Honest Answers From Your South Carolina Lawyer
When you’re faced with a major life event, you’re filled with questions and uncertainty. Get the straight answers you’re looking for from a South Carolina attorney.
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My uncle got seriously hurt in a tractor-trailer accident in Union. I know we can hold the truck driver accountable because the crash was his fault. But can we hold the trucking company accountable too?
Yes, especially if the trucker is an employee of the trucking company. Sometimes trucking companies get their drivers and tractor-trailers from another company, but in most situations, federal law makes the trucking company accountable as if the driver and the truck were their own.
There are two ways the trucking company can be held responsible. First, the trucking company is already responsible because South Carolina law holds an employer liable for the acts of its employee. Since the trucker caused the crash, his employer—the trucking company—will also be held accountable.
The second way the trucking company might be held accountable is a little more complicated. Stated in general terms, the second way is called negligent hiring, training, supervision, retention, entrustment, and maintenance. It can be an important part of your case because South Carolina law considers this a separate liability, meaning you may be compensated for these claims in addition to compensation for the crash itself. The basic legal principle behind this is that trucking companies are responsible when they knew or should have known their driver or their truck created an undue risk of harm to the public. At Holland & Usry, we would say this is not just a legal responsibility, but a moral one. Briefly, here are some facts we can develop to help prove these claims:
Holds the trucking company accountable for failing to:
- Perform a proper background search of the driver, especially his driving and criminal record, that could have revealed him legally ineligible to drive an 18-wheeler in the first place;
- Adequately check qualifications to drive a big rig, like making sure he could pass a tractor-trailer driving test as required by federal regulations.
Holds the trucking company accountable for failing to properly train the trucker to:
- Safely operate the tractor-trailer;
- Know and obey laws and regulations regarding the operation of tractor-trailers;
- Be consistently taught safe driving practices to protect the motoring public, by a company-sponsored safety program.
Holds the trucking company accountable for:
- Failing to monitor the trucker’s driving record and driving performance during employment to be sure he drove safely once employed;
- Committing what I call “the worst deadly sin”: allowing the trucker to drive excessive hours and ignoring logbook violations. Federal regulations strictly limit the amount of hours a trucker can drive. We all shudder at a 30-ton mammoth machine hurtling down the interstate at 70 miles per hour with the driver asleep at the wheel. Log books—also required by federal regulations—keep truckers honest by forcing them to document they rested as required by law. But cheating occurs, and companies sometimes look the other way.
Holds the trucking company accountable for failing to discipline and even fire the trucker for a pattern of dangerous driving.
Holds the trucking company accountable for failing to properly maintain the tractor-trailer involved in the crash.
Holds the trucking company accountable for giving its tractor-trailer to a trucker who’s unqualified, inadequately trained, or just plain incompetent to drive it.
If you look back at these factors, you’ll realize they have two things in common; they are designed to make trucking companies help keep us safe, and violating them is a choice made by the trucking company. Violations may be proven by showing the trucking company did not have policies and procedures to prevent them, or that the trucking company did have policies and procedures in place but ignored them. We might also hold the trucking company liable by proving it ignored federal regulations.
At Holland & Usry, we take severe injuries from South Carolina tractor-trailer accidents seriously, whether they occur in Spartanburg, Greenville, Cherokee, or Union counties, or anywhere in our state. If you’re the victim of a South Carolina semi-truck crash, you owe it to yourself and your family to speak with an experienced attorney to explore your rights and develop a case against the trucking company for breaking safety rules designed to keep you safe.
Sometimes, we’ll hire a trucking industry expert to help us prove what both the trucker and the trucking company did wrong to maximize your compensation for severe injuries or the death of a loved one. You can also check out our free report on South Carolina auto accidents, which includes a chapter on tractor-trailer accidents. If you’d like a free meeting with us to discuss your tractor-trailer wreck case, we can come to you if you’re too hurt to come to us. Feel free to start a live chat or send us an email. If you prefer, you can simply call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free 888.230.1841 for your free meeting to begin evaluating your case and preserving your rights.
My uncle broke his arm at work in Union and got a $30,000 workers’ comp settlement. I just broke my arm at work in Spartanburg. Am I guaranteed the same amount?
No. In fact, your case might be worth more, but it could be less. South Carolina workers’ comp cases are like the people they help: every one is unique. The settlement amount depends on a variety of factors. This gives us a great chance to discuss the basics of a typical workers’ comp settlement.
The Starting Point: Your Average Weekly Wage
Your average weekly wage sets the dollar amount to value your settlement.
