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When an employee is injured at work, workers compensation benefits may be available to compensate for that employee’s medical costs and lost wages. Examples of such cases involve workers being hurt from falling equipment, or slip and falls on work sites. However, a somewhat new example has shown itself in the “company field day.” The South Carolina Supreme Court recently held that a man was owed workers compensation benefits from injuries he suffered during a company kickball game.

Stephen Whigham shattered two bones in his leg on the last play of the kickball game, and after being denied workers’ compensation benefits multiple times, the Supreme Court, in August 2014 decided that because he was required to attend the game as a part of his job, and because he was injured as a result of being part of that game, he was entitled to receive benefits for that injury.

South Carolina has the Workers’ Compensation Act, law which was enacted to help provide coverage and benefits for injuries that “arise out of and in the course of employment.” Coverage could be clearly met when someone is actively engaged in the performance of their job duties, especially if they are on site. However, in the instant case, the employee was at a company kickball game, away from the place of work, and involved in a recreational activity.

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With fall creeping in, the weather can be something to enjoy this time of year.  However, there are dangers, even in this late summer environment.  Unfortunately, one such danger, specifically for children walking to and from school or to bus stops, people jogging, and all other manner of late summer outdoor activities, are animal attacks, specifically dog bites.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in this country, and in 2012, more than 27,000 people required reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten.

The injuries associated with these attacks often result in exorbitant medical expenses.  And just who would be responsible for these medical expenses?  South Carolina law imposes liability not only on the dog owner but also possibly on the property owner if the dog is in his/her care or control when a dog attacks a person without provocation.

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When clients come in for estate planning, one of the most commonly asked for documents is a power of attorney.  At its heart, a power of attorney is rooted in the concept of agency.  A person creating a power of attorney, known as the Principal, names someone else, known as the Agent, who is then able to authorize (i.e. sign) decisions, documents, etc. for the Principal under the circumstances outlined in the power of attorney.  The Agent is always bound to act in the best interests of the Principal: this duty is called a fiduciary duty, and there can be legal consequences, civil and/or criminal, for breaching that duty.  If you are considering a Power of Attorney, there are several types, one or more of which may be applicable for your current situation.

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Probate—sometimes that one word can give people nightmares.  Probate, however, is a major mechanism, and for most people, is the only mechanism for transferring assets from one person to another after a loved one has died.  While the probate process is overseen by the Probate Court, it is managed by the Personal Representative (more commonly known as the executor), who is appointed by the Court.  Probate can typically last a year in South Carolina: it must last at least eight months, to allow for the statutory creditors’ period of eight months to run and come to a close.  S.C. Code Ann. §62-3-801.

During that year, the Personal Representative is in charge of the estate of the person who has died, that person being then known as the “decedent.”  An estate is made up of all of the assets of each and every kind that the decedent owned at the time of his/her death, with a few exceptions (i.e. life insurance policies with named surviving beneficiaries, assets owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, etc.—a topic for another blog).

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It is always the wisest choice to seek help from those who know more and who know better than us. If we need help with a structural issue, we see an engineer; if the issue is with taxes, we see an accountant, but when we are sick or in pain, we see a doctor.   Doctors go through rigorous training and schooling in order to perform in their highly skilled fields and specialties to protect and treat their patients.

Unfortunately, there are physicians who do make egregious mistakes and deviations from the standard of care, and when those incidents occur, those physicians should be held accountable for the injury done. One such incident happened in Myrtle Beach after a 2004 accident. After an automobile accident, the plaintiff, a Mr. Green, whose injuries at the time included severed arteries in his forearm, was taken to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center for surgery to repair his arm. While being prepared for surgery, the surgeon ordered a CAT scan on the plaintiff’s knee which was also injured in the collision. The delay caused by the scan led to the plaintiff suffering cardiac and respiratory arrest, which further led to the death of a portion of his spinal cord and permanent paralysis from the waist down. When this case went to trial, the evidence showed that his blood pressure was dangerously low and expert testimony agreed that the plaintiff under these conditions would have been likely to slip into cardiac arrest.

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Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents are a daily occurrence, and even more terribly so, the results can be long-lasting, even tragic. One such instance happened in Kershaw County, South Carolina, near Lugoff on August 7, 2014 when a motorcyclist was killed in a traffic incident with a 1994 Chevrolet truck.

When something like this happens, the emotional burden and stress are already so high, it can be difficult and overwhelming to also deal with insurance companies, medical providers, and finding compensation for loss and injury done from the at-fault party.

Whenever an accident occurs, there are typically two kinds of harm done—property damage and bodily injury. Our South Carolina attorneys can assist with bodily injury claims: this assistance includes seeking compensation, known as damages, for injuries caused as a result of an accident. Depending on the facts of your case, such damages could include financial losses from medical bills, loss of wages from time lost at work due to injury, pain and suffering, mental and even emotional distress.

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As of June of this year, South Carolina joined the vast majority of other states in implementing a ban on driving while texting. According to a recent article by Insurance Journal, Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill into law on June 9, making South Carolina the second-to-last state in the U.S. to enact this type of ban. (Montana is currently the only state that does not have such a ban in place.)

communication-4-1088345-mTexting laws vary by state, some being more strict than others. In South Carolina, the law prohibits the use of a “wireless electronic communication device to compose, send, or read a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle on the public streets and highways of this state.” This means that in order for a driver to legally text, he or she must be pulled off the road and have the car in park.

The law makes texting while driving a primary offense, meaning that a police officer can pull a driver over for no reason other than texting. Other states have less strict laws that require an officer to document some other offense before initiating a traffic stop.

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When potential clients call our office, one of the questions we get asked the most often is, “Do I have a case?” Or, in other words, “Can I win?” Sometimes, they are disappointed with the answer, “Maybe; it depends.” It depends on two factors: the facts and how those facts apply to the law in question. Each potential client brings their own unique set of facts to the table, but the law for the most part, remains the same. Therefore, it might be helpful to look at what South Carolina law says “makes a case” to shed some light on the rubric for all potential personal injury clients who may be considering filing a personal injury claim or seeking legal services.

Every claim, or cause of action, is made up of elements. For a personal injury claim, more often than not, at least one of the causes of action will be negligence. In the State of South Carolina, negligence is made up of three elements, and if a plaintiff fails to prove any of the three by a preponderance of the evidence, the case fails on its face. These elements are:

  1. The plaintiff must prove there was a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff;
  2. The plaintiff must prove that there was a breach of that duty by a negligent act or omission; and
  3. The plaintiff must prove that there was damage proximately caused by a breach of that duty.

Vinson v. Hartley, 324 S.C. 389, 477 S.E.2d 715 (Ct. App. 1996).

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In a case in front of the Court of Appeals of South Carolina earlier this year, Ford Motor Company was found liable for the negligent design of a door-latch system that released during an accident and sent the occupant flying out of the car.

car-door-handle-1169964-mIn the case, Riley v. Ford Motor Company, Mr. Riley was driving his Ford pick-up truck down the highway when another vehicle pulled out in front of him, causing a collision. After the initial collision, Riley’s truck left the roadway and rolled over. The door to his pick-up truck sprung open upon this initial impact. While the specifics of what occurred cannot be determined, since there were no witness to the accident, Riley’s body was found 85 feet from the point where he was ejected from the vehicle.

Riley’s wife brought suit against the other driver for his negligence in pulling out in front of her husband as well as against Ford Motor Company, alleging that the door-latch mechanism was negligently designed. She claimed that had the door not sprung open her husband would not have died in the accident.

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In a recent case in front of the South Carolina Supreme Court, the Court affirmed a lower court’s denial of Uninsured Motorist Protection to a man who lived with his fiancée and was listed as a driver on her insurance policy.

papers-1-259450-mIn the appeal of Bell v. Progressive Direct Insurance Company, the Court heard a case about a man who was injured by an underinsured motorist while riding in the car with his coworker. His coworker did not have Underinsured Motorist Protection on his car, so the man filed a claim under his fiancée’s policy, on which he was listed as a “driver.”

However, Progressive Insurance denied the man’s claim, explaining that the Underinsured Motorist Protection only extended to the “insured” or a “relative” of the insured. Since the couple was not yet married, and the policy was under the fiancée’s name, Progressive decided that the claim was outside the scope of the insurance policy.

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