Articles Posted in Product Liability

For four years now, April has been designated Parkinson’s Awareness Month by resolution of the U.S. Senate. We’d like to make you aware of some of the issues surrounding Parkinson’s and how Louthian Law might assist you or a loved one afflicted with the disease.

parkinsons-south-carolina

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder which affects motor functioning. The symptoms include shaking (tremors), rigidity of muscles, problems with walking, difficulty speaking or an inability to speak, diminished higher brain functions, loss or slowing of physical movement, and depression.

How common is Parkinson’s?

As many as one million individuals in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s disease. There are 50,000 new cases each year. Approximately four percent of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before the age of 50, but incidence increases with age. In fact, it is estimated that 1 to 2 percent of the population over the age of 65 suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

Is Parkinson’s disease fatal?

The disease itself is not fatal, but people who have Parkinson’s often die at a relatively young age because they are more susceptible to choking, contracting pneumonia, and having accidents. The symptoms do get worse over time, with decades sometimes passing before the disease is clinically diagnosed.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

While the cause is unknown, many experts think that Parkinson’s is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) – from vehicle accidents, falls, or sports injuries — also increase the risk of developing the disease.

What things in the environment could increase one’s risk?

Epidemiological research has identified several factors that may be linked to Parkinson’s, including contaminated well water, some insecticides and herbicides, and occupational exposure to certain chemicals. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs added Parkinson’s to a list of diseases possibly associated with exposure to Agent Orange.

Exposure to the industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) appears to greatly increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. One study found that exposure to TCE may result in a six-fold increase in the risk of developing PD. A 2011 study led by researchers at The Parkinson’s Institute pointed out the “considerable public health implications” of the fact that TCE has been detected in up to 30 percent of the nation’s drinking water supplies.

How does TCE get into the water supply? TCE is a common agent in paints, adhesives, carpet cleaners, dry-cleaning solutions and degreasing solvents. In the United States, millions of pounds of TCE are released into the environment each year.

TCE contamination of drinking water has been the subject of concern here in South Carolina. The compound was used extensively at Shaw AFB in the aircraft degreasing process. Contaminated groundwater has been found in six locations, identified by the government as sites FT001, OT-16B, OT-16C, SS-35, SS-36 and CG-38. Clean-up efforts have reduced the off-base affected area from 211 acres to 105.

For more than a decade, electronics manufacturer AVX illegally dumped groundwater laced with TCE into Myrtle Beach’s sewer. The company signed a consent order with the Department of Health and Environmental Control to clean up the site, and numerous lawsuits have been filed.

How can the Louthian Law Firm help someone with Parkinson’s disease?

As personal injury attorneys, our job is to seek justice for those who have been harmed by the negligence of another person or corporate entity. Car accident victims who suffer traumatic brain injuries may have lifelong disabilities, including neurological disorders. Motor vehicle accidents comprise a large part of our case load, and we are proud to advocate for those harmed by drunk or distracted drivers. You might want to read about those services here.

We also handle litigation involving pollution and environmental damage such as that found in Cannons Campground.

Finally, our firm helps people with the Social Security disability process. Most people in the early stages of Parkinson’s are still able to work, but the tremors and loss of movement control may expose some workers to a higher risk of injury. If Parkinson’s disease affects one’s ability to earn a living, the disability benefits available through SSDI may provide some security for the family. It is important that the progression of the disease be well documented in the worker’s medical records.

With eight decades of combined legal experience, the Louthian Law Firm of Columbia, SC, knows about the difficulties a prolonged illness or debilitating condition can cause. Call us at 888-440-3211.

FDR said, in his second inaugural address, “We have always known that heedless self interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics.” He was referring to the abuses that led to the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression.

GM Auto Recall

Even now, nearly eight decades later, we find that corporate greed has led to unconscionable decisions which, in turn, have resulted in peril for one of America’s industrial giants and for millions of American citizens. I’m referring to the choice by GM not to spend one dollar per car to correct the problems with the ignition switch that has cost at least 12 people their lives and caused 31 accidents. GM itself faces a criminal investigation and multiple lawsuits alleging they knew about the faulty ignition switches in 2002 but waited until 2014 to recall a total of 2.5 million vehicles that have ignition switches that may easily be moved out of the “run” position and into the “auxiliary” position, causing loss of power, steering, braking, airbags and lighting. That’s bad economics any way you look at it.

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And the answer, announced last month by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is 2V . . . or, more precisely, V2V.

South Carolina Auto Safety

V2V technology allows vehicles to communicate with each other and to share important data with the driver. For instance, basic safety data like speed, location and direction of travel are collected from a 360-degree radius, analyzed for risk, and used to warn the driver to take action (like removing a foot from the gas pedal) to avoid common types of crashes like rear-end and intersection collisions.

This advancing technology was tested in a year-long pilot program run in Ann Arbor, Michigan, by the U.S. Department of Transportation. They outfitted almost 3,000 vehicles with Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) capability – a technology similar to Wi-Fi ; recruited and trained volunteers; and sent the vehicles out onto 73 lane-miles of city streets and freeways.

The pilot program devices collected data from a test car and its surroundings at a rate of 10 times per second, which included such information as speed, braking, wiper status, position and motion of vehicles ahead, intersection and curve details. Then, when appropriate, instructions were communicated to the driver alerting him or her to prepare to brake hard, notice another car in the blind spot or making a lane change, or slow down through a curve, among other things. Note that the devices currently in development only provide warnings – they don’t actually intervene with braking or steering.

NHTSA has begun reviewing the pilot program findings and in February announced it will “begin taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles.” The next step is release of a report addressing technical feasibility, privacy and security, and preliminary estimates on costs and safety benefits. Also to come, after the public has been given an opportunity to comment on the research findings, will be NHTSA’s draft of regulations which would require V2V devices in new vehicles – subject, of course, to “Executive Orders and guidance.” According to Plymouth Rock Assurance Company, if the government goes forward with a V2V mandate, we could see cars equipped with this technology coming off the production line as early as 2019.

Insurance companies like Plymouth Rock are likely looking forward to having V2V cars on the road. NHTSA estimates that this technology has the potential to help drivers avoid or mitigate 70 to 80 percent of crashes “involving unimpaired drivers.” They’re evidently acknowledging that a driver who is impaired by drugs or alcohol is not going to be alert enough to quickly respond to his car’s warnings.

Another caveat is that in order to have a widespread effect, there are going to have to be lots of cars on the road that are equipped with V2V so they can talk to each other. Older models can be retrofitted, but it will still take many years before there are enough high-tech vehicles on the roads that they can have a meaningful conversation.

At the Louthian Law Firm, we applaud every advance that can help save lives. Seat belts, air bags, anti-lock brakes, and childproof locks are examples of safety innovations that have become standard equipment on modern vehicles, things we just take for granted. We forget that there weren’t even turn signals in cars until GM put them in 1939 Buicks. Aren’t you glad that these days you don’t have to roll down the window and stick your arm out to signal a turn? Some day in the not too distant future we’ll probably be glad our cars can talk to each other, too.

We seem to be stuck on the topic of car seats lately, having written about regulation reforms and how-to’s. But a recent recall by Graco, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of car seats and other equipment for children, deserves attention since it affects a massive number of seats in which a child can become trapped due to a sticking latch mechanism.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked Graco to recall the car seats and booster seats out of a concern that children could be harmed when the quick-release button isn’t quick and, in fact, in some cases doesn’t release at all. Graco “voluntarily” recalled 3.7 million toddler seats but so far has declined to recall an additional 1.8 million infant seats found by NHTSA to “contain a defect related to motor vehicle safety,” i.e., a latch that impedes the quick removal of a child in an emergency situation.

