Andrew Fajardo joins Chappell, Smith & Arden, P.A.

Andrew Fajardo

Chappell Smith & Arden is pleased to announce that attorney Andrew Fajardo has joined the firm.

Fajardo is an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who has argued cases and handled appellate work before the state workers’ compensation board and the appellate courts.  He has focused his legal career almost exclusively in the field of workers’ compensation.

“I am excited to be able to put my experience and skills to work for one of the most preeminent law firms in the Southeast,” Fajardo said.   “Chappell Smith & Arden is known for its experienced, focused and passionate trial lawyers and I am proud to be part of the team.”

Fajardo earned his law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law.  He earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration from USC in 2006 and previously attended the South Carolina Governor’s School of the Arts in Greenville, SC.  A member of the American, South Carolina and Richland County bar associations, Fajardo is admitted to practice in South Carolina courts.

“Andrew Fajardo is an excellent attorney who comes from a diverse background, being the son of a Colombian immigrant, and knows the value of hard work and the obstacles that many people face in their daily lives,” said partner Bill Smith.  “We look forward to his contributions in aggressively seeking justice for our clients.”

Chappell, Smith & Arden was founded more than two decades ago and now has offices in Columbia, Charleston, Rock Hill, Aiken, Florence and Sumter, South Carolina.  The firm’s attorneys are licensed to practice in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and the District of Columbia.

The Frightening Reality of Auto Accident Litigation

We’ve all been there: a perfectly normal day is turned upside-down by the screeching of tires, the explosion of airbags, and the wailing of sirens. A car wreck is an all too-familiar experience.

But what most of us don’t know is that the liability insurance company on the hook for the property damage and personal injuries suffered in the wreck begins to formulate its defense almost immediately.

Insurance companies are for-profit corporations that make money two ways: 1) by collecting premiums; and 2) by paying the smallest claims possible. As a result, every insurance company has developed a system of claims adjusting that is designed to minimize its exposure to your liability claim in a car wreck.

So how do you protect yourself?  In the immediate aftermath of even a seemingly minor automobile collision, it is imperative that you contact a law firm with substantial experience representing individuals and families who have been harmed in car wrecks. Our law firm, Chappell, Smith & Arden, P.A., has litigated automobile accidents for over thirty years and boasts a substantial record of success in that area of practice.

Contact us at (803) 929-3600 for a free evaluation of your case.

The Cold Reality of Auto Accident Litigation

We’ve all been there: a perfectly normal day is turned upside-down by the screeching of tires, the explosion of airbags, and the wailing of sirens. A car wreck is an all too-familiar experience.

But what most of us don’t know is that the liability insurance company on the hook for the property damage and personal injuries suffered in the wreck begins to formulate its defense almost immediately.

Insurance companies are for-profit corporations that make money two ways: 1) by collecting premiums; and 2) by paying the smallest claims possible. As a result, every insurance company has developed a system of claims adjusting that is designed to minimize its exposure to your liability claim in a car wreck.

So how do you protect yourself?  In the immediate aftermath of even a seemingly minor automobile collision, it is imperative that you contact a law firm with substantial experience representing individuals and families who have been harmed in car wrecks. Our law firm, Chappell, Smith & Arden, P.A., has litigated automobile accidents for over thirty years and boasts a substantial record of success in that area of practice.

Contact us at (803) 929-3600 for a free evaluation of your case.

Same-Sex Marriage Opposition: Why the Strategy of Avoidance Doesn’t Work

gay marriage Chappell Smith & Arden

Greg and Roger embrace after getting married in a park outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama. Though the Supreme Court has struck down gay marriage bans, Alabama has issued a 25-day ban on such marriages. Marvin Gentry/Reuters

In a poorly educated attempt to ward off the effects of last week’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, some officials in Alabama are refusing to issue marriage licenses to both straight and gay couples or are refusing to conduct any marriage ceremonies whatsoever.

But they are missing the point.

Had last week’s ruling rested solely upon the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Alabama officials may have a colorable argument that by refusing to participate an any marriages–straight or gay–they were guaranteeing citizens equal protection of the laws. No marriage for everyone, right?

