North Carolina Legal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When you or a loved one is injured in an accident, no one hands you a pamphlet containing all of the information you need to understand your case. In this section we strive to answer the basic questions that everyone has in the time following a car accident, on-the-job injury, medical malpractice, abuse, or other accident.
If you don't find the answers to all of your North Carolina injury questions here, we encourage you to contact our Raleigh injury lawyers for answers to questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
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How Long Does It Take To Actually Get To Trial After A Lawsuit Has Been Filed in NC?
In most counties in North Carolina, where we practice, a lawyer who tries hard enough, can get their trial after a lawsuit within 1 year.
Nobody likes to go to court. At Brent Adams and Associates we try hard to settle our clients' cases without having to file suit and without having to go to trial. However, sometimes it is necessary to file suit and actually try the case.
When that happens, our client sometimes ask us how long does it actually take to get to trial.
All cases are different, and all jurisdictions are different. In some counties it takes longer to actually try your case than in other counties.
You may have heard about congested trial dockets which result in a delay in going to trial for 2 to 3 years after filing suit.
Some of the uncertainty concerning how long it will take to actually complete a jury trial arises from the way cases are calendared in North Carolina.
When a case is set for trial on a particular week, it is always set on Monday of that week. There may be 35 other cases also set for trial that same Monday. Obviously, all 35 cases cannot be tried within that week.
Most counties have only one judge to preside over that 1 week of trial. However, some counties such as Wade County and Mecklenburg County have more than one judge. Usually there are not more than three judges presiding over a civil calendar at any given week even in the largest counties in North Carolina. Because your case will be set during the same week 35 other cases are also set, your chances of actually getting to trial would depend upon how many cases are settled or continued.
While it may seem that 35 cases are a lot of cases for the court to handle, a large number of such cases are settled or continued.
We still maintain that a lawyer who tries hard enough should get his or her case tried within 1 year from filing suit.
Will Your Personal Injury Case Be Filed In State Court or Federal Court?
The vast majority of all lawsuits filed in the United States are filed in state courts. Federal courts have limited jurisdiction and will only hear certain kinds of cases.
Federal courts will handle cases against the federal government and certain other cases which arise under federal law.
The most common exception to the general rule that lawsuits are handled in state court is when there exists a diversity of citizenship. If a citizen of one state files a claim against a citizen of another state, the defendant who is sued may ask the federal court to remove the case from state court into federal court. Of course, the plaintiff can also file suit directly in federal court if there is a diversity of citizenship. Even when there is the diversity of citizenship, the amount in controversy must be at least $70,000.00 or the federal court will not hear the suit.
Most of the claims against manufacturers of defective drugs are handled in federal court because of the diversity issue.
What Happens If A Jury Cannot Agree?
In North Carolina all decisions by a jury after the trial of a case must be unanimous.
Imagine getting 12 people to unanimously agree on anything. It is very difficult. Nevertheless that is the law. All 12 must agree exactly on every issue submitted to it.
But what happens if the jury cannot agree?
If the jury cannot agree the judge will keep sending the jury back to deliberate for a period of time in order to encourage the jury to reach a unanimous agreement. During the process of deciding the issues in the case, there is usually give and take by jurors and each of the 12 must consider whether to compromise their position in order to reach a unanimous verdict.
If, after the court send the jury back several times the jury still cannot agree, the judge must make a decision in his or her own discretion, as to whether the jury is hopelessly deadlocked and will never be able to agree on a decision.
If the judge finds that the jury cannot agree this is sometimes referred to as a "hung" jury. In that case, the judge will declare a mistrial. Thereafter, the case will have to be re tried by the parties. So in that case, they start from Day 1 picking a jury in another case. Of course, the parties will have different jurors.
If a practical matter, many times after the judge declares a mistrial because of a "hung" jury the parties reach a settlement.
If you have any questions about how a jury trial works or any other questions about your case give us a call at 910-888-8888. We answer questions like this every day.
Can Lawyers Loan Money to Clients?
Individuals who have been involved in a car collision are sometimes placed in a financial bind because of the injuries caused by the crash.
If this occurs, the victims of motor vehicle collisions turn to family and friends for financial help.
Occasionally, these people ask their attorneys for a loan pending the outcome of their case. These injury victims see that there will likely be a time when they will have a pool of money from which to repay loans.
In North Carolina, lawyers are especially forbidden to loan money to clients. Occasionally we will get requests from clients to loan them money. Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate these requests because the law prevents lawyers from loaning money to clients.
