>> This is Fox6 WBRC “LawCall.”
>> Tiffany Bittner: Welcome to “LawCall.” We’ve got the answers to your legal questions. We are going to take your calls about workers’ compensation, who is eligible, and can your boss stop you from doing it. We are going to take your questions. The number is 855‑LAW‑1955. plus, did you know that the holiday season is one of the most dangerous time for young people to be on the road? We’ll talk about teen drivers. And later, if you’re hit by someone that’s under the influence, the driver may not be the only one at fault. We’ll explain dram shop laws. but first, personal injury attorney Ken Riley is here to take a look at one of your e‑mail questions. Tonight this question comes from Constance. And Constance writes saying that my son was moving into a dorm and campus, the sidewalks were slippery from the rain. He slipped and injured himself inside the dorm. Do we have a claim? What do you think, Ken?
>> Ken Riley: Probably not. In Alabama, rain water cases are very difficult. If there’s a grocery store and there may be some rain water being tracked in, Alabama law says you knew it was raining so that’s going to be on you. For example, if the mats are not placed down, the mats got wet, they took them up, they removed them and now the store manager or the worker didn’t put them back down. Or if they have signs, wet floor signs but they don’t use them, and there’s a situation where somebody falls and maybe it’s in a place where it may not be right in the entrance but it may be off to the side, that could be a situation where you can have liability and could recover. So I would suggest to you, Constance, that probably not a case but if there’s bad enough injuries it’s probably worth talking to an attorney about just to see.
>> For more information Ken’s website is www.deliveringjustice.com.
>> Tiffany Bittner: In tonight’s sidebar, Kirby Farris talks about trusting your kid with the car for the first time.
>> Kirby Farris: Teenagers are about to start driving, any advice? Teen drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group. This means that the cost of insurance also will be high. Now, can do you anything about it? Here is my sidebar advice. A driver’s education course for your teen can help ease the burden of insurance cost. The cost of driver’s education could be cheaper than the extra cost of insurance. Best of all the safety skills your teen learns may one day save their life. If you have a question, send it to lawcalltv.com.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Well as usual it’s good to have you along tonight. Workers’ compensation is the topic we are focusing on tonight. Again we have Ken Riley answer your questions. If you have questions, he’s the man to call and we have an extra person tonight.
>> Yes, we have Stewart Wilbanks. I’ve non‑him all my life. He practices primarily in workers’ compensation and has been doing it for a number of years now. You practiced in the state of Alabama, right?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: I’ve had workers’ compensation in all 55 counties of Alabama. Thank you for having me.
>> Ken Riley: One of the things that we like to talk about is the value of workers’ compensation injuries in Alabama versus other states. And I brought up a moment ago Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, the value of a leg if you lose a leg while you’re working, it’s about a hundred thousand dollars. How much is that same leg worth if you cross the state lines into Alabama?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: Approximately $45,000.
>> Why is it different? You’re talking about a $55,000 difference in what someone’s injury may be worth just because you crossed a state line?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: Workers’ compensation was created by the Alabama legislature. And the legislature put a value on how much certain things are on your body.
>> And there’s no arguing around it, right?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: No. The figures haven’t changed since approximately 1986. As we sit here in 2015, almost 2016, these values haven’t changed in almost 29 years.
>> 30 years. So $100 today, you know, really ain’t what it used to be.
>> Stewart Wilbanks: It is not. And when people call meal they’re shocked at how little value workers’ compensation cases have. These are not like car wreck cases. Car wreck cases you can get before a jury, they can award pain and suffering and punitive damages. That’s not how workers’ compensation works. It gives you a mathematical formula. We need a bunch in benefits. It’s been 30 years. It’s going to take a governor that wants to change the value. Right now I don’t think a lot of people are interested in changing.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Let’s take a few phone calls from viewers. Edward is on the line. Hey, Edward. Hey, Edward, are you on the line? Okay. We are waiting to hear from Edward, I suppose. I guess start with the basic. If you’ve been hurt on the job, someone have been hurt at work, what are the initial steps they need to take to make sure something is done about it.
>> Stewart Wilbanks: First make sure you report the injury. People think they’re going to get fired or their boss is going to yell at them which may be the case sometimes unfortunately. But you need to report the injury. If you don’t, it’s going to come back and bite you. Workers’ compensation has too provide certain things. One, they have to send you to a doctor. They pay the medical bills but you have to go to their doctor.
>> Tiffany Bittner: If you go to your doctor ‑‑
>> Stewart Wilbanks: It creates a whole lot of problems. If you go to your personal insurance, personal insurance can do an audit of your account and they may want some money back. First report the injury, get to a workers’ compensation doctor. If you don’t like the doctor they send you to, you’re entitled to get a second opinion. So those are the two most important things.
>> Tiffany Bittner: We will continue this discussion. Let’s see if Edward is on the line again. Hey, Edward, are you there now? Hello?
>> Tiffany Bittner: Hey, there we go.
