Minimum Limits for South Carolina

The minimum auto policy limits of $25,000 went into effect on January 1, 2007. But on existing policies, the new limits take effect on their renewal date, which is every six months from the date of the original policy.

That means that depending on the renewal date, you can’t be 100% of having $25,000 minimum limits until July 1, 2007. The statutes and cites are after the jump. Continue Reading Posted inQuestions SC Lawyers Want Answered, SC Specific |Comments (0) |Permalink

Workers Comp: Loss of Earning Capacity

Frequently when someone gets hurt on the job, they get well enough to work, but not in the same job and can’t earn as much money. South Carolina’s code to deal with that is 42–9–20, which reads:

§ 42-9-20. Amount of compensation for partial disability.

   Except as otherwise provided in 42-9-30, when the incapacity for work resulting from the injury is partial, the employer shall pay, or cause to be paid, as provided in this chapter, to the injured employee during such disability a weekly compensation equal to sixty-six and two-thirds percent of the difference between his average weekly wages before the injury and the average weekly wages which he is able to earn thereafter, but not more than the average weekly wage in this State for the preceding fiscal year. In no case shall the period covered by such compensation be greater than three hundred forty weeks from the date of injury. In case the partial disability begins after a period of total disability, the latter period shall not be deducted from a maximum period allowed in this section for partial disability.

In short, you get 2/3 of the average weekly difference of what the client was making and what they can make now, multiplied by 340 weeks. Let’s see how that works. For every dollar discrepancy, the injured worker would get $.667. Over a 40 hour work week, that comes out to $26.68 difference per week. Let’s see how it runs out.

$1 per hour – Loss of Earning Capacity in 40 hour Work Week

$9,071.29 = $.667 2/3 of difference x 40 = $26.68 x 340

So we have the following, assuming a 40 hour workweek:

  • $1 per hour = $9.071.29
  • $2 per hour = $18,142.40
  • $3 per hour – $27,213.60
  • $4 per hour – $36,284.80
  • $5 per hour – $45,356.00
  • $6 per hour – $54,427.20
  • $7 per hour – $63,498.40
  • $8 per hour – $72,569.60

So it can add up pretty quick. So you need a vocational report to establish the loss of earning capacity and also according to Singleton v. Young Lumber Co. and Brown v. Owen Steel Co., you need to have more than one body part to bump out of the scheduled members of 42–9–30.

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Calculating Witness Fees in South Carolina

In a recent discussion, John Nichols, reminded everyone where to find the current

Thanks for the Google help, John and pulling everything into one place.

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What is the Maximum on Tort Claims Act Cases?

If you practice in South Carolina, you know that State Tort Claims Act cases have a cap of $300,000. But is that the most you can get?

  • Two caps apply to the wrongful death and survival claims. Look
    at Smalls v. SC Dept Ed., 339 SC 208 (Ct. App. 2000); Baker v. Sanders, 301 SC 170 (1990), and Wright v. Colleton County Sch. Dist., 310 SC 282 (1990).
  • Loss of Consortium is also not considered a derivative claim. Loss of consortium is a separate claim that gets a separate cap.

Thanks to Mark Tinsley of Gooding and Gooding, in Allendale for the heads up on this.

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Punitive Damages in South Carolina - Five Cases You Need to Know

In a recent discussion, John Nichols referenced the five most important cases for punitive damages in South Carolina. Here they are: 
 
 State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 426 (2003)
"Nonetheless, because there are no rigid benchmarks that a punitive damages award may not surpass, ratios greater than those we have previously upheld may comport with due process where ‘a particularly egregious act has resulted in only a small amount of economic damages.’ [Gore]; see also ibid. (positing that a higher ratio might be necessary where ‘the injury is hard to detect or the monetary value of noneconomic harm might have been difficult to determine’). The converse is also true, however. When compensatory damages are substantial, then a lesser ratio, perhaps only equal to compensatory damages, can reach the outermost limit of the due process guarantee. The precise award in any case, of course, must be based upon the facts and circumstances of the defendant's conduct and the harm to the plaintiff.".
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Max Comp Rates for Workers Compensation Cases in South Carolina

Workers compensation cases in South Carolina are subject to a maximum weekly comp rate. As of January 1, 2006 the maximum weekly compensation rate is $616.48. As of July 1, 2006 the mileage rate for traveling to and from the doctor’s office is 44.5 cents.

The state worker’s comp site has information on the max comp rates going back to 1978. Along with the mileage rates going back to 1984.

Thanks to Don Kamb for pointing us to the link.

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Top 5 Questions SC Lawyers Want Answered

We’re adding a new category - “Top 5 Questions SC Lawyers Want Answered”. John Nichols and I were talking a few months ago about how on our listserv, there was a list of about 10–15 questions that came up again and again on the listserv. With John’s help over a period of time, we’ll collect the answers to these questions in one place and make them easy to find.

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Recovering for Depreciation to Vehicles in South Carolina

In a discussion the other day, Robert Phillips of McGowan, Hood, Felder and Johnson reminded us of  Adams v. Orr, 194 S.E.2d 232, S.C. 1973. “It is admitted that the plaintiff was entitled to recover for loss of use of the vehicle and for depreciation, which every wrecked vehicle experiences.” Pretty clear cut. He also gave a great form to give to a used car dealer to fill out, to determine the amount of depreciation. Continue Reading Posted inQuestions SC Lawyers Want Answered, SC Specific |Comments (4) |Permalink

How Much Can Doctors Charge for Medical Records?

Occasionally we all get doctor’s office that charge way too much money to get a copy of their patient’s medical records. Did you know there was a statute that limits how much the health care provider can charge?

  • $15.00 for the search
  • $0.65 for the first 30 pages
  • $0.50 for all other pages
  • Actual cost for reproduction of x-rays

I was aware of Sec. 44–115–80 limiting the amounts that physicians can charge. John Nichols pointed me to Sec. 44–7–325 for health care facilities.

John also points us to Sec.38–77–341(5), which makes it an unfair trade practice under Sec. 39–5–20 for a health care facility or health care provider to charge a fee in excess of the permissible amount.They don't want to get into Title 39, because if the violation is found to be wilful, they pay treble damages and attorney's fees! Ouch.

Usually a strongly worded letter at this point will resolve the situation.

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How Much is Post-Judgment Interest in South Carolina?

That used to be an easy question to answer, but the legislature has been busy. John Nichols recently broke it down for us. The applicable statute is Sec 34–31–20.

If the cause of action arose prior to 1/1/01, then the rate is 14% from the date of judgment until 7/1/05, the effective date of H 3008, at which time it's prime plus 4 percentage points. Continue Reading Posted inQuestions SC Lawyers Want Answered, SC Specific |Comments (6) |Permalink

Which Court Takes Priority if You Have a Scheduling Conflict?

One of the things that I’m going to start doing is putting information that I ‘know’, but don’t use it often enough so that I have to look it up every time just to make certain. One of those items is when getting assigned two court dates at the same time, which court takes priority?

Rule 601 of the South Carolina Rules of Appellate Court lays out the priorities:

  1. The Supreme Court
  2. The Court of Appeals
  3. The Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Commission on Lawyer Conduct, and the Committee on Character and Fitness. (Ouch).
  4. The Circuit Court--General Sessions
  5. The Family Court--merits hearings in cases involving child abuse, child neglect and termination of parental rights…(with notice).
  6. The Circuit Court--Common Pleas, Jury Term
  7. The Family Court -- all cases not part of Number 5.
  8. The Circuit Court--Common Pleas, Non-Jury Term.
  9. Alternative Dispute Resolution Conferences
  10. The Probate Court
  11. Magistrates and Municipal Courts
  12. Other Administrative Bodies or Officials

Workers Compensation cases would fall under Category 12, the Other Administrative bodies. That means that judicially, Workers Comp cases can get bumped for uncontested divorces and traffic court. Ouch.

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