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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Poses Danger to the Elderly – Are Your Loved Ones Safe?

The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is in the U.S. and will continue to spread. It is particularly threatening to those with weakened immune systems and the infirm. That puts elderly loved ones squarely at risk, especially when they’re around other people with compromised immune systems, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Here are the facts about the Coronavirus, some health tips, and things you and nursing homes can do to help protect your loved ones from this global pandemic.

The Coronavirus: New Threat, Familiar Foe

The World Health Organization states that coronaviruses are a family of illnesses, not just one virus. Several viruses in the family are known to cause respiratory illnesses in humans. “These range from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19,” according the WHO website.

In other words, this is a new member of that virus family. While the common title used in media may be “Coronavirus,” the term actually refers to the family of illnesses. What’s spreading now is novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. It’s a new, different version and was unknown prior to its discovery in Wuhan, China, in December of 2019.

Although this virus is in the same family as the common cold, it is a much more serious risk to the health of the frail elderly. Some in the media have insisted that this virus is no worse than a common cold, but the medical experts, the WHO, Medicare officials, and epidemiologists who study viruses all agree that COVID-19 must be taken very seriously.

Coronavirus Symptoms, Its Spread, and How to Protect Yourself

Again, according to the World Health Organization, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a fever, tiredness, and a dry cough. These can escalate to aches and pains, sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, or diarrhea. Around 80% of people who contract the disease will recover without special treatment. Serious illness strikes about one of every six who contract it, with the elderly and those with compromised immune systems being most vulnerable. Mortality rates among those aged 80 and above are being pegged at an alarming 15%.

The disease is spread in the moisture expelled by an infected individual when they cough or sneeze. Tiny droplets of moisture containing the virus land on surfaces awaiting transfer to other people. The WHO suggests that contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth from these droplets is what spreads the disease in the vast majority of cases. Therefore, when someone who has the disease – even a mild case – coughs or sneezes, they lay the groundwork for it the disease to spread.

Protecting yourself, therefore, is fairly straightforward. A popularly shared and confirmed legitimate missive from James Robb, former professor of pathology at the University of California, San Diego, offers these tips on protecting yourself:

  • Discontinue handshakes.
  • Avoid touching high-use objects, such as light switches, door knobs, handrails, elevator buttons, gasoline handles, etc., with your fingers. Use your knuckle to flip switches, and use disposable gloves or paper towels when interacting with other things if possible.
  • Use disinfectant wipes when available, such as at grocery stores. Be sure to wipe the shopping cart handle and child seat as well.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly whenever you’ve been in places where other people are present. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, using soap, and warm running water. When soap is unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
  • Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer at each entrance of your home and in the car for on-the-go use.
  • Cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow if absolutely necessary, but be aware that the clothing may contain infectious virus that can be spread for a week or more.

If the focus on hand-washing and keeping the hands clear of infection seems odd, consider that a study published by the Journal of Occupational Health and Environmental Hygiene found that ten subjects doing office work by themselves for three hours touched their faces, on average, 15.7 times per hour. Similar studies have produced results between 3 and 23 touches per hour. The point is, we unconsciously touch our faces a lot, and that enables the disease to spread – unless we wash our hands.

Nursing Homes and Your Loved Ones – Preparation and Prevention

Elder care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living facilities are at great risk. COVID-19 is highly contagious, and the elderly or infirm may not have the immune system strength to resist it. Once the virus hits a facility, every resident could be in jeopardy. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently traced the country’s highest concentration of COVID-19 cases to a nursing home facility in the state of Washington.

