Articles Tagged with disability

Published on:

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.

Published on:

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.

Published on:

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.

Published on:

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.

Published on:

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.

Published on:

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:

Published on:

Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Alabama TBI VictimsWe have prepared many cases involving traumatic brain injury (TBI). This includes TBI caused by both automobile accidents and workplace accidents. TBI cases are very different than your “normal” car wreck or personal injury case.

Do you think routine medical professionals typically understand TBI? Think again. TBI is often misunderstood by medical professionals. Many medical professionals have wrong opinions about TBI. I’ve heard non-specialists WRONGLY state a patient has no TBI because a CT scan came back normal. In truth, many patients with mild TBI have normal scans. I’ve heard non-specialists WRONGLY assume a person with a “mild” TBI will always recover fully. Wrong again. While many mild TBI patients do recover, some continue to suffer long-term or permanent impairments. Many doctors and nurses do NOT understand this injury. That lack of understanding also makes TBI cases very difficult.

Because so many people fail to understand TBI cases, we advocate for strong family involvement. The injured person’s closest family and friends are typically in the best position to observe changes in behavior, emotion, memory or cognitive ability. We also recommend testing and treatment by specialists.

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.