Perhaps.

Unfortunately for these crafty probate judges, the Obergefell v. Hodges opinion relied primarily upon the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court’s Due Process analysis closed with this observation: “this Court’s cases and the Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of our social order.” As a result, the right to marry was deemed one guaranteed by the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Those who object to this finding do so to the extent that the Court later states “[t]here is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle.” Fair enough. But the “Strategy of Avoidance” seeks to deny everyone the right of marriage. Rather than solving one wrong with regard to homosexuals, however, this strategy creates a second wrong as to heterosexuals–a violation of that “keystone of our social order,” the underpinning of a right of substantive Due Process.

More lawsuits will result and they all will resolve the same way: the Supreme Court’s opinion is binding. End of story.

Graham Newman is an attorney with Chappell, Smith & Arden, P.A. Newman recently taught a class at the University of South Carolina entitled “The Fourteenth Amendment: Lawsuits Avatars, and Equal Protection.”

Solving the Cause of an Interstate Tractor Trailer Collision

As we tragically saw yet again this morning in a ten-car crash on Interstate 26 involving an oil tanker and another commercial vehicle, automobile wrecks involving tractor trailers can be catastrophic: engulfing cars in flames, strewing debris across the interstate, backing up traffic for miles, and potentially causing loss of life or limb.

Tractor trailers go by a wide variety of names: “trucks,” “eighteen wheelers,” or perhaps “big rigs.” But they all have one thing in common. Tractor trailers are vastly larger and heavier than traditional automobiles and thus often cause death and destruction when they are handled negligently.

Sadly, the enormity of the destruction caused by tractor trailer wrecks often makes it extremely difficult to determine the cause of the collision. Without a sound determination of the wreck’s cause, recovery from the responsible party for medical bills, bodily injury, or loss of life is very challenging.

Most trucking companies have expert accident reconstructionist firms on retainer. These individuals are dispatched to the scene of the collision within days of its occurrence to investigate and begin building the defense of the tractor trailer company. These investigators speak with police officers, witnesses, and even private citizens involved in the crash to begin crafting the strongest defense possible–and to avoid paying any compensation to those people injured by the possible negligent or reckless acts of their drivers. As a result, it is absolutely necessary that the lawyers representing the victims of tractor trailer collisions respond just as quickly and investigate just as thoroughly to protect the rights of the innocent people injured, maimed, or killed in such wrecks.

Chappell, Smith and Arden, P.A. takes a very aggressive approach to investigating catastrophic tractor trailer collisions. We have handled numerous deadly Interstate accidents caused by eighteen wheelers and are currently litigating a crash that occurred in Richland County, South Carolina. In the Columbia area, Interstate 26–particularly in the area known as “Malfunction Junction” near the Interstate 20, Piney Grove, and St. Andrews Road exits–is an infamously dangerous stretch of highway known for heavy trucking traffic and high speeds as eighteen wheelers and commuters rush to make their destinations on time.

Our trucking litigation group is led by Hugh McAngus, Jr. and Mark Chappell. Hugh and Mark respond to a catastrophic trucking case just as the eighteen wheeler companies do–they immediately retain the best experts in the business to begin reconstructing the cause of the accident to determine exactly what happened and exactly who is at fault.

Accident reconstructionists are trained in the forensic analysis of wreck scenes. They have the ability to take the literal pieces of a truck collision and recreate exactly what happened. Below is an example of a reconstructed video of an eighteen wheeler collision that occurred on Interstate 26, near its intersection with Interstate 95.

As you can see, in this case a wreck had occurred between several cars prior to the tractor trailer approaching the scene. From analyzing the damage to the various cars, the debris field, and the witness testimony, our accident reconstructionist was able to determine that the eighteen wheeler attempted to “thread the needle” of the wreck scene, rather than bringing his truck to a stop. As a result, the truck driver collided with several vehicles and caused tremendous bodily injury to the occupants of those cars.