In the face of the outbreak, guidelines have been issued from multiple sources to help these facilities increase their prevention measures and prepare. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) and oversees virtually all nursing homes in the U.S., issued thorough guidelines. Some of the measures include:

  • Screening visitors, contractors, and staff for travel history and possible infection
  • Restricting activities to reduce exposure
  • Requiring all who enter to wash their hands immediately upon entry
  • Develop and deploy remote communication methods so residents can contact loved ones safely

As of March 9, 2020, CMS was urging all nursing homes in the United States to discourage visitors from entering their facilities. In the case where COVID-19 is present in the community, visitors are being restricted altogether. Where a case of COVID-19 is in a nearby county or community, visitors are being limited, which means they will only be allowed into the facility in an end-of-life situation, or where the visitor is essential to the health or well-being of the resident. Preventing the spread of this virus is on all of us, not just the staff of the nursing homes. When the facility tells us not to visit, we need to respect that, even though we want to go see our loved one. Even where we are not at high risk for death from COVID-19, the nursing home you enter may be full of those at high risk. Prevention is not just about preventing your infection – it also means preventing someone else’s.

People in nursing homes don't just need blood pressure medicine. They need supplies up and down the line.  So how can you find out how a facility is preparing for novel coronavirus/COVID-19?

Ask the Facility What Its Plan Is

Nursing homes have policies in place if there's a tornado, if there's a flood, or if there's a hurricane coming. They have policies in place for all kinds of emergencies and contingencies. What about this emergency? You may want to ask them. In fact, there are a number of questions you should ask.

  • What is the facility’s plan for dealing with the COVID-19 threat?
  • Are they well-supplied with food, medications, adult diapers and the other things residents need, and do they have enough to last the duration of an outbreak?
  • What measures are they implementing regarding visitors, contractors, and staff?
  • Under what circumstances will they accept an infected person from a hospital?
  • Does the facility have any special features, such as an Airborne Infection Isolation Room (AIIR)?
  • Are residents or patients being kept abreast of the latest developments, and prepared for changes to the facility’s operation?
  • Does the facility have ample amounts of CDC-approved cleaning supplies, and is it disinfecting high-touch surfaces often?
  • Are group activities being canceled?

The last question to ask may be the most important: How can you help? Nursing homes across the country are faced with staffing shortages as it is. There may be nothing you can do, but it does not hurt to ask. We must do everything we can to protect our often-overlooked senior population from this potentially deadly disease.

When Facilities Ignore the Warnings

Nursing homes must comply with numerous regulations, intended to keep their residents safe. If you or a loved one are in a facility that is not taking prudent steps to protect residents from this threat, alert a doctor, nurse, other healthcare professionals, or your area’s long-term care ombudsman.

To neglect to take recommended and immediate steps to protect residents could be viewed as neglectful behavior. We at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin hope that this information helps you and enables you to help others.

If you or someone you know has suffered abuse or neglect at a nursing home or assisted living facility, contact us immediately for a free case evaluation at 1-866-900-7078 or click here.

 

UPDATE 3/13/20: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a strict ban on nursing home visits excepting end-of-life visits, and even those will be heavily scrutinized. The emergency rule also included a waiver of the three-day rule that requires Medicare beneficiaries to spend three days at a hospital on an inpatient basis in order to receive a subsequent 100 days of covered care at a skilled nursing facility. To read more about this new development, click here.

Categories: Personal Injury

12 Red Flags That Could Signal Nursing Home Sexual Abuse

The frail elderly are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, so we have to do our part to protect them. Unfortunately, nobody ever thinks the unthinkable could happen to their loved ones.

Until it does.

Recently, a male staff member at the Brookdale Senior Living Facility in Smithfield, North Carolina was arrested after the reported sexual assault of a 79-year-old disabled female resident there. The accused, Joseph Ngigi Kariuki, has been charged with second-degree forcible rape. Click here for the WRAL story.

As horrific as these stories are, they are far from isolated. We must do what we can for our aging loved ones to protect them from harm, especially since only 30% of victims report sexual abuse to the authorities, and the abuser is the primary caregiver 81% of the time. Elderly women are six times more likely to be sexually abused than elderly men. In this blog, we will guide you through the signs of elderly sexual abuse and how to proceed with getting help if you suspect abuse.

