COVID-19 Update: How We Are Serving and Protecting Our Clients.

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During these difficult times, Blackwell Law Firm remains committed to providing excellent legal service for our clients, neighbors and Alabama communities. We are closely following public health developments related to COVID-19. We are monitoring information provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as the State of Alabama. At the law firm, we have implemented safety precautions to keep our clients and staff safe. This means temporarily adjusting the way we meet and work. We are optimistic that the collective implementation of these guidelines throughout our community will allow a return to normal shortly.

Our law firm is open and operational. We continue to work on our current cases. We are also available to answer legal questions from our neighbors throughout Alabama. And, we are available to work with new clients in personal injury claims.

While we prefer face-to-face contact, we understand the need to keep our community safe and to combat this novel coronavirus. We understand the need to limit temporarily in-person contact and meetings. Together, we must all take the shared duty for our community’s health and safety seriously. We have implemented procedures to protect our staff and clients.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Alabama Work Comp AttorneysFringe benefits. They are often ignored in workers’ comp claims. Yet, they should not be.

Employee benefits may be an important part of your compensation. Consider health insurance. It’s not the only fringe benefit offered by some employers but it is probably the most important (and costly) one. Health insurance premiums are high. Very high. Some people stay at jobs just for the health insurance. Many people would be uninsured if not for employer-based plans.

How can fringe benefits impact a work-related injury or workers’ compensation claim? Fringe benefits can impact an Alabama work-related injury in two significant ways.

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Distracted Driving Lawyers - Blackwell Law Firm
At the Blackwell Law Firm website, we devote a page to distracted driving. The issue is also a frequent topic of my blog posts. Why do we discuss distracted driving so frequently? We have seen far too many crashes caused by distracted drivers. Too many people suffer injuries resulting in chronic pain or long-term disability due to a distracted driver. Too many families lose loved ones in crashes caused by driver distraction. Because we have seen the toll of distracted driving, it is a subject we discuss frequently.

In past blogs, I’ve discussed my belief — that crashes caused by a distracted driver are under-reported. We believe the reported numbers are too low for several reasons. In the aftermath of some accidents, police do not ask the drivers or witnesses about distraction. In other cases, the at-fault driver denies being distracted and no witnesses can refute the denial. Many times, the true cause of the collision is never reported.

Now, a new study also indicates distracted driving is a factor in a much higher percentage of accidents than reported by government statistics. While I agree with the findings and think they should be discussed, let me first give the study caveat — It was conducted by a company that makes mobile apps. The company Cambridge Mobile Telematics (Cambridge) conducted the study. According to the company’s website, it is “the world’s leading smartphone-centric telematics provider” and makes apps which measure driver behavior.

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Distracted Driving Accident
Is there a nationwide push to increase speed limits on Interstate highways? In 2015, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming all increased Interstate speed limits to 80 miles per hour. Washington increased its speed limit on certain highways to 75 miles per hour.

In 2017, Michigan followed with an increase to 75 miles per hour on certain highways. And, a bill increasing the speed limit in Arkansas is nearing passage.

A couple years ago, Al.com published a survey discussing the possibility of raising the speed limit on Interstate highways in Alabama from 70 to 75. The article is titled:

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Blackwell Law Firm -- Experienced, Dedicated, Preparedrecent lawsuit challenges Alabama’s state-wide method of electing appellate court judges. National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed retired Federal Magistrate Judge Vanzetta McPherson about the lawsuit. McPherson previously served the Federal Court in Montgomery.

McPherson answered questions from the NPR host about the new election lawsuit. Alabama elects appellate judges in state-wide elections. The lawsuit alleges this state-wide process is a violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act. As McPherson explained in the NPR interview, minorities are not currently represented on Alabama’s appellate courts.

I’m not an expert on the Voting Rights Act. I will let McPherson discuss that issue. Our firm does pursue personal injury, work comp and other damage lawsuits to trial in counties across Alabama. Between trials and appeals, we follow the courts closely. I have long advocated a change to our appellate election system so judges could be elected by districts rather than state-wide. I wrote a prior article which discussed the issue in 2010. I welcome Judge McPherson’s discussion concerning diversity and representation on our appellate courts.

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Welcome to my new blog – The Alabama Injury Lawyer Blog. For several years, I have discussed legal issues related to my personal injury and trial practice at the Alabama Litigation Review. I plan to continue writing both blogs.

I believe good lawyers should constantly study the law and legal developments. Yet, many so-called blogs are merely places for lawyers to brag about case successes which may (or may not) be true. Good blogs should provide information on important legal issues. I hope my two blogs provide information you find useful.

