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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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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 Injury AttorneysA recent entry on another lawyer’s blog titled Secrecy in Settlement Negotiations discusses a significant issue concerning lawsuit settlements. The issue? Confidential Settlement Agreements. I believe this is an important area of concern. When our firm settles a care, we explain the issue to our clients. We discourage our clients from agreeing to these settlement arrangements.

Why are confidential settlements an issue? Our legal system should work toward several goals. Deterring wrongful conduct. Accountability. Compensation for victims. A secret settlement defeats all these important purposes. When a settlement is secret, the defendant is much less likely to change its dangerous conduct. Others will continue to suffer injuries and damages. And, case after case will also continue to be litigated because the truth was concealed. Everyone suffers except the wrongdoer.

On an individual case level, a confidential settlement can also expose the injured party and his legal counsel to future liability. How? When parties sign a settlement agreement they expect the issues to be completely resolved. Yet, any accidental disclosure of a confidential deal in the future could result in a lawsuit by the original wrongdoer. If you enter a confidential deal, you might get sued for damages or the return of your settlement proceeds. Instead of resolving an injury claim, a confidential settlement can create future litigation.

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Alabama Sales Representative's Commission Contracts ActThe case is all too common. A manufacturer hires an independent sales representative. The sales representative works hard to bring in an important customer. Yet, once the manufacturer thinks the customer relationship is secure, the manufacturer cuts out the sales representative in an effort to increase its profits.

The manufacturer never paid an employee a salary to find, cultivate, or secure the valuable customer. The manufacturer never incurred costs to locate the customer. Instead, the manufacturer had an agreement with an independent sales representative to pay commissions based on the sales generated by the relationship. 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. This scenario – the clear abuse of the relationship between a manufacturer and its independent representative – has occurred so often that the Alabama Legislature enacted a special statute, the Alabama Sales Representative’s Commission Contracts Act, to address it.  Our courts have addressed the Act and its protections in cases like Lindy Manufacturing Company v. Twentieth Century Marketing, Inc., 706 So.2d 1169 (Ala. 1997).

Our legislature considered it so important to remedy this abuse, it crafted a statute that allows treble damages plus attorneys’ fees. The statute and its protections are vitally important to Alabama’s economy. The local economy, especially in the Huntsville area, is largely based on the development, production, and sales, of advanced technological products. Independent sales representatives often cultivate and secure the long-term customer relationships that fuel business growth. These independent representatives spend considerable time and effort connecting global manufacturers to their customers.