school bus accidents in south carolina

How to Avoid Accidents with School Buses

School bus accidents are some of the most severe and deadly that occur on South Carolina roadways. The sheer size of the vehicle and the fact that they are usually transporting numerous children as passengers increases the likelihood of serious injuries resulting from a bus crash. School bus crashes are sometimes the fault of the bus drivers, but at other times, drivers of private vehicles are the ones at fault.

Unfortunately, bus accidents occur far more often than they should. And with summer coming to a close and kids going back to school, we are once again entering the season of heavy school bus traffic. This is a good time for us to focus on what we can do as drivers who share the road with school buses to ensure that we all stay safe.

Here are five important tips to follow to avoid accidents with school buses:

  1. Be Aware of Children Near Bus Stops

When you pass by kids gathered at a bus stop, you can be sure that the school bus is not far away. It could be right behind you, or it could turn in front of you from a different direction. Either way, be prepared for the possibility of having to stop and wait for kids to get on the bus. On a related note, when children are waiting for the bus, you never know when one might dash out into the street. Also, be mindful and alert for children who might be arriving late to the bus stop. These kids are often so focused on catching the bus, they do not pay attention to other traffic on the road.

  1. Slow Down when You are Behind a Bus

School buses travel at slower speeds than other vehicles. When we are driving to work in the morning or home in the evening, we are sometimes in a hurry. However, one of the best ways to avoid accidents with school buses is to accept the fact that you are going to need to drive slower for a while. It is best to just adopt the mindset that when there is a bus in front of you, it is similar to being in slow traffic on the highway. There is nothing you can do about it, so you might as well just slow down and relax.

  1. Give the Bus Plenty of Space

As mentioned earlier, school buses are large vehicles often with many passengers who are minors. For this reason, it is good to give them at least a car length of space on the road. Buses need that space, because they often make sudden stops to let children on and off. Keep in mind also that school buses are required to come to a complete stop at railroad crossings, so if you are approaching railroad tracks, be prepared for this.

  1. Pay Attention to Bus Signals and What they Mean

Be aware of the signals a school bus makes and what these signals mean. Turn signals are self-explanatory but be sure to slow down and give the bus plenty of space when they signal that they are going to make a turn. Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is getting ready to stop and pick up or drop off children. When you see yellow lights, you should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop arm mean the bus has already stopped and kids are loading or unloading. Other motorists must stop until the extended stop arm is lowered, and the bus begins moving again.

  1. Follow the South Carolina S.A.V.E. Law

South Carolina’s Stop Arm Violation Education-Enforcement (S.A.V.E.) law is designed to catch more motorists who illegally pass buses while their stop sign and/or extended arm is raised. More surveillance cameras have been installed in school zones, increasing the chances of violators being caught. Violating the S.A.V.E. law is not only dangerous, it can also be expensive. Penalties start at $500 for first-time violations and can go up to $2,000 for multiple offenses.

When You Do Everything Right and Still Get in a School Bus Accident

Accidents with school buses can happen even when motorists follow all the rules. This can occur because of recklessness or negligence on the part of the school bus driver, mechanical issues, auto part defects, and other factors. If you or a loved one has suffered injury in a school bus accident, you may be entitled to compensation. To understand your rights and options, it is important to consult with a legal professional as soon as possible. For a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our skilled auto accident attorneys, contact us today at 803-998-2412.

 

Peake & Fowler - Columbia South Carolina Pedestrian Accident Lawyers

Do Pedestrian Accidents Increase in Summer?

As the temperatures warm up, more people decide to get outside, which poses an increased risk of accidents. Each year, more than 5,000 pedestrians are killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. and over 125,000 injured. In South Carolina alone, there are more than 1,000 pedestrian collision accidents each year. Unfortunately, these tragedies increase in the summer months.

Common Risks South Carolina Residents Face

The severity and types of risks that people face walking along South Carolina roadways can depend on a variety of factors according to the state’s Department of Public Safety. In 2016 alone, most pedestrian accidents occurred on secondary roads and nearly half took place between 3:00 p.m. and midnight.

More males (65%) were injured than females, and the most prominent age group involved in accidents was ages 25-34. A majority (62.9%) of cases involved a pedestrian walking, cycling, or playing. There are other groups of people, however, that face risks as well.

