Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Bicycling in South CarolinaSouth Carolina is in the top 5 states for bicycle fatalities. (See our recent infographic for more facts and figures about bicycling in the Palmetto State: One step we could take to increase safety for cyclists is enactment of a 3-foot passing law.

Skeptics of the 3-foot laws say enforcement is difficult, especially if there is no collision between the vehicle and the bicycle. Proponents, on the other hand, say the collection of fines is not the point — the point is to increase awareness by drivers that they must safely share the road.

When states consider such legislation, a public dialogue ensues, putting the issue of bicycle safety top of mind. Once the 3-foot law is enacted, a public education campaign typically follows, again bringing attention to the topic and causing motorists to be aware that they are expected to alter their driving behavior.

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Did Santa leave a moped at your house this year? These motor bikes have become increasingly popular forms of transportation for adults as gas prices have soared. Kids love ‘em because, under South Carolina law, they can enjoy the freedom of the road at only 14 years of age. And DUI offenders are grateful to be able to operate a vehicle which doesn’t require a driver’s license, insurance or payment of property taxes or fees.

Some or all of this could change in South Carolina if legislators are successful in amending moped laws this year. The first regular session of the 121st South Carolina General Assembly will convene on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. Over the last two weeks, hundreds of bills have been pre-filed in the House and Senate, several of which seek to strengthen the regulation of mopeds.

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Hours-of-service rules for truck drivers in the U.S. went virtually unchanged for more than 60 years, until they were revised in 2013. But two of those provisions were short-lived, thanks to lobbying by the trucking industry and the business community. An amendment tacked on to the FY 2015 omnibus appropriations bill, signed into law on December 16, suspends at least until October 1 changes made in 2013 that limit use of the “34-hour restart” to once in a seven-day period and require that it include two off-duty periods between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. The restart rules have now been rolled back to the pre-2013 status.

FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said in 2013, “With robust input from all areas of the trucking community, coupled with the latest scientific research, we carefully crafted a rule acknowledging that when truckers are rested, alert and focused on safety, it makes our roadways safer.”

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When Martha Stewart says, “It’s a good thing,” she certainly can’t be talking about South Carolina’s No. 1 ranking in the latest report from Car Insurance Comparison.

The scoreboard, released earlier this month, shows South Carolina tied with Montana in the contest for which state has the worst drivers, based on statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“If you’re living in one of these states, you might want to be extra careful when you’re out on the road,” they said. That’s exactly what Louthian Law has been urging since 1959 when we began helping people injured in South Carolina car and truck accidents and pedestrians and bicyclists harmed by careless drivers.

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Some sentimental songs appeal to our natural instinct to make our homes a warm and safe haven for loved ones and/or to return to such a place. If your vision of cozy holiday décor includes scents of the season wafting from flickering candles, you may be adding an element of danger not intended by the songs’ lyrics.

According to a December 2013 report from the National Fire Protection Association, the risk of home fires caused by candles jumps significantly during the winter holidays, both because candles are frequently lit during this time and because of the combustible seasonal decorations also in the area. Twelve percent of home candle fires occur in December, 1.5 times the usual monthly average. The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve.

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buzzed-driving“What’s the buzz, tell me what’s a-happening, what’s the buzz, tell me what’s a-happening . . . .” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 70’s rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar posed the question. And I have the answer:

“The buzz” is achieved by drinking alcohol to a BAC level of 0.01 to 0.07 percent, less than the 0.08 BAC of drunk driving. And “what’s a-happening” is that lots of folks are going to be doing it between now and New Year’s Day and getting behind the wheel. They’re going to think – mistakenly – that because they are only buzzed, rather than drunk, they’re unlikely to cause an accident.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, however, have found that even “minimally buzzed” drivers are more often to blame for fatal car crashes than sober drivers. After analyzing statistics from the nationwide Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), they concluded: “There appears to be no safe combination of drinking and driving . . . .” There is no sudden transition from sober (blameless) to drunk (dangerous). Rather, the progression is even and linear from a BAC of 0.01 to BAC 0.24. Even a small amount of alcohol can cause a fatal crash.

Thus, the campaign to reduce highway deaths has expanded to include, in effect, DWB as well as DWI. Take the online campaign of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in partnership with AdCouncil. Readers are urged to take the following pledge:

  • I’m going to be smart;
  • I won’t drive while buzzed.
  • Even just one too many drinks can impair my driving and lead to devastating consequences. It’s just not worth it. Buzzed driving is drunk driving, so I’m going to make sure I make responsible choices that don’t endanger myself and others.

So far, more than 18,000 people have pledged not to drive while buzzed. But that’s just a drop in the mug, so to speak, considering the millions of people on the roads during the holiday season.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2 to 3 times more people die in alcohol-related wrecks from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day than at other times of the year. Forty percent of traffic fatalities during the holidays involve a driver who is alcohol-impaired, compared to 31 percent for the rest of the year.

From November 26 to November 30 this year, seven people were killed in traffic accidents in our state, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. Within the next two weeks, two more high-fatality holidays will occur and it’s likely that the statistics this year will follow the usual pattern. It’s such a shame: the late-year holidays should be times of joy and celebration, not occasions that will forever after be linked to many families’ last memories of their loved ones.

If you or your loved ones are harmed by a negligent driver – whether it’s someone with a BAC over the legal limit or a party-goer who “just” has a buzz on – call the Louthian Law Firm. With more than eight decades of combined legal expertise, we’ll be glad to set up a free initial consultation so we can review the details of your accident and give you seasoned advice after the holiday season’s happenings.

Early one morning in late August, an 82-year-old woman wandered away from her Batesburg, SC, nursing home. She was found nearly eight hours later; fortunately, she was unharmed. If this incident had occurred during winter weather, or if she had wandered into the path of a vehicle, the outcome could have been tragic.

In elder care terminology, this nursing home resident “eloped.” The National Institute for Elopement Prevention and Resolution defines elopement as “when a patient wanders away, walks away, runs away, escapes, or otherwise leaves a care-giving facility or environment unsupervised, unnoticed, and/or prior to their scheduled discharge.” Another term sometimes used is “critical wandering.”

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On Sunday, November 16, the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston hosted an observance of A Day of Remembrance for victims of traffic accidents. In 2012, 863 people lost their lives on South Carolina highways, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: 38% were occupants of passenger cars; 27% were in pickup trucks or SUVs; 1% were in large trucks; 13% were motorcyclists; 14% were pedestrians; and 2% were on bicycles.

But the MUSC day of remembrance was not just a local event. The third Sunday of November each year is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Starting with a 1995 advocacy movement under the umbrella of the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims, the initiative has increased to include countries on every continent around the world. Promotion by the World Health Organization (WHO) led to an endorsement of the World Day by the United Nations in 2005.

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lung-cancerWith November being Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the 20th being designated as the Great American Smokeout, a day on which smokers are encouraged to make a plan to quit, we were especially interested to learn that South Carolina ranks third worst in the nation for combating lung cancer, according to a survey by Wallet Hub.

Wallet Hub, whose goal is to help consumers and small business owners make better financial decisions and save money, analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the CDC, the EPA, the American Cancer Society, and other sources. They looked at such things as air quality, price of cigarettes, cigarette taxes, number of smokers, lung cancer rates, and smoking bans, among other factors. Here are some of the other rankings for the Palmetto State when it comes to lung cancer:

  • South Carolina ranked 42nd in cigarette taxes,
  • 39th in lung cancer mortality,
  • 51st in cigarette prices,
  • 32nd in the percentage of smokers who attempt to quit,
  • 43rd in new lung cancer cases per capita,
  • 45th for smoking bans,
  • 46th for top-rated hospitals for cancer,
  • 15th for lung cancer mortality,
  • offering residents a 16.6 percent chance of surviving lung cancer.

In terms of making better financial decisions, I guess this data could say South Carolina is a good state for smokers to live in because cigarettes are cheap here and smoking is tolerated in most places. It could indicate this is a good state in which to set up a pulmonary medical practice, since there are lots of potential patients. But for employers concerned about productivity, this survey confirms what American Lung Association statistics say about the real cost of smoking in South Carolina: The annual cost of smoking to the state in direct healthcare expenditures is $1.6 billion, more than $1 billion in workplace productivity losses and $2.3 billion for premature deaths, for a total cost to the state’s economy of nearly $5 billion per year.

Lung cancer accounts for about a third of all cancer deaths, killing more people than breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined, according to the American Cancer Society. In South Carolina, 3,480 cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in 2010 and 2,712 people died from the disease.

Those of us who represent victims of medical malpractice are concerned about the potential for misdiagnosis of lung cancer, either by a doctor’s diagnosing it as something else or by overlooking it altogether on X-rays or scans, either of which can lead to a deadly delay in timely treatment. Some studies have shown that as many as 25% of lung cancers are missed by radiologists when first looking at X-rays. Sometimes lung cancer is misdiagnosed as tuberculosis or a fungal infection. Another error is to note an abnormality but then fail to track it or to do further diagnostic testing. It is also possible for a pathologist to misread a biopsy sample by identifying the wrong cancer type or stage of progression.

About 230,000 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed annually in the United States. The percentage of people who survive at least one year after lung cancer is detected is 43% and the five-year survival rate is 17%. But the sooner it is detected and appropriate treatment begun, the better the odds for the patient.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people age 55 to 80 who have smoked a pack a day for 30 years or more, or 2 packs a day for 15 years, or who have quit within the past 15 years should receive screening for lung cancer with low-dose CT scans every year. That screening should be done until the person has not smoked for 15 years or develops a health problem that would shorten their life or prevent them from being able to have surgery for lung cancer. If you’re a long-time smoker, has your physician been following these guidelines?

According to the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), ”If you are considering lung cancer screening, it’s important that it is done at a cancer center that can provide the complete support and resources needed for the screening, as well as evaluating the images, managing the results, and diagnosing and treating cancer.” This should be troubling for South Carolinians, since our state ranked 46 for top-rated cancer hospitals.

If you are a smoker, the American Cancer Society has lots of information about resources to help you stop. On November 20, join the Great American Smokeout. If you or your loved one has been the victim of a misdiagnosis or medical error which led to a wrong or delayed diagnosis of lung cancer, call the Louthian Law Firm at 1-888-440-3211 or go to our website for more information.

In 1791, James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights to provide constitutional protection for individual liberties and prevent the abuse of governmental power. Nearly 200 years later, in 1987, the federal Nursing Home Reform Law was written to include the guarantee of certain rights to some of our country’s most vulnerable citizens — nursing home residents. All nursing homes which participate in Medicare or Medicaid must meet the requirements of this bill of rights. Additionally, some states – South Carolina included – have enacted state laws to protect the rights of residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult care homes.

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