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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What should I do if I suspect nursing home abuse?
If you believe there has been a medical form of neglect or abuse, contact a physician or emergency room. If you believe you have witnessed nursing home abuse that has resulted in criminal activity, you should contact the police.
If I wait to apply for Part B of Medicare insurance, will there be a fee?
If you do not enroll during your initial enrollment period for Part B coverage; you will have to pay a penalty fee along with your premium each month. Your initial enrollment period to enroll in Part B of Medicare is three months before you turn 65, the month you are 65, and three months after you turn 65. Your premium could increase by 10% for every twelve month period you wait to enroll.
If you are still working and your employer has insurance, you can apply for Part B up to eight months after you retire.
Will I receive a notice in the mail about Medicare?
If you are receiving Social Security, you will receive information in the mail about Medicare three months before you turn 65. Once you turn 65, you will automatically be enrolled in Part A and Part B of Medicare insurance.
If you do not collect Social Security, you will not receive information about Medicare. You will have to enroll yourself in Medicare through your local Social Security office.
You can click here to find out information about Medicare if you do not collect Social Security. It is important to educate yourself about the Medicare coverage will receive before you enroll.
How is "exploration" defined in a nursing home setting?
The definition of exploration is the wrongful use of the resident’s resources to give a nursing home an advantage. An example of this could be a misuse of their funds or property
What happens after abuse is reported in a nursing home?
If there has been a complaint of abuse, an investigation will occur with the family, nursing home staff members, and management. If a problem is found, the adult protective services will try to reconcile with the resident and their family and ensure the incident does not occur again. In some cases, a family will not feel properly compensated and seek help from an attorney.
When am I required to hear back about my Veterans disability benefits application?
There is no set time for how long the Department of Veterans Affairs will need to process your claim. The VA has experienced a tremendous accumulation of claims within the last few years, which has caused the procedure to last a long time. Back in 2013, the VA transitioned to a revised digital system developed to help expedite veterans claims, but the transition process contributed to more delays. There have been other routes taken to shorten this process, but unfortunately, some caused people to receive denials without having all the proper evidence needed in order to determine whether or not their claim could truly be accepted.
Overall, there is no specific deadline for the VA to respond to disability applications. Our North Carolina veterans disability attorneys encourage individuals to apply as soon as possible and to double-check and triple-check that all appropriate documents are included and completed correctly. One error could contribute to delays or an unnecessary denial, further contributing to wait times.
What happens when an applicant dies before their request for Veterans disability benefits is approved?
In the unfortunate event a former military member predeceases the processing of their Veterans disability benefits application, their claim is no longer valid.
Surviving dependents have the opportunity to file a claim for accrued benefits. Qualified dependents would generally be eligible for the benefits they were entitled to up until the time of the veteran's death as long as those benefits had not already been paid to them.
Important note: Surviving dependents only have one year from the date of the veteran's death to apply for accrued benefits.
The stress and grief after losing a loved one could easily and rightfully distract loved ones from processing important paperwork. If you believe you're entitled to accrued benefits and need assistance understanding eligibility, calculating benefits, and properly completing paperwork by deadline - give us a call 800-849-5931 or complete an online request form. We represent veterans and family members of veterans across the entire state of North Carolina. Our initial consultation is free of charge.
What paperwork do I need to apply for Veterans' disability benefits?
Individuals who believe they are eligible for Veterans' disability benefits will need to complete certain documentation. Our North Carolina veterans disability attorneys in Fayetteville help active and retired military members navigate this process. If you're just getting started, we include the initial documents needed for applications below. Keep in mind: A document error or filing mistake could delay an application or contribute to a denial. Consider asking one of our Fayetteville disability attorneys to review your case:
- One such item is the compensation request document VA Form 21-526 (with an asbestos exposure summary). This happens to be the same form an individual would use to apply for their military pension. There is also an online application for veterans disability.
- Another form needed is proof of discharge, the DD Form 214. Individuals who misplaced a copy of this document can contact the National Personnel Records Center, which can provide a copy.
- Evidential documentation supporting your disability is very important. Gather all relevant medical records.
- Supporting documents showing independents. If the individual has a spouse, depending on tax filing and income limitations the spouse may be classified as a dependent. Secure a copy of a marriage certificate. Whether the applicant has dependent children should also be documented with birth certificates of children. These factors could affect types of benefits the disabled veteran and their family have access to. For example, a disabled veteran's spouse and children are generally eligible for certain education and health care benefits if the veteran is recognized as 'totally and permanently disabled.' Adult children may be eligible for some benefits as well. Additional family benefits include complimentary vocational counseling and scholarship applications.
Once you have all your paperwork in order, learn more about applying for veterans disability benefits.
Can I continue my military service and still remain eligible for Veterans' disability benefits?
Certain Veterans with low disability ratings are allowed to continue their military service while receiving disability benefits, however, they are not eligible to receive payment from the military and Veterans disability benefits at the same time.
Generally, during the time of service the Veterans disability payments would be suspended.
Have more questions about receiving disability benefits in North Carolina? Check out our frequently asked questions section on disability: Disability Benefits FAQs.
Can I have a job and still receive Veterans disability benefits?
Yes, individuals may have a job while receiving Veterans' disability benefits. However, if the disabled worker has a disability rating of 100%, they are considered unemployable. If one works at this rating they might receive lower monthly disability payments. Also, individuals who work and receive Veterans' disability benefits generally do not receive Social Security disability benefits.
North Carolina has a high population of veterans and our attorneys represent injured military members statewide. Fortunately, our lawyers also represent Social Security disability claimants as well. Individuals who are concerned about eligibility, navigating a denial, or unsure about their income limitations can schedule a consult. Please don't hesitate to contact us with questions. Our initial consult is free of charge.
How can I remove debt from my credit report?
The bankruptcy court has no power regarding what goes on an individual's credit report. However, the law provides that bankruptcy filings are not permitted on credit reports ten years after the date bankruptcy was filed. Bad credit is removed within seven years.
Three major credit bureaus moderate debts that display on one's credit report: Equifax, Transunion and Experian. If you see an error on your credit report you must contact the credit bureaus directly to resolve. Provisions in the Fair Credit Reporting Act regulate how the credit bureaus operate.
According to the Eastern District Court of North Carolina U.S. Bankruptcy Court, "The larger credit reporting agencies belong to an organization called the Associated Credit Bureaus. The policy of the Associated Credit Bureaus is to remove chapter 11 and chapter 13 cases from the credit report after seven years to encourage debtors to file under these chapters."
Remember, not all debts are removed through bankruptcy. Learn more about the debts removed by bankruptcy.
What should I do if I am unable to make my Chapter 13 payment?
If you cannot make your Chapter 13 payment for a limited amount of time, contact the Chapter 13 Trustee and inform them of your situation. If the Trustee agrees, these payments can be made up over a certain amount of time.
If you are not capable of paying your Chapter 13 payments permanently, then your Trustee may be able to dismiss your case or have it transferred to another chapter. The Trustee may also seek to modify your payment plan.
What does it mean for my discharge to be denied versus my debt being declared nondischargeable?
If the court does not discharge all debts, the debtor is held legally responsible for all non-dischargeable debts. If a debt discharge is denied, a lawsuit must be filed. The person filing suit must prove that the debt being denied should not be denied, or the debt be declared nondischargeable. If none of the debts are declared dischargeable or a discharge is not withheld, then generally all of the debts will be discharged when the entry of the order is granted. Learn about debt categories in bankruptcy and exempt assets.
How do I decide which type of bankruptcy to file?
Not all individuals have the opportunity to pick the type of bankruptcy they will claim. An applicant's bankruptcy options hinge on which types they qualify for. First, all individuals must complete pre-bankruptcy credit counseling. During this time, folks may learn or decide they can effectively manage their debt without filing for bankruptcy. For others who still need help managing their debt, they will need to learn whether they qualify for Chapter 7 and/or Chapter 13. If they qualify for both, they have the opportunity to choose how they want to file. However, if they only qualify for one, then no decision will be necessary as that will be their only course of action.
Our Raleigh bankruptcy attorneys offer complimentary consultations where you can learn about filing options and qualifications. Chapter 7 imposes income limitations and Chapter 13 imposes debt limitations. Learn more about the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
Can I choose the type of bankruptcy I want to file?
If you meet the requirements for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, then you may pick whichever way you want to file. If you only meet the criteria for one, then you must file for that particular type of bankruptcy if you choose to file.
Generally, folks who have substantial income will not qualify for Chapter 7. The income limits vary depending on the median income across the state. In North Carolina, the median income for a single earner was $41,590 as of May 2016. If a married couple carries joint debt and intends to file jointly for bankruptcy, the median income as of the same time period is $53,278. Those earning more than the state's median income will not qualify for Chapter 7. To check the current income levels provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, visit the Census Bureau Means Testing site and select your desired dates.
Individuals whose debt exceeds a certain amount will not qualify for Chapter 13. The debt limit qualifiers for Chapter 13 change every few years. As of this writing, individuals will not qualify if their secured debts are in excess of $1,149,925 and unsecured debts are in excess of $383,175. Learn about the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies.
What are the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13?
Chapter 7 is referred to as “liquidation” bankruptcy because debtors typically lose a part of their property. Chapter 7 is filed by those who have no means of paying their debts. These applicants may lose many assets in order to pay off most of their debt.
Chapter 13 is known as “reorganization” bankruptcy because consumers still have to pay back a smaller sum of their debts. When filing for Chapter 13, applicants have a chance to reorganize their debt burden. They must organize a repayment plan and the court will decide how much debt must be repaid according to the applicant's income, amount of debt, and the value of property. Generally the repayment amount must be satisfied within 3-5 years.
Sometimes applicants will not have a choice in the kind of bankruptcy they file. Certain factors, like income thresholds, may mandate the type of bankruptcy the individual qualifies for.
Individuals facing unfortunate debt burdens can use bankruptcy to "start over" and rebuild on a stronger financial footing. For those who qualify (and our Raleigh bankruptcy lawyers are available for free case evaluations), they are often anxious to get the process started and eliminate their debts. Bankruptcy is not quick. There are pre-bankruptcy procedures that must be followed. Another reason applicants want to move forward quickly with bankruptcy is that they are concerned their assets will be taken away by debt collectors. Fortunately, some assets are shielded from creditors under North Carolina law. Learn about exempt property in North Carolina.
Will filing for bankruptcy in North Carolina remove all my debt?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings often require liquidations. This generally involves the sale of many of the applicant's possessions in order to pay for some of their debt. Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not require the applicant to sell their possessions, but they have to pay back a portion of the debts within three to five years.
Bankruptcy will help eliminate a portion of debt, like credit card bills or hospital bills in some cases, but alimony and taxes will not be discharged.
Student loans are another type of debt that cannot be taken away by filing for bankruptcy--in most cases. However, under special circumstances, student loans have been discharged. This notable 2013 student loan bankruptcy discharge is one example. In order to do this the applicant must prove extenuating circumstances, which is not a simple matter to prove.
If you're concerned about debt owed on a home, learn about how bankruptcy affects foreclosures.
Another driver hit me. What should I do after a car accident?
In 2014, there were 226,586 motor vehicle collisions in North Carolina. Several people are involved in car accidents every day throughout the state. But what should you do after an automobile accident? Here is short checklist to follow after you have hit or been hit by another person in a motor vehicle. Keep in mind, this list is not in order of priority. Always consider your unique circumstances and focus on keeping yourself and loved ones safe:
- Call the police. You should call the police soon after the accident. If you are not physically capable of calling the police, ask someone to call them for you. Learn more about reporting a car accident in North Carolina.
- Stay calm. If you believe you have experienced a serious injury, stay in the vehicle. Do not accuse anyone and do not blame yourself for the accident. Anything you say can be used against you in court.
- Call a friend or family member. You will be distracted by the stress of the situation. Having a friend or family member on the scene may be able to help you take certain precautions you did not think about.
- Make sure you receive detailed information. You need to know the driver’s name, address, phone number, license plate number, the make and model of the car, the driver’s license number, the car owner’s name, and the insurance company. This information must be obtained from every car involved in the wreck. You should also note any names and phone numbers of witnesses.
- Do not discuss the details of the collision with other people. The police are the only people you should talk to about your automobile accident. That includes your insurance adjuster. Only talk to your insurance adjuster about your vehicle. Do not give them any information regarding the accident or your injuries. If you tell someone you are injured or not injured, the insurance company will use this against you in court. If someone asks you if you are injured, let them know you cannot tell at this time.
- Take photographs of the scene. Most people can use their phone to take pictures now, but if you do not have one, see if any witnesses or other people involved can take pictures of the accident. Take pictures of any traffic control devices or signs. Photograph skid marks and any objects that were hit by the vehicle. Accident evidence might not be limited to photos. Look around to see if traffic video cameras are present.
- See a doctor. After an accident, visit a doctor immediately. If you do not, the insurance company will argue that your injuries must not be too serious; otherwise, you would have seen a doctor right away.
- Report the accident to the other driver’s insurance company. The other driver may not report the accident to his or her insurance company. You need to alert the other driver’s insurance company immediately. That way they will be able to examine the facts of the collision.
- Review your own insurance policies. You may be able to recover benefits from your own insurance. Even though you are making a claim against the other driver's liability insurance policy, there may be benefits you can collect from your own policy. These benefits could be from your Med-Pay insurance coverage. Med-Pay will pay you, up to the limit of your policy, to cover your medical expenses.
- Give your contact information to the other driver(s) involved in the accident. You will need to give the other driver(s) your name, address, phone number, and the name of your insurance policy. But be careful not to make any comments on how the wreck occurred or whether or not you are at fault.
- Secure your motor vehicle. If you go to the Emergency Room in an ambulance, make sure the contents in your car are safe. You will have to remove all valuables from your vehicle and the vehicle will need to be removed from the road. Of course, you will not be able to do this yourself, so make sure a friend of family member can do this for you. Most of the time, law enforcement will do this for you after investigating the collision.
What is an 'automatic stay' in bankruptcy?
An 'automatic stay' is a term used in bankruptcy proceedings that refers to a suspension in debt collection. An automatic stay is not permanent and it does not apply to all creditors. This process might help mitigate judgments, credit card debt, and some other areas of debt.
For creditors and collection parties where the automatic stay applies, it requires them to immediately cease debt collection activities. Even if you have not filed for bankruptcy, debt collectors must comply with federal laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Bankruptcy attorney Brent Adams explains more about acceptable and non-acceptable collection actions in the video above.
An automatic stay occurs as soon as bankruptcy is filed. Of course, applying for bankruptcy and filing for bankruptcy are two separate things that do not occur immediately after the other. Also, the creditor might have the option to file a motion to 'lift the stay.' If this occurs, they can proceed with collection activities.
What is the North Carolina Child Protective Seats Court Diversion Program?
The North Carolina Child Protective Seats Court Diversion Program (CPSCDP) is a system that launched in 2013 that operates in select counties across the state.
According to Safe Kids North Carolina, about 200 children are fatally injured in car accidents annually across the state. CPSCDP was developed to help minimize the number of improperly installed car seats and also the number of parents or guardians who carelessly neglect to use a car seat when required. Counties can volunteer to enforce the program. As of this writing, 45 out of 100 counties in North Carolina have an operating CPSCDP.
What To Do If You are Cited For Improper Car Seat Use in NC
The CPSCDP mandates that parents or caregivers cited for failing to use a car seat or for improper car seat use must receive signed authorization from a safety technician that the seat has been correctly installed. The cited individual must also show proof that they completed education on car safety seats.
More than 40,000 children in North Carolina receive medical treatment each year due to car accident injuries. Use proper child safety restraints and if you are uncertain about whether or not the car seat is installed properly, visit a local sheriff's department for a free check or contact Safe Kids North Carolina to be connected with an authorized safety technician.
Our Lee County Car Accident Attorneys Are Here to Help You
If your child was injured in a car accident and may receive or will receive compensation from the negligent driver, learn about how minors receive settlements in injury cases.