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

Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

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Huntsville Personal Injury AttorneysWhat Personal Injury Cases Are At Issue?

If you are hurt on the job in Alabama, you are likely entitled to work comp benefits. What if you were hurt because someone else was also negligent? You still have a work comp case. If the negligent person was a co-worker, that’s probably all you have. With a few limited exceptions for things like intentional conduct, your employer (and co-workers) are immune from claims outside workers compensation.

Sometimes, the negligent person is a third-party. That is, the negligent person did not work for your employer. If you are hurt due to the negligence of another person (outside your employer), you may also have a separate personal injury claim to recover your damages. In these cases, you likely have BOTH a work comp claim and a negligence claim against the third-party.

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Huntsville / Decatur Accident & Injury LawyersCan I get work comp benefits if injured while working from home? In recent days, I’ve been asked this question several times. Across Alabama, many workers are adjusting to remote work requirements from the COVID-19 crisis. Hopefully, these adjustments are temporary. With this new reality, let’s discuss how home-based work impacts workers’ compensation benefits.

Does The Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act Specifically Address Home-Based Workers?

Unfortunately, the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act does not specifically address home-based workers. And, the Alabama Supreme Court has not yet provided a detailed opinion exactly on this issue. So, we do not have a bright-line answer to the specific home-based situations where work comp benefits are available (or are not available). Although the statute does not expressly address home-based workers, we do have some general rules that help. So, let’s look at the general rules as well as some past injuries outside an employer’s factory or office which court’s have previously found compensable.

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https://www.alabamainjurylawyer-blog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/122/2020/04/Need-Advice-Have-Legal-Questions-We-Are-Available.-300x300.pngDuring this difficult time, people are worried. Health. Work. Finances. Family. All are worries. Many people are asking, when will life return to normal.

I spoke with someone earlier this week who had waited five weeks for the doctor to review his MRI. The caller suffered a work-related injury. He was seeing a doctor authorized by work comp. He underwent an MRI. Now, he is sitting and waiting to hear the results. It’s a slow process in normal times. Even in normal times, our injured neighbors wait too long for treatment. These are NOT normal times.

Our attorneys answer workers compensation questions for callers on a daily basis. We’ve compiled some of the most frequent questions to create a Workers Compensation FAQ page on our website. If you cannot find your question on that page, let us know. We are happy to discuss the issue with you. Our consultations are always free.

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How will Covid-19 affect my case? Many of our clients and callers are asking this question. Our personal injury clients will be impacted by the novel coronavirus. This especially includes injury clients with work comp claims. Injured workers are especially vulnerable to delays in medical care or claims.

As I wrote in a prior post, the Blackwell Law Firm is open and operational. Our firm has long operated with a system that allows its lawyers to work and prepare for cases remotely across Alabama. We have long-established processes that allow us to work remotely as needed. In normal times, we are frequently working from counties and courts across Alabama. Our established processes will be especially valuable during current events. Within our office, we have taken steps to protect our staff and clients. We continue to help our clients and to prepare their cases. We believe it essential that injured clients have access to needed legal advice. You can read my prior post on our general firm procedures here.

For our work comp clients, I have listed a few of the most frequently asked questions by callers. I hope this information helps. If you have additional questions or concerns, let us know. We are happy to provide information.

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BLACKWELL-LAW-FIRM-ALABAMA-WORKPLACE-SAFETY-LAWYERS-300x300The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced the Top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for 2019. What were they?

  1. Fall Protection – General Requirements
  2. Hazard Communication
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Alabama Work Comp ClaimsSurveillance. Hurt at work? Have an Alabama work comp claim? You should expect surveillance. What should you know about workers’ compensation claims and surveillance? Here are a few thoughts.

A Few Ways Surveillance Can Be Used Against You

  1. To Show You Are NOT Disabled. Most injured people have good days and bad days. If you’ve ever hurt your back, you know what I mean. Some days you feel practically bedridden. Other days, you feel better. An investigator may conduct days or weeks of surveillance on you. Yet, it will never be seen. Only a few moments will be on video – the few moments when you were at your best. This is all the insurance carrier needs to create doubt at trial. My advice:  Be honest from the start about your condition. If you have good and bad days, tell the truth. And, avoid activities that worsen your pain.
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Blackwell Law Firm -- Alabama Personal Injury LawyersWhat is a panel of four? How can it impact your Alabama work comp case? Why am I discussing the issue now? Medical treatment is an important issue to injured Alabama workers. We answer questions for callers on this issue almost every day at our office. Since the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals recently discussed the issue, I thought it was a good time for me to do so as well.

When you suffer a serious work-related accident, a lot of worries come to mind. Will I receive good medical care? Will I heal and recover? Will I be able to continue working? Our work comp system was created to provide medical and disability benefits. If you suffer a work-related accident, you are entitled to medical treatment. Your employer (through its insurer) is obligated to provide treatment. It should be simple. But, too often it’s not. Too often, employers and their insurance companies delay, deny, or just ignore medical care. When they do, you suffer.

WHO PICKS THE FIRST DOCTOR?

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Alabama Accident & Injury LawyersWorkers at meat and poultry plants suffer some of the highest rates of occupational injury. In his 1906 book, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair wrote of the occupational dangers within Chicago’s meat processing plants. A hundred years later, food processing plants still function as if human labor and lives are expendable.

Chicago is famous for the meat-packing industry. In Alabama, these plants are typically chicken processing plants. They are places that employ people at low wages and expose them to non-stop processes. You don’t need me to tell you that many of these plants have a shameful history of workplace injuries and deaths. The numerous news stories already tell that history. Too many of these plants view people as cheap and expendable labor. But, that’s NOT how we should value human lives.

Over the last twenty years, I’ve represented numerous workers injured in Alabama poultry plants. Shoulder, arm and hand injuries are rampant. The assembly line moves too fast for any human to work long-term without injury. Yet, it’s more than just rapid assembly line injuries. The lack of safety concern also produces many injuries from falls, forklifts, and heavy lifting without proper equipment.

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Alabama Workers Compensation HelpWorkers’ compensation benefits are intended to help restore injured workers. At least, that’s the original intent. That’s why medical treatment and vocational rehabilitation should be top priorities. Heal and restore whenever possible.

Yet, over the last couple decades, our system has largely devolved into a mess leaving many injured workers without benefits. Instead of help, too many injured workers are simply shuffled through the system. I’ve written numerous articles about the current work comp medical system and how it fails injured workers.

Another area where our current work comp system fails — Vocational Rehabilitation. What does “vocational rehabilitation” even mean in Alabama? The phrase is never fully defined by our workers’ compensation statute. Most lawyers and most courts really don’t understand the meaning of the phrase. Why not? The answer is that our courts have so limited its practical effect to the point vocational rehabilitation is largely non-existent and never legitimately offered.

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You just suffered a work-related accident and injury. What are your biggest concerns? If you are like most people, your biggest concerns are healing and paying the bills while healing. You want to return to your normal life as soon as possible. Our work comp system was originally intended to help you with that goal.

Yet, the system has become something different. Unjust delays and denials have become normal. From the start, you are placed in a system that protects the insurance company’s interest over years. Many injured workers have difficulty just seeing a doctor. The insurance company (when the adjuster bothers to return your call) even picks your doctor.

Did the work comp carrier pick you a good doctor? Will the work comp carrier authorize needed medical treatment? Maybe you are worried but hopeful when treatment starts. In some cases, the system runs fairly smoothly. In others, an insurance company adjuster chooses to delay care, deny benefits, or ignore requests.

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