Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Alabama Car Accident Lawyers at Blackwell Law FirmIt’s not an Alabama car accident case. Rather, it’s a recent New Jersey case. Yet, it provides a valuable lesson for car accident victims in Alabama and elsewhere. Be careful what you sign! The case started as a car accident that left an innocent driver with personal injuries and car damage. Fortunately, the negligent driver who caused the crash had liability coverage.

The morning after the accident, an insurance claims adjuster called the injured driver and asked to “inspect” her damaged car. That’s OK. After getting permission, the claims adjuster arrived with “paperwork” to “expedite the property damage claim.” The injured driver signed the paperwork. Rather than property damage paperwork, the document was a general release of all claims. By signing, the injured driver released all her claims for both personal injury and property damage.

If you read some of our past articles, you know we believe accident victims can often resolve property damage claims without the need for a lawyer. The same is true for minor injury claims. Unfortunately, we have an entire industry of settlement mill lawyers smiling from billboards and skimming attorney fees from minor cases that could have been resolved without them.

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Blackwell Law Firm: Alabama Car Accident & Injury AttorneysYou suffer a car accident. A few days later you get a call. It’s a chiropractor. That’s right. A chiropractor you’ve never met is now calling you. He asks if you are hurt. He suggests you schedule an appointment. If you are not hurt, he may still offer to help. If you show any interest, he suddenly suggests a specific lawyer.

One moment you are sitting in your den. The very next moment you have a strange chiropractor and strange lawyer ready to “work” your case. What started as a personal injury scam in other states has now made its way to Alabama.

Let me just stop at this point and tell you the obvious. This is a scam to enrich the chiropractor and lawyer at your expense. Ethical lawyers don’t call you out of the blue. Good trial lawyers don’t chase ambulances or make deals with chiropractors to chase cases. When your case is done, the ambulance chasing chiropractor and lawyer will walk away with the bulk of your settlement. Don’t think I’m criticizing all chiropractors. I’m certainly not. I’m only criticizing those lawyers and those chiropractors who engage in this bad behavior.

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Blackwell Law Firm in HuntsvilleSovereign immunity. Most personal injury lawyers shudder at the phrase! We occasionally deal with this issue in our personal injury cases. When we do, we are usually explaining to callers the difficulty or impossibility of suing the state for damages.

How about a slightly different issue — tribal sovereign immunity. Native American tribes are not independent political entities. They are not states, like Alabama. They have often been called “domestic dependent nations” and are subject to control by the U.S. Congress. Tribes retain some historic sovereign authority unless Congress acts. If you find the relationship confusing, you would not be the only one.

A current case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court presents an interesting issue of tribal sovereign immunity. It involves a car accident and the Poarch Creek tribe in Alabama. The Alabama Supreme Court framed its decision like this:  The doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity affords no protection to tribes with regard to tort claims asserted against them by non-tribe members.

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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.