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Articles Tagged with expert

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Insurance Claims

Is The Insurance Company Pulling The Strings?

I’ve been reading Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy. Recent events across our country highlight the injustices described in this book and add to the immediate urgency for a more just system. It’s especially difficult to read Just Mercy when you are familiar with many of the cities and counties where the injustices in the book occurred. It’s also especially difficult to read the book when recent events across our nation remind (everyone) that systematic injustice and racism remain current events. Changes are needed.

When I started this blog several years ago, I committed to discussing solely personal injury issues. For the most part, I’ve kept that commitment. This week, it is especially difficult to do so. But, I’m going to try.

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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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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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Personal Injury - Blackwell Law Firm
We trust our doctors. We should. Most doctors are dedicated to helping people. In Huntsville, we are fortunate to have excellent medical professionals.

This post is not about those dedicated doctors (the vast majority) who treat and help their patients. This post is about the rare (but extremely harmful) doctor who earns his/her living not by treating patients — but by selling biased and false opinions for insurance companies in an effort to mislead courts and juries. These paid insurance experts are usually not local. And, they usually don’t provide treatment to real patients. Every profession has a few bad apples. When it comes to these “paid biased experts,” their impact harms the entire justice system.

I’ve cross-examined these biased, paid experts for many years. A recent news article in Nevada highlighted a doctor in that state who was banned from testifying by two local judges. In banning this paid expert, the Nevada judges issued a blistering opinion. The judges found the paid expert gave opinions based “heavily on speculation and other irrelevant factors.” They also found the insurance expert had a “history of personal bias as to some treating physicians and extreme bias” against plaintiffs.

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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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We represent numerous clients in traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases. These cases are unique. They are often complex. They require study and preparation. At our firm, we follow a unique approach that: (1) emphasizes current scientific research into TBI issues; and, (2) when possible, integrates the victim’s family into their care.

Outside of our cases, we continue to advocate for TBI issues. We highlight national brain injury awareness month each March. I regularly write and post TBI articles on my blog.

Today, I want to discuss one specific TBI issues — The refusal by some neuropsychologists to disclose their underlying data. Many TBI cases involve expert neuropsychologists. These are professionals with specialized training who conduct detailed tests to understand the problems a person suffers following a head trauma.

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Legal Help For The Seriously Injured In AlabamaAttorneys who handle personal injury cases know that so-called independent medical examinations (IMEs) are really not independent at all. They are neither independent nor real medical examinations.

These exams are usually an effort by the insurance company and its defense lawyers to purchase a false and misleading opinion. They are an effort to create evidence and mislead juries. Many of the doctors who perform these examinations are absolutely biased against the patient.

What really bothers me is that many plaintiff attorneys willingly let their clients submit to these biased and bogus exams. Attorneys who simply let their clients submit to these examinations are not acting in their client’s best interests. The false and misleading IME reports purchased by insurance carriers can have devastating effects upon injured workers and accident victims seeking justice. They harm all of us by distorting the truth.

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Alabama Accident & Injury LawyersI recently read an article by attorney Edwin Lamberth titled “Beating the Malingering Defense” on his firm’s blog. Edwin is an excellent attorney practicing in Mobile, Alabama. I’ve discussed personal injury cases with Edwin on many occasions. His post raises a frequent issue in our personal injury cases.

What is the issue? What is the “malingering defense” used by insurance companies and their lawyers? As Edwin notes in his article, defense lawyers will rarely come right out and say your injured client is exaggerating or faking his injuries. If they did, you could prove them wrong and destroy their credibility. Instead, these insurance company lawyers will imply bad motives, cast doubt on the injured person’s efforts or suggest he may be exaggerating. While an outright accusation of malingering could be proven wrong, a hint or cloud of suspicion leaves doubt that is more difficult to defeat. That’s the plan followed by insurance defense lawyers.

How do you handle shadows of doubt cast by insurance company lawyers in your personal injury claim? Most lawyers for injured claimants ignore the shadow of doubt. But, that is the absolute worst approach in most cases. I agree with the advice offered by Edwin in his article.

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