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How Long Does the Process Take For An Auto Accident Case?

January 9, 2018 6:04 pm

Being involved in an automobile accident is bad enough, but suffering a personal injury as a result is even worse. When you are injured through no fault of your own, you could face months or even years of lost wages and reduced income. At the same time, you could find your out of pocket expenses mounting, with medical bills piling up, copays and deductibles at every turn and the cost of prescription medication and over-the-counter pain remedies eating you out of house and home.

In the face of all those expenses and financial uncertainty, it is easy to see why so many accident victims are as concerned with the speed of their claim as they are with the settlement amount. It can be tempting to go for the quick payout following an accident or personal injury, especially when you are short on funds and wondering how to make ends meet. But before you sign away your rights for a fast payment, it is important to look at the big picture, and why a fair settlement beats a fast one every time.

How Long Should the Process Take?

It is a common question, and an understandable one for accident victims. Every victim of personal injury wonders how long their case will take to settle, and how they will survive financially in the meantime. If you are working with an experienced personal injury law firm, the attorneys there will work hard to settle your case, not only quickly but for the highest amount of money as well.

Since every personal injury case is unique, there is no one answer to the question of how long the claim will take to settle. Some cases are relatively simple and straightforward, as a result, they take only a short period of time to resolve. Once the two parties agree on the extent of the injuries and the amount of medical bills and property damage, the settlement itself is pretty simple. These cases are easy, and they can be surprisingly fast.

Other personal injury cases are far more complex, requiring countless hours of discovery, extensive document searches, and mountains of medical bills and paperwork to resolve. These cases can take much longer, but a good personal injury attorney will do everything in their power to move things along as quickly as possible.

Getting Clients the Settlements They Deserve

When you work with an experienced personal injury attorney, the attorney and the firm they represent will work hard to move your claim through the process and arrive at a fair settlement. Depending on the dollar amount of the settlement and the complexity of the issues, the amount of time needed can vary quite widely. While the law firm will do everything in their power to speed the claim, the process needs to move at its own pace if you are to receive a just and equitable settlement.

Complicated Cases

Some personal injury cases are more complicated and time consuming than others, and the presence of these complexities could increase the amount of time it takes to settle your case. If the injuries you suffered were extensive, it may take longer to settle your case, but you can rest assured your attorney will be working hard behind the scenes. Your personal injury lawyer will be spending time with the insurance company, negotiating a higher settlement and working out the legal complexities of your case.

Your personal injury case may also take longer to settle if the other driver is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Since there is a legal case involved, that case may need to be settled before your personal injury claim can go forward.

The Impact of the Insurance Company

Other things can slow down your personal injury case as well, including the refusal of the other party’s insurance company to offer a fair settlement for your injuries. Some insurance companies are experts at drawing things out, hoping that the passage of time will encourage injured parties to settle for a lower dollar amount.

In these cases, it is even more important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney. A good personal injury law firm will know how each insurance company operates, and their associates can take steps to overcome the roadblocks they erect along the way.

Do You Want a Fast Settlement or a Fair One?

When it comes to settling a personal injury claim, speed may be important, but the quality of the settlement is even more critical. In the end, it often boils down to a fast settlement versus a fair one.

If a fast settlement is your only goal, the insurance company will be only too happy to provide a lowball offer, but you should think twice before accepting it. If you settle too quickly or appear to anxious, you could be settling for a dollar amount that does not adequately compensate you for your medical bills, let alone your pain and suffering and lost wages.

If you want a fair settlement, one that provides just compensation for your injuries, you will need to be patient. If you are working with a quality personal injury attorney, they will have the expertise needed to craft a fair offer, and the knowledge needed to determine the fairness of any insurance company counteroffer.




Tips to Prevent Distracted Driving

Columbia Distracted Driving Car Accident Attorneys January 2, 2018 6:02 pm

A few decades ago, drunk driving was the biggest hazard on the road. Back then, the patrons at the local bar thought nothing of getting behind the wheel, even when they felt more than a little tipsy. To make matters worse, local law enforcement often looked the other way, simply telling the impaired driver to be careful on the way home.

Things have certainly changed in our responses to drunk driving, and these days, the impaired driver is more likely to be greeted by a pair of handcuffs than a friendly officer. The efforts of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have had a major impact, as has the availability of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

A New Threat for the New Century

While drunk driving deaths have been declining steadily over the past couple of decades, a new, and potentially even deadlier, threat has emerged to take its place. That threat is distracted driving, and distraction-related crashes have been rising fast, even as drunk driving accidents have been on the decline.

Unlike drunk driving, distracted driving does not require the presence of alcohol, and this dangerous problem can affect drivers of all ages and abilities. From the new driver hitting the road for the first time to the driver with decades of experience and hundreds of thousands of miles behind the wheel, no one is immune to the threat posed by distracted driving.

Even if you are not the one being driven to distraction, you could find yourself involved in a distracted driving crash. No matter what side of the equation you are on, it is important to understand the threat of distracted driving, and take some proactive steps to avoid it.

Never Text and Drive

Texting and driving just may be the worst distracted driving sin of all. No matter how adept you are at texting, sending even a short message means taking your eyes, and more importantly your brain, off the road.

You could travel the length of a football field while typing even a short message, and during that time, you might as well be driving blind. No text message is worth your life, so put your phone away until you are off the road.

Put Your Phone on Silent

The mere sound of a ringing cell phone can distract you from the task at hand, and the repeated sound can tempt you to reach for the device. If you want to avoid distracted driving, do yourself, and your passengers a favor.

Always silence your cell phone before you get behind the wheel. Placing your phone on silent will allow others to reach you in an emergency, without driving you to distraction.

Place Your Phone in the Glove Box

Your glove box can serve an important purpose even if you never put on a pair of gloves. If you are worried you may succumb to temptation while driving, take a minute to place your smartphone, and all other electronic devices, in the glove box.

It only takes a minute to retrieve your smartphone and other devices from the glove box when you reach your destination. There will be plenty of time to check your messages when you arrive, without putting your safety – and the safety of your fellow motorists – at risk.

Set Your Presets Before You Leave the Driveway

From your radio or music player to your GPS or navigational device, it is important to set your presets before you pull out of the driveway. Fiddling with the radio, searching for a song and entering your destination address can all prove distracting behind the wheel, but taking care of those things ahead of time will keep you safer.

Understand the Limitations of Hands-Free Technology

At first blush, using a hands-free headset may seem like the perfect solution to distracted driving, but even the best hands-free technology has its limitations. Using a hands-free headset may eliminate the need to reach for your smartphone on a busy highway, but the conversation itself can be very distracting.

It is important to pay close attention to your driving, even when using a hands-free device. If you find yourself in heavy traffic, bad weather or other challenging driving conditions, cut the call short and resume it once you are off the road.

Distracted driving is a real problem on the road, and the problem is expected to get worse before it gets better. Technology is getting better every year, and every new advance brings new apps, new games and new opportunities for distraction. If you want to protect yourself, your passengers and your fellow drivers, you need to avoid distracted driving at all costs – there will be plenty of time for email, phone calls and games once you have arrived safely at your destination.




What Qualifies as a Disability?

Calculating Your South Carolina Workers Compensation Benefits 2016 December 26, 2017 6:04 pm

Whether you are unable to work as the result of an accident or an illness, the results can be devastating. Being out of work means that there is no money coming in, putting a significant strain on your finances.

Even worse, the expenses associated with your illness or injury keep adding up, piling on and on even as your income plummets and you find it increasingly hard to make ends meet. In essence, finding yourself disabled and unable to work is a double whammy – dealing a deadly blow to your finances at a time when you need the money more than ever.

Disability Programs Can Ease the Pain

The government recognizes the significant burden disability places on workers. That is why there are a number of state level disability programs, as well as Social Security Disability on the federal level, designed to ease the fiscal pain and help injured and disabled workers get back on their feet – and back to work.

Unfortunately, taking advantage of those state and federal level disability programs is easier said than done, and the arcane rules, confusing eligibility requirements and other barriers can cause even the most severely disabled to give up in frustration.

What is a Disability?

In order to make the most of existing disability programs and get the financial relief you deserve, you first need to understand what constitutes a disability. The definition of disability may seem obvious, but it can be very complicated indeed.

If you expect to qualify for relief under the Social Security Disability (SSDI) program, you need to understand the criteria. In order for a given condition to qualify as a disability under SSDI, it must meet a specific five step test. The Social Security Administration uses this five step test to determine eligibility for disability benefits, so it is helpful to look at each part of the process separately.

Step 1 – Is the Claimant Working?

The work question is the first step in the eligibility determination process, and the easiest to understand. The staff at the Social Security Administration will first determine if the claimant is currently working, and how much money they are earning.

Individuals who have worked within the current year and earned an average of more than $1000 a month are typically not eligible for disability. According to the Social Security Administration, claimants who are currently working and earning $1000 or more monthly are not disabled.

Step 2 – Is the Condition Severe?

Severity may be in the eye of the sufferer, but the Social Security Administration uses some very specific criteria to determine if the disabling condition is severe. To the SSA, a severe disability is one that interferes with the most basic work activities, rendering the individual unable to do their job.

Those whose disabilities are deemed severe by the Social Security Administration can move on to the next step in the process. Those who fail the SSA severity test will typically be denied disability benefits.

Step 3 – Is it a Disabling Condition as Defined by the SSA?

The Social Security Administration maintains an extensive list of disabling conditions, and its claims administrators compare the applicant’s situation to that list. The list of disabling conditions maintained by the Social Security Administration includes a wide range of major medical conditions so severe that they will automatically qualify the claimant for disability benefits.

If the claimant’s condition is not included on the standard list of disabling conditions, the staff at the Social Security Administration will decide whether the situation is as severe as a condition that is on the list.

Step 4 – Can the Applicant Perform Their Previous Work Duties?

In determining eligibility for SSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration sill look at whether or not the applicant is able to perform their previous work duties. This determination will be made if the SSA has previously determined that the condition is severe, but not as severe as other conditions on the approved list.

If the Social Security Administration determines that the applicant is able to perform their job duties, and that their disability does not interfere with those duties, the agency will typically deny the claim. In that case, the applicant would be ineligible for benefits under the SSDI program.

Step 5 – Can the Applicant Perform Any Other Kind of Work?

If it is determined that the applicant is not able to perform their previous work-related duties, the Social Security Administration will next look at whether or not the claimant can perform any other kind of work. In making their determination, the agency will consider a number of factors,. Including the age of the applicant, any current medical conditions, level of education and past work experience. The individual making the determination will also look at transferrable skills that could allow the applicant to find meaningful employment, even if he or she is not able to perform their previous job function.

If it is determined that the individual is not able to reasonably adjust to any kind of work, the disability claim will typically be approved. If the applicant is able to perform other kinds of work, the claim will probably be denied.

If you find yourself disabled and unable to work, it is important to contact an experienced SSDI attorney as soon as possible. The process of applying for SSDI benefits can be complicated, and having the assistance of an experienced attorney can help you navigate the system and get the benefits to which you are entitled.




Everything you need to know about boating accidents in South Carolina

December 18, 2017 6:02 pm

How many of us love to go fishing with family and friends on Lake Murry, Lake Marion, Lake Wateree and the many other beautiful lakes in South Carolina? However, no one embarks on these fun fishing trips thinking something may happen that turns their trip into a tragedy. Unfortunately, boating accidents do occur, usually because the operator of a boat is negligent, intoxicated or disregarding speed and safety laws.

According to boating statistics compiled by the United States Coast Guard, South Carolina ranks #7 in the country for boating and lake-based accidents, just behind Florida, Texas, California and other states popular among tourists. Although the majority of lake accidents involve fishing and recreational boats, jet skis and other personal watercraft account for two out of every 10 water accidents in South Carolina.

Who Can Drive a Boat in South Carolina Legally?

You must be at least 16 years old to operate PWCs or boats without restrictions in South Carolina. However, teenagers under 16 years old can operate PWCs and boats powered with less than a 15 hp motor or powered by a 15+ hp motor if they are accompanied by someone older than 18 years old and have passed an approved boating safety course. In South Carolina, it is illegal for an adult to allow children they are temporarily or permanently responsible for to operate a PWC or boat.

Why Do Boating Accidents Happen?

Alcohol

The top reason fatal boating accidents occur involves alcohol. If the person operating a boat or other watercraft on South Carolina lakes is found to be intoxicated at the time of an accident, they could receive the same penalties given to people operating road-based vehicles. Although no laws exist in South Carolina that prohibits boaters from having open alcohol containers on their boats, this doesn’t mean it is legal for a boat’s operator to be drunk while driving the boat.

In South Carolina, penalties for operating a boat under the influence of alcohol includes fines up to $6000, imprisonment for three years and revocation/suspension of a boating license. In addition, boat operators convicted of OUI (operating under the influence) may be required to complete an Alcohol/Drug Safety Action and boating safety course at their expense. Felony boating under the influence carries a penalty of a possible $25,000 fine and 25 years imprisonment.

Operator Negligence, Inattention and/or Inexperience

These accident-prone situations typically occur when a boat is loaded with people partying and having a good time. Allowing someone who has never operated a boat get behind the wheel is just asking for a boating accident disaster. Remaining attentive and cognizant of your surroundings is essential for preventing injury or death while enjoying an afternoon on the water.

Not Maintaining Safe Speeds

Excessive speed is the main reason boaters strike other vessels or capsize. Speed limits for boats are based on the size of the body of water, although experienced boaters will use their own discretion in determining how safe it is to actually go as fast as the speed limit allows.
Operating Mechanically Unsafe Boats

Machinery failure involving the engine, steering components and structural integrity is another leading cause of boat accidents. Just like cars, boats also need regular maintenance to ensure they are not a danger to passengers or other boaters.

Dangerous Waters/ Wake or Wave Forces

When inclement weather or other water vessels produce large wakes or waves, the operator of a boat should have the knowledge and experience to navigate safely over hazardous waters. Shallow water, powerful currents and rocky lake bottoms are additional reasons for unexpected boating accidents.

What To Do If You are the Victim of Another Boater’s Negligence

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources expects vessel operators to report boating accidents to the SCDNR if the accident results in loss of consciousness, loss of life, disability or requesting emergency medical treatment. Calling law enforcement to the scene of the boating accident will also give victims access to police statements to corrobate evidence that the accident was not their fault and was the fault of another boater.
Personal injury attorneys specializing in boating accident claims also advise those injured in boating accidents through no fault of their own try to get insurance and contact information from the at-fault boater as well as their boat’s hull ID number and boat name. If possible, take video or photos of all boats involved in the accident to support claims brought forth by your lawyer.

As soon as possible following a boating accident, contact a South Carolina boating accident lawyer who can immediately take over your case and provide you with the specific kind of legal support essential for receiving compensation for injuries sustained by a boating accident. If a death occurred due to the accident, your attorney can also help you file for wrongful death against the at-fault boat operator.




What is PIP Insurance and Do I Need It?

December 11, 2017 5:52 pm

No matter what its type or coverage level, insurance is designed to shield people from risk. Business owners carry liability insurance to protect themselves and their personal assets from unforeseen circumstances and lawsuit-happy customers. Drivers buy car insurance to protect themselves in the event of an accident. Homeowners and renters invest in insurance to protect their property and residences from the risk of fire, flood and natural disasters. Workers carry health insurance to protect themselves from the devastating costs of a lengthy hospital stay or serious illness.

All of those types of insurance coverage have their place, but there is another important kind of coverage to consider. That coverage is PIP insurance, and it is important to understand how it works, whether or not you need it, and how it may affect your other insurance rates.

What is PIP Insurance?

The PIP in PIP insurance stands for personal injury protection. You may also hear this kind of coverage referred to as Med Pay, and it is an option when purchasing automobile insurance.

If you choose to purchase PIP insurance and file a claim, the policy will pay money in compensation for any out of pocket medical expenses you may incur. This can be an important benefit, especially if you have a high deductible health insurance policy. Typical PIP coverages range from $1,000 to $10,000.

Other Advantages of PIP Insurance

In addition to payment of out of pocket medical costs like copayments, deductibles and prescription medications, some PIP insurance policies also provide coverage for lost wages. Once again, that can be an important benefit, especially if the aftermath of an auto accident causes you to take time off for medical appointments and physical therapy treatments.

The amount of lost wages you can recover will be determined by the limitations of the policy, so read the fine print carefully and know exactly what you are entitled to. If you feel you need more protection against lost wages, you can always increase the limits of your PIP policy.

Will Adding PIP Coverage Cause My Rates to Go Up?

Many drivers forgo the protection and benefits of PIP insurance because they fear buying such coverage will cause their rates to go up. There are a lot of misconceptions about PIP insurance and premium rates, so it is important to get the truth.

Adding PIP insurance will not cause your car insurance rates to skyrocket, so you can put your mind at ease. As a matter of fact, PIP is one of the best values for insurance money can buy. It’s inexpensive, and easy to make a claim. You should not let worries about higher premiums stop you from getting the protection only PIP insurance can provide.

Help for Injured Clients

If you have been injured in an auto accident, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Even if you do not think your injuries are severe enough to warrant a lawsuit, it can take time for the pain to become apparent. If you fail to protect yourself, you could miss out on important benefits, and you may not be able to pursue a case later on.

Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can also increase the value of your PIP insurance. In many cases, your attorney can help you get the money you need right away, without waiting for your case to settle. Those advance payments can give you the funds you need to speed your recovery, continue your medical care and get back on your feet following the accident.

The legal team you are working with can also help you get the PIP coverage you need, so you will be properly protected against future industries. Many drivers do not understand the value of PIP insurance or how it works, but experienced personal injuries know the ins and outs of this special type of coverage.

Being involved in an accident is a disconcerting and scary experience, but what you do next can make all the difference. If you had the foresight to invest in PIP insurance in advance of your current injury, you can rest assured that your out of pocket medical costs, from copayments to deductibles to prescription and over-the-counter medications, will be taken care of. If you are working with a personal injury attorney to pursue a claim, you could even get advance payments on your PIP coverage, making your recovery that much easier.

If you are in the market for car insurance and your agent asks you about PIP coverage, be sure to weigh the pros and cons and make the appropriate decision. If you have a high deductible health insurance policy or have a limited ability to pay out of pocket medical costs, adding PIP coverage can give you peace of mind and protect you from unexpected expenses down the road.




Erb’s Palsy in Newborns – What Every Parent Needs to Know

December 4, 2017 6:02 pm

Your life is filled with wonder as you get ready to welcome a new bundle of joy into the world. You have decorated the nursery, pored over books full of baby names and baby-proofed your entire home in anticipation of the new arrival.

With all the details taken care of, you place your life, and the life of your newborn baby, in the hands of your caring doctor and the experienced medical staff that will soon spring into action. You trust that the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel have the best training and experience, and that they will use good judgment and common sense when delivering your new son or daughter.

In most cases, that trust will be entirely justified, and the birthing process will go off without a hitch. Before you know it, the endless labor will be over, and you will be happily holding your new baby.

The Danger of Erb’s Palsy

While the vast majority of births go off without a hitch, in a small percentage of cases, something goes wrong during the birth process, resulting in serious injury and long-lasting damage to the newborn. The overall percentages may be small, but when it happens to you and your family, the results can be devastating, and nothing will ever be the same again.

One of the most potentially devastating birth injuries is a condition known as Erb’s Palsy, and it is important for affected parents to understand what causes it, and what they can do about it going forward.

Erb’s Palsy is one of a number of palsies that are grouped together as brachial plexus paralysis. Erb’s Palsy happens when the cervical nerves (C5, C6 and C7) are damaged during the birth of the baby. While the damage associated with Erb’s Palsy happens most often in breech births, it can also occur during normal deliveries.

Erb’s Palsy is also closely associated with prolonged labor and shoulder systocia, and it is more likely to happen when delivering babies that are unusually large. Other difficulties during delivery can also make Erb’s Palsy more likely, especially if the doctor chooses to use forceps to remove the newborn.

Nerves can also be damaged when the doctor moves the baby’s head from side to side during the delivery process. This procedure can ease the newborn’s passage through the birth canal, but it is also likely to damage the delicate nerves in the child’s head.

No matter what its origins, Erb’s Palsy can have a significant and long lasting impact on the affected child, and on his or her entire family. Depending on the amount of damage and the individual circumstances, the damage done at birth can result in either partial or total paralysis in the affected limb. In many cases, the child’s arm may not attain its normal size, resulting in a lifetime of disfigurement. Even worse, the circulation in the affected arm is often diminished, creating a number of vascular problems over the years and even increasing the danger of frostbite and hypothermia in freezing temperatures.

Some children will lose all sensation in the limb affected by Erb’s Palsy, and that lack of feeling can put their future health at greater risk. Depending on the severity of the condition, the affected individual can suffer from a reduction in muscle tissue in the affected arm, diminished sensations, poor circulation and a host of other problems. The affected arm may also be slower to heal and more prone to infection, making simple childhood injuries very dangerous.

It is possible for infants damaged at birth to recover from the effects of Erb’s Palsy, but the extent of the recovery depends on a number of external factors. Those factors include the speed of therapeutic or surgical intervention, the skill of the physical therapy team and the amount of time it takes to diagnose the condition.

The heartbreak associated with Erb’s Palsy is all the worse because the condition is often preventable. While some cases of Erb’s Palsy are unavoidable, caused by the position of the child in the womb and its movement through the birth canal, other cases are entirely preventable.

Preventable cases of Erb’s Palsy run the gamut, from doctors who are too quick to use forceps during delivery to mistakes that cause the nerves to be compressed for long periods of time. These cases could have been prevented, and the heartbreak suffered by their parents and other family members could easily have been avoided.

If your child is suffering from the affects of Erb’s Palsy, it is important to get a firm medical diagnosis and find out exactly what went wrong. Was the condition an unavoidable accident, or a preventable problem that could have been avoided with better training and medical care. Until you do your research, and contact an experienced attorney, you may never know what caused the Erb’s Palsy in your beloved child.

Living with Erb’s Palsy can be painful and debilitating, and the long lasting nerve and tissue damage can restrict the individual’s ability to work and live a normal life. The lifelong medical expenses can be just as devastating, leading to decades of deprivation and further heartbreak on the part of the parents. If your child was the victim of an avoidable injury during the birth process, it is important to seek legal help and guidance as soon as possible. By working with an experienced attorney, you could get a financial settlement that will help you care for your child – and eventually help your child care for themselves.




Changing the Lives of Children in Ghana, Africa

July 26, 2017 3:53 pm

Changing the Lives of Children in Ghana, Africa

By Geoff Coston

Director of Marketing & Technology

McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates, P.A.

In early 2015 I was approached by my brother-in-law, Jim Arant, to work with the churches of the Orangeburg District of the United Methodist Church to build a school library and technology center in the small village of Abesewa in Ghana, Africa.  Not knowing what I was getting into, I said, “sure! I’ll be happy to help!”  We held several meetings throughout the year and Coordinated with the Methodist Church of Ghana to begin construction in mid-2015. 

In December of 2015, Jim and I flew to Ghana (a 24-hour trip) to visit the village of Abesewa and check on the construction of the center and gather information about the area, the students and their specific needs for the center. 

Like most Americans, I knew very little about life in Ghana.  My visit was a mix of emotions to see the living conditions of most people and yet seem to persevere.  The Ghanaians are a generally friendly and happy people and we were welcomed wherever we went. 

The village of Abesewa is just about in the middle of Ghana and is home to about 2,000.  There was no running water, the toilets were outdoor latrines, but, there was electricity – which is key to a computer classroom. 

The school teaches children from Abesewa and the surrounding area from the first through the eighth grades.  There are no school buses in this area, so children must walk to school, sometimes up to seven miles. 

In order to go to high school, the children must complete a comprehensive exam on several subject matters.  One of the subjects is computers.  Virtually none of the schools in Ghana have computers in the school, so teachers can only teach computers in theory.  Keyboarding is taught by the students drawing a picture of a keyboard on a piece of paper.  The concept of using a mouse is taught by the student using a rock as a mouse.  As you can imagine, many of the students cannot pass the computer section of the exam since they have never seen or touched a computer in their lives.

Students who cannot pass the entrance exam to high school will see their education come to an end at the eighth grade.  For most of these students, their prospect for life is dismal.  They are destined to become low-skilled laborers or street peddlers who make just pennies a day.  The struggles for food, water and shelter are a daily battle.

The primary goal of our project in Ghana is to provide the schoolchildren of one of the poorest villages the opportunity to overcome the educational roadblock of the computer section of the high-school entrance exam.  Our broader goal is to provide the community with a library and educational resources to enhance their knowledge of agriculture, health and general knowledge of the world so they all might rise above their current situation.

The churches of the Orangeburg District of the United Methodist Church bonded together to raise the needed funds to build the building, acquire the furniture, buy the computer equipment.  They raised a little over $100,000 and that was enough to build a beautiful 4500 square-foot building with a library, computer classroom, offices and real bathrooms (the only ones in the village).  There was enough money left over to purchase 50 computers along with printers, network equipment and two large screens for the classroom.  Donations of tables, chairs and library shelving poured in and would be enough to fill the offices, classroom and library.

In March of this year, four of us (Rev. Jim Arant, Rev. Charlie Chamblee, Rev. Bobby Gordon and me) flew to Ghana to install the furniture and equipment.  This amazing two-week trip was truly life changing – for the people of Abesewa and us. 

We stayed in the city of Sunyani at the Bishop’s guest house and commuted an hour every morning to Abesewa where we worked until dark.  Workers continued to put the finishing touches on the building while we installed computer equipment and furniture.  Every day during lunch and after school, we would see the faces of children at the windows excited to see their new technology center and library.  It was truly a village effort to complete the center.

With the construction complete and the furniture and computers installed, there was a huge celebration where government dignitaries, clergy and local village chiefs attended with about 2,000 villagers and school children.  There were speeches, singing, skits and a huge dance party to celebrate this state-of-the-art facility that is the key to a new future for the villagers of Abesewa.  It was a wonderful experience for all.

Here is my daily journal from Facebook…

March 28, 2017

Yesterday I encountered my first challenge on our trip. Our travel agent misspelled my name, so my ticket didn’t match my passport. I spent much of the day trying to get this worked out, but eventually had to re-book my flight for today. The rest of our team arrived in Ghana, safe and sound and are driving to Sunyani to the Bishop’s house.
So, I’m at the Columbia, SC airport waiting for my flight to Reagan International in Washington, DC, where I will ride across town to Dulles Airport to catch my plane to Ghana at 5:40 this afternoon (South African Airlines, Flight 210, if you want to track me across the ocean). TSA twice in one day!
I will arrive in Ghana at 8:00 AM tomorrow morning where I will meet our host, Mary Kay Jackson. We will fly to Kumasi, Ghana, then drive to Abesewa where we will meet up with our group tomorrow afternoon.
I’ll post a few interesting facts about Ghana, today, as I try to ease the boredom of airports. To learn more about our mission, visit www.umcscinghana.org.

March 28, 2017 – Part 2

I made it to Washington, DC and am about an hour away from boarding my flight to Ghana.

Did you know that in Ghana, children must pass a comprehensive test to graduate from Junior High School to High School. If you can’t pass the test, your education stops. Part of that test is a section on computers. In the village of Abesewa, they teach computers without computers. Needless to say, the failure rate is quite high. When we are finished with our mission next week, we will remove this obstacle with a classroom of over 40 computers.

My next post will be from Ghana! Time to board!

March 29, 2017

After 26 or so hours of travel, I finally caught up with the rest of the team in Abesewa. The technology center (ICT Center) is getting its finishing touches and we begin wiring and installing the computers tomorrow! The center looks great, and we are all very excited to see it come together at last. Geoff

March 30, 2017

Today, in Ghana, Africa – We met the Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana, Most Rt. Rev Titus A. Pratt and his wife. Next, we stopped at the mobile phone store so Bobby and Danny could update their phones, Ghana style.

After that, it was on to the Technology Center where we finalized the classroom arrangement and prepared the tables for computers. Danny and the electrician worked on the wiring for the classroom. Jim and Bobby worked with the helpers in preparing the tables. I went over the plans for the computers with the ITC staff and I teamed them on how to put connectors on Ethernet cables.

It’s about 6:20 here and we are headed back to Sunyani for dinner. Another very productive day. Da yie! (Goodnight in Twi – a local language)

  

March 31, 2017

Day Four in Ghana – We started our day with a traditional Ghanaian breakfast of oatmeal, butter bread, and fruit – pineapple, papaya, banana (incredible, sweet, tasty banana – unlike anything you will find at your grocer in the U.S.).

After breakfast, a quick stop at the stationary store to pick up a case of paper. Then, it’s on to Abesewa to work on the technology center. In the morning, we worked on the conduits for the electrical and network wiring.

Around lunch, Mary Kay Jackson and I went shopping in the village of Bechem for a few needed items. This is a real challenge here, as you must go to several shops to find simple things, like screws, batteries and cell phone charging cables. No Walmart’s here!

For lunch, we had a meal of deep-fried chicken (not KFC) and Joloof (spicy rice with bits of fish, chicken and whatever else they have to throw in the dish (it was good to me, I don’t want to know the details).

After lunch, it was back to work. More electrical and network wiring. Daniel completed the wiring of the power converter and conditioner. This is a big deal since all of the computers will run off 110 power in a 220 country – WooHoo!

We finished our day and are on the road for our hour-long ride back to the Bishop’s house – our lodging for most of our stay. Da yie! Geoff

  

April 1, 2017

Day Five in Ghana – Once we arrived at the Technology Center, it was right to work. The children in the village came to help, so they went to work right along side of us. We ran about 1800 feet of network cable and we nearly have the electricity complete – through some amazing ingenuity and creative thinking from Danny, Bobby & Jim.

Later in the day, we rewarded the children for helping with cookies and Ghana flags. They were very excited for this special treat.

Between our tasks, we took some time to talk with the kids and get to know our Ghanaian co-workers (who can work circles around us). Mary Kay Jackson has been our saving grace in so many ways – from translating the local dialect, to running errands, to being our guide and host, and to help us think through issues when we are too hot and too tired to think. Thanks to Mary Kay, and all of our Ghanaian brothers!

Tomorrow, after church, we will be installing the first of the computers. It’s been a long time coming, so we are all very excited to get to this point.

Da yie!

  

April 2, 2017

Sunday Morning – Ma Chee (Good Morning)! Today we attended church at Wesley Methodist Cathedral Church where we heard Presiding Bishop Awotwi Pratt (the highest ranking Methodist official in Ghana) deliver a sermon on God breathing new life into dry bones.

The service lasted three hours and was very moving. There was a lot of activity and song, so the time just flew by. The Children’s Choir sang The Glory of the Lord will be Revealed from Handel’s Messiah – it was truly incredible!

During one of the offerings (there were five – most are small amounts) you put your money in a container bearing the day of the week you are born. In Ghana, the day of the week you were born is part of your name. Monday is Kojo (male) and Adjua (female). Tuesday is Kwabina (M) and Abina (F). Wednesday is Kwaku (M) and Aquia (F). Thursday is Yow (M) and Yaa (F). Friday is Kofi (M) and Afia (F). Saturday is Kwami (M) and Ama (F). Sunday is Kwasi (M) and Akosua (F). (Spellings are phonetic)

We are heading back to Abesewa to do a little more work on the Technology Center, carrying the grace and inspiration we received this morning with us.

Thanks for all the amazing comments, but, remember, the glory is God’s and we are merely vessels.

Nyame n shi rah woe (God Bless You)!

Kofi Geoff

April 2, 2017 – Part 2

Day 6 in Ghana – We had an abbreviated day at the Technology Center, since it is Sunday. The network cabling has been completed and the electrical work (a difficult challenge) is just about ready to be delivered to the computers.

We set up our first two student computers and mounted the teacher’s 55″ classroom displays! These little victories are very uplifting! Just three more days until the dedication!

We had several visitors today. First, the man who conceived the idea of the Technology Center in the town where he grew up, Martin Bioh, stopped by and dropped off several computers donated by the former First Lady of Ghana, Lordina Mahama. Next, the Presiding Bishop stopped by on his way back to Accra, the Capital, to view our progress. Finally, the town elders of Abesewa came to the center to meet us. We all got together for a group photo.

On the way back to Sunyani, we stopped at a roadside garden restaurant to have a pear-flavored soda and some grilled & peppered chicken gizzards – yum.

Lots more work to do tomorrow! Da yie!

Geoff

  

April 3, 2017

Day 7 in Ghana – what a difference a day makes. Thanks to some awesome Ghanaian help, we have all of the computers in the classroom set up, and the power complete to a lot of them!

We are using a stick PC, which is a small PC plugged directly into the monitor. The computer uses an energy-saving Intel processor with 2 Gigabytes of RAM, 32 Gigabytes of internal storage, a 128 Gigabyte SD card, a 22″ LED monitor, keyboard, mouse & headphones. They are all networked together and to a Raspberry Pi server with a 1 Terabyte Solid-State Drive as well as a shared 1 Terabyte drive for Additional classroom storage. They are running Windows 10, Office and loads of educational software.

Security is always a concern, whether you are in Ghana or the US. We have tied down all of equipment with security cables and padlocks. In addition, we have a night watchman who stays at the center overnight.

There are still some finishing touches to be completed. They were pouring concrete for the back steps today – this is very hard work in Ghana. They first collect large rocks from around the area and then mix concrete the concrete with water from a well on the ground. The mixed concrete is then carried to the forms for the steps in a huge bowl. The laborers are residents of Abesewa, so this is truly a village effort.

We are very excited about the progress today and are looking forward to the dedication on Wednesday.

Da yie! (Good night)

Kofi (Friday-born) Geoff

  

April 4, 2017

Day 8 in Ghana – The dedication of the Information & Communication Technology Center (ICT) is set for tomorrow morning. The final touches were being applied today. Painters, carpenters, cleaners and others were hard at work to get the center ready.

All of the computers are in and the electrical wiring is complete. The library space is complete and the shelves are ready to be filled with books. Tomorrow, the lives of those in the village of Abesewa and the surrounding area will be changed forever.

It’s been an amazing and fulfilling journey to get to this point. Let the celebrations begin!

  

April 5, 2017

Day 9 in Ghana – DEDICATION DAY! – Words cannot describe the celebration we experienced today. Most of the village came out to celebrate the dedication and opening of the ICT (Technology) center. There were chiefs from surrounding villages, representatives from departments of education, and political figures along with hundreds of villagers and schoolchildren.

It was an amazing event we will never forget. The center was decorated with the colors of the flag of Ghana. There were tents, and music, songs and dramas by the schoolchildren, speeches by officials and many, many thanks to everyone who contributed to and participated in this project.

It was a wonderful day! More to come later.

  

April 6, 2017

Day 10 in Ghana – After the incredible day of celebration and dedication, today was a “clean up the loose ends” kind of day. Jim Arant and Mary Kay Jackson went to a local Methodist meeting, while Bobby and I went back to Abesewa. Before we got on the road, we did a little shopping for blue paint (had to go to 5 paint stores to find blue) and a couple of soccer balls and a pump.

Upon arriving in Abesewa, Bobby and I gave the soccer balls to the school Headmaster for the kids. Soccer is HUGE here, and the kids play continuously when not in school or doing chores. Bobby toured the village and handed out about 500 t-shirts to needy families. I worked with the IT staff to get the computers ready for classes and finished training.

We said our goodbyes to the staff, leaving the Center in their capable hands.

 

 




The 100 Deadliest Days for Teen Drivers

July 21, 2017 1:39 am

The time period from Memorial Weekend to Labor Day Weekend is often labeled as the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers. Most teens are on summer vacation during this time period and spend more time on the road.

Recent research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that 16-17-year-old drivers are three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash. During the summer months, fatal teen crashes increase 15% compared to the rest of the year, and deadly teen crashes have increased 10% from last year.

Common factors that contribute to fatalities in teen accidents include:

  • Failure to wear a seatbelt
  • Distracted driving – including smartphone use
  • Speeding

As a parent, you can help educate your teen about the dangers of risky behaviors behind the wheel and the responsibilities that come with driving. You can also model the behavior you want your children to engage in, such as putting down the phone while you drive and staying under posted speed limits.

If you have been injured in an accident with a teen driver, please call McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates, P.A., today at 888-353-5513 for your free case consultation. We help accident victims recover the compensation they need.

Our offices are conveniently located for our clients in Aiken, Camden, Columbia, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, and Sumter, South Carolina.




Common Injuries that Occur at Birth

July 14, 2017 6:26 pm

The birth of a baby should be a time of joy, but for too many parents, what should be a joyous occasion is filled with grief. From congenital birth defects to avoiding injuries, newborn babies can suffer from a wide range of life-threatening problems, turning what should be the happiest day of their parents’ lives into a time of mourning.

While there is not much parents can do about inherited birth defects, injuries that occur during the birthing process are another matter entirely. While parents can have their fetuses screened for common conditions and follow common sense precautions, the burden of preventing injuries that occur at birth lies entirely with the doctor and the rest of the medical team.

Know Your Rights and Protect Your Child

If you feel that your own family has been touched by a preventable injury – one that took place during the birth of your child, it is important to educate yourself and know your rights. Some in the medical community will try to pass off birthing injuries as congenital birth defects, or as inheritable conditions that had nothing to do with the doctor or the rest of the staff. Only by educating yourself and learning the facts can you respond – and get the financial settlement you will need to take care of your injured son or daughter.

There are a number of medical conditions that can be caused by the physicians assisting in the birth. While most doctors are caring and conscientious, a small handful are not as careful as they should be. It is the victims of these individuals that suffer the most, and it is up to affected parents to seek the justice they, and their defenseless babies, deserve. Here are some of the injuries that can occur as part of the birthing process.

Brachial Plexus Palsy – This condition is caused when the bundle of nerves near the baby’s shoulder are compressed. This typically takes place when the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged in the mother’s birth canal.

Some of the earliest signs of brachial plexus palsy include arm weakness on one side of the body, paralysis of the diaphragm and paralysis of the eye. This condition is most common in births aided by vacuum or forceps, although it can occur during normal births as well.

Erb’s Palsy – Erb’s Palsy is typified by absence of the so-called Moro reflex, the normal movement of the arm or hand. Other symptoms include a weak or absent grip on one side, and in some cases brain damage is also present. In most cases, Erb’s Palsy affects the upper arm.

Klumpke Paralysis – This form of paralysis is signaled by weakness in the baby’s hand, and the affected newborns will not possess a normal grasp reflex. Parents may also notice that the baby’s eyelid droops on one side.

While Klumpke Paralysis sometimes resolves on its own, in other cases the damage is more permanent. If the condition does not get better on its own, the affected newborn could suffer from brain damage and learning difficulties throughout their life.

Brain Damage

There are a number of birth injuries that can cause brain damage in newborns, starting with asphyxia neonatorum. This is caused by decreased oxygen levels in the baby’s bloodstream, and it happens when the newborn fails to breathe at birth.

This condition can be associated with a crimped umbilical cord, and the resulting loss of oxygen can result in brain damage and even death.

Kernicterus is another form of brain damage that can take place at birth. This condition often presents as jaundice in the newborn, and the movement of high bilirubin levels into the brain. Affected newborns can suffer from cerebral palsy or even death if not treated promptly.

Perinatal stroke is another birth injury that can result in brain damage. This happens when the baby suffers a stroke either during or immediately after the birthing process, and it results in a lack of normal movement and a disruption in normal muscle tone.

Other Birth Injuries

There are a number of other injuries that can occur during the birth of a baby. Whether caused by improper medical care, a lack of training or a simple accident, these conditions can be devastating, or even deadly, to the newborn.

During breech deliveries, the baby may suffer from fractured bones, creating a painful condition that can linger for months or even years. Broken collarbones and fractures to the arms and legs are the most common examples of this birth injury.

Babies can also suffer skin damage and subsequent problems, especially when forceps are used to aid the delivery. These skin problems range from minor bruising that goes away on its own to major hematomas and even paralysis of the muscles surrounding the throat, mouth and salivary glands.

Welcoming a new baby into the world should be a joyous occasion, and for the vast majority of parents, it is. Most newborns suffer no ill effects as a result of the birthing process, but a small number encounter devastating injuries that can impact their quality of life, and the quality of life of their parents, for the rest of their lives. If you feel your child has been the victim of a birth injury, it is important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The attorney you hire can gather the evidence, build your case and get you the financial consideration you need to care for your injured child.

 




How to Avoid an Accident During Holiday Road Trips

July 11, 2017 1:48 am

There is nothing like the excitement of a holiday road trip. Whether you are heading off to Grandma’s house for a delicious holiday feast or just getting away from work for a few days, embarking on a family road trip is a great way to bond with your loved ones and share the fun of the open road.

As the day of the long awaited holiday road trip nears, you are filled with anticipation, planning your daily activities, calling your loved ones on the other end and getting ready to have a great time. But in with all that fun and anticipation, it is important to pack safety.

Driving in unfamiliar surroundings, fatigue from long hours on the road and the ever present threat of bad weather can really take their toll. If you want to arrive at your destination safely, you need to plan ahead and think about ways to prevent accidents.

Planning a Safe and Enjoyable Holiday Road Trip

If you want your next holiday road trip to be a safe one, you need to take some proactive steps. Safety does not happen by accident, and the steps you take now could prevent a lot of heartache later.

You do not have to spend a fortune, or even a lot of time, on your pre-trip safety checklist. With a few common sense precautions and some proper planning, you can enjoy a safe holiday road trip you, and your family, will remember for a lifetime.

Have Your Vehicle Inspected and Serviced

Your once a year vehicle inspection is not enough to protect you during a holiday road trip. Even if your mechanic blessed your car at the last inspection, it is important to have it rechecked before you leave for your holiday road trip.

Ask your mechanic to check the belts and hoses, top off the fluids and make sure your tires have enough tread to make the journey. Top off the service with a new set of wiper blades, an essential safety tool in a summer thunderstorm or winter snowfall.

Know Where You Are Going

Before you leave the driveway for your holiday road trip, make sure you know where you are going and how long it should take to get there. Check the road conditions along the way, and plan for unexpected delays due to inclement weather and road construction.

You can find information about road conditions and weather forecasts right on your smartphone – just download the apps before you leave home and make sure you know how to use them. Technology can help you stay safe behind the wheel, so take advantage of it.

Map Out Your Route

Even if you know where you are going and how you plan to get there, it is important to map out your daily driving. Take a look at the total mileage, think about how long you can safely drive each day and plan your route accordingly.

It is better to spend a little longer on the road by driving safely than to hurry and possibly get into an accident. You want to arrive at your holiday destination rested and ready to go, not too exhausted to have a good time.

Avoid Nighttime Driving if Possible

Driving in unfamiliar territory can be dangerous even in daylight, but it becomes even riskier after dark. If possible, plan your route to avoid nighttime driving, and driving at dawn and dusk, when changes in light can create glare and dangerous driving conditions.

If you must drive at night, be sure you are well rested. Schedule your last pit stop before the nighttime leg of your journey, and stock up on coffee and other caffeinated beverages to keep you awake and alert. If you do feel tired or fatigued, pull over to the side of the road or find a hotel for the night.

Plan for Regular Rest Breaks

No matter how much you love to drive, all those miles on the road can leave you feeling sore and fatigued. That is why it is so important to schedule regular rest stops along the way.

Sit down with your map or mapping software in hand, plan your daily mileage and look for natural resting places along the way. Whether you stop at a local restaurant, grab a bite at a fast food joint or just park by the side of the road and stretch your legs, these regular road trips can refresh you and make the rest of the journey that much safer.

Share the Driving

If you are lucky enough to have more than one licensed driver in the car, divvying up the driving duties can make the trip safer for everyone. Talk about who will handle what part of the journey and swap off when you feel tired.

If one of the drivers in the car is a new one, make sure they stick to daytime driving, and preferably take the wheel during less challenging parts of the journey. A road trip is a great learning experience, but new drivers tend to be overconfident, and that could lead to an accident.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

No matter where you drive or when, always be aware of your surroundings. Look at least two or three cars ahead, instead of staring at the bumper in front of you. Take a look around from time to time, watch what other drivers are doing and always be ready to react.

Use care when driving through unfamiliar town and cities, and let our intuition be your guide. If a neighborhood seems sketchy or unsafe, trust your instincts and find a safer spot to continue your trip.

Embarking on a family road trip can be a lot of fun, but safety is always an important consideration. From having your vehicle checked from hood to trunk to paying attention to those around you, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself and your family during your long holiday trip.

 






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