Older adults and children are particularly susceptible to pedestrian accidents and injuries. Older adults may lack mobility and have impaired senses. Children, when not supervised, don’t understand the risks associated with playing near busy roads.

What is the Driver’s Responsibility?

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable people on the road because they don’ t have the benefit of a motor vehicle for protection. Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely to be killed in an accident than the occupant of a motor vehicle.

Drivers of cars and trucks have a duty to operate their equipment safely and not harm others. When they fail in their duty and harm someone else, they could be held responsible for any preventable accident and injuries to pedestrians. Some of the responsibilities that drivers in South Carolina have include:

  • Attentive Driving. Drivers should avoid all distractions when driving since this is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes.
  • Safe Speed. Drivers must obey all posted speed limits and drive only at speeds that are safe for conditions – construction, heavy traffic, adverse weather.
  • Crossing. Drivers must be particularly cautious around intersections, crosswalks, and other signals, watching for pedestrians and reducing speed as appropriate.
  • Turn Signals. A driver should activate their turn signal at least 100 feet before a turn to prevent pedestrians from crossing under unsafe conditions.
  • DUI. Drivers should never get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Pedestrian’s Responsibility

Pedestrians often have the right of way, but they still have some responsibilities under South Carolina law. If you are pedestrian, you must:

  • Use a sidewalk, if one is present, when pushing a stroller, using an assistive device, or traveling on rollerblades or a skateboard.
  • Travel on the shoulder of the road if no sidewalk is present
  • Travel on the left side of the road if no shoulder or sidewalk is present
  • Use crosswalks when present and wait for crossing signals
  • Yield to oncoming traffic if crossing in an area that does not have a crosswalk

Injured in a South Carolina Pedestrian Accident?

Summertime brings its own set of unique risks on South Carolina’s roads. There is an influx of out of state drivers on summer vacation as well as more pedestrians taking advantage of the favorable weather. When disaster strikes, the results can be devastating to you and your loved ones.

At Peake & Fowler, our South Carolina pedestrian accident lawyers advocate for the rights of victims of these tragedies. Our firm has the tools and resources to help injured pedestrians and their families fully understand their options and fight for the compensation they deserve.

Contact our Columbia office now at 800-946-9461 or reach us online to schedule a free consultation.

common construction accidents

5 Common Construction Accidents

Most employers in South Carolina are required to carry worker’s compensation insurance to cover expenses related to work-related injuries and illnesses. Construction companies are not exempt from this requirement, and this is a good thing because construction is a dangerous industry.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly 1,000 construction workers lose their lives each year on the job. Of all workplace fatalities in a single year, one in five takes place in a construction zone.

Safety is supposed to be a priority on construction sites, but some companies are lax with safety standards or cut corners to try to boost their bottom line results. There are many ways hazards exist on a construction site that can lead to injury or even death. Here are just five of the most typical ways that construction workers fall victim to these tragic events.

  1. Fall Injuries

Falls are the most common cause of construction accident injuries. These tragedies impact thousands of construction workers each year, and some lead to death. A fall can take place on the same level, where a worker either slips or trips and falls over equipment or debris or on a slippery or wet surface.

Fall accidents can also take place from another level, and these can lead to much more serious injuries. Each day construction workers climb onto roofs, beams, ladders, and scaffolds. Without the use of safety harnesses, there is a high risk of falls.

  1. Equipment Injuries

Construction sites are loud environments because there are usually many pieces of equipment operating at once. This presents a significant hazard to workers. An equipment injury can happen in several ways.

Failure to use safety guards on machinery can lead to injury, as can attempting repairs while a machine is still “on.” A construction worker can also be injured by moving heavy equipment, motor vehicles, or a power tool that malfunctions due to a defect.

  1. Fires and Explosions

There are enough electrical items and flammable materials on construction sites that fire and explosions are common occurrences. A frayed electrical cord or other poor electrical safety practices can lead to a fire, which can result in devastating injuries and fatalities. Explosions can result from gas leaks as well as the mixture of dangerous chemicals.

  1. Falling Objects

Construction workers are supposed to wear hard hats because of the high risk of falling objects. A worker on another level could drop a heavy tool, or a stack of equipment could become dislodged and fall, leading to a serious head, neck, or back injury.

It is also possible for an entire structure to fall if it is not properly supported. This can trap construction workers underneath debris and lead to serious crushing injuries.

  1. Repetitive Injuries

Construction is strenuous and repetitive work. It’s not uncommon for a construction worker to suffer from a variety of repetitive motion or exposure injuries. These could include carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strains, and distress due to extreme cold or heat exposure.

These are not the only common construction accidents. Other serious and frequent causes of construction accidents can include trench collapses, electrocution, violence, and chemical exposure.

What You Should Know If You Have a South Carolina Construction Injury

Worker’s compensation laws in South Carolina are no-fault, meaning you are entitled to benefits if you were injured on the job. There are only a few exceptions, such as being intoxicated or committing fraud, which would bar you from collecting benefits.

If you were injured at work, whether it was due to one of these injuries or something else, you are entitled to receive payment for your medical expenses, lost time from work, and permanent impairment. A denial of any of the benefits you are due is not the last word in your case, and you have the right to speak with a qualified South Carolina worker’s compensation attorney about your options.

Consult with an Experienced South Carolina Worker’s Compensation Lawyer

Worker’s compensation law can be complex, and your employer or an insurance company representative may try to mislead you about your rights. Instead, protect your access to these valuable benefits by speaking with a qualified workplace injury attorney.

At Peake & Fowler, our Columbia injury attorneys will put their more than 60 years of combined experience to work for you. Contact us now at 800-946-9461 or reach us online to schedule a free consultation.

Nursing Home Neglect & Abuse Lawyers - Peake & Fowler

Common Forms of Nursing Home Abuse

Making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home or other care facility is difficult enough. Whether it is a spouse, parent, or another close relative, you want them to have the most compassionate and skilled care possible.

Quality elder care in the U.S. may be stretched thin as a growing percentage of the population is now over the age of 65, and many aging adults require care. As many as 5 million older Americans experience abuse each year, and much of this takes place in nursing homes.

In South Carolina, there are 188 registered nursing homes, and 48 of those facilities have just a one or two-star rating from Medicaid. This means that they have been rated sub-par by health inspectors. Even if the facility that you choose seems reputable, there could be problems. Here are the four most common forms of nursing home abuse.

Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes

Likely the most easily detectable form of mistreatment of the elderly, physical abuse results from intentional actions by nursing home staff. This harm may result from an elderly patient being slapped, shaken, hit, kicked or forcefully grabbed by a staff member. Abuse can also occur when a patient is unnecessarily physically restrained.

Some of the signs of nursing home physical abuse include unexplained cuts, scratches, bruises, black eyes, and broken bones. A nursing home that either refuses to give a patient prescribed medication or administers medication that is not prescribed could also be guilty of physical abuse.

Nursing Home Emotional Abuse

Just as harmful as physical abuse but more difficult to detect is the emotional abuse that takes place in a nursing home. Some of the treatment that takes place in nursing homes can be psychologically harmful to loved ones, and this treatment can come in many forms. Patients may be called names, taunted, criticized, belittled, or simply ignored.

When a patient has experienced mental anguish, this can also lead to physical ailments. They may stop eating, lose sleep, or have other physical conditions worsen. Some common signs of emotional abuse in nursing home residents include a patient being withdrawn, depressed, or increasingly agitated.

Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

It may seem unthinkable, but sexual abuse in nursing homes does occur. When elderly patients are isolated from loved ones, they can become the targets of sexual predators. A nursing home employee or caregiver who initiates unwanted or uninvited physical contact that is sexual in nature is committing sexual abuse.

Common types of sexual abuse in nursing homes include unwanted touching, sexual battery and assault, forced nudity, and rape. When this devastating activity is occurring, the patient may show signs of anxiety, depression, and fear around certain caregivers. They may also have physical signs that include difficulty walking or sitting, STDs and infections, bruising, and unexplained vaginal bleeding.

Financial Exploitation and Abuse

When a loved one enters a nursing home, you expect that caregivers will respect their privacy and adhere to the law. This doesn’t always happen. Some nursing home employees view these patients as a source of financial gain. Financial abuse occurs when a staff member steals items from a patient’s room or commits fraud by either taking the patient’s identity or gaining access to their financial resources.

