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Saturday, June 17, 1995 & Living the Dream

On Saturday, June 17, 1995, I had just returned from an up & down week at South Carolina’s Palmetto Boys State, sponsored by the American Legion. It was up & down due to the weird things going on with my body that just didn’t seem normal-night sweats, back pains, inability to use the bathroom at times, throwing up after I ate, & being really tired participating in sports activities throughout the week.

I vaguely remember explaining to my mother, an ER nurse of a decade or more, my symptoms on the ride home to Prosperity, SC. As soon as I got home, I  remember still being excited to head out on Lake Murray for a day of water skiing, cooking out, and just being on the lake. Back then I was in shape and had pretty hard stomach muscles, so like any dumb teenager, I didnt mind having those muscles tested with a gut shot, or punch. My aunt was at our house that day when we got home en route to the lake and unfortunately for her she was the one that played around with me to provide that gut shot to the stomach…I can never forget that punch. It wasn’t because she really hit me hard or hit me when I wasnt expecting it. It was because when she did playfully hit me, it almost caused me to fall down and start throwing up it hurt so bad.

Twenty-one (21) years ago as I sit here typing this, I can still see the scene:

I was standing right outside the white linoleum kitchen flooring, on the light brown carpeting in front of my mother’s decorative bench that sat under the four pane, mirrored decorative piece hanging above it. I was facing towards the side door that lead to the garage and Aunt Mary Kay was bouncing around playfully like a boxer, but unlike a real boxer, she was wearing a black bathing suit with white highlights, while our kitchen table was to my left. She playfully struck with her left hand and then more sternly with her right hand.  Now I recognize the awkward looks between the parental figures, after seeing my animated reaction to such a light &  playful interaction.

My mother decided to let the rest of the family head on to the lake but maybe my complaints of fatigue should just be checked out real quick at the hospital where she worked, Lexington Medical Center. She drove her gray, Mazda 626 with gray cloth seats on a bright, sunny day towards Columbia and tried to console me that this was no big deal, I was fine. ( I realize now she was really trying to calm herself down-she later revealed to me she thought I had mono.)

When we got to the hospital, we were provided professional courtesies for her many years working in the ER and I went straight back to a private waiting area. A nice phlebotomist, a heavier, set black male, who apparently had won the respect of my mother as a “1 sticker” drew blood for lab work. (I write this narrative for medicinal value so I can help open long vaulted compartments in my psyche, so no wonder I am having some manifestations of those emotions right now as I type, aka crying.).

I didnt realize what was going on at the time but I did recognize my mother’s voice in what seemed to turn from surprise, then to aggressiveness in demanding tests be run again as she talked with her colleagues at a nearby nurses station. The phlebotomist came in again and drew more blood work and did so calm as a cucumber indicating another test needed to be run. Shortly thereafter is the scream I can hardly forget from my mother and then her wailing. I started to get nervous at that point as my mother was a pretty stern lady, that showed emotion when needed but to cry openly in her comfort zone and in front of her colleagues kind of scared me. That was not normal & apparently as time would tell, neither was my blood work. My white blood cell count was over 150,000 with normal ranging from 3,500-10,500.

My private waiting area was quickly transformed as I was asked to go change into a gown all the while not knowing what was going on. That was the part I hated the most looking back. Nobody would tell me what was going on. I was no idiot and at the very least, knew if my lake day was about to be ruined and my mother was screaming, something had to be wrong. Plus,I was the only one getting medical work performed upon.

As I got my own private room at this point, I will ever forget that coy, son of bitch, white haired doctor whose name started with an “M”. He acted like I was interrupting his day, laughed and was joking around. Again, I still had not clue what was going on. He indicated he just had to take a sample real quick. Then he proceeded to take a bone marrow aspiration from me without any anesthesia other than some lidocaine to the skin. That extraction device he screwed into my hip is  probably not nearly as medieval as I remember but I will never forget him stopping in the middle of screwing that device into my hip bone & saying, “Son, you have some strong bones.” Then he proceeded to twist harder into my hip. To this day it is the worst pain I have ever felt in my life.

Fittingly, understandably, and realistically, that is where my memories of today, 21 years ago stop.  I was ultimately diagnosed with Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), and later told of my two week prognosis. I remember snipets of the days and weeks that followed. More importantly, I remember the love and outpouring support from my family, friends, my church, and my community. I will forever be indebted to them all.

God is good, life is good, and we can only make the most with what we are given. I hope you all take advantage of the opportunities and wonders given to you every day. Now you know why I say:

I AM LIVING THE DREAM!

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Insurance Companies Love Your Apathy, Passiveness, & Shallow Pockets

I was talking to a psychiatrist at  a party once that asked what I did. I explained that I was a plaintiff’s lawyer and helped the poor, impoverished David’s of the world fight the big Goliaths, such as insurance companies. He laughed and said, “So the insurance company drags things out hoping that your clients will lose interest, motivation, or just give up?” I was shocked because in one sentence he outlined the crux of the insurance company defense and modus operandi.

If you have a case where an insurance adjuster is involved you need to know some things:

  1. Insurance adjusters do not work for you, they work for the insurance company. As much as you would think that they are on your side, being a good neighbor, or wrapping their good hands around your back instead of your throat, YOU ARE WRONG. They work for the insurance company and are valued based upon the money they make their company, which means minimizing what they pay out to you.
  2. Just because insurance companies make billions in profit a year doesnt mean they will just write you a check. See #1 above. These insurance companies make billions in net profit because they have way more suckers, ie people, paying premiums versus what insurance companies pay out in claims.
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Why Your Medical Records Matter in Personal Injury Cases

The subject has come up too many times in the past couple weeks where clients are disputing what is documented in their medical records that were written by their own treating physicians. I will admit, prior to becoming an attorney in South Carolina, I would trust what the doctor told me in the private setting of the examination room. As Lee Corso says, “Not so fast my friend.”

It does not matter if you are being assisted by Medshore EMS at the scene of a motor vehicle collision or talking to your long time AnMed Family Medicine physician, those medical providers are documenting everything you tell them. As a matter of fact, the Federal Government has mandated all records be made digitally so you can even read the physician’s handwriting. Well that wasn’t their main reason for doing it but it sure has helped in reading Dr. Wadee’s records.

You have the right to request your medical records and you should do that on a quarterly to annual basis depending upon your frequency in medical treatment. (No, the discharge or checkout paper you get does not count as a medical record that is important.) It will help you see what information is documented from your visit with medical providers and also help ensure that your medical concerns and complaints are actually being addressed. Let me provide a news flash when that may become relevant…IN A PERSONAL INJURYCASE! 

If you are involved in some kind of traumatic incident (workers’ compensation claim, car wreck, dog bite, slip & fall, product liability claim, nursing home negligence, or medical malpractice case) and claim the injuries you sustained from that incident are all because of that traumatic incident, you have to prove it to be reimbursed by the evil insurance companies. Your back may be hurting but if just the week before you were complaining of back pains, the question becomes how much more, if any, is your back hurting from the traumatic incident. Don’t come in telling me your life is changed forever for the worst because of this traumatic incident but have no medical documentation to prove that claim.

As an attorney, I can not tell the evil insurance company that your doctor told you it was all because of the traumatic incident. Shockingly, the evil empire would not believe me or you. However, the evil tryanny sometimes believes what is in the medical records. Not all the time but let’s not get caught up in the fact that the evil empire will have a 22 year old college, educated adjuster make medical diagnosis and decisions. We will save that subject for another article.

Today, your take away is this:

  • You are legally entitled to a copy of your medical records,regardless if you owe a balance to the medical provider. Now there may be a copying charge or retrieval fee but you are still entitled to those printed and detailed records, along with your itemized bills. Click here to print off this page, if the gate keeper at your medical facility doesn’t believe you.
  • Do you really know what your doctor has documented? What do you think your doctor will depend on as the truth a year from their visit with you if asked by a lawyer? That exact conversation or their medical records?
  • What is documented in your medical records will help your recovery from a traumatic incident or help the evil empire against your recovery. So, if you are experience back pain, emotional trauma, sleepless nights, relationship troubles, and so forth, I better read it in the medical records or it is not happening!

***When I Googled “evil insurance companies” there was a link with a discussion of whether insurance companies were evil or stupid.  Although it was about health care, the liability insurance carriers are designed the same way, maximize return to their shareholders while minimizing the payout of claims (YOUR CLAIM). I thought this was a very interesting response:

Doug Dingus, Everybody pays, everybody covered

622 Views

Insurance companies have a basic conflict with us in that their goal is to maximize for the shareholders, and that happens best when they deliver the least health care access for the most dollars.

So, the answer is by design, but said design is an artifact of our health care policy, meaning they are neither stupid or evil.

We can remedy this with regulation, or public primary care insurance, or competition, depending on how said competition is structured

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When Do I Hire an Attorney vs. Handling It Myself?

Through various avenues and referral sources, I often times get some interesting questions about “potential” cases. Lately, I have been looking over my shoulder for the hidden camera or wondering which one of my friends in playing a joke on me. I’m not sure it’s a result of our litigous nature, the dying art of customer service, or people just dont have time to properly deal with issues that arise.

So enter my quick 3 step process to determine if you need a lawyer.

1) Are you dealing with an insurance company or adjuster?

– YES, you need a lawyer Insurance companies make money off of the money they don’t pay out in claims. You obviously have a claim and they want to minimize the payout to you regardless of how nice they may initially seem.

-Just ask yourself this: “Would you listen to the devil on how to get to Heaven? Then why would you listen to the insurance adjuster about how to settle a claim against them?”–Trey  Mills

2) Are you dealing with a rude employee, disgruntled employee, or frontline of a company?

-Probably Not. You need to make sure you document whatever the situation may be. Then reach out to the next level of management or ownership. If the wrong, or negligent act, that has been committed on you is not addressed by the next level of management or ownership then you need to determine the damages you have incurred. If those damages are simply hurt feelings and/or pride you don’t need a lawyer. If those damages are monetary and amount to more than a few thousand dollars then you may need a lawyer. If those damages are less than a few thousand dollars you may have alternative routes such as Magistrate Court, or Small Claims court. (Charleston County has online FAQs) You do not need a laywer to represent you in Magistrate Court in South Carolina, or most states. Think Judge Judy but less dramatic, not on television, and not as timely.

3) Are you trying to pursue a wrong from a company or person that has no assets, money, or insurance because “it just ain’t right?” 

-Probably not. You have certainly heard of the term, “You can’t get blood out of a turnip.” If not click on the previous link and don’t tell anyone you didnt know that. When I question the viability of a case or know that there is little to be gained from it, I request a retainer fee. That fee may very depending upon the case but it is usually at least $2,500.00. Are you willing to spend that much money to pursue your case? If not, then you don’t need a lawyer.

When you have performed this quick 3 step analysis and determined you need a lawyer, reach out to one. We don’t bite.

We represent clients  that have been injured at workin wrecks, dog bites, slip and falls, nursing home abuse cases, and product liability claims arising out of South Carolina and Georgia.  Call us toll free at 1-800-483-0880, contact us on FacebookTwitter, or just stop by. We offer free consultations to determine if we can assist with your legal needs.

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Will Workers’ Compensation Cover an Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Injury?

Many times when people are involved in a work accident, they will aggravate an old injury. We oftentimes hear concerns from these individuals that the Workers’ Compensation (“WC”) insurance carrier MAY NOT cover medical treatment for these types of re-injuries.  So the question in South Carolina becomes, is a work accident that aggravates and/or makes worse a pre-existing injury covered by the employer’s WC insurance carrier?

The simple answer to this question is YES.  According to S.C. Code Ann. § 42-9-35 –

(A) The employee shall establish by a preponderance of the evidence, including medical evidence, that:

(1) the subsequent injury aggravated the preexisting condition or permanent physical impairment; or

(2) the preexisting condition or the permanent physical impairment aggravates the subsequent injury.

What does this mean to my WC injury and claim?  If your WC claim is denied because of an aggravation of a pre-existing injury, it is necessary that YOU obtain the opinion of your treating physician that “to a reasonable degree of medical certainty,” that it is more probable than not that the work accident aggravated the pre-existing condition. How can I obtain this medical opinion?

If your claim is denied because of this particular situation, it is always best to discuss your claim with attorneys experienced in these matters.  As attorneys working with WC clients on a daily basis, Ernie Trammell and Roy Trammell have spent countless hours drafting doctor affidavits for clients whose claims are being temporarily denied because of this reason.

What if my pre-existing condition is degenerative in nature?

If your work accident aggravates and/or makes worse a condition like arthritis, your employer’s carrier must cover the claim.  As noted above though, a treating physician does have to document that in his opinion based on a reasonable degree of medical certainty that it is more probable than not that the work accident aggravated the arthritis in the body part injured.

Regardless of your Workers’ Compensation question or issue, we are here to help. If you have been injured on the job, please give us a call for your free consultation. Call us at 1-864-231-7171, find us on Facebook, or Twitter. We are here to help.

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY ROY TRAMMELL, a Workers’ Compensation attorney.

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