama Supreme Court had issued several recent (and very debatable) decisions on the topic. I know – venue sounds like a pretty boring topic for non-lawyers. So, I chose other topics. Now I’ve come full circle back to venue after the Alabama Supreme Court again ruled against another personal injury victim on this issue.

In simple terms, venue is the county (or counties) in Alabama where a case can be filed. Specific rules govern the proper counties for filing a personal injury (or any other) case. Often, venue can be proper in more than one county. That brings a choice. And, it leads to a question raised by the recent spate of venue decisions. Why is our Supreme Court so quick to interfere with the properly chosen venue of an injury victim?

Even when a case has been filed in a proper venue, a specific Alabama statute gives courts the power to transfer the case for “the interest of justice” or the “convenience of parties and witnesses.” It’s called “forum non conveniens.” Convenience? Interest of justice? Those are some pretty subjective terms. Should the court be quick to force transfers when the issue may be gray?

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Alabama Personal Injury Specialists - Blackwell Law FirmThrough the years, I’ve represented a number of personal injury victims who suffered Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This condition is also known as reflex sympathy dystrophy (RSD). You may have never even heard of it. Yet, CRPS is a devastating condition for patients. So, when I recently read the account of a person suffering from CRPS it sounded familiar. It sounded like the stories of pain my past clients have tearfully related. How does the patient’s story begin? How does the patient describe her pain?

It’s 4 a.m., and once again I’m unable to sleep.

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highway-1666635_1920-300x200Truck crash cases are very different than car accident cases. This is true for several reasons. Commercial trucks can cause much more physical damage.  Commercial trucks also operate and maneuver differently than cars. Face it — that truck is much heavier and bigger than your car.

The differences don’t stop with weight, size and maneuverability. Commercial truck drivers often feel pressure to drive long miles for long hours to make deliveries. Truck driver fatigue is a major safety issue. So is truck driver health. I’ve written previously about both of these serious safety issues affecting highway safety.

Don’t forget, trucking companies and their drivers are also subject to specific safety regulations. We could discuss these differences over many blog posts. Here, I want to discuss briefly just one. That is — The Rapid Response Team!

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meeting-room-10270_1920-300x225I started to title this post Four Reasons Why Personal Injury Mediations Fail (And One Reason Why They Should Fail). That title is too long. So, I’ll primarily address four reasons why personal injury mediations do NOT succeed. Then, I’ll end with some commentary about an occasion when mediations should fail.

Our law firm philosophy is clear. We prepare all cases for trial. We believe preparation leads to better long-term results both at trial and settlement. When we survey all the lawyers mass-advertising on billboards, television and radio, it is clear many attorneys view matters differently. Those mass-advertising lawyers are usually about quantity rather than quality. That’s a sad commentary on our profession.

Let me return to my discussion of personal injury mediations. What are some reasons why a personal injury mediation may fail? Here are four:

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billboard-3220111_1920-300x164“Do you have a billboard?” I was sitting with a group of parents at a recent school event when one mother innocently asked me the question. “I thought I saw your name on a billboard.”

“No,” I politely answered. What I really felt like saying — “Never. I know a lot of lawyers and would personally never hire one who is on a billboard.” For our firm, it is a matter of professionalism. At their core, all legal matters are personal. Sometimes, these very personal matters require detailed preparation and special study. What do you typically get with a billboard lawyer? You get the false bravado of a lawyer with a manufactured smile or stare telling you some catch phrase to get your business. Catch phrases like:

  • “We got this”
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Blackwell Law Firm - Representing Injured Workers Across AlabamaProductivity versus safety. The two should work together. Yet, some companies value only immediate productivity. On many construction sites, immediate productivity trumps safety every single day. Who pays the price when safety is neglected? Workers and their families pay the ultimate price of serious injuries and deaths.

A survey of construction workers showed the majority believed safety took a back seat to immediate productivity. Yet, it should not. The majority of workers also believed their companies did the bare MINIMUM required amount for safety. That is, their companies met the minimum needed to avoid a citation but not the level needed to create a culture of safety. These working men and women understand first-hand the safety issues on construction sites.

Do some companies neglect real safety? Most serious injury and death cases I’ve investigated on construction sites happened because management failed to institute basic safety processes. This is why safety standards established by agencies like OSHA are so important. Without minimum standards, some companies would do nothing at all.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Serious personal injury lawyersA recent article in an insurance industry periodical asks why hospitals charge auto insurers more than health insurers. The article then concludes hospitals use their market power against commercial insurers. Hospital charges are unfair. Hospitals regularly take advantage of people following automobile accidents. However, the insurance article asks the wrong question and reaches the wrong conclusion.