- "Average weekly wage" defined. Your average weekly wage sets the dollar amount to value your settlement. It’s usually based on your wages for the last 4 quarters before you got hurt, excluding the quarter you got hurt. If you worked less than that, it’s based on the time you worked, as long as it’s fair to you and the employer.
- Weekly check amount. You’re eligible for a “weekly check”, called temporary total disability (TTD), if you miss work 8 calendar days due to your injury. This amount is called your “comp rate.”
For example, let’s imagine your average weekly wage is $600. That makes your weekly check $400. Now we move to the next factor in valuing your settlement, which is a bit odd.
Typical Settlement Limits and the “Scheduled Loss” Law
It sounds strange, but South Carolina's workers’ compensation law lists the body parts most often hurt at work, along with a limit in weeks for each. This sets the maximum value for a total loss of that body part.
In your case, the maximum value for the arm is 220 weeks. To get the highest settlement amount for the total loss of your arm, we multiply your average weekly wage of $400 by 220 weeks to equal $88,000. But since you won’t lose your arm, we go to the next factor—what we at Holland & Usry call the “wild card” because it’s different for everyone, as shown below.
The Wild Card: Impairment and Disability Ratings
The workers’ comp system usually requires a percentage of loss of use to reach a settlement amount. This percentage is based on a permanent impairment rating given to you by the doctor. That percentage is then used to arrive at a disability rating. Here’s how those two ratings work:
- Medical impairment rating generally measures permanent loss of mobility and strength caused by your injury.
- Workers’ comp disability rating reflects how your medical impairment hurts your ability to work. The disability rating accounts for lost ability to do your job caused by medical impairment. Disability should be higher than the impairment rating.
We call this the “wild card” because disability is different for everyone depending on what job they do. For instance, if you’re a brick layer who lifts, carries, and reaches up with heavy loads at work, a 25 percent impairment rating to your arm is a much higher work disability than an office worker with the same rating, because it’s much harder to do your job with a permanently damaged arm.
This is the hardest part of your case to value. It’s also the part that has the greatest potential to maximize your compensation. But before settling, there may be another major factor: whether to protect your rights to future medical treatment.
Medical Treatment: Keep It Open, Walk Away, Or Keep Getting It?
There are three basic options for future medical treatment in the typical workers’ compensation settlement:
- Keep your options open. Keep your right to medical treatment open for one year after the full payment of your settlement. But beware! Not going to the comp doctor for over a year likely forfeits this right, too. This is called a Form 16 settlement for the form signed to do it.
- Walk away: the clincher. A clincher means you give up the right to comp insurance paying for future treatment for your injury. This usually gets you more money, because you take the risk of paying for future treatment, and the insurance company will pay extra to get off the hook.
- Rare option: Post- Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI Care) for Non-Totally Disabling Injuries. In workers’ comp lingo, these are called “Dodge medicals” for the court decision authorizing them. This allows you to get specific medical care, even after you reach MMI, if it helps you reduce disability. For example, if you got severely hurt but are not totally disabled, you might be able to get Dodge medicals for painkillers you need to get through the day at work and doctor visits for flare ups. These benefits can be for life.
But there’s a catch: it requires expert medical evidence stated to a reasonable degree of medical certainty. And here’s the other catch: these benefits aren’t handed out generously; in fact, it’s quite uncommon to receive them. To qualify for these benefits requires getting the proper evidence arranged in the proper way.
This Is Complicated And Important. Let A Professional Handle It.
Even a basic workers’ compensation settlement can be complicated. It requires thorough knowledge of your medical diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis, and knowledge of workers’ compensation law. It’s only harder if you’re hurt really bad or just don’t feel like dealing with all the phone calls and the tiny details to protect you and your family under comp law.
At Holland & Usry, we can take that pressure off you, and work with you to arrive at a proper settlement amount. We can help you in front of the workers’ compensation commission if the insurance company won’t pay the fair settlement. If you want to discuss your options or need help with your Union or Spartanburg workers’ compensation claim, feel free to send us an email, start a live chat on our website, or call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841. You can also download our book The Hurt Worker's Toolkit to get valuable information to help you.
Will I have to testify in my criminal trial?
The honest answer: Maybe. In our years defending criminal cases at Holland and Usry, we’ve found few things generate more fear in an accused person than taking the stand in their own defense. We’ll address those emotions in a minute. But first, set them aside so you can focus on what guides our decision. This is not a lofty notion but three bedrock FACTS:
- To convict you, the government must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- The accused always has the right to remain silent.
