Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

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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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Blackwell Law Firm -- Helping The Injured In AlabamaYou suffer a work-related injury. You report the accident. You ask the boss for medical treatment. That’s what you are supposed to do. Now, you expect medical care. It should be “honest” medical care that puts a priority on you — the patient.

Where does your medical care start? Some factories have first aid stations in their facility. Many other businesses use a local “occupational” clinic as a starting point for injured workers. Can you expect “real and honest” medical care at the company clinic? Can you trust the company doctor? Some company nurses and physicians really try to help the injured. But, a few neglect their medical calling. These bad ones work against the injured. They are biased for the company paying them.

A WORK COMP SCANDAL AT TESLA

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Alabama Accident & Injury LawyersHurt on the job? If so, the insurance carrier may look for a reason to deny your claim. One of their favorite reasons (and usually a wrong one) is to claim you had a pre-existing condition. On a weekly basis, we listen to injured workers who were (wrongly) denied benefits by the insurance company. What makes this wrongful denial so bad — Many lawyers advertising for injury cases simply accept the denial and refuse to help their clients. Many times, the insurance company denial is wrong.

How Should We View Workers’ Compensation Benefits In Alabama?

Alabama courts have stated over-and-over again that workers’ compensation benefits are “not limited to those in perfect health.” Of course they are not limited. Working men and women deserve a system that provides medical care and basic benefits following a serious accident. If the system required anyone over the age of 35-40 with a history of heavy labor work to have a perfect back, benefits would be worthless. Nobody would be covered.

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Alabama Work Comp LawyersCase nurses are common in Alabama workers’ compensation cases. Many insurance companies use case nurses to “assist” with medical care.

If you suffered a work-related accident and injury, the work comp process can be challenging. Maybe frustrating is the better word.

Suddenly, you have a serious accident. Your life changes immediately and drastically. When can you return to work? When will you heal? Can you take care of your family? You are hurting and you are worried. Now, you are leaving messages for an insurance adjuster or sitting in waiting rooms simply to see a doctor.

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Blackwell Law Firm helps injured workers across Alabama.I read a disturbing article in the Insurance Journal last week. The title says it all:

$2B Orlando Highway Construction Project Halted After 5th Worker Death

Five separate workplace deaths on one project! One fatal work-related accident is INEXCUSABLE. Five? It’s hard to comprehend. How could one site be so deadly? How could the contractor allow this to happen? Worker deaths from safety issues are ALWAYS inexcusable.

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Seriously injured in Alabama? Seek skilled legal advice before seeing insurance doctors. Our firm can help.The weeks and months following a serious work-related accident can be some of the most stressful in your life. One day you are fine. The next, you are hurt and unable to work. Medical treatment, long-term recovery, household bills, and job security, are the most important things in your mind.

Work comp should provide needed medical care without delay. That was the original intent. Yet, the system often fails. Insurance companies and their adjusters ignore doctor requests, fail to return your calls, and work to delay care. You suffer. I hear these complaints about adjusters on a daily basis. You are not alone in your frustration.

Many times, an adjuster or case nurse will suddenly call you out of the blue with an appointment for an “independent medical examination” by some new doctor. They may even tell you the visit is needed to understand treatment options. Don’t forget, the real goal of the insurance company is ALWAYS to save its money.

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Blackwell Law Firm -- Alabama Personal Injury LawyersWhat’s The Deal With Biestek v. Berryhill?

In Biestek v. Berryhill, a construction worker applied for Social Security disability benefits. Following a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied his benefit application. The ALJ decision denying social security benefits is not unusual. The real question in the case was whether or not Biestek had a fair hearing.

In Social Security hearings, the ALJ will often retain a vocational expert to provide opinion testimony. In Biestek, that vocational expert testified the worker could perform a number of different jobs in the national economy. In other words, Biestek was not vocationally disabled. The vocational expert then testified she reached her opinions based upon individual market surveys in her possession. So, on cross-examination, Biestek’s attorney asked to see the data. That’s fair. That’s a very reasonable request. Should any expert be allowed to give an opinion while refusing to show the underlying data? That’s when the ALJ intervened and refused the lawyer’s request. What we now have is an expert who provided an unsubstantiated and unsupported opinion.