September 26, 2016

Should I take pictures of my vehicle when I've been in a car wreck in Alabama?

A common question that comes to mind when we've been in a car wreck is, "Should I take pictures of my vehicle?"

The simple answer is yes.

Take them as early as you can, and as many pictures as you possibly can.

Stay safe when taking pictures, however.

Several years ago, it would have been unusual if someone had a disposable camera in their car to take pictures.

Nowadays, everyone has a smartphone with a camera.

You may be wondering, "Why is it so important to take pictures?"

Pictures can be critical to showing the damage to your car.

Pictures can show the extent of the damage, and where the damage to the car is. This can be very helpful in showing that it is reasonable that you suffered injuries.

As they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

Taking video of the damage is important also.

This is crucial to do when it comes to dealing with the insurance company, or if it comes to a lawsuit when you're dealing with the other side.

Because the other side could deny that they caused any serious damage to your car.

However, if you have those pictures and videos of your car, then they can't really deny the evidence.

You can look at them and say, "I have proof of the damage before my car was fixed."

Save your pictures and videos in multiple places such as your phone, computer, and in the cloud.

You could even put them on a DVD.

With today's technology, there are plenty of different places to save your pictures and videos.

It's important to have them in different places.

If you saved the pictures to your computer, you'll be okay if your phone dies.

If you put your pictures on a DVD or in the cloud, then you'll be okay if your computer crashes.

It's always a good idea to have multiple sources for your evidence.

Contact Us.

We hope that this has been helpful for you.

If you have any questions, you can reach us by phone at 1-205-879-2447.

You can also fill out a contact form and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

I look forward to chatting with you!

Have a great day.

-John G. Watts

August 10, 2016

“Why is the defendant entitled to see my medical records?”

If we've been in a car wreck, and we're suing the person who ran into us, we may wonder, "Why does the defendant get to see my medical records?"

This is a reasonable question, because we know about HIPPA, which protects our medical privacy.

When we sue the defendant and claim personal injury, they have the right to defend themselves. This includes questioning our claim of damages.

We're looking at a couple different things when we're dealing with a personal injury case.

1.) Did they violate the law?

In other words, were they careless or negligent?

and

2.) Did they hurt you?

It would be unfair to claim that you were hurt because of the defendant, but then refuse to let them see your medical records, at least during a lawsuit.

There are some exceptions, but usually the defendant is allowed to look at your medical records.

If we're taking deposition of a doctor, the doctor needs to see our medical records so that he or she can answer questions accurately and truthfully.

The defendant who caused the wreck can require us to turn over our medical records if we're in a lawsuit with the defendant.

If we're trying to settle with the defendant before filing a lawsuit, then we can decide whether or not we want them to be able to look at our records. There are advantages and disadvantages to letting them look at our records -- we usually let them but never with their form medical releases. We use our own.

Contact Us.

If you live in the state of Alabama and you have any questions about a personal injury claim (unless you already have hired a lawyer), you can reach us by phone at 1-205-879-2447. We'll be happy to chat with you about your options so you can make the best decision for you.

You can also fill out a contact form and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

I look forward to talking with you!

Have a great day.

-John G. Watts

July 31, 2016

How do I find out how much insurance the defendant has in a car wreck case in Alabama?

If you've the unfortunate experience of being in a car wreck, you may wonder, "How do I figure out how much insurance the other person has?"

Pretty important question if you need money from the other side to compensate you for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, permanent injury, etc.

There are two scenarios for this question.

One scenario is before a lawsuit, when you're just talking with the insurance company.

If you have not filed a lawsuit against the responsible person, then their insurance company is not required to tell you the amount of insurance.

Although, you can certainly encourage them to tell you. Especially if they want you to negotiate a settlement before filing suit.

The second scenario is if you have filed a lawsuit against the negligent person who caused the car wreck.

They're required to tell you if you're suing them.

They may claim, "Well, we can't let the jury know how much, or that the defendant has insurance. So, we can't tell you."

While it's true that we can't let the jury know about the insurance, that's not the question. The question is are you entitled to know about the amount of insurance when you have sued.

Absolutely.

Don't let these insurance companies play games with you.

While you're just talking with them, before a lawsuit, you're trying to encourage them to tell you the amount so that you can base your settlement off of that amount.

It's important to get this information, because if you have $200,000 in medical bills to pay, you need to know how much you can sue for.

If they only have $50,000, then that helps you to know whether to take the money or to sue and try to get more than the amount of insurance.

However, if they have $1 million in insurance, then you know that their insurance can cover your damages so you won't be tempted by a "low-ball" offer that you might have taken if there was little or no insurance.

Contact Us.

If you live in Alabama and you have any questions, you can reach us by phone at 1-205-879-2447.

You can also fill out a contact form and we will get in touch with you as soon as we can.

I look forwarding to chatting with you.

Have a great day!

-John G. Watts

PS -- Our main personal injury website is being redesigned but this will get your message to us if you fill out the contact form above. Thanks!

July 12, 2016

"What are the two reasons for punitive damages in Alabama?"


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When you're dealing with a company that has wronged you, you may wonder, "Why are punitive damages so important?"

Well, here are two reasons.

1.) To punish the defendant.

A company has to mess up pretty badly for them to receive punitive damages.

When they mess up, these damages come in to tell the company, "You've done something wrong, and since this has happened, we're going to punish you."

It could be a case of fraud, or reckless conduct, etc.

Regardless of what it is, the defendant needs to be punished.

If the defendant only had to compensate for their wrongs, then they could break it down into a simple accounting function and choose to say, "Well, we do have to pay money to compensate for what we do, but in the long run we make more money."

You may remember or have heard about the Ford Pinto fiasco -- Ford made cars it knew would catch on fire if hit from behind. It could have fixed the problem but it calculated the cost of a recall against the cost of settling cases where people were burned horribly and even died. The numbers favored not fixing the problem. So punitive damages change the calculations to better protect the community.

Punitive damages actually punish the defendant, which means trouble for them when they're looking at their options.

2.) To discourage the defendant, as well as other companies, from treating consumers poorly.

The reason it discourages bad conduct is because it helps them remember why they should follow the law, instead of breaking it.

We want them to remember and say, "Last time we broke the law in Alabama, we were hit with X amount of punitive damages. There's no way we're going to do that again."

When we use punitive damages, it shows other companies that are in the same industry that there are consequences for breaking the law.

The underlying reason for punitive damages is to protect the community you live in.

We want to take a stand against these companies that are hurting our community, and make it safe for our neighbors.

In Alabama, as well as other states, we want companies to be honest.

We want these companies to not harm us in any way.

Some people will say that punitive damages only really benefit one person.

While it is true that these damages will go to the injured person and their attorney, we use these damages to protect our community from future wrongs that companies that may want to hurt us.

We want these companies to think before they act wrongfully towards us.

When it's appropriate, punitive damages are very powerful.

If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 1-205-879-2447.

Have a great day!

-John G. Watts

July 4, 2014

"What is the purpose of punitive damages?"

Punitive damages are an important part of the law but the business community has done a great job of "demonizing" punitive damages (except when a business has been harmed then it is "ok" to get punitive damages).

So what are punitive damages?

Punitive damages are awarded in rare circumstances where the defendant (the one sued) has caused injury intentionally or recklessly.

How are punitive damages different than compensatory damages?

Punitive damages are NOT to compensate the plaintiff for injuries. That's the role of compensatory damages. Compensatory damages make the plaintiff "whole" in the eyes of the law by awarding enough money to make up for the injury or loss.

Punitive damages are to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from doing the same bad conduct.

How do punitive damages punish?

When a person or company does something intentionally (or recklessly) and this harms someone, there needs to be punishment. We are not talking accidental or negligent conduct -- we are talking deliberate bad actions or driving drunk, etc.

The punitive damages let that person or company know its conduct was bad and it should not do it again.

Same as why we punish criminals -- there is a price to be paid for illegal conduct.

How do punitive damages deter others from doing the same type of bad conduct?

If a company cheats consumers intentionally and that company is hit with a large punitive damage award, then other companies who are thinking of cheating customers will take a moment to think.

"Is it worth it to do the cheating?"

"What if we get popped with a large punitive damage award also?"

This is one of the biggest reasons punitive damages are needed -- to deter others from doing the same wrongful conduct in the future.

Are punitive damages good or bad?

Like anything, punitive damages can be mis-used.

But when used properly, within the boundaries of the law, punitive damages are what keep the community safe. It keeps evil doers in line and those that still do wrong, it punishes them if the wrong was intentional.

I hope this post has been helpful -- if you have more questions give us a call at 205-879-2447.

John Watts
Birmingham, Alabama

May 31, 2014

"How do I prove my Alabama car wreck was the fault of the other driver?"

Ultimately you show the jury enough evidence to convince them the other driver was at fault. So how do you do this?

Right After The Wreck
Take pictures of your car, the other car, the scene, and any injuries you have. Make sure to save those pictures on your computer and a back up -- dropbox, google drive, etc.

Make sure you identify any witnesses to both the wreck but also to what you are going through.

Keep a diary of what you are going through medically, physically, emotionally, etc. Be as specific as possible.

Make sure you keep all doctor appointments and do what your doctor says -- be the best patient possible. Your number one goal is to get better and regain 100% of your health.

Before You Sue
Make sure you have a good lawyer that you feel comfortable with and confident in his or her ability to represent you and keep you informed of what is going to happen in your case.

You want to have given your lawyer all the background information -- previous wrecks, prior lawsuits, your medical history (and your lawyer should have your medical records), as well as your damages -- lost wages, etc.

Make sure that you have spoken in detail with your lawyer about the objective of the lawsuit and what will be expected of you so there are no surprises.

Your lawyer will interview witnesses, look at the physical evidence, look at pictures, and analyze the case from both your perspective but also from the defense perspective to see what the jury will be looking at. Ultimately you have to show, in your case, that the other driver was at fault -- was "negligent" in order for you to recover money damages.

After You Sue
Stay in good contact with your lawyer so nothing is missed.

Take "discovery" very seriously -- this is where you answer written questions and ultimately give a deposition. These activities are critical for you to do well in them -- tell the truth and be prepared.

Consider any settlement offers -- decide what is best for you after finding out what the "bottom line" number will be for you after lawyer fees, expenses, subrogation of Blue Cross Blue Shield, etc.

Trial
Trial is a serious matter and sometimes I have seen people not treat it as seriously as it deserves to be treated. The jury is giving up days or even a week of its time to hear your case so make sure you show up on time, prepared, and are respectful of the process.

Often times the defendant will not -- let it be "night and day" comparing you with the defendant. Let the jury see that you are honest, credible, etc.

What To Do Now
It makes sense to contact an Alabama car accident lawyer. If you are seriously injured, a personal injury attorney will collect the evidence to prove liability, file your accident claim, and negotiate with the insurance company while you focus on getting well. If we can help you, give us a call at 205-879-2447 or you can contact us through our website Birmingham Injury.

May 19, 2014

"I have a previous injury that is now worse after my car wreck -- can I be compensated?"

This is known as a "pre-existing" injury and you can still be compensated for a negligent person making your pre-existing injury worse.

Practical Reality
If you are over the age of 20, you likely will have some pre-existing injuries. Maybe in high school you hurt your knee. Or you hurt your back on your job.

Now somebody blows through a red light and crashes into you and your back or knee hurt worse.

Or you never thought you had any problems but the doctor says you have "degenerative disk disease." This just means your back is showing wear and tear.

This is not something to run from or to be discouraged by -- it is just the reality that we all have had problems or injuries to different parts of our bodies. The alternative is to be dead so not so bad when you think about it.... :)

Why Insurance Companies Love Pre-Existing Injuries
Even though we all have these, when an insurance company for a drunk driver or a negligent driver finds out you had a back injury 10 years ago, the company gets giddy.

It thinks it hit the lottery and now you should not be compensated at all.

Stupid thinking.

So what that you have a previous back injury?

If your doctor says that an SUV slamming into your car made the old injury flair up, or get worse, or require surgery, then the negligent person is responsible for that damage that was caused.

We have pointed out that the law does not require that you be a 20 year old olympic athlete in order to be compensated when you have been injured because of someone's negligence.

What To Do About A Pre-Existing Injury
Don't try to hide it.

Be honest about it.

Let your doctor know how the pain is different, more intense, came back, etc. Let the doctor know why you are feeling worse or have less range of motion.

People get into trouble when they lie about anything but particularly an old injury or problem.

The solution is to be honest.

Conclusion
If you are honest and, if needed, you hire a good lawyer, then the pre-existing injury can be dealt with in a proper manner.

Don't be discouraged -- instead understand that the law requires that the defendant compensate you for how you are not how a 20 year old olympic athlete would have been affected. If the defendant wants to make that argument then he should have run the red light and hit that person -- not you. He hit you so he has to deal with the consequences.

If you live anywhere in Alabama and have questions about a potential car wreck or other personal injury case, give us a call at 205-879-2447 or fill out our contact form here and we will be glad to get back with you the same day.

May 19, 2014

"If I was partly at fault for my accident in Alabama, can I still sue?"

Alabama is one of only two states in the nation that has what is called contributory negligence. This means if you, the injured victim, were at fault in any way for the car wreck, slip and fall, etc. then normally you cannot recover any damages against the party that was primarily at fault.

Most states have something called comparative negligence which means that the court "compares" your degree of negligence with the degree of negligence of person or company that you sue. Normally your damages will be reduced by whatever percentage you are at fault.

But in Alabama if you are even 1% at fault, the normally the defendant will win the case based upon contributory negligence.

There are exceptions to this rule, some of which are obvious and some of which are not quite so obvious. The point of this blog post is not to get into a lengthy legal discussion of those exceptions but simply to point out that if either you were at fault or it appears that you might of been partially at fault, then you need to be carefully understand your rights before you start dealing with the insurance company or find yourself in a lawsuit.

The insurance companies love to say that you were at fault and therefore are entitled to no damages. We always expect them to say this.

I cannot think of a single personal injury case that we have ever had where the insurance company and the defense lawyer did not raise contributory negligence as a defense. So every single case we have ever filed, the other side has said that our client was guilty of contributory negligence.

This is true even in cases where our clients settled their cases for seven figures.

The point is that this is something to be aware of and it is a serious danger to you, but normally we can demonstrate that either you are not at fault or one of the exceptions applies so that you can still recover damages against the party that was primarily at fault.