Some of the common types of financial abuse include a caregiver’s theft of bank account or credit card funds, unwanted donations to charities, and even healthcare fraud. Loved ones should be suspicious if there have been unexpected withdrawals or unpaid bills, changes to wills or powers of attorney, or a disappearance of money or personal property.

Help for Victims of Nursing Home Abuse in South Carolina

It can be devastating to trust a facility to care for your loved one and then find out that they have violated that trust. If you believe that a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you have several remedies. You should not hesitate to contact the authorities if your loved one is in danger. You may also be able to make a claim for damages against a negligent facility.

At Peake & Fowler, we represent the rights of victims of nursing home abuse and neglect throughout South Carolina. Our personal injury and wrongful death attorneys will protect your rights and pursue the full and fair compensation your family deserves. Contact us now at 803-788-4370 or online to schedule a free consultation.

pedestrian accident attorney

How to Avoid Pedestrian Accidents

Pedestrians are some of the most vulnerable people on or near our nation’s roadways. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that over 150,000 people are treated in emergency rooms, and nearly 5,000 people are killed due to pedestrian accidents each year.

People of every age and background are at risk of becoming involved in one of these tragic events, but some people face a higher risk than others. The CDC states that teens and young adults (ages 15-29) are more likely to be injured as pedestrians, and people who have been drinking are more likely to be killed. Young children and the elderly also face significant risks, where one-fifth of all traffic fatalities among children aged 14 and under are pedestrian accidents.

Leading Causes of Pedestrian Accidents

Sidewalks, bike paths, and designated walking areas are meant to keep pedestrians and drivers safe, as are the rules of the road. Unfortunately, when the paths of a pedestrian and a motor vehicle cross, the results can be devastating. Some of the common reasons that these accidents occur include:

  • Distracted or inattentive driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Rolling through a stop sign
  • Speeding through a residential area
  • Recklessly driving through a crosswalk
  • Failing to follow other traffic laws

Whether you are a driver or someone who is an occasional pedestrian, the risks of these accidents are too great not to take some precautions. Here are some safety tips for drivers and pedestrians to avoid these tragic events.

Tips for Drivers to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents

A South Carolina driver must exercise a reasonable degree of care around pedestrians to keep them free from harm. As a driver, you can avoid these terrible accidents with the following tips:

  • Always keep an eye out for pedestrians.
  • Slow down when approaching a crosswalk, school zone, intersection, or other area that is known to have pedestrians.
  • Back out of parking spaces slowly and cautiously.
  • Avoid any distractions while driving.
  • Follow the rules of the road always.
  • Keep your windshield and mirrors clean so that you have an unobstructed view of your surroundings.
  • Make eye contact with pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections to let them know they are visible.

Tips for Pedestrians to Reduce Accidents

If you are a pedestrian in South Carolina, you often have the right-of-way but are still required to follow some rules. In short, you have a duty to protect your own safety, which means that you should avoid doing anything that is reckless or that contributes to the accident or the severity of your injuries. Because South Caroline is a comparative negligence state, failing to take precautions could impact your ability to collect damages after a pedestrian accident.

The ways that you can avoid these potentially deadly accidents as a pedestrian include:

  • Always use a sidewalk when there is one available.
  • If there is no sidewalk, you should walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Use crosswalks when you cross the road, even if you must go out of your way to find one.
  • When you are crossing the street, avoid making unpredictable movements.
  • When possible, make yourself visible to motorists with bright clothing or by using a light in poor weather or at night.
  • Avoid distractions such as cell phones and headphones that will prevent you from seeing or hearing approaching vehicles.
  • Avoid walking alone if you’ve been drinking as your judgment could be impaired.
  • Stay alert for vehicles that aren’t following the rules or that don’t see you.

What to Do If You’ve Been Struck by a Vehicle in South Carolina

If you or someone you care about has been involved in a pedestrian accident, there is a chance that severe injuries and damages are now your reality. The human body is no match for a motor vehicle or commercial truck, so many pedestrian accidents result in severe injuries and sometimes death.

Most pedestrian accidents come down to the fault of a careless or reckless driver, so you may be able to collect damages from the negligent party. At Peake & Fowler, we have successfully represented the interests of people just like you, who are hurting and need a strong legal advocate.

Contact our Columbia personal injury attorneys now at 803-788-4370 or reach us online to discuss your options for collecting full and fair compensation for your losses.

