crosswalkUnder South Carolina workers’ compensation law, employees who are injured in the course of their employment are entitled to certain benefits, such as the payment of medical expenses and disability payments.

While workers’ compensation cases are supposed to be less contentious than tort cases alleging negligence, they are not always easy. Just as with defendants in other personal injury cases, employers and insurance companies will look for a way to avoid responsibility, if at all possible.

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spiderThe appellate process is designed to provide efficient and meaningful review of the decisions of lower courts and administrative tribunals. Of course, even when things run smoothly, an appeal can lengthen the time that it takes to resolve a dispute.

When an appeal does not follow the usual course, however, it can take even longer for an injured person, including an employee seeking workers’ compensation benefits, to receive what he or she is owed.

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Placing a loved one in a nursing home, long-term care facility, or assisted living center is an extremely difficult, emotionally fraught decision – perhaps one of the toughest choices many of us will ever be called upon to make.

Often, the primary reason for deciding to place a family member in a care facility is the assumption that he or she will be provided with the constant care and medical attention that would not be possible in a home setting.

Unfortunately, nursing homes do not always live up to this expectation, and patients can suffer serious injuries or even a wrongful death due to neglect, abuse, or mistreatment in a long-term care facility.

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doctor and patient

Timeliness is important in any injury case, be it a negligence action or a work injury case. In addition to the statute of limitations for filing a claim in a court of law, there may be a requirement to give formal notice in some situations.

For instance, giving notice of a work-related injury is critically important to success in a workers’ compensation case. Ideally, this notice should be in writing. As a recent case illustrates, verbal notice alone can result in numerous issues that can jeopardize a claimant’s case.

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dump truckMost workers in South Carolina are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured in an accident arising out of and in the course of their employment. These benefits include not only necessary medical treatment but also partial reimbursement for lost wages while a worker is temporarily unable to work and compensation for permanent disability or disfigurement.

Although it is generally easier for a worker to recover benefits through the current workers’ compensation system than under the negligence system that preceded it, the burden of proof is still on the employee to show that he or she was hurt on the job and is entitled to payments for a temporary or permanent disability.

If an employee is unable to show that he is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, his claim will be denied by the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.

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personal watercraftWhen a particular product is unreasonably dangerous or defective, a person who is injured thereby has a legal right to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer, wholesaler, seller, or others in the product’s chain of distribution. Possible damages in such a lawsuit include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.

Common legal theories in product liability lawsuits include strict product liability, negligence, design defects, manufacturing defects, marketing defects (such as failure to warn), and breach of warranty. In response to a product liability claim, a defendant may assert various defenses, including a plaintiff’s alleged alteration of the product or misuse of the product.

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steakhouse fareBuilding a case of negligence against a person or business that one believes caused an accident (such as a car wreck or a slip and fall at a restaurant) is a multi-step process. The first step is establishing that the party from whom the plaintiff seeks to recover money damages owed a legal duty of care to the plaintiff. Whether or not a duty exists is usually a legal question that revolves around the relationship between the parties. The second step of a negligence claim is proving that the defendant breached the duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff; this is usually a factual question. The remaining elements are harm to the plaintiff and causation between the defendant’s breach of duty and the harm to the plaintiff.

When the parties disagree about whether the plaintiff has produced sufficient evidence of these elements to proceed to trial, the trial court may be called upon to decide (via a summary judgment motion) whether the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, even if all of the plaintiff’s allegations are construed in the light most favorable to him or her. A party aggrieved by a trial court’s decision on a motion for summary judgment has a right to appeal the court’s order to a higher court.

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bar and loungeEveryone who drives an automobile should have liability insurance to pay medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering to a passenger, motorist, or pedestrian who is injured as a result of the driver’s own negligence. Otherwise, any judgment in a negligence lawsuit brought against the driver could be collected from his or her personal assets.

There are many types of liability insurance in addition to automobile liability polices. You might be interested to know that various types of businesses have special liability insurance policies to cover business-specific negligence claims. This includes businesses that sell or serve liquor. Bars and nightclubs may purchase this insurance to cover a judgment against them as a result of a “dram-shop” action based on the negligent sale or over-serving of alcohol that results in injuries or death to a third party.

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magnifying glass

Several months ago, we told you about a federal court of appeals’ decision in a case in which a medical malpractice insurance company sought a declaratory judgment as to its responsibility to cover certain acts of malpractice after it was discovered that a fake nursing home “doctor” had illegally assumed the identity of a physician who was out of the country.

In that decision, the appellate court held that the principles of equity demanded that there be coverage for the innocent co-insureds under the medical malpractice policy that was in place during the impostor’s time at the nursing home.

Now, the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division, has issued a new opinion in a related matter.

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country roadSince our office regularly represents people who have been seriously injured in a car accident or lost a loved one in a fatal motor vehicle collision, we are well aware of the tragic frequency at which automobile crashes happen on the highways of South Carolina.

Still, it is with great concern that we review the most recent collection of traffic collision facts published by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

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