Archive for April, 2013

South Carolina Bankruptcy: Stop Apologizing for the Past

When you file for bankruptcy in South Carolina, you will need to go before a judge in order to have your bankruptcy approved. As our South Carolina bankruptcy lawyers know, a lot of different factors can make a difference as far as whether the judge signs off on your bankruptcy. However, one recent study shows that a simple thing can make a big difference: apologizing. 

In the past, studies have demonstrated that apologizing has made a difference in the outcomes of both civil trials and in criminal trials. Until recently, however, no one had considered the impact of an apology on bankruptcy proceedings.

The Study on Saying Sorry in Bankruptcy

The study on the effect of an apology on bankruptcy proceedings was conducted by two law professors, who presented 137 different bankruptcy attorneys with a hypothetical bankruptcy scenario.  In the scenarios where the debtor offered an apology, there was a greater chance that the repayment plans were approved by the bankruptcy judge than in the cases where the debtors did not offer an apology.

In addition to a greater likelihood of having a claim approved, those who offered an apology were also more likely to be met with greater permissiveness in terms of discretionary expenses. For example, the judge was more likely to permit things such as a child’s gymnastics lessons as discretionary expenses.

The authors of the study indicated that the filing of bankruptcy, in-and-of-itself, could be considered an admission of guilt or acceptance of culpability. However, by apologizing when filing for bankruptcy, this showed that the debtor was more remorseful. The authors of the study indicated that this could be an indicator that the debtor was more serious about getting his finances in order, thus encouraging the judge to be more permissive in approving the bankruptcy plan.

When a judge approves a bankruptcy plan, the only victims are creditors – who are often not present in the court room at the time – and the wrongs done to the creditors are usually small in comparison to situations where an actual crime is committed. However, we know in reality people have apologized too often, and for too long, about debt caused by medical bills, predatory lending, job loss and other factors outside the debtor’s control. Getting experienced legal help is the first step in reclaiming your life.

Will Apologizing Really Help You?

Of course, there is never any guarantee that apologizing is going to make a difference or help your bankruptcy plan to be approved. You still need to create a realistic repayment plan under chapter 13 that meets the requirements set forth by the law and determined by your bankruptcy trustee.

Without experienced legal help, consumers too often spend years or even decades struggling with unmanageable debt, paying little more than interest back to predatory lenders and mortgaging their futures and their retirement in the process.

If you are considering bankruptcy, contact the Columbia, South Carolina attorneys at Matthews & Megna today at 877-253-7705.


South Carolina Boosting Insurance For Uninsured Driver Accidents

In 2006, South Carolina lawmakers passed a bill upping the minimum required insurance coverage for liability insurance to $25,000. While lawmakers intended to boost the required minimum coverage across the board, they neglected one important area: uninsured motorist coverage. 

Now, however, The State reports that a bill before the Senate aims to correct this omission and to take the required minimum coverage from $10,000 to $25,000. Our Columbia, SC accident attorneys know that having sufficient uninsured motorist coverage is very important to protect you if you are in a hit-and-run or in a crash with a driver who doesn’t have insurance. We believe the increase in the amount of uninsured motorist coverage that drivers must buy will help to make sure that everyone in the state can pay the bills in the event of an auto accident.

Understanding Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured motorist coverage is a type of insurance policy that you buy to protect yourself in case you get into an accident that is the fault of someone who cannot pay your damages.

Under South Carolina law, a driver who causes a car accident is supposed to pay the bills of those who are hurt in that auto accident. Many drivers, however, do not have the money to pay for car accident injury bills, especially since these costs often total in the thousands. In order to ensure that this isn’t a problem and that drivers are compensated for their injuries, South Carolina lawmakers require the purchase of liability insurance.

The liability limits were among the limits boosted in 2006, and there is a minimum coverage requirement of $25,000. This means if you get into a crash with someone and it is his fault, he will have no less than $25,000 in coverage available if needed to pay your bills (the exact amount to be paid will be worked out in a settlement or in court and will be based on the severity of your injuries).

The problem, however, is that not every driver actually buys the required liability insurance. If you get into a crash with a driver who doesn’t have it, then you are left with little recourse except to try to sue the driver and collect from his personal funds and assets (which may be impossible if he has no assets). Uninsured motorist coverage kicks in when this situation happens.

The uninsured motorist coverage will pay your bills that the other driver was supposed to pay. In other words, the uninsured motorist coverage stands in for the driver who was to blame for the crash, covering the costs.

This happens not just in situations where you are involved in a crash with a driver who has no insurance, but also in situations where you get into a car accident and the responsible driver hits-and-runs. Since you don’t know who the driver is in this case, you can’t collect from him and you’ll have to turn to your uninsured motorist coverage.

With a $10,000 minimum limit, the protection you are provided under current law doesn’t actually cover much if you’ve bought only the minimums. If the Senate is successful in boosting the limit up to $25,000, then you will have to buy at least this much coverage and you will be much better protected in the event that you have to rely on your uninsured motorist policy.

If you are hurt in a car accident, contact the Columbia, South Carolina attorneys at Matthews & Megna today at 877-253-7705.

Report: South Carolina Teen Driver Fatalities Double

It’s been well-established that 16- and 17-year-old drivers lack the experience to know how to aptly handle some of the curve balls our roads throws at them.

That’s why graduated driver’s license laws are so important. Our Columbia car accident lawyers know that for some time, it seemed as if those measures were effective. The number of motor vehicle crashes and fatalities involving young drivers was down.

Now suddenly, we appear to be doing an about-face, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The organization tracks fatalities of drivers who are under 18. The recent downward trend was reversed in looking at the first six months of 2012 compared to the first six months of 2011 – and there is every reason to believe that increase is continuing.

Nationwide in the first six months of 2012, the number of 16-year-old passenger vehicle drivers who died on our roadways increased by nearly 25 percent, from 86 to 107. Likewise, deaths of 17-year-old drivers spiked by 15 percent, from 116 in 2011 to 133 in 2012. Figuring the average of both, the GHSA reported an overall increase of 19  percent.

When broken down by state, 25 – including South Carolina – saw an increase, 17 saw a decrease and 8 states (plus the District of Columbia) remained static. Of those states that saw an increasing number of deaths, six of those reported an increase of five or more.

South Carolina’s teen driver fatality rate doubled, from 4 to 8.

Recognizing that this may not sound like a huge number, one must remember we’re talking only about the deaths of the teen drivers – not their passengers. Many more were injured.

Six-month figures for teen passenger deaths in 2012 aren’t yet available. So what we must go on are the driver fatalities, and this upward shift is beyond troubling. Researchers have a few potential explanations.

The first is our overall improved economic status. In a struggling economy, we were seeing fewer people on the roads – period. Fewer jobs, less money for gas – these were things that probably hit the teenage subset perhaps harder than others. Now that we are inching closer to recovery, people are driving more. That inevitably leads to more wrecks.

The second factor is a huge and growing problem, particularly with younger drivers. That is distraction. They are not the only drivers prone to it, but teens appear particularly susceptible to distractions while behind the wheel. We know that teens are among the earliest adopters and aggressive users of new technology, and distractions in general are going to pose greater risks to drivers with less experience. In a sense, they have less attentional capacity to spare. With cell phone technology expanding at an ever-increasing clip, the dangers have never been more pronounced.

And finally, states have slowed with regard to their adoption of graduated driver’s license laws. It was a movement that gained rapid traction in the 1990s, but has since seemed to slow. It is true that many states have adopted significant measures that allowed new drivers to work their way up to advancing responsibilities behind the wheel. But many states have fallen short, and are now seeing the consequences.

If you are injured in a Columbia car accident, contact Matthews & Megna today at 877-253-7705.