North Carolina and South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

The Takata airbag recall has been highly publicized and is considered one of the most massive vehicle recalls in recent history. It involves 34 million vehicles across multiple manufacturers and brands, but it is just the tip of the iceberg on auto product recalls. Countless recalls have been issued on all types of auto products capable of causing serious or fatal car accidents and injuries.

According to Forbes and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), auto-related recalls went up to 22 million in 2013, a 25 percent increase from the previous year, making it the industry’s highest rate since 2004. CNN Money reports 2014 recall numbers hit a new record with more than 74.2 million vehicle recalls. In total, close to 100 million vehicles have been recalled in the past year and a half alone. What makes this statistic so frightening is the majority of the cars affected by these recalls have yet to be repaired. Continue Reading

Backyard barbecues are a summer staple in American society. As soon as the weather warms, people in the Upstate area head outside to fire up those grills and cook a feast for family and friends. Many people, young and old, have fond memories of picnics around their backyard barbecues.

Fun can be had at these outings, but safety must remain a top concern. Fire and burn injuries are common when propane and charcoal grills are not handled correctly. Inexperience, distractions, alcohol and a wide range of other factors can contribute to serious or fatal burn injuries.

Grill Fire and Injury Statistics

  • According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA): Grilling is responsible for an average of 8,800 home fires each year.
  • Approximately 16 percent of these fires are caused when the barbecue is lit and result from an item or object being close enough to catch on fire.
  • One in five grill fires stems from either a leak or broken piece of equipment.
  • In one recent year, 16,900 people were treated in emergency departments for burn injuries associated with grills.
  • Close to half of all burn injuries involving grills are a result of individuals sustaining thermal burns. Continue Reading

Many times our attorneys at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP speak to potential clients who have applied for Social Security disability benefits but are not receiving regular care for their disabling conditions. The reasons for not seek regular medical care vary from case to case. If you are not seeking regular treatment for your symptoms, Social Security may conclude that your conditions are not as severe as you say they are. In addition, if you are seeking medical treatment but are not following your doctors recommendations, for example, not taking prescribed medication; deciding not to have a recommended surgery; or failing to use a nebulizer, wheel chair or cane as prescribed, Social Security may conclude that your statements regarding your condition are not credible or that you are not doing everything you can to improve your disabling condition. Continue Reading

I will never forget the first time I renewed my car insurance after I finished law school. Going to law school I was a typical poor student. My approach to car insurance was to get as little and spend as little money on insurance as possible. I did not want to pay for any extra bells and whistles; I just wanted to be legal. Many people take this approach. Underinsured coverage always felt like something I didn’t need because I did not understand it. Only at the end of law school at the beginning of my legal career handling car accident cases did I come to appreciate the importance of underinsured motorist coverage. I want to address how underinsured motorist coverage applies in car accident cases. Uninsured motorist coverage is a different type of coverage and will be discussed in another blog.

Underinsured coverage only comes into play when the driver who caused the accident does not have enough insurance. For example, you could easily be involved in an accident with a driver that does not have enough insurance. In North Carolina, the mandatory minimum amount of liability insurance is $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident. This means that in minimum coverage insurance situations, an at-fault driver has $30,000 payable to any one person, and $60,000 in coverage payable on any one accident, regardless of the number of injured claimants. In South Carolina, it’s even less: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. If another driver with minimum limits fails to slow down and hits you hard in the rear, you will likely have EMS expenses, emergency room bills, doctors’ bills and physical therapy. If you have an MRI or CT scan, and then consider your pain and suffering, your claim is very likely to exceed the minimum coverage available. If the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough car insurance to cover your claim, the next place you have to look is your own underinsured coverage.

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Blank dog tags on American flag with focus on tags - Shallow dof

Sometimes it is easy to determine if someone is a veteran, but other times it can be pretty difficult. This brief article will shed some light on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (“VA”) definition of “veteran” regarding benefit entitlement.

The pertinent statutes and regulations define “veteran” as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable” (38 U.S.C. § 101(2) and 38 C.F.R. § 3.1(d)). The three major elements of this definition are: (1) Service, (2) Active Duty, and (3) Discharge or Release.