- The jury cannot hold your silence against you. The judge must instruct the jury they cannot even discuss your not taking the stand in their deliberations.
Because it’s all up to the government to prove your guilt, we’re not going to do their work for them. If your testimony would remove all doubt of your guilt, you’re not testifying. But even if you’re innocent, you still might not take the stand.
Some Good Reasons to Not Testify Even If You’re Innocent:
The classic example is a DUI: if there is a video of you, the way you look on the video already establishes whether you were impaired. By the way, if you’re worried about how you did on those field sobriety tests, check out our free report on DUI cases, which has a chapter that should relieve your anxiety about that.
It hurts our strategy.
If we put up any evidence, we lose the last closing argument. That means the State gets an extra shot to talk to the jury about everything they think is wrong with our defense. The last voice in the jury’s ears will be the prosecutor who wants to condemn you. Sometimes it’s just better for them to hear what we have to say last.
Your emotions overwhelm the necessity of your testimony.
Unlike anyone else in the courtroom, you’re the only one whose life and reputation is at stake. On the stand, you might feel like the verdict is in your hands alone. This can be overwhelming, and you’re justified feeling afraid and nervous. Fear and nerves create mistakes—you need only look at the world of sports where many games are decided on missed field goals, free throws, or short putts. And this is no game.
When You Do Testify: the Antidote for Fear and Nerves.
If your testimony is necessary, we counter your fear and nerves with the best antidote: preparation. This does not mean memorizing speeches or dishonestly twisting facts hoping to fool the jury. On the stand, your best friend is honesty, even admitting things that hurt you a little bit. Remember if your testimony hurts a lot, you’re not doing it. We work with our clients to develop their testimony so you’ll feel prepared when you take the stand to defend yourself. You’ll know:
- The facts of your case so you don’t get tripped up.
- Honest, meaningful explanations for things that hurt you. Sometimes admitting dumb mistakes—like prior convictions—and taking responsibility for them helps the jury understand your innocence in this case. It also takes a lot of gas out of the prosecutor’s cross-examination.
- How to respond patiently, respectfully, and honestly even when you’re getting grilled. Our goal is to keep you calm on the stand so the jury views you as a reasonable person. You might get a little seared by a very talented prosecutor, but not burned to a crisp.
- How to use cross-examination as a way to repeat your defense. While questions are generally designed to be answered yes or no, you can explain in a way that continues to help your case: “Yes, I was there when the car got stolen, but I never touched it and the only fingerprints officers found were someone else’s.”
If you’ve been charged with a crime and want to discuss your options, including whether you’ll have to testify, do contact us by phone at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841, email, or start a live chat and we’ll get in touch with you.
My husband got hit by a tractor trailer and passed away. All the trucker got was a ticket for running a red light. Now I’m a widow with small children. Do I have any legal rights to hold the trucker accountable and get financial help?
Yes. You have a claim against the trucker and possibly his employer. This is how tort law works—it fills in the gaps left by criminal law to help victims. A $400 fine paid to the state will never help make up for a departed spouse's lost income or pay medical bills from the crash.
A Wrongful Death Claim My Help Your Family Receive the Aid They Deserve
Wrongful death is a legal term for the claim made when an accident causes the victim’s death. South Carolina law allows certain relatives of the victim, usually the spouse, children, and/or parents, to be compensated for:
- The emotional trauma caused by the death,
- Loss of the victim’s companionship,
- Funeral expenses, and
- The victim’s lost earnings that would have contributed to supporting the family.
The victim’s estate may also have a survival claim to recover for the victim’s:
- Medical bills and
- Conscious pain, suffering, and mental distress caused by the accident.
Both claims can include punitive damages for the trucker who caused the crash by breaking the law. If you’ve lost a loved one in a deadly Spartanburg crash—especially one who provided financial and family support, you owe it to yourself and your family to meet with a lawyer experienced in these claims. At Holland & Usry, our Spartanburg car accident lawyers look after folks like you. For our free book on auto accident cases that includes a chapter on tractor trailer crashes, click HERE. Call us today at 864.582.0416 or toll free at 888.230.1841 to schedule a free meeting to see what we can do to help enforce your rights.
I feel so dumb. I was at the store and didn’t see a clear puddle on the floor so I slipped in it and broke my kneecap. The store’s insurance man says I’ll never prove it was their fault and won’t pay my medical bills. Is he right?
Probably not. He’s an adjuster working for the insurance company hoping you’ll give up so his employer can save lots of money.
