Articles Tagged with trial

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Alabama Accident & Injury Attorneys“He left a voice message yelling at me!” That’s how one injured worker’s story began. “He acted like a jerk.” The worker continued to describe how he suffered a bad lifting injury to his lower back at work. He required surgery. He now suffers chronic pain and limitations. He could not return to work.

Why did his lawyer leave a nasty voice message for him? It comes down to this — The lawyer wanted him to accept a quick settlement. The problem — That settlement was totally unfair and would have left the disabled worker in worse shape a year or two from now.

The guy needed a lawyer who would prepare his case. He needed a lawyer who would discuss how Alabama work comp benefits are calculated, who would develop the medical evidence, and who would prepare the case for the best possible trial. He needed a lawyer in his corner!

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Alabama Accident & Injury LawyersLast week, Madison County re-started civil jury trials. After months of coronavirus shutdowns, it’s nice to be back at the courthouse. Now, I’m not writing to debate the wisdom of re-opening or not. I’m OK waiting longer for more vaccinations. Public health and safety should be our top priority. As a community, we should each take the steps needed to protect our neighbors. But, again, I’m not writing about the issue of shutdowns.

When the court did re-open this week in Huntsville, one of our car accident injury cases was number one on the docket. First up for trial! We prepare our personal injury cases. We’ve been prepared in this Huntsville accident case for months. Ready to go. It was good to finish the case for our client. Our client patiently waited through recent months as have so many other people.

Maybe you are asking — Why did the case not settle? While most cases eventually settle, some do not. Sometimes, cases should not settle. Maybe the insurance company adjuster ignored the extent of injuries or damages. Maybe the insurance company is taking advantage of courthouse closures to delay and deny justice.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Alabama Accident & Injury LawyersLawyer ads are everywhere. They are all very similar. Smiles. Confidence. Promises. What kind of promises? In all of them, the advertising lawyer promises he or she will handle your problem. As one local advertising lawyer says in his ads, “we got this.” Does he? Lots of companies advertise assurances about their products and services.

One local Huntsville law firm advertises for workers’ compensation cases by saying a settlement may be in your best interest. Their ad starts by noting “the uncertainty that surrounds” lots of comp cases. Then, it offers the hope of a settlement. Finally, the ad says you should call them for help. It’s a classic marketing ploy — Step one, highlight the need or fear. Step two, disclose a potential solution. Step three, offer yourself as guide to solve the need.

Is a settlement in your best interest? Maybe it is. Maybe it is not. I talk to injured workers every day. Most people are unfamiliar with the work comp process. For many callers, it is the first time they have ever suffered any significant personal injury at work. The whole process can be uncertain. Medical treatment. Continued employment. Vocational rehabilitation. Money Benefits. It’s a new, and very different, process. Some lawyers exploit that unknown by smiling and telling clients the results are good when they really are not.

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Huntsville Work Comp AttorneysIt’s an interesting question. Covid-19 vaccination is a big issue. I suspect many employers will require workers to receive the vaccination. In a recent blog post, one Birmingham law firm writes about an opinion of the Alabama Attorney General from 2003 discussing employer-provided vaccinations.

I’m not writing to discuss whether or not an employer can require vaccinations. Rather, my law practice focuses on helping those injured. So, that is also the focus of this post. My issue — Are injuries from employer-provided vaccinations compensable under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act?

Before I begin, let me say I think vaccinations are essential to public health. Like any medical treatment or procedure, a tiny risk always exists. Have you ever pulled a back muscle? If so, physical therapy may be very helpful in your recovery. Yet, you face a risk of being injured in a car accident on the way to therapy as well as a risk of injury from the therapist’s equipment. But, the benefits of therapy far, far outweigh these very remote and unlikely risks. The same is true for almost any medication or medical treatment. Any medical treatment comes with small risks. With vaccines, the benefits to you, your family and society, far outweigh any minuscule risk. Hopefully, widespread vaccination will save many lives from this terrible virus.

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Huntsville Personal Injury AttorneysYou suffered a car accident. In the days and weeks following the accident, you realize your injuries are serious. If you are like many of our clients, you may even need back or neck surgery because of the injuries to your spine. Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court addressed a car accident case with those common facts. The case was Hicks v. Allstate Insurance Company.

What was the issue in that case? The injured party wanted to introduce a mortality table into evidence and then argue for damages over the course of their expected lifetime. If you suffer a permanent injury, you get one day in court. You get one chance to argue and recover compensation for a lifetime of damages. You need to present the full story of your injuries and how they will impact you in the future. Alabama publishes mortality tables listing the remaining life expectancy for both men and women based on their current age. I know, it sounds a little morbid to think that a chart says you will live a specific number of years. While we all differ, the charts are based on expectations using vital health statistics. If the jury is going to decide damages for a permanent injury, it’s helpful to know how many years are expected.