What is the correct question? The article should ask “why do patients with auto insurance claims pay more.” The real focus should be on the actual patients. After all, the patients ultimately bear the real cost of health care. And, patients seeking treatment following an automobile accident often pay more. The injured patient loses in two different ways. First, the patient probably paid health insurance premiums with the expectation of health coverage. Yet, their health insurance goes unused following a car accident or other personal injury. Second, the inflated medical charges not covered by your health insurance — These inflated charges were ultimately paid from the settlement money you needed to cover all your damages.

What is the correct conclusion? The article WRONGLY concludes the higher charges are the result of hospital market power. The article ends by quoting a professor at Johns Hopkins — “If market forces fail to generate a reasonable price for these patients, policymakers should step in to address this market failure.” I’m sure hospitals do use their market power to extract the highest reimbursement possible. However, we are NOT in this predicament solely because of true economic market power. At least not in Alabama. No, we are largely in this position because hospitals have already worked our actual policymakers to pass a law allowing them to place liens on medical care rather than simply bill health insurance. Policymakers have enacted special legislation giving hospitals the authority to interject themselves into liability cases for maximum payment. Let this special use of government legislative power sink in for a moment. Hospitals enjoy a lien privilege not held by others. It’s not called market forces or market failure when you use the political system to gain an unfair advantage. I call it an abuse of government that further harms people.

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Blackwell Law Firm helps Alabama personal injury victimsA large part of my work involves simply interviewing, and talking with, personal injury victims. One theme is clear in my interviews — People suffering a personal injury want to heal and return to their normal life. They want to recover. They are often worried they will not recover. Proper medical care is essential to recovery from serious injuries.

At our office, we spend a lot of time talking with hurting people. And, we spend a lot of time reading medical records. In many cases, communication issues between the doctor and patient delay or hinder medical treatment. In some cases, miscommunication issues get documented and become serious hurdles to medical treatment as well as any injury claims. We try to advise our clients throughout the process to help their treatment and recovery progress.

A recent research article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine deals with the issue of patient-physician communications. The article uses the phrase “patient-centered” medical care. That’s a good phrase. Medical care should be patient-centered. Yet, it is instead too often centered around the insurance company or the flow of the medical facility. According to the research in this article, physicians only elicit the patient’s problems and agenda in 36% of visits. The researchers actually concluded:

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Blackwell Law Firm - Alabama Personal Injury LawyersYou are injured from an accident. You are pursuing a claim for damages or compensation. Suddenly, the insurance carrier wants you to see its doctor for an examination. If your case involves a car accident or work comp claim, you may face this request. Sometimes, the insurance carrier even calls its request an “independent medical exam.” Yet, these exams are neither independent nor fair.

Before I talk about the biased insurance company doctor, let me say that these biased doctors are small in number. Lawyers who frequently prepare and try cases will tell you they see the same few bad ones repeatedly. Doctors are like any other profession. Almost all of them are dedicated to serving their patients. The same rule applies to lawyers, accountants, and any other professional. But, a few bad apples exist.

With lawyers, the bad apples are those settlement mill lawyers making promises while refusing to do the work really needed to help clients. When it comes to automobile accident, workers’ compensation or disability claims, we see a few doctors who seemingly make their living issuing misleading reports so claims can be denied. In both the legal and medical professions, the bad ones want to make money pushing paper instead of getting to the heart of their clients’ stories and losses. One sure sign of biased doctors is that many of them have little or no medical practice outside insurance company evaluations. Good doctors actually treat patients. Good doctors don’t make their living generating claims reports.

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safety-44441_1280-300x150Last year, a flash fire at an Alabama car dealership in Jasper killed one employee and severely injured several others. What caused that fire? Flammable chemicals being stored improperly. After the flash fire, OSHA inspected the dealership and issued several serious citations for improperly storing a flammable chemical in a dangerous location. Plus, OSHA cited the dealership for not even developing a hazard communication program for its dangerous chemicals.

For the families of these dealership employees, no penalty or punishment will ever restore their loved ones. Hopefully, OSHA’s action will spur other local companies to take needed safety steps.

Does your workplace handle chemicals safely? For me, the question is front and center. Why? I’ve spent several days this month in deposition over a Huntsville injury case involving the issue.