If you live in Alabama have any questions about this for free to call us at 205-879-2447 words you can contact us through our website BirminghamInjury.com.

Note -- we do have a page of definitions that may be helpful to you where we quickly define certain words and phrases such as "contributory negligence."

May 10, 2014

"What is medical payments on my car insurance and how does it help me if I've been in a car wreck?"

Almost every car insurance policy has a provision called "medical payments," which will pay for medical bills if you are involved in any type of wreck in your car. Many people who are injured in a car wreck do not think about this provision of their insurance but we want to spend some time talking about this important part of your insurance.

How much med pay do I have?

Normally, your medical payments or med pay will be around $5000. You can ask your insurance agent or check your insurance card as it may have the amount listed.

How is med pay different than other parts of my car insurance?

One important part of this part of your insurance policy is that it will pay regardless of who, if anyone, is at fault in the wreck.

This is different from liability insurance on your car. That will defend you if you are sued because somebody has claimed that you were negligent.

If you are in a wreck with somebody else and you claim that they were at fault, then their liability insurance will pay if it is proven that they were at fault.

But med pay will pay even if it is a single car wreck and even if nobody was at fault.

So how does med pay work?

After a car wreck, gather up your medical bills as you receive them. You can then turn them into your insurance company and specifically ask that you be reimbursed out of your med pay provision.

So will State Farm or Allstate or whoever my insurance company is actually pay this money?

Yes.

I have been representing Alabama residents in car wrecks for about 19 years now. In all that time, I have never had to sue a car insurance company over med pay. Now I have filed countless lawsuits over car wrecks for personal injuries, and even some for property damage, where the insurance companies will not pay, but never for med pay. I have found that if you send the proper documentation in, then the car insurance companies are good about paying under your med pay.

Do I need a lawyer to help me claim my med pay benefits?

Let me answer it this way.

You do not need a lawyer to get your med pay benefits.

You can do this on your own.

Now, if you have already hired a lawyer to sue the person who is negligent and/or to sue your own insurance company for uninsured or underinsured benefits, it makes sense to let your lawyer handle the med pay part of your case.

I cannot speak for other lawyers, but I can say that my firm has never charged a fee to help somebody collect their med pay benefits. It normally is simply a matter of sending in the medical bills with the appropriate letter, and the benefits are paid very quickly.

So if you have not hired a lawyer, than you can handle it on your own. But if you have hired a lawyer or you expect to hire a lawyer, then you might prefer for the lawyer to handle it just so you do not have to deal with the details.

If I've been in a car wreck in Alabama and I have questions, what should I do?

A couple of things.

First, remember that there is a two-year statute of limitations to sue the person who is negligent. So don't wait too long -- instead take action before that time period expires. But...

Second, there is generally no reason to have to hire a lawyer the next day after a car wreck. You have time to make the right decision. Especially if you're being pressured to hire a lawyer, I would be very skeptical. It also makes sense to gather information about car wreck cases in Alabama and about lawyers who handle car wreck cases, so that you can make the right decision. Any good lawyer should happily give you written information or a CD or DVD that explains the process and answers questions that you have.

And if the lawyer insists that you must come in for a consultation, you can certainly do this, but you would naturally wonder why, if this lawyer is skilled at handling car wreck cases, he or she cannot give you free information ahead of time.

Third, if you're interested in talking to us or in receiving the free information package that you can review in the privacy of your own home, give us a call at 205-879-2447 or you can contact us by filling out the form on the left of this page, or you can use the contact us page on our Birmingham Injury website.

We wish you the best of luck and let us know how we can help you.

John Watts

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.

March 6, 2011

Maryland Hospital Bans Birth Videos

STLToday.com has posted an interesting article about a Maryland hospital's ban on photographing or videotaping of births. Meritus Medical Center, in Hagerstown, MD, even requires cell phones and cameras be turned off and only allows photographing to begin after the medical staff have given the okay.

The hospital is trying to protect both its patients and staff. The medical staff won't be distracted by electronics and can better focus their attention on the safety and health of the mother and baby. Also, hospital staff really don't want to be popping up on Facebook and YouTube videos, so their privacy is being protected as well.

This hospital's reasoning is backed by a variety of lawsuits, of which video can be used as evidence. For example, in 2007 a baby was born in the University of Illinois Hospital with permanent shoulder injuries. The video the baby's father took in the delivery room showed the midwife using "excessive force" and the family was paid $2.3 million in damages.

Many hospitals allow and even encourage recording because modern cameras, particularly those taking video, are so unobtrusive. But that same technology has introduced a wild card into a fraught scene that could shock a jury — with the mother screaming and staff responding (or not) to what may look like an emergency — all of which can be edited to misrepresent what actually took place.

