Timeline for a Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect Case

Many people who are considering pursuing a lawsuit against a nursing home on behalf of a loved one are curious as to how long a lawsuit will last.  Civil lawsuits can be complicated but the Attorney will be doing most of the work on your behalf.  You will have to gather certain documents and appear at mediations and court.  Here is an example of a possible timeline for a nursing home abuse case.  Remember, though, that no two cases are ever the same.

Day 1 – Patient and/or family meet with Attorney to discuss the case.

Days 2 – 90 – Once the Attorney agrees to accept your case, an expert in the field of nursing home administration, nursing and/or a physician are usually hired to review the case and determine that the standard of care has been violated. An expert or experts must be retained to testify in a nursing home abuse and neglect case prior to filing a lawsuit in North Carolina.

Days 91 – 120 – Lawsuit is prepared by the attorney.

Day 121 – Lawsuit is filed with the Court.

Days 122 – 240 – Discovery occurs in the case. This provides both the parties in the case an opportunity to question the other sides’ experts as well as any witnesses in the case.

Day 241 – Mediation is scheduled. This brings the parties in the nursing home abuse and neglect case along with a third-party mediator together to review and attempt to settle the case. Often the case will not be settled at mediation.

Day 280 – Case will be tried in front of a jury. The length of the trial may vary from 3 days to two weeks.

It is important to understand that no two nursing home abuse and neglect cases are the same. Some cases are more complicated and will take much longer to get to trial. In addition, the number of pending lawsuits in each county in North Carolina varies and will impact how long it takes to get a case to trial. As a result, the timeline associated with a nursing home abuse and neglect case varies from approximately 10 month to over two years.

What If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Injury?

Unfortunately, all too often, our loved ones are injured or neglected while in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Nursing Homes often times are understaffed and are unable to provide the resources necessary to protect our loved ones. These insufficiencies naturally lead to preventable injuries and even deaths.

Our firm has seen too many cases where elderly loved ones have suffered from fractured bones, dehydration, urinary tract infections, sepsis, sexual assault and other injuries due to the neglect or abuse of nursing home employees. The Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1,800 people die every year in nursing homes due to fall-related injuries.

If you believe that a loved one is being neglected or abused while in the care of a nursing facility then there are certain steps that should be taken:

First, if appropriate, contact local law enforcement to notify them of the abuse and neglect.

Second, contact your local Division of Aging and Adult Services and follow the process that they will lay out.

Third, after contacting the appropriate authorities, a nursing home abuse and neglect attorney may be able to help you pursue further courses of action against the nursing home.

In addition to taking these steps it is always a good idea to take good notes of what is occurring, who you have spoken to, their responses, and actions taken. Be sure to include dates and times of the day. Also, pictures of the injury caused by the neglect of the nursing facility are always helpful.

Are Social Security Disability Benefits Protected in Bankruptcy?

Senior Couple | Social Security Disability in BankruptcyThe short answer is yes, you can still receive Social Security benefits if you are to file bankruptcy.  Whether filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your social security benefits are not affected by filing for bankruptcy.

Impact on the Means Test

North Carolina bankruptcy laws are based upon the qualifications of the Means Test.  Social Security benefits are not calculated into the Means Test and therefore, are not a factor upon whether or not you qualify to file for bankruptcy.

Are My Social Security Benefits Protected?

Any future earnings received from Social Security benefits such as a disability claim or settlement are usually protected by state exemptions which protect your assets.  Any large lump sum you may have received within six months prior to filing your bankruptcy petition may be at risk and the trustee’s office may try to seize those funds in order to repay your creditors. However, there is the possibility the lump sum payment can be protected by using the proper exemptions.

How Social Security Benefits Will Impact a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

If you intend on filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will be on a repayment plan based upon your monthly income versus expenses.  Your Social Security benefits will be calculated into your monthly repayment plan.  If you expect to receive a Social Security Disability award and intend on filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, this could affect your monthly income and your budget may need to be amended.

In any case, you need to consult with a Bankruptcy attorney to review your options when filing your petition.  The attorney will give you a clear perspective of what type of bankruptcy you would most likely want to file and which one you are probable to qualify for according to the Means Test.

Can I Sell My House During My Bankruptcy?

Sometimes, especially during Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a person decides they would like to sell their house during their bankruptcy. The big question that they ask is: Am I allowed to sell my house during bankruptcy?

The answer to this question is yes, however, you must get Court approval before selling the house while in a Chapter 13.

Also, if you are considering selling property, other than your house, that is listed in your bankruptcy, it is very important that you discuss this with your attorney, as each case is different.

In order to sell your house, your attorney will need to file a Motion to Sell with the Court. The Motion to Sell lets the Court determine what happens to the proceeds from the sale of the property, makes sure that the terms, conditions and expenses of sale are reasonable.

Before your attorney can file the motion with the Court, you will need to put the house on the market. Once you have received and accepted an offer, you must contact your attorney’s office and provide them with a copy of the contract between you and the buyer, so they can file a Motion to Sell with the Court. It typically takes about 30 days from the date the Motion is filed until permission is granted.

Contact your bankruptcy attorney for more specific advice on selling property during bankruptcy.

Can Taxes Be Wiped Out in Bankruptcy?

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Many people considering filing bankruptcy have late or back taxes and want to know if these taxes can be discharged in the bankruptcy. The most important thing regarding taxes and bankruptcy is that you must have filed all of your taxes before you file your bankruptcy. Even if back tax payments can be discharged, they will not if you have not yet filed those taxes. There are certain rules as to which taxes can and cannot be wiped out in the bankruptcy.

First, with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where most unsecured debts are discharged, taxes that have been filed but not paid can be discharged if it has been at least three years since the tax return was due. It is key that all of your taxes for the last four years have at least been filed, even if you have not paid the government for back taxes.

Any unpaid taxes for the past 3 years cannot be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy you cannot discharge back taxes. A Chapter 13 is a repayment plan for all of your debts including taxes. Any taxes that you owe to the government will be listed as a creditor in your Chapter 13 plan and you will pay back those taxes over the time that you are in the Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Once again you still must have filed all of your taxes for the last four years. If you complete your bankruptcy and continue to pay your current taxes, you should be caught up with all back taxes when you complete your plan.

How to Find a Good Nursing Home for a Loved One

Finding a good nursing home is sometimes one of the most difficult things to do for our elderly loved ones. There are several ways to narrow down the choices as to which nursing home you will place you loved one in. Below are some things you can do to find a good nursing home and to make sure your loved one is being given the care they deserve.

Do not be fooled by flashy brochures provided by the nursing home. Most nursing homes are owned by large corporations and no matter what the brochure states the main job of the nursing home is to make money for its parent corporation. If the nursing home is understaffed and under supplied, the parent corporation makes more money, but patient care may suffer. You may want to do internet research on the parent company.

You can check with the state in which the nursing home is located. Most states have regulatory agencies that oversee the nursing home. Some things you will want to learn more about include:

1. Getting references from others who have had loved ones at the nursing home.

2. Finding out the staff-to-patient ratio. You want to make sure the nursing home is not understaffed.

3. The rights of the patients at the nursing home.

4. Make sure you visit the nursing home to see for yourself what the living conditions are.

You can find even more valuable information on how to find a good nursing home here at the North Carolina Division of Aging and Health Services website. If you suspect that a loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse, neglect, or injury, contact Duncan Law today to find out how we can help.

What Are the Stages of a Bedsore or Decubitus Ulcer?

Decubitus ulcers, or bed sores ,are one of the most common forms of nursing home neglect. They are often caused when a patient is not turned on a regular basis resulting in pressure on the bony prominences of the body. The pressure reduces the blood flow to the area causing the surrounding tissue to die. Decubitus ulcers are usually located on the lower back near the tail bone, upper back near the shoulder blade area, buttocks, heels, knees, elbows, and sometimes ankles.

There are four generally accepted stages of bedsores; however, a fifth stage is sometimes used to explain exceptionally deep decubitus ulcers. The descriptions are as follows:

Stage I – A Stage I decubitus ulcers usually appears as a red spot on the skin that fails to disappear once the pressure from the area is relieved. It may appear as a small rash. Stage I decubitus ulcers can usually be eliminated with proper treatment and turning by the healthcare provider.

Stage II – A Stage II decubitus ulcer may appear as a small blister or slightly broken skin. A Stage II should be carefully monitored by the healthcare staff. The staff may provide additional conditioning of the skin and may request an air mattress to alleviate the pressure on the affected area. Stage II decubitus ulcers are sometimes unavoidable depending on the patient’s condition and co-morbidities.

Stage III – A Stage III decubitus ulcer usually appears as an open wound on the patient and looks like a crater in the skin. The skin is open and the depth is usually a quarter of an inch or more. Immediate medical attention and treatment should be provided to the patient. It depends on the overall health of the patient, but the patient’s healthcare provider may be negligent if they allow a decubitus ulcer to progress to Stage III.

Stage IV or Unstageable – A stage IV decubitus ulcer is characterized by having passed through the skin into tendons, muscles and bones. A Stage IV decubitus ulcer requires immediate wound care and usually surgery to debride or rid the wound of the dying tissue. Often a thick black, dry tissue will cover the wound causing it to be unstageable. Amputation may be necessary if the ulcer is on an extremity. One of the major complications of a Stage IV decubitus ulcer is sepsis or a whole body infection that attacks the organs of the body and which can lead to death. Usually, the healthcare provider is negligent for allowing a patient’s decubitus ulcer to progress to Stage IV.

Stage V – A Stage V decubitus ulcer can be any size and is known for the depth it has penetrated into the underlying bone and possibly other organs. A Stage V decubitus ulcer is almost impossible to heal.

If you think you have a loved one suffering from bed sores contact us immediately to see how we can help stop this unnecessary neglect.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis, or septicemia is a potentially fatal illness that occurs when the body reacts to infection that has spread throughout the body. Sepsis is most commonly seen in the elderly or in young children, but may occur at any age.

Symptoms

Symptoms of sepsis usually include, but aren’t limited to: fever, increased heart rate, decreased urine output, pain in joints, confusion and low blood pressure. Sepsis may be seen in patients who have had pneumonia, urinary tract infections, ruptured appendix and meningitis. It is critical that if signs of sepsis are seen to notify the appropriate medical personnel.

Causes

The most common cause for sepsis is an infection that spreads. The body’s reaction to infection is inflammation. Usually the body will create the necessary chemicals to fight the inflammation and infection. However, in patients who become septic their entire body may become inflamed causing the body to overreact. This overreaction causes small blood clots to form throughout the body. The body works harder to break up these clots but when unable to do so the body’s organs lack the necessary oxygen and begin to fail.

Treatment

Early detection of sepsis is key to survival. If identified early enough, sepsis may be treated with the use of intravenous fluids (IVs), antibiotics and removal or sanitation of the infected area and source. Without proper treatment sepsis can become severe and eventually lead to septic shock causing death.

According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences , “every year, severe sepsis strikes about 750,000 Americans. It’s been estimated that between 28 percent and 50 percent of these people die—far more than the number of U.S. deaths from prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined.”

If you believe a loved one has died or been seriously injured by the failure of a medical facility to properly diagnose sepsis or other illness, contact us today to see how we may be able to help.

For further information on sepsis visit:

U.S. National Library of Medicine
The Mayo Clinic