Articles Tagged with medical treatment

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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 Accident & Injury LawyersYou suffer injuries in a car accident. Paramedics arrive at the scene and carry you to the local hospital. When you arrive at the hospital, you provide your health insurance or Medicare information. You assume the bill is covered. Wrong. A few weeks later you receive a “hospital lien” in the mail. What?

Why is the hospital filing a lien against you and your car wreck claim? Why did the hospital refuse to bill your health insurance or Medicare? After all, you paid premiums (probably for years) for your health coverage. You paid premiums so you would have coverage when needed. I’ll tell you why the hospital refused to bill your insurance and filed a lien. Greed.

When you seek hospital treatment, the charges are inflated. Sometimes, they are greatly inflated. The hospital charges you inflated amounts knowing it will accept less (a reasonable amount) from health insurance. Look closely at your hospital lien paperwork! The hospital did NOT file a lien for the reasonable amount it always accepts from insurers or Medicare. No. The hospital filed a lien for the full, inflated charges. When you have an accident claim, Alabama law allows hospitals to file liens against your eventual settlement or recovery. Under existing Alabama law, the hospital has a right to collect those inflated amounts from any settlement of your car accident claim. So, hospitals often choose to file a lien rather than submit the bills to your health insurer.

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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 Personal Injury Victims In AlabamaLast week, I began discussing eight mistakes personal injury victims make during medical visits. You can read the first four mistakes with my advice, here. Today, I’m going to finish this topic with a discussion of four more mistakes. My hope is that you make the most of your visits and the treatment offered you. Your health and healing should be your top priority. With that in mind, here are four additional mistakes with my commentary about each:

     V.  Stopping Treatment Before Completion

This issue frustrates doctors. The doctor recommended a course of treatment because he or she felt it necessary to treat your injury. You should complete treatment. If you do not want to complete a specific course of treatment, you should talk with your doctor. Do not simply quit.

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Blackwell Law Firm Helps Alabama Injury VictimsDoctor visits can be uncomfortable and unfamiliar. You worry about treatment, recovery and cost. You worry about missing work or other activities. You wait for an appointment (maybe a long time). When you finally see the doctor, he or she is very busy. You are rushed to an examination room and have just moments to discuss your injury. The whole process is stressful.

I spend a lot of time reading about doctor visits from the medical records. In personal injury cases, the medical records are critical. Documentation is key. If you have a workers’ compensation claim, the insurance carrier will only approve prescribed treatment if the medical documentation supports it. If you have any type of personal injury case (whether car accident, workers’ compensation or anything else), the insurance company will only factor issues into its settlement offers if the documentation justifies them. If your claim eventually goes to trial, you will need the doctor’s testimony. When the doctor testifies, he will likely stick to the facts and issues documented in the medical records. Documentation is essential at every stage — Treatment, Negotiation and Trial.

At every visit, the doctor documents your history, treatment and condition. Because of that, an open and honest dialogue is essential. You need to pick a skilled and caring physician. Then, you also need to communicate properly regarding the injuries and treatment.

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Alabama Personal Injury Specialists - Blackwell Law FirmThrough the years, I’ve represented a number of personal injury victims who suffered Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This condition is also known as reflex sympathy dystrophy (RSD). You may have never even heard of it. Yet, CRPS is a devastating condition for patients. So, when I recently read the account of a person suffering from CRPS it sounded familiar. It sounded like the stories of pain my past clients have tearfully related. How does the patient’s story begin? How does the patient describe her pain?

It’s 4 a.m., and once again I’m unable to sleep.

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Fight Unfair Claims Delays And DenialsThe journal ProPublica previously published an investigative article on the companies who profit by handling workers’ compensation claims. These companies, the middlemen in claims, are largely unknown by the public. After all, they manufacture nothing. They produce nothing. They sell nothing of value to consumers.

