February 8, 2014

Definitions of Legal Words Used In Personal Injury Cases

In our websites and blogs we do our best to avoid legal jargon -- instead we try to explain things in plain english.

But there are words that are used in injury lawsuits and it can be helpful to understand those words.

So in our personal injury site -- Birmingham Injury -- we have a list of definitions of many legal words used in injury cases. We will continually add to this list and if you have any suggestions please make them in the comments or in a private message to us.

We hope you find this useful and have a great day!

John Watts
Birmingham, Alabama

November 1, 2013

"What is arbitration and what does it mean for my case?"

Arbitration is where you have to take your dispute before a private company -- an arbitration association -- instead of going in front of a judge and a jury.

Arbitration is "voluntary" which means you have to agree to it when you enter into your relationship with the defendant. This is normally when you buy a product -- a car -- or a service -- nursing home care.

There are ways to show that you had no choice but this is normally difficult -- if you signed an arbitration agreement or you signed a contract containing an arbitration agreement then you will normally be bound by this.

Just because you go to arbitration does not mean you will lose -- it simply means that you won't have a jury and won't have the normal right to appeal a decision. It also means that instead of paying 300-500 dollars to file your case, you may have to pay thousands of dollars to have your case heard by the arbitrators -- the ones who act as the "judge" and the "jury" in your case.

You can click on the category of definitions for more information or if you would like a single page with many definitions, you can find that on our website Birmingham Injury.

If you live in Alabama feel free to call us at 205-879-2447 and we will be glad to speak with you.

July 4, 2013

Alabama Car Wreck: Should I Take Pictures of My Injuries?

Yes if at possible take pictures of your injuries. You may have bruises that will fade with time. You may have incisions from surgeries -- you may places in your back where you received blocks or injections.

What's the old saying?

A picture is worth a thousand words.

A picture can help the jury (or an insurance adjuster who has the checkbook) understand your injuries.

If you take pictures, try to take the best ones possible. If it is hard for you to do it yourself, have someone else take it.

If you want more information about what to do, and not do, after an Alabama car wreck, give us a call at 205-879-2447 and we'll be glad to help you.

June 30, 2013

Are Hands Free Devices Still Distracting To Drivers?

Alabama Injury Attorneys Blog has an interesting, and disturbing, blog post on how hands free devices may be more distracting than calling or texting the old fashioned way.

The AAA Study focused on high-tech gadgets that allow for voice control of telephones, wipers and radio stations. Using cameras mounted on the dashboard to track head and eye movement, a skull cap to monitor brain wave activity, and a device to measure reactive time, researchers determined that using voice controls of any type can be very distracting. What's more, many drivers aren't even aware that they are distracted.

Read the rest of the blog post -- it will be interesting to see what states, including Alabama, do with this information. We all need to do our best to not be distracted, whether we are talking to a person in the car, on a cell phone, listening to sports radio, or whatever we are doing.

June 29, 2013

Alabama Car Wreck: Should I Settle My Case Quickly?

Generally the answer is no as you won't know the extent of your injuries until you complete your medical treatment. Without knowing how badly you are injured and the long term effects, there is no way to know what the right settlement amount is for you.

I admit there are some exceptions to this -- maybe you were not hurt, or maybe you get to feeling better immediately after the wreck -- but for the types of cases we handle involving serious personal injuries, the danger is getting in too big of a hurry to settle and then regretting it later.

After the settlement, the case is over. You can't go back and say "Hey State Farm, my injuries didn't quite heal like I wanted. I need you to pay me more money."

It just doesn't work that way.

You should settle when you know the value of the case.

You can't know the value of the case until you know the extent of your injuries and damages.

You can't know the extent of your injuries until you know how you are going to heal and what types of medical treatment (physical therapy, shots, surgeries, etc) you will need.

All of this takes time. And you may be in a bad position financially.

The insurance companies know this.

And so they dangle a small settlement in front of you figuring since you "are over a barrell" you will accept it.

My suggestion is you have been injured -- you may deal with the effects the rest of your life -- get the full value of your settlement.

If you have questions about this you can pick up the phone and call us at 205-879-2447 or you can contact us through our website Birmingham Injury.

December 13, 2012

Alabama Car Wreck: Should I go to ER or Doctor?

Yes -- if you have been injured in a car wreck, get checked out. Make sure that you are physically ok. Sometimes right after a wreck you may feel fine but once the adrenaline wears off, you feel the pain. It may just be pain that will go away or it may be a sign of something serious.

Look, here's the deal. Car wrecks and accidents never happen at convenient times. None of us want to go to an emergency room or to our doctor. But we need to if we have been in anything but the most minor of wrecks.

Get checked out -- make sure you are ok.

From a lawsuit standpoint -- which is not as important as your health -- if you don't go right away, the insurance company and defense lawyer will argue you must not have been hurt.

"If you were really hurt, you would have gone to the doctor the same day or gone to the ER."

It is an unfair argument but sometimes it is effective with juries so don't give them the chance.

For the sake of your health and to preserve your credibility, get proper medical attention after a car wreck.

Feel free to give us a call at 205-879-2447 if you have any questions about your rights and options after a car wreck in Alabama.

December 10, 2012

Alabama Car Wreck: What is Medical Payment (MedPay)?

If you have been in a wreck in Alabama, you should have "Medical Payment" (Medpay) insurance with State Farm or Allstate or whoever you have your policy with. This is a very valuable but often unknown benefit that you have been paying for and that you are entitled to use.

Normally this benefit is available in $5,000 or $25,000 amounts -- you can read your policy or call your agent to find out the exact amount you have.

This covers medical bills when you have been in a wreck -- regardless of who is at fault. You simply show you were in a wreck and have medical bills that are related to the wreck.

In handling Alabama car wreck cases for over 17 years, I don't recall one time having to fight with an insurance company over medical payments.

So if you have been in a wreck, keep up with all of your out of pocket expenses. Mileage to doctors. Pharmacy bills -- get a printout from your pharmacist. Copays. Deductibles. Physical therapy bills. Etc.

Send them into the adjuster of your insurance company and let him or her know you are making a claim for your med pay.

If you live in Alabama and have a question about your Alabama car wreck (and you don't have a lawyer), feel free to call us at 205-879-2447 and we'll be glad to set up a meeting in person or by phone.

December 7, 2012

Alabama Car Wreck: Do I Have to Notify UM Before Settling?

In Alabama, if you are considering settling with the person at fault (called the "tort-feasor"), you should consider letting your uninsured or "under-insured" insurance company know about the potential settlement.

Your UM (uninsured or UIM under-insured) carrier is your own insurance company. The one you have been paying premiums to.

If you don't let them know about a settlement, it can jeopardize your ability to recover any UM or UIM from your company.

Basically (and there are exceptions) your insurance company has to give you permission to settle or must "front' the money that you could have received from the tort feasor.

If you are trying to settle a personal injury case on your own in Alabama and think you might want to go after the UM or UIM money, then you need to sit down with a lawyer to make sure you are doing this correctly.

If you have a lawyer, then your lawyer should understand this process and be able to guide you through it pretty easily.

August 19, 2012

Interesting Story On Progressive's Handling Of UIM Claim

In most states if an uninsured, or underinsured, driver causes harm or death, the victim can sue his or her own insurance company to recover damages under "uninsured" or "underinsured" motorist benefits.

In essence, your insurance company steps into the shoes of the negligent driver. There is nothing wrong with this as you have paid premiums for just this event -- the same as you pay homeowner's insurance in the event of a fire, etc.

In an interesting case that has caused quite a stir in the media and social networks, Progressive has finally agreed to pay benefits to the family of a woman killed by a driver who ran a red light. Do keep in mind the laws in the state in this story are different than in Alabama but we think the story will still be helpful to you.

August 9, 2012

Will An Alabama Jury Know I Had Medical Insurance?

Yes a jury in Alabama will normally know that you had medical insurance such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama.

A number of years ago the opposite was true but now the Alabama Supreme Court has said that having the jury know you have medical insurance is required.

Oddly, the court says that it is absolutely wrong for the jury to know that the defendant who hit you in the wreck has State Farm or Allstate or some other type of liability insurance. The court holds that if the jury knew the defendant had insurance, that it might award higher damages but knowing that you had medical insurance won't lead to lower verdicts.

