An Employer’s Liability When An Employee Causes a Car Accident In Greenville

car accident lawyer in Greenville SC

Car accidents happen daily on South Carolina roads caused by drivers who are driving as part of their job duties for an employer.  In situations where these drivers’ negligent actions cause accidents where people are injured, the people they injure may be left wondering where to turn for compensation for their injuries.  This is especially so if the drivers have no insurance or the companies the drivers work for claim they have no responsibility for the drivers’ actions.  Fortunately, in some cases, a person suffering injuries in a Greenville car accident may be able to receive compensation from a company or person who is found to be an employer of a negligent driver if certain facts can be established.

 

Vicarious Liability

In certain circumstances, South Carolina law allows for an employer to be held legally responsible for an employee’s negligent acts that lead to a car accident in which others are injured through the legal doctrine of vicarious liability.  If a car accident occurs in the course of and within the scope of an employee’s job duties, the employer can be found liable for the accident, and be expected to meet the financial cost of compensating the injured victims.  In many cases, without the employer being found liable, an injured party may not be able to receive compensation for injuries sustained in an accident because the driver has no insurance and cannot afford to pay anything out of pocket.  While it may seem unfair to expect the employer to cover someone else’s negligence, the employer should be seen as having a duty to ensure that it hire competent drivers in order to protect other road users.

 

Vicarious liability is applicable when an employer knows or can be reasonably expected to know that its hiring of a specific person causes harm to the public.  The employer can be negligent in the way it hires, supervises or trains an employee, or when it gives the employee control over an object that could cause unreasonable risk of harm to others.  While cars do not generally pose an unreasonable risk, when they are entrusted to the wrong person, they can pose such a risk.  For example, if an employer is aware that a driver has a long record of convictions for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and a driving record that includes car accidents while the driver was intoxicated, it can be argued that the employer is negligent in hiring the driver and allowing him to drive company cars on South Carolina roads.  In this case, if the driver is a true employee, it is likely that the employer would be found liable for any injuries caused if the driver causes a car accident.  It is important to note that if a court finds that the defendant driver was not at fault in causing an accident, then the plaintiff cannot then sue the employer based on vicarious liability for injuries sustained in the same accident.

 

Employee Status

A person’s status as an employee at the time of the accident is crucial to a case seeking to hold the employer liable for the actions of an employee.  Sometimes this determination is straightforward and not disputed.  If the employee is paid through a regular payroll, receives benefits, and all direction for his work from the employer, he is often considered an employee.  However, the analysis of the employer’s liability does not end there.  The court also has to decide whether the employee was involved in an activity that was a part of his employment at the time of the accident.  If the employee was running a personal errand, even in a company car, it is unlikely that the employer will share in the employee’s liability for a car accident occurring during this time.  The court looks at the task the employee was engaged in and determines if it was for the employer’s benefit.  Even if an employee’s errand took the employee off an employer’s task for 15 minutes only, during which time the accident happens, it may be enough to defeat a claim of vicarious liability.

 

Independent Contractors

Companies are not generally responsible for the negligent acts of independent contractors unless there are special circumstances.  This is because a company that contracts with an independent contractor does not exercise the same level of control over the independent contractor as it would an employee, and is therefore not in a position to prevent an independent contractor’s negligence.   Independent contractors can sometimes be other companies that are contracted to work on specific matters and are therefore likely to have insurance or otherwise be able to meet the costs of compensating a person injured in a car accident caused by their negligent actions.  In some cases however, individuals can be considered independent contractors by the court, and if the individual has no insurance, it may be difficult for the injured person to receive the compensation they need to meet his costs of recovery.

 

Let Us Help You Seek Compensation

If you suffered serious injuries in a car accident in Greenville, South Carolina, you may have several options in terms of seeking compensation from the other driver to cover your mounting medical costs and lost wages.  To discuss how you may file a claim against all legally responsible parties, call the determined Greenville car wreck attorneys at Bryan Ramey & Associates for a FREE consultation today.

How Failing To Wear Your Seat Belt Can Affect Your Greenville Car Wreck Case

car crash attorney in Greenville SC

Wearing a seat belt can be the key to avoiding serious injuries when a person is involved in a serious car accident.  Studies have shown that seat belts are the most effective way to reduce injuries and save lives in a car crash, for adults and children old enough to use a seatbelt.  Although seat belts may cause some injuries if not properly worn or minor bruising if worn properly, they are still effective in protecting drivers and passengers from more serious injuries.   Seat belts can prevent ejection from the car, collision with other passengers, and hitting the dashboard and other parts of the car in the event of a head on or side impact collision.  Being ejected from a car during a collision, whether partially or totally, can lead to serious injury, paralysis, or death.  While some people prefer to rely on airbags to protect them in a car accident, seat belts should be considered the primary form of injury prevention, with a combined reliance on seat belts and airbags being the best approach.

 

Seat belt laws across the county authorize the levying of fines on drivers, and sometimes passengers, if they are caught driving or riding in a car without properly using their seat belts.  South Carolina is no exception, and requires drivers and passengers to wear a seat belt while a car is in operation, except for limited exceptions.  A driver can be fined if passengers in his car who are under the age of 17 are not buckled up.  The fine is minor, usually ranging from $25 to $50, and does not result in a criminal conviction or go on a driver’s record.  These penalties are sometimes criticized as being ineffective in encouraging seat belt use because they are too weak.  In a South Carolina civil case involving personal injury after a car accident, a person’s failure to wear a seat belt at the time of a car accident does not affect his case as negatively as may be expected.

 

Partial Recovery for Injuries

Seat belt use can come up in a personal injury case if a defendant wants to argue for a reduction of the compensation due to an injured person based on their failure to wear a seat belt.  Under South Carolina law, a plaintiff who suffered injuries in a car accident can receive compensation for injuries as long as his fault in causing the accident is not determined to be more than 50 percent.  This is known as modified comparative negligence.  Under comparative negligence, the plaintiff’s compensation in a case is reduced by the percentage fault for causing the accident a court attributes to the plaintiff after hearing the facts.

 

For example, if a driver is speeding and runs a red light at an intersection, and is hit by another car that is making an illegal turn at the intersection, both drivers could be said to have caused the accident to some degree.  If one of the drivers sues the other seeking compensation for injuries sustained in the accident, the court would look at each party’s actions that may have caused the accident, and decide each party’s percentage fault of negligence and award damages according to that number.  Basically the court is trying to determine who was more responsible for the accident than the other, and make that person compensate the other driver.  If the driver who ran the red light is the plaintiff and is found to have been 60 percent at fault, then he cannot receive any compensation for his injuries.  If the same driver is found to be 30 percent at fault for the accident, he can receive 70 percent compensation for his injuries.

 

So if a defendant can show that a plaintiff’s injuries were caused or aggravated because the plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, does that mean that the plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced based on this fact alone under South Carolina’s approach to comparative negligence?

 

Evidence of No Seat Belt Inadmissible

If an injured plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, a defendant could argue that the plaintiff should receive less money because if he was wearing a seat belt, he would not have been hurt as much he was.  However, in some jurisdictions, including South Carolina, this so called “seat belt defense” is not allowed.  In South Carolina this is in part because the law requiring drivers and passengers to wear seat belts also includes language that prohibits the use, in civil cases, of evidence that an injured person was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.  Therefore, the defendant cannot rely on the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt to reduce the amount owed for the plaintiff’s injuries.  Even under a comparative negligence theory, a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt is not likely to be considered a contributing cause of the accident, and therefore, should not count against the plaintiff in terms of recovery for his injuries.

 

Consult Us Before You Settle

Despite the law’s clear instruction that evidence that a plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt should not be introduced in a civil case, there are other legal theories that a defendant may try to use to reduce a plaintiff’s compensation for not wearing a seat belt at the time of a car accident.  Sometimes these theories are used to try and get the plaintiff to agree to a settlement before the case can go to court.

 

You should not let the fact that you were not wearing your seat belt at the time of an accident be used by another driver’s attorney or insurance company to reduce a proposed settlement or scare you into a settlement that does not benefit you.  Before you agree to a settlement after a car accident, you should always consult with your own personal injury attorney to discuss your options and what a reasonable settlement would be for your injuries and losses.  For more information on how an skilled Greenville car accident attorney can help you, contact the Greenville, South Carolina firm Bryan Ramey & Associates for a FREE consultation.

 

Reaching Maximum Medical Improvement in Spartanburg

workers' compensation injury claim attorney in Spartanburg SC

There are different types of workers’ compensation benefits that an employee can receive based on their injuries and the stage of the claims process they have reached.  Workers are usually awarded temporary benefits when they first report an injury and file a workers’ compensation claim, and while a more extensive medical evaluation is pending.  These temporary benefits are later terminated in cases where a doctor determines that a person’s condition is at a stage where the impairment caused by his injury is no longer going to be improved through further medical treatment, and the person is deemed to have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).

