Articles Tagged with disability

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Blackwell Law Firm
You were hurt on the job. You received workers’ compensation benefits. But, a third-party (someone outside your work) caused the accident. You want to pursue a personal injury claim against that third-party.

The workers’ compensation carrier has a lien against your personal injury case. Under Alabama law, your employer (and its insurance carrier) have certain rights to get their money back if you win your personal injury case. At our firm, we routinely represent clients in both workers’ compensation and other personal injury cases. We understand how these areas of the law interact.

What happens when your employer or its insurance carrier file a lien against the third-party negligence case? The issues can be complicated. How you (or your lawyer) handle these issues can tremendously impact your bottom line. I could discuss these issues in significant detail. But, here are four quick tips to consider when handling this type of case:

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Photo by Bill JacobusIn many personal injury cases, wage losses are an important part of the damages. In many workers’ compensation claims, vocational disability (either partial or total) is the essential issue. How do we prepare our clients’ wage or vocational claims? We often use vocational experts. What is a vocational rehabilitation expert? Vocational experts possess special training related to the labor market and the jobs which may be available given a person’s limitations or restrictions.

Over the last two decades, I’ve questioned many vocational experts at trial. Too many lawyers attempt to cross-examine vocational experts using an argumentative style that gets nowhere. Big mistake. A lawyer who handles personal injury and workers’ compensation claims needs to understand the basics of vocational evaluations. This knowledge makes a huge difference in how much an injured client recovers by settlement or trial. If you are looking for a personal injury lawyer, make sure you ask if he or she has real trial experience using and questioning these experts.

A skilled lawyer can often expose deceptive defense experts. This requires an understanding of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). And, it requires a knowledge of how restrictions can impact a person’s ability to work. What are five common tricks used by defense  vocational experts to harm your personal injury claim?

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Blackwell Law Firm
A new year means a new push to harm disabled workers in Alabama. The current effort — a proposal by Decatur State Senator Arthur Orr. This is not a new effort. Senator Orr has renewed his yearly effort to cut-off medical and disability benefits for severely injured Alabama workers. Senator Orr’s proposal will harm our communities by pushing disabled workers off insurance benefits and on to taxpayer-funded government benefits. It’s a bad idea.

What are the changes Senator Orr continues to seek:

  • Legislation that severely and arbitrarily limits medical benefits for ALL injured workers in Alabama.
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Photo by KOMUnews

Emergency Rooms Fail To Diagnose Many Traumatic Brain Injuries

In past posts, I’ve discussed problems with emergency room protocols for accident victims who may be suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Emergency rooms often fail to diagnose significant cases of TBI as well as significant disc injuries in the spine. Our office regularly interviews victims of car accidents and work-related accidents with injuries left undiagnosed by emergency room personnel.

I get it. Emergency rooms are often crowded and chaotic. Emergency room professionals must worry about immediate life and death issues. Will the patient live? Is the patient at risk of paralysis? How do we stabilize the patient? These questions take priority. Yet, many significant TBI cases are left undiagnosed and untreated.

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A recent article I read tells the story of a bad Illinois workers’ compensation attorney. This bad attorney tried to make a bad settlement for his client. And, the bad attorney then tried to bully his client into accepting it. Although the article discusses an attorney in another state, it is not a unique story. It happens in Alabama as well. Too many attorneys fail to prepare their cases or go to trial when needed.

The story reminds me of a work comp case several years ago. I received a call from a man in nearby Athens who had suffered a very bad back injury. He had required spinal surgery for his injury and was now a chronic pain patient. He had not been able to work since the surgery. However, he already had a lawyer. His problem with that lawyer? His lawyer was trying to force him into accepting a settlement for an amount less than the defendant’s own expert concluded. This was not just a low offer. It was below what he would have received at trial if the court believed everything the employer argued. It was an unrealistically low offer. And, it should have been declined immediately.

When I heard the full story, I was shocked. Why was a lawyer trying to convince this clearly injured person to accept such a small amount? The injured worker had a good case. Why was a lawyer, any lawyer, trying to convince this clearly injured person to accept an offer below any reasonable expectation at trial? As I investigated the case, I learned the truth — that work comp lawyer was unwilling to fight for his clients in court. That lawyer had a track record of not preparing his cases. And, the insurance company offered a lower amount because it knew that lawyer’s track record. Make no mistake — insurance companies know which lawyers fight for their clients and which lawyers do not. It’s not just workers’ compensation cases. It also applies to car accidents. Insurance companies know the attorneys who accept far less than the full case value.

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Pre-Existing Condition. It’s one of the most common excuses used by insurance companies to deny workers’ compensation claims. And, the excuse is often wrong.

Our office regularly receives calls from people who have been (wrongly) denied benefits based on the excuse of a “pre-existing condition.” The injured worker usually had some pre-injury health problem the insurance company seized-upon to deny his or her claim. Remember, most people don’t have perfect health. And, our workers’ compensation system was not designed to help only those few people with perfect health.

So, what does Alabama’s workers’ compensation law say about prior health problems? How does our law define pre-existing disabilities? Can pre-accident health conditions affect a claim? These are good questions.

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Worker safety is important for our families, our communities and the long-term economic growth of our nation. A recent scaffold collapse in China highlights the importance of workplace safety standards. According to CNN, a scaffold/work platform built to help workers repair a Chinese power plant recently collapsed, killing at least 74 people. The New York Times also reported the tragedy, describing the scene more graphically:

Dozens of workers were crushed to death under an avalanche of scaffolding, cement and steel rods in southeast China.

The New York Times article continues by describing other recent huge Chinese industrial accidents including (1) an explosion at a chemical warehouse killing 173 people; and, (2) a landslide at a construction site killing at least 73 people. In China,

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At the Blackwell Law Firm we frequently get calls from injured workers with questions about maximum medical improvement (or MMI). We routinely handle workers’ compensation claims for Alabama workers.

What is MMI? How does MMI impact your case? These are important questions. Maximum medical improvement is an important issue in workers’ compensation cases.

1.  What is the significance of Maximum Medical Improvement?

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At the Blackwell Law Firm, we talk with many people who have been hurt at work. Some types of accidents occur much more frequently than others. A recent study by Travelers Insurance indicated the most frequent causes of workplace injuries. These causes include:

  • Material handling
  • Slips, trips and falls
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In the article “Getting Back on the Bike:  My Insurance-Driven Recovery,” a brain injury patient tells his recovery story. The patient, David, was riding his bicycle when a car struck him. In the years following his accident, David has healed from his physical injuries. Yet, he continues to suffer problems from his brain injury.

David’s story involves a life forever changed following a traumatic brain injury. It’s a story other head injury patients will understand.

Traumatic brain injuries affect many families. Many families have a loved one who suffers head injury problems from an automobile accident, motorcycle accident, bicycle accident or workplace accident. David’s story of healing reveals several common truths for brain injury patients. What are these common truths? They are: