Articles Tagged with injury

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersAlabama remains a car-focused state. Historically, we have been a rural state with few areas where both cars and pedestrians are present. Naturally, most pedestrian injuries occur in the downtown areas of our largest cities or near our college campuses. I have read the research on pedestrian accidents and have prepared several serious pedestrian death cases for trial. I’ve also seen the many lawyer advertisements that beg for calls but provide no substance on these difficult cases. So, here are a few brief observations of mine related to Alabama pedestrian accidents.

Pedestrian Injuries Are Increasing

In a recent tweet, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) noted that over the last 10 years pedestrian deaths have increased 69% across the United States. The data shows increases in both pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. In its 2017 Alabama Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) recognized the rise in serious accidents:

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Blackwell Law Firm: Helping Alabama FamiliesWhat is Alabama’s Survival Statute? Ask yourself, what potential claims survive death and can be filed by an Estate? In our office, we specialize in Alabama personal injury claims. If an injury victim dies BEFORE he can file a personal injury case, will his Estate or heirs be able to file the claim? Alabama’s Survival Statute sets those rules. And, UN-filed personal injury claims do not survive the death of the victim in Alabama.

This can be a big deal. A really big deal. Here is an example — Your neighbor suffers devastating injuries when struck head-on by an intoxicated driver. He is rushed to the hospital. He spends months receiving costly, specialized medical care. His bills grow and grow. Because he cannot return promptly to work, he loses his job. His damages are huge. He is not the only one suffering. His family suffers as well. If your neighbor files a personal injury case, he can try to recover all his damages and losses. What if your neighbor dies? If he filed his case, then his Estate can continue to pursue the claims. What if your neighbor dies before he could file his case? Then, his UN-filed personal injury claim dies with him. His Estate cannot file a personal injury lawsuit. His Estate will face huge claims by the medical providers with no ability to recover money to pay those claims. Is this scenario fair? Is it fair that an Estate can maintain a personal injury claim in one scenario but not the other? Certainly not.

Wait. Doesn’t Alabama allow wrongful death claims? Yes. If the personal injury victim dies FROM his injuries, then his heirs can pursue a wrongful death claim. Yet, this scenario remains unfair for two reasons. First, this provides NO help for the Estate where the personal injury victim died of an unrelated cause. No wrongful death cases exists if the death is unrelated to the injuries. Second, under unique Alabama law, you cannot recover compensatory damages in a wrongful death claim. In Alabama, only punitive damages are recoverable in wrongful death claims. So, the Estate is still left unable to recover for huge medical expenses, lost wages and other specific injury-related costs.

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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?

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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.

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Blackwell Law Firm - HuntsvilleWhat are the most common risks of personal injury for workers? Each year, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reveals its data on the top 10 workplace safety violations. OSHA lists the most commonly cited violations for the year.

Because I frequently represent workers hurt on large industrial or construction worksites, I study the annual reports. Two issues are clear to me:

  1. The same safety hazards typically dominate the list every single year.
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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.