The restrictions at Meritus went into effect in November, after the hospital began reviewing all of its policies because it was moving to a new facility and learned that six other hospitals in the region had barred photography and videography during births. Georgetown University Hospital in Washington has a similar policy.

Obstetricians are actually sued more frequently than other specialty doctors, and are also more wary than other doctors because their actions are usually caught on film. Videos are a particular worry for obstetricians, as the noises can make the situation seem worse, or can show something that a still camera photograph would have missed.

"The first consideration for a trial attorney is how this plays to a jury," said Paul Myre, a lawyer in St. Louis who has defended doctors and hospitals in malpractice cases for 25 years.

In one case in which he was involved, a man on the jury fainted when a simple instructional video of a birth was shown. "Just a normal childbirth can look fairly traumatic to a layperson," Myre said. He said he defended a doctor in another case in which the video showed that his client "had done everything right," but the jury still felt "the child needed to be taken care of."

February 28, 2011

Supreme Court Allows Lawsuit Against Automaker Even Though Saftey Regulations Were Met

USA Today has posted an article about a recent Supreme Court ruling that says car company Mazda can be sued for not having certain safety equipment in some of their vehicles, even though the vehicles met the government's safety standards. The decision allows a lawsuit over a woman's death in 2002 to progress forward.

Ms. Than Williamson was sitting in the middle seat of the second row of a 1993 Mazda MPV and was wearing her seatbelt, but it was only a lap belt. Upon collision, Williamson's body "jackknifed" around the lap belt, killing her. Her family is suing Mazda because the middle seat was not equipped with the standard 3 point seatbelt that is required for the outboard seats, even though the lap belt met federal safety requirements.

Mazda argued it was immune from lawsuits because the government in 1989 gave it a choice of a lap or three-point belts in the middle rear seat. A suit forcing them to use lap-and-shoulder belts, it argued, would invalidate the choice offered by regulators.

The ruling means the lawsuit by Than Williamson's family now can proceed in California. The lawsuit says Williamson, who was from Utah, died in the 2002 accident when her body jackknifed around the lap belt causing fatal internal injuries.

Mazda insists that it is immune from this lawsuit because the government allowed the company to use lap belts in middle seats in 1989. California state courts agreed with Mazda and threw out the case, citing a 2000 Supreme Court ruling that required automakers to install more airbags instead of passenger restraints.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the High Court opinion majority judgment, said the only way that Mazda would be immune is if the "significant objective" of the federal regulation was to give auto manufacturers a choice of which seat belts to install.

The Transportation Department "gave no indication that its safety goals required the mixture of seat-belt types that resulted from manufacturers' ability to choose different options," said Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a concurring opinion.

Added Breyer: "The more important reason why DOT did not require lap-and-shoulder belts for rear inner seats was that it thought that this requirement would not be cost-effective. The agency explained that it would be significantly more expensive for manufacturers to install lap-and shoulder belts in rear middle and aisle seats than in seats next to the car doors. But that fact -- the fact that DOT made a negative judgment about cost effectiveness -- cannot by itself show that DOT sought to forbid common law tort lawsuits in which a judge or jury might reach a different conclusion."

Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the judgment, but said the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 made coming to that conclusion even easier: "Congress has instructed that 'compliance with a motor vehicle safety standard prescribed under this chapter does not exempt a person from liability at common law," Thomas said.

October 24, 2010

Doctors With Questionable Records Still Kept On As Drug Company Spokesmen

Boston.com has posted an article about how many doctors that drug companies hire to be the spokesman for a drug actually have "questionable' records. Drug companies say that they hire the "most respected doctors in their fields for the critical task of teaching about the benefits and risks of their drugs."

But an investigation by ProPublica has brought to light that many doctors who are on drug companies' payrolls have been accused of "professional misconduct", lacked credentials as researchers or specialists in area of the specific drug, or had been disciplined by state boards.

A review of physician licensing records in the 15 most populous states and three others found sanctions against more than 250 speakers, including some of the highest paid. Their misconduct included inappropriately prescribing drugs, providing poor care, or having sex with patients. Some of the doctors had even lost their licenses.

More than 40 have received FDA warnings for research misconduct, lost hospital privileges, or been convicted of crimes. And at least 20 more have had two or more malpractice judgments or settlements. This accounting is by no means complete; many state regulators do not post these actions on their websites.

Five disciplined Massachusetts doctors appeared on the list. Their sanctions included engaging in “disruptive behavior with patients and other medical staff,’’ a lack of sensitivity during physician exams, and improperly peeking into employees’ medical records. They earned between $3,250 and $18,000 since 2009 from the seven companies that have disclosed payments.

There is quite a debate about whether or not doctors should be paid to endorse drugs because it might influence what they prescribe. Even small gifts or a small amount of money can influence some physicians, a study found.

ProPublica has also created a database system that keeps track of payments that seven drug companies make to various doctors. So far the database has tracked $257.8 million in payments, made just since 2009, for "speaking, consulting, and other duties."

