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Articles Tagged with punitive damages

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Untitled-design-3-1-300x300Billboards. Television. Radio. Lawyer ads are everywhere. Anyone can smile and claim expertise! It’s much more difficult to perform the study and hard work necessary to win a complicated case. I’ve written previously that I would never hire a billboard lawyer for a serious case.

What about websites? I believe websites should contain good information for consumers. That’s why I wrote all the articles on my firm website. Unfortunately, too many lawyers purchase websites without writing or reviewing them for accuracy. Those sites contain canned content and marketing hype. Are you getting correct legal information? Are you getting the lawyer you thought you hired? These are big problems for people who need legal help.

For example, a local Huntsville DUI firm suddenly decided it wanted to advertise for personal injury and elder law cases. That firm created new billboards and a new website for their new specialties. Yet, one look at their website raises serious concerns. Their website has a Personal Injury page. Click on it. It looks nice. But, read to the bottom. That’s where you see the Disclaimer. What? Why do they need a disclaimer?

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Untitled-design-3-300x300Subrogation. Reimbursement. What do these concepts mean for personal injury cases? When you suffer a personal injury, your health insurer (or plan) pays your medical bills. For many people in Alabama, this means Blue Cross. It may also mean government programs like Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare. These health plans pay your bills. But, they usually have rights to recover their payments from your personal injury settlement. Their rights vary between private and government plans. I’ve addressed that issue in other articles.

The legal issues can be complex. And, understanding the rules (which differ between private and government plans) can make a huge difference in how much money you actually keep. This is an area where a skilled lawyer can really help you save money and maximize your final recovery.

What about wrongful death cases? Do health plans and programs have rights to reimbursement from wrongful death settlements? Does Medicare have reimbursement rights in Alabama wrongful death cases? I mention Medicare specifically because it covers so many people and also carries the weight of the government. While these insurers and plans do have reimbursement rights in personal injury claims, they don’t have the same rights in wrongful death claims.

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Alabama Wrongful Death Attorneys (Blackwell Law Firm)I’ve written some prior articles discussing Medicare’s rights to be reimbursed for medical payments from settlements or judgments in personal injury claims. It’s a topic lawyers should take seriously. As I stated in the past, dealing with Medicare can be an extremely frustrating experience. So, I am happy to report a recent court decision that, to some degree, requires Medicare to play by rules that apply to the rest of us.

On September 29, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a decision in Bradley v. Sebelius. The case involved reimbursement claims by Medicare arising out of a wrongful death settlement in Florida. This case is a welcome decision for attorneys frustrated by the experience of dealing with Medicare. On his blog, Tennessee attorney John Day wrote a great analysis of this decision. I agree with John that the case involved some great lawyering by plaintiffs’ counsel.

In the case, the Federal Court rejected Medicare’s far-reaching argument that its own field manual was basically entitled to the force of law. In rejecting those claims, the Federal Court actually stated:

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Alabama law concerning wrongful death claims is unique. Our law differs from every other state in an essential area — the damages recoverable. What damages are recoverable in an Alabama wrongful death case? In Alabama, only punitive damages are recoverable in wrongful death claims.

Think about this for a moment. No compensatory damages means no damages for medical bills or future lost wages. Your deceased relative may have provided financial support for the family. If so, future lost earnings would be important! Your deceased relative may have incurred substantial medical bills from the injury that led to their death. Because you cannot recover these compensatory damages, medical providers cannot seek reimbursement against the settlement. I’ve handled many death claims through the years. The unique nature of Alabama wrongful death claims presents many strategy challenges.

With the unique nature of Alabama wrongful death claims in mind, several lawyers and I discussed a novel approach to these claims. What is that novel strategy?

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