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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 – Exciting Announcement From Your MKLG Family!

 

 

We are thrilled to announce that attorney Jamie Smith will be transitioning into a new role as marketing manager for the Mike Kelly Law Group!

The firm hired Jamie as a trial attorney in September 2015, and she has shined in her role on the litigation team. Since then, our practice has grown—particularly in the areas of personal injury and insurance litigation—and attorney Stephen Vicari rejoined the MKLG family in the Columbia office to help take on the increased caseload. With Stephen back on board, Jamie will continue to work on the litigation team as a supporting attorney, but her primary focus will be spreading the word about the Mike Kelly Law Group.

Marketing was Jamie’s first love, and she is excited and honored to be able to incorporate that talent into her legal career. Having graduated from USC’s Darla Moore School of Business with dual degrees in marketing and international business before earning her law degree, Jamie is uniquely qualified for the firm’s marketing manager position. More importantly, Jamie has been involved in our marketing efforts since her first day at MKLG, and she is a champion for our cause—helping others. She intends on bringing a fresh approach to marketing the firm, and directing our involvement within the legal arena as well as the community.

Stay tuned to the KellyGram to follow the changes taking place at MKLG, as we continue to strive to serve our community!

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We Live in a Digital World

Paul Swearingen

 

There is no denying the fact that we now live in a digital world. Many of us are old enough to remember when telephones were attached to a cord in the wall, and we could only make and receive calls when inside our homes. Today, not only are our telephones completely portable and able to go with us wherever we go, but we can access the internet and perform just about any task with the help of a smart phone. In fact, today’s smart phones are over 120 million times more powerful than the NASA computers that sent the first astronauts to the moon and back in 1969.*

Think about all the advances that have occurred in our lifetime. Documents that had to be typed with carbon paper to make copies and mailed to its recipient can now be uploaded and emailed in a matter of seconds. Groceries can now be ordered through an app on your phone and delivered directly to your home. Kids in school are learning on electronic tablets instead of text books. In the not-so-distant future, our children or grandchildren will not know anything about a landline telephone, a record album or a world where you cannot access anyone immediately and get an immediate response.

It is highly likely that if you are reading this, then you have some type of social media account. Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram are some of the most popular services available on the internet. Many people have accounts with online photo hosting services to upload the photos from their phone or computer in order to save them or order printed copies. Internet shopping has become so popular that millions of people have online accounts with merchants for shopping online. Banks offer internet access to your bank account for online banking. Whether you realize it or not, you have an online digital presence, and that presence needs to be protected during your lifetime, and after you are gone.

We have all heard the warnings about using passwords that are hard to crack, and to protect our passwords from being obtained by thieves. Those are valid warnings, and I would urge you to protect yourselves from having your passwords hacked or stolen. You have an online identity, and you do not want that identity to be stolen. But what happens to that identity when you are gone? What happens to your Facebook page, or your photos that you have stored online, or the documents that you saved in a cloud based service? Those things do not just disappear when you die.

Do you want your Facebook page taken down when you are gone? Do you want it to continue on as a memorial to your life? Do you want those priceless photos or important documents to be available to your loved ones? These are questions for the digital age, and questions that many of us have not had to think about prior to this point in our lives. They are also issues that can be resolved as part of your estate plan. You can leave instructions as to how you want your online accounts to be handled. You can leave a list of your accounts and passwords in a safe place along with your Last Will and Testament, along with instructions for how you want the things you have protected during your lifetime to be dealt with upon your death.

We live in a digital world, and with that comes more information than ever before to be protected during our lifetime and distributed or disposed of when we are gone. Unless you plan ahead, your loved ones may not know where all of your information is stored, and may not be able to access or close accounts that contain your information or data. It is time to start treating our digital presence and digital possessions the same as we would our tangible possessions when planning for the future.

*For an interesting read on the technology that sent man to the moon as compared to today’s technology, check out this article:

https://www.zmescience.com/research/technology/smartphone-power-compared-to-apollo-432/


KellyGram – The Amtrak Tragedy Hits Home

 

 

Amtrak has had four lethal train crashes since December, the latest of which occurred on Sunday in Cayce, SC. Three miles from our Columbia office, Amtrak Train 91—a passenger train—collided with a stationary, unoccupied freight train at approximately 56 miles per hour. The train’s engineer, Michael Kempf, and conductor, Michael Cella, were killed in the crash, and over 100 passengers and crew members were transported to local hospitals for treatment. As of Wednesday evening, one hospitalized victim remained in serious condition, while the remaining injured passengers were either in good condition or discharged from emergent treatment. That nearly all of those aboard the train suffered only minor injury seems nothing short of miraculous, and out of this tragedy I want to commend the first responders and local law enforcement for their exemplary care and coordination in ensuring that those injured received the care they needed. That said, the road to emotional recovery from this devastating collision undoubtedly be a long one, especially for the families of Mr. Kempf and Mr. Cella.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigation, though ongoing, has shed light on how this senseless and unnecessary tragedy unfolded. The problem appears to be two-fold: first, CSX—which operates the tracks where this incident occurred—after pulling its freight train from the main line to a side track, failed to redirect a switch to keep traffic traveling along the main track. CSX crew members reported having realigned the switch, but the investigation has revealed that the switch was padlocked into the position of steering oncoming trains off of the main line and onto the side track where the freight train was parked. At the same time, CSX’s trackside signaling system—a system that would have alerted Mr. Cella to the misaligned switch—was temporarily inoperable. Reportedly, the system was down for maintenance while CSX worked to incorporate an automated safety mechanism called positive train control, or PTC, into the system. The dark irony is that PTC is designed to prevent accidents such as this one and, had it already been installed, this disaster almost certainly would have been averted.

Having over 40 years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, I am no stranger to tragedy. Still, the loss of lives that could—and should—have been easily prevented is something I will never grow used to. This catastrophe is, to say the least, heartbreaking, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.

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KellyGram – Let the Games Begin!

 

 

We have an exciting week ahead in the world of sports! On Sunday, the Eagles Face the Patriots in the 52nd Super Bowl, but what I’m especially looking forward to is the commencement of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games next Thursday.

While I’m personally not a cold weather person—and the worst snow skier in America (LOL!)—I enjoy the presentation of the Winter Olympic Games every four years. I am fascinated by the interplay between sports and geopolitics that comes with the Olympics, and the level of competition and the dedication of the athletes is simply extraordinary to witness. The Winter Games are especially fun to watch and present stimulating and intriguing array of sports—some of which, as a Southerner, I would never know existed without the Olympics! Even the venues themselves are majestic, and the hard work put in to building them to perfection, along with the extravagance of the opening ceremonies, demonstrate the pride that comes with hosting such an incredible event.

This year’s Winter Olympics will be held across the world in PyeongChang, North Korea, kicking off on Thursday, February 8th and ending with the closing ceremony on Sunday, February 25th. Being in opposite time zones won’t keep us from watching, though, as NBC have events airing on TV, streaming live, streaming on-demand, streaming on apps…let’s just say there are plenty of ways to watch the games! I’ll certainly be watching as much as I can along with my MKLG team, and hope you will check it out too!

Go Team USA!

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LISA LONG COTTEN SELECTED TO BECOME RILEY DIVERSITY FELLOW

 

Lisa Long Cotten of The Mike Kelly Law Group is one of 41 leaders from across the Midlands and surrounding area selected to participate in the Riley Institute at Furman’s Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI) this spring.

“Though we are a diverse population, discovering ways in which differences can be a strength in our organizations is of utmost importance as we seek to grow and support a thriving economy and rich culture,” said Dr. Donald Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute.

DLI class members are identified through a rigorous process including a nomination, application and interview. Individuals are selected to join the class based on their capacity to impact their organizations and communities.

Over the course of five months, Lisa will learn about diversity and inclusion “blind spots” and how to suspend assumptions. Lisa will also work in small, cross-sector groups to respond to real issues and opportunities in the community through a service project. The DLI classes are expertly facilitated by Juan Johnson, an independent consultant and former Coca-Cola vice president.

“DLI is unique among South Carolina’s leadership programs. In addition to the opportunity to develop new relationships and take part in positive action in their communities, participants gain deep knowledge of how to effectively manage and lead diverse workers, clients and constituents,” said Johnson.

DLI graduates become Riley Fellows, members of a powerful, cross-sector, statewide leadership network that includes CEOs of corporations, mayors, city and county council members, legislators, school superintendents, pastors and rabbis, non-profit heads, chamber of commerce directors, and community leaders. In addition to the Midlands, DLI classes are selected annually in the Upstate and Lowcountry.

“We now have more than 1900 Riley Fellows statewide. Each new class further extends the reach and impact of leaders willing to work together to make South Carolina a better place to live and work for all its residents,” said Gordon.

Congratulations Lisa!


KellyGram – Guess Who’s Back?

 

 

I am proud to officially announce that attorney Stephen Vicari will be re-joining the Mike Kelly Law Group next week!

Stephen was originally employed at MKLG as a law clerk and, after passing the bar, was hired on as an associate in our Myrtle Beach office. After he served in that role for over a year, Stephen was bitten by the “love bug,” and he became engaged to his beautiful bride-to-be, Jessica. When the two decided to relocate to their hometown of Lexington, the firm’s Columbia office unfortunately had no openings for a litigation attorney and we reluctantly parted ways with Stephen.

Since then, MKLG has grown and, in an effort to better serve our clients, we decided to bring on another attorney in the Columbia office. And guess who will be filling that role? You got it—the one and only Stephen Vicari! Stephen is the natural fit for this opening, and we are thrilled to announce his return.

Since his departure, Stephen has continued to work in the legal field, further developing and refining his talents. Though he will primarily perform litigation services under our litigation director, Brad Hewett, Stephen will also work in the areas of workers’ compensation and social security disability at all three MKLG offices.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting Stephen, he is a South Carolina native who grew up in Lexington. He graduated from College of Charleston and, before attending law school, served in the United States Navy, with deployments to the Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean, and Persian Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. He subsequently graduated from USC School of Law, and has grown to be a talented attorney who aggressively pursues his clients’ rights and interests.

Simply put, we are delighted to welcome Stephen Vicari back to the Mike Kelly Law Group!

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KellyGram – Gamecock Basketball 2018

 

 

I am still brimming with excitement from the Gamecocks men’s basketball victory over Kentucky on Tuesday night at Colonial Life Arena. Not wanting to be out too late—the game started at 9pm—I gave up my tickets to my eldest son, Patrick. As it turns out, I should have gone with him to the arena! According to Patrick, Colonial Life was rocking, and there is no doubt that the home crowd played a significant role in upsetting the Kentucky Wildcats. Likewise, I watched every play from home, and was so keyed up by the end of the game that I had difficulty falling asleep!

Gamecock head coach Frank Martin, like his counterpart Dawn Staley, is an outstanding leader who stresses teamwork over individual accomplishment, and he puts a premium on defense and intensity. Though the team does not have as much talent as last year, under the tutelage of their future hall-of-fame coach, the Gamecock players have an excellent team dynamic and are an inspiration to their fans, myself included, during this cold winter season. Go Cocks!

(And for the rest of you…Go Tigers!)

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KellyGram – Fairfield County Nuclear Let-Down

 

One of our service areas, Fairfield County, continues to suffer from the decisions of SCANA and Santee Cooper to terminate the construction of two nuclear reactors within the county. In my opinion, at least one of the facilities is necessary to accommodate South Carolina’s rapidly increasing electrical needs. But of more immediate concern is impact of the failed project on Fairfield County’s struggling economy.

Fairfield County and the two electrical companies had negotiated a deal where the county would receive a fee from the companies in lieu of property taxes on the nuclear sites. The deal was expected to bring substantial income to the Fairfield County government, which it planned to use in part to expand water and sewer access to rural areas of the county where, currently, the utilities are virtually non-existent. The build-out and development of the county would have created jobs and brought wealth to the community; instead, hundreds of residents are left looking for work due to the massive lay-offs following project’s halt. Meanwhile, rate-payers (myself included) have taken a bath in increased utility costs stemming from the expensive, albeit failed, construction. It would be an understatement to say that the mishandling of the project by SCANA and Santee Cooper is a shame—it was, and continues to be, a catastrophe for the citizens and leadership of Fairfield County.

Here’s hoping that Fairfield County and its citizens can find relief from this economic nightmare. My heart goes out to you, my friends!

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The One Bite Rule? Not So Fast My Friend.

Brad Hewett

 

Like many of you, we are dog lovers here at the Mike Kelly Law Group. For my family, and especially before we had children, that meant taking our dogs with us pretty much wherever we went, whether that was the park, the lake, out to eat, and everywhere else short of court and church.

While Americans in general are dog crazy (yes my wife dresses our dog up for holidays and yes we may have watched a few episodes of the Cesar the dog whisperer), many South Carolinians may not be aware of their responsibility and potential liability associated with their canine.

The South Carolina Code of Laws provides that “[i]f a person is bitten or otherwise attacked by a dog while the person is in a public place or is lawfully in a private place…the dog owner or person having the dog in the person’s care or keeping is liable for the damages suffered by the person bitten or otherwise attacked. S.C. Code Ann. § 47-3-110. See, Harris v. Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, 381 S.C. 357 (S.C. 2009).

In short, if your dog harms another person, you are responsible for the damages as long as that individual was not trespassing onto your property, or provoking your dog. If your dog injures an individual, you will likely be on the wrong end of a claim or lawsuit, with virtually no defense for the actions of your dog absent a trespass or provocation. Contrary to popular belief, there is no “one bite rule” in South Carolina, meaning that you are responsible for damages caused by your dog even if it had not previously displayed any aggressive tendencies or been involved in a prior incident.

How can you minimize the risk of your liability? Below are 4 suggestions to keep in mind:

1. Keep your dog on a leash while in public, and exercise caution when allowing contact with strangers. My dog is a combination of German Shepherd and Golden Retriever (we think) and has protective tendencies. In turn, when I walk my dog in public I do not allow people that he does not know to approach and attempt to pet him. You may want to also consider using a muzzle if your dog is going to be around strangers.

2. Install a fence or invisible fence to prevent your dog from venturing off your property. It seems like common sense, but canines do not always appreciate boundaries. Often times, a person’s natural reaction is to run when a strange dog is approaching, even in a playful manner, which can also lead to injury should that person sustain injury while attempting to flee.

3. You can be liable for injuries caused by your dog even if the incident occurs inside your house or on your property, as long as the guest is lawfully on the premises. Unless your dog is familiar with the guests, it is worth considering whether the dog should be placed in an area removed from contact with the guests. While such a suggestion may seem awkward to those of us that consider our dog a member of the family, since South Carolina law creates no fault liability for the dog owner in the event of damages, it is simply a measures to reduce the chance of an incident.

4. Contact your insurance agent to determine whether you have insurance that would provide coverage should your dog inflict damage. While many homeowners’ policies provide such coverage, there may be exclusions depending upon the breed of the dog. It is worth securing coverage to protect your family should such an unfortunate incident occur, and I would recommend carefully reviewing the policy to ensure that an exclusion does not apply based upon the breed of your dog.

The Mike Kelly Law Group has assisted numerous victims of dog attacks over the years, some sustaining catastrophic injuries. I recently represented the family of a young girl left with permanent scarring after being attacked by the dog of a neighbor who was allowed to wander freely throughout the area. Dogs are truly man’s best friend and reward us in many different ways. However, accidents can happen that leave your family responsible for the consequences. Much of this article is just good common sense, but do not hesitate to contact me at 803.726.0123 or bhewett@mklawgroup.com if you care to discuss this topic further.

For now, a few words of canine wisdom:

“Everyone thinks they have the best dog. And none of them are wrong.” – W.R. Purche

“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” – Andrew A. Rooney

“The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.” – Mark Twain

“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” – Agnes Slight Turnbull


KellyGram – Out With The Old, In With The Cold

 

It’s officially 2018, and the (not-so) sunny state of South Carolina rang in the New Year with freezing temperatures! Our clients in Myrtle Beach and the Pee Dee got a heavy dose of arctic weather on Wednesday with ice and snow, and even “Famously Hot” Columbia saw brief flurries. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that the older I get, the harsher the cold weather is on my body, and this year I feel it more than ever. So, as much as I love South Carolina, lately I would rather be on a sunny beach in the Caribbean!

This abnormally cold climate does not only cause us to reach for an extra jacket or two, though. The wintery precipitation and freezing temperatures create hazardous driving conditions that many South Carolinians are unused to. On Wednesday, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Florence experienced an astronomical spike in automobile accidents. There are warmer days to come, but until then, I urge you to stay wary of icy roadways and other drivers, and consider traveling with a fully charged phone and blankets in case of a roadside emergency. I wish safe passage to you all as we traverse this arctic episode, and offer my help to those who may need assistance along the way.

We’re here for the people of South Carolina.

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