All told, 384 of the approximately 17,700 individuals in the database earned more than $100,000 from one or more of the seven companies in 2009 and 2010. Nearly all were physicians, but a handful of pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and dietitians also made the list. Forty-three physicians made more than $200,000, including two who topped $300,000. In addition to Lilly and Cephalon, the companies include AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., and Pfizer.

August 31, 2010

Car Accidents Cost The US $99 Billion In Just One Year

The Georgia Injury Lawyer & Attorney Blog has posted a startling article, originally from FleetOwner.com, about how car accidents, including medical costs and productivity losses, in the year 2005 cost the US $99 Billion...which roughly averages to a $500 bill to each licensed driver in the country.

Here's some of the number breakdown:

-"Costs related to fatal motor vehicle-related injuries totaled $58 billion. The cost of non-fatal injuries resulting in hospitalization amounted to $28 billion, and the cost of injuries to people treated in emergency departments and released was $14 billion. "

-More men were killed and injured than women (70% men, 52% women). Men represented about $74 billion of all costs.

-Teens and young adults make up 28% of injuries and fatalities-about 31% of all costs ($31 billion).

-Motorcyclists comprise 6% of injuries and fatalities, but the cost is $12 billion due to the severity of their injuries as opposed to those riding in cars.

-Pedestrians, who aren't protected at all when struck by a vehicle, make up 5% of injuries- $10 billion because of the extent of their injuries

The majority of these deaths and injuries can be prevented in several different ways:



.• Graduated driver licensing (GDL) policies: these laws allow new teen drivers to get experience on the road in lower-risk situations as they gain experience over time and are proven to reduce teen crashes. Strong GDL laws have been associated with up to 40% decreases in crashes among 16-year-old drivers, the CDC said.

• Child safety seat distribution and education programs: increased use of correctly installed and fitted child safety seats could help reduce the $3.6 billion annual bill for injuries to children, the cost of deaths and injuries determined by this study for this population group.


• Primary seat belt laws: these laws allow motorists to be stopped and cited for not wearing seat belts. Seat belts reduce the risk of death to those riding in the front seat by about half, the CDC noted.

• Enhanced seat belt enforcement programs: Enhanced enforcement programs in which law enforcement officers focus on getting people to buckle up (e.g.: Click It or Ticket), are effective at increasing safety belt use and reducing deaths and injuries, the agency pointed out.

• Motorcycle and bicycle helmet laws: helmets can reduce the risk of death in a motorcycle crash by more than one-third and reduce the risk of brain injury by 69%.

• Sobriety checkpoints: these checkpoints, where drivers are stopped to assess their level of alcohol impairment, can reduce alcohol-related crash deaths by more than 20%

Let's all remember to be very careful on the roads!

June 21, 2010

Why is the insurance company denying my claim when their insured rear ended me?

In years of representing countless personal injury victims from car wrecks, this is one of the more common questions.

Clearly there is an accident. Clearly the other driver ran into the back of you. Clearly you were hurt and went to the hospital.

You gather your medical bills and send those to the adjuster for the guy who smashed into the back of your car.

The insurance adjuster, who seems like a nice guy, promises that he is going to review all this information and look through your medical records and then make you a fair deal. Of course you do not need to talk to a lawyer because he is going to take care of you.

You then become very surprised when he tells you that despite all the treatment that you have had and the time off from work that he can only offer you $1,500.00.

What just happened?

Here’s the deal. We must always remember that insurance adjusters do not work for us and are working for the person that hit us but instead they work only for the insurance company.

No matter how nice they may seem, they are not on your side. They are not your good neighbor. They are not your friend. You are not in their good hands.

Truth be told, they are not even any of those things for the guy that hit you. He may very well want the case settled but the adjuster and insurance company are quite willing for him to face a trial and potentially get a judgment which will stay on his credit report for many years.

The only person the insurance adjuster is working for is his or her insurance company and their primary goal is profits.

There is nothing wrong with an insurance company making money but you should never be deceived about where the loyalty lies – it’s not with you but instead it’s with paying you as little as the insurance company can possibly get away with.

If you’ve been a wreck, and it was the other person’s fault, then go in with your eyes open wide that you may very well have a battle on your hands. Here’s the solution:

1. Document everything as thoroughly as possible. Every medical visit, every phone call, every email, how you were feeling every day, etc.

2. Educate yourself on your rights. Most good personal injury lawyers will have free materials for you to review to help educate yourself so that you can make the right decisions. Get those materials and study them.

3. After you have reviewed the materials, then it is probably worth your time to have a free consultation with a personal injury attorney in your area.

4. Don’t give up. Understand that there will be difficult times but be willing to press forward if you are not getting a fair settlement offer from the insurance company.

I hope this has been helpful to you and if you live in Alabama and have any questions please feel free to call us at (205) 879-2447 or through this website. You are also welcome to receive our free book: "Alabama Car Wrecks - 7 Ways To Lose Your Credibility Which Will Cause You To Lose Your Case" - just let us know if you would like this.