 

It can sometimes take years for a person to reach MMI depending on the nature of his injuries.  Different doctors can also have different opinions as to when a person has reached MMI.  The insurance company’s doctors may give an opinion that an injured worker has reached MMI before his doctor does.  These disagreements as to whether a person has reached MMI can be settled through a hearing before the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission which makes the final determination.

 

For some people, a determination that they have reached MMI means that they are permanently disabled in such a way that they cannot return to work in any capacity, with or without accommodations.  However, for others, work is still possible after MMI, although it may be different work than they performed before their injuries, or they may require some work place accommodations in order to continue working.  Doctors can also impose restrictions on the kind of work a person can do, or limiting a person’s ability to do certain tasks that could aggravate their injuries.  Just because a person has reached MMI and cannot get better medically does not mean that they cannot get worse if they overdo it.

 

MMI at Different Times

Temporary workers’ compensation benefits are usually stopped as of the date that a person is determined to have reached the MMI.  However, if a person has multiple injuries, the determination of MMI can be reached as to each of the person’s injuries at different times.  So if a person suffered injuries to his back and arm, and reached MMI as to the arm injuries months before the back injuries, it is possible for some of the temporary benefits to be stopped when the MMI is reached for the arm injuries, with the rest of the temporary benefits stopped at the date the MMI is reached for the back injuries.

 

Reaching MMI and having temporary benefits terminated does not mean that the injured worker is left without any form of compensation – in fact, a MMI determination usually leads to a settlement and marks the end of a workers’ compensation case.  When temporary benefits are terminated, the injured worker begins to receive either permanent total or partial disability benefits.  When a person has reached MMI, his doctor usually assesses his condition and issues an impairment rating, which is an indication of how much use a person still has of the injured part of his body.  For example, this could be a determination that a person only has twenty percent use of their leg following the work place injury and having reached MMI.  The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission may rely on this impairment rating and other factors when determining how much of a permanent award the injured worker will receive.

 

Medical Treatment after Reaching MMI

Reaching MMI can also affect a person’s availability to employer paid medical treatment for work related injuries.  The law states that the employer is responsible for all reasonable medical costs aimed at reducing a person’s disability until such a time as the person is deemed to have reached MMI.  There are some exceptions in which the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission may require the employer to continue covering some medical costs beyond the MMI date if the continued medical care allows a person to return to work.  When settling with an employer once a person has reached MMI, the employer may require the person to sign an agreement waiving all future claims based on the same injury.  This could mean that if complications later arise, the injured person will have to meet the associated costs.  It is important for a person to negotiate in order to account for certain unforeseen issues down the road.

 

Social Security Disability Benefits

Sometimes injured workers may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for the same injuries that they are receiving workers’ compensation benefits, if they can show that they have a disabling condition that is expected to last more than 12 months.  While some wait until they have reached MMI to submit an application for SSDI benefits, there is no need to do so because MMI has no bearing on a SSDI application.  If an injured person otherwise meets the qualifications for SSDI benefits, they can apply and receive benefits while also receiving workers’ compensation benefits from their employer at the same time.  Potential applicants should note that there is a reduction of SSDI benefits to factor in the workers’ compensation benefits received.  A large lump sum workers’ compensation settlement may affect a person’s qualification for SSDI benefits, and therefore, you should discuss the structuring of settlements in such a way as not to disqualify yourself from federal benefits you are entitled to.  SSDI applications can sometimes take a long time to be approved and applying as soon as a person is eligible is always advisable.

 

Let Us Assist You

Workers’ compensation claims can also be complicated and take a long time to be resolved depending on the nature of the injury suffered.  Injured workers may not always be in a position to ensure that they are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to because they are focused on getting better.  Having a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney in Spartanburg, SC fight for you while you recover can make your recovery period less stressful.  Call Bryan Ramey & Associates for a FREE consultation if you have been injured on the job in Spartanburg, South Carolina and need guidance on how to seek workers’ compensation benefits from your employer.

Rehabilitation After Suffering Serious Injuries In A Car Accident In Spartanburg

car crash attorney in Spartanburg SC

Recovering from serious injuries sustained in a car accident can be a difficult ordeal.   There may be psychological as well as physical barriers to recovery, and how a person copes or deals with these obstacles can make a difference is their recovery.  Some injuries require long term treatment and permanent changes to a person’s way of life to accommodate new restrictions in what a person may be able to do on a daily basis.  It is often challenging for a person to accept new limitations set on their lives as a result of their injuries, and some people find that regular rehabilitation helps to provide a helpful transition to their new life.  Rehabilitation can also be useful to people who suffer less serious injuries in car accidents, such as whiplash, and who may use rehabilitation as a way to avoid aggravating those injuries.

 

Rehabilitation is a process that focuses on helping improve a person’s physical or mental condition following an injury or illness, with a goal of helping the person reach a greater level of independence post-injury.  Rehabilitation can be crucial in getting an injured person moving again, especially after being immobilized for a long period of time.  The repeated movement required through physical therapy for example, can help lessen the pain a person may feel in a joint or muscle, and help improve a person’s range of motion if there is no permanent damage.  Physical therapy is especially useful for a person who suffered a broken bone and has to learn to use a cane or crutches as part of his recovery.  People who have suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident use rehabilitation as a means to relearn language, social, and other basic skills that may have been lost due to the injury.

 

Rehabilitation can take a long time to achieve optimal results depending on the degree of injury, and can be provided as part of an in-patient treatment, at home with a rehabilitation professional, or outpatient at a hospital.  Furthermore, rehabilitation can be combined with other forms of treatment, including surgery, as recommended by a doctor in order to get a person the help they need.

 

Paying for Rehabilitation

Like most medical treatment received after a car accident, the cost of rehabilitation can be covered by the driver at fault, and such compensation can include future rehabilitation costs.  What kind of rehabilitation would be helpful to an injured person is based on a recommendation from the injured person’s doctor, who is in the best position to advise on how the rehabilitation will help or hinder a person’s recovery.  The person responsible for causing the injured victim’s injuries is not in a position to dictate what kind of medical treatment should be administered, especially in an effort to save costs.  If the treatment is reasonable and recommended by a qualified doctor, it is likely to be compensable.  In most cases, an injured person has already sought and received treatment for his injuries at the time he seeks compensation from the other party.  Therefore, the negligent driver’s insurance company usually disputes the validity of rehabilitation that has already been provided, based on cost and sometimes on necessity.  For instance, the insurance company may challenge the use of a chiropractor or the number of times the injured person went in search of treatment.

 

Other Forms of Rehabilitation

Chiropractic care is considered a form of rehabilitation, especially for back and neck injuries.  Some people may feel more comfortable going to see a chiropractor after an accident than seeking medical treatment from a doctor.  This may be in part because they wish to seek non-surgical treatment that does not result in them taking a lot of medication for their injuries.  There are pros and cons to each approach.  However, it is sometimes more advisable to seek medical care from a doctor who can then suggest other forms of treatment, including chiropractic care, as well as assess you for more serious injuries that a chiropractor may not be qualified to treat.  However, going to a chiropractor after an accident is still better than not seeking any treatment at all, and can actually help you with documenting your injuries and when you may have complained of pain with regard to those injuries.  Medical evidence from both a chiropractor and a medical doctor is admissible in a civil case, but when trying to settle with insurance companies, they tend to give more weight to the opinions of doctors over chiropractors.

 

Injured people who suffer permanent disability as a result of a car accident can also seek vocational rehabilitation as part of their long term recovery.  If the injuries suffered leave a person disabled and unable to return to his former line of work, vocational rehabilitation can assist with learning new job skills that can help the person get a new job or start a business.  It can also help with teaching a person interviewing skills, how to fill out applications or write resumes to make himself more marketable even with new limitations on what they can do.  Although it is possible to seek and receive compensation for lost wages, an award for future wages may be reduced and not be enough to cover a person’s expenses for the rest of his life.  Therefore, vocational rehabilitation can be an avenue to gain new helpful skills.

 

Call Us For Legal Assistance

It is not always easy to tell how hurt you are after a car wreck.  It may seem that you have walked away with minor scratches until more serious symptoms manifest days or even weeks after.  This is why it is important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible after a car wreck.  Your present and future medical costs related to injuries suffered in a car wreck may be covered by the negligent driver who caused the accident.  For more information about how you can receive the compensation you need to cover your needed medical treatment, call  an dedicated Spartanburg, SC car accident attorney  from the Spartanburg, South Carolina firm of Bryan Ramey & Associates for a FREE consultation.

Greenville Employees Who Suffer Injuries While In Transit Or Offsite May Still Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits

workers' comp lawyer in Greenville SC

Most people receive or expect to receive workers’ compensation benefits for work related injuries that happen at their office, factory, or other physical space recognized as their worksite.  However, not all jobs require employees to remain at a set location all day or provide a physical worksite.  Some employers even require employees to run work related errands on the employee’s way to or from work.  These are examples of situations that can turn bad for an employee who gets injured and finds himself unsure if he will be covered by the same workers’ compensation protections as other employees in more traditional settings.  If an employee is away from the work location or in transit when he gets injured, he may run into some issues in terms of receiving compensation, but may nevertheless be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits like any other employee.

 

Employers in South Carolina are legally required to provide workers’ compensation benefits to employees who are injured during the course or scope of their employment.  Determining when, where, and under what circumstances an employee is injured can therefore be very important when an employee is injured away from a work location or while not actually engaged in an activity that could be considered part of his official work duties.  These kinds of injuries can occur in circumstances where the employer is providing housing or transportation for employees, or requiring the employee to fulfill duties outside of official work hours.

 

Employees Transiting To Work

Generally, employees are not entitled to workers’ compensation for injuries that occur when they are leaving their homes to go to work.  A driver who suffers injuries as a result of a car accident on the highway on his normal commute driving from his house to work in his personal car is not likely to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for those injuries.

 

However, for some employees transiting to work is so connected to their employment that they may be covered if they suffer any in transit injuries.  South Carolina law recognizes exceptions to the general rule barring workers’ compensation benefits for employees who are going to and from work in the following situations:

  1. When, in going to and returning from work, the means of transportation is provided by the employer or the employee’s time in transit is compensated by the employer either through mileage reimbursement or in wages;
  2. The employee is required to perform some duty or task in connection with his employment while going to work or returning home;
  3. The road used by the employee is inherently dangerous and is either (a) the exclusive way of ingress and egress to and from his work, or (b) constructed and maintained by the employer;
  4. The place of injury is near the employer’s premises or worksite;
  5. The employee is carrying out a special task or errand for the employer that is not normally part of his employment.

 

Employees who drive from one employer site to another several times a day and have no fixed office, or who are required to driver company cars all day as part of their job duties are likely to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they get injured while driving.

 

Employer Provided Housing

When an employer hires employees and provides housing, transportation to and from the worksite, and even recreational facilities, courts have found that the employee is continuously in the scope of employment, and the employer can therefore be required to pay an employee injured in the housing area workers’ compensation benefits.  This is known as the bunkhouse rule, and the housing provided is considered an extension of the employer’s worksite.  For example, a worker who is essentially required to be housed on site may be compensated by the employer for an injury sustained if the worker slips on the sidewalk outside his housing site and breaks his leg.  Courts are likely to side with an injured employee seeking benefits if the employee basically has no choice but to live on site in employer provided housing due to the nature and hours required for the work.

 

Personal Errands while Still on the Clock

Employees who may be required to run an errand for the employer on the way home from work may sometimes engage in a personal errand at the same time.  For example, an employee who is required to pick up the employer’s dry cleaning may pick up his own dry-cleaning at the same time, or one who is required to buy groceries as part of her job duties may pick up an item or two for herself while shopping for the employer.  Such an employee who gets injured while engaged in a personal errand may still receive workers’ compensation benefits because he was likely only at the dry cleaners or grocery store at the time of the injury in order to fulfill the employer’s needs.  Courts sometimes look to see if the employees would still have deviated from their drive home to go accomplish the personal task were it not for the necessity to fulfill the employer’s task.  This approach seems fairer than penalizing the employee for taking five or 10 minutes to complete their personal task.  The key factor in determining whether the employee would qualify for benefits would be the nature of the personal errand and how long of a deviation it presents from the assigned work related task.  If the employee takes half the time or more time completing the personal errand than the employer assigned task, then it begin to look more like the personal errand was the main goal of the trip, and the employee may not receive benefits for any injuries sustained.

 

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

Regardless of where your injury took place, if you were injured while engaged in a work related task, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits from your employer.  Employers and insurance companies often fight and dispute claims from employees if the injuries were sustained off site or while an employee was going to or leaving work.  Even if your employer has already disputed your ability to receive benefits, you can appeal a denial and receive compensation while you are out of work.  Call an experienced Greenville, South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney from Bryan Ramey & Associates for a FREE consultation today.