Honest Answers From Your South Carolina Personal 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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I don’t trust the person handling the estate for my father’s fatal accident case. Can that be changed?
Maybe. Dealing with an accidental death case is a struggle to begin with. But when you’re eligible to recover for your suffering and financial loss and doubt the estate representative is looking out for your best interests, it creates anxiety you can’t afford.
There are two potential ways to get a different estate representative.
Removing the Personal Representative
“Personal Representative” (PR) is the term for the estate representative. South Carolina law allows removal of one under limited circumstances. You’ve got to prove to a probate court judge at a hearing that removal is justified because the PR:
- intentionally misstated important facts in the proceedings leading to appointment,
- disregarded an order of the court,
- has become incapable of handling PR duties,
- mismanaged the estate, or
- failed to perform any PR duty.
If you can’t prove that, there’s another option you might use.
Getting a Special Administrator
This allows the PR to remain in place but transfers responsibility for the wrongful death case to a Special Administrator.
If the PR contests having a Special Administrator, it requires proving to a probate court judge at a hearing that a Special Administrator is needed to preserve the estate or protect its proper administration.
We’ve had a case where family members came to us out of fear the PR would cut them out of a settlement. We reached an agreement with the PR naming our client as Special Administrator to protect the family’s interests.
Either Way, You Need a Skilled Attorney
You can’t expect a PR to let go of a court appointment without a fight. And you’ve got a lot at stake in the hands of someone you don’t trust. It could cost you the financial stability you need.
You need your own professional. If you’re worried about a PR shortchanging you or have any other questions, fill out our Get Help Now form to get answers from an experienced wrongful death attorney.
I fell and got hurt at a business. Should I report it?
Yes, immediately. When you fall and get seriously hurt, it’s embarrassing—and you do need to get medical treatment fast.
But you’ve got to tell the business, restaurant, store, or wherever you fell immediately, or as soon as possible. Here are key reasons to notify the business:
- It lets them know they’ve got a dangerous condition on their floors that is a threat to other customers. You don’t want it to happen to someone else.
- It tells them you expect them to be accountable for your injuries. They can notify their insurance company to set up your claim. You will get the ball rolling on getting your case started. But beware the insurance adjuster who will soon call you.
- It prevents them from asserting a favorite “defense”: “You never told us you got hurt!” It’s not really a defense, though, because it doesn’t disprove the dangerous condition or the fact that you got hurt. But the defense uses it to make your whole case look “fishy,” hoping skeptical jurors will disbelieve you.
Yes, it’s wrong. Yes, it ignores the reality that your priority was getting medical relief from immense pain. Still, it can work to hurt your case. Protect yourself by reporting your injury ASAP.
- It gives them a chance to do their own investigation. This can yield evidence like employee statements and incident reports that can help your case.
- BEST OF ALL, it puts them on notice that they should preserve evidence related to your fall. That could include surveillance video that’s the key to your entire case.
The best way to protect your right to this vital evidence is hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to do it for you.
This Is Only the Beginning
If you fall and get seriously hurt, expect the business to fight tooth and nail. You’ve accused them of ignoring unsafe conditions for customers, and the insurance company knows these cases can be tough to win.
At Holland & Usry, we’re not afraid of taking on severely injured fall victims’ cases. We know how to prove them and how to build a convincing picture of your injuries to help win your case. Fill out our Get Help Now form to get your questions answered or call our toll-free line at 1-888-230-1841 to schedule a free strategy session to plan your road to justice.
Should I talk to or cooperate with an insurance adjuster about my accident injury claim?
It depends. The first thing to remember is the adjuster works for the liability insurance company that insures the person, place, or business that’s responsible for hurting you. For example, if you or your child got hurt in a dog bite case, it’s likely the adjuster works for the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance company.
The second thing to remember is the adjuster’s driving force is to pay as little as possible, as fast as possible. The faster they pay you, the less chance there is for you to ask for more—like if you need more medical treatment. And once you sign the documents to get the settlement money, you can’t expect any more—ever—even if you later find out you’re hurt worse than you thought.
Here are some tips on dealing with the adjuster now or retaining a professional to do it for you:
- If you have serious injuries like an inpatient hospitalization, surgery, a broken bone, or got a referral to a medical specialist, you’re at high risk to be taken advantage of by the insurance adjuster. The more they have to pay, the harder they fight you. First, the adjuster fights to pay you cheap and quick. If that fails, adjusters fight against paying you what’s right. Because your case will be more medically complicated, you’ve got to know how to handle medical evidence and present it the right way to prove the extent of your injuries. You’ve also got to keep up with how your injury affects your life over time and know how to present a convincing picture of it to persuade them to pay. Don’t risk selling yourself or your family short because you don’t know how to handle your case. That’s what professionals are for. You need an experienced personal injury attorney for the same reasons you need a medical team—this problem’s too big for an amateur to fix.
- If you don’t have a serious injury—maybe you have soreness or a sprain that only requires a visit to the ER, a couple of visits to your doctor, and even a little physical therapy—you may be able to handle the adjuster by yourself. And if you do, here's tips on how to handle the adjuster, written for a car crash case, but the advice is still the same.