April 4, 2010

"Sequencing" Tips For Personal Injury Cases

Plaintiff Lawyer Trial Tips has posted a helpful article with some tips on how to proceed when telling your story in front of a judge or jury in court.

Start the story with the defendant and not the plaintiff:

When a series of focus studies were done across the country the outcome confirmed what was already an accepted fact. That fact is that people apply "availability bias" as listen to a story and immediately begin to fill in the blanks by asking themselves questions about the behavior of the activity they are told about. They immediately raise issues in their own mind about the conduct of what went on focusing on negative possible factors that might explain what happened. If you start your story by talking first about the defendant’s conduct, the Jurors will construct their understanding of the case in the context of the defendant’s behavior. Questions about why the defendant did or didn’t something that caused it to happen are raised as you describe the conduct. You want the initial focus on the negligent conduct of the defendant.

You need to create a "good guy vs. bad guy" picture in the jury's heads in which the plaintiff should have known better and seen the accident coming. Also, if the plaintiff goes first, they control the sequence the story of the incident is told as well as the order of witnesses.

Plan the order in which to tell the story:

"Sequencing" your timeline is very important. The story has to make sense so the jury can fill in the blanks in their minds. It's suggested you begin with the defendant's conduct. As jurors concentrate on that, they will develop their own story and seek evidence to support it.


The sequence of proof strongly influences decisions. Therefore, the first witness is most important. This is the witness that should connect facts, give them meaning and influence decision makers. The principles of primacy and sequencing go hand in hand. Sequencing is about the order of topics in a story, not the order of facts. Primacy deals with the fact we tend to believe what we first hear.

The normal story sequence is:

(1) Step one: What happened? who, what, when, where and how?
(2) Step Two: How could it happen? Why - what went wrong?
(3) Step Three: What were and are the consequences?

The plaintiff who goes first in trial basically has complete control over the jury's first impressions of the "evil" defendant.

August 19, 2009

Dangers for Bicyclists on the Road

The LaBovick Injury Law Blog has posted an article highlighting the need for drivers to be extra cautious when sharing the road with bicyclists, particularly in the summer months.

In an effort to promote roadway safety for Bicyclists we are sharing important stats involving bicycle accidents: There are 73 to 85 million bicycle riders in the US, including 45 million over age 6 who rode more than six times in 2008. 700 bicyclists died on US roads in 2007. Over 90 percent died in crashes with motor vehicles. The "typical" bicyclist killed on our roads is a sober male over 16 not wearing a helmet riding on a major road between intersections in an urban area on a summer evening when hit by a car. About 540,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries every year. Of those, about 67,000 have head injuries, and 27,000 have injuries serious enough to be hospitalized. 43,000 cyclists were reported injured in traffic crashes in 2007. There were 1 in 8 of the cyclists with reported injuries had a brain injury. Two-thirds of the deaths here are from traumatic brain injury. A very high percentage of cyclists' brain injuries can be prevented by a helmet, estimated at anywhere from 45 to 88 per cent..
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued the following Bicycle Stats in November, 2008

There were 698 Bicyclist deaths in 2007: (Down from 773 in 2006).
There were 43,000 Bicyclist injuries in traffic in 2007: (Down from 44,000 in 2006).
The average age of a bicyclist killed on the highways was Age 40.
The average age of a bicyclist injured on the highways was age 30.
The number of Bicyclists killed that were 15 years old and under was 107.
The number of Bicyclists injured that were 15 years old and under was 12,000.
The number of Bicyclists killed that were 16 to 34 years old was 163.
The number of Bicyclists injured that were 16 to 34 years old was 16,000.
The number of Bicyclists killed that were 35 to 54 years old was 262.
The number of Bicyclists injured that were 35 to 54 years old was 10,000.
The number of Bicyclists killed that were 55 years and older was 262.
The number of Bicyclists killed that were 55 years and older was 4,000.

The article has also listed tips for bicylcists as well:
7 Tips and Rules for the Road for Bicyclists

Protect Your Head. Wear a Helmet. Assure Bicycle Readiness. Use proper size and function of bicycle. Ride Wisely. Learn and Follow the Rules of the Road. Be Predictable. Act Like a Driver of a Vehicle. Be Visible. See and Be Seen at All Times. “Drive” with Care. Share the Road. Stay Focused. Stay Alert.
June 7, 2009

Alabama Injury Lawsuit - Part Eight - Depositions

Depositions are a critical part of an Alabama injury lawsuit such as a car wreck or products liability type of case. Depositions are a part of discovery but are the only type where the party (plaintiff or defendant) is required to answer without help from their attorneys.

When?
Depositions take place after the lawsuit is filed and normally after written discovery has been exchanged. Normally both the plaintiff and defendant are deposed the same day in a car wreck case - bigger cases (truck wreck, product liability, medical malpractice, etc) typically involve longer depositions so the depositions will take place over a period of days.