It is important to note that the pertinent statutes and regulations do not require service in the armed forces. Rather, it states service in the military, naval, or air services. Including the word “or” in the definition means that the service does not need to be military. Including the broad word “services” greatly expands the scope of “veteran.” In addition to service in the traditional military, the VA includes service in the following as qualifying service:

• Public Health Service
• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
• Environmental Science Services Administration
• Coast and Geodetic Survey
• Service in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps
• WWII Service in the Merchant Marine
• Secret Intelligence Element of the Office of Strategic Services
• Wake Island Defenders from Guam
• Service of certain civilians supporting operations during periods of armed conflict

Active duty includes any full-time duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, with the exception of “active duty for training.” Usually the military will designate if a member of the National Guard or Reserves is active duty for training purposes only. The VA can override the military’s designation for a member of the Reserves if the VA determines that such service in the Reserves was actually for operational or support purposes even if the military designates it as for training purpose only. The VA does not have this same authority regarding the National Guard. Attendance as a Cadet or Midshipman at a U.S. Military, Air Force, Naval, or Coast Guard Academy, or attendance at a preparatory school for the above mentioned academies, qualifies as active duty. In order to be considered active duty in the Public Health Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Science Services Administration, and the Coast and Geodetic Survey, a person needs to have served full-time as a commissioned officer. Authorized travel to and from the prior mentioned active duty types also qualifies as active duty. It is important to note that active duty in the National Guard only qualifies a person as a veteran if that active duty was “Federal.” The activation of the National Guard for service to the individual state as opposed to service for the federal government does not qualify the person as a veteran. For example, if the National Guard is activated by a Governor to quell a state prison riot or urban looting, the service would not qualify the Guard members as veterans.

Finally, the veteran’s discharge must be under conditions other than dishonorable. There are multiple statutory and regulatory bars to VA benefits relating to the events that bring about someone’s discharge or dismissal. These are all very fact specific and could fill an entire treatise. However, there are three basic assumptions that the VA usually makes when reviewing a discharge: (1) an Honorable Discharge is always given under conditions other than dishonorable, (2) an Administrative Discharge (entry level separation, void enlistment, etc.) is always given under conditions other than dishonorable, and (3) a Dishonorable Discharge or Dismissal is always given under dishonorable conditions. Any other discharge usually requires some sort of extra determination by the VA. The general Statutory and regulatory bars to VA benefits based on discharge are as follows:

  • discharge as a conscientious objector who refused to perform military duty or refused to wear the uniform or otherwise refused to comply with lawful orders of a competent military authority,
  • discharge or dismissal by reason of a sentence of a general court-martial,
  • an officer resigning for the good of the service,
  • desertion
  • discharge as an alien during a time of hostility,
  • discharge under other than honorable conditions issued as a result of absence without official leave (“AWOL”) for at least 180 continuous days (some exceptions apply),
  • accepting an undesirable discharge or discharge under other than honorable conditions to escape a trial by general court-martial,
  • mutiny or spying
  • an offense involving moral turpitude, and
  • willful and persistent misconduct.

In the general public, the term “Veteran” is used rather loosely in certain circumstances. In other circumstances it is used rather rigidly. The VA considers the term “Veteran” to be a well-defined term of art that serves as a gatekeeper to its benefits. Knowing what the term means and who falls under its definition is key to any successful claim before the VA.

This post will try to briefly explain the two most common and helpful forms of supporting evidence, Lay Evidence and Expert Evidence.

When submitting a claim to the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is always highly encouraged that you also submit additional evidence which can support your claim. The problem is that the VA is not always clear as to what evidence would be the most helpful and how that evidence should be arranged. The law states that the VA must “consider all information and lay and medical evidence of record in a case before the Secretary with respect to benefits” (38 U.S.C. §5107(B)) and that each disabling condition for which a veteran seeks service connection “must be considered on the basis of…all pertinent medical and lay evidence” (38 C.F.R. §3.303(a)). This means that the VA cannot deny a claim without first considering both the lay and medical evidence, if submitted. Though the VA uses the term “Medical Evidence,” it would be more appropriate to use the term “Expert Evidence” since often the evidence needed does not come from a doctor but rather from a counselor, social worker, or someone else with particular and pertinent expertise. Not only must the VA consider this evidence, but it also must specify in its decision which evidence it finds to be persuasive or unpersuasive and why. Continue Reading

