September 29, 2020

Penalties for Passing a Stopped School Bus

Early September, we posted 5 Rules for Approaching a Stopped School Bus. We reviewed the rules of the road about when to stop and when to go when encountering a school bus on the highway. According to a national survey, these rules are being violated every day.

In 2019, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation conducted a nationwide survey to report passing violations. The 39 states participating reported 95,494 passing violations in a single day. South Carolina reported 223.

Convictions are a 6-point violation on your driver’s license and can be proved by onboard video. Cameras are installed in the stop arm of certain school buses to catch rule breakers. The legal penalties add up for multiple violations.

For a first offense, a violator can be fined up to $500.00 or imprisoned up to 30 days. A second or subsequent offense can bring fines of $2,000.00 to $5,000.00 or imprisonment from 30 days to sixty days.

The penalties are greatly enhanced if the violator causes great bodily injury or death. A conviction is a felony, includes a fine of $5,000.00 to $10,000.00, and 60 days to one year in jail. If death results, the fine increases to $10,000.00 to $25,000.00 and imprisonment from one to five years.

Our take: Slow down, pay attention, and stop for school buses.

September 8, 2020

5 Rules For Approaching A Stopped School Bus +infographic

Its September, and that means back to school. School buses are returning to our roads after a longer than normal absence. While virtual learning and A/B schedules may keep some cars off the road, guidelines reduce the numbers of students per school bus. This means we should see the same number of busses on the roads as previous years.

We all know the law requires us to stop for a stopped school bus; however, some of us forget the detailed rules when it comes to divided highways, multilane roads, and approaching a stopped school bus from the opposite direction. Others just don’t care about the rules of the road. It infuriates me to see someone fly by a stopped school bus when its lights are flashing.

Rule breaking drivers infuriate school bus drivers too. Imagine having the primary responsibility for the safety of 50+ students going to or coming home from school. Often students cross the road to get onto or off the bus. Having a distracted or aggressive driver pass the school bus (or worse--crash into the school bus) is a recipe for absolute disaster. We have no tolerance for inattentive rule breaking that puts people’s lives in danger.

I’ve also even seen people stopping when they shouldn’t, presumably out of an abundance of caution. That can also be dangerous if the driver behind you doesn’t expect you to stop.

This reminds us of recent tragic stories around stopped buses and injures at bus stops. In September of last year, a logging truck crashed into the rear of a SUV who was pushed into a stopped school bus, injuring fifteen students. In a close call just a couple months later, a rule-breaking logging truck driver broke the crossing gate off a stopped school bus in Lancaster.

So here they are: 5 Rules for Approaching a Stopped School Bus (along with a shareable infographic).

  • Don’t overtake (pass in the same direction) a school bus that is flashing its amber lights
  • Stop while the flashing stop sign is extended
  • Always stop when behind a school bus going in the same direction
  • Stop when approaching on a two-lane road
  • Keep going when approaching a school bus on a multilane road (at least two lanes in each direction)
5 Rules Infographic

5 Rules Infographic

July 21, 2020

Taking My Own Medicine, Part 2

I wrote the first part of this article here. If you missed it, I detailed how a distracted driver crashed into a vehicle behind me, moved that vehicle to the side, and then crashed into my vehicle. While I was released from the hospital without serious injuries, the whole ordeal continued to be frustrating.

First, a disclaimer, I am pro-law enforcement. I have many close friends who bravely serve to protect our communities. Our officers put their lives at risk every day to protect all of us. I am very much indebted to those dedicated public servants.

The trooper who responded to my traffic collision was not professional. Many of my clients have told me about inaccuracies and errors in police reports. These errors usually make the largest impact when my clients are being deposed. Skilled defense lawyers will compare the police report with my client’s version of the collision. Many clients are dumbfounded when the police report notes that they were not injured.

Having that background, I was very careful to tell the responding officer the truth. I was hurt, I told him, but did not need an ambulance. As many of you know, some very painful and lasting injuries do not require an ambulance ride to the hospital. I also told the EMS that I was injured. They evaluated me on site and told me to get medical attention.

After the trooper finished investigating, he told me he would send the FR10 the next day to my email address. Without the information on that form, I couldn’t verify whether the at-fault driver had insurance, I couldn’t get a rental car, and I couldn’t get my vehicle damage evaluated. 

I figured the officer was busy, but that the form would probably come on day 2. When the officer still hadn’t contacted me, I called his office and left a message. He didn’t return my call. Day 3 came and went without any contact. Finally, on day 5, I received an email that contained the FR10.

Five days is way too long to process an FR10. During that time, I had no information about the at fault driver, I did not know whether or not he had insurance, and I could not arrange for a rental car. That waiting only added to the frustration and anxiety of being in a car accident in the first place.

Next, I found errors on the collision report. First, the officer indicated on the report that I was not injured. It must be a mistake, I thought. I also noticed that a passenger in the car directly behind me was not listed. I respectfully replied to the officer’s email that I had read the report, that I recalled telling him I was injured, and that I believed a passenger’s information had not been included. I kindly asked him to revise his report.

His reply was surprising. The officer told me he remembered me telling him I was hurt. However, since he didn’t see any visible signs of injury, he indicated on the report that I was not. He also told me that because the passenger did not seem hurt to him, he had not included the passenger’s information on the report either. Finally, he refused to correct the report.

I knew this inaccurate report could cause many problems down the road. I couldn’t believe a police officer would knowingly refuse to correct these inaccuracies. His errors could cause doubt about whether or not I told him I was hurt. They could lead to an inaccurate investigation by the insurance companies because the passenger’s name and contact information were not included. Leaving a witness’s information off that report could deprive an injured party of finding relevant evidence and testimony.

In a following article, I will continue to detail my auto collision saga. My future articles will discuss the challenge in getting my vehicle fixed, and how I eventually took my own medicine when it came to being the victim of an auto collision.

June 9, 2020

Taking My Own Medicine, Part 1

I was on my way back to my in-laws’ home after a run on Hunting Island State Park last month when it happened. While at a complete stop, I heard the crunching of sheet metal behind me. Before I could react, I felt the uncontrolled forces of a large object crashing into the rear of my SUV.  While I was not aware of it the time, a driver two vehicles behind me didn’t stop with the rest of traffic. The driver plowed into the vehicle behind me, moved that vehicle to the side, then crashed into my vehicle.

Initially, I didn’t know exactly how the collision happened. All I experienced was noise behind me, thinking I was about to get creamed, and then the sudden impact. Afterwards, I did not understand that the car who had hit me, had also hit the car that had stopped behind me. The immediate aftermath of the crash felt like a fog. I didn’t fully understand what happened until I started taking pictures of the scene.

It did not appear that the driver who caused the crash had applied his brakes at all. The first vehicle looked totaled.   While my vehicle did not appear mangled, I later found out there was hidden damage underneath.

I was hurt but didn’t need an ambulance. I thought a quick trip to an urgent care practice would be sufficient. Unfortunately, the doctor at the urgent care told me to go directly to the emergency room for further evaluation.

My heart sank, my blood pressure rose, and I felt scared. Would I be okay? Would I need a lot of expensive treatment? Would I be able to go back to work? Frustration set in.

Unfortunately, frustration will be a continuing theme to my story. I thought of all my clients over the years. I now experienced their frustration firsthand instead of just sharing in it. What really frustrated me the most is how the insurance company treated me as a liar, beggar, and low life. My injuries will heal, so I’m not trying to suggest my collision is catastrophic. Many of you were injured to a much greater degree. That said, my experience is why we treat every case with the same level of attention and care. Even a “minor” collision can have a significant impact on those involved. In following articles, I will chronicle my ordeal as I write about how the police mishandled this crash, the challenge in getting my vehicle fixed, and how I took my own medicine, following the guidelines that I give to my clients.

November 5, 2019

Justice for All

Many of us have not said these words in years. Once, we said them every school day. Lately, I have been saying those words more frequently as I belong to organizations who start their meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Today, the subject of justice seems to divide us. We argue and fight over its meaning. What some say is just, right, and fair often depends on the profit motives of groups. The fight then shifts online where we battle each other in the comments section.

For me, justice for all is bedrock principle of our country. Yes, it is absolutely true that we have not historically afforded justice for all. It is also true that we do not currently afford justice for all. However, over time American’s development and our laws’ development have demonstrated a willingness, an eagerness, and a tradition of self-evaluation, self-criticism, and self-improvement.

That tradition is engrained in our Declaration, Constitution, and laws. I take comfort that our country will seek out ways to extend justice. I take pride that we will develop as a people and a country.  I take joy that we will improve our provision of justice until our reality, our laws, and our attitudes match our ideals.

September 5, 2019

Apathy Towards Suffering?

Written by Brian R. Murphy.

As the hurricane season kicks into high gear, our television sets and social media accounts are filled with hurricane news. We see images of flooded and destroyed homes. Our hearts break.

We correctly respond to the suffering of others in natural disasters. We donate money. We volunteer. We rightly offer our thoughts and prayers. These natural disasters are horrible, but I can’t help but wonder if we have become desensitized to victims who suffer from other causes.

Hurricanes killed 38 people in 2018. Motor vehicle crashes killed 4,074 children in 2016. Distracted driving killed 3,166 in 2017 (although I believe that number to be very low).

Based on the numbers, we should be mobilized to decrease childhood deaths from car crashes. We should be demand stronger distracted driving laws. We should be raising awareness about the carnage that is occurring on our streets.

However, we seem to be indifferent to the suffering of victims of car accidents and their families. Those disasters occur much more frequently than natural disasters. While texting and driving is killing thousands and car crashes are the number one killer of children, we continue to act as if those deaths are not as important. We continue to drive while distracted.

Is this because we are desensitized to vehicle crashes? Are we accustomed to blood flowing on our streets? Are we okay with killing people because we can’t wait to read a text message? Are we okay with children dying because it is too inconvenient to lock down our phones?

It’s time for our hearts to break for car crash victims. It’s time for us to make save driving a priority. It’s time for us to reduce the number of child car crash deaths. It’s time for us to stop distracted driving.

After all, every life matters whether it ends because of a hurricane or car accident. The difference is that we have the immediate power to significantly decrease traffic accident deaths. Commit to stop distracted driving yourself. Encourage others to stop distracted driving. Promote stronger distracted driving laws by contacting your state senator or legislator. 

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February 18, 2019

Estate Planning Facts(Guest Post)

Written By Julia C Khaled

Woman Helping Senior Neighbor With Paperwork

Each of these 13 disturbing estate planning facts is true; but, each situation can be avoided with a strong, individualized, comprehensive, and up-to-date estate plan.

·         If you don’t name a guardian in your will, your minor children could end up with persons you either don’t like or don’t know.

·         If you don’t provide for your pet in your estate plan, your pet may be euthanized when you die.

·         If you put assets in joint tenancy with a second spouse, your children may be disinherited.

·         If you put the family vacation house in joint tenancy with a sibling, your children will not inherit your share of the house if you die before your sibling.

·         A troubled child’s inheritance could make a drug, alcohol, or gambling addiction worse or even kill them.

·         After you die, your spouse may loan or give the assets you left for the family to a new friend/spouse.

·         Your gift to a family member may disqualify him or her from receiving Medi-Cal or Veterans benefits to pay for long term care expenses.

·         Powers of attorneys may get “stale” and should be updated every few years.

·         If your spouse gets into a serious car accident after your death, all of the assets that you left for him or her and the children can be seized in a law suit.

·         Your child’s spouse could get his or her hands on all of the money you give to your child outright.

·         If you put your child’s name on your house or bank account, his or her creditors may be able to seize those assets.

·         If you transfer your house to your children during your lifetime, they get your original tax basis and could pay much higher capital gains taxes when they sell it than if you transferred the house to them at your death.

·         Assets given outright to a special needs beneficiary are likely to disqualify him or her from receiving vital governmental assistance.  So, your money goes down the drain and causes a logistical hassle.

Indeed these 13 estate planning facts are completely avoidable with good planning.  Be sure to consult with a qualified and experienced estate planning attorney.

Julia C. Khaled, Esquire, LLM (Taxation)
Founder/Senior Attorney
1430 Ebenezer Rd., Suite 104
Rock Hill, SC 29732

Main Tel: 803.980.1199
Fax: 803.980.1178

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July 9, 2018

How Do We Know if You “Have a Case”?

Written By Frank Bentley

Internally at the firm we talk at length about what constitutes a case and if some prospective clients even need to talk to an attorney.

I am actually the one who first talks to almost all of our prospective clients. Ultimately I do not make the decision on whether you have a case, but the attorneys have taught me a great deal on how to help people on the front end of a dispute so that I don’t waste your time.

We decided as a firm that one of the worst client experiences would be for you to talk to someone, get all excited that you are going to get a million dollars from this shady insurance company only to sit down with an attorney at your first meeting and find out that you actually aren’t going to get a million dollars and in fact we aren’t even going to accept your case.

That puts a little bit of pressure on me to make sure that I get all of the information I can from you on the first phone call to our office. This helps me determine if you need to see an attorney, if I can give you some resources to help you handle a claim yourself, or if I need to send you to an entirely different attorney who handles your specific kind of case.

What am I looking for to make that decision? It’s really basic: I need to hear your story. Don’t worry. I’m not giving you less points if your story-telling isn’t winning any academy awards. I just need to know what happened, who was at fault for the incident, and what has to happen to get you back to the way you were before this whole mess started.e

You may not have the answers to all of these questions right away. That’s OK! It’s still OK to call even if you don’t know if you need us. The “worst” thing I am ever going to tell you is that I don’t think you need an attorney. That’s it. There will be no name-calling or frustration or some idea that you “wasted my time”. I love talking to people and since I’m not a paralegal I will not have many opportunities to work with you directly with your case, so I enjoy this chance to help.

Our firm prides itself on providing the best possible client experience and we will do everything we can to make sure the beginning of your case is just as happy as the end. Thanks for reading!

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July 2, 2018

A Tradition is Born

Written By Joanna Harvey

When you think about your 4th of July celebration, what comes to mind? Family, games, barbecues, and of course fireworks. But consider for a moment the origin of what we now value as a part of our culture.

The highlight of so many peoples Independence Day celebration is the customary fireworks display – a truly American tradition. But, even though the firework has been a symbol of Patriotism for centuries, the origin behind the sparkling rockets is a little darker. Fireworks were originally thought to have been used as early as 200 B.C. by the Chinese to ward off evil spirits, using roast bamboo whose air pockets would explode and make a loud bang when heated. While attempting to create an elixir for immortality, the Chinese started inserting potassium nitrate, charcoal, sulfur, and a few other ingredients to create an early form of gunpowder into the bamboo shoots, thus the first firework was born.

Now, while the Chinese may have invented a primitive version of the now popular firecracker, they were not used in terms of celebration until about 1605 – the year of Guy Fawkes. On November 5, 1605, a group of Catholic conspirators – led by Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up the English Houses of Parliament, knowing that King James I of England (King James IV of Scotland) and many other parliamentary members would be in the building. At the time, this was known as the Gunpowder Plot. Fawkes and all of his men believed that the English and Scottish king was a heretic, driving out Catholic subjects. On October 26, 1605, an anonymous letter alerted authorities as to the existence of the Gunpowder Plot, and a search party on November 4 proved that the anonymous source had been correct. Guy Fawkes was found in a cellar below the House of Lords with 36 barrels of gunpowder and matches in his pocket. In January of 1606, Fawkes and his co-conspirators were found guilty of high treason, and sentenced to death by hanging, drawing, and quartering.

After the Gunpowder Plot was revealed, many Londoners began lighting bonfires and setting off fireworks in celebration that the plot had been foiled. English Parliament christened November 5, Guy Fawkes Day, as a day of thanksgiving.

Now, back to the United States - the first recorded Independence Day fireworks display was in 1777 in Boston and Philadelphia – a tradition that is a now part of our very fabric. And the rest is history… Have a happy and peaceful Independence Day.

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June 25, 2018

Movement as a Cure(Guest Post)

Written By Robert Polenik

Robert Polenik is the owner of Brutal Iron Gym in Rock Hill, SC. He has many degrees and certifications in his 15 years of personal training history. His goal for Brutal Iron Gym is to teach people how to take control of their health and thus their happiness. The better a person feels both inside and out, the more likely they will be able to pursue their dreams.

Throughout the course of life, it’s an almost certainty that every person will suffer from restricted movement whether it’s due to an injury, muscular decay caused by inactivity, or even an issue related to over-activity. The human body is an amazing “machine” but, like all machines, it requires continual, intentional maintenance or it runs the risk of breaking down. Throughout my career as a personal trainer (15+ years) I’ve seen first-hand a multitude of physical issues such as injuries to the spinal cord, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, and the list goes on. And, in every case, every single one, the “cure” was… movement!!!

A few years ago a man named Mike walked into my gym and introduced himself as “fat and lazy” and said he’d gotten that way due to a back injury. About 15 years prior to us meeting he experienced a back injury while knee-boarding and his doctor at that time told him he’d have restricted movement for the rest of his life and advised him to avoid strenuous activity. Well, that activity-avoidance quickly turned into muscle loss and fat gain to the point where one day, in his words, “I saw a picture of myself with a friend and it just struck me… I looked at myself in disbelief… who was that fat guy in the picture… is that really me?!” It was on that day, of seeing the picture, that he came to see me. That was 4 years ago, he was 50 years old at the time, and when we first started weight training he hadn’t performed basic lifts such as squats, bench press, or deadlifts in decades and he was experiencing daily, chronic back pain.

 Now, 4 years later, and at the age of 54 years old, he can squat over 450lbs, bench over 350lbs, and deadlift over 500lbs. And, the best number of all… he has zero back pain.

I have dozens and dozens of other similar stories; one of my other favorites is of my mother. At the age of 47 she was experiencing leg tingling and ankle pain at night to the point where she could barely fall asleep without an ordeal of wrapping her ankles, wearing multiple socks, and then still having to just endure the pain until she’d drift off to sleep from exhaustion. We soon began strength training with weights. Within a few months, she’d dropped a good bit of body fat and her legs and ankles had become stronger to the point where the nightly pains ended. But, she learned to love the process of working out so much that we continued to train and she did her first bodybuilding contest at the age of 50 years old. And since that contest she’s done 2 more and participated in 3 powerlifting meets. At the age of 59 years young she can squat 250lbs, bench 120lb (her body weight) and deadlift 290lbs!

These are just two examples of many of how inactivity, not moving, caused the body to decay and the person lost their health and happiness; however, through movement, through strengthening their bodies, they regained their health and even at “advanced age” they’re feeling stronger, healthier, and most importantly, happier than ever!

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