Recognize the Warning Signs of Elderly Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse includes inappropriate physical contact, groping, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with a patient who does not consent or is unable to consent, is threatened, or is physically forced. Many of the signs given for physical abuse also apply here. In addition, look for:

  • Torn, bloody, or missing underwear or undergarments
  • Pelvic injury
  • Trouble sitting or walking
  • Any bruising, bleeding, irritation, or discomfort in the genital area
  • Unexplained Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) and infections
  • Depression
  • Social or emotional withdrawal
  • Anxiety or signs of fear around their caregiver
  • Changes in mood, agitation
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Suicide attempts

In cases where the person has Alzheimer’s or is non-verbal, it can be significantly more challenging to see the symptoms of sexual abuse. If this is the case with your loved one, you will need to monitor him or her more closely for indicators. Look for the warning signs in the list above, but also monitor them for changes in behavior, lapses in hygiene, or financial changes. As an added precaution, it may be helpful to keep an eye on other residents in the facility and gauge their wellbeing. To read more about other precautions to take if your loved one has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home, click here.

Preventing Nursing Home Sexual Abuse

There’s no perfect way to prevent sexual abuse in nursing homes. However, knowledge and awareness are the first defense.

The fact of the matter is that sometimes, Medicare may choose to put your aging loved one in a home nearby, leaving you with no choice about where to put them. However, if you do have a choice, thoroughly research the nursing facility. Google the name of the nursing home and add terms like “reviews,” “ratings,” “abuse,” etc. You may also find reviews of the facility on the facility’s Facebook page. Be sure to visit Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website, which provides the results of inspections and investigations into every nursing home in the United States that accepts Medicare payments. The North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation website contains links to NC nursing homes’ penalties, star ratings, inspections, and violations.

Many nursing homes make staffing decisions at the corporate level that can translate to negligence, lack of resources, high turnovers, and poor hiring decisions at the facility level. You may uncover areas where the facility is lacking with a little digging.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, call them regularly, and if you can, visit them in person regularly as well. Pay attention to their physical and mental wellbeing, their caregiver, the staff, and other residents at the facility.

What to Do If You Suspect Sexual Abuse at a Nursing Home

If your loved one says they are being abused, BELIEVE THEM. Let them know that you are there for them, no matter what happened. This may seem like a given, but when confronted with such a heinous situation, some people’s initial shocked reaction may translate into denial or disbelief. The earlier you intervene, the better. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care wrote this brief on what you need to know about the issue.

Your next steps could look like the following:

  1. If it’s an emergency, remove them from the situation immediately and call 911.
  2. Gather evidence and record everything. Without hard evidence, it can become more difficult to prove wrongdoing on the nursing home’s part. If appropriate, and as soon as you can, take pictures. Make note of the circumstances that make you suspect wrongdoing, write down your observations, and have a paper trail of any complaints you send to the nursing home.
  3. Speak up. Contact Adult Protective Services. You do not need proof to do this. You can also contact the North Carolina ombudsman for long-term care. Contact the Division of Health Service Regulation at 800-624-3004 and your county’s Division of Social Services at once.
  4. Contact a nursing home lawyer ASAP. A lawyer who is dedicated to the practice of nursing home abuse will likely be most familiar with these kinds of cases. Much like you would need to see a specialist doctor for certain diseases, you also should consider seeking a lawyer whose experience is catered to elderly abuse. They are likely more familiar with the state laws and legal procedures that pertain to nursing home abuse, and they will have the necessary experience to take you through the process.

Nursing Home Abuse Cases: The Difference Between Civil and Criminal Law

In the U.S., there are two separate judicial courts: civil and criminal. In nursing home sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is charged and tried through the criminal court system, and the victim can sue the individual or the company that wronged them for compensation.

The criminal process is what you see on Law & Order. That is, a suspect commits a crime, they are arrested and charged with the crime, and they are held in jail under bond. They then go to trial in front of a jury, and they are either convicted (found guilty) or acquitted (found not guilty). In criminal trials, the perpetrator is presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. If they are found guilty by a jury of their peers, they are sentenced to prison.

In the Brookdale Smithfield case we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the victim reported the sexual assault to the police, and the police came to arrest the suspect. He was then charged with second degree forcible rape according to NC criminal statutes.

The civil process is a separate but related process. The civil process deals with the damages the plaintiff sustained, and how much money should be recovered from the liable party. In civil cases, the court will likely examine the duty of care the nursing home facility owed to the harmed party.

This is what the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin can help with. We are here to help you through a difficult, emotional situation. We have seen the difficult issues that plague nursing home facilities in the state, and we want to be there for you and your loved ones. We can help try to prove that there was negligence on the part of the individual or the facility, and we can help you sue them for the amount of money it would take to cover the damages you or your loved one sustained.

Civil cases can either be “settled” before it goes to trial, or the case can go to trial in front of a judge and jury. If the case goes to trial, the judge/jury can potentially decide to award even more money to “punish” the liable party. In this case, proving negligence becomes a matter of legal strategy. Our NC nursing home attorneys can help position you to try to recover as much as you can from the liable party.

The victim of the Brookdale Smithfield case may choose to sue both the individual and the corporation that owns and operates Brookdale Senior Living for the damages she incurred. If you would like to learn more about why you should hire a nursing home lawyer like us, please click here.

Contact a North Carolina Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we are proud to have nursing home abuse lawyers who know the ins and outs of nursing home abuse cases and have helped improve the lives of the frail elderly in North Carolina. Our nursing home abuse attorneys are hard-working advocates for the aging population, and will work hard to try to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. To learn more about our nursing home practice, please click here.

Please do not wait to contact us if you suspect nursing home abuse at your loved one’s assisted living or nursing home facility. Time is of the essence when it comes to bringing a potential lawsuit against the liable parties. Your initial case evaluation with us is free. Call us at 1-866-900-7078, or contact us here.

Categories: Personal Injury

New Technology, New Laws: 6 Need-to-Know Legal Facts about Self-Driving Cars in North Carolina

It won’t be long before self-driving cars are on the streets of North Carolina. While there are not currently any vehicles for sale that are truly self-driving, the technology is getting closer. If you’ve ever been in a parking lot and watched a Tesla park itself, you know what we’re talking about.

That new technology brings up plenty of legal issues. What happens if that self-parking Tesla hits a pedestrian or another vehicle? Who is liable? Lawmakers are already wrestling with the answers to questions like these in preparation for the autonomous future. The Federal government, as of December 2019, has yet to pass any comprehensive legislation. States are left to fill that legal void, and North Carolina has passed a general statute (N.C.G.S. § 20-400—403 et seq.) to that end. Below we outline the things you should know about this law:

Six Takeaways for North Carolina Drivers According to NC State Law

  • The Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) must comply with existing laws and safety standards. Autonomous technology does not excuse the vehicle from having required safety features. If a driver were to get behind the wheel, the vehicle must be street legal. The law does not excuse passengers in AVs from not wearing seat belts – those rules still apply.
  • The AV must, like every other vehicle, be insured. The insurance industry will likely be developing new products to cover such vehicles, but in the meantime, the usual requirements for insurance apply.
  • Good citizen rules apply to AVs. That means, in the event of a crash, the vehicle must stop, alert authorities and emergency responders, and remain on scene until released. If you’re not aware, these rules apply to all drivers, no matter what kind of vehicle they may be driving.
  • AVs do not need driver’s licenses, and the passengers in them are not required to be licensed drivers – as long as the AV driving features are fully engaged. The vehicle must do the driving. If a non-licensed driver takes control of the vehicle at any time, this law is preempted by existing laws regarding unlicensed drivers.
  • No one under the age of 12 can travel alone in an AV. Passengers under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.
  • Since it has no driver, the law has to determine who is responsible for the AV. That burden falls to the owner of the vehicle. While this may seem logical, it does raise interesting possibilities. For example, if an owner is halfway across the world and his or her AV causes an accident, the law considers that accident the AV owner’s responsibility.