Legs and feet of woman sitting in wheelchairIf I become sick or injured and can no longer work, should I wait at  least 12 months before applying for Social Security Disability benefits? How long must you be unable to work before applying for Social Security Disability benefits? What if you are suddenly and unexpectedly injured or become ill to such an extent that you are unable to work? Many people are under the mistaken belief that you must wait for several months or even a year before applying or collecting Social Security disability benefits. In fact, there are no requirements that you be disabled for a certain amount of time before applying for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or supplemental security insurance (SSI). The important factor is whether you meet what the Social Security Administration calls
the 12 month durational requirement.

What is the 12 month durational requirement?

The 12 month durational requirement states that to be found disabled, Social Security must determine that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to your illness or injury and that your impairment or impairments are expected to last for 12 consecutive months or are likely to result in death. Continue Reading

Barcode ScannerAs a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation lawyer with Grimes Teich Anderson, I represent injured workers from our offices in Greenville, Spartanburg, and Gaffney, South Carolina.

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the benefits an injured worker should receive if he or she is held out of work by their doctor or their employer cannot accommodate their work restrictions. These benefits, for when a worker is unable to work but is still treating, are known as Temporary Total Disability benefits or TTD, for short. If you are out of work and want to know what benefits you should be receiving, review my earlier posts or give me a call to discuss your case.

Sometimes, however, I have clients that are under work restrictions from their doctor and their employer does offer them work. If the worker is receiving the same income as before their injury they would not be entitled to any pay from their employer’s insurance company. Where entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits can occur is when a worker is being afforded work under their restrictions but they are not being paid as much or receiving as many hours as they were before they were injured.

Here is an example:

Worker is paid $25.00 per hour working at a plant in Greer, South Carolina. She works 40 hours per week and never works overtime. She is injured on the job and the company doctor puts her on light duty. She notifies her employer who offers her a light duty position but she will only receive $10.00 per hour and will only receive 20 hours per week. What is she entitled to? Continue Reading

Headache and health problems for young woman at workFor work injuries after June 24, 2011, North Carolina Law encourages employers to provide “light duty” positions while the injured worker is recovering from a work injury. These can be made up positions – a job for which the employer couldn’t justify hiring someone to do. Sometimes the tasks are of some use to the company, other times the job is just “make work” that is of little value. In most cases, light duty positions need to be approved by the authorized treating physician and be consistent with the doctor’s work restrictions. Light duty can be a good thing for all concerned if the injured worker can transition back to productive employment with the company.

Sometimes an employer will make life very difficult for an injured worker after they return to work. Supervisors may be verbally abusive, saying things in a humiliating or demeaning manner, or constantly complain about the injured employee’s work. Employers may also require other employees to carry the extra load to compensate for the injured worker’s limitations, which can cause bad feelings. In an abusive situation, the injured worker may feel as if it is better to quit than to agonize over what the employer will say or do next. If the person quits or is fired, and workers compensation benefits do not start up immediately, there will be problems paying their bills. So, that person does the best they can to do what the employer asks so they can keep their job.

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legalA frequent question from our clients is how do contingency fees work? We do almost all of our personal injury work on a contingency fee basis. That means the fee is a percentage of the amount we recover for the client. Depending on the kind of case, contingency fees can range from 25% to 40%. Also depending on the kind of case, certain amounts recovered are not subject to the contingency fee. There is an infinite variety of ways to structure a contingency fee.

Contingency fees have significant advantage over hourly fees. If you hire a lawyer on an hourly basis, typically they are going to require an upfront payment and then bill monthly. The attorney will expect to get paid monthly. If the client stops paying, then the attorney will stop working and move to terminate the relationship. Most insurance companies pay their lawyers either on an hourly basis or sometimes on a flat fee basis. In a contingency fee case, the lawyer gets a part of the recovery. Said another way, the lawyer doesn’t get paid unless the client gets paid. Often times our cases run on for years, and most clients can’t afford to pay attorneys on an hourly basis for years. Our clients prefer contingency fees because it is financially the best way for them to hire a lawyer to protect their interest.

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