Where?
Normally at either your lawyer's office or the other lawyer's office. Sometimes its just a matter of space (for example in our current office we have only one conference room - when we move at the end of June we will have multiple conference rooms) or other times its just a matter of convenience. Rarely will a deposition be taken outside of a lawyer's office - I took one in a judge's courtroom as the trucking company planned on objecting to every question so we wanted a judge close by....

How long?
Depositions in small car wreck cases normally only take a couple of hours. Other cases may take longer. Some lawyers and I were deposing an executive from Europe - we deposed him for an entire week. That's unusual though - normally a full day is about the longest for most cases.

What are the rules to make sure telling the truth?
We have covered this before so feel free to click on these links:
1. Make sure you hear the question;
2. Make sure you understand the question;
3. Think about what is the truthful answer; and
4. Only answer the question asked - no more.

Conclusion
Depositions are very important in an Alabama injury case. We have only focused on depositions of the parties and will cover other types of depositions in another post (doctors, etc) as well as more tips on how to take, defend, and give a deposition. We hope this has been helpful to you and feel free to contact us through our blog (to the left is the contact us form) or you can call us at 205-879-2447.

(Our next post in this series will focus on motions for summary judgment - where a party is trying to get the judge to go ahead and rule on some or all issues in the case rather than a jury deciding those issues).

June 6, 2009

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Injured In A Car Wreck? Part III, What to expect if you have to file a lawsuit.

Many car wreck cases can be settled without having to file a lawsuit. Insurance companies have whole divisions of workers set up to process and resolve car wreck claims. Though you are trying to get as much money as you can for your claim, and they are trying to pay you as little as they can, you both typically have the same goal, resolving your claim without a lawsuit. For both sides, lawsuits bring added expense, added time and added uncertainty.

An insurance company looks at three main things in deciding whether to settle a claim. First, was their insured at fault? Even if they decide the first one in your favor, they will then look at the second issue - are the injuries you are claiming related to or caused by their insured? And finally, what is the value of those injuries? Obviously, someone with mild back pain has a claim that is worth much less to them than someone who has suffered a broken leg or who has had to have back surgery as a result of the wreck.

If you or your lawyer are not able to get the claim resolved, then a lawsuit will have to be filed. Once this happens, a typical case in Alabama state courts is not set for trial, until at least 9 months to a year after being filed. Oftentimes, most cases will not be tried at the first setting, either due to other cases being set before them, or difficulty for both sides in having the case ready for a jury trial.

Filing the lawsuit.

In order to initiate a lawsuit, a “complaint” must be filed by the plaintiff. This filing sets forth the basic facts of what happened, identifies the court you are suing the defendant in, sets forth the legal theories of why the defendant is liable to you, sets forth your damages (how the defendant hurt you) and asks the court for relief, in other words, what you want a judge or jury to do to help you.

Defendants have thirty days in state court and twenty days in federal court to answer the allegation. They will typically ask for and be given an extension. Shortly after all of the defendants answer, the judge will enter a scheduling order setting out deadlines for the parties meet in preparing their case for trial and setting the trial.

Discovery

Discovery is the part of litigation where the lawyer and parties set about finding out what the other side’s position and evidence in support or in defense of the lawsuit will be at trial. Discovery is made basically of both sides asking each other questions about what happened and what they expect to tell the jury. These questions can be written (Interrogatories, which each side will have to answer in writing), oral (Depositions, where each party or witness is asked questions in front of a court reporter who records everything that is said during the deposition) and Requests for Documents, which are requests that require the other side to produce documents supporting their position at trial.


Dispositive Motions

At the end of discovery, a party may file a motion with the court, asking the judge to decide certain issues. In these motions, the parties can ask the court to decide certain legal or factual issues, which they believe are not in dispute. They may even ask the court to dismiss the case or throw it out of court for lack of evidence.

Trial

While most everyone knows what trials are, few people other than lawyers have a good understanding of what goes on at a trial. Few trials have what lawyers call, “the Perry Mason” moment, where one side breaks down crying on the stand and admits it was all their fault.

Each side presents their evidence and testimony before a judge and jury. This can take several days or several weeks for long complicated trials. The judge manages the trial and makes legal ruling on the evidence and law. At the end, the jury considers the evidence and rules in favor of either the plaintiff or the defendant in the form of a judgment.

Post Trial

If either side is not happy with the trial, they have the right, within the time limits set out by court rules, the ask the judge to vacate the judgment or to appeal the judgment. The appeals are also costly and can be very time consuming. Many appeals can take from six months to a year before the appellate court rules and the case is resolved.

Conclusion
We hope this little summary has been helpful to you. If you have any questions or want more information feel free to call us at 205-879-2447 or fill out the contact sheet on this blog to the left of this post.