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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test tubesCivil claims not asserted in a timely fashion face dismissal on procedural grounds, regardless of the merits of the underlying complaint. The time period that a claimant has to assert his or her rights varies from case to case, depending upon the state in which the claim arose and the nature of the complaint.

In South Carolina, some claims (including medical malpractice claims) are governed by both a statute of limitations and a statute of repose. Essentially, the statute of repose allows additional time in situations in which the plaintiff does not discover the act of malpractice within the time otherwise allowed by the statute of limitations, but it still puts an outer window on the period for filing suit.

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fast food

Those who own and operate places of business have a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe for customers and other business invitees. This includes the duty to protect guests from criminal activity in some situations. However, the burden is on the injured person to prove that the property owner acted negligently.

The issue in such cases is often whether the attack was reasonably foreseeable, given such factors as the location of the establishment and any history of violence in the area.

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wooden gavel

Nursing home owners do not like jury trials. In fact, the idea of a jury comprised of everyday men and women determining whether a nursing home neglected a patient and, if so, awarding damages to a patient or the patient’s family is so distasteful to many nursing home owners that they require a patient or his or her representative to sign an arbitration agreement – a contractual promise to arbitrate, rather than litigate through the court system, any disputes that arise between the parties – prior to admission.

When negligence lawsuits and other nursing home cases are determined through arbitration, the patient and the patient’s family lose the right to have a jury decide the case. Often, the family does not fully understand the implication of this distinction at the time the papers are signed.

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school busWhen an employee dies as a result of a work-related injury, his or her dependents are entitled to receive compensation in most cases. However, if an employee who is injured on the job dies from unrelated causes while his or her case is pending, the situation can be much more complex.

A South Carolina appellate court was recently asked to review the issues in such a case, the employee having died from causes unrelated to a very serious on-the-job injury he had suffered prior to his death.

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