First Things First
The first thing to remember is that the colorless puddle was a hidden danger to you as your eyes focused on the shelves, exactly where the store wants your eyes to be. That’s why stores have the responsibility to keep their floors safe for customers they invite in to look at the shelves, not the floor. You have a right to trust the store to keep its floor safe.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Spartanburg slip or trip and fall victims are often their own worst enemy in choosing to not hold the store accountable. You have a right to safety, and are justified having it enforced by being compensated for your injuries. It’s not your fault you fell.
Proving the Store’s Responsibility
There are several basic ways a Spartanburg slip and fall lawyer can help prove the store did not keep you safe, making it responsible for your injuries:
- The store created the danger. For example, an employee knocked the container of the liquid over, and just left the spill.
- The store knew about the danger, but didn’t fix it. Employees or management saw the spill or took a report about it, but didn’t immediately clean it up or put any bright warning cones or “wet floor” signs nearby to warn you.
- The store should have known about the danger. The store didn’t regularly inspect its floors to find hazards that could hurt unsuspecting customers like you.
- Even if the spill is obvious, that’s not necessarily much of a defense. South Carolina stores can still be liable for customers who get hurt in obvious spills, for two reasons. First, our law holds stores should expect customers to encounter these dangers, so the store should fix them or at least warn customers. Second, stores expect customers to focus on the shelves, not floors. If you’re focused on the shelves, you might never see the danger on the floor. The store has the best chance to prevent your injury.
At Holland & Usry, we know slip or trip and fall victims face an uphill battle from the challenge in showing it’s the store’s fault and the potentially life-changing injuries they suffer. If you’ve been hurt in a Spartanburg slip or trip and fall, you owe it to yourself to call us for a free meeting to see if we can help you get compensated for your injuries the store could’ve prevented. Call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 877.230.1841 to schedule your free meeting to see how we can help you.
I Got Severely Hurt in a South Carolina Car Wreck, and My Medical Bills are $50,000. I Just Found Out the Driver Who Hit Me Only Had $25,000 in Liability Insurance. Will I Be Able to Get Any More Money to Pay My Bills?
Hopefully. While South Carolina law requires drivers to carry only $25,000 liability insurance, that amount can be woefully inadequate when someone gets hurt badly; however, you may have additional insurance on your own policy that you can use. It’s called underinsurance (UIM), and it’s designed for this very purpose – to help you get compensated when the driver who hurt you does not carry enough auto insurance to cover your injuries. UIM can help get you fully compensated or at least get you more compensation than you would have been if you didn’t have it.
The best thing about UIM is, in the right situations, it can give even more coverage than you might think, through a legal tactic called "stacking."
For more information about UIM and South Carolina car accident claims in general, check out our free book I Just Got in a South Carolina Car Accident. Now What?.
If you're not convinced about how vital UIM can be to protect you and your family in a South Carolina car crash, read some of our clients' stories:
- UIM provides desperately needed financial aid to motocycle brain injury victim
- Car accident settlement involving a drunk driver
- Settlement for 2 children seriously injured in a car accident
- Car accident settlement for a child, including the child's parents' policy
UIM coverage is so important that South Carolina law requires your insurance agent to offer it in a specific way. If you're just reading this for information and wonder if you have it, consult your policy immediately, and if you don't have it, call your agent to redo your policy to get you as much as possible. It just might save you from financial ruin if you ever get hurt in a car accident.
Is There a Way to Find Out What Evidence the Other Side Has in My South Carolina Personal Injury Case?
Yes, if a lawsuit is filed in South Carolina state or federal court. Read more about the lawsuit process here.
We find out the other side's evidence in a process called discovery. It generally has 2 parts:
- Written discovery consists of written questions called interrogatories. The other side answers them in writing. It also consists of requests to reproduce documents and other items. These requests ask the other side to send copies of documents like medical records or pictures.
- Depositions are out-of-court sworn testimony. We question the opponent and maybe their witness under oath, just like in court, but in our or their lawyer's office. A court reporter takes down the testimony just like in court. That way, the parties have a really good idea of what everyone will testify to at trial.
WARNING: The other side has a right to request the same discovery from us. That means you've got to tell the truth about your injuries from the beginning, especially to your doctor. And you've got to testify accurately in your case- even about things that don't seem to matter.
Discovery helps us evaluate your personal injury case better, as we find out what the other side will put in evidence and what their witnesses will testify to. Best of all, it helps us get your case ready for trial by developing plans to strengthen your case and defeat defenses.
