Articles Tagged with disability

Published on:

Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersIn May 2017, an Alabama Circuit Court Judge in Birmingham declared Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act unconstitutional. What were the reasons why? Our law placed caps on benefits for workers suffering a permanent partial disability and on the attorneys who help those injured workers. The Birmingham case was later resolved and the Act remains in force. So, workers’ compensation benefits continue to be provided in Alabama. Yet, the decision started discussions about the unjust nature of our Act.

The cap on benefits for partially disabled workers is especially unfair and unjust. The cap was enacted decades ago. While everything else has been adjusted for inflation, the cap has not. The result — partially disabled workers receive a benefit placing their families below the poverty level. That is a horrible way for us to treat the working men and women in our communities.

Following the Judge’s decision, a task force formed to propose changes in our workers’ compensation laws. I’ve been concerned since the beginning. Why? My concern is this — What important benefits will workers lose in exchange for a modest increase in partial disability benefits? My concern is real. Across the United States, we have seen a slow erosion of workers’ compensation benefits. In other states, task forces and legislative proposals gave workers something small in  exchange for taking other more valuable benefits. Repeatedly, other state legislatures de-valued their most important resource — the working men and women of their state. If I’m worried this Alabama task force will “dangle” a carrot of increasing one benefit while taking others, I’ve seen it elsewhere.

Published on:

First Notice Of InjuryThe rate of workplace accidents is much higher than reported. That’s long been my opinion. I’ve spent over two decades listening to workers talk about their injuries. I frequently hear stories of accidents reported late or not reported at all. And, I hear many stories of workers who reported their accident to the supervisor. Yet, the supervisor failed to forward the report properly.

Why are so many accidents and injuries unreported? Several reasons exist. One of the most common reasons some companies fail to report employee injuries — An effort to avoid injury claims costs. Because of weak reporting rules and the lack of worker protection laws, the companies that choose to ignore proper reporting often calculate it is easier simply to terminate the employee when needed.

My opinion that accidents are underreported is based on experience handling workers’ compensation cases. A recent study in Michigan now provides data to support my position. Michigan State University researchers collected data over a period of several years. While their study is limited to Michigan, the issues are similar in Alabama. What does the data collected in Michigan reveal?

Published on:

scaffold-14253_640-300x201A widow recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit over the fatal fall of her husband in the workplace. The news article tells a story all too familiar to me. What happened? The worker was standing on a mobile scaffold and installing tile. The mobile scaffold toppled backwards, causing the worker to fall.

Falls from heights are a leading cause of workplace fatalities. And, this new wrongful death case highlights another example of a fall that could have easily been prevented. In the last decade, I’ve represented numerous workers and their families involving work site falls. Falls from scissors lifts. Falls from scaffolds. Falls from other mobile platforms. Falls from unmarked openings. Falls from unstable support structures. I’ve had cases involving each of them. All these terrible fall accidents have a common issue — They all could have been prevented with a little advance safety planning by management. In every one of them, an accident altered the life of a worker and his/her family in an instant.

In the new wrongful death case, the widow alleges the scaffold equipment was not working properly. She also alleges the scaffold equipment did not come with written materials explaining proper operations. I’m not surprised. That’s a common issue. I’ve seen it in several of my fall injury cases. In my past cases, I’ve seen workers asked to operate complex mobile lifts at heights with zero training and zero instruction. I’ve seen workers asked to operate mobile lifts with no ground-level supervision or spotter. I’ve seen workers asked to operate mobile lifts with no consideration of co-workers moving around them on the site. Management simply ignored the risks.

Published on:

Blackwell Law Firm - HuntsvilleA Fortune magazine article asks the question, “What happens to your employer if you die at work?” The article details the work-related death of a Walmart employee. The author then makes his point:

The ugly truth is that when it comes to ensuring your safety on the job, your employer has very little to lose.

Since that Fortune article, some Federal worker safety standards have actually decreased. And, in Alabama, we’ve annually seen an effort to reduce already unjustly low workers’ compensation benefits (including basic medical care) needed by injured workers. I’ve written in prior years about this annual effort to lessen basic benefits. I’ll continue to oppose those unjust proposals.

Published on:

Blackwell Law Firm - Alabama Personal Injury LawFall protection. A recent OSHA penalty following a fatal fall serves as a strong reminder of two things:

  • Falls from heights are a leading cause of workplace injuries and deaths.
  • Simple safety steps can prevent most serious falls.
Published on:

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:

Published on:

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?

Published on:

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.
Published on:

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.

Published on:

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.