More Considerations

The law made a number of other changes, though not directly related to the drivers, owners, or operation of AVs in the state. The law preempts local municipalities from passing laws that single out AVs for special treatment. The North Carolina law itself will likely take a back seat when Congress finally does pass Federal regulations on AVs. Recognizing the issue as complex and still-evolving, the North Carolina law established the “Fully Autonomous Vehicle Committee” within the North Carolina Department of Transportation to unpack the issues surrounding the technology moving forward.

Another area of concern is the data that is collected, stored, and used by AVs to do their work, and the privacy of that data. In a 2019 decision in Mobley v. State of Georgia, the data contained in a car’s computer required a warrant to obtain. Will Autonomous Vehicles be similarly protected, or is the nature of their systems enough for lawmakers to require their data to be immediately admissible? It may be the case that the AVs sensors are the only “witnesses” to a crash. Its computers may hold the key to unlocking the truth of a mysterious collision.

Whether you plan to own an AV or are simply a regular driver on the streets of North Carolina, it’s good to know how the law governs AVs. With recent fatalities involving cars with Semi-Autonomous Driving features, there are risks to be aware of.

Seek Representation from an Experienced NC Car Accident Attorney

At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we are advocates for those who are injured in North Carolina. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash involving an autonomous vehicle, please call us at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us for a free case evaluation. We pride ourselves on fighting for victims, and working to try to ensure they receive the compensation they deserve. We’re not afraid to fight the  .

FDA Study Shows Asbestos in Popular Baby Powder Brand

Stores all over the country are pulling bottles of Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) Baby Powder off their shelves after FDA testing found trace amounts of asbestos in the product on October 18, 2019. The contaminated samples were purchased from an online retailer. The company’s baby power has been at the center of various lawsuits for years. In 2018, a jury in St. Louis awarded $4.69 billion to over 20 women who blamed their cancer on the baby powder. On October 29, J&J had two different third-party labs investigate these new claims. Those labs could not find any asbestos in the product.

What should you make of the conflicting test results?

When the FDA was asked about the discrepancy, they said they stand by their results and explained how it is possible both the positive and negative test results were accurate.

In a statement, the FDA said, “Sampling of talc-containing cosmetics is done on a small amount of product…Given the powdered nature of the product, we expect non-uniformity in the distribution of any contaminated fibers…Different samples may provide different results.”

Check your products to see if they’re recalled.

If you have Johnson & Johnson baby powder at home, make sure to check and see if your bottle has been recalled. The recalled products have the lot number #22318RB found on the back of the bottle, directly under the cap. If your bottle has that exact lot number, do not use it.

If you continue using other baby powder products, it is recommended that you keep an eye on recent developments regarding asbestos.

How the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin Can Help?

According to the FDA, “If consumers have concerns about their cosmetic products, they should stop using those products immediately.” More than a third of the United States population has used baby powder this year.  According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, dangerous products account for 28,000 deaths and 33.6 million injuries annually. Product liability claims can be very complex, so experienced representation is key. We have helped more than 43,000 injured North Carolinians, and the firm has been involved in a number of product liability cases including Baycol, Vioxx, and Fen-Phen.

If you believe that you or a loved one came into contact with asbestos because of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us here for a free case evaluation.

Categories: Personal Injury

Are Self-Driving Features Making the Roads More Dangerous?

Driver aids have been around for a long time. Designed to make the task of driving easier, automakers have steadily introduced convenience features with various levels of success. The feature we all know as “cruise control” was invented in the 1940s, and appeared first in Chrysler automobiles in 1958.  By 1960, it was standard equipment in all Cadillacs.