I’m going through a nasty divorce right now and I’m concerned about my welfare when it’s all over. Is my ex required to pay alimony? How can I get the spousal support in South Carolina that I need to live?
In South Carolina there is often confusion surrounding the terms alimony and separate support and maintenance. Some use the terms interchangeably, however there is a difference. Alimony refers to support payments made by one former spouse to another former spouse. Alimony is post-divorce. Separate support and maintenance refers to support payments made by one spouse to another spouse, for instance a support obligation required by a Decree of Separate Maintenance. This form of support is pre-divorce. Temporary support can be awarded to give a spouse sufficient means for support while a divorce action is pending.
Once your divorce is finalized, you have the opportunity to receive alimony from your former spouse to help support you. Here are three ways you can receive alimony:
- Periodic alimony. This type of alimony arrives at regular intervals, such as bi-weekly or monthly payments. This is usually paid for the rest of your life, or until you move in with or marry someone new.
- Lump-sum alimony. This is a one-time payment that is made to you after the divorce is over. This usually cannot be altered or changed.
- Rehabilitative alimony. This type of alimony is made periodically. It is intended to terminate or stop after a certain amount of time. This is really meant to help you get back on your feet after a divorce.
Requesting your alimony can be a difficult process. In South Carolina the Family Court considers many factors (13 in all) in determining alimony. You may think you need more than what your former spouse is willing to provide. With help from an alimony attorney in Spartanburg at Holland & Usry, you can get the legal support you need to ensure you receive what is fair and just in your divorce. Call us today toll free at 888-230-1841 or 864-582-0416 to get started.
How long will it take to settle my claim?
It can be as swift as 3 months or as long as over a year, depending on the circumstances of your claim. Three factors that increase the length of time involved in settlement are the complexity of the case, the severity of the injuries, and whether a lawsuit is filed. Complex cases, such as defective products, may require research into the mechanics and science of what caused your injury, which often requires hiring experts to assist in the research and investigation of your claim. At Holland & Usry, we generally do not present your injury claim until we are reasonably certain of the full extent of your injury so we can maximize your recovery. Thus, severe injuries requiring ongoing medical treatment may take a little more time. If a lawsuit is filed, time is added because the parties must work their way through the discovery process, a system by which both sides obtain information and evidence about the case to prepare it for trial. Of course, the case may have to go to trial, which requires some patience as the case climbs its way up the list of cases to be tried. At Holland & Usry, if your case goes to trial, we will be prepared, and so will you.
How long do I have to make a personal injury claim?
It depends. But one thing's for sure: if you miss the deadline, you lose your rights, period. It doesn't matter how bad you're hurt or how wrongly you got treated, you won't be compensated for it.
The Threat To The Inexperienced
Just figuring out the deadline can be a complicated process, depending on the type of case you've got, and who it was that hurt you. In some cases, it can be hard to figure out exactly when the accident happened, so you can't pinpoint when your time started to run. This is especially true in medical malpractice cases, when victims often don't realize the medical mistake until long after it occurred.
It's all the more reason to immediately ask an experienced personal injury lawyer some basic questions about your case when you’ve been seriously injured by someone else's carelessness.
These are the very basics about your legal deadline. WARNING: NEVER, EVER ASSUME A DEADLINE APPLIES TO YOUR CASE. Verify how long you've got by asking an injury lawyer you trust- and don't be surprised if the answer requires some legal research first.
The Threat Named, And How To Defeat It
- The official name of the deadline [in case you want to impress your friends at parties]: It's a law called the “Statute of Limitations.”
- What you've got to do to beat the deadline. You've got to file a lawsuit against the parties that hurt you. And if more than one party could be legally responsible for your injury, you usually can't add a party after the deadline. That's why it's important to get your ducks in a row early on.
Different Parties, Different Deadlines
The length of the statute of limitations varies according to how the law defines a wrongdoer:
- Private [non-government-affiliated] parties- usually three years from the accident. This includes most people driving their own cars in car accident cases. It also includes private companies- but an important trick is determining whether a company's private or government-affiliated, since that dramatically reduces the deadline. Keep reading.
- Government-affiliated parties- usually two years from the accident. This includes state, county, and local agencies like police, or the Department of Transportation. But many seemingly private entities are actually legally government-affiliated. A key example is hospitals- many county hospitals are exactly that, legally affiliated with the government.
It's Pretty Easy To Put Your Fears To Bed
If you're wondering what your injury case deadline is, you don't even have to call. You can start a live chat right where you are to get your question answered by an experienced personal injury attorney. We're here to give you peace of mind, and make it as easy as possible for you to get justice.