The ProPublica article starts with a bizarre scene. Somehow the reporter gained entry into the private Las Vegas conference for these claims managers. This is what he saw:

A scantily clad acrobat dangles from the ceiling, performing flips and splits as machines puff smoke and neon lights bathe the dance floor in turquoise and magenta. Dancers in lingerie gyrate on poles to the booming techno. Actors dressed as aliens pose for selfies with partygoers. There’s an open bar and waiters weave through the crowd passing out chocolate truffles.

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Blackwell Law Firm helps Alabama personal injury victimsA large part of my work involves simply interviewing, and talking with, personal injury victims. One theme is clear in my interviews — People suffering a personal injury want to heal and return to their normal life. They want to recover. They are often worried they will not recover. Proper medical care is essential to recovery from serious injuries.

At our office, we spend a lot of time talking with hurting people. And, we spend a lot of time reading medical records. In many cases, communication issues between the doctor and patient delay or hinder medical treatment. In some cases, miscommunication issues get documented and become serious hurdles to medical treatment as well as any injury claims. We try to advise our clients throughout the process to help their treatment and recovery progress.

A recent research article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine deals with the issue of patient-physician communications. The article uses the phrase “patient-centered” medical care. That’s a good phrase. Medical care should be patient-centered. Yet, it is instead too often centered around the insurance company or the flow of the medical facility. According to the research in this article, physicians only elicit the patient’s problems and agenda in 36% of visits. The researchers actually concluded:

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Blackwell Law Firm - North Alabama Workers Compensation AttorneysIt’s a common pattern. A worker at a large factory suffers an on-the-job injury. He tells his supervisor who then sends him to the plant nurse. Many big factories have an on-site nurse or first-aid department. So, the hurting worker goes to first aid. Often, the hurting worker will return to the plant nurse several times over the course of days, weeks and months. Yet, the company does little or nothing to help its employee. Does the company send its hurt worker to a doctor? No. Does the company report the injury to its workers’ compensation carrier? No.

The injured employee continues to try and work. He or she continues to hurt. Eventually, one of two things usually occurs. Some injured workers simply give up. These employees seek outside medical care through private payment or private insurance. Other injured workers keep trying to work until the injury worsens severely. At that point, the injured worker cannot work. Because the plant nurse did not properly report the accident or injury, it may also be too late for workers’ compensation benefits. It’s a bad scenario for the injured worker.

Over the course of two decades, I’ve represented countless workers facing hurdles wrongly and needlessly created by the plant nurse. How does the plant nurse or first-aid department prevent needed medical care and workers’ compensation benefits? Here are a few ways a plant nurse can harm injured workers:

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emergency-room-3323451_1920-copy-300x200Traumatic brain injury (TBI) issues are a frequent topic for us. If you have read any of our past blogs, then you know we have big concerns that TBI victims are not diagnosed, not treated and not understood by both the legal and medical systems. Many issues contribute to the lack of understanding and treatment. Even many medical professionals fail to understand the significance of TBI issues.

A recent research study published in JAMA Network Open asked an important question — Do patients with mild traumatic brain injury receive adequate levels of follow-up care? You can read my entire post for more discussion of this issue. If you want an immediate answer, then it is “no” on follow-up care. According to the study author, a large proportion of TBI patients do not receive follow-up care after a personal injury even when continuing to suffer postconcussive problems.

The study followed patients who had been to the emergency room with a TBI at 11 different hospitals. Each of these hospitals was a level 1 trauma center – A hopital that provides the highest level of care to trauma patients. If you want to know more about the distinction in hospitals, the Alabama Department of Public Health has a map that indicates the Level 1 trauma centers in our state. Sadly, only Huntsville, Birmingham and Mobile/Baldwin Counties presently have Level 1 hospitals. A Montgomery channel has even written about the lack of a Level 1 hospital in that part of the State. What does this tell us about the TBI study? It tells us that it followed patients treated at the best trauma hospitals. Keep that in mind as I suspect the percentage of patients with no follow-up is much higher when you consider other hospitals.