- If you are unsure how seriously you are hurt, don’t consider talking to the adjuster until you KNOW. That way, you can make an informed decision about whether it’s safer for you to talk to the adjuster or talk to an attorney first. Believe it or not, I had a case where my client told an adjuster he felt okay, only to discover he needed a spinal operation!
I’m not afraid of the truth: people don’t want to hire attorneys. They don’t want to go to the doctor, either. But sometimes you just need one.
If you’ve been seriously hurt or just have questions about an injury accident case, fill out our Get Help Now form at the top of this page, call our office at 888-230-1841 or start a live chat. You’ll get answers from an experienced attorney who’s devoted to helping folks just like you.
Should I use Medicaid or Medicare to pay medical bills for accident injuries?
Yes. Medicare and Medicaid are government benefits designed to pay for medical needs. That includes injuries that aren’t your fault, be it a wreck, fall, injury caused by a healthcare provider, and even care for fatal accidents.
These benefits are considered the same as health insurance in legal cases. We’ve already noted that using health benefits can make life easier after a personal injury.
And don’t let a provider refuse to take your Medicare or Medicaid payment. Just politely explain these benefits are to pay medical bills—even for accidents—and you insist on using them as designed.
If you’ve got other questions you need answered about your accident, fill out our Get Help Now form on this page or just call toll free 888-230-1841 or (864) 582-0416 to schedule a free, no-pressure strategy session to start building your case and get your questions answered.
Will I have to pay health insurance- including Medicare or Medicaid- back for my accident?
It's likely, but it probably won’t be as bad as you think. It’s much, much better than expecting whoever hurt you to pay bills as they come in—because he won’t. It’s also better than telling your doctors you’ll pay them from your settlement—because you’ll get stuck with the whole bill, and possibly sent to collections, which can hurt your credit.
As for paying it back, here’s why it’s a pretty good deal for you.
First, health insurance pays your medical bills at a discount. INSIDER TIP: This is inadmissible in court, so your case is valued on the full amount of the bill, as if insurance never paid. Read the reason behind this unique law called the collateral source rule.
The right of the health insurance company to be repaid from your settlement is called subrogation. But it doesn’t exist in every case, and a sharp injury attorney can help you figure out whether you even have to worry about it.
In our cases where health insurance does get the right to be paid back, we’re often able to negotiate a discount on the repayment. So our clients benefit from a discount off a discount—giving you more money from your settlement to catch up your bills and regain financial stability after a severe injury that may have devastating economic effects for you and your family.
If you need help figuring out whether your health insurance must be repaid from an accident—or if you have any other questions about your case—feel free to send us a live chat message right where you are to get your questions answered by an experienced accident injury lawyer.
When do I get paid for my accident settlement?
Let me first assure you that you’re not being rude. This is an answer you need to know.
And here’s the answer: at our firm, we get your check to you ASAP, but ethical regulations and finalizing the settlement takes a little time.
Here’s basically how it works with our firm:
- We reach a settlement agreement with the other side.
- If a case involves an injured child or death, a judge likely has to approve the settlement. We get a hearing scheduled ASAP. For more, here's how the court process works for fatality settlement proceedings and children's settlement proceedings.
- We get the settlement documents to end the case. We review them closely to protect your rights. If the documents don’t fully protect your rights or don’t reflect the agreement, we make changes.
- The check usually comes with the documents. We deposit that in our trust account, a special bank account safeguarding your money until we can pay you. Ethical regulations require us to wait a few days to be sure it clears before paying you.
- Once the documents are ready for you to sign, you sign. Before you sign, we explain them to you, since they’re often written in incredibly complex “legalese”—which can be just plain ridiculous. We return them for you.
- You usually get your check around the same time you sign the settlement documents.
You get copies of all the documents, and we prove where all the money goes. Because this is an important moment in your life with serious financial consequences, we want to make sure you have all the information related to the settlement. We give you a packet with all the important settlement documents in it. On top is a sheet showing who gets paid from the settlement—and how much—so you can account for every penny of it, including our fees and costs paid from the check.
The packet includes proof we repaid anyone you’re required to repay from the settlement, like your health insurance company that may have covered your medical bills.
It Doesn’t Take That Long, But It’s Mighty Important
While it sounds like a lot, the settlement process doesn’t take that long. Once we agree to settle, you will typically get your check within a month—sometimes less. Cases requiring court approval can take longer due to scheduling conflicts, but we always aim to achieve our driving goal: getting you compensated as soon as possible.
If you’ve got any questions about a potential settlement or your case, start a live chat right where you are to get those questions answered. We know it’s important to you, and we’re here to help.
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.
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.
How much does it cost to hire a personal injury attorney?
It depends, but you don’t need to bring your own money to do it. Personal injury lawyers get paid with a “contingency fee.” It’s a cut from the financial settlement the lawyer earns for you. Additionally, you reimburse the lawyer from the settlement for money he spends to help your case.
The beauty of a contingency fee is that it should drive your lawyer to get the best settlement possible. The more money you get, the more he earns. Plus there’s less risk to you—you pay nothing from your pocket, which may be empty from losing work due to your injuries.