It is a bit absurd to have this distinction but that is the law so we operate within it. If you live in Alabama and need a personal injury lawyer, feel free to contact us at 205-879-2447 to learn more about your rights so you can make the best decision for you and for your family.

February 15, 2012

Why Are My Medical Records Relevant In An Alabama Car Wreck Case?

Why do you need to give your medical records to your attorney when you file suit for an Alabama car wreck case?

Clients often wonder why we will need to get their medical records when they hire us to either file suit for a car wreck case or they want for us to negotiate with the insurance company.

We understand the questions about this because our medical records are private and in everyday life we understand that we do not have to give out our medical records.

The reason that the medical records are needed in a car wreck case in Alabama is that if you are making a claim for personal injuries, then your medical records are relevant.

You might think of it this way. I recently applied for some additional life insurance and the life insurance company asked me a series of medical questions. The life insurance company also wanted me to have somebody come by and take blood to check for cholesterol and other similar items.

Now nobody has the right to just come by my office and demand that I give them a blood sample. But when I voluntarily decide to apply for insurance, then my medical condition may become relevant.

In the same way, when we say that somebody’s negligence caused us personal injury – hurt our back, or neck, broke our leg, broke our ribs, etc., - then we have made the issue of our medical condition relevant.

The insurance company who is representing the negligent person, has a right to look at our medical records to see if this an injury we complained about before, to see if the doctor believes that the injury that we say we suffered in the wreck actually came from the wreck, or did we see the doctor about this very injury two weeks before, etc.

Now this does not mean that every medical record from the beginning of time is open to the insurance company. But it does mean that when we make a claim for personal injury, we are “opening the door” for at least some of our medical records to be obtained by the insurance company.

Normally what we do is to have our client sign a medical release form and we go ahead a gather all the records and then we can send that to the insurance company. The releases that the insurance companies typically want to use are too broad and would cover everything including psychological and psychiatric-type records which normally they may not be entitled to receive.

So it’s not a matter of trying to pry unnecessarily but instead it’s that by claiming personal injuries we have said, in effect, to the insurance company and to the court and the jury that we do not have anything to hide and they can look at our medical records to see what we were like before the wreck and then to see how we are now which will assist everybody in determining the appropriate amount of compensation that we should receive.

If you have any questions about this article and you live in Alabama, please pick up the phone and call us at (205) 879 2447 or you can fill out the contact form on this web site to the left.

February 11, 2012

Should You Hire A Lawyer Who Illegally Solicits Your Injury Case?

One unfortunate reality in Alabama is if you have a potential personal injury or wrongful death claim due to someone else's negligence, you will likely be solicited in an unethical manner by lawyers.

The typical way is an "investigator" will contact you to say he has some wonderful information from the police officer, from the paramedic, etc. and he wants to share this with you. But you will need to meet with his lawyer, who is the greatest Alabama car wreck/truck wreck/train wreck lawyer around.

In one case, someone claiming to be a paramedic called our client after her mother died when a Fed Ex truck ran a red light and killed her. This "paramedic" said he held our client's mother's hand and she whispered some last words, just for her daughter. He felt "duty bound" to tell her the last words of her dying mother.

Very nice, eh?

Oh yeah, and he wanted to meet our client and he would just so happen to have the greatest lawyer in Alabama who handles Fed Ex trucking death cases.

Wow, an amazing coincidence.

To solicit you in person (as opposed to a TV ad) is illegal and unethical.

A lawyer risks losing his law license to do this.

Why would he or she do this?

Seems to me they must be desperate enough for business that they will lose their entire career.

I can't tell you who you should hire or not hire. But if someone is so desperate for cases that they will risk their career, perhaps you should question how they can be so good (remember they are "the best lawyer in Alabama!") but they don't have any cases.

My suggestion is you check people out. See what information they will offer you. See if they pressure you. I think you'll find that the unethical lawyers have the same type of reputation with the insurance companies and the judges.

If you have been injured or a family member has suffered a wrongful death, then take your time and be wise in your decision on who will represent you.

We wish you the best in your difficult time.