>>Caller: Let’s see, the issue that I’m having, I’ve been on worker’s comp for the last ten years. And they called me asking me about settling. What they’re trying to tell me is that Medicare will pick up those charges and they want to settle with me. They offered me an amount of money. And they said that I can get this money and that Medicaid will pick up the rest of my doctor visits and anything else that happened to me. Is there any truth to this?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: Yes and now. Medicare, first of all, to become Medicare eligible you have to have been approved for social security disability and there’s a two‑year waiting period. If you haven’t applied for social security disability and been granted disability benefits, Medicare may be way down the road. Medicare may not pick that up. In the old days we used to settle cases and you would get a big wad of money and you can buy a house or a car. Now there’s Medicare set a sides. Now the money they pay you to close your medicals has to be in a separate account and you have to use that money only for your medical treatment and then Medicare picks it up. So it sounds good but, you know, it’s ‑‑
>> We need to come back do that because that’s very important. There’s a lot of that going on right now and we need to come back. I want you to point out some of the pitfalls of that
>>Caller: Edward, it’s very complicated. You need to talk to a lawyer when you do anything with settling your meds and just hoping that Medicare is going to pick it up.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Okay. Don’t go anywhere. We are going to take a break and come back and have more of your calls and questions.
>> Fox6 WBRC “LawCall” with award‑winning broadcaster Tiffany Bittner and from the Birmingham law firm of Farris, Riley & Pitt, Kirby Farris. Personal injury attorney Ken Riley, practical, professional, recognized by Birmingham magazine as one of Birmingham’s top attorneys. And personal injury attorney Brett Turnbull, with numerous recovers of over $1 billion. Plus legal insight of Tuscaloosa Bob Prince. Plus guest attorneys from across Alabama. Your rights, your calls, live.
>> Tiffany Bittner: When a drunk driver injures someone in an accident, the bar where he bought the drinks may be held liable as well. Tuscaloosa attorney Bob Prince has more in tonight’s legal brief.
>> Bob Prince: Alabama and many states have laws that hold alcohol servers in bars responsible for the harm that intoxicated patrons cause if they have an alcohol‑related accident. These laws called dram shop laws hold the establishment responsible of a person. These establishments can include restaurants, grocery stores, convenient stores and even social clubs. As long as they’re selling alcohol. For example if you were hit by a drunk driver who bought drinks at a restaurant while visibly intoxicated or if the driver was being served even though they were underage, you may be able to file a dram shop claim against that restaurant. That’s your legal brief for tonight. I’m Tuscaloosa attorney, Bob Prince. Back to you.
>> Tiffany Bittner: All right. Welcome back to “LawCall.” We are discussing workers’ compensation tonight. We have Stewart Wilbanks in the house with us answering your phone calls and questions and he wants to hear from you so call us. We have Will on the line. Hey, Will, what is going on?
>> Tiffany Bittner: Hey, there.
>>Caller: How y’all doing? Let me ask you a question. I got a hernia on the job and they didn’t ‑‑ I cannot sue them for pain and suffering because it’s been two and a half years?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: No, unfortunately pain and suffering is not a component of worker’s comp. Unfortunately a hernia ‑‑ hernias are some of the toughest cases because the law doesn’t enunciate the value of a hernia. Back to what we said earlier it comes down to the paramount ratings that goes into a formula. If a doctor gave you an impairment rating due to a hernia then you maybe entitled to compensation but otherwise probably not.
>> Ken Riley: But he will be entitled to lifetime benefits, right?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: To the extent that a doctor will treat you. So again you have to go to a workers’ compensation doctor. You need to call the adjustor or if you have a lawyer working on your case, call him, see if you can get up another appointment to get fix what had they didn’t fixed. Again, you’re entitled to a second opinion. That would be the route that I would go. But no, there’s to pain and suffering unfortunately in workers’ compensation. I wish there was.
>> Tiffany Bittner: All right. Up next, hello, welcome to “LawCall.”
>>Caller: Hi, how y’all doing. Okay. My question is, I got hurt on the job. Workers’ compensation never did acknowledge that I was hurt or that I had ‑‑ I didn’t qualify for surgery. By regular insurance did the surgery but they didn’t know it was workmen’s comp. The pain was so excruciating it caused me to have panic attacks. They never did acknowledge that. During my case they got a judge that never worked ‑‑ he wasn’t a workers’ compensation judge, never did a workers’ compensation case. They paid me for the time that I was off and they paid my doctor bills and the hospital ‑‑
>> Tiffany Bittner: What is your question tonight for Stewart?
>>Caller: My question is, is that they caused me two other problems with the surgery and they haven’t addressed it. This has been since ’99 and they only addressed one of the problems.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Okay. Let me put you on hold for a minute and let Stewart weigh in.
