calculate damages

How Damages are Calculated in South Carolina Accidents

When someone is injured or killed due to the negligence or reckless actions of another party, the party at-fault is responsible to fully compensate the injury victim (or their loved ones) for the losses. The term most commonly used for compensation from personal injury is “damages”. Some types of damages are quantifiable and fairly easy to calculate. These are known as economic damages. Some types of damages are hard to assign a dollar amount to. These are known as non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Categories of economic damages include:

  • Medical Bills: One of the most common types of compensation received in South Carolina accident cases is for medical expenses. The cost of medical treatment can total tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. This may include the cost of immediate treatment after the accident, rehabilitation costs, and in some cases, ongoing medical expenses if the victim suffers a permanent injury.
  • Lost Wages: Injury victims should be compensated for time missed from work after the accident. In the case of a minor injury, this could be a handful of days missed for doctor appointments, treatment, etc. If the injury results in a temporary or permanent disability, compensation should be provided for the number of weeks or months (or longer) the victim has to miss work, or for total loss of earning capacity.
  • Funeral and Burial Expenses: If the accident resulted in a fatality, the victim’s loved ones should be compensated for funeral and burial costs related their death.
  • Property Loss: Injury victims may also recover compensation for any property that was damaged or destroyed because of an accident. For example, if your vehicle was totaled after an automobile accident, the responsible party should cover the cost to replace it with one of equal or greater value.

Non-Economic Damages

Categories of non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and Suffering: Victims who suffer serious and catastrophic injuries after an accident often have to endure severe and ongoing physical pain. It can be difficult to put a price tag on the pain someone suffers after an accident, and juries have been known to award significant amounts in the most horrific cases.
  • Emotional Distress: This is the psychological pain and suffering an injury victim experiences after an accident. Examples of emotional distress may include fear, anxiety, lost sleep, and many others. Again, it is hard to assign a value to emotional distress, but its extent can often be shown with psychiatric records.
  • Loss of Enjoyment: This is compensation for diminished quality of life after an accident. For example, if an injury victim liked to spend time surfing at Myrtle Beach and is no longer able to participate in this or similar activities, they may be able to recover damages for loss of enjoyment.
  • Loss of Consortium: This type of compensation if for victims whose close relationships have been severely and negatively impacted by the accident. Loss of consortium damages are common in cases in which the victim has a severe debilitating injury (such as paralysis) or wrongful death.

Punitive Damages

A third category of damages may be awarded in rare cases in which the reckless actions or omissions of the party responsible were especially egregious. Punitive damages are awarded to “punish” the wrongdoer and deter them (or others) from similarly egregious behavior in the future.

South Carolina Shared Fault Laws and Damage Caps

There are some state-specific factors that may affect the amount of damages awarded in a South Carolina personal injury case. The first is South Carolina’s “modified comparative negligence” standard. With modified comparative negligence, injury victims are able to recover damages as long as they are 50% or less at-fault for the accident. However, damages recovered are reduced in proportion to the percentage victims are found to be at-fault. For example, if the total amount of compensation for your injury is $100,000 and you are found to be 20% at-fault, you are only allowed to recover $80,000. South Carolina also places caps on certain types of damages.

Speak with an Experienced South Carolina Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident in which another party was responsible, you need a skilled attorney by your side who understands the complexities of these types of cases, and how to accurately calculate damages. At Peake & Fowler, we have stood up for injury victims in South Carolina since 2000. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we put our extensive experience to work to pursue maximum compensation on behalf of each client we serve. Call our office today at 803-998-2412 for a free consultation, or you may send us a secure and confidential message using our online contact form.

tbi lawyer

5 Most Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 150 Americans die each day from TBI. Those who survive this condition often have to deal with its effects for the rest of their lives. The impact of TBI affects not only the individual who suffers from it, but his/her family and friends as well.

What is Traumatic Brain Injury?

TBI is a disruption to the normal function of the brain that typically results from a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Not all bumps, blows, and jolts to the head result in TBI, and the condition has varying degrees of severity. In its mildest form (commonly referred to as a concussion), TBI causes a temporary change in mental state or consciousness. In its more severe forms, TBI can have lasting effects, such as:

  • Severe headaches;
  • Blurred eyesight and other problems with vision;
  • Dizziness and loss of balance;
  • Ringing in the ears;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Memory loss;
  • Fatigue;
  • Difficulty with focus and concentration;
  • Mood swings (e.g., stress, anxiety, depression, etc.);
  • Impulsive or risky behavior.

What are the Most Common Causes of TBI?

There are several ways an individual can suffer a traumatic brain injury, here are some of the most common:

Falls

Almost half of all cases of TBI are caused by various types of falls. People fall down all the time, and many times, the fall is minor and results in nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises. Some slip and fall accidents are more serious, however, and they can result in severe injuries. Falls that involve hitting your head on hard ground or pavement are especially hazardous and can increase the chances of developing TBI. If this occurs on the property of another party who did not take reasonable steps to make the property safe, the TBI injury victim may be able to file a claim for damages.

Being Struck By/Against Events

The second-leading cause of TBI is being struck by an object or bumping into or against an object. This type of injury is common in many worksites where heavy equipment and machinery is often used. On construction sites, this can happen because of loose or falling debris that strikes someone in the head.

Motor Vehicle/Traffic-Related Incidents

The third-leading cause of TBI is a motor vehicle crash or another type of traffic-related incident. In these types of cases, vehicle drivers and passengers are often jolted suddenly because of the impact of the crash, causing head trauma. Traumatic brain injuries are not always readily apparent after a motor vehicle crash, and it could take some time for the symptoms to fully manifest themselves. For this reason, it is important to seek medical attention right away if you are involved in an auto accident.

Violence

The fourth-leading cause of TBI in the U.S. is assault, self-harm, or similar forms of violence. Domestic assault is one of the leading causes of death in children ages 0 to 4, and many teens are also hospitalized for TBI injuries related to assault.

Other

There are several other causes of TBI that can be put into the miscellaneous category. These may include gunshots, explosions, and various types of sports-related injuries, such as helmet-to-helmet football collisions and blows to the head while boxing.

Children and the Elderly are at the Greatest Risk for TBI

It should come as little surprise that the most vulnerable among us are the most susceptible to developing traumatic brain injury from falls and other hazards. The rates of TBI-related deaths are highest among individuals age 75 and older. Among non-fatal TBI injuries, hospitalizations are also highest among the 75 and above age group. Assaults are the leading cause of TBI-related deaths among children ages 0 to 4, and this age group also has the second highest number of TBI-related hospitalizations.

Speak with a Seasoned South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone close to you has suffered a traumatic brain injury resulting from the negligence or reckless actions of another party, you may be entitled to compensation. Severe TBI is a life-changing condition, and you deserve to be compensated for medical expenses, lost wages, physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other types of damages.

At Peake & Fowler, we have successfully represented injury victims in South Carolina since 2000. We can thoroughly assess your case and inform you of your rights and options, so you can make the most informed decision on which legal avenue you want to pursue. Call our office today at 803-998-2412 to schedule your free consultation, or you may send us a secure and confidential message using our online contact form.

seatbelt failure attorney

How Often Do Seat Belts Fail?

Among people ages 1-54 in the U.S., motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death. For most people over age 4, using a seat belt is one of the most effective ways to reduce injuries and save lives in a crash. Unfortunately, millions of people decide to forgo wearing a seatbelt and forfeit this valuable protection. But, what happens if you do wear a seat belt and it doesn’t perform as it was intended?

Seat Belts Save Lives

The truth is that seat belts, when they work properly and when used, save lives. In 2015 alone, nearly 14,000 lives were saved in the U.S. by seat belts. South Carolina has a primary enforcement safety belt law requiring that every occupant of a motor vehicle wear a seat belt or be secured in the proper child restraint system. As of 2016, South Carolina is at a 93.9% seat belt use rate compared to the national average of 90.1%.

Some people mistakenly believe that seat belts are unnecessary thanks to airbag technology, but this isn’t the case. Airbags are supplemental and meant to work with a seat belt. They are also not as effective in certain types of crashes. A seat belt helps prevent injury and death in several ways:

  • Preventing ejection from the vehicle;
  • Spreading crash forces over a wider area of the body;
  • Shifting crash forces to the strongest parts of your body’s structure;
  • Permitting your body to slow down gradually; and
  • Protecting your head and spinal cord.

These are priceless protections that help many people who wear a seat belt. Unfortunately, these devices can fail and lead to catastrophic outcomes.

How Often Do Seat Belts Fail?

Seat belts fail with startling regularity in motor vehicle crashes and lead to severe injury and even death. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that roughly 3 million people each year suffer injuries and 40,000 people die because of seat belts that fail during crashes. When a rollover accident occurs, a failed seat belt is one the primary factors leading to injury or death. The most disturbing thing about these injuries and deaths is that they are entirely preventable.

How Do Seat Belts Fail?

Some of the most common causes of seat belt failure include:

  • Retractor failure. This occurs when the tightening of the seat belt or lock fails to engage, which was supposed to protect the occupant.
  • Latch failure. A seat belt’s buckle can inadvertently unlatch, which renders this protective device useless.
  • Spooling. This takes place when too much of the seat belt’s webbing is unraveled, which allows excessive movement of the driver or passenger.

When an accident occurs, and your seat belt fails, it is vital to have a thorough investigation and preserve evidence. Just because a law enforcement officer doesn’t notice the failure at first glance, that doesn’t mean there was not an issue.

Who is Responsible When a Seat Belt Fails?

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured because of a failed seat belt, both the manufacturer of the vehicle, and of the seat belt could be to blame. Vehicle manufacturers are responsible for designing and constructing a safe car or truck that meets the latest safety standards. There may have been a flaw in their production or design process that led to the failure of the seat belt.

The seat belt itself could also have a design or construction flaw. When an automaker chooses a parts supplier, they generally purchase pre-made parts that are ready to install in the vehicle. Defects in those parts could trace back to the original designers.

Speak with an Experienced Products Liability Attorney

When you are seriously injured in a car accident through no fault of your own, you have the right to expect full and fair compensation for your losses. These may include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. There may be several negligent parties in your case, including another driver, a vehicle maker, and a parts manufacturer.

At Peake & Fowler, we not only have experience with some of the most complicated auto accident cases but products liability issues as well. Our qualified legal team will protect your rights and fight for the payments you need and deserve. Contact our Columbia office now at (800) 946-9461 to schedule a free consultation.

spinal cord injury

Spinal Cord Injuries

The term “spinal injury” almost always refers to an injury of the spinal cord, not just the vertebrae or discs that comprise the human spine, and is part of what makes spinal injuries so devastating.

The structure of the spine (the bones that form its shape) provide protection and support for the body, and there is no doubt that an injury to one of the vertebrae can be very painful, disabling, and even dangerous. But damage to the spinal cord, which is the bundle of nerves that runs the length of the spine and provides the medium for communication between the brain and the rest of the body, can be devastating.

The Job of the Spinal Cord

The spinal cord is the medium for communication between the brain and the rest of the body. It is a long, thin, tubelike structure that starts at the brainstem and runs the course of the spinal column to nearly the bottom of the spine. The nerves within the spinal cord are responsible for communicating messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

Sometimes, these message are completely reactionary and occur as a result of an immediate reflex – such as pulling your hand away quickly if you accidentally touch a hot stove. Other times, the messages are very intentional, such as when you want your brain to tell your body to help you in lifting something heavy. The body’s ability to do both of these things–have reflexes and follow commands–occurs as a result of the spinal cord having spinal nerves. Each nerve emerges in two branches, which are called roots. There are two types of roots: motor roots (carry commands) and sensory roots (carry information).

What Happens When the Spinal Cord Is Injured

The majority of spinal cord injuries start as a fracture or dislocation of the vertebrae. Rather than a blow or an injury cutting through the spinal cord, the spinal cord is affected when the fractured/dislocated vertebrae tears into cord tissues.

When a spinal cord injury occurs, it is classified as either complete or incomplete. A complete injury means that your brain can no longer send messages to the parts of your body that are located below the spinal cord injury. An incomplete injury means that the brain still has an ability to communicate, but the ability is impaired so only some movement and sensation is possible. When an injury is complete, it result in paralysis from the injury site downwards. While scientists are working hard to develop treatment options to repair spinal cord injuries, today, modern medicine is not able to repair such injuries, and therefore paralysis is permanent.

What Types of Accidents Can Cause Spinal Injuries

As stated above, the majority of spinal cord injuries start with a fracture or dislocation of one of the vertebra in the spine. In order for vertebrae to fracture of be dislocated, a lot of force needs to be applied. This amount of force may be created in a motor vehicle accident, a slip and fall, a bicycle or pedestrian crash, a diving accident, or any type of accident that results in the spine being severely impacted.

Damages Following a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries result in partial or complete paralysis from the site of the injury downwards. This means that a person who suffers a spinal cord injury will not only be unable to move, and perhaps unable to care for themselves for the remainder of their life, but that they will also suffer medical expenses, lost wages and loss of earning capacity, economic costs for life adjustments, and likely emotional and psychological harm as well.

Working with an Experienced Spinal Injury Lawyer

An injury to the spine or spinal cord is one of the most tragic injury types there is. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident that resulted in partial or complete paralysis, our tough yet compassionate South Carolina spinal injury attorneys at the law offices of Peake & Fowler can help you to win compensation that is available to you, and bring forth a claim for damages. Reach us now to schedule your free consultation.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse - Peake & Fowler

Signs of Nursing Home Neglect in South Carolina

Elderly people, especially those who are ill and unable to care for themselves, are a particularly vulnerable section of the population. While nursing homes and long-term care facilities are designed to provide the elderly with the level of care that they need and deserve, sadly, nursing home neglect occurs at an alarming rate, leaving those in need with injuries and harm.

Nursing home neglect can be hard to detect, especially when an elderly person is otherwise ill and therefore in a state of deterioration. For the family and friends of those in South Carolina nursing homes, recognizing the signs of nursing home abuses and neglect is key to the safety and well-being of their elderly loved ones. Consider the following, and if you notice any signs of nursing home neglect, do not hesitate to report it and seek legal counsel immediately.

Physical Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

Some of the most obvious signs of nursing home neglect are the physical signs. If you notice any of the following, it may be a sign that your loved one is not receiving the level of care that they need and deserve.

  • Weight loss. Weight loss implies that neglect may be taking place, as it indicates that the elderly person is, for whatever reason, not receiving the level of nutrition that they need for optimal health. An overall deterioration in health condition could also be a sign of nursing home neglect.
  • Falls. Falls are one of the most common sources of injury amongst elderly people throughout the United States, but in a nursing home, falls should never happen. When a nursing home fall happens, it may be because the nursing home patient was not properly assisted, supervised, and otherwise cared for.
  • Bedsores. Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers, are both painful and dangerous sores that form on the skin as the result of constant, unalleviated pressure. These sores develop on elderly people who are confined to their bed, and are not moved or changed positions to prevent the development of bedsores on a regular basis. Pressure ulcers in nursing home is a serious problem, with the CDC reporting that in a single year, about 11 percent of nursing home residents throughout the U.S. had pressure ulcers.
  • Bruises, cuts, or signs of physical restraints. A physical mark on a nursing home resident, such as a bruise, is never a good sign, and could mean that the nursing home resident was struck by a staff member, suffered a fall, or was restrained.

Emotional Signs of Neglect

Neglect is not always physical – it may affect a resident’s emotions and psyche, too. Human beings need love, care, and social interaction, and when they are denied these things, they can suffer a physical and psychological deterioration. Emotional changes in your loved one that may indicate neglect include:

  • Withdrawal and depression. When human beings are denied social interaction or are not cared for as they should be may display signs of withdrawal or depression.
  • Anger. Neglect, and emotional harm, can lead to outbursts of anger, and sometimes, even violence.
  • Fear. If your loved one is afraid of the nursing home, does not want to be left alone with a staff member, or is asking to leave, this may be a sign that some type of neglect – or even outright abuse – is occurring.

Keep in mind that many of the emotional signs of neglect are often accompanied by physical signs, such as a refusal to eat, weight loss, sleeping more than normal, and a deterioration in health condition.

It is also important to remember that neglect does not just occur in nursing homes, but may occur in hospitals, when a person is receiving at-home care, and a variety or other short and long-term care facilities.

What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Neglect

If you suspect that nursing home neglect is occurring, you should speak with your loved one and the nursing home. If changes are not immediately made or your loved one has suffered harm, it is important that you report the neglect to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control – Nursing Home Department. The Department of Health will open an investigation and look into your allegations of nursing home neglect. You should document all signs of neglect that occur, especially if you plan to move forward with a lawsuit.

You should also consider hiring an attorney who can represent your loved one and your family during a claim for damages. At the offices of the Peake & Fowler Law Firm, P.A., we have handled many nursing home neglect and abuse cases over the years, and our skilled and compassionate South Carolina nursing home abuse attorneys know how sensitive and heartbreaking these cases can be. To schedule a free consultation, please reach out to us today by phone at (803) 788-4370 or through our website contact form.