Had we not acted quickly to retain this expert, investigate the tractor trailer collision, and aggressively litigate this claim on behalf of our client, however, the evidence needed to prove the fault of the tractor trailer driver may have been lost. In this specific case, the trucking company denied all liability and our firm was forced to file a lawsuit. But our expert’s conclusions were strongly rooted in the evidence and the case settled before trial.

The almost limitless resources of trucking companies and the insurance companies that represent them mandate this sort of aggressive representation. If you or anyone you know has been hurt in a trucking accident, do not hesitate–make sure you or they are in the hands of experienced attorneys that handle this sort of claim. Even a day’s delay could make a difference.

Hugh McAngus, Jr. and Mark Chappell are partners at Chappell, Smith and Arden, P.A. Hugh’s law practice focuses upon representing individuals injured in tractor trailer collisions and he is a member of the national trucking litigation section of the American Association for Justice. Mark is one of the firm’s founding partners and focuses his practice upon representing catastrophically injured clients in a wide variety of contexts. The law firm has offices throughout South Carolina, including Columbia, Sumter, Florence, Rock Hill, and Aiken. 

Mark Chappell Receives Prestigious “Compleat Lawyer” Award

Mark Chappell CSA Law

In a reception last night at the University of South Carolina, Chappell, Smith & Arden co-founder Mark Chappell received the prestigious “Compleat Lawyer” award from the USC School of Law Alumni Council.

The Compleat Lawyer award was established in 1992 and is bestowed upon attorneys who have made significant contributions to the legal profession and exemplify the highest standards of professional competence, ethics and integrity. The award selection committee consists of the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, the President of the South Carolina Bar, the Chairman of the Law School Alumni Council, and the Dean of the USC School of Law.

Mark Chappell was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1985 and has handled thousands of cases including at least one in every county of the State. His civic achievements include playing instrumental roles in the drafting and enacting of the “Jessica Horton Act“, which requires outside investigation of deaths on college campuses, and “Chandler’s Law“, which requires the observation of strict safety protocols for minors operating All-Terrain vehicles.

Suspending Students for Hate Speech: Why the Univ of South Carolina Must Tread Lightly

Image of Racial Slur

An image of a University of South Carolina student’s use of the “n-word” on a dry erase board made national headlines this weekend as the image “went viral” through social media. The University responded quickly, suspended the student, and began an “investigation.”

USC’s quick action, however, may well be unconstitutional and the school would be well-advised to take careful steps not to violate the First Amendment while it conducts its “investigation.”

A very similar incident took place earlier this year at the University of Oklahoma were several students were expelled after being videotaped singing a chant which contained the “n-word.” Eugene Volokh, one of the nation’s leading First Amendment experts, plainly concluded that the University violated the Constitution when it expelled the students. Volokh’s comprehensive analysis may be read here.

Volokh’s conclusion–well supported by case law–was that a University may not expel a student for a so-called “conduct violation” when that conduct was, in fact, speech protected by the First Amendment. Protected speech, Volokh notes, includes hate speech.

If the University of South Carolina violates the First Amendment rights of the student under investigation, the individuals who make the affirmative decision to do so–rather than the school itself–may be sued by the student under a federal statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This possible personal liability of the USC President, Board of Trustees, or any other individuals with decision-making authority over the student’s future is very real. Thus the school and its officers must respond to this situation with reasoned wisdom lest a decision to punish bad behavior result in a very strong lawsuit from the student.

Chappell, Smith & Arden attorney Graham L. Newman practices in the area of complex litigation and handles the firm’s appellate practice.

South Carolina Family Lawyer’s Essential Library

Chappell Smith and Arden Family Law Toolkit

There are certain resources that I believe are essential to a South Carolina family lawyer’s library. The following books are included in that list of resources:

  1. South Carolina Family Lawyer’s Toolkit, South Carolina Bar. This is one of the most practical guides for the South Carolina family lawyer. It includes outlines for various types of family court hearings. For example, there is an outline of questions to be asked of witnesses in a final divorce proceeding. The book also includes a CD with digital files of each of the outlines. As a practical matter, I generally print off the relevant pages and take them to court with me for almost every court hearing I attend
  2. South Carolina Family Court Handbook, ed. Sandra Parise. This book is a quick reference book containing all statues and court rules relevant to a family court proceeding. I keep this book on my desk at the office and often take it with me to court if I need to reference a particular status, rule of evidence, etc. to a judge.
  3. Marital Litigation in South Carolina, Roy T. Stuckey. This is THE textbook for divorce issues in South Carolina. I keep this book on a bookshelf near my desk for quick reference when issues arise in a divorce case that I don’t deal with every day. The book is clearly organized into the issues that come up in a divorce case, such as grounds for divorce, alimony, custody, child support, etc.
  4. South Carolina Adoption Law and Practice, James F. Thompson. Jim Thompson’s adoption book provides step-by-step instructions for the adoption process. It also provides all the forms necessary for the termination of parental rights and adoption process.

Chappell, Smith & Arden, P.A.‘s guest blogger, Attorney Shawn L. Reeves, blogs on topics involving family law, which is an area that those of us at CSA do not handle. But we are dedicated, through this blog, to advancing the conversation in all areas of the law and are thus proud to bring you Shawn’s commentary. Enjoy!

The State House Report – Top Three Things You Need to Know

Chappell, Smith and Arden, P.A. is proud to host the contributions of our newest guest blogger, Ashley Hunter, Vice President of McKay Public Affairs (MPA). Ashley has spent more than 13 years advocating for state and local organizations before the South Carolina General Assembly and is also a political consultant for local candidates and issues-based campaigns. She will be providing our readers with weekly updates on South Carolina’s legislative goings-on.   

The Uber Bill; Addressing Road Funding and Income Tax Cuts; Internet Sales Tax Reform

Ashley Hunter--Chappell, Smith & Arden

     Ashley Hunter

1.   The SC Transportation Companies Act (“the Uber Bill”), S. 409, received a favorable report in a Senate Transportation subcommittee last week. Members of the subcommittee voted in favor of the proposal after the Property Casualty Insurance of America Association reassured members that companies would continue to offer insurance coverage. Several weeks ago, the Public Service Commission gave Uber permission to operate until June. Legislators are working to create a permanent law allowing insurance companies to cover Uber and exempt it from the types of regulations that traditional taxi companies must face.

2.   Earlier this year, Governor Haley unveiled a plan to fund transportation and infrastructure projects. Her plan included a 10 cent increase on fuel tax if there was simultaneously a 30% reduction of state income tax over the next ten years. Last week, the Senate Finance Special Subcommittee on Transportation talked about the various legislative measures to address road funding. Senators agreed that this was the top priority for this Legislative Session. Senators discussed the possibility of a 4 cent increase for 3 years to generate $437 million. Senators also adopted a new driver’s license fee that would increase from $12.50 to $25 over a 5 year period generating $10.6 million annually. South Carolina has one of the lowest fuel tax rates in the nation at 16.75 cents-on-the-gallon. Meanwhile, Representative Brian White introduced a bill that would cut individual state income taxes. That bill, 3878, will be debated in a House subcommittee this week.

3.   The members of the Senate Finance Committee have given a favorable report to 170, the Internet Sales Tax bill. The bill would require internet retailers in South Carolina to obtain a retail license and would also provide additional reporting and enforcement mechanisms. The bill would extend the exemption for Amazon.com to January 1, 2016. Rick Reames, the Director the Department of Revenue, said the bill would not impact all e-retailers and noted that anyone who uses an e-retailer is already supposed to be reporting this tax. However, Senate Finance Chairman, Hugh Leatherman, stated that the Board of Economic Advisers indicated a $100 million loss in tax revenue due to non-compliance from e-retailer reporting.

Ashley Hunter is a regular contributor to MidlandsBiz.com, UpstateBizSC.com, and LowcountryBizSC.com.  Sign up for their free business eNewsletters here.

For more information on these issues, you may contact Ashley at ahunter@mckaypublicaffairs.com. MPA also publishes a one-of-a-kind monthly publication, The SC Purchasing & Procurement Digest, geared towards locating project funding from federal, state, and corporate resources. MPA’s latest endeavor, Peplum & Politics, is a blog focused on SC fashion and political happenings.

Solving the Cause of an Interstate Tractor Trailer Collision

As we tragically saw yet again this weekend, tractor trailers can be instruments of death when placed in the hands of unqualified or irresponsible people.

Tractor trailers go by a wide variety of names: “trucks,” “eighteen wheelers,” or perhaps “big rigs.” But they all have one thing in common. Tractor trailers are vastly larger and heavier than traditional automobiles and thus often cause death and destruction when they are handled negligently.

Sadly, the enormity of the destruction caused by tractor trailer wrecks often leaves the Interstate  littered with debris, making it extremely difficult to determine the cause of the collision. Without a sound determination of the wreck’s cause, recovery from the responsible party for medical bills, bodily injury, or loss of life is very challenging.

Most trucking companies have expert accident reconstructionist firms on retainer. These individuals are dispatched to the scene of the collision within days of its occurrence to investigate and begin building the defense of the tractor trailer company. These investigators speak with police officers, witnesses, and even private citizens involved in the crash to begin crafting the strongest defense possible–and to avoid paying any compensation to those people injured by the possible negligent or reckless acts of their drivers. As a result, it is absolutely necessary that the lawyers representing the victims of tractor trailer collisions respond just as quickly and investigate just as thoroughly to protect the rights of the innocent people injured, maimed, or killed in such wrecks.

Chappell, Smith and Arden, P.A. takes a very aggressive approach to investigating catastrophic tractor trailer collisions. We have handled numerous deadly Interstate accidents caused by eighteen wheelers and are currently litigating a fatal crash that occurred in Florence County, South Carolina. Interstate 95, in particular, is an infamously dangerous highway known for heavy trucking traffic and high speeds as eighteen wheelers, hauling goods up and down the eastern seaboard, race to deliver their contents on time.

Our trucking litigation group is led by Hugh McAngus, Jr. and Mark Chappell. Hugh and Mark respond to a catastrophic trucking case just as the eighteen wheeler companies do–they immediately retain the best experts in the business to begin reconstructing the cause of the accident to determine exactly what happened and exactly who is at fault.

Accident reconstructionists are trained in the forensic analysis of wreck scenes. They have the ability to take the literal pieces of a truck collision and recreate exactly what happened. Below is an example of a reconstructed video of an eighteen wheeler collision that occurred on Interstate 26, near its intersection with Interstate 95.

As you can see, in this case a wreck had occurred between several cars prior to the tractor trailer approaching the scene. From analyzing the damage to the various cars, the debris field, and the witness testimony, our accident reconstructionist was able to determine that the eighteen wheeler attempted to “thread the needle” of the wreck scene, rather than bringing his truck to a stop. As a result, the truck driver collided with several vehicles and caused tremendous bodily injury to the occupants of those cars.

Had we not acted quickly to retain this expert, investigate the tractor trailer collision, and aggressively litigate this claim on behalf of our client, however, the evidence needed to prove the fault of the tractor trailer driver may have been lost. In this specific case, the trucking company denied all liability and our firm was forced to file a lawsuit. But our expert’s conclusions were strongly rooted in the evidence and the case settled before trial.

The almost limitless resources of trucking companies and the insurance companies that represent them mandate this sort of aggressive representation. If you or anyone you know has been hurt in a trucking accident, do not hesitate–make sure you or they are in the hands of experienced attorneys that handle this sort of claim. Even a day’s delay could make a difference.

Hugh McAngus, Jr. and Mark Chappell are partners at Chappell, Smith and Arden, P.A. Hugh’s law practice focuses  upon representing individuals injured in tractor trailer collisions and he is a member of the national trucking litigation section of the American Association for Justice. Mark is one of the firm’s founding partners and focuses his practice upon representing catastrophically injured clients in a wide variety of contexts. The law firm has offices throughout South Carolina, including Columbia, Florence, Rock Hill, and Aiken.