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Articles Tagged with disability

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Blackwell Law Firm -- Alabama Accident & Injury LawyersThe month of March is recognized as a time to promote awareness of brain injuries. Why do we focus on brain injuries?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases are different than other injuries. TBI victims often go undiagnosed and untreated. Emergency rooms are good at saving lives. However, they often ignore the signs and symptoms of a mild TBI. Later physicians may lack the experience or training to diagnose or treat a mild TBI. TBI victims are left to suffer in silence.

Many TBI victims also look “normal.” No scars. No casts. No assistive devices like wheelchairs. When you couple the often “normal” appearance with the lack of diagnosis, many of these patients are doubted or questioned about their symptoms. Yet, almost one-third of patients with a mild-TBI suffer long-term problems working and living.

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Alabama Work Comp ClaimsSurveillance. Hurt at work? Have an Alabama work comp claim? You should expect surveillance. What should you know about workers’ compensation claims and surveillance? Here are a few thoughts.

A Few Ways Surveillance Can Be Used Against You

  1. To Show You Are NOT Disabled. Most injured people have good days and bad days. If you’ve ever hurt your back, you know what I mean. Some days you feel practically bedridden. Other days, you feel better. An investigator may conduct days or weeks of surveillance on you. Yet, it will never be seen. Only a few moments will be on video – the few moments when you were at your best. This is all the insurance carrier needs to create doubt at trial. My advice:  Be honest from the start about your condition. If you have good and bad days, tell the truth. And, avoid activities that worsen your pain.
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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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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.