In time has passed, there were individuals and small companies who would be willing to loan money to clients based upon a potential recovery in their personal injury suits. However, several years ago the North Carolina Supreme Court enacted a rule that there were strict limits on such loans and that usury law would apply to prevent high-interest rates on those loans. As a result, the sources for such loans dried up in North Carolina. We are currently not aware of any companies which are willing to make loans to clients based upon a loan secured by potential personal injury settlements.
However, this does not stop family members or friends from making loans to victims of motor vehicle collisions. However, people who make such loans should understand the strict usury law applies and that the interest charged may not be greater than 8 percent per annum.
Are stay at home parents eligible for Social Security disability benefits?
Stay at home parents do important work. Back in 2011, Forbes argued that stay at home moms should earn about $115,000 annually for their work as daycare providers, drivers, housekeepers, and for the other services that they provide to their families. Of course, there is no one to pay stay at home parents what they are worth and the position is not financially compensated.
When a stay at home parent becomes disabled, however, families quickly learn just how much it can cost to replace the services a stay at home parent was performing. If the stay at home parent is no longer able to handle the childcare and perform the household duties like she did prior to becoming disabled, then the costs to the family can quickly add up.
Social Security Disability May Be an Option for Some Stay at Home Parents
Whether or not you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits will depend on how many work credits you have acquired and other factors. Generally, you may acquire a total of four work credits every year. The amount of money that you have to earn to acquire a Social Security work credit varies from year to year. In 2018, you could earn one work credit for every $1,320 you earned up to a maximum of four credits if you earned $5,280 or more for the year.
The Social Security Administration then considers your work credits, when you earned those credits, and your age to determine if you may be eligible for Social Security disability. Specifically:
- If you are under the age of 24 then you need six credits that you earned in the three year period prior to becoming disabled.
- If you are between the ages of 24 and 31 then you may qualify if you earned half of the maximum credits possible from the time you were 21 until the time you became disabled.
- If you are between the ages of 31 and 42 then you need 20 credits.
- If you are 43 years old then you need 21 credits.
- If you are 44 years old then you need 22 credits.
- If you are 45 years old then you need 23 credits.
- If you are 46 years old then you need 24 credits.
- If you are 47 years old then you need 25 credits.
- If you are 48 years old then you need 26 credits.
- If you are 49 years old then you need 27 credits.
- If you are 50 years old then you need 28 credits.
- If you are 51 years old then you need 29 credits.
- If you are 52 years old then you need 30 credits.
- If you are 53 years old then you need 31 credits.
- If you are 54 years old then you need 32 credits.
- If you are 55 years old then you need 33 credits.
- If you are 56 years old then you need 34 credits.
- If you are 57 years old then you need 35 credits.
- If you are 58 years old then you need 36 credits.
- If you are 59 years old then you need 37 credits.
- If you are 60 years old then you need 38 credits.
- If you are 61 years old then you need 39 credits.
- If you are 62 years old or older than you need 40 credits.
These work credits must be earned within a certain amount of time of filing for Social Security disability. The exact amount of time depends on your age.
It is important to remember that work credits are only one factor in determining eligibility for Social Security disability. If you have earned enough work credits to be eligible for disability benefits then you will still need to prove to the Social Security Administration that you are disabled.
How to Protect Your Right to Receive Fair Social Security Disability Benefits
If you have worked at paying jobs long enough and recently enough to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, then being a stay at home parent should not be a barrier to your receipt of fair benefits. For help getting the benefits that you deserve, please contact a Board Certified Social Security disability lawyer. We would be happy to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with you to review your claim and, if appropriate, talk about how we can help you get the benefits that you’ve earned and that can help your family during this difficult time.
Why Does My Credit Score Matter?
One day--if not already--you will need a loan. Your credit score is used to determine whether or not you are capable of making your loan payments. Your credit score shows how reliable you are to creditors.
Credit Scores are Based on These Factors
- Your payment history
- The amount of debt you have
- How long your credit accounts have been in use
- The credit you have
- How often you use credit
The better your credit score, the more likely you are to receive a loan.
If you have a question about your credit score or bankruptcy contact the office of Brent Adams and Associates in North Carolina.
What is Secured and Unsecured Debt?
Secured debt is any debt secured by property that your creditor can take if you fail to make your payments. Your mortgage is a secured debt and so is a car loan. This is called collateral. Lenders place a lien--which is a right to take back their property if you default--on secured debt. You do not own anything loaned to you until your debt is paid in full.
Unsecured debt is debt that is not secured by a property. This debt includes credit card bills, taxes, child support, or spousal support. Creditors cannot take anything from you in these cases because there is no asset attached to your loan. To incite you to pay your unsecured debt, creditors will have debt collectors call you. They may even take you to court, and they will report your unpaid loans the credit bureaus, which keep a record of your credit score. This will reflect poorly on your credit report.
