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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After I settle my workers’ comp case, when do I get my check?
If you feel guilty about asking, stop. You’ve lost work and income. You may need the money to catch up on some bills. It’s the responsible thing to make plans and budget carefully when you receive money, and that includes a settlement.
That’s why we work to get you the money as quickly as we can.
But here’s the answer: it does take a little time to get your check, but it’s because workers’ compensation law imposes some requirements to protect you. Settlements must be filed with the Workers’ Compensation Commission and attorney fees and costs must be approved by the Commission.
Here’s how it works ordinarily:
- We agree to settle the case with the workers’ compensation insurance company that handles your benefits.
- We get settlement documents laying out the agreement. We review them closely to protect your rights, especially since they can impact your ability to get free future medical care for your injuries, depending which settlement option you chose. If you’ve been declared permanently and totally disabled, you can bet we’ll be extra careful about preserving your rights to the most extensive benefits known in workers’ comp. If the documents aren’t right, we make changes to protect you.
- The check usually comes with the settlement documents. We deposit that in our trust account, a special account safeguarding your money.
- Once the documents are ready for you to sign, you sign. Naturally, we explain them to you beforehand, since they’re often incredibly complex “legalese”—which can be just plain ridiculous. We return them to opposing counsel to file with the Commission, or we file them ourselves.
- You also sign a Form 61. It’s an official form from the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. It details who gets paid from the settlement, including our fees and costs paid from the settlement check. We send that to a Commissioner with an order approving the fees and costs.
When we get the filed copies of the settlement documents, the form 61, and the order approving our fees and costs, it’s official! You get your check.
Workers Compensation Settlements Are Worth A Little Wait
While the process takes longer than we want—usually a few weeks—it’s to be sure no injured worker gets taken for a ride by an insurance company—or even a dishonest lawyer.
Naturally, if you’ve hired us, you’re not worried about that.
If you have questions about your potential comp settlement or any aspects of your comp case, feel free to email us right where you are to get them answered. We’re here to give you peace of mind and help you find your way in what’s often a hard, confusing time. You can also download our book The Hurt Worker's Toolkit to get valuable information to help you.
Can I be repaid for income lost as a result of an accident injury?
Yes, but you’ve got to be able to prove you lost wages as a result of the accident.
And before we go any further, if your accident happened at work, your case works different because it’s likely a workers’ compensation case; see our article on recovering lost wages in workers' comp. BUT you might get more than comp offers if you got hurt at work by someone besides a co-worker—for example, if you were injured in car crash. If you qualify for one of these cases under comp law, you do stand to recover the full amount of wages you lost from the accident. For more info, read our article on how you can sue non-coworkers, called "third parties", who hurt you at work.
Here’s how you can recover lost wages from non-work accidents works in South Carolina:
- Who qualifies? Only the accident victim can recover lost wages, even though their spouses often miss a lot of work caring for the victim. Spouses naturally help out more at home, like taking off work early to get children to ballgames and other activities an injured spouse can’t. But you can be compensated for damage to your mariage caused by your spouse's injuries.
- The accident must have caused the loss in income. Insurance companies will fight you if you can’t prove the accident forced you to miss work. That’s why we work to assure everyone every penny is legitimate. The very best way to do that is a copy of your doctor’s orders or medical records showing the doctor ordered you to stay out of work while you recovered—or gave you work restrictions so you just couldn’t do your job.
- Lost wages can include doctor and therapy visits. When you have to miss work in order to keep a appointment for treatment, the income you lose can be recovered in your accident claim.
- You must have records to prove the amount of money you forfeited. Naturally, this is an important part of proving your claim, and we take great care to help you document your lost income. We have a form we use for employers to verify the dates and times you missed work, with a place for the employer to calculate the amount of wages you lost from the accident. That way, the insurance company has an independent measure of your lost income from the expert in it—the one who actually writes your paycheck. It also strips the insurance company of the argument you made it up or you can’t prove it. We’ve got a clear, simple form signed by a company officer. That’s undeniable proof.
- If you’re not a factory worker or hourly employee, the calculation can be more complicated. What if you’re paid by salary, or you earn commissions? We might need your tax returns and even an independent accountant to determine the income lost as a result of your accident. And that’s yet another reason to get a lawyer if you’ve been seriously hurt. We know how to find the people who can help you the most, so you don’t have to worry about it and you can be assured you’re not getting shortchanged.
- You also may deserve compensation for future earnings if your injury is permanent. A serious physical injury or a brain injury can limit your job options for the future—or make you unable to work ever again. Sadly, some injuries are so extreme they can’t be overcome. We help folks when spine, brain, or other severe injuries prevent them from doing the jobs they always did.
More on Permanent Changes in Your Ability to Work
Lost wages can include pay reductions you suffer when you can’t do your primary job but take another one with fewer physical or mental requirements. We always encourage productivity—it shows you’re a fighter trying to overcome your injuries. Plus it can really make you feel better as a person that you’re contributing to work even though you’re not at full strength.
Tragically, sometimes the lasting effects of your accident prevent you from doing any job.
If accident injuries leave you permanently disabled or stuck with a lower-paying job, we’ll consider hiring an expert called a vocational consultant. Basically, vocational consultants can help prove your inability to work—or, if you can only work a lower-paying job, they can assess the amount of wages you’ll lose as a result.
To give you the best chance at recovering the most in these cases, we’ll obtain medical records or even a doctor attestation supporting your inability to work, to strip the insurance company of the argument you’re making this up or can’t prove it.
No doubt about it, the insurance companies fight the worst injuries the hardest because it makes them do what they hate—pay out large amounts to compensate grievously hurt people for permanent damage.
Full Disclosure: Taxes
One thing we can’t help with is taxes for a lost wage settlement. We’re lawyers, not accountants! Only an accountant can tell you whether you’ve got to pay taxes on a settlement for lost wages. If you’re hurt seriously, taxes are the least of your worries, and we handle the legal worries.
Yep, This Is Complicated—But We’re Here to Help
It’s bad enough you got hurt bad, and now it seems like you’re the bad guy having to prove you did nothing wrong just to recover income and other compensation for your injuries.
That’s why it helps to have a professional in your corner. It’s our job, not yours, to gather all the proof necessary to make a convincing case to recover your lost wages. We can compile your medical records for the medical evidence to support your claim, contact your employer to get the proper forms filled out so you don’t have to be anxious or embarrassed about it, and, if needed, bringing in experts to calculate complex income losses.
If you’re concerned about recovering lost wages from accident injuries, or have any other questions related to a legal claim, feel free to start a live chat right where you are or just send us an email. We’d be glad to set you up with a free strategy session to get your questions answered by an attorney who can handle your case.
I got a DUI in my driveway. Can officers really arrest me for DUI when I made it home?
Yes. As pointless as it may seem, you can get a DUI no matter how close you are to home—even your driveway.
I’ve had clients charged who:
- Told officers they were almost home,
- Pointed to their homes on the street where they got pulled,
- Got taken from their driveway in handcuffs.
Here’s why it can happen (not that it helps you feels better, but it’s the truth): some officers have their minds made up you drove under the influence and don’t care if you made it safely to your destination.
And you can still be convicted. If convicted, you get no breaks for making it home. You can still face the same harsh penalties which can include administrative license suspension, criminal punishment, and even ignition interlock.
You need help. The arresting officer already ignored your pleas for mercy. It’s time to invest in a professional who stands on your side and who can design a defense to win your case at trial—or maybe get the officer to back down and reduce the DUI to a charge you can live with.
And here’s what we can do to help. We have the knowledge to find defenses you don’t even know, and the skills to present them effectively in court.
I’ve even written a book on these cases I’ll give you for free. Call us now at (888) 230-1841 or (864) 582-0416 to schedule a free meeting to answer your questions and build your defense, or just send us an email or live chat right where you are.
How can I be charged with drug distribution or trafficking if there’s no proof I’m a dealer or ever sold drugs?
Shockingly, in South Carolina, you can be convicted of drug “distribution” or even “trafficking” charges just due to the weight of drugs you’re caught with. The weight figures into sentencing, too.
Basically, the law assumes you are a dealer, even if you’re not. It’s really kind of alarming, especially since it seems to defeat two bedrocks of our justice system—the presumption of innocence and the requirement the state prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is where getting tough on crime just gets tough on what our country got founded on.
But it’s the law, and we’re stuck with it. One good thing about the law is, since your case may be based on weight, a talented defense attorney may be able to flip the script on the police by showing they didn't weigh the drug properly, which could win your case.
Here’s another way it can work against you.
What You Possess May Create a Presumption You’re Dealing
For example, you can be charged with:
- Possession with intent to distribute marijuana, if you got caught with more than one ounce.
- Cocaine trafficking, if you got caught with more than 10 grams.
It gets worse. You can actually be charged with drug distribution for LESS THAN the required amounts if you’re caught with items associated with the drug trade, like digital scales, multiple baggies, and other paraphernalia.
If you’re charged with a drug crime, you may literally be facing punishment for a crime you had no intent to commit. Your luck’s run out. You need a skilled professional to help.
Contact one of our experienced drug defense attorneys to start plotting your defense today. Even if you’re guilty, you’ve still got justified hope a talented drug defense lawyer can preserve your future and your freedom. And a seasoned criminal defense lawyer may be able to find defenses you didn’t even know about.
Start a live chat right now where you are so we can answer your questions and start protecting you today.
How do police get a search warrant?
Believe it or not, police don’t issue search warrants. Judges do. In South Carolina, search warrants are usually issued by magistrates. These important judges also handle traffic tickets and lower-level criminal cases like simple assault, plus civil cases involving a limited amount of money.
Here’s how it works, or how it’s supposed to.
The United States Constitution’s Fourth Amendment allows search warrants only if supported by probable cause. South Carolina law requires the police to provide probable cause in an affidavit, a sworn statement. The affidavit can be supplemented by sworn testimony before the issuing judge.
The judge determines probable cause based on whether the affidavit proves a “fair probability” that evidence of a crime will be found in the place to be searched. At a minimum, the affidavit must reasonably describe all of these:
- The place to be searched. This must be described very precisely.
- A general idea of what evidence the police expect to find there, beyond just saying “evidence of a crime”—like “digital scales, bookkeeping records related to illegal drug transactions, and illegal drugs including but not limited to marijuana and cocaine or its derivatives.”
- The reason police expect to find the evidence there. And that reason must clearly tie the place to recent criminal activity, or the warrant will not be valid.
What to Do If Your Home or Vehicle Is Named in the Warrant
There’s three things to remember if you’ve been served with a search warrant:
- The purpose of a warrant is to protect your privacy and your rights. Requiring a warrant based on probable cause keeps police from just barging into our homes to take whatever they want.
- Even if the warrant is issued, you can contest its validity later. If a judge finds it invalid, all the evidence taken as a result of the warrant is thrown out. That can mean a dismissal of your case or a reduction of charges you can live with.
- You need a skilled criminal defense attorney—and you need one now. The police just went through your personal stuff, with a judge’s approval. They’re after you. And you’ll never have any hope of contesting the warrant without a legal tactician on your side.
If you’re the subject of a search warrant or you got charged with a crime based on one, contact us right now so we can start building your defense.
The victim in my case wants to drop charges against me. Won’t that get my charges dismissed?
Not necessarily, for a variety of reasons:
- It’s the State’s case. You should expect the case to get referred to a prosecutor—a lawyer whose job is convicting folks like you. The prosecutor can subpoena the victim to trial to testify against you, even if it’s against the victim’s will.
- The victim could be lying to you. It happens.
- The victim could change his or her mind. That also happens.
Just because a victim promises to drop the charges doesn’t mean you get off. You’ve still got the police and likely a prosecutor aligned against you.
To give yourself the best shot at a good outcome, you need a professional in your corner to fight for you. Before just relying on the word of a person who got you charged with a crime, sit down with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to strategize your defense. While the victim’s cooperation helps, it just doesn’t always win the day, and you can’t take a chance on your freedom or reputation.
If you need an experienced professional to look after you, call (888) 230-1841 or (864) 582-0416 to schedule a free, no-obligation meeting where we can answer your questions and start building your defense—especially in showing the State the wisdom of granting the victim’s wish.
I got hurt at work due to an unsafe condition my supervisors knew about but didn’t fix. Can I sue the factory?
Yes and no.
Yes, you can make a workers’ compensation claim against your employer, who likely has insurance to pay for your benefits.
No, you can’t file a lawsuit against your employer to recover money for damages, such as pain and suffering or punitive damages. EXCEPTION: If you got hurt at work as a result of someone besides your employer, you may be able to file a lawsuit called a “third party action.” But how you settle those cases is extremely important—if you do it wrong, it could cost you your workers’ comp benefits.