Respect motorcycles on the road in South Carolina

5 Ways to Respect Motorcycles on the Road

Motorcyclists are more vulnerable than passenger vehicles on the road, and more susceptible to severe injury, and even fatalities. Motorcycle accidents cost billions of dollars each year in medical costs, property damage, lost productivity, pain and suffering, and legal expenses.

The NHTSA reports that nearly 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in motorcycle crashes in 2015, which was an 8 percent increase from the prior year. Motorcyclists account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities, but these vehicles make up just 3 percent of all registered vehicles in this country.

Risks Faced by Motorcycle Riders

There is a common misconception that motorcyclists are aggressive drivers who weave in and out of traffic and create hazardous conditions. In the main, this is false. In two-thirds of motorcycle crashes that involve another vehicle, the driver of that other vehicle had caused the accident by violating the motorcyclist’s right of way.

Motorcycle riders face some unique challenges both on the road and after an accident that make this enjoyable activity a greater risk than necessary. A motorcycle is less visible than other vehicles, which is the primary cause of most accidents. Road hazards are another concern because they can have a severe impact on these two or three-wheeled vehicles.

Once an accident does occur, many motorcyclists are faced with common biases from insurance companies and the court system. Common beliefs that motorcycles are either all driven recklessly and too fast or operated by “bad people” can taint a personal injury case.

Whether you are a motorcycle owner and operator or wish to safeguard those who are, there are several ways that you can respect other motorcycles on the road and avoid a serious accident.

  1. Always Check Your Blind Spots. Motorcycles take up less space on the road than a car or truck, which means that they are less visible to other drivers. One of the primary reasons for motorcycle accidents is another driver’s failure to see the motorcyclist in their blind spot. Never rely on just your mirrors and instead turn your head to check blind spots before changing lanes or merging.
  2. Use Caution When Passing. You can legally pass a motorcycle in the same manner that you would another car or truck, but there are some dangers. The assumption is that you are in an area that allows passing. The threat that exists is that a gust of wind that is created by your passing activity could create instability for the motorcyclist and even blow them off the roadway. Be sure to signal well in advance of your intention to pass and wait several car lengths before moving back into the original lane.
  3. Intersections are Danger Zones. Intersections are one of the top locations of accidents involving motorcycles. Several types of vehicles can meet at an intersection, and one that lacks visibility could get lost in the mix. Always follow the rules of the road and look twice before proceeding through an intersection.
  4. Stay in Your Lane. A motorcyclist has a legal right to their own lane, so there is no reason that you should ever encroach on their space. Motorcycles may be small, but they need plenty of room to maneuver and stop. If you are too close to a motorcycle on the road, you risk a dangerous and potentially deadly accident.
  5. Look Several Times Before Turning. Many types of accidents can occur when one or another vehicle decides to make a turn. Before you make a left-hand turn always take extra time to search the area for approaching vehicles. Motorcycles didn’t have self-canceling turn signals as standard equipment until the late 1970’s, so don’t trust these signals as the only indication that someone is or isn’t making a maneuver.

Speak with a Columbia Auto and Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident, there’s a good chance that someone has been seriously injured. Whether you were the motorcyclist or the driver of another vehicle, understanding your rights in these situations is vital.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to make a claim for compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. At Peake & Fowler, our Columbia personal injury attorneys have experience helping the victims of South Carolina vehicle accidents collect the damages they need and deserve. Contact our office now at (800) 946-9461 or reach us online for a free consultation to discuss your options.

 

mold lawsuit

Can I Sue if I Find Mold in My Apartment?

Mold is one of the most common types of fungus, and nearly all homes throughout the United States have a small amount of mold within them. While a little mold is normal and harmless, too much mold, and certain types of mold, can be dangerous for human health.

While searching for an apartment in Columbia or surrounding areas, determining if mold is present may not be something that crosses your mind. If mold does exist, however, it could pose certain risks. Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of mold, and what your rights are if mold causes you harm.

The Dangers of Mold

Growing wherever there is moisture, therefore especially common in bathrooms and kitchens, mold can have a variety of effects on health. As reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some people are more sensitive to mold than are others. For those with mold sensitivities or certain health conditions, exposure to mold may result in:

  • Serious lung infections;
  • Skin irritation;
  • Eye irritation; and
  • Wheezing.