Most of my posts will discuss issues related to my primary work representing clients in personal injury, workers’ compensation, defective product and small business cases. On occasions, I will also discuss court issues in Alabama and events at my law firm. I welcome readers, commentary and ideas for topics.

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recent article discusses an important issue in public pension and health plans — a lack of transparency. I realize this topic is a change from my normal posts discussing personal injury issues such as car accidents and work comp claims. But, it’s an important issue. It’s one important to Alabama. And, it’s one I’ve explored in a recent case representing a local healthcare business in Alabama with significant damages.

While the article discusses public plans in Kentucky, the issues also apply in Alabama. Some of our public plans have similar problems. What are two of the transparency problems we’ve discovered in our case? They are:

  1. Conflicts Of Interest:  Let’s face it – health and pension plans involve complex issues. So, the State often employs “consultants” with expertise in the field. That’s OK. These plans provide long-term benefits to our valued public employees. Expertise is needed. Here’s the problem. In our case, the State’s consultant managed the entire bidding process. He even scored the bids of companies competing for the contract. Yet, while handling the bidding process, he also accepted thousands of dollars from one bidder. And, no surprise, that one bidder won the contract! Although he accepted thousands of dollars and provided the winning bidder with important pricing information, neither the consultant nor the bidder disclosed their relationship. Alabama officials had no idea. The consultant concealed the relationship. Nobody can explain how this provider’s bid was better than the others? The bidding process should be fully transparent and beyond ethical question.
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Independent-sales-representative-300x300My law partner just completed a case for an independent sales representative in Huntsville. While every case is unique, the basic story of manufacturers denying commissions to independent sales representatives is far too common. It is a basic story I addressed previously on this blog. It’s a common story I’ve discussed in numerous articles. As I wrote previously, “what the manufacturer often wants is the profit of a customer relationship with no expense, including the expense of paying the agreed-upon sales commissions.”

In Biblical terms, we often read of sowing the seeds, tending the fields, and then eventually reaping the harvest. The farmer working in the fields rises early. He works countless hours to plant and tend the fields. He earns nothing during this time. Yet, with much hard work (and a little cooperation from the weather) harvest comes. That is the time of reward. It is the same with independent sales representatives.

These representatives work hard for their manufacturer clients. They search for business opportunities. They cultivate these opportunities. They invest years of their own time and resources. Then, only after much personal work and investment, a deal is made that greatly benefits the manufacturer. This is the point when everyone should receive their reward. That means everyone, including the sales rep who worked so hard for the deal. For the sales representatives this means they should receive their hard-earned commissions.

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Ask most lawyers and they will tell you — seminars are typically boring. You sit in a bleak, windowless conference room. At the scheduled time, the speaker stands. The speaker then drones on and on (and on) until his time expires. By lunch, the audience is desperate for a break. After lunch, the audience struggles simply to stay awake. A few lawyers never return.

Yet, these boring events are necessary since our profession requires hours of continuing education each year. But, seminars don’t have to be boring. They should not be boring. They can, and should be, events where lawyers gather to mentor each other in their areas of practice.

I like to teach at least one seminar each year. I view these seminars as a great opportunity to meet other lawyers and to discuss issues important to my law practice. In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to speak a few times on issues involving personal injury, products’ liability, and workers’ compensation.

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Alabama Accident & Injury LawyersWe learn in school the right to a jury trial is fundamental. Yet, that basic right suffers constant attacks and problems from many sides. Special interest groups seek to limit accountability for misconduct. Lobbyists work to corrupt the system. Legislators in Alabama (and many other states) chronically underfund our Courts. Our court personnel work hard to provide fair trials with limited resources. While I’ve discussed many of these problems in past articles, today I want to talk about a practical issue that sometimes interferes with the court’s ability to conduct trials – the importance of having enough potential jurors present for trial.

This morning, the Huntsville Times ran an article about a local case that had to be continued due to a lack of potential jurors. The local case involves a proposed rock quarry and claim for damages against a local municipality. Naturally, it’s a high profile case. In high profile cases, it’s difficult to find impartial jurors under ideal circumstances. That’s understandable. Residents living in and around a proposed quarry may have deep feelings on the issue. Bias for one side might prevent their service on the jury.

Yet, it appears the problem is not simply one of finding unbiased jurors. Instead, it’s a problem of starting numbers – too few people to even select a jury. Several civil jury trials were set in Madison County this week, including this high-profile quarry case. Yet, according to the newspaper article, only 90 potential jurors were available for all these cases. That’s too few to provide panels for all the scheduled cases. It’s far too few people when one of those cases also brings publicity and bias.

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