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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Injury LawyersEach year, our workers’ compensation system in Alabama faces new threats from the insurance industry. In some states, like Texas, the system has been dramatically altered leaving many injured workers unable to recover and return to gainful employment. Opt out systems like those in Texas often allow the largest and richest employers to write their own rules! Really, does anyone think companies like Walmart will write plans that truly protect their workers???

In Alabama, the system remains unfair. Year-after-year, our legislature refuses to address the injustice. Whenever the Alabama Legislature does consider even a slight improvement, it is simply an exchange for removing another valuable benefit. Indeed, big business and big insurance lobbyists view any slight effort to modify work comp laws as an opportunity to remove or reduce benefits.

Injured Alabama workers with a partial disability impacting their ability to work are often compensated below Federal poverty levels. Our state has not increased partial disability payments in over two decades! While benefits to workers are over two decades behind inflation, some of our legislators continue to propose new laws that would cut off other important benefits. These same legislators have raised their own pay (and that of other state officials during this time period).

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In a past article, I discussed a study that revealed work related illnesses and injuries cost at least $250 billion a year. My prior post raises the question — Why does our system not focus on safety? A small investment in safety would pay huge returns.

Our current system fails to invest in safety. While workers are penalized for some unsafe conduct, the system does nothing to the few reckless employers who cause most of the injuries. The most reckless and dangerous employers suffer no penalties under Alabama workers’ compensation laws. They suffer no penalties causing them to lose lucrative government contracts. They suffer almost no penalties from OSHA which is overstressed, understaffed and rarely inspects unsafe worksites. Unless we focus on real safety by penalizing reckless employers, we will continue to see far too many work related injuries.

What is the cost of occupational accidents and injuries to reckless and unsafe employers? At worst, the injury may result in some type of premium increase for work comp coverage? A recent UC Davis study showed that the majority of workplace injury and illness costs are not even paid through workers’ compensation insurance. Instead, these costs are simply shifted to the government. Think taxpayers like us! When it comes right down to it, reckless and unsafe employers dispose of their workers by shifting the costs of accidents and disabilities to the taxpayer.

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Huntsville Car Accident And Injury LawyersAlabama has a huge problem with uninsured and underinsured drivers. While Alabama law does require liability coverage, the law lacks needed enforcement. And, our law only requires minimum limits far too little for any serious personal injury or death. Because of this, car accident victims are often left without the compensation needed for their medical care or disabilities.

I’ve written several articles about the problems caused by Alabama drivers who don’t have liability insurance. Because of this issue, several Alabama legislators have worked to develop a system of instant verification. That’s a great first step. While important in keeping totally uninsured drivers off our roadways, instant verification does not completely resolve the problem. That system does nothing to resolve the problem created when a driver with insurance, but not enough insurance, causes an accident.

What if you suffer a disabling injury in a car accident caused by another driver? Suddenly, you cannot work. You are faced with huge medical bills. Then, on top of that, you discover the other driver had only $50,000 in insurance coverage. That coverage is certainly not enough to compensate you for a disability that causes you to be unable to work for the rest of your life. It covers only a fraction of your damages. If you suffer any significant injury, that is far too little coverage. Alabama currently only requires liability coverage in the amount of $25,000. That minimal amount is basically exhausted with a helicopter ride to the hospital or any significant testing in the emergency room. What can you do? How should you protect yourself from an at-fault driver who possesses minimum $25,000 liability limits? For that matter, how should you protect yourself from an at-fault driver who possesses a little higher liability limits of $50,000 or $100,000. After all, we are still talking far, far too little for any serious accident. Think about the impact on your family of an injury that prevents you from working. Think about the impact on your family of an injury that requires major surgery or a period of rehabilitation.

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Alabama Workers Compensation AttorneysFor a few workers’ compensation insurance carriers, the pattern is simple. Deny most claims. Assert some general reason such as a “preexisting” condition. Maybe you’ve heard this denial. These bad insurance carriers figure it’s an easy denial. After all, who was “perfectly” healthy prior to an accident.

I’ve seen the denial letters claiming a “preexisting” condition. It’s like the insurance company has a form letter and process. Just a few simple assembly line steps and your claim is denied:  Insert the injured person’s name and address. Hit print. Mail the denial letter. Move to the next claim!

While a few carriers seem to use a quick form denial for these claims, a few others play a different game. These carriers simply ignore the claim indefinitely asserting it is under “investigation.” In some cases, the insurance carrier makes more and more requests to continue its “investigation” while refusing to provide benefits. Whether denied or under an endless investigation, the result is the same. The injured person sits without the medical care needed to recover and return to work.

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