Even in people who do not have mold allergies or mold sensitivities, however, research indicates that exposure to mold can cause upper respiratory tract infections, shortness of breath, and the potential development of asthma.

There are also a handful of more serious illnesses that have been linked to mold exposure, but this link has not yet been proven. These conditions include memory loss, lethargy, and acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage in babies.

Who Is Responsible for Mold Removal?

Controlling mold in the home is relatively easy – you should make sure areas of moisture are well ventilated, fix leaks when they occur, and control humidity levels. However, not all mold can be seen with the naked eye; in some cases, mold may exist under carpet or beneath flooring or walls, making it very difficult to detect and remove without professional intervention.

If you are renting an apartment in South Carolina, it is important that you know that your landlord has a legal duty to ensure that the apartment is free from any health or safety hazards, and is fit to be lived in. Not only does this mean that the landlord is responsible for all mold removal before you move in, but that the landlord is also responsible for correcting leaks or any other structural problems should they occur. It is your responsibility to report these issues to your landlord immediately. If mold accumulates in your apartment after you move in as a result of your own actions, like failing to clean your bathroom or kitchen, your landlord is not responsible for this.

Can I File a Lawsuit?

If you discover mold in your apartment, your first action should be to send a written notice to your landlord of the mold. It is important that the contact is in writing for documentation purposes. Your landlord has a duty to address the issue within a reasonable amount of time, however, remember that the landlord is responsible for structural defects (i.e. a leak, mold underneath carpet from before you moved in, etc.) and not cleaning up new problems – cleaning is generally the tenant’s responsibility.

If your health suffers as a result of exposure to mold, you should seek medical care and document all care received as proof. You should also photograph the mold in the apartment, and keep documentation of any contact you have with your landlord.

Most landlord-tenant disputes, including those involving the presence of mold, are handled out of court. If your landlord refuses to take action, or if your health has declined significantly, filing a lawsuit against the landlord may be the only avenue to resolving the issue. Typically, lawsuits such as these are filed in small claims court. Keep in mind that even if you have not suffered any injuries, your landlord is still responsible for ensuring that the apartment is habitable, and must remove mold as such.

How Our Columbia Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help

If you notice mold in your apartment, contact your landlord immediately. If the problem goes unresolved, our Columbia personal injury lawyers at the offices of the Peake & Fowler Law Firm, P.A. can help you to understand what to do next. We can advise you regarding bringing forth a lawsuit against your landlord, as well as how to demand repairs/mold removal from your landlord and other potential steps to take. To learn more, contact our law offices today online or by phone at (803) 788-4370.

South Carolina workplace injury law firm - Peake & Fowler

Who Is Responsible for My Workplace Injury?

Being injured on the job is an all-too-familiar experience for many of South Carolina’s workers. To be sure, in a single year, there were more than 35,000 non-fatal workplace injuries reported in the state, with an incidence rate of 2.9 per 100 full time workers. These numbers do not include the number of fatal workplace incidents. Being injured on the job is not only scary and shocking, leaving a worker with pain and potential disability, but it can also open the door to a number of questions, too. A hurt work may wonder who is responsible for their workplace injury, how they will pay for damages, and whether or not they have a cause of action for damages against their employer.

At the law offices of Peake & Fowler, our workers’ compensation attorneys can provide you with answers to these questions, and any others that surface during the recovery process.

Workers’ Compensation: A No-Fault System

The majority of workers who are injured on the job in South Carolina will benefit from workers’ compensation insurance. Rather than a traditional tort liability system–where an injured person recovers damages by virtue of proving fault and holding the at-fault party liable for harm–workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. This means that workers neither have to prove fault in order to be compensated for medical expenses, lost wages, and disability, nor prove that their own actions were not the cause of the injury. In exchange for no-fault benefits, workers are barred from filing personal injury lawsuits in civil court against their employers; employers are protected from liability.

Who Gets Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Workers’ compensation benefits are available to the majority of workers’ in South Carolina, with exceptions for few industries (agriculture, railroad, etc.) and very small businesses. Otherwise, in order to recover workers’ compensation benefits, a worker need only prove that their injury occurred while on the job or while performing a work-related task. Then, they are able to recover compensation for lost wages at a rate of 66 ⅔ percent their average weekly wage, all necessary and reasonable medical expenses, and disability benefits.

Filing a Lawsuit Against Your Employer

As stated above, workers’ compensation in South Carolina is a no-fault insurance program under which employers are immune from liability, which means that injured employees cannot file a lawsuit directly against their employers. However, in some cases, the right to file suit may be preserved if the employee’s injury was the direct result of an employer’s intentional conduct. For example, an employee may be able to bring forth a suit against an employer if the injuries were caused by an act of employer assault and battery.

Filing a Third Party Liability Suit for Damages

In some cases, a third party other than your employer may be to blame for a workplace accident. For example, consider the following situations, where a third party is clearly at least partially at fault:

  • An injured worker is caught in-between a piece of machinery. Later, it is discovered that the accident occurred because an emergency shut-off function of the machine was defective as a result of manufacturer error.
  • A delivery driver is involved in a car accident. Rather than filing a claim for workers’ compensation despite the fact that the accident occurred while the worker was on the job, the employee files a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver involved in the crash, who was drunk at the time of collision.
  • A worker who is tasked with moving hazardous materials on a daily basis is involved in an explosion. An investigation reveals that the explosion occurred because the hazardous materials were improperly packaged and labeled, and did not contain a warning label explaining the danger of particular storage scenarios, contributing to the explosion.

In a third party liability claim, the injured worker is tasked with proving that their accident and injuries would not have occurred but for the negligent actions of the defendant. In some cases, it is possible to pursue both a workers’ compensation claim and a third party liability claim.

Contact Our Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorneys in South Carolina Today

If you are involved in a workplace accident, getting the compensation that you deserve is incredibly important. At the law offices of Peake & Fowler, our South Carolina attorneys have years’ worth of experience handling both workers’ compensation and third party liability claims. We will review your case for free, and provide you with the information and advice you’re looking for. When you hire our law firm, we offer aggressive representation that seeks to get you your full recovery amount. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation please contact us online or by phone today.

 

burn injuries

Burn Injuries – What You Need to Know

Burn injuries are some of the most painful types of injuries possible. The American Burn Association reports that approximately 486,000 people each year receive hospital and emergency room treatment for burns. This doesn’t take into account the thousands of burn injuries treated in clinics and private medical offices. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also reports that roughly 14,500 people die annually from either burns or burn-related infections.

The people most vulnerable to burn accidents and injuries include young children and older adults. Part of the reason this is true is that their skin is more delicate and sensitive. Another issue with these groups is that they may have less mobility in a fire situation. The fact is that a burn injury can occur in just about any setting, from a home to a business to a crashed car.

If you or a loved one have suffered from a burn injury, these are not only painful, but they also take a long time to heal. Burns that are severe can require treatment that is incredibly complicated and expensive. When those injuries were caused by the carelessness or negligence of another party, you have the right to make a claim for damages. Here are several things that you need to know about burn injuries and filing a burn injury claim.

Common Types of Burn Injuries

A majority of burn injuries are the result of contact with hot steam or flames, but some may also be caused by electricity, extreme cold, harsh chemicals, sunlight and other radiation, and friction. Depending on the extent of the exposure, burns are generally classified as first, second, or third-degree burns.

  • First-degree burns affect just the skin’s top layer, or the epidermis, with little to no further damage.
  • Second-degree burns will affect the entire epidermis as well as deeper layers. There will be significant pain as well as blistering and possible nerve damage. Infection and shock are possibilities with these burns.
  • Third-degree burns are the most serious type of burn that destroys the skin’s layers as well as underlying tissue, muscle, tendons, and ligaments. Because there is nerve damage, there may not be as much pain associated with these burns, but long-term implications will include significant scarring and surgery for skin grafts.

The treatment necessary for burn injuries depends on the nature and location of the injury. For example, a severe burn on a limb could require amputation while other burns may call for extensive plastic or cosmetic surgery.

Who Can File a Burn Injury Claim?

Burn injuries have far-reaching consequences. Not only can the medical care be costly, but a burn victim could be prevented from returning to work and suffer from severe emotional trauma as well. If your injuries were caused by the negligence of another party, you have the right to file a claim for fair and just compensation. Your Columbia, South Carolina burn injury attorney will evaluate your case and speak to you about your legal options.

