September 25, 2019 – Announcing the selection of F. Craig Wilkerson, Jr. among America’s Top 100 Personal Injury Attorneys® for 2019. Selection to America’s Top 100 Personal Injury Attorneys® is by invitation only and is reserved to identify the nation’s most exceptional litigators for high-value personal injury, catastrophic injury, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice matters.
To be considered for selection, an attorney must focus more than 50% of their active legal practice on personal injury, catastrophic injury, wrongful death, product liability, and/or medical malpractice matters. These minimum qualifications are required for initial consideration. Thereafter, candidates are carefully screened through Advanced Data Analytics evaluating a broad array of criteria, including the candidate’s professional experience, litigation experience, significant personal injury settlements and/or verdicts, peer reputation, and community impact in order to rank the candidates throughout the state.
Only the top 100 qualifying attorneys in each state will receive this honor and be selected for membership among America’s Top 100 Personal Injury Attorneys®. With these extremely high standards for selection to America’s Top 100 Personal Injury Attorneys®, less than one-half percent (0.5%) of active attorneys in the United States will receive this honor — truly the most exclusive and elite level of attorneys in the community.
If you are a veteran that has been injured, or are facing an impairment that negates your ability to work full time, there’s a good chance your initial claim for disability payments from the VA will be denied.
Fortunately, there’s a process you can follow to appeal the decision:
File the Correct Form to Avoid a VA Disability Claim Denial
First and foremost, you’ll need to file a Notice of Disagreement with the VA. The notice should be filed on VA Form 21-0958. In the past, a Statement in Support of Claim was acceptable, but this has been eliminated.
You’ll have one year from the date of your denial letter to file the notice. It’s important to note the deadline is based on the date your decision was sent, not the date it was received.
Disclude the Details in the Notice of Disagreement
In your Notice of Disagreement, you may be tempted to outline why you feel the initial decision was wrong. It’s normal to be frustrated, especially when you feel entitled to your disability benefits and believe you were unfairly denied.
However, going into too much detail in your notice could limit your ability to appeal issues that you haven’t mentioned or don’t know about yet. The notice is used to reserve your right to appeal — not to share your argument. You’ll have an opportunity for that later.
In your notice, you should state that you disagree with the decision in your denial letter and that you wish to appeal that decision. Be sure to include the date of the denial letter. And, if you must include specific arguments, state that your list isn’t exhaustive.
How Should I Choose My Appeal for a VA Disability Claim Denial?
There are two different types of appeals you may file — an appeal to a decision review officer at your regional office or an appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals. You can also specify whether the review officer should review your file and make a decision alone or request a personal hearing.
If the review officer denies your appeal, you can still take your case to the Board of Veterans Appeals. There are benefits and drawbacks to both options, so it may help to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney.
Follow the Process for a VA Disability Claim Denial
Once you’ve chosen an appeal type and written your Notice of Disagreement, file the notice at your regional office. If you requested a review officer, you’ll be asked for more information about your disagreement. The hearing, should you choose to have one, will be scheduled once this information has been provided.
If you requested a review through the Board of Veterans Appeals, you’ll receive a summary of the decision to deny benefits. It could take several months to arrive. Once it does, you’ll have 60 days to file VA Form 9 — which should identify your allegations and the benefits you’re seeking.
Again, it will take several months for your file to be transferred and for a hearing date to be set. Once you’ve met with a board member, a decision will be issued either granting your requested benefits or denying them. Your case may also be remanded back to your local office.
If you’ve been denied again and still wish to fight for benefits, there are additional options an experienced attorney can help you explore.
Contact an Experienced Veterans Disability Attorney for Assistance
Because the process of appealing is relatively complicated, you shouldn’t go through it alone. For assistance and representation, contact our experienced team at The Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson Jr. in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Lancaster, or Union. Call (803)-324-7200 to schedule an appointment.