>> Stewart Wilbanks: That’s the problem I have in a lot of cases. A lot of times I have to go in and file a lawsuit and then we have a trial on the issues of whether or not this is even a valid workers’ compensation claim so it’s almost like a tiered process. Very hard on the workers and very hard on us. It’s a difficult situation to be in. As far as these other claims, if you have a case that goes back to 1999 and they denied the claim and sounds like you got at least some of your time off paid by the judge but there’s not going to be anything ‑‑ I hear anything that can be done unfortunately. I’m very sorry.
>> Ken Riley: You know, let’s say someone injured their arm, they break their arm. But then they have back pain and neck pain and maybe even hip pain that approved physician doesn’t treat. And later on down the road although they complain about it, it gets denied. Have you seen that in your practice?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: Absolutely. Be sure you articulate the problems you’re having with the authorized physician. If you’re over compensating with one leg towards the other and it affects your back, the back is more valuable than the leg or the arms. The schedule is the hand, the arms, the legs, the body as a whole which is the back. And it’s people under the law to get the case out of the schedule into a body as a whole. But certain things need to happen, namely, you know, you’ve got to tell your doctor and the doctor has to be on board with it.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Okay. It’s time for us to go to break. When we get back we are going to talk more about workers’ compensation so get your phone calls in.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Well here ARE our topics for the next three weeks. November 23rd is divorce and child custody. November 29th Dangerous Drugs and medical devices. And December 6th is Ask Us Anything! If you’ve been watching tonight and you would like to get in touch with the attorneys you’ve seen on the show, Stewart Wilbanks is here in Birmingham, his number is 205‑939‑0005, or stweartwilbanks.com. Bob Prince, his number is 800‑536‑1105. And Ken Riley’s number is 205‑324‑1212 or www.deliveringjustice.com. Ken, you guys don’t necessarily do a lot of workers’ compensation but you help folks who are injured outside of work, right?
>> Ken Riley: We do the same kind of thing Stewart does day in and day out accept we are working out of the workplace setting. We will help that worker if there’s a third‑party case meaning that let’s say there was a removal of a safety device that caused somebody to get injured. We will handle that case and bring on somebody like Stewart to come in and work on workers’ compensation side of things. We handle personal injury type cases, wrongful death cases.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Workers’ compensation, that’s what we are taking your phone calls onto night. We have Greg from Jasper. Hey, Greg, are you on the line?
>> Tiffany Bittner: Hey, there.
>>Caller: I worked union jobs and we get laid off periodically and sometimes we get laid off for a few months or go back to work the next day. If you get hurt with one company and that job is down and you get laid off, what happens with the workers’ compensation? What goes on in that situation?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: With the union, I mean, unions have contracts. You have to look to the union rule book. But generally if you jump from job to job and get hurt on the job, you’re going to ‑‑ that comp claim is going to stay alive even if you go somewhere else. The way it’s supposed to work the company you work for has workers’ compensation insurance. They pay premiums just like you do on your car insurance. You get hurt on the job and report the injury and the employer turns it in to the workers’ compensation insurance company and they set you up with a claims adjustor and someone to direct your treatment and you follow the steps. I hope that answered the question. Even though you changed jobs your comp claim will stay with the same person.
>> Ken Riley: Stewart, is every business out there subject to the workers’ compensation act or laws, or are there some that are exempt or don’t qualify?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: State employees and federal employees don’t qualify under the workers’ compensation act. They have a separate system. Similar but different.
>> Ken Riley: Small businesses?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: Need to have five employees. And also temp employees, like if somebody works a domestic servant, a maid is not going to have comp benefits if they’re hurt on the job or a lawn ‑‑ guy that works in your yard, a lawn man. If it’s a full‑time job and there’s a certain number of employees, they will have workers’ compensation benefits, waiters and waitresses have workers’ compensation benefits, temp agencies people have workers’ compensation benefits. So if it meets the requisites of you’re hurt on the job, you have the right amount of employees, you’re covered under workers’ compensation.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Okay. Janice is up next. Hey, Janice.
>>Caller: Good evening, how are you today?
>> Tiffany Bittner: Great, things.
>>Caller: Yes. I started on the job. It’s been about 20 years I hurt my back. And I was taken to the doctors and they treated me and was released about a month later. But since then I’ve had problems with my back. I’ve been told that I have arthritis in my back. Would that company be still responsible for that?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: You know, in a perfect world probably but the reality of is it no they’re not going to do anything for your back. If you’re having problems still, if you’re able to work, I think you can probably get treatment through your Blue Cross, blue shield, personal insurance. If you’re not able to work I would suggest file for social security disability benefits and seek treatment through Medicare.
>> Tiffany Bittner: What is your last Nugget of advice for folks if they hear the word settle, what would you suggest?
>> Stewart Wilbanks: Workers’ compensation you go before a judge, not a jury. For a lump sum in workers’ compensation you have to settle your case. It is tax‑free. When it’s done with the exception of your medicals. But always check with a lawyer. Attorney fees are 15%. We can’t do it any cheaper than that and you’ll get some add advice.
>> Tiffany Bittner: All right. Have a great week, everyone.