Here’s more specifics how this works.
You Don’t Need Money to Hire an Accident Injury Lawyer
Fee percentages vary among lawyers. Our fees are usually one-third of your settlement. If the case gets within 10 days of trial, the extra work may justify increasing the fee to 40%. At Holland and Usry, we pledge that our clients get more in their pockets than our fee. You’ve lived through it, so you deserve more than us.
Typical Personal Injury Case Costs
“Costs” are money we spend to help your case. At Holland and Usry, we work to minimize these costs—without hurting your case—to help get you get the most money possible.
Typical costs include:
- Fees for evidence. In traffic crash cases, we get the officer’s accident report. Sometimes we get public documents for other evidence through Freedom of Information Act requests, like more extensive crash reports in serious DUI accident cases or coroner’s files in wrongful death cases. In cases where we file a lawsuit, we may subpoena information. All these requests usually generate a research and copying fee.
- Fees charged by medical providers for records and bills. The extent of your injuries is often molded by an expert in them—your doctor. We can’t present your case without medical records. No insurance company will pay without clinical proof the accident caused your injuries.
- Fees charged by your doctor to meet with him. Sometimes we meet with your doctor to fully understand the professional view of your injuries. A brief questionnaire developed from this meeting can provide powerful evidence of the severity of your injuries, permanent damage, and your need for future care.
- Filing fees. When we file a lawsuit, the clerk of court charges a fee to do it. If your case requires motions to be argued before a judge, we also pay a filing fee for that.
- Depositions. Depositions are out-of-court sworn testimony where each side finds out what the other side’s trial testimony will likely be. Done right, it can require hours of preparation. The most costly and often most important depositions are doctor depositions. They testify at trial through a deposition, which we often record on video for a more powerful effect on the jury.
- Experts. Some cases require a professional with special knowledge or training to prove your case. For example, medical malpractice cases can’t be filed without a doctor’s sworn statement your doctor did something wrong to hurt you. Because experts can make costs skyrocket, we use them cautiously.
- Mediation. Courts require that we try to use the mediation process to resolve a civil claim before it goes to trial. The parties hire an experienced mediator (usually a lawyer or former judge) with no interest in the outcome to try to help them settle it. We pay the mediation fee up front, but we get reimbursed from your final settlement or verdict.
Bonus For You: Your Injury Lawyer Works for Free Until Your Case Is Over
If you’re hurt in an accident, it costs you nothing up front to hire a trained professional to solve your problem. That’s a much better deal than your doctor offers. And handling a serious injury case on your own is like operating on yourself. You wouldn’t do that, would you?
So you literally have nothing to lose—and potentially more than you think to gain—by sitting down with a skilled professional whose job is helping folks like you. Give yourself a shot by contacting us by live chat or email right where you are so we can start answering your questions and talk about what we can do to help.
Why do medical malpractice cases cost so much?
Because they require experts to win. Just claiming a doctor, nurse, or a hospital hurt you or caused the death of someone isn’t enough. The experts we need are usually fellow doctors and nurses. And they probably won’t be from South Carolina because providers generally don’t testify against each other here.
Good experts, like anyone else who’s good at a highly technical and scientific job, are very expensive. They get paid based on the time they invest in the case, and their time is extremely valuable.
Most folks just don’t have the money to pay experts, so your malpractice lawyer pays them, then gets reimbursed from your verdict or settlement. To put on a malpractice case, we’ve got to pay an expert to review your medical records to see if you even have a case. If you do, the expert’s called to do even more extensive work, like…
- Reviewing any other evidence related to his testimony. During the discovery process, the other side will have to hand over information to us. Any medical malpractice claim will involve going through additional documents or even old medical records. We’re trial lawyers, not medical experts; we will sometimes have to pay to get a real expert to read through this material. That’s how we will figure out that the defense is planning to blame the harm on someone else on or a different condition.
- Preparing for his deposition. An expert will usually give formal sworn testimony outside court and answer questions from the other side. Don't worry: we also get to demand that the other side’s experts give a deposition for us. Even though an expert witness may have done this dozens of times before, he or she will need time to prepare for the specifics of your case.
- Preparing for trial. If the case can’t be settled earlier, the expert will also need to get ready for the courtroom by thoroughly reviewing all the evidence in the case.
Expenses stretch dramatically when the out-of-state expert is called to travel here to testify.
And we may need more than one expert. For example, if you lose a family member to an undiagnosed heart attack in the emergency room, that could require experts on emergency room care, nursing, and cardiology (heart medicine).
Because of these costs to the law firm and the fact we don’t get paid for a tremendous amount of very complicated work unless you get a settlement, good malpractice lawyers are very careful about selecting only the most meritorious cases.
But don’t let that discourage you from seeking legal answers if you or someone you love got hurt—or worse—from medical care. You owe it to yourself to find out. And malpractice cases can keep it from happening to someone else. Remember: nothing changes if nobody says anything about it. If you feel you may have been harmed or lost a loved one from a medical mistake, start a live chat right now about your situation to see if you qualify to be one of our clients.