What happened at trial in that case? At trial, the injured person’s surgeon testified by video deposition. The surgeon described his surgery in detail. He described how the procedure involved implanting hardware that would remain in the injured person’s body. He described how the procedure helped the person’s pain but still resulted in a loss of mobility and movement.

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Insurance Claims

Is The Insurance Company Pulling The Strings?

I’ve been reading Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy. Recent events across our country highlight the injustices described in this book and add to the immediate urgency for a more just system. It’s especially difficult to read Just Mercy when you are familiar with many of the cities and counties where the injustices in the book occurred. It’s also especially difficult to read the book when recent events across our nation remind (everyone) that systematic injustice and racism remain current events. Changes are needed.

When I started this blog several years ago, I committed to discussing solely personal injury issues. For the most part, I’ve kept that commitment. This week, it is especially difficult to do so. But, I’m going to try.

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Th-Intrepid-Adventure-200x300Who really wants to spend their time in a lawyer or doctor office? Most people would prefer to be almost anywhere else. I understand. Other than routine physical exams, we see a lawyer or doctor only when we have a potential problem. For some of us, it has to be a pretty bad problem.

Most of us have seen a doctor at some point in our lives. So, we are familiar with the basics of medical appointments. When it comes to lawyers, it’s a very different story. Maybe you’ve never needed a lawyer. Many people live their entire lives without needing a lawyer. That’s a good thing.

Suddenly, you are hurt in an accident and not sure what to do. You may have many questions and many concerns. How do I handle my medical bills? Who can I call for help? Will I heal? Unfortunately, a lot of billboard and television advertising lawyers feed on uncertainty and fear. They offer a smile with promises that they can make the process easy.

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Alabama Workers Compensation HelpWorkers’ compensation benefits are intended to help restore injured workers. At least, that’s the original intent. That’s why medical treatment and vocational rehabilitation should be top priorities. Heal and restore whenever possible.

Yet, over the last couple decades, our system has largely devolved into a mess leaving many injured workers without benefits. Instead of help, too many injured workers are simply shuffled through the system. I’ve written numerous articles about the current work comp medical system and how it fails injured workers.

Another area where our current work comp system fails — Vocational Rehabilitation. What does “vocational rehabilitation” even mean in Alabama? The phrase is never fully defined by our workers’ compensation statute. Most lawyers and most courts really don’t understand the meaning of the phrase. Why not? The answer is that our courts have so limited its practical effect to the point vocational rehabilitation is largely non-existent and never legitimately offered.

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Blackwell Law Firm -- Alabama Personal Injury LawyersWhat’s The Deal With Biestek v. Berryhill?

In Biestek v. Berryhill, a construction worker applied for Social Security disability benefits. Following a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied his benefit application. The ALJ decision denying social security benefits is not unusual. The real question in the case was whether or not Biestek had a fair hearing.

In Social Security hearings, the ALJ will often retain a vocational expert to provide opinion testimony. In Biestek, that vocational expert testified the worker could perform a number of different jobs in the national economy. In other words, Biestek was not vocationally disabled. The vocational expert then testified she reached her opinions based upon individual market surveys in her possession. So, on cross-examination, Biestek’s attorney asked to see the data. That’s fair. That’s a very reasonable request. Should any expert be allowed to give an opinion while refusing to show the underlying data? That’s when the ALJ intervened and refused the lawyer’s request. What we now have is an expert who provided an unsubstantiated and unsupported opinion.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping The Injured In AlabamaIn a December 2018 post, I asked the question — Is the Alabama Supreme Court Biased Against Car Accident Victims on Venue Issues? At our office, we file and prepare many car accident and injury cases for trial. Where can a case properly be filed? Where is venue proper? Sometimes, venue is proper in more than one county. Sometimes, you have a choice. When you do, venue can be a huge issue. When we have a choice, we consider carefully which county may be better for the case.

How is our Supreme Court wading into the venue issue? In recent years, our Supreme Court issued several decisions using a principle called “forum non conveniens” to transfer cases. Forum non conveniens allows courts to transfer a case from the proper venue where filed to another proper venue for “the interest of justice” or the “convenience of parties and witnesses.” Should the court make subjective decisions on “convenience” to overrule a plaintiff’s chosen venue? Historically, the bar has been high. Historically, courts would defer to the chosen venue unless it had little or no connection at all to the case. I think courts should defer to the plaintiff’s proper choice of venue.

In its recent decisions, the Supreme Court forgot the deference which should be extended to the plaintiff’s choice of venue. Our Supreme Court repeatedly used the principal of forum non conveniens to transfer personal injury cases. In my 2018 post, I criticized the willingness of our Supreme Court to impose its subjective choice of venue on a plaintiff.

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