Fast forward to the modern era and you’ll find more robust versions of that original speed control system. Radar-guided cruise control is available in many cars, allowing the driver to set the desired speed, and to choose a “following distance” – the distance they want the system to maintain between their car and the car ahead. Automatic braking, lane departure warnings, and all manner of computer-controlled equipment combine to make driving easier and safer.

The Rise of Semi-Autonomy: “No, We Aren’t There Yet”

It’s only natural that these exponential advances in automobile technology have led to the idea of autonomous driving. According to techopedia.com, an autonomous car is a car that can guide itself without human conduction. Here’s the issue: as of December 2019, no such cars are available for purchase. Massive amounts of money are being invested in the technology by companies like Alphabet and its Waymo unit, Apple, GM, and Tesla, but true autonomous driving is not available.

Simply put, we’re not there. Yet.

That does not keep companies from adding semi-autonomous features to road-going products. General Motors offers SuperCruise in its Cadillac products, and Tesla offers the Autopilot system in all of its cars that are ordered online. Semi-autonomy, however, comes in forms as different as its makers – with surprising results.

The Many Roads to Autonomy, and the Dangers Along the Way

The different companies offering semi-autonomous features arrive at their results in very different ways. This leads to confusion about which systems do what. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has defined its own . Emerging technology often has competing definitions as companies seek to brand their semi-autonomous driving systems, and the methods for evaluating the technologies are in development as well. This lack of clarity becomes a safety issue at times.

The easiest example to cite is that of Tesla’s “Autopilot” system, though they are not alone when it comes to safety issues, confusing terminology or accidents involving their products.

Tesla and Autopilot – Problems by Design?

Tesla is as much a technology firm as an automaker, and as such, they collect and use massive amounts of data. The company tracks their cars and releases a quarterly vehicle safety report, which contains data on accidents involving their vehicles. Specifically, it covers accidents involving their Autopilot system. In Q3 of 2019, the company registered one accident for every 4.34 million miles of driving with Autopilot engaged, versus one accident for every 2.7 million miles without it. Both numbers include the other active safety features of the cars in use.

In this case, the numbers are impressive, but may hide a problem. It starts with how the Autopilot requires driver input, how it differs from other systems on the market, and how the company markets it.

Driver Involvement

Tesla specifically instructs drivers to maintain control of their vehicles, even when autopilot is engaged. The company uses steering wheel input to monitor driver engagement, not simply contact with the steering wheel, as is widely reported. That system, however, is more simplistic than competitors who use cameras to monitor drivers’ eyes and focus.

Road-Sensing Systems

Tesla relies on radar and a camera to sense road conditions. Other makers, including Ford, Waymo and others, use something called LIDAR. The difference in sensors is significant. Tesla’s system uses radar, the camera, and computer software to detect hazards. A road sign and a guard rail require different responses than a car in the lane ahead. But radar can be fooled, as has apparently happened in crashes over the last few years in Connecticut and Florida. In these and other cases, the system has failed to react to other vehicles blocking the road. And, in the Connecticut case, the driver was not even watching the road, but had turned to attend to a dog in the back seat. Also worth noting is that Tesla uses a single forward-facing camera. Stereo cameras would have detected the difference in at least one case, and have been tested to be nearly as accurate as the more expensive LIDAR sensors by researchers at Cornell University for much lower cost.

Marketing

Tesla does seem to contradict itself in how it markets its system versus how it instructs users to behave with it. On one hand, the system is actually called “Autopilot,” which implies that the piloting of the vehicle is automatic, and Tesla claims the vehicles have all the equipment necessary for future autonomous driving. Tesla founder Elon Musk even famously misused the system in a demonstration, and people may be more apt to copy the man who owns the company than to read pages of instructions. On the other hand, the company makes a point of explaining that the system requires driver attention. Even so, there are many owners who have thought up “hacks” to defeat the monitoring method that the car uses to prompt them to pay attention.

When It All Goes Wrong

Even with millions of miles of pre-market testing, the real world with real owners is a different animal for autonomous driving systems. How a company claims a product works may not be accurate to how users employ it, and even the most tested technology is sometimes flawed.

If you or someone you love is involved in an accident with a vehicle with autonomous driving features, here are some things to note.

  • If you are driving, your behavior behind the wheel is still your responsibility. These vehicles are packed with sensors. By definition, the car is watching you. Regardless of what you see online or how much confidence the system instills, use these systems in accordance with the owners’ manual. If an accident still occurs, you want to eliminate yourself as a possible cause, and therefore, a source of liability.
  • If you are a passenger, make sure to use all of the safety features available to you. If the driver wants to show you the autonomous driving features, ask that they be employed responsibly. Preventing a dangerous situation is preferable to a lawsuit or a life-changing injury.
  • If you are struck by an autonomous vehicle, try to record the conditions that led up to the accident. It may be important later on for your potential claims, depending on how the vehicle behaved during the accident.
  • If you are injured, regardless of your role, it may be wise to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you’re able. Because of the sense of confidence these autonomous driving systems create, it is easy for drivers to become careless.

Seek Representation From an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we are advocates for those who are injured in North Carolina. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash involving an autonomous vehicle, please contact us for a free case evaluation. We pride ourselves on fighting for victims, and working to try to ensure they receive the compensation they deserve. We’re not afraid to fight the big cases.

Recently-Terminated Juul Executive Alleges The Company Shipped Tainted Products

And How This Can Affect You:

While Juul has recently been under fire for shady marketing techniques, including marketing to underage users, another serious issue has emerged for those using Juul products. The possibility of contaminated pods being shipped out to users was made public by former Juul Exec Siddharth Breja. At least 1,600 cases of lung damage cases have been reported in relation to vaping, including more than 30 deaths. It is currently unknown whether contaminated pods are related to this issue but it’s safe to say the use of vaping products isn’t as safe as originally thought.

Siddharth Breja, who was originally a finance executive at the e-cigarette company Juul, was fired earlier this year. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday by lawyers that represent Breja, they claim Breja was terminated after opposing company practices such as shipping contaminated flavored pods and not listing expiration dates on Juul products. The lawsuit does not specify the contamination issue, or go into further detail on how it occurred. Lawyers for Breja have declined to speak further on the issue.

A Juul spokesperson responded to the claims stating that they were “baseless” and that Breja was terminated because he failed to “demonstrate the leadership qualities required for the job.” No further statements have been issued since then.

Breja described a “reckless” and “win at all costs” mentality at Juul, and he aims the majority of the criticism at the company’s former CEO, Kevin Burns, who was recently replaced.

According to the lawsuit, Breja states that he learned in March that some batches of nicotine solution had been contaminated, and claims that roughly one million of these contaminated pods were shipped without a recall or public health warning. Breja says he protested shipping the pods, but his supervisor continued forward because they were more concerned with stockholders’ profits.

After pulling Mango, Fruit, and other flavors under the pressure of health authorities, Mint pods were the contaminated products according to Breja. A majority of vape users used Mint pods as a substitute for the fruity flavors that were pulled off-market. According to the lawsuit, Burns stated, “You need to have an IQ of 5 to know that when customers don’t find mango they buy mint.”

Breja claims that he was wrongfully terminated after bringing health concerns related to the contaminated pods to Burns. Breja states that Burns responded to his concerns with “half of our customers are drunk and vaping like mofos, who the f--- is going to notice the quality of our pods?” The lawsuit was filed in Northern California seeking $10 million.

For safety concerns, users should consider halting any use of Juul vaping products and schedule a precautionary visit with a doctor. If users have any symptoms of EVALI, the name given to the vape related illness, they should immediately seek treatment. These symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pains.

Contact a North Carolina Injury Attorney

Working with an experienced North Carolina injury attorney can potentially make or break your case. If you have used vape products and believe you may be suffering illness from them, let’s talk. Our mission is to help those who’ve been harmed by defective products and ensure that businesