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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Why Do Lawyers Reject Medical Malpractice Cases?
There are several reasons a lawyer may not pursue a medical malpractice case. State law may require the attorney to receive a medical expert opinion explaining that a medical malpractice has taken place, but the attorney cannot find a qualified second opinion. The attorney may find the cost of the case would come close or barely exceed the value of the case. Obtaining the necessary testimony to win the case is often expensive, especially if the case is taken to trial. Insurance companies are less likely to settle these days, according to Lawyers.com. Many lawyers do not find "economically feasible" cases.
What is the Insurance Definition of "Bad Faith?"
There is no technical definition of "bad faith." Most states define it as "unreasonable or unfair conduct by an insurance company." There are several ways an insurance company can commit "bad faith." For example, if your insurance company delayed handling your claim, refused to defend a lawsuit, refused to make a fair settlement offer, or interpreting your policy unfairly, you may have an insurance "bad faith" claim.
What "Loop-Holes" Should I Look for When Signing a Contract?
Signing a nursing home agreement contract is not something that should be taken lightly. Be careful to read the entire contract and/or have an attorney look over it. Here are a few "loopholes" the nursing home may place in the contract to protect themselves:
Responsible Party Agreement
If a contract has a responsible party agreement, do not sign the contract. Nursing homes are not allowed to take money for bills from third parties, however, this agreement will require you to pay for the resident's bills.
The resident themselves should sign their contract. If they are not capable of doing so, you must sign as their agent. Failure to sign as their agent may result in piles of your loved one's nursing home bills that you will have to pay. Look over the contract for words such as "guarantor," "responsible party," and "financial agent." Be clear that you are not agreeing to pay for the resident's bills.
This agreement is not technically illegal, however, by signing a contract with this provision, you are giving up your rights to take any case to court. If you one day you have to sue the nursing home, you will not be allowed to take your case to court. It will have to be settled through arbitration, which is when a third party settles a dispute. If you do not want this provision, simply cross it out before signing.
Nursing homes are not prohibited to:
- Make the resident pay for the "private rate for a long period of time," nor can they make the resident confirm whether or not they have Medicaid or Medicare.
- Evict patients for any other reason other than the fact the nursing home can no longer provide treatment, the resident's health has improved, the resident is dangerous to others, they have not paid, or the facility has stopped operating.
- Waive responsibility for a resident's health or lost/stolen items.
What is the "Cramdown" Rule?
If you have been paying a loan for more than 910 days, and if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the bank will allow you to receive some relief for that loan.
For example, if you have been paying your car loan for more than 910 days, not only will you be able to keep your car, you will no longer have to pay back the entirety of the loan. If you have been paying your car loan for this long, your car is no longer worth what you owe. You will only have to market value of your car. This is called the "cramdown" rule.
If One Spouse Files for Bankruptcy, What Will Happen?
Only having one spouse file for bankruptcy is more logical than filing as a couple in certain scenarios. There are a few things to keep in mind if only one of you plan to file.
The "Means Test" When Filing for Bankruptcy
The filing spouse must include the paperwork of the non-filing spouse's income. When filing for chapter 7, this information is required to see if the spouse's income qualifies the "means test." If the non-filing spouse does not pass the means test, the couple cannot file separately.
The person filing is more likely to pass the means test if the couple lives in separate households. The filing spouse must still provide both incomes; however, the filing spouse can list his or her living expenses, and they are more likely to pass the financial qualification test.
Filing For Bankruptcy Independently
If a couple is separated, the other spouse's income will not be required in the filing process.
If one spouse is filing, the other spouse may be asked to sign a waiver detailing their exemption rights. Exemption rights allow you to keep certain assets. If the other spouse needs to file for bankruptcy at a later date, the same exemptions will no longer be available.
If you are seeking an attorney for a divorce, contact Brent Adams & Associates today by filling out the contact form.
How Do I File an Appeal?
Once you are denied benefits, you have one year to file an appeal. The one year period begins the date your denial letter was sent to you, not the day you received it.
To appeal your claim, you must file a Notice of Disagreement. You can use VA Form 21-4138 is used to file a NOD, and you should write a letter detailing why you disagree with their decision.
This is what you should include in your NOD:
- A letter at the top of your 21-4138 form
- The date of your denial letter and your ratings
- Explain why you disagree
- State that you intend to repeal your claim
Choose whether you want your appeal to be reviewed by a decision review officer or the Board of Veterans Appeals.
File your appeal with the VA office.
Do I Need a Minimum Amount of Debt to File?
There is no minimum amount of debt required in order for you to file for bankruptcy. Everyone's case is different.
If you file, your ability to pay back your creditors highly depends on your percentage of living expenses. For example, if you are unable to work, you will only pay back a small amount of your debt.
If you have a small amount of debt, consider these five factors before filing:
- How much do you owe? You may be able to work out new payment plans with your bank. Speak with an employee to look at your options. Bankruptcy will stay on your credit for 7-10 years, and if your amount of debt could be paid off with a new payment plan, this will not damage your credit score.
- Will bankruptcy eliminate the debt you owe? (Ex.: You cannot file for bankruptcy for student loans.)
- How long will repaying your debt take you?
- Do you owe a collection agency?
- How much will you spend in attorney and filing fees? Will those factors make filing for bankruptcy worth it?
How Can Veterans' Disability Benefits My Family?
Receiving veterans' disability will provide you and your family with several benefits. Here is a list of what benefits you could receive:
- A monthly income
- More healthcare benefits and services between jobs as well as after retirement
- Vocational rehabilitation training
- Long-term health care
- Eliminated property tax
- Government hiring preference
- VA survivor benefits
- Programs that help with new business development
- Free or Reduced College Tuition for Children
What is an Appeal?
If your claim is denied, you should consider appealing it. This will give your case a second chance to be approved.
There are several levels of an appeal. Your appeal will be reviewed by a Decision Review Officer at the VA office or the Board of Veterans' Appeals will review your claim.
The VA will give you an estimate of your initial rating when you apply for disability. If you believe you are entitled to a higher percentage or you were wrongfully denied benefits, file an appeal.
How Many Conditions Does Veterans' Disability Cover?
Veterans' disability covers over 70 medical conditions such as heart conditions, kidney conditions, and endocrine conditions. Some other conditions veterans' disability can cover are hypertension, arthritis, and prostate cancer. Click here to see a detailed list.
Who is Eligible for Bankruptcy?
Almost anyone can file for bankruptcy; however, this is a situation that should not be taken lightly.
Someone eligible for bankruptcy must have:
- A permanent residence
- Own land or any type or property
- Or Own a business
- Filers must also complete a financial counseling course, but most filers are exempt from this because their case is too far gone to be saved.
Just because you are eligible to file for bankruptcy does not mean you will qualify to have any of your debt discharged. You should seek counsel from an attorney if you're qualified to file in order to find out what kind of relief you could receive.
If you would like to speak with a qualified expert, you can contact Brent Adams and Associates by calling 877-273-6823 or by clicking here. The initial consultation is free, and there is no obligation. See how much relief from your debt you could receive by filing for bankruptcy.
How Can I Avoid a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Although some medical malpractice cases are unavoidable; however, there are ways you can help yourself from receiving one. According to a study conducted by RAND, by the age of 45, 36 percent of low-risk specialty physicians, and 88 percent of high-risk physicians are likely to have one medical malpractice claim against them.
So here are three tips on how to avoid filing a medical malpractice claim:
1. Healthy Doctor-Patient Relationship
This means you and your doctor must communicate. Electric Medical Certification.com states the largest cause of medical malpractice cases occurs because of a lack of communication. Listen to your patient and ask them questions.
Dealing with a lawyer in a medical malpractice case is stressful. And at the end of the day, it's not the lawyer who is suing you, it's the patient. So as soon as your patient walks through the door work on creating a healthy bond with them so they will feel listened to and trust you. Make sure, to be honest with them at all times to avoid a medical malpractice lawsuit.
2. Have Proper Documentation
Healthy relationships, paired with communication are important, but you must have keeping documentation is just as important. Keeping a record of events might come in handy if you ever need to recount a scenario. Documenting events is not something doctors are unfamiliar with; however, there are ways they can drastically improve their record keeping:
- Write legibly
- Include the date and time of all notes
- Sign every entry
- Identify the people
- Keep note of advice given, decisions, patient's related issues, and instructions
- If you are not sure as to whether or not you should document something, document it.
3. Inform Your Patient of Expectations of Treatment
Make every treatment option and ALL the potential outcomes of each known to your patient. Explain why you plan to assess their situation in the way you want to assess it. Unrealistic expectations held on the patient's end can leave them feeling as if you failed them. Clear and honest--even being brutally honesty--is always the best way to address your patient's health issues.
What is a Service-Related Benefit?
A service-related benefit is an amount of money you receive for any injuries you obtained while serving in the military. Here are the qualifications you must make in order to receive service-connected compensation:
- You must have served in the U.S. military, navy, or air force.
- You must have been honorably discharged. If you were dishonorably discharged, you cannot receive benefits.
- You must have sustained an injury or illness because of your service during war-time.
- Your injury/illness must be diagnosed by a doctor.
- You must be able to prove the event that happened during your service caused your injury/illness.
How is "Pro Rata" Calculated with the "Principle of Average?"
"Pro rata" is the term coined with "proportionate distribution." Insurance companies use pro rata to calculate the "principle of average" or "condition of average" for your claim.
What is the "principle of average?"
This is the figure the insurance company gives after using pro rata distribution to compensate you for your damaged property.
How it works:
For example, a homeowner takes out $300,000 worth of flood insurance for their home, and their home is valued at $400,000. A hurricane comes and leaves $60,000 worth of flood damage. If the flood insurance policy uses pro rata to determine the principle of average, the insurance provider is only responsible for covering the proportion the homeowner has insured. Since the homeowner only has insurance covering 3/4 of their home, that means they would only receive 3/4 of the amount that their total damage is worth. The homeowner would receive $45,000.
Insurance companies are constantly trying to find ways to give you less money. Be careful when reading your policy.
Should I Give an Insurance Adjuster My Medical Records?
Why An Insurance Adjuster Want Your Medical Records:
An insurance adjuster may ask for additional medical records they believe are relevant to your claim. Sometimes adjusters will ask for X-Ray records to see if you had a pre-existing injury. In certain scenarios, an insurance adjuster may try and use your medical history against you.
What Should You Do:
If an adjuster requests records you feel are irrelevant to your claim, politely tell the adjuster you do not believe he/she need the medical records. Or ask the insurance company to pay the hospital for the records. Typically, a small fee is incurred when a request medical records are made. If the insurance company agrees to pay the fee, then the information requested must be vital to your claim.
What is Joint Bankruptcy?
If you are married, you would both file a petition for joint bankruptcy. Your spouse is not required to file for bankruptcy with you. You can file by yourself. In some cases, this may be smarter. If one of you has a perfect credit score, there is no point in ruing that score with a joint bankruptcy claim.
However, if you are both in debt, filing joint bankruptcy will save you money because you will have once filing fee instead of two.
Do I Have to Pay Premiums for a Totaled Car?
You have to pay your insurance premium until you return your license plate to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Your policy is terminated once you return your license plate to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. If your license plate was destroyed in the collision or stolen, you must go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles office and receive a lost or stolen plates receipt. For your premium to be canceled, you must provide this receipt to your insurance company.
How Can I Ensure I Receive a Fair Settlement?
Experiencing damages to your home or losing your home entirely is devastating. Insurance companies are going to read policies in a way that saves them money. When the insurance company offers you a settlement for your losses, do not accept the figure they give you without consulting other opinions. Here are some tips to help you receive a fair settlement for your claim:
- Document the items you had before the accident/natural disaster, and keep a record of your losses.
- Estimate how much you lost and the price of repairs. Make notes as to what needs repairing, and be specific. (Ex.: X amount of square feet carpeting needs replacing.)
- Do not rely only on your adjuster. Get two estimates from licensed contractors about your damages before taking the settlement offer from your insurance company.
- Do not be afraid to negotiate with your insurance provider. If they will not offer you more, consider hiring an appraiser to receive professional help.
What Does An Insurance Company Owe Me?
An insurance company is required to handle your claim quickly and reasonably. They must practice "good faith." Good faith means the insurance company must:
- Pay or deny a claim within a reasonable amount of time
- Cooperate with your schedule
- Give you a reason in writing as to why they are denying your claim
- Find a reason to compensate your claim rather than deny it
What is a Public Adjuster?
A public adjuster is a person you can hire to help resolve the issues you may be experiencing when solving a claim with your insurance company. However, they cannot represent you in court. Only an attorney can represent you in court.
According to bankrate.com, public adjuster "interprets the homeowner's policy, assesses the damage and how much it will cost to repair, and negotiates with the insurance company on behalf of the homeowner until the claim is settled."
People typically hire a public adjuster because they do not have time to handle their own insurance claim.
If you experienced losses in an accident incurring $10,000 or more worth of damage, you should consider hiring a public adjuster. Public adjusters are there to help you receive the proper amount of compensation you deserve when a claim is too big to handle alone. However, there is no guarantee that you will receive the exact amount of compensation you want. Public adjusters are not miracle workers, but they can help you if your claim is too much to tackle by yourself.
For more information about North Carolina Insurance Disputes, read our book.