Posted on February 06, 2017
Severe back disorders can often be overlooked when workers are continually over exercising their muscles during their daily work routine. Repetitive activity over time such as lifting heavy materials every day or a single traumatic event can trigger a back injury. Those who have a higher risk for suffering from back injuries tend to work in the following types of occupations:
Whether it’s sitting at your desk, driving an automobile, or lifting heavy weights, those types of activities are straining to a worker’s spine. Back injuries, if left untreated, can result in a disabling injury that can affect the overall wellness and lifestyle of living. It’s important to know the causes of back pain so each type of worker can be aware of the possible symptoms.
If you work in one of the occupations listed above and injured your back on the job due to one of the causes, it is important to go to the doctor and to also talk to a personal injury lawyer. If an injury leads to a more serious and complicated disability such as, paraplegia or quadriplegia, the injured worker is entitled to lifetime benefits. For this reason, it is vital to contact an experienced lawyer who can help you document the injury and provide proof of the lifetime cost and severe and permanently disabling back injury.
If you are seeking workers' compensation for a back injury, it is vital to be able to document both the cause of the injury and the extent to which the injury interferes with your ability to work. The attorneys of Popowski, Callas & Shirley, P.A., have substantial experience in assisting South Carolina workers obtain workers' compensation benefits after a serious back injury on the job.
Posted on October 31, 2016
Halloween is a holiday that many people let go of their typical selves, and they can create a fantasy character to identify with for the night. This holiday allows them to embrace a new unique personality that is united with becoming someone or something different. No matter how you want to celebrate Halloween, whether you go to a haunted house, trick or treat, or hold a costume party, it’s important to be informed how to prevent injury and/or protect yourself from unsafe situations. Although you may be in a super hero costume while trick or treaters approach your house, you can be sure if they sustain injuries they won’t be suing Batman. Therefore, being able to recognize what dangerous hazards are before they happen could save you from a law suit.
Potential Hazards with Trick or Treaters
Opening your home to trick or treaters, is a liability that homeowners need to recognize and then do everything in their power to mitigate the risk of an injury on their property. Clear walkways so that no one trips on clutter or decorations. Light sidewalks so guests can clearly see the path, and avoid tripping. You are technically liable for any injuries that may occur on your property. So while you are decorating for the holiday, keep your walkways and sidewalks well-lit and obstacle free.
Halloween Party Precautions and Liabilities
Although Halloween parties are a great excuse to dress up, Halloween costumes may lead to dangerous outcomes. Prior to the event, there are precautions that you need to address that may save you from being sued. If alcohol is served at your party, and a guest drives home and hits another car and kills the another driver, you may be found liable for providing the alcohol. This is why it’s wise to assign a designated bartender and tell the bartenders to monitor your guests’ intake and notice if they become overly intoxicated. Additionally, ask your guests if they have a designated driver prior to any drinks being served. Prevent that scary situation from happening by communicating suggested drink limits to your guests.
Halloween is known for bad luck, so before you cross paths with any black cats, double check that your insurance policies are covering you against injuries or liabilities on your property. In order for you to get a spooky vibe with the right amount of eerie glow, you may light candles around your home or inside pumpkins. Although this isn’t a horrible idea, a trick or treater or party guest has the opportunity to knock over a candle and start a fire in or around your home. To prepare for incident such as these, it’s best to maintain an updated homeowners insurance policy. Remember, if a trick or treater happens to get injured on your property, you are responsible for them. This is why it is important that you update your homeowners policy, so that it will cover their medical expenses, as well as any liability for their injuries.
The lawyers at Powpowski, Callas, & Shirley care about your safety, and we want you to keep you well informed about the possible hazards this holiday brings. But more importantly, we want you to have a fun and enjoyable holiday with your family and friends!
Posted on August 12, 2016
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION MEDIATION
MAY BE THE BEST OPTION
Mediation in South Carolina Workers’ Compensation cases was “established to resolve disputes without the necessity of a hearing.” R 67-1801(A). At a hearing, the amount of money paid to an injured worker is determined by a Commissioner who is appointed by the governor. A Commissioner is bound by law to decide in favor of one part or other. Mediation allows the parties to reach a compromise - split the baby where the Commission is unable to do this.
Historically, Workers’ Compensation insurance companies have tried to minimize their exposure, and the money paid to an injured worker, by proposing awards based upon ratings outlined in the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment and schedules for “Loss of Use of a Member” found in the S.C. Workers’ Compensation code.
This may appear mathematical and scientific, but is fundamentally unfair when the injured worker is unable to reenter the work force.
Injured workers and their attorneys have always had the option of presenting a claim for permanent and total disability (inability to perform services other than those that are so limited in quality, dependability, or quantity that a reasonably stable market for them does not exist). This would entitle the injured worker to an award based on the remainder of 500 weeks commuted to present-day value. The same injury and compensation rate above could result in an award of over $136,000.00.
Changes to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act have made mediation mandatory when the injured worker is “claiming permanent and total disability.” R 67-1802(A). An attorney representing injured workers in South Carolina, when appropriate, should be able to frame a claim to make such subject to mandatory mediation. Moreover, under the new law the insurance company must “provide a representative, who shall attend the mediation” and “have authority to enter into negotiations, in good faith.” R67-1805.
Mediation gives injured workers and their attorneys a forum to present a case in which the insurance company has to consider all of its exposure. This exposure includes the strength of the injured worker’s case for permanent and total disability. This exposure may also include the dollar value for future medical care. Conversely, at a hearing, a Commissioner, by law, can only award actual future medical care required based upon a reasonable degree of medical certainty and cannot award a dollar amount for such.
Mediation may be in the injured workers’ best interest. However, one cannot just come to the table and expect a permanent and total disability settlement. An attorney representing injured workers in mediation must have a network of experts including the following:
1. Functional Capacity Evaluation
This evaluation is performed by a physical therapist to assign physical limitations such as heavy, light, or sedentary duty. It is important that an injured worker give consistent effort within their physical restrictions to avoid finding of malingering and exaggeration.
2. Vocational Assessment
The injured worker’s restrictions, education, prior work skills, and any other pertinent factors are considered to determine if a return to the work force is possible.
3. Independent Medical Exam
This exam is performed by a physician to determine the degree of disability, usually using the AMA Guides. It is helpful if the physician is willing to review the FCE and/or Vocational Assessment.
4. Future Medical Projection
This is simply the cost of future related medical care and treatment. This is only effective when the injured worker is able to trade away the value of future medical care and the insurance company is willing to do so. This report will not serve as evidence if mediation fails and the case is heard.
Expert reports are expensive. An attorney should be able to identify the issues in the case and determine which reports are necessary. Fortunately, if the injured worker is unable to return to work most of these expert reports can be used to support a claim for Social Security Disability benefits. It is important that attorneys representing injured workers counsel them as to when to apply for Social Security, in order to keep all negotiation options open and to be able to draft a Workers’ Compensation settlement which maximizes Social Security benefits.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT ATTORNEY
Make sure you hire the right attorney. Your attorney should be familiar with Workers’ Compensation Mediation Regulations, and be able to draft your claim to be subject to mandatory mediation, if appropriate. Your attorney should be able to identify the issues in order to determine which expert reports are necessary and which are a waste of money. Finally, make sure the attorney you hire to bring your Permanent and Total case for Workers’ Compensation benefits is familiar with Federal Social Security Act. Filing for Social Security too early will limit your ability to negotiate a Workers’ Compensation settlement, and if the settlement is not properly structured, your receipt of Social Security benefits will be severely delayed.
Attorneys Nicholas G. Callas and J. Scott Shirley have practiced before the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation commission for well over 15 years each and developed a strong network of expert witnesses. Even before the introduction of the Mediation Statute in 2012, Nick and Scott regularly obtained mediation settlements for injured workers; including a 2011 settlement of $435,000 for an injured worker who sustained injury to the brain. Nick and Scott are professionals when it comes to knowing the law, and are able to understand your issues. They will obtain the necessary expert reports, and have excellent negotiation skills that can help you obtain the Workers’ Compensation settlement.
Posted on August 05, 2016
If you are suffering from an illness or from an accident that has led to your inability to work, it’s not easy. If you are the main source of income for your family, this type of situation may cause stress and worry, as you contemplate your chances of ever being able to work again.
A disabling condition caused by an illness or accident can cause you and your family to despair over how you are going to pay bills and replace lost income. In this type of situation, it may seem as if the world is against you, but there is good news. Depending on your financial status and the type of disability you have, there are options for families to gain financial help when disability occurs. One way to replace a significant portion of your lost income from a continuous disability is to apply for social security disability income (SSDI). SSDI is part of a federal program run by the Social Security Administration (https://www.ssa.gov/disability/) to provide medical and financial benefits to people with disabilities. While these programs are open to all qualified citizens of the United States, applying for these benefits can be complex. Obtaining the assistance of an attorney experienced in handling these claims can help you complete the application with the Social Security Administration and assist you in navigating through the appeals process should your claim be denied.
The law defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
To be considered for Social Security Disability Income, one must meet these requirements:
The Social Security Administration organizes the human body into the following categories and identifies many health issues that might entitle an individual to social security disability benefits:
During your initial consultation with our firm, we will go over your entire work history, your medical conditions that prevent you from working as well as the medical records and opinions from your treating physicians. We will then work with you in developing a plan to obtain disability benefits and assist you in the application and appeals process.
We understand that every situation is different and complicated by nature. This is why we highly encourage you to come into our office to talk to one of our attorneys about your specific case. Call today to set up your free consultation, and we will answer any questions you have about the disability process and help you figure out what type of benefits you might be eligible for under the law. Call Popowski, Callas & Shirley, P.A. at (803)799-2100.
Posted on July 03, 2016
One of the scariest truths that our country has come to know is that our beloved nation’s birthday, a holiday we celebrate freedom and the pursuit of happiness, it is also one of the deadliest holidays of the year due to drunk driving crashes.
This is the dark side of this lit up holiday that no one likes to hear. Fourth of July is right in the middle of what highway patrol calls the “100 Deadliest Days” of summer, and this holiday, year after year, continues to prove that to be true.
To assure safety for drivers on their way home from watching fireworks or leaving the BBQ, highway patrol in South Carolina are cracking down on DUI checkpoints this holiday weekend.
Great ideas to keep in mind while you’re celebrating our country’s Independence Day are:
Drink OR drive. Not both.
It’s always a great time to celebrate with friends and family at a BBQ or picnic, and watch fireworks to celebrate our freedom, but keep in mind that you have to get home somehow!
Look out for each other.
If you see any suspicious driving, call Highway Patrol and report it. Help keep the roads clear of intoxicated drivers, and protect fellow drivers on their way home.
We care for you.
At Popowski, Callas & Shirley, we understand that victims of drunk drivers often feel violated and sometimes suffer psychological injuries. Our personal injury lawyers are dedicated to getting you the best compensation and medical support possible.
We hope you and your family have a fun 4th of July, but remember to be safe and make wise decisions!
Posted on June 29, 2016
Remember that great nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty?
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall;
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
Well, from the sound of it, Humpty Dumpty’s day could have gone better. It is safe to say that from this one fall, these injuries greatly impacted his life. Have you ever wondered what the context was in this situation, or how he even fell off that wall?
If we were to retell this story, let’s say that Humpty Dumpty was working for the King, and fell off while he was on the job fixing a few bricks along the broken wall. Considering his damages caused from this serious accident, this makes for a great case for Humpty to get Workers’ Compensation.
These are the stages Humpty Dumpty should be going through to file a Workers’ Compensation claim:
He needs to figure out if there is coverage for Workers’ Compensation. The two factors that determine his coverage are:
Under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, every employer and employee, with certain notable exceptions, is presumed to be covered. However, the presumption of Workers’ Compensation coverage does not apply to:
The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy against an Employer for Employee’s work-related accident. Even if the accident was due to the King’s fault or negligence, Humpty cannot bring a civil suit against his Employer to recover damages for pain and suffering or punitive damages. However, if the accident was the fault or due to the negligence of an actor outside the scope of employment, Humpty could bring a civil action for damages against that actor. The attorneys at Popowski, Callas & Shirley can help you identify and pursue a 3rd-party action.
The next step for Humpty is to immediately report his injury to the employer and request medical treatment for his injuries. Humpty should also complete a first report of injury, listing all of his injuries and keep a copy. In South Carolina, an Employee injured on the job has 90 days to give notice of the accident to his or her Employer, but should do so as soon as possible. Some Workers’ Compensation Insurance Companies will attempt to discredit an employee’s testimony when notice is not given as soon as possible. It is also important that your employer notify his or her Workers’ Compensation Insurance Company so that your benefits can be started.
In a real world context, if you have fallen while working and have been injured, these benefits should be paid by your Employer’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance Company:
Humpty Dumpty may have been a good egg but he probably did not understand the complexities of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act and the several changes to the law that have occurred in recent years. It is important that you get the information you need as soon as possible. Missing deadlines such as notice periods and statutes of limitations, or settling 3rd-party claims, or applying for Social Security may adversely affect what you are able to recover.
Posted on January 05, 2016
South Carolina workers’ compensation law can attempt to ease employees back into their job by assigning them to light duty. Many times, when a person is injured, they will be ordered back to light duty before they can fully return to work.
Light duty can be temporary or permanent. It is defined as a job that is less physically or mentally taxing than one’s usual job duties. It could also be an alternative job created to meet the capabilities of an employee who is on the way back to a full recovery.
Workers who are injured on the job have the right to medical care deemed ‘reasonable and necessary.’ However, there is a catch to this. The doctor you will see in regards to your injury is selected by the insurance company of your employer. They are often referred to as company doctors.
It is these same company doctors who can order workers back to light duty. If your employer offers you some light duty, it is required that you accept it. Otherwise, your workers’ compensation may come to a halt.
In the event that you feel you cannot perform that light duty, you have the right to request a hearing. There, you will be able to plead your case to the Workers’ Compensation Commission. They are entrusted to review the evidence and ultimately decide whether you are capable of returning to light duty. This commission also hears cases to in which employers fail to report accidents or denies that an employee’s injury was caused by an accident.
If that commission rules in favor of ordering you back to light duty, you still have the right to receive your full worker’s compensation weekly payments. Workers’ compensation entitles you to 2/3’s of the weekly salary you were earning prior to your injury.
If you return to work and you receive limited hours or fewer wages, resulting in making less than 2/3’s of your original salary, then you are entitled to receive the difference. That difference would boost your weekly payouts back up to 2/3′s of your original salary.
Columbia residents who believe they have been unjustly ordered back to light duty can seek assistance from Popowski, Callas & Shirley, P.A. We can assign you a Columbia workers’ compensation attorney who has a vast amount of experience and success handling all different types of these cases in South Carolina.
Posted on December 21, 2015
No amount of money can ever be enough when it comes to losing a loved one. There are penalties a person or company must pay in cases of wrongful deaths.
When death comes unnaturally, and another party is at fault, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the executor of the estate belonging to the deceased individual. The statute of limitations for this lawsuit is three years after the time of death. In the event that there is not an executor to the deceased’s estate, the court would then name one.
A wrongful death claim can benefit family members such as surviving children, spouses, parents or those named as heirs. In cases where the deceased is an adult, parents can still recover damages with the help of a Columbia wrongful death attorney.
There is an array of damages that can be awarded, which could include funeral expenses, medical bills related to injuries incurred before death, and lost benefits or wages. Damages can also be awarded because of other financial losses that were the result of a wrongful death.
Pain and suffering of family members can also translate into payouts as the court considers the loss of the deceased’s life experience, knowledge and companionship. On top of that, the court may also choose to award exemplary damages, which is more prevalent in deaths that were the result of a reckless or deliberate action. This kind of measure is often viewed as a type of punishment to the guilty party.
In cases where a father or mother is the victim of a wrongful death, his or her children could be entitled to compensation. The financial support that children would have received from their deceased parent, usually, factors in the final amount awarded by the court.
A wrongful death charge is not classified as a criminal charge in the state of South Carolina. But even if a defendant beats a charge such as vehicular homicide, the person can still be tried in a civil court for wrongful death. The two proceedings are separate, and one has no impact on the other. In South Carolina, wrongful death is a sub category of tort law.
If anyone close to you has suffered a wrongful death, it’s time to turn to the professionals at Popowski, Callas & Shirley, P.A. During your time of need, we will assign you a Columbia wrongful death attorney who will work to bring justice to you and your family.