Typical Sites of Burn Injuries

Where your accident and burn injury took place could determine the direction of your case. For example, many serious burn incidents happen on the job, where there might be explosions, fires, and risk of electrocution. Your right to recovery in these cases would fall under your employer’s workplace accident coverage, and a qualified South Carolina worker’s compensation attorney can help ensure your access to benefits.

Other common sites of burn injuries include public spaces, schools and nurseries, and road accidents. A restaurant could be held liable for spilling a hot beverage on a patron, or a school that doesn’t supervise children closely enough could create unnecessary hazards. Car accidents not only cause serious damage and injuries, but they can also result in fires that leave victims with additional damages.

Protecting Your Rights in a Burn Injury Case

If you or someone you love has suffered a burn injury that was caused by the careless acts or negligent behavior of a third party, you may be able to file a burn injury claim for damages. It’s vital that you not only seek medical attention immediately after the accident but that you also consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can investigate your case and advise you of your options. Contact our Columbia, South Carolina office now at (803) 788-4370 or online to schedule a free consultation.

expert testimony

The Role of an Expert in an Injury Case

An expert witness can play a key role in proving liability and damages in a personal injury case. Experts are people who possess special knowledge, experience, skills, or training that extends beyond that of the general population. When you’ve been injured in an accident, have lost a loved one to wrongful death, or are claiming nursing home abuse, getting the parties responsible for your damages to pay isn’t always a simple matter.

Filing any type of personal injury claim requires that there be an allegation of liability. In essence, who is at fault for your injuries? You not only have to prove negligence but also that those actions, or the failure to act, was the cause of your injuries. In both cases, the testimony of expert witnesses can be used to prove liability as well as testify about the severity of the injury and its far-reaching consequences.

Who Can Qualify as an Expert Witness?

There are several types of witnesses in an injury case. An eyewitness is someone who was present at the time of the accident and has direct knowledge of the events.  An “expert” witness wasn’t an accident witness, but instead is someone who might be hired by your attorney to assist in proving your case.

Experts by their nature are generally professionals who have knowledge, skills, or training that qualifies them to provide testimony or give a reliable opinion on certain issues. For example, a physician may be asked to testify about the severity of your injuries in an auto accident or premises liability case.

The Role of an Expert in an Injury Case

Just because an expert is hired for your injury case, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will see them sitting before a jury giving sworn testimony. These are qualified individuals who will use their specialized knowledge to help prove different elements of your case. The two ways that you might see these experts used are:

  • Consulting Experts. A consulting expert provides support services to your attorney’s legal team. They might assist through reviewing documents, offering advice, and helping with strategy related to financial, medical, and other technical issues.
  • Testifying Experts. A testifying expert may perform some of the above tasks, but they will also be called by your attorney as a witness in your case. Their sworn testimony could help prove fault, explain complicated terms, or make a case for certain damages.

Different Types of Expert Witnesses

Depending on the details of your accident and what areas may be disputed, different types of experts may be used in an injury case. Some of those include:

  • Medical Professionals. Medical professionals such as physicians, medical examiners, and rehabilitation specialists are often called as expert witnesses to provide testimony about the seriousness of an injury, its cause, and the need for future care.
  • Accident Reconstruction Specialists. An accident reconstruction specialist might be hired to help prove negligence in a variety of personal injury cases. When there is an auto or truck accident case, these specialists can testify about vehicle safety, speed, right-of-way, and other errors that could have caused the accident and injuries.
  • Financial Specialists. If your damages include lost income and permanent impairment, a financial expert could be called to help prove the severity of your financial losses.
  • Maintenance Specialists. When a mechanical failure either caused or contributed to an accident, a maintenance specialist can provide valuable testimony that describes vehicle upkeep and the ways that a failure to maintain a vehicle created a hazard.
  • Phone Records Specialist. Because so many auto accidents now involve distracted driving, your attorney may hire a phone records specialist to prove that the other driver was texting or using their cell phone when the accident took place.

Expert witnesses can often make a significant difference in an injury case, particularly if there is a question of fault or the seriousness of damages. The experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorneys at Peake & Fowler often use the services of these valuable experts to help prove our client’s case. If you or a loved one have suffered a personal injury, contact our Columbia, South Carolina office today at (803) 788-4370 or online for a free consultation to discuss your case.