Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

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Alabama Injured Worker HelpI talk to injured Alabama workers every week. The moments and days after an accident can be uncertain and difficult. You may be hurting and unsure what to do. You may have many worries and questions. Will I be able to continue working? Will my employer fire me? How will I get medical treatment? Will I be able to pay my bills? Who can I trust?

The truth — Alabama’s work comp laws favor employers. Too often injured workers suffer needles pain and disability while navigating a hostile system. Insurance company denials. Treatment delays. Biased caregivers. Hostile employers. All of these are commonplace.

Your choices and actions right after a work-related accident and injury can prevent you from getting the medical care and benefits you deserve. Here are five common mistakes workers make following a work-related accident and injury.

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Blackwell Law Firm: Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersI read an interesting article last week in a work comp blog where the author asks the question:  What’s Next for Pain — Pharma? The author then discusses available medications he believes could serve as alternatives to prescription opioids. Opioid abuse is a major issue nationwide.

The article’s author is an executive at a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) in the work comp industry. I started the article with a little bias and hesitation. If you work for a PBM, your main concern centers on prescriptions — reimbursement and cost. After suing a different PBM several years ago, I developed a healthy degree of skepticism as to whether drug payers are really interested in patients. I don’t say that to judge the author or his company.

I will say this author begins with the right issue. He points out that as opioid prescriptions decline, providers and payers have not embraced other treatment modalities. That is an important issue for injured people suffering chronic pain. We must address and treat hurting people. The author then discusses several alternative medication therapies. I represent many injured workers facing chronic pain. So, the discussion of alternative treatments peaked my interest.

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Blackwell Law Firm Fights Insurance Company DenialsYou suffered a work-related accident. You properly reported the accident to your company. You did everything correctly. Now, you expect work comp to provide medical care. After all, that’s how workers’ compensation should work. If you are like most people, all you really want is to heal as quickly as possible.

What happens next? Many companies have an occupational doctor or medical clinic to treat injured employees. Some people call them “gatekeepers.” Some of these “gatekeepers” wrongly and unjustly try to lock the gate to real medical care. In northern Alabama, we have just a couple clinics that handle almost all initial workplace accidents and injuries. These occupational clinics are supposed to treat injuries. Their doctors are supposed to help you. Don’t doctors take an oath to help their patients?

Most doctors take their responsibility seriously. Most doctors care deeply for their patients. I know many doctors who do. Yet, these few gatekeeper occupational clinics are NOT like most doctors. These clinics work for industry for a reason — Cost Savings. Fewer recorded injuries means cost savings. Less medical treatment means cost savings.

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Huntsville Personal Injury AttorneysI’m not writing to debate the pros or cons of medical marijuana. I’ll leave that to others. It’s a debate playing out in many states. Last week, two Alabama Senators (both of whom are doctors) debated the topic in the Senate chamber. One Senator, an anesthesiologist, debated in support of medical marijuana. The other, an obstetrician, debated against it. The Alabama Legislature has been debating bills that would allow medical uses.

Again, I’m not writing to debate the proposed legislation. My blog deals with Alabama personal injury issues. How would legal marijuana impact Alabama workers’ compensation claims? I believe the issue intersects personal injury law in a number of ways. From car wrecks to work comp, it’s an issue that will impact claims. For today, let’s talk about possible impacts on work comp.

Impairment or intoxication from drugs and alcohol can be a defense to work-related injury claims in Alabama. While substances like alcohol may be legal (for adults), a delivery driver who injures himself in an accident caused by his own drunk driving is not going to receive full work comp benefits.

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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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Workplace Accident & InjuryRecently, someone asked us the following question:

If you get attacked while working, does workers comp pay?

That’s a good question. It is within our law firm’s area of personal injury. And, we have actually handled past work comp cases involving this issue. What’s the answer? The answer is a qualified yes. C’mon, you know tough legal issues rarely have absolute answers. The answer is, yes, an attack CAN be a work comp case. But, the details are very important.

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Huntsville Accident & Injury Lawyers at Blackwell Law FirmA recent news article tells the story of a severely injured worker in Florida. It’s an all too familiar story. It’s a common story we frequently see in cases across Alabama.

What happened? A sudden workplace explosion! An employee badly injured and badly burned. Days and nights in the hospital followed.

Life after the hospital is often difficult for injured workers seeking treatment. The worker and his or her family are often left trying to navigate a maze of doctors, case nurses and insurance adjusters. For many injured workers the process is beyond frustrating.

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Huntsville Work Comp Attorneys - Blackwell Law FirmA new study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) asks whether employees injured at work are more likely to file under workers’ compensation instead of group health insurance when their group health plan has a higher deductible. That’s interesting but it misses the real issue. The real question is why an injured worker would ever consider seeking medical care outside the workers’ compensation system at all. Really? Workers’ compensation systems were enacted in Alabama (and other states) to provide basic benefits like medical treatment. If those systems worked as intended, this would be a non-issue. Yet, workers consider using private health insurance because the work comp system has largely failed its primary purpose.

I speak with injured workers on a daily basis. Almost all of them have one goal. They want to get better and resume their normal life with work and family.

The WCRI research article wrongly frames the issue as a decision based simply upon medical deductibles. Let’s really examine why an injured worker would consider private health insurance (instead of work comp) in the first place. Injured workers should face NO barriers obtaining necessary medical care under workers compensation. But, they do. Those barriers are substantial and unjust. Here are three big ones:

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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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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.