Why Thousands Have Died Waiting on Social Security Disability Hearings Since 2011
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a Social Security program that provides monthly benefits to those who have become disabled before reaching retirement age and are no longer able to work for a living. Unfortunately, far too many people fail to receive social security disability hearings in a timely manner.
Unlike other disability programs, Social Security pays only for total disability. If you have a partial or short-term disability, you won’t be eligible for a monthly payout. You must also be unable to earn a living in any industry — the inability to work in your chosen career is not grounds for approval.
Despite the strict rules, there are thousands of people in the United States suffering from illnesses and unable to work full-time. However, because the approval process for Social Security Disability Insurance is so lengthy, many die while waiting for their claim to be decided.
The Problematic Process
According to The United States Social Security Administration (SSA), most claims are denied the first time around. Claimants must then apply for reconsideration. If that, too, is rejected, a hearing is scheduled for potential approval.
This is where the system becomes increasingly problematic. For those waiting to schedule a hearing, the timeline is lengthened significantly. The average wait period for a hearing in Charleston is over 500 days. The same wait period in Columbia is 443 days.
According to Social Security Disability expert Seth Carguiolo, more than 2,000 claimants nationwide have died while waiting for their claims to be handled.
Why the long wait time? The SSA blames a record number of hearing requests due to aging baby boomers and the economic recession. To reduce the backlog, the organization has received $290 million in federal funding. Since 2016, nearly 600 administrative law judges were hired.
Still, more than 600,000 people are waiting for a decision. In South Carolina, approval could mean an average monthly payment of just over $1,300 — a life-changing amount of money for someone who can no longer work.
Who Qualifies for Social Security Disability?
In order to be eligible for Social Security Disability, you must have worked in a job that required you to pay into Social Security for a certain amount of time. That amount is determined by a credit-based system — the longer you’ve paid in, the more credits you’ll have.
In addition to a specific number of credits, you must have an approved medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability; and you won’t be able to get benefits until your ability to work has been reduced for a year because of that disability.
The main questions the SSA will ask when reviewing your case include:
Are you currently working?
Do your earnings average more than $1,220 a month?
Is your diagnosis severe?
Has your ability to work been reduced for at least a year?
Can you perform the same work you were doing prior to your condition?
Can you perform another type of work?
Contact a Social Security Disability Lawyer for Assistance
If you are unable to work full-time as a result of a physical or mental health condition, you may need assistance navigating Social Security Disability Insurance. For professional assistance from an experienced attorney, contact The Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson Jr. in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Lancaster, or Union at (803)-324-7200.
Family Awarded Millions in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit From Horry County
Every single day in the United States, we put our trust in licensed practitioners. We trust physicians, surgeons, optometrists, dentists, and a variety of other professionals to keep our physical and mental health afloat.
Unfortunately, some physicians (or their employers) fail to protect patients from harm. Such was the case with Southern Myrtle Inpatient Services, LLC.
Around 1:30 a.m. on October 3, 2015, 26-year-old Matthew Scheer was hearing voices. Scheer was suffering from a sudden onset of mental illness described by family attorney Brink Hinson as “psychosis.”
Scheer had been driven by his father to Grand Strand Medical Center around 4 p.m. on October 2. Dr. Nirlep Patel was named his attending physician, and a psychiatric consultation was ordered. This consultation never took place.
Late that night, Scheer’s father left the hospital to get toiletries, clothes, and some sleep. Early the next morning, Scheer had an outburst in which he yelled and screamed at hospital staff — expressing a desire to leave. Outside, a hurricane had reached Horry County.
Regardless, Dr. Rachel Ash-Bernal allowed Scheer to leave after signing discharge instructions that stated he was leaving “against medical advice.” She did not contact his father because she did not believe HIPAA rules allowed it.
Thirty minutes after his release, Scheer drowned himself in the Atlantic Ocean. In response, his family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Ash-Bernal, Patel, Southern Myrtle Inpatient Services, and Grand Strand Regional Medical Center.