If you are experiencing financial hardship, make sure to be consistent with your most important payments: secured debt. Otherwise, you risk losing your house. You can make the minimum payment on your unsecured loans. However, this means it will take you longer to pay them off, but it is better not to fall behind. Paying the minimum is better than paying nothing.
If I File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Will My Unsecured Debt be Safe?
Debts that are not secured by collateral are considered unsecured debts A home or car are considered collateral. Chapter 7 takes care of credit card debt, medical bills, and gasoline card bills. So your unsecured debt will be safe if you file Chapter 7.
However, not all unsecured debts will be discharged if you file Chapter 7. Nolo.com states "some unsecured debt is nondischargeable." This means Chapter 7 will not wipe away these debts. Examples of these debts include child/spousal support, student loans, luxury debts, fraud, and taxes due within the past three years. If your debt does not fall into these categories, it will be discharged by the end of your bankruptcy case. For more information about Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, click here.
Should I Speak to the Truck's Insurer if They Contact Me?
No, the only person you should speak with about the accident is the police officer who will ask you questions at the scene of the collision. Answer every question, and do not offer additional information. Do not try to settle your case by accepting the first settlement amount the insurer offers you, instead, speak with an attorney to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
If you think you have a case, or you have any questions, feel free to call Brent Adams and Associates at 877-273-6823 to schedule a free consultation.
What are the Punishments for Nursing Home Abusers?
In North Carolina, there are two types of nursing home violations: Type A and Type B.
North Carolina inspectors are required to conduct inspections of nursing homes, and if a Type A violation is found, this means the unkept facility has caused death or serious injury to a resident. For this type of violation, a fine up to $20,000 can be imposed on the nursing home, as well as jail time or the revocation of license.
According to Nursing Home Abuse Guide.org, a Type B violation occurs when the condition of a facility is causing harm to residents and is not corrected after inspection. Penalties for a Type B violation can result in a fine of $400 or more per day until the facility fixes the issue.
Nursing homes do have the right to appeal their fines. If they wish to do so, they must go to a hearing or come to a settlement agreement outside of court with the state.
Who is Typically the Abuser of Nursing Home Residents?
Unfortunately, the answer is staff members. Often times, nursing home residents are abused by staff members, and if residents are not visited frequently, the abuse can go unnoticed. On the flip side, family members have also been known to abuse nursing home residents. The sad reality is nursing home residents are usually abused by the people they trust to provide care for them. If you believe you are witnessing nursing home abuse, please contact the authorities.
Here are a few key signs of nursing home abuse:
- Unexplained injuries
- Emotional distress
- Rapid Weight Loss
- Bed Ulcers
- Rapid Weight Gain
- or Isolation
Will the VA reimburse me for Examination or Travel Costs?
Unfortunately, the VA will not reimburse you for medical examinations or travel expenses obtained while traveling to and from your doctor's office. This information is disclosed on the DBQ form, as well as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Website. Veterans are completely responsible for their medical costs and travel expenses during the DBQ filing process. However, the VA may request you to have a medical appointment, and this examination is free as long as you make a scheduled compensation appointment. There is no fee to have your doctor fill out a DBQ.
What is the Purpose of a DBQ?
The purpose of a DBQ is to organize all of the necessary documents regarding your claim. This questionnaire provides Veterans with an effective way to provide the Department of Veterans Affairs with evidence supporting their claim. The DBQ also provides a way for Veterans to have more power over their filing process. Veterans should know they can have their providers fill out more than 70 DBQs corresponding to their medical condition. A licensed provider will fill out the DBQ.
If you want to see the list of questionnaires provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, click here.
What Information do I Need When Filing a Disability Claim?
According to unum.com, you will need the following information:
- Your personal contact information
- Your work schedule
- Your reason for leaving
- The last day you worked
- The first day you missed work
- Your condition
- The contact information of your physician, including fax and telephone numbers
You will also need to note if surgery is needed. If you have to have surgery, you will need to list the date of the surgery and the type of surgery you will be receiving.
Do I Meet the Requirements for a DBQ?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' website explains that people pursuing Veterans' disability coverage must have their DBQ signed by a licensed, medical professional. They must have at least one of the medical conditions listed on the questionnaire, and to complete the DBQ, the Veteran must have one of the two people sign it:
- A private treatment provider, or
- A clinician from the Veterans Health Administration
However, please note that some providers may not sign the DBQ for professional reasons, and other specialty doctors may also decline for professional reasons.
Is My Job Responsible for My Illness?
Will I Receive Coverage for a Preexisting Condition?
If you have a preexisting condition and your job worsens this condition, or if you receive an injury at work because of your preexisting condition, you will most likely be covered by workers' compensation. For example, Darren worked in a warehouse for thirty years--constantly lifting heavy objects--and he injured his knee. After six months, his knee healed, and he worked for ten more years. Now he works at a department store. He is carrying mannequin and somehow reinjures the same knee. He will receive workers' compensation for his injury.
Will I Receive Benefits for Hearing Loss?
Jobs that place their workers in noisy environments--such as construction sites--typically provide workers' compensation for hearing loss.
Will I be Compensated for Mental Conditions?
Yes, you are entitled to workers' compensation for mental conditions. However, proving your job caused your mental condition will be hard to do and may require a lawyer's help.
If I Get a Disease or Illness at Work, Will I Receive Workers' Comp.?
Yes, if you receive a disease or illness from your place of employment, you are entitled to workers' compensation.
What is Tort, and What is the Cap for Tort Damages in NC?
First and foremost, in order to understand the role a medical malpractice plays in tort law, you must know the definition of tort. Tort is defined by Medical Malpractice Tort Reform "as a civil wrong which causes an injury, for which a victim may seek damages, typically in the form of money damages, against the alleged wrongdoer." This means tort occurs when non-economic damages have taken place on someone during surgery, an examination, etc.
A few examples of tort:
- having the wrong body part removed during surgery (which has happened) or
- having a doctor's surgical tool left inside of your body after surgery (which has also happened).
Currently, the cap for tort compensation in North Carolina is $500,000.
How Do You Know if You're Eligible for Workers' Compensation?
Workers' compensation is a type of insurance most businesses are required to have for their employees. If you are injured while at work or become ill because of your job, you may be entitled to compensation. Nolo.com discusses the three requirements you must meet in order qualify for workers' compensation benefits. These requirements are as follows:
Your Employer Must Have Workers' Compensation Insurance
Some state laws do require an employer to have workers' compensation insurance; however, this requirement does vary depending on the type of business and the number of employees the business has. Under the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act, "businesses that employ three or more employees, including those operating as corporations, sole proprietorships, limited liability companies and partnerships, obtain workers' compensation insurance or qualify as self-insured employers for purposes of paying workers' compensation benefits to their employees." The NC Workers' Compensation Act does list a few exceptions to these requirements such as "employees of certain railroads, casual employees, domestic servants, farm laborers with fewer than 10 full-time, nonseasonal farm laborers, and federal government employees." If you are a federal employee, you are entitled to receive benefits based upon the federal governments' workers' compensation plan.
You Must be Employed
According to Nolo, not all workers are employees. To receive workers' compensation benefits, you must be an employee. If you are an independent contractor, you are not an employee.
Your Injury/Illness Must Have Happened at or because of your Job
For example, if you injure your shoulder lifting boxes on the job, or you get sick because of exposure to a dangerous chemical, your injuries are without a doubt, work-related. This gets tricky to determine when you're technically "off the clock," yet injured doing something that is technically work-related. For more information on situations such as this, click here.
What is a Ghost Policy?
A ghost policy is a type of workers' compensation insurance coverage where the owner is excluded, as well as additional employees. This policy does not actually provide workers' compensation benefits unless the employer becomes liable for a contractor or employees. WorkersCompensationShop.com states, "A ghost policy is typically purchased by a subcontractor to satisfy coverage requirements of a general contractor or other entity hiring the subcontractor." These policies are not available in all states.
Is My Job Responsible for My Injury?
Were you injured on your lunch break? At a company picnic? Or any type of company event? Or were you injured while violating work safety rules? Good news, you may still be entitled to workers' compensation.
If You're Injured on Your Lunch Break:
You will not receive workers' compensation if you are injured on your lunch break; however, if you are injured on your lunch break while on the way to pick up coffee for your boss or something of that nature, you might be able to receive workers' compensation. If your company has a cafeteria, and you are injured while in the cafeteria, you might be compensated by workers' comp. as well.
If You're Injured at a Work Event:
Any injuries obtained at work events such as parties, picnics, kickball leagues, etc. will most likely be covered by workers' compensation. For example, if Pamela sprains her ankle while playing volleyball at a company picnic, her injury would be covered by workers' comp.
If You're Injured While Traveling:
If you are commuting to and from work, your injuries will not be covered. However, if you are on a business trip, or you are driving a company car, your injuries will most likely be covered.
If You're Injured While Violating Your Job's Rules:
You are not guaranteed coverage if you are injured on the job while breaking the rules. However, there is still a chance you could receive workers' compensation benefits.