Graco says no injuries have resulted from the stubborn latches, even though desperate parents have reported having to cut the harness straps or call emergency personnel to extricate their child. NHTSA’s January 14 letter to Graco, however, mentions a pending California lawsuit that describes just the tragic situation NHTSA hopes to prevent. In that case, a two-year-old child was fastened into a Graco car seat and perished in a fire resulting from a car accident, allegedly because she could not be quickly removed.

This is the fourth-largest car seat recall ever, and if Graco does recall the rear-facing infant seats as well, it will be the biggest one in history. If you or a family member or your childcare provider uses a car seat, please check the label to see if it is one of the following Graco models:

  • Cozy Cline
  • Comfort Sport
  • Classic Ride 50
  • My Ride 65
  • My Ride 65 with Safety Surround
  • My Ride 70
  • Size 4 Me 70
  • Smart Seat
  • Smart Seat with Safety Surround
  • My Size 70
  • Head Wise 70
  • Head Wise 70 with Safety Surround
  • Ready Ride
  • Nautilus 3-in-1
  • Nautilus Elite
  • Nautilus Plus
  • Argos 70
  • Argos 70 Elite.

The Graco rear-facing infant seats still under investigation by NHTSA are:

  • Snugride
  • Snugride 30
  • Snugride 32
  • Infant Safe Seat-Step 1
  • Snugride 35
  • Tuetonia 35
  • Snugride Click Connect 40.

If you have one of the affected models, you can contact Graco here: http://www.pages02.net/newellrubbermaid/harness-buckles
They will provide you with a replacement buckle.

Once again Toyota has come under fire, so to speak, because of a manufacturing/design defect in some of their vehicles. The problem is that the materials used in their heated seats – such a welcome luxury this time of year – are not as flame resistant as required by U.S. regulatory standards.

South Carolina Car Injuries

Toyota has issued a stop-sale order to their dealers for the affected models, which include the Camry, Camry hybrid, Avalon sedan, Avalon hybrid, Corolla subcompact, Sienna minivan, Tundra and Tacoma trucks made since August 2012, when the fabric supplier was changed. So far there hasn’t been a recall of cars already on the road.

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As temperatures drop, even in the moderate climate of South Carolina, families turn on the heat. Sometimes their effort to keep things toasty warm leads to a tragic fire and loss of valued property, if not lives. Some heat sources are particularly dangerous, e.g., space heaters and wood stoves.

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According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. They can be an economical source of auxiliary heat as well.

Statistics show that heating is the second leading cause of all residential fires (cooking is first). The risk is increased for those heating with wood and solid fuels. In total, an estimated average of 50,100 heating fires in residential buildings occur in the United States each year, according to the USFA, resulting in an annual average of approximately 150 deaths, 575 injuries, and $326 million in property loss.

One such fire occurred on December 17 in a Columbia residence. The fire started in a wood burning stove in the basement and spread up through the home. Fortunately there were no injuries, but damages are estimated at $130,000. In this instance, the homeowners were alerted by a smoke detector. “Incidents like this show how critical it is for homeowners to have properly installed and working smoke detectors,” Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins said in an article in The State.
Installing smoke detectors (and carbon monoxide detectors) are critical steps you can take to ensure your family’s safety, especially during the colder months when you are using a heat source such as a wood stove. Here are others:

  • Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.
  • Make sure there is adequate clearance between the stove and walls.
  • Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
  • Put a gate in front of the stove, especially if you have children or elderly ones in the home who could fall against it.
  • Store wood at least three feet away from the woodstove in case embers or sparks fly out that could catch the woodpile on fire.
  • Dispose of ashes in a metal bucket. Take it outside, but don’t leave it on a wood deck – there could be hot embers under the cold ashes.
  • Don’t dump the ashes where they could catch leaves or brush on fire.

The EPA has other information about best burning practices that could keep you, your family and friends safe this winter. You can find it here: http://www.epa.gov/burnwise/bestburn.html.

For more about fire safety, read our blog written for National Fire Prevention Month: http://www.southcarolinalawyerblog.com/2013/10/some-alarming-facts.html.

When the wind is howling and you’re wishing for balmy breezes, curl up under an afghan with a cup of hot cocoa. Crank the heat up if you have to, but please don’t take a chance that your crackling fire could end in disaster.

Back in olden days, mom would put Junior down for a nap and the sound of his wailing, or her sixth sense, would tell her he was ready to get up.  As houses got larger, and technology got smarter, Mom and Dad or the babysitter began to rely on electronic monitoring devices.  As with many inventions, however, baby monitors sometimes come with unintended, disastrous consequences.

Baby Monitor Recalls

On November 21, 2013, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued Recall No. 14-028 for the Movement and Sound Monitor manufactured by Angelcare because of infant deaths associated with its use. This device includes a sensor pad which is placed under the crib mattress.  An attached 11-foot electrical cord goes to a transmitter which alerts parents of movement in the crib.  The problem is that children are being strangled on the cord. [See Also: Consumer Product Lawsuits]

One of the children was a 13-month-old girl who died in San Diego in November 2011.  Angelcare has settled a claim against it in that case.  Previously, an 8-month-old girl had died in Salem, Oregon.

The 600,000 recalled baby monitors were sold at Babies R Us/Toys R Us, Burlington Coat Factory, Meijer, Sears, Walmart, Amazon.com, Target.com, Overstock.com, and nearly 70 small baby specialty stores, from October 1999 through September 2013 for about $100 to $300.

The Angelcare motion detector was not the first baby monitor to have come to the attention of safety organizations.  In 2011, the CPSC issued a Safety Alert stating, “The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) are warning parents and caregivers that cords on baby audio and video monitors present a strangulation hazard to infants and toddlers when placed within a child’s reach. Since 2002, seven infants and toddlers were strangled in baby monitor cords, and three infants and toddlers nearly strangled. The victims involved were as young as 6 months old to 20 months old.”

CPSC Release No. 11-127, dated February 11, 2011, dealt with the Summer infant video monitor.  The Summer baby monitors included a camera to be placed in the baby’s room and a hand-held device on which the caregiver could see and/or hear the baby.  They were sold at major retailers, mass merchandisers, and juvenile products stores nationwide for between $60 and $300.  Two strangulation deaths were reported in 2010 when the camera and its cord were placed within reach of the child.  In one instance, the camera had been placed on top of the crib rail; in the other, it was placed on the changing table attached to the crib.  A third child was lucky to escape injury when he was found with the camera cord wrapped around his neck; in that situation, the monitor camera was mounted on the wall but the child was able to reach the cord.

If you have a small child in your home, or you know someone who does, please protect these little ones by visiting the CPSC website for assistance:  http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2013/11/baby-movement-monitor-recall-a-cord-issue/.

BabyMonitorSafety.org also offers valuable tips for parents:  http://babymonitorsafety.org/retailers.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association issue these recommendations:

  • Immediately check the location of all monitors and other products with electrical cords–including those mounted on the wall–to make sure cords are out of your child’s reach.
  • Place cords at least three feet away from any part of the crib, bassinet, play yard or other safe sleep environment.
  • Never position a monitor inside or on the edge of a crib.
  • Remember, at least three feet away is where your monitor should stay.

At the Louthian Law Firm, we help families who have been harmed by defective products.  You can read more about this facet of our personal injury practice.

Have you noticed that the Christmas season starts earlier each year? Retailers have packed away all the Halloween stuff (that appeared on shelves around Labor Day) and are now carrying quite an inventory of Christmas decorations to enhance your chances of winning the neighborhood contest to see who can have the highest electric bill for the month of December. I’ll bet you’ve already seen some displays put up by folks who always want to be first . . . or whose kids are bugging them to death to get out the inflatable Snoopy and the multicolored strobe light dancing elves.

Safe Christmas Decorating

Before you start gathering the dusty supplies left from previous years, or purchasing new ones, it’s worth repeating some safety tips for outdoor decorating. The Consumer Product Safety Commission investigates complaints of malfunctioning or dangerously designed products and has issued numerous recalls for Christmas decorations. Here are a few of the recent ones for outdoor products:

  • On July 24, 2013, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published a recall regarding Holiday Light Bulb Sets sold by Big Lots from October 2012 to January 2013. The recalled 10-piece light sets are used to illuminate pathways or sidewalks during the Christmas holiday season. The sets contain ten 11-inch tall light stakes with a 5-inch colored bulb on each. The stakes are connected by a 15-foot long cord. The lights use plated steel conductors and have a plastic coating that is not flame retardant, which makes them a fire risk.
  • On July 12, 2012, they recalled a set of 200 Mini Lights sold at Family Dollar stores in 2011 and 2012, The lights, which could be used either indoors or outdoors, presented a potential fire and electric shock hazard.
  • Brookfield entry way decorating sets sold by True Value Hardware stores were recalled on December 23, 2011. The sets include two green artificial 48-inch trees in black metal vases, one green 24-inch wide wreath and one green 9-foot long garland. The wreath has battery-powered white lights. The trees and the garland plug into wall outlets. The battery box can overheat.

Indoor Christmas decorations have also undergone scrutiny and been the subject of recalls:

  • On February 28, 2013, the CPSC recalled Balsam Hill pre-lit trees because the tree’s remote control receiver box overheated and melted. These were no cheapies: they sold online for between $1,250 and $3,550.
  • Bethlehem Lights pre-lit trees sold exclusively by QVC were recalled on December 26, 2012, because the tree base can overheat, posing a fire hazard.
  • Various resin decorations sold in Papyrus stores were recalled on December 20, 2012. They included Christmas tree ornaments and decorative home accessories. The presence of aspergillus mold spores was discovered on the products, posing a risk of respiratory or other infections in individuals with chronic health problems or who have impaired immune systems.

It’s hard to protect your home and family from danger when these items are for sale in stores you trust. How do you know what products are safe to use? First of all, check the items you already own to make sure they aren’t included in the above listed recalls. Then observe these safety tips published by the CPSC:

  • Whether you’re decorating your roof or putting up a tree in the family room, make sure the lights have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, like UL; use only lights that have fused plugs.
  • Check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections.
  • If you have a burned-out bulb, replace it with one of the same wattage.
  • Don’t use more than three sets of lights on one extension cord and make sure the extension cord was intended to carry that load.
  • Make sure any lights used outdoors were certified for outdoor use.
  • If the power lines in your neighborhood are not underground, be sure to stay away from the utility poles and lines feeding your home.
  • Don’t use nails or tacks to attach outdoor lights to trees or your house. Hardware stores carry supplies made just for this purpose.
  • Don’t leave lights on all night; turn them off if you leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
  • Outdoor lights should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
  • When the season is over and you’re anxious to get those lights down, don’t just yank on them. They could unravel or be damaged, presenting a hazard next year.

If you own a product which you believe to be dangerous, you should report it to the CPSC. And, by all means, if you have a product-related injury you should let them know so an investigation can be made and other consumers can be protected. Go online to www.SaferProducts.gov or call CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772.

We at Louthian Law want you and your family to have a joyous holiday season, one ending in smiles as bright as the most brilliantly decked out Christmas tree. But if injuries happen because of a defectively designed or poorly manufactured product, we’ll be there to help. For more than 50 years the Louthian Law Firm has represented consumers in South Carolina who suffered because of a dangerous product. If you need us, call 888-926-0051 toll free for a free evaluation of your claim.

A Pickens County nursing home is back in the news again – and not in a good way.

Thirty-six elderly patients at Majesty Health and Rehab in Easley were forced from their rooms in the middle of the night because of a gas leak.

Each year there are more than 20,000 complaints of elder care abuse in South Carolina retirement homes.

Individuals who are injured as a result of South Carolina nursing home negligence – and surviving family members if they are killed – may have a right to bring a lawsuit seeking financial compensation.

Following is a news report on the gas leak evacuation:
The Easley fire chief said the department responded to the Majesty Health and Rehab on Ann Drive after someone smelled gas.

News 4 was told that 36 patients were evacuated to another part of the building, but they did not have to go outside.

The chief said firefighters found a couple of leaks in the kitchen, and at that point, the gas was cut off and the area was ventilated.

The nursing home called a private contractor to test all the lines and make necessary repairs, according to the chief.

Last summer, Majesty Health and Rehab made headlines after an 84-year-old woman died when the facility’s air conditioning system broke down.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control investigated and found “substandard quality of care and/or immediate jeopardy.” The cause of death was over-medication and overheating. DHEC cited Majesty Health and Rehab for “failure of facility to take action to ensure residents were provided a comfortable and safe environment..

The victim’s family has hired an attorney and is in the process of filing a South Carolina nursing home negligence lawsuit against Majesty Health and Rehab.

People who have a loved one in a nursing or retirement home should be alert for signs of potential nursing home abuse, including sudden swings in patient health, complaints from other patients of mistreatment, emotional agitation, or a refusal of staff to allow you to be alone with your loved one.

Source: WYFF-TV News 4 Greenville http://www.wyff4.com/news/local-news/oconee-pickens-news/Gas-leak-forces-nursing-home-evacuation/-/9654906/17668562/-/13okbss/-/index.html#ixzz2EHOZJnQt

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has continued receiving reports of injuries from the supplement Reumofan Plus and Reumofan Plus Premium since it issued a warning about the product in June. The FDA said it has heard reports of serious internal bleeding, stroke, insomnia, dizziness, problems with blood sugar levels, harm to the liver and kidneys, and even some deaths among users of the so-called “natural” supplement.

The supplement is sold as a remedy for arthritis, muscle pain, bone cancer and osteoporosis, a disease that causes bone to weaken. According to the FDA, the supplement contains substances not shown on the product labels that should be used only under in a doctor’s care.

Experts warn that some of the substances in the flagged Reumofan can also cause serious problems if a user suddenly stops taking the product. In fact, the FDA says that some consumers may experience “withdrawal syndrome” — a potentially life-threatening illness that can strike people who suddenly stop taking some drugs and medicines. For this reason, the FDA recommends that users of Reumofan Plus or Reumofan Plus Premium seek medical care as soon as possible, especially before they stop taking the pills.

The updated recall warning about Reumofan Plus and Reumofan Plus Premium says the pills are made in Mexico for a company called Riger Naturals. They were sold widely on the Internet, some stores and even flea markets. After the updated recall notice, some companies issued recalls or warnings about their Reumofan Plus products.

Consumers Should Be Cautious about Supplements
Some experts have warned of a growing problem with so-called “natural” supplements and health products, which often don’t have to undergo testing or safety trials before being marketed to the public. To help consumers make better choices before buying or taking natural supplements, the FDA recommends that people look for a few potential warning signs.

Daniel Fabricant, director of FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs, says that people should think twice before buying “natural” supplements that seem to act similarly to prescription drugs. He also says that people should be careful when purchasing drugs with label information in a foreign language. Reumofan Plus and Reumofan Plus Premium, for example, are labeled in Spanish. However, the FDA warns, versions of the drugs with labels in English may also exist.

Experts working for the FDA say that it is especially important for people to be aware of the potential dangers that many “natural” supplements may pose to avoid harming themselves or loved ones.

Contact a South Carolina Defective Product Attorney
If you or someone you care about has been injured by a defective product, you have the right to ask the manufacturer for money to cover your medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering and any permanent disability or loss. To protect that right, you should speak with the experienced South Carolina product injuries attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm as soon as possible.

We have more than 50 years of experience helping injured South Carolinians seek justice, and we’re committed to ensuring that you get the best legal representation possible. For a free consultation, call us toll free at 888-926-0060 or locally at 803-454-1200, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form.