In their lawsuit, the family claimed Southern Myrtle Inpatient Services — the employer of both Patel and Ash-Bernal — had failed to property train their employees about exceptions involving patient safety.
After a five-day trial in June 2019, a jury in Horry County returned a verdict finding Southern Myrtle Inpatient Service 100 percent at-fault for the death of Matthew Scheer. They did not, however, find legal responsibility for Ash-Bernal or Patel.
Prior to the trial, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center reached a $600,000 settlement with the Scheer family. Including this settlement, the Scheer family was awarded a total of $3,500,000 in actual damages — the largest medical malpractice verdict in Horry County recent history.
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice can be illustrated in a number of ways. Most often, it’s considered a violation of the standard of care. There are certain medical standards that are recognized across the profession as acceptable medical treatment — and all patients have a right to expect that standard of care.
For example, a case could be made for medical malpractice if a physician fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses a medical condition, makes a surgical error, performs unnecessary surgery, misreads or ignores lab results, fails to recognize symptoms, fails to order proper testing, or prematurely discharges a patient.
To pursue a malpractice claim, the plaintiff must prove the standard of care wasn’t met and resulted in significant damages — including disability, loss of income, unusual pain, suffering and hardship, or past and future medical bills.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you or a loved one suffered harm due to medical malpractice, don’t wait to take action. The sooner you build your case, the easier it will be to hold the responsible party accountable. For professional and experienced assistance, contact The Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson Jr. in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Lancaster, or Union at (803)-324-7200.
When you purchase an insurance policy, you expect to be covered when disaster strikes. This is why you pay your monthly premiums. If something like an auto accident, personal injury, wrongful death, or property damage occurs, you can file a claim and recoup money needed for medical bills, repairs, or lost wages. Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t always hold up their end of the deal. When this happens, individuals can lose out on the finances needed to get back on their feet.
If an insurance company fails to investigate or pay you for a claim filed, they’re acting in bad faith. This leaves individuals in a vulnerable position. Insurance providers are large organizations with connections, experience, and resources at their disposal. They even resort to intimidation in some cases. However, acting in bad faith is a violation of the contract you have with your insurance provider, which means you have the right to file a bad faith insurance claim against them.
Failing to implement standards for the investigation of claims
Failing to act in good faith when a settlement should be paid out
Knowingly misrepresenting facts or policy provisions related to a claim
An insurance company may also be acting in bad faith if they delay payment or only pay a portion of a claim. If any of these things occur, a person can pursue damages from their insurance provider. They can also recover compensation for attorney’s fees. A judge may even rule that an insurance company has to pay punitive damages as additional punishment for acting in bad faith.
Steps to Take If Your Insurance Company Failed to Act on a Claim
If you feel your insurance company acted in bad faith after you filed a claim, you’ll need to work with an attorney who specializes in these matters. However, there are some things you should do on your own in preparation for filing a claim.
To start, it’s important you review your insurance policy in detail to ensure your provider failed to fulfill their responsibilities. It’s also vital to save all information related to your claim, including the denial or bad faith behavior exhibited by the insurance company.
You’ll need to file a complaint with the South Carolina Department of Insurance. They may be able to help you resolve your claim and get you the money you deserve. However, there’s a good chance you’ll need to move forward with a bad faith lawsuit. This is a complicated process, so make sure you hire an experienced attorney in your area.
Contact a Rock Hill Bad Faith Insurance Attorney
Don’t let a powerful insurance company take advantage of you. If you feel your provider acted in bad faith after you filed a claim on your policy, you need an attorney to protect your rights. The attorneys at the Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson have the experience and know-how to help you recoup your well-deserved money. Contact us at (803) 324-7200 to schedule a consultation today.
South Carolina Boating Laws, Accident Liability, and the Statute of Limitations to File a Claim
With approximately 187 miles of shoreline, it’s no surprise boating is so popular in South Carolina. Unfortunately, anywhere water activities are a common pastime, there are bound to be accidents. In fact, in 2017 alone there were 163 boating accidents and 15 fatalities in South Carolina. To bring these numbers down, boat operators need to follow boating laws and safety precautions to protect themselves, their passengers, and others around them. If they don’t and an accident occurs, injured parties have a right to seek compensation.
A Breakdown of South Carolina Boating Laws
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has set boating guidelines and regulations to protect people while on the water. When these laws are broken, the operator of a boat could face penalties such as fines or the revocation of their boating license. Some of the primary regulations include:
A boat operator can’t exceed idle speed within 50 feet of an anchored vessel, dock, wharf, pier, or person in the water. They must not exceed idle speed within 100 yards of the coastline.
Each boat must contain a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable personal floatation device (PFD) for every person on board.
A boat operator must use navigational lights between sunset and sunrise.
Flares are required on boats operated in coastal waters.
A boat operator involved in an accident must report to the Department of Natural Resources if the accident results in loss of consciousness, loss of life, disability, or medical treatment.
Boating under the influence (BUI) is prohibited. Depending on their boating record, violators can be subject to fines, jail time, community service, and license suspension.
If an accident occurs due to a boat operator’s negligence, reckless behavior, or failure to comply with safety regulations, injured parties can file a personal injury claim against them. They’ll need to work with an experienced boat accident lawyer to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Personal Injury Claim
Each state has limits on how much time can pass before a person files an injury claim. Section 5-3-530 of the South Carolina Code of Laws states the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is three years from the day the injury happened. If a person fails to file the claim within the given period time, there’s a good chance the civil courts will decline to hear the case.
If you’re planning on filing a personal injury claim against a negligent boat operator, it’s important you provide your attorney with as much information surrounding the accident as possible. This includes photos, a police report, witness information, and medical records. They’ll evaluate the details of the accident along with your injuries and determine the best course of action to recover the compensation you deserve.
Contact A South Carolina Boat Accident Attorney
Don’t let the negligence of a boat operator compromise your future well-being. Let an experienced personal injury attorney protect your rights so you’re not buried under medical bills. The boat accident lawyers at the Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson have the experience and know-how to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us at (803) 324-7200 for a free case evaluation.
If a Drunk Driver Passed Through a DUI Checkpoint and Caused an Accident, Who is Held Responsible?
Drunk driving is a huge problem in South Carolina, and not only for the violators. The state has the second highest number of DUI fatalities in the nation. Many of these fatalities include drivers and passengers in other vehicles. Along with people killed, there are also plenty of injuries related to DUI accidents. Because many of these accidents involve excessive speeds and head-on collisions, the resulting injuries can be severe. A person may even end up with long-term disabilities.
To combat drunk driving, police use DUI checkpoints to weed out intoxicated drivers. While this is a great way to cut down on the frequency of DUI-related accidents, it’s not always effective. Sometimes the police fail to catch intoxicated drivers. But when an accident results, who are held legally responsible?
Understanding DUI Checkpoints
Drunk driving checkpoints have caused a lot of debate regarding a person’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. However, in the case of The Michigan Department of State Police vs. Sitz, the Supreme Court ruled that the importance of keeping drunk drivers off the street outweighs the intrusion a checkpoint places on drivers. While this case made checkpoints generally legal, they still must be carried out in a certain manner. In addition, states can also have their own laws regarding checkpoints.
In South Carolina, checkpoints are legal. However, the police must follow certain guidelines. These include:
Police must stop drivers at a predictable pattern instead of randomly.
The length of the checkpoint stop must be brief.
The checkpoint must serve the public’s interest.
The checkpoint must be identifiable and safe.
With these guidelines in place, there’s a chance a police officer may rush the procedure and let an intoxicated person pass through the checkpoint. What happens when that person ends up causing an accident that results in injury or death? Who’s responsible?
Liability After a DUI Accident
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver, you have a right to bring a personal injury claim against them. This type of claim seeks compensation from the driver’s insurance company for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You may also be awarded punitive damages meant to punish the driver for their criminal behavior. However, if the drunk driver passed through a DUI checkpoint without getting caught, the police may also be partially responsible.
In order for the police to be found liable, your attorney will have to prove an officer was negligent during the checkpoint. This could mean they failed to follow the correct procedures or that they knowingly let an intoxicated driver through the checkpoint. If this is the case, the police department may be liable for some of the damages. This is very difficult to prove, which means you’ll need to work with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Contact a Rock Hill Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
A DUI accident can turn a person’s life upside down in an instant. If you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, you deserve compensation. In addition, if the drunk driver was allowed to pass through a DUI checkpoint, the police may be held partially responsible. The personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson can evaluate the details of your case and fight for the appropriate compensation. Contact us today at (803) 324-7200 to schedule a consultation.
Did you know that over 37,000 people die in road crashes each year in the United States alone? Even more are injured or disabled in road crashes in the United States, 2.35 million people are injured/disabled annually. Approximately 4,000 of these crash-related fatalities are a direct result of crashes involving large trucks. Large trucks refer to 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, cement trucks, buses, etc.… These trucks can cause catastrophic damage when involved in a collision due to their substantial size. Often, large truck crashes lead to significant injuries or death.
The number of large truck crashes that result in injury or fatality has been increasing in recent years; the number of crashes with injures has increased by 60% and the number of crashes with fatalities has increased by 25%. In this article, we will explore the Top 5 Causes of Large Truck Accidents and explore our Top 5 Safety Tips for Avoiding Large Truck Accidents. It is important to note that large truck accidents are most likely to occur on major roads other than interstates/freeways; often, these accidents occur during daytime and during the work week (Monday-Friday).
What are the Common Causes of Large Truck Accidents?
When you are driving a small family car, you are placed in a vulnerable situation when sharing the road with large trucks. Large trucks typically weigh 20-30 times more than a family vehicle. The large trucks require more turn room, more height clearance, and more distance to break. Here is our list of the Top 5 Causes of Large Truck Accidents:
Fatigue — We all know that truck drivers face demanding schedules and deadlines. As a result, driver fatigue is the most common factor in large truck related accidents. Most truck drivers commute over long distances for many hours with inadequate rest time. Federal regulations allow truck drivers to be on the road for up to 11 hours in one day and up to 77 hours over a seven-day period. However, trucking companies and their drivers often violate these regulations. Truck drivers face pressure to make deliveries on time in order to meet the deadlines set within their company. There is accumulated fatigue for the duration of the route as quality sleep on the road is difficult to secure. Accumulated fatigue impacts the driver’s concentration and coordination.
Distracted Driving — Most truck drivers commute over long distances for many hours with inadequate rest time. Federal regulations allow truck drivers to be on the road for up to 11 hours in one day and up to 77 hours over a seven-day period. However, trucking companies and their drivers often violate these regulations. Truck drivers face pressure to make deliveries on time in order to meet the deadlines set within their company. There is accumulated fatigue for the duration of the route as quality sleep on the road is difficult to secure. Accumulated fatigue impacts the driver’s concentration and coordination.
Truck Capability and Maintenance — Large trucks are required to perform at high mileage rates and high duration rates day in and day out. As a result, regular maintenance is essential to ascertain safety. A loaded tractor-trailer takes 20-40 percent farther to stop than a car; now consider a truck with poorly maintained brakes. Failing truck brakes, tire problems, and heavy loads can lead to traumatic trucking accidents. Truck defects were found in nearly 75% of all crashes involving a large truck. It is important to note here the link between trucking companies and crashes. Truck companies with higher past crash rates tend to have higher current crash rates. In fact, truck companies with higher crash rates from last year are more than 70% more likely to have a higher crash rate this year. This could be directly linked to poor truck maintenance but also to our 4th risk factor – poor driver training.
Poor Driver Training — Truck drivers are required to obtain commercial licensure and complete a certain threshold of training hours; these specifics can vary by state. However, not all truck drivers adhere to these strict guidelines. An improperly trained driver is a disaster waiting to happen. There has also been a cultural shift with road safety which falls under this risk factor – road rage. Both trucks and cars speed, tailgate, swerve, make unsafe lane changes, and take risky routes – this is more commonly committed by a poorly trained truck driver. Trucks weigh 20-30 times more than a car, making it extremely difficult for truck driver to correct a roadway mistake.
Driving Over the Speed Limit — Truck driving is difficult work with deadlines and destination requirements that can seem unattainable. Poor weather or severe traffic can significantly impact what the truck driver had planned for their commute each day. As a result, truck drivers may feel pressure to drive over the speed limit in order to reach their deadline. Speed limits are posted for commuter and road safety; going over the speed limit significantly reduces a truck driver’s reaction time. When driving at high speeds, drivers may be required to break immediately or suddenly veer into another section of the road; this can lead to accidents, injury, and death.
What can I do to Prevent Large Truck Accidents?
Accidents are frightening, dangerous, and often life-threatening, especially when they involve a large truck. Here are our Top 5 Safetty Tips for Avoiding Large Truck Accidents. This does not mean that an accident is inevitable, but these are words of caution for sharing the road safely with large trucks.
Avoid the “No Zones” — Large vehicles have large blind spots. It is crucial for drivers to avoid a large truck’s blind spot whenever possible. Large trucks have blind spots at the front, back, and sides of their vehicles. Typically, if you cannot see the truck driver by looking in the truck’s side mirror then that truck driver cannot see you or your vehicle. You can slow down or move ahead to become visible to the truck driver and move out of the blind spot.
Use Turn Signals — How many times do you see cars that never use their turn signals? These are installed for safety and for vehicle-to-vehicle communication. If you need to pass a large truck, put on your turn signal and accelerate. When you’re ready to return to the lane where the large truck is driving, make sure you are far enough ahead to safely return, and again use your turn signal to return to that lane.
Provide Extra Room to a Truck that is Making a Turn — As mentioned previously, the sheer size of a large truck creates special driving implications. Be courteous and if you can safely provide extra room to a truck that is trying to make a turn, do so. Many trucks require 55 feet to complete a turn successfully. They often must swing wide and may even start in a middle lane to complete a wide turn. Cars sometimes drive up to the truck as they swing out, causing an accident when the truck continues its turn. Allow trucks plenty of clearance.
Give Trucks Twice as Much Brake Space — Anything that forces a large truck to brake or stop quickly, can lead to an accident. Car drivers should take caution and provide plenty of headway before merging in front of a large truck. Give large trucks twice the space that you would give to a smaller vehicle. The truck driver may see you passing/merging in front of them but requires twice as much space to stop in order to prevent an accident.
Pass the Truck on the Left — If you do need to pass a large truck, it is always recommended that you pass on the left-side of the truck. The right side of a large truck is filled with blind spots, making it extremely difficult for the truck driver to view obstacles on the right side. Wait, use caution, and pass the truck in the left lane when it is safe to do so (remember, use those turn signals).
Truck Accident Attorney and Settlements
When people are injured or killed as the result of large truck accidents, this can lead to large settlements. Semi-truck accidents cost $20 billion per year in accident settlements with about half of that amount awarded to injured victims who suffered a diminished or lost quality of life. Truck accidents can place a huge burden on victims and their families. Injured parties may have ongoing medical care and may experience financial stressors; families who have lost a family member to a fatal accident will experience an even greater loss.
If you have been negatively impacted by a large truck accident, let our attorneys navigate through the complex set of trucking regulations, relevant driving logs and more to help prove negligence and increase your ability to receive full compensation. The sooner we get started on the investigation, the better for you and the potential of a truck accident settlement. Contact the Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson, Jr. for a free case evaluation or call us at: 803-324-7200.
The Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson Jr. – Big Enough to Fight, Small Enough to Care.