Why Can’t I Sue?
The reason you can’t sue your employer is that workers’ compensation is a bargain in the law made between employees and employers. Employees gave up the right to get more money from lawsuits for unsafe working conditions. But they gained the right to benefits related to work injuries, including free medical care, replacement of most income while they're out of work, and money for permanent disability.
Employers gave up the right to force injured employees prove employer fault in workplace injuries before paying benefits. This is why workers’ compensation is often called a “no-fault system.” You can often get benefits even if it’s your own fault you got hurt. In return, employers gained the ability to be free from potentially huge verdicts in unsafe workplace lawsuits.
In most cases, the system works pretty well. But that doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk for injured employees. Despite less financial exposure, employer insurance companies tend to take a hard line on paying seriously hurt workers. While the system is designed to help employees, settlements can be complex, and insurance companies fight the hardest for the most expensive benefits for the most severely injured.
These are important rights to protect your health and your financial stability. Don’t give up rights you don’t know about…and don’t get run over by the workers’ compensation insurance company.
If you’ve got more questions about how workers’ compensation works, take advantage of the free info on our site. You can always open up a live chat for answers from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. And you’re always free to come meet with us—there’s no pressure to hire us and it’s free!
The help we give in a single email, phone call, or sit down-chat can be the difference between peace of mind and heartbreak. Our phone number’s right there at the top of the screen. Make the call.
Can I get a settlement if an accident re-injured a prior injury or just made it worse?
Yes, but you’ll likely need expert medical testimony to prove how it made your prior injury worse, and verify how much worse it got as a result.
Insurance Companies Try to Deny Pre-Existing Injury Claims
Insurance company claims representatives will shake their heads and tell you that you can’t recover when a motor vehicle crash or slip and fall accident makes an old injury worse. Their word for it is pre-existing condition, and they will try to tell you that your injuries were already there. They may even say it was only a matter of time before your medical problems started to happen. You may get the same type of response after being involved in a workplace accident that affects a previous injury. That's because insurance companies make money by charging premiums and paying out as little in claims as possible.
For example, say you’d had chronic neck pain for years. Then you get rear-ended and need a serious spinal operation to fix blown spinal discs. Your pre-existing neck condition makes this case much more complicated and harder to prove. In order to get compensated for the worsening of your medical condition, you need a skilled personal injury attorney who understands how to obtain proper medical evidence that’ll be admissible in court and can make it clear that the accident made you worse. Otherwise, the insurance company will just deny your claim—or force you to settle way cheap.
We Show How the Accident Affected Your Life
At Holland & Usry, we’re comfortable sifting through mounds of complex medical records to learn the clinical side of your injuries. We often meet with your doctor to personally understand the exact harm the accident caused you. Then, we develop simple, but powerful medical questionnaires that empower your doctor to establish the accident’s impact on your life.
It’s just another way we work to increase your chances when insurance companies tell you it’s a lost cause. If you’re worried about losing your settlement due to a prior injury getting worsened or re-injured, feel free to start a live chat or email us to get your questions answered by an injury attorney unafraid of the challenges presented by a case like yours.
What do I do about fixing or replacing my vehicle after an accident?
That’s actually two questions. Welcome to the often-complicated world of auto insurance, where you’ll learn first-hand how hard insurance companies can be when you attempt to use their product as intended.
Here’s how a car, truck, or motorcycle accident property damage claim breaks down:
Which Insurance Do You File With?
You can file your property damage claim with your own auto insurance company or the at-fault driver’s. The biggest consideration here is, filing with your own company might get it done faster because you’re their customer. But your recovery may be limited by your policy.
Also, you’ll probably have to pay a deductible, meaning an amount insurance doesn’t cover. It’s usually $500 or so.
Your policy may have other limits on your recovery. Ask your insurance agent.
If you file with the at-fault driver’s insurance, you can expect to deal with an adjuster who’s not on your side. Here’s more on him, including whether you should contact an attorney before speaking with him and how to outwit adjusters and their tricks. For the most part, insurance companies usually handle property damage claims pretty fairly without the need of a lawyer—but don’t count on that for your injury case.
What Will a Property Damage Settlement Recover?
This is a list of items you might get if you make a claim against the at-fault driver:
- Repairs. If your car is repairable, you can recover the value of repairs, even if you don’t get them. But you need at least an estimate of the cost, done by a qualified mechanic.
- Vehicle replacement. If your vehicle is “totaled,” meaning totally destroyed or repairs exceed its fair market value, you can recover the fair market value of the vehicle on the date of the crash. A good source for estimates is Kelley Blue Book.
- Loss of use. This is compensation for the time you were deprived of the vehicle’s use while it was repaired or replaced. A good estimate of this is the cost of renting the same or similar vehicle. You might recover this even if you didn’t actually rent a car, or you borrowed someone else’s for free.
- Depreciation. This is for the reduction in fair market value after repairs. If your vehicle is in as good condition as before the crash, you don’t qualify for this.
- Punitive damages, in rare cases. This recovery is reserved for some of the worst behavior, usually criminal. If your car got wrecked by a DUI driver, you might qualify for punitive damages. But you can expect a big fight over it and you’ll likely need a lawyer to give you the best shot at obtaining them. We handle these cases differently than ordinary crash cases. Contact us by email, live chat, or calling (888) 230-1841 or (864) 582-0416 to find out more.
Get Help Using Insurance to Repair Your Vehicle After An Accident
If you’ve been involved in a serious accident, handling the property damage aspect may be the easiest part of your case. If you are overwhelmed with your injuries or the idea of handling the insurance company, you don’t have to go it alone. Send us an email or start a live chat right where you are so we can start answering your questions and point you in the right direction.
How will the insurance company contact me after I get hurt in an auto accident? What if I’m too hurt to talk about it?
The insurance company contacts you through its claims adjuster, also called claims rep or claims handler. The adjuster typically works for the liability insurance company of the at-fault driver who hurt you. Oddly, in an underinsurance or uninsured claim, the adjuster actually works for your insurance company.
Regardless of who he works for, the adjuster’s primary goal is very simple—get the insurance company out of this as quickly and cheaply as possible. The adjuster may be friendly, but he is not your friend. You must deal with him accordingly. Check out these typical tactics they use, and how to deal with them.
Here’s tips on whether you should speak to the adjuster now, or consider hiring someone to do it for you:
- If you have a simple claim—like you went to the ER and then a couple visits of physical therapy for a sore back—you may be able to handle the adjuster by yourself.
- If you have serious injuries OR AREN'T SURE YET HOW EXTENSIVELY YOU'RE HURT [which is often the case], you're a prime candidate for the adjuster to beat you into a quick, cheap settlement. This situation includes:
- a broken bone,
- anything requiring a referral to a specialist like an orthopedist or neurosurgeon,
- signs of a brain injury- which might not develop until later.
Your case will be more complicated from a medical standpoint, so you've got to know how to protect your rights to present it the right way in court. It's also important for you to know the true value of your case, so you don't get cheated out of compensation you could really use. Unlike the adjuster, you have no idea of what your case is worth, which can be more complicated than you think. And the key to getting a proper out of court settlement can often be showing the adjuster you're ready for court, with a convincing evidence package to prove it.
You owe it to yourself and your family to get your own professional on your side: an experienced car accident attorney. You need to focus on recovery and not worry about having your rights violated, or responding to repeated demands for information, or waiting for the adjuster to call you back.
- If you are unsure how seriously you are hurt, you risk torpedoing your claim by giving uncertain information to the adjuster. Like trying to be tough, telling him you feel okay, only to discover later you actually need a spinal operation. Yep, that’s happened.
Final analysis: If you are seriously hurt, unsure how your medical treatment will turn out, or unsure how to do deal with the adjuster, then don’t immediately talk to the adjuster.
Here's more info on the process to get your claim settled.
Remember: information is power, especially when you’re dealing with an experienced professional who’s handled potentially thousands of claims and is skilled at shortchanging injury victims like you. Talking to an experienced car accident lawyer first is in your best interest. If you tell the adjuster, he'll object- here's why and how to counteract it.
At Holland & Usry, we help people like you. Contact us with a live chat or email to answer your questions, or even set up a free meeting to discuss your claim and evaluate every possible insurance policy that could provide money to help you. Even if we don’t accept your case or you decide not to hire us, it might give you peace of mind and some free pointers.