Articles Tagged with medical

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Huntsville Personal Injury AttorneysI’m not writing to debate the pros or cons of medical marijuana. I’ll leave that to others. It’s a debate playing out in many states. Last week, two Alabama Senators (both of whom are doctors) debated the topic in the Senate chamber. One Senator, an anesthesiologist, debated in support of medical marijuana. The other, an obstetrician, debated against it. The Alabama Legislature has been debating bills that would allow medical uses.

Again, I’m not writing to debate the proposed legislation. My blog deals with Alabama personal injury issues. How would legal marijuana impact Alabama workers’ compensation claims? I believe the issue intersects personal injury law in a number of ways. From car wrecks to work comp, it’s an issue that will impact claims. For today, let’s talk about possible impacts on work comp.

Impairment or intoxication from drugs and alcohol can be a defense to work-related injury claims in Alabama. While substances like alcohol may be legal (for adults), a delivery driver who injures himself in an accident caused by his own drunk driving is not going to receive full work comp benefits.

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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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Huntsville Truck Accident LawyersCommercial truck driver health is a safety issue on our highways. In past articles, I’ve discussed the serious health problems truck drivers suffer. Truckers suffer much higher rates of problems like diabetes, sleep apnea and morbid obesity. These health conditions can slow driver reactions and concentration — putting everyone at risk for needless injury or death. The long hours of sedentary work away from home in many truck driving jobs contributes to these health issues and makes medical care difficult.

Medical certification requirements for commercial truckers are an important part of highway safety. But, the system only works if medical certifications are legitimate, honest and fair. Unfortunately, they are not. Too many unsafe commercial drivers are allowed on our highways.

The Federal regulations have allowed truly unqualified medical examiners to issue certifications. A chiropractor may be qualified to perform therapeutic treatments for a pulled lower back muscle but is he or she really qualified to certify a trucker with dangerous sleep apnea? The Federal regulations have also allowed unhealthy truckers on our roads. Let’s look again at sleep apnea. It can be a big safety issue. Yet, unsafe drivers are routinely certified without requiring medical treatment or monitoring for the condition. The rules fail to adequately address specific health issues like sleep apnea, diabetes, morbid obesity or drug dependence. I’ve written several articles about these issues in the past. For more information on sleep apnea and truck safety, you can read my article titled Sleep Apnea:  Government Chooses Trucking Industry Over Safety.

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Alabama Car Accident Lawyers at Blackwell Law FirmIt’s not an Alabama car accident case. Rather, it’s a recent New Jersey case. Yet, it provides a valuable lesson for car accident victims in Alabama and elsewhere. Be careful what you sign! The case started as a car accident that left an innocent driver with personal injuries and car damage. Fortunately, the negligent driver who caused the crash had liability coverage.

The morning after the accident, an insurance claims adjuster called the injured driver and asked to “inspect” her damaged car. That’s OK. After getting permission, the claims adjuster arrived with “paperwork” to “expedite the property damage claim.” The injured driver signed the paperwork. Rather than property damage paperwork, the document was a general release of all claims. By signing, the injured driver released all her claims for both personal injury and property damage.

If you read some of our past articles, you know we believe accident victims can often resolve property damage claims without the need for a lawyer. The same is true for minor injury claims. Unfortunately, we have an entire industry of settlement mill lawyers smiling from billboards and skimming attorney fees from minor cases that could have been resolved without them.

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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 - Alabama Personal Injury LawyersYou are injured from an accident. You are pursuing a claim for damages or compensation. Suddenly, the insurance carrier wants you to see its doctor for an examination. If your case involves a car accident or work comp claim, you may face this request. Sometimes, the insurance carrier even calls its request an “independent medical exam.” Yet, these exams are neither independent nor fair.

Before I talk about the biased insurance company doctor, let me say that these biased doctors are small in number. Lawyers who frequently prepare and try cases will tell you they see the same few bad ones repeatedly. Doctors are like any other profession. Almost all of them are dedicated to serving their patients. The same rule applies to lawyers, accountants, and any other professional. But, a few bad apples exist.

With lawyers, the bad apples are those settlement mill lawyers making promises while refusing to do the work really needed to help clients. When it comes to automobile accident, workers’ compensation or disability claims, we see a few doctors who seemingly make their living issuing misleading reports so claims can be denied. In both the legal and medical professions, the bad ones want to make money pushing paper instead of getting to the heart of their clients’ stories and losses. One sure sign of biased doctors is that many of them have little or no medical practice outside insurance company evaluations. Good doctors actually treat patients. Good doctors don’t make their living generating claims reports.