Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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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 - 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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Alabama Boating Accident Lawyers: Blackwell Law FirmOn any given day, Lake Guntersville is filled with boaters and fishermen. Through the years, I’ve handled numerous personal injury cases involving boat or jet ski crashes on our northern Alabama lakes. Why do I mention Lake Guntersville? It is a huge and beautiful lake created by one of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) dams. Beyond our rivers and lakes, the TVA operates power plants and other facilities across our region. TVA supplies our electricity like any other power company. Over many decades, the TVA fueled economic development in our region.

What happens when the TVA is negligent and an innocent person is hurt or killed? After all, the TVA is a government agency. Does the TVA enjoy the immunities of our government? Does “sovereign immunity” shield the agency from accountability? Can the TVA be held responsible for the damages it causes (just like any other company)?

A recent U.S. Supreme Court case addressed this very issue. What happened? TVA employees were raising a downed power line that had been submerged in the Tennessee River. A man named Gary Thacker drove his boat into the area and hit the power line. Thacker suffered serious personal injuries and his passenger died in the crash. Thacker sued the TVA for his injuries. The local Federal District Court dismissed his case on the grounds of sovereign immunity. The Court of Appeals affirmed that dismissal. Looks like Thacker’s case is over. But, wait! His attorney appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m always impressed by an attorney who will fight for his or her client.

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Huntsville Accident & Injury LawyersWhen I write a legal article, I never know whether it will gain reader interest. Some of the legal topics I find most fascinating, gain little or no reader interest. I’m often surprised at the articles generating the most readership and commentary.

One topic that always generates questions and commentary — Medical bills in accident and injury cases! I understand why. Medical bills are confusing and difficult to read. Every medical provider uses a different billing format. The charges vary widely. Who would think different hospitals could charge hugely different amounts for the same over-the-counter pain pill? Yet, they do.

On top of the medical charges, add the issue of health insurance and payment. Who pays? Blue Cross. Medicare. Tricare. Medicaid. Some other health plan. How much do they pay? Face it, each health plan pays differently. Most patients are confused by their medical bills when there is NO issue of any accident claim or lawsuit. I get it.

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Cellphone DistractionDistracted driving is a frequent topic on my blog. This month is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. So, it’s a perfect time to discuss proposals currently pending in the Alabama Legislature to prevent drivers from holding their cellphone while driving.

Last year, Georgia enacted a hands-free law for drivers. Will Alabama pass similar legislation? As I write this post, I checked the Alabama Legislature information website concerning pending bills. The website lists two hands-free bills currently making their way through the legislative process. I read both bills and they are almost identical. These two pending bills are: HB6 and HB404. You can access the legislative information website HERE.

I’ll focus here on HB6 which was introduced by Representative Allen Farley. If passed, it will be known as Cici’s Law. Local channel WHNT posted an article telling Cici’s story. Cici was 17 and just months shy of graduating from high school. On February 28, 2018, she was driving home from work down Interstate 65. She had a bright future and a loving family. While driving home, she was recording a message on her phone — a Happy Birthday message to a friend. She briefly looked down. When she looked back up, it was too late. She was not speeding. Still, she had no time to stop and went underneath an 18 wheeler stopped in front of her.

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Distracted driving is a frequent topic on my blog. In the last few years, I’ve written numerous articles on the issue. In some articles, I’ve discussed the basic types of distracted driving and how we can work together to reduce this highway danger in Alabama. In other articles, I’ve written more specifically about distracted driving as it relates to commercial drivers or teenage drivers. At the Blackwell Law Firm, we will continue to discuss this important safety topic in future posts.

Because it is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we have created a short slideshow on the issue. We hope you find it educational. Like many of our articles, we discuss several ways to combat this problem. As with any post, we welcome constructive commentary!

https://www.slideshare.net/JeffBlackwell16/distracted-driving-awareness-month-139875671

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Several weeks ago, I wrote an extended post on Five Bad Rules That Can Harm Your Alabama Car Accident Claim. We frequently deal with these rules in auto accident injury cases we prepare. These rules can ruin your claim or severely decrease its value.

If you suffered a serious injury, it is important to seek legal counsel experienced in handling these issues in court. A simple fact or argument can often determine whether or not one of these rules applies. Unfortunately, most of the settlement mill lawyers advertising on billboards fail their clients in these cases.

If you want more details, take a look at our longer article. If you have questions about a case or claim, we are happy to answer them. I’ve attached a slideshow which is shorter than our previous article and hits the key issues in each of these Alabama rules. I thought the slideshow could serve as a quick reference or download on these issues. Here it is: