Articles Tagged with trial

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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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Several weeks ago, I wrote an extended post on Five Bad Rules That Can Harm Your Alabama Car Accident Claim. We frequently deal with these rules in auto accident injury cases we prepare. These rules can ruin your claim or severely decrease its value.

If you suffered a serious injury, it is important to seek legal counsel experienced in handling these issues in court. A simple fact or argument can often determine whether or not one of these rules applies. Unfortunately, most of the settlement mill lawyers advertising on billboards fail their clients in these cases.

If you want more details, take a look at our longer article. If you have questions about a case or claim, we are happy to answer them. I’ve attached a slideshow which is shorter than our previous article and hits the key issues in each of these Alabama rules. I thought the slideshow could serve as a quick reference or download on these issues. Here it is:

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Blackwell Law Firm - Car Accident & Injury LawyersVenue and forum selection. I started to write on this issue months ago. At that point, the Alabama Supreme Court had issued several recent (and very debatable) decisions on the topic. I know – venue sounds like a pretty boring topic for non-lawyers. So, I chose other topics. Now I’ve come full circle back to venue after the Alabama Supreme Court again ruled against another personal injury victim on this issue.

In simple terms, venue is the county (or counties) in Alabama where a case can be filed. Specific rules govern the proper counties for filing a personal injury (or any other) case. Often, venue can be proper in more than one county. That brings a choice. And, it leads to a question raised by the recent spate of venue decisions. Why is our Supreme Court so quick to interfere with the properly chosen venue of an injury victim?

Even when a case has been filed in a proper venue, a specific Alabama statute gives courts the power to transfer the case for “the interest of justice” or the “convenience of parties and witnesses.” It’s called “forum non conveniens.” Convenience? Interest of justice? Those are some pretty subjective terms. Should the court be quick to force transfers when the issue may be gray?

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Alabama Work Comp Claims: Blackwell Law FirmHurt on the job in Alabama? Our workers’ compensation laws provide valuable medical and disability benefits. You may need those benefits. You may not realize the importance of those benefits at the time of the accident. Many of our clients in both workers’ compensation claims and car accidents do NOT realize the extent of their injuries at the beginning.

Our workers’ compensation laws require injured workers to provide prompt notice of an accident. If you do not, then you cannot later recover workers’ compensation benefits. Notice seems simple. Yet, it is a frequent issue in many cases.

Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act talks in terms of “written” notice. Yet, our courts allow claims where notice is only oral and not provided in writing. I could give you a long legal lecture on how and why these notice requirements developed. That’s a different discussion for another day. I will say this — Alabama provides a standard accident notice for employers. You can find a copy HERE. If you suffer an accident and injury, make sure it is completed.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Personal Injury Lawyers In HuntsvilleAnother Huntsville personal injury law firm recently published its list of “expectations” for new client consultations. Their list is a good technical list. Potential clients need to know that good personal injury attorneys typically offer free and confidential consultations. And, potential clients need to know what to expect at these meetings. So, I’ll start by repeating the other firm’s list, but, in my own words. Then, I’ll tell you what I really consider the main purpose of our new client interviews. Here is my interpretation of what you can expect at a new client consultation:

  • Who Are You? The other law firm lists this as the “collection of demographic / biographical” information. That’s true. But, it’s broader than that. If you are a potential new client, I want to get to know you better. You are more than simply your age and address. Your lawyer needs to know you better in order to advocate for you. I prefer to call this the “get to know you” part of the interview. At the end of this post, you will learn why it is important for me to know more about you.
  • What Happened? The other firm lists this as “recounting the incident.” The essence is to find out what happened to you. Yes, I want you to “recount” the facts of the accident. But, I also want to know your thoughts and perceptions of the events. For example, I’ve personally experienced a wreck. The strongest memory for me is the smell of the airbag right after it exploded. Years later, I can still describe it in detail.
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Blackwell Law Firm - Personal Injury Lawyers For AlabamaDuring the last few weeks, we have really been focused on preparing for a few upcoming trials. First up on the docket was a truck crash jury trial in Guntersville. At our office, Jennifer McKown was the primary attorney on this one. It has been her sole focus the past couple weeks.

As we prepared for these trials, I’m reminded that good trial preparation requires you to maintain your focus. You must always remember your goal and don’t get sidetracked. Winston Churchill once said:

You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.

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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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courtroom-898931_1920-300x226I know — Lawyer advertisements are everywhere. Billboards. Television. Youtube. Those advertising lawyers all try to project confidence while asking for your case. “We got this” says a local Huntsville lawyer with new billboards and a Youtube video. In fact, this Huntsville lawyer who tells you he has your situation handled really intends to refer the serious injury cases to outside trial lawyers. Ask him about his deal with an outside law firm. What does he really have handled? A quick settlement or a referral fee.

Why am I discussing this topic? Well, I was recently sitting in a Morgan County courtroom. My client’s injury case was set for trial. We were present and ready. As I looked around the courtroom, one thing was obvious. That was — Not a single one of the lawyers I see smiling from billboards was present. In fact, not a single one of those billboard (or Youtube or television) lawyers had any cases on the docket. I did see some really good lawyers in the room. But, those good lawyers were NOT on billboards.

We’ve all seen the commercials. In fact, some of these advertising lawyers even record their ads with a courtroom backdrop. If that’s not laughable, I don’t know what is. You don’t see those lawyers anywhere near a courthouse or deposition because they work on volume. They want your case. They intend to settle as soon as possible. Insurance companies love settlement mill lawyers because they can settle cases with them for a fraction of their value. It’s a shameful practice that diminishes my profession.

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AccidentYou suffered an injury at work and have an Alabama workers’ compensation claim. Is that your only claim? Did someone (other than your employer) negligently cause the injury? If so, you might have both a workers’ compensation claim against your employer and a personal injury claim against the negligent third-party. It’s an important issue. Why? Although workers’ compensation provides important benefits, those benefits are limited. Workers’ compensation benefits do not cover all your potential damages. Although third-party cases allow you to claim all your damages, they may be completely disputed. These are important issues to many of my injured clients. They are issues I’ve discussed on my law firm website. And, they are issues we often handle to help our injured clients.

A recent legal article in Illinois discusses a case in that state. What happened? In that case, an electrician was installing lighting on an apartment balcony. Suddenly, the balcony railing failed. The electrician fell to his death. Afterwards, an investigation revealed a different company (NOT the electrician’s employer) had negligently installed the railing. The electrician’s family had a claim for death benefits under workers’ compensation laws in Illinois. The family also had a third-party negligence claim for wrongful death against the separate company that installed the railing.

Over the years, I’ve prepared numerous workers’ compensation and third-party negligence claims. Transportation injuries. Car accidents. Construction-related accidents. Industrial site incidents. These are frequently areas where a third-party (someone other than your employer) may have caused your on-the-job injury. Because these claims involve two areas of the law, they can be complex. They can require special skill to maximize your total recovery between the claims. After handling these claims for years, I would offer three key pieces of advice: