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Please use the links to the right to check out firm news and more information relating to these specific areas of law. Happy reading and please contact us if you have any questions that we can help answer.


KellyGram – Friends Helping Friends

 

 

Today’s KellyGram is centered on an wonderful fundraiser being hosted by my dear friend Chef Ryan Whittaker. I met Chef Ryan when I started frequenting his incredible restaurant, 116 Espresso and Wine Bar on State Street in West Columbia. We quickly developed a close friendship, and over the years I’ve watched Chef Ryan receive well-deserved recognition for his accomplishments both in the kitchen and, more importantly, in the community. When Ryan was named among The State Newspaper’s “20 Under 40” 2014 class, I had the pleasure of attending the ceremony along with his wife and parents.

Ryan is always giving back to his community, as well as his friends and family, through his time, talent and treasure. He donates food and his skills to fundraisers for numerous non-profits such as Palmetto Place and South Carolina Philharmonic, along with many others. Now, Chef Ryan has taken on yet another honorable cause and is hosting a fundraiser dinner with The Charitable Plate for the benefit of the Wanek Family and a fellow local chef, Damian Wanek. Mr. Wanek tragically lost his wife three weeks ago, and his four young children lost their mother and full-time caregiver. The dinner will take place at 116 Espresso and Wine Bar on Monday, April 23rd at 6:00 pm. Proceeds will be used to fund caregiving services for the Wanek children.


Not only is this event benefitting a tremendous cause, it is sure to be an elegant (and delicious!) affair. Along with Chef Ryan, other local chefs of note in Columbia’s emerging food scene will be participating, including Mike Deevy and Henry Griffin (Ristorante Divino and Kingsman), Robert Stegall-Smith (Performance Foodservice), and David Grillo (Cantina 76). Additionally, there will be very exclusive wines served with dinner.

Please come out to support the Wanek family and enjoy what is sure to be an amazing event. For more information and ticket purchases, please visit the fundraiser’s site here.

Have a safe weekend!

Mike Kelly

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Understanding Social Security Disability Benefits

Lisa Long Cotten

The Mike Kelly Law Group, LLC is a plaintiff’s firm assisting the citizens of South Carolina in multiple areas of the law including Personal Injury, Insurance Bad Faith, Consumer Law, Workers’ Compensation, and Professional Licensure Defense. A major portion of our practice is dedicated to helping individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits. The process for applying for Social Security Disability Benefits can be confusing and frustrating. Hopefully this article will provide you with some basic information to help you get started.

There are two basic types of benefits a disabled individual may be entitled to: Title II of the Social Security Act also know as Disability Insurance Benefits and Title XVI of the Social Security Act also known as Supplemental Security Income. Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) is based upon an individual’s past earnings or the FICA tax withheld from wages. A surviving spouse and disabled children may also be eligible for DIB based upon the earnings of a deceased spouse or parent. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a public assistance program for the elderly, disabled and blind that is based upon financial need. An individual would have to be deemed eligible for one or both benefits before a determination of disability can be made.

To be considered for DIB, an individual must be “fully insured” or have 40 quarters of coverage or at least 10 years of credited earnings. An individual who becomes disabled prior to age 31 needs coverage for 20 quarters starting with the quarter after his or her 21st birthday through the onset of the disability. Those individuals must be “currently insured” or have 6 quarters of coverage out of the 13 quarters period ending in the quarter in which disability began. An individual remains insured for disability purposes for up to five years after the quarter in which he or she last worked. If the disability began after the date last insured, the individual would not be eligible for DIB but could possibly be eligible for SSI.

To be considered for SSI benefits, the Social Security Administration considers your household income and resources. Income includes cash, checks and other things of monetary value. Included under the Social Security Administration’s definition of income are wages from you or your spouse, net earnings from self employment, the value of food and shelter that someone gives you, VA benefits, retirement benefits, DIB/Title II benefits, gifts and contributions, support and alimony payments, inheritances, proceeds from life insurance policies and rental income. Among the things excluded from income are social services, medical care and services, income tax refunds, proceeds of a loan, bills paid by someone else for things other than food/clothing or shelter. A single person must have less than $2,000 worth of resources. A couple can have not more than $3,000 worth of resources. Resources include cash, checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit and stocks and US Savings Bonds. The Social Security Administration does not count your home and the land that it is on as a resource if it is your primary residence. Depending on the value and how they are used, they do not count household goods, personal property and a car. Life insurance and burial funds are also excluded as long as the value is less than $1,500.

Once you are deemed eligible for benefits, the disability evaluation process can begin. You can apply for benefits by contacting the Social Security Administration at www.socialsecurity.gov or toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. If you receive a denial for benefits, you must file an appeal within 60 days. Your application must be denied twice before the claim can be heard by an administrative law judge. If you have questions about Social Security Disability or any other personal injury matter, please feel free to contact us at the Mike Kelly Law Group at 1-803-726-0123 or 1-866-692-0123. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have about the process.


KellyGram – Distracted Driving Awareness Month

 

 

I generally do not pay mind to National “This” Day or “That” Month, but April is an exception to the rule. It’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month and, as a personal injury attorney, I am all too aware of the consequences of distracted driving. In both my job and my private life, I have come to believe that cellphones and other such gadgets are a blessing and a curse. The worst of the curse, of course, is the danger that accompanies cellphone use while driving, whether that use is talking, texting, checking email, or otherwise being preoccupied by the device. When your focus is on your phone instead of your number one priority—safe operation of a motor vehicle—you are putting yourself and surrounding drivers at risk. Sadly, approximately 10% of all motor vehicle fatalities involve phone usage.

I must confess that at one time I was guilty of regularly using my handheld device to make calls while driving. However, as I saw more and more clients walk through my door after being injured by a distracted driver, I changed my ways and have become much more vigilant behind the wheel. As much as I drive throughout South Carolina, whether to visit my offices in Myrtle Beach and Winnsboro, or to Florence where I have friends, family, and a large client base, I absolutely must have my eyes focused on the road and off the phone.

It is important to note, though, that distracted driving encompasses much more than driving while using a phone. Distracted driving means driving while your eyes are off the road, your hands are off the wheel, or your mind isn’t focused on driving. Operating a navigation system, eating while driving, and gazing at the scenery instead of the road are just a few examples of distracted driving that can lead to motor vehicle accidents.


When you’re driving, it only takes a few seconds to make a life-altering mistake. Make an oath today to yourself, your passengers, and your fellow travelers that, when you’re behind the wheel, you’ll keep your focus on the road.

Have a safe weekend!

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – Recorded Statements: You Have the Right to Remain Silent

 

 

As you know, the Mike Kelly Law Group has decades of experience handling personal injury, workers’ compensation, and social security claims. A large percentage of our cases arise out of automobile accidents, and many clients come to us only after they have tried to resolve a claim on their own but cannot see eye-to-eye with the insurance company. Today’s KellyGram, in an effort to help those seeking to resolve a personal injury claim on their own, addresses a major “don’t” in the claim resolution process—recorded statements.

The aftermath of a car accident is often a whirlwind of whiplash, doctor’s appointments, auto body shops, and phone calls with your insurance company. In the midst of the chaos comes a call from the other driver’s insurance representative, a pleasant individual who wants to help you navigate the claims process and make sure you’re fairly compensated for your injuries and troubles. After all that you’ve been through, those words are music to your ears…but first, the representative just needs a quick recorded statement from you about the accident to verify that their insured caused the accident. How should you respond? You say NO!


Generally, insurance adjusters are nice people, and nice people are easily trusted. However, at the end of the day, an adjuster is an employee acting in the interest of the insurance company with the goal of settling claims for the lowest figure possible or, in some cases, denying payment altogether. Most insurance companies are publicly traded entities with a duty to shareholders to make a profit. Every dollar paid out to you makes the company a dollar less profitable.

One way an adjuster might try to lessen the value of your claim is through a recorded statement, even if the truth is on your side. You may be presented with questions that are purposely phrased to illicit responses harmful to your claim, or be pressured into agreeing to a representation that you are uncertain is accurate. Even if your statement is flawless, a minor inconsistency in a later statement could be used to question your credibility. Fortunately, though you have a duty to cooperate with your own insurer, you are not required to provide a recorded statement to another driver’s carrier and, generally speaking, you should decline to do so.

If ever you find yourself in an accident and decide to go ahead with giving a recorded statement, we strongly recommend that you talk to a lawyer—whether through our firm or another personal injury firm—prior to doing so.

We’re here for the people of South Carolina!

Have a great weekend!

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – Resurrections

 

 

Mike Kelly Law Group is closed today in observance of Good Friday, the most solemn day of the Christian year. But there is good news—Sunday is coming! “Blessed be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”! 1 Peter 1:3

Those who share my faith recognize Easter Sunday as the day of the Resurrection, which I view to be the most significant Christian holiday. The Resurrection has come to be celebrated as an offer of daily hope that love and the good of God will triumph over evil and sin. And it is in furtherance of this principle that the community nonprofit ministry Resurrections combats the hardships that so many of our neighbors face by offering food, services, and provisions to those who may otherwise have lost their daily hope.

One of many wonderful community programs organized by Resurrections is Lunch on the Lawn, which takes place each Saturday in the parking lot here at the Mike Kelly Law Group. Though we play just a very small role in this significant effort, my firm is honored to contribute to this program. Lunch on the Lawn, through the hard work of dedicated volunteers, provides a free, hearty meal to our hungry brothers and sisters; however, far more than food is served at this event. Resurrections has succeeded in cultivating an atmosphere that brings members from all corners of the community together to break down barriers and build mutual understanding and alliances. It is through this relationship-building that Lunch on the Lawn makes a lasting impact on hunger and homelessness.

Resurrections is made possible through the generosity of the community, and I hope you all will consider becoming part of the movement! If you are interested in becoming involved with Resurrections or learning more about its programs, please visit the organization’s Facebook page here.


Have a great weekend!

Mike Kelly

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The BullStreet Project: The Path to a New Columbia

Kayla Culver

Right now, something very exciting is happening in the City of Columbia, yet many locals are unaware of it. Spirit Communications Park, home to the Columbia Fireflies, our minor league baseball team, has quickly become a Cola favorite. But did you know that the baseball stadium is just the beginning of a vast BullStreet District makeover? Columbia soon will have a small, quaint village within it, bringing adventure to the city’s downtown area. From restaurants and local shops to a large, beautiful public park, the 181-acre BullStreet Project is barreling full-steam ahead right before our eyes.

The State of South Carolina decided to sell the undeveloped BullStreet parcel years ago, but maintained a vision of a master developer to purchasing the entire S.C. Department of Mental Health campus with the promise of retaining many of its historic buildings. The one offer that came for the entire parcel was from Hughes Development Corporation, which is now set on building a one-of-a-kind neighborhood within the City of Columbia. Focused on preserving history and culture, the BullStreet Project is redefining the urban experience with a mix of residential, retail, restaurant, and recreational uses alongside and within the historical buildings. The undeveloped land is set to be transformed over a 20-year period into a district with walkable streets and a vast array of new experiences right in the heart of Columbia.

So, you ask, what is currently going on in this 20-year project? The Ensor Building, a historic building once used for research and as a morgue, will soon to be home to first brick-and-mortar Bone-In Barbeque restaurant. Bone-In Barbeque was started by Chef Scott Hall as a food truck, and has become a Columbia treasure that has been featured in GQ and Smithsonian magazines as well the Cooking Channel, Bravo and the Travel Channel. With roll-up garage doors and a large outdoor patio, Bone-In Barbeque will be a perfect spot for people to meet up for a beer and some southern BBQ. For more information on Bone-In Barbeque, Ensor, or other happenings on BullStreet, visit http://bullstreetsc.com/and https://boneinbarbeque.com/.

As someone who has lived in Columbia for almost a decade, the prospect of the completed BullStreet District not only entices me but makes me hopeful for Columbia’s future as an attractive destination for South Carolinians. So, residents of Columbia, get up, get out, and see all the many things that are going on right in your backyard!


KellyGram – My Newest Blessing

 

 

March has been an exciting month filled with tremendous blessings. On March 4th, the woman I love made me a very happy man by saying “I do.” Just a few days later, yet another beautiful woman swept in and stole my heart!

Today I want to show off my newest blessing—my first grandchild, Helena Mink Kelly! Helena was born at 1:20pm last Tuesday, March 13th, at Palmetto Baptist Hospital (where both of my boys were born too). She came into this world at a healthy 8 lbs 6oz and is absolutely beautiful. My friends who were already grandparents warned me that a grandchild will change your world, and truer words have never been spoken. Helena changed mine instantly—it was love at first sight! I am so excited to watch her grow and learn, to witness all of the wonderful moments that we’ll have together, and, of course, to spoil her!

Just as any new grandparent would, I have already asked the firm’s all-star Legal Administrator, Amanda Swearingen, to order Helena a cell phone to put on our corporate plan so that I can bypass her parents and speak to my granddaughter directly. Amanda laughed and told me that we may need to wait a few weeks before Helena is ready for a cell phone…I guess she’s right, LOL!

In all seriousness, though, my family brings tremendous joy to my life, and welcoming Beverly and Helena into the Kelly circle has me feeling happier than I’ve been in a long time. I am one lucky guy!


Have a great weekend!

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – A Window into Homelessness

 

 

As you know, one of my passions is my Social Security Disability practice. I am blessed with good health, a roof over my head, and three square meals a day. In turn, I have always believed it my duty to use my good fortune to help those in need.

Recently I met with a client to prepare for his upcoming Social Security Disability hearing. Though he just turned 50 years old, my client currently takes twenty-nine prescriptions daily for a variety of ailments, including congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He is one of the most polite individuals you will ever meet, and despite having a limited formal education, he is extremely well read and astute, as he spends a portion of most days at the Richland County Public Library. He also attends church at Sydney Park every Wednesday and Sunday.

What you would not expect upon meeting this man is that, due to his inability to work, he has had to live on the streets of Columbia since 2014, primarily taking shelter in a makeshift tent he maintains under a bridge. There, he at least remains dry. He explained to me that he has chosen this as his home over local shelters, where he feels exposed to the risk of bodily harm. Thankfully, he is able to receive some much needed medical care through the services of a local clinic.

My life is forever changed by a single conversation with this client; he humbly put my day-to-day problems into perspective. I hope and pray that I will be able to repay the favor by successfully handling his claim to provide him with a deserved source of income and consistent healthcare.


Have a great weekend!

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – The Sky’s the Limit!

 

 

In 2016, Richland County Council appointed me to the Airport Commission to, on behalf of my late wife, fulfill her term as Commissioner. Serving on the Commission has been a very rewarding and educating experience, and the opportunity has opened my eyes to the intricacies of airport operations and the benefits that Hamilton-Owens Airport provides to the Midlands. But even with this unique insight into Columbia’s gem-of-a-downtown airport, I only recently realized just how profoundly its operation impacts our local economy. The South Carolina Aeronautics Commission released its 2018 Statewide Aviation Economic Impact Report last month, revealing that Owens Field’s annual contribution to the Midlands economy exceeds $16 million. This astounding figure far exceeded my expectations, as well as the County Council’s, and has renewed my enthusiasm for advancing and improving the airport and its vital function in the community.

So far, 2018 has been a great year for the Airport Commission! This gleaming economic report came out only weeks after the grand opening of Hunter-Gatherer at Curtiss-Wright Hangar. My fellow Commissioners and our outstanding Airport Director, Chris Eversmann, would agree that seeing our efforts to have the Curtiss-Wright Hangar restored and rejuvenated come to full fruition is one of our proudest achievements to date. I look forward to seeing what other exciting things will unfold in 2018 for Hamilton-Owens Airport—the sky’s the limit! In the meantime, I hope to see you at Hunter-Gatherer!


Have a great weekend!

Mike Kelly

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KellyGram – National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

 

 

In the US alone, over 400,000 individuals suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS), and approximately 200 new cases are diagnosed each week. March is recognized as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, and today’s KellyGram is dedicated to our brothers and sisters who have been diagnosed with MS, as well their friends and loved ones who provide them with care and support.

Multiple sclerosis is a tragic and often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts communication between the brain and body and interferes with the flow of information within the brain. The symptoms and rate of progression vary in each case, and individuals living with MS may potentially live a long and relatively normal life. Sadly, however, many sufferers experience severely debilitating symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, and problems with balance; numbness, weakness, and incapacitating fatigue; involuntary spasms; difficulty walking and paralysis; and cognitive and emotional dysfunction. Even with a century’s worth of research, scientists still do not know the cause of MS and have not yet found a cure. And, while treatment can help slow the progression of the disease, MS is one of the most expensive conditions to treat, costing patients, on average, about $60,000 annually.

To shed light on why the fight for a cure for MS is a subject so near and dear to me, I want to share a personal experience concerning my health. Nearly twenty years ago, I began experiencing unexplained neurological symptoms and went to a local neurologist for an evaluation. He diagnosed me with multiple sclerosis. Familiar with the disease from my disability practice, and understanding the road that lay ahead, his words turned my world upside-down. Seeking to treat with leading MS medical experts, I traveled to the Johns Hopkins Multiple Sclerosis Center in Baltimore for further evaluation. After a battery of tests, the doctors at Johns Hopkins advised that my symptoms were not attributable to MS. Hearing the chief neurologist rule out that diagnosis was a moment of great relief that I will never forget, but I can also never forget that period when I believed that I would be fighting MS for the rest of my life. Instead, I will use my experience and good fortune to fight for a cure by helping to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis and to fight for MS patients with disabling symptoms to receive the benefits they need.

To learn more about MS and to help in ending MS forever, please visit www.nationalmssociety.org. I also encourage you to consider volunteering for, donating to, or participating in one of the four inspirational Walk MS events that will take place in South Carolina next month:

Charleston: April 14, 2018
Aiken: April 14, 2018
Columbia: April 28, 2018
Spartanburg: April 28, 2018

Have a great weekend!

Mike Kelly

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