So where do you go to search for the top workers compensation lawyers? While you have to decide who is best for you, we invite you to compare our credentials and experience.
Top Workers Compensation Lawyers
Since starting his workers compensation practice over 28 years ago, Robert Reeves has committed himself to excellence. Consequently, he recently accepted an invitation to join The Workers Compensation Trial Lawyers Top 25. While an important honor, making a difference in his clients’ lives is his best reward. Hence, he treats every client and every case as a new opportunity to help someone in need. And if you hire him, he promises his very best efforts on your behalf. So what does he offer in experience?
Since graduating from law school in 1989, Mr. Reeves started handling workers compensation cases. While he began his career as an insurance defense lawyer, he has represented injured workers for over 20 years. However, his experience as a defense attorney now helps him fight insurance companies. In addition, Mr. Reeves is also a former Registered Nurse (RN). Because he has personally treated serious injury, he understands what you are facing. As a result, he can explain your medical treatment and reassure you everything is going to work out. After all, we want to be more than just your lawyer. And after almost 30 years, we have handled literally thousands of cases and helped families just like yours.
So Why Hire Our Firm?
In addition to our credentials and extensive experience, here is what else we offer. While it is usually difficult to reach a lawyer, every client has our personal cell phone and direct email address. That’s right. You can actually call or email our lawyers when you need them. Since we know the anxiety you are feeling, we want you to call us when you need us. Because a few answers can help, we promise to be there even after hours. And that’s just what you should expect from the lawyer you hire.
Change of Condition in Workers’ Compensation
Sometimes injuries get worse over time after your doctor releases you from care. And if you do get worse, workers’ compensation allows you to ask for additional medical treatment. But this can be difficult to prove sometimes. However, the new case Russell v. Wal-Mart shows what is necessary to prove a change of condition.
What Happened Here
Russell, an assistant store manager, worked at Wal-Mart for more than ten years. While lifting something at work, she injured her lower back. Because she was pregnant, her treatment was conservative with no diagnostic testing. However, after having her baby, Russell had an MRI scan. Earlier, her doctor did not recommend surgery. But several months later, that changed and Russell alleged a change of condition and new symptoms. Although the single Commissioner awarded additional benefits, the Full Commission reversed. Rather, they found her testimony “conclusory and self-serving.” Instead, they wanted to see more medical reports and tests to prove her claim. So they denied her claim for more treatment.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed again and found you can prove a change of condition based on testimony. Further, the Court held you can prove your case even without medical tests and reports. Hence, the Court ruled the workers’ compensation Act does not require proof of a certain kind. Because courts have made awards based on both subjective and objective proof, either will do. Therefore, courts cannot ignore any one type of evidence.
So What Does It Mean?
Perhaps now it will be easier to prove a change of condition claim. After all, the goal in every workers comp case is full recovery. However, that is not always possible if seriously injured. And although you still need medical evidence, testimony is now also helpful. In addition, the Commission should give a claimant’s testimony more weight. Of course, the testimony must be credible and trustworthy. But now, getting more medical treatment is easier now. Given the restrictions of workers compensation, medical care is the most valuable part of any claim. Because the laws are so complex, it is important to hire an experienced workers comp attorney to help you. While we hope you never need us, we are here if you do. Call now and let’s start your road to recovery.
Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) and Disability
While you are still in treatment, you cannot resolve your workers compensation claim. Rather, you must be released from care and at maximum medical improvement. Because this phrase has both medical and legal significance, we discuss it more here. The recent case of McMahan v. SCDOE shows how a court decides issues about MMI.
While working on a bus, McMahan seriously injured his back and had to have two surgeries. However, he continued to have ongoing back pain and other problems. Although he continued to get treatment, he did not get better. Later on, he died while still receiving medical treatment. Because his doctor wrote he had reached MMI sometime earlier in 2012, McMahan’s estate sued for permanent disability benefits after his death.
At the initial hearing, the single commissioner ruled that McMahan had reached MMI before his death. As a result, the estate could get benefits and awarded permanent and total disability. However, SCDOE appealed, and the Full Commission Appellate Panel reversed. Consequently, the Court of Appeals heard the case.
After hearing the arguments, the Court of Appeals reversed again. More specifically, they found that McMahan did not have to be at MMI to receive benefits. Rather, even though McMahan died from unrelated causes, he can still make a claim. As a result, McMahan’s estate could receive the unpaid workers’ compensation benefits. Furthermore, the court found the only evidence presented was that he had reached MMI. Thus, the Appellate Panel committed legal error. So what does this decision show? That the only evidence presented was from the claimant. Looks like hard work and good lawyering made the difference here.
Moral of the Story
While most folks think workers comp is easy, it is not. Rather, serious injury cases are strongly defended. Furthermore, little facts and hard work can make a big difference in outcome. As a result, your workers compensation attorney must prepare every case for trial. Otherwise, you might get less benefits or even lose your case altogether. And one last point about this case. Serious injury cases can take years to finally end. Better make sure your workers comp lawyer is willing to go the distance and fight for you. After all, you are counting on them to do what is best for you and your family. If you hire us, we promise you our best efforts on your behalf. And that is a promise we keep.
While healing from a serious injury, the workers compensation insurance carrier may hire a nurse case manager to help. However, be aware that this person works for the insurance company.
Nurse Case Manager Role
Because most people think of nurses as being care givers, they think a nurse case manager is on their side. Certainly, most nurses are awesome caring individuals. And most clearly are just that. However, be aware that a nurse case manager works for the insurance company. Rather than take care of patients, they help coordinate treatment and procedures now. Although they are still there to help, their loyalty is to the company and not you. As a result, you must be careful about what you say to them. Furthermore, some NCM go beyond their role and try to direct medical care and treatment.
Private Medical Exam
Even though the workers comp insurance company is paying, you still have the right to private medical examinations. Consequently, you or your lawyer can demand the NCM stay outside during treatment. After the exam is over, the NCM can speak with the doctor. However, also keep in mind that whatever you say to the doctor and your medical records are not private. But you should be able to talk with the doctor outside the presence of the nurse case manager.
Improper NCM Actions
While helpful in coordinating care, some NCM will attempt to interfere with treatment. In fact, some will even try to tell doctors whether a procedure or test is really necessary. Also, they attempt to return a patient to light duty work too early. Because this is improper and outside of their role, we need to know about this behavior immediately. Rather the NCM should be replaced. If not, we will request a hearing before the SC Workers Compensation Commission. Since they are there to help, we want to work with them whenever we can. However, our main focus is always on you and getting you back on your feet.
Rock Hill / Fort Mill / Indian Land Workers Comp Lawyer
While there are many attorneys in York County, there are relatively few lawyers that focus their practices on workers’ compensation here in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, or Indian Land. Before deciding which law firm to hire, it is critically important to carefully compare actual credentials and experience in the area of law. We invite you to consider the firm of Reeves Aiken Hightower & Burns LLP and our workers comp lawyer Robert J. Reeves. Mr. Reeves has over 25 years workers compensation experience. He is a former Registered Nurse (RN) who understands complex injury cases. He is also a former workers compensation insurance defense attorney who knows how carriers value cases and what defenses to prepare against. We maintain offices in Baxter Village which serves our clients in Fort Mill and Indian Land. We also have an office in Rock Hill to meet with clients there by appointment.
Before choosing a workers comp lawyer here in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, or Indian Land, we believe you should expect certain qualifications from any lawyer you are considering. If they do not have these credentials, we respectfully suggest you look at hiring another firm. The following list below is what we term the Workers’ Compensation Client’s Bill of Rights:
1. You have the right to expect that your workers comp lawyer has actually read Title 42. If they don’t know what Title 42 is, move on.
2. You have the right to expect that your lawyer has actually tried cases before the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. Hopefully, at a minimum, they have tried at least 50 cases tried to completion. If not, you should keep looking.
3. You should expect your workers comp lawyer to have argued appeals before the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Full Commission. Being able to debate workers’ compensation law makes your attorney better able to prepare cases for hearing when they can anticipate insurance company defenses.
4. You have the right to expect your lawyer will actually meet with your personally to review your case and options. Too many “mill” law firms utilize “intake” persons or paralegals to meet with clients. This is unethical behavior and not respectful to their clients. If it is not worth the lawyer’s time, they are not worth your time.
5. You should expect your workers comp lawyer to read your medical records in full. The most valuable part of any workers compensation claim is the medical treatment. Money is secondary. Getting the best possible medical care and recovery is the most important aspect and should be your lawyer’s primary concern. Of course, it helps if your lawyer has any medical training or experience to know what they are actually reading. It is also important when it is necessary to take doctor’s depositions or send letters to establish necessary medical causation.
6. You have the right to have your lawyer actually return your phone calls or emails. Paralegals are great, and they do a fine job with most workers compensation claim tasks. However, they work for the lawyer. Your lawyer works for you. That’s why when you need to get answers, you should be able to speak with your lawyer. If they won’t return your calls, you need to call another lawyer.
7. You deserve a lawyer who will actually fight for you and your family. It is always easier to settle a case than to prepare and go to trial. However, that is not always the best course. If your lawyer seems more interested in settlement or argues with you about taking the “easy money,” you should consider hiring someone else. It is “always safer in harbor, but that’s not what fighting ships are built for.”
8. You should expect your workers comp lawyer to fully answer all of your questions and give you options in your case. If a lawyer cannot answer basic workers compensation questions, you can conclude that lawyer does not really know what they are doing. If they cannot clearly articulate options with pros and cons, you should keep looking for an experienced workers compensation attorney.
9. You have the right to expect your lawyer to belong to organizations that reflect their commitment to an area of practice. Mr. Reeves has been a member and proud supporter of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Educational Association since 1989. Workers’ compensation cases are different from regular negligence actions and have unique filing requirements and deadlines. Lawyers who only “dabble” in workers compensation cases often stumble through the process and make critical mistakes. Insurance defense firm lawyers limit their practice to workers compensation and do it everyday. Better make sure your workers comp lawyer knows what they are doing to balance the playing field.
10. You should demand your workers comp lawyer know and keep up with changes in the law. Somewhat surprisingly, there are regular appellate court decisions affecting workers compensation cases. Each month, there are several new opinions which further clarify and sometimes alter what is required in presenting workers compensation cases before the Commission. If critical evidence is not preserved or objections made, they are lost forever if the case is later appealed. Serious injury cases are vigorously defended and often result in an appeal to the Full Commission and sometimes further to a Circuit Court or even the South Carolina Supreme Court. Mr. Reeves has argued numerous Full Commission appeals during his 25 year career and is published in an appellate decision at the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
As you can see from the above list, you should have a number of basic expectations from the lawyer you choose to represent you in a South Carolina workers compensation case. As you consider your choices, we encourage you to take this Workers’ Compensation Client Bill of Rights with you as you interview different workers comp lawyers and ask them the “hard questions.” With these requirements in mind, you will quickly be able to separate those attorneys who know workers compensation law and those who are just “posers.” You know this is serious, and you need a serious workers comp lawyer to take care of you and your family. After you have met with others, give us a call before you decide. You can reach Mr. Reeves directly on his mobile phone 803-554-4157. Call him now for answers and options. You can also download our eBook for a basic overview of South Carolina workers’ compensation law and what to expect.
How Workers Compensation Commissioners Become Commissioners
In South Carolina, workers compensation Commissioners are appointed by the Governor for six (6) year terms. Usually, they are lawyers who have practiced workers compensation law but not always. Recently, Governor Nikki Haley appointed Mike Campbell as an Interim Commissioner until a permanent replacement can be made for outgoing Commissioner Andrea Roche who has resigned, effective July 31, 2014. Mr. Campbell is a business development consultant and former member of the board of directors for the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Small Business Committee. He is described by the Governor as having insights that will make him both “business friendly and fair.” Commissioner Campbell has similarly pledged a “better and fairer climate for employers and workers in our State.” Here in Rock Hill, we hope and trust that the new Commissioner will be both diligent and fair to both parties. Of course, as a Rock Hill workers compensation claimant’s attorney, I am reminded that South Carolina workers compensation laws were specifically enacted to protect our injured workers. Businesses will be fine if they take proper safeguards to protect their employees. If somone get hurt or injured, that is why we have workers compensation insurance.
As a Rock Hill workers compensation lawyer, I have worked with many different Commissioners over my 25 year career. While many lawyers profess a law degree is necessary, I found some of the Commission’s best former Commissioners were non-lawyers. Commissioners Thomas Marchant and David Huffstetler are great examples. Back when hearings were held in Rock Hill at the York County Complex, these former Commissioners were often instrumental in helping to resolve cases before an actual hearing by working with the parties to achieve a fair result for both sides. In more complex denied cases, lawyers were given ample opportunity to present their positions, and decisions, even if against a client’s interest, were well reasoned and factually based. Today, Rock Hill hearings are now scheduled at Rock Hill City Hall. Those few lawyers who regularly practice workers compensation law here in York County welcome the new Commissioner to Rock Hill and look forward to trying our cases before him. Cases heard in York County include on-the-job injury and work accidents which occur in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, and Indian Land. Injury cases from other counties are heard in those counties, and the seven (7) workers comp Commissioners rotate their venues throughout the year. It helps to learn the different Commissioners and their individual preferences on how they want written medical reports and other evidence presented as well as what areas of focus in testimony they need to be able to make rulings and decisions. Good luck Commissioner Campbell.