Articles Tagged with medical treatment

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Blackwell Law FirmIn a prior post, I asked “Can A Simple Blood Test Reveal Traumatic Brain Injury?” At the time, the research looked promising. After writing that prior post, we continued to follow developments. Now, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a blood test for this purpose.

Why is a blood test for traumatic brain injury (TBI) significant? In a short answer — Many TBI victims suffer without a diagnosis, without treatment and without understanding. Following a traumatic incident, emergency rooms frequently fail to diagnose TBI cases.

Think about it. After a serious accident, you rush to the hospital. Suddenly, you are in a crowded emergency room. It can be a chaotic scene. While emergency rooms are designed to handle “emergencies” like yours, they are also overflowing with patients who lack the resources or finances to seek basic care elsewhere. Emergency room physicians and nurses work hard. They have hard jobs. They work to treat all patients. But, life and death issues take priority. They must. With so many patients and so many problems, many significant TBI cases go undiagnosed and untreated. After all, many TBI patients look normal.

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Blackwell Law FirmIf you have suffered a serious work-related injury, you may know the frustration. You report the accident. You ask for medical care. Then, your employer sends you to its “occupational” doctor. In Huntsville and many other communities, we have an “occupational” health clinic that typically serves this purpose.

You arrive at the occupational health clinic thinking you will get care. Does the occupational doctor ignore your pain or problems? Does the occupational doctor seem more concerned with the drug test than your injury? Does the occupational doctor misconstrue your history to claim the injury was a pre-existing problem? Or, does the occupational doctor simply neglect your care as long as possible? I’ve heard all the common frustrations. Trust me, they call that physician the “company doctor” for a very good reason.

If you continue to hurt, the occupational doctor may eventually refer you to a specialist. Now, you have a whole new set of frustrations. It takes forever to get an appointment. Afterwards, the insurance company (falsely) claims it never received the specialist’s reports or recommendations for treatment. You sit. You wait. You cannot get the treatment needed to heal. The insurance company uses “paperwork” and “approval” tactics to delay your treatment.

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Blackwell Law FirmAs a personal injury attorney, I often follow other trials and verdicts across Alabama. Recently, some excellent attorneys obtained a great verdict for their injured client in south Alabama. During that trial, the insurance company attorney argued that the personal injury victim could not be hurt because he waited 21 days to seek medical care. The argument:  A delay in getting medical care means you were not hurt!

The truth, short delays or gaps in medical care are common. They are very common. What are some reasons personal injury victims delay initial medical care? Here are seven common reasons:

  • A Dislike Of Medical Visits/Appointments. Who does like medical visits? Sitting in waiting rooms for hours. Endless forms. Doctors/nurses poking and prodding you. After an accident, you may be hurting. But, you are hopeful a few days or weeks of rest and you will be better. So, you wait and see. That’s normal. Yet, if you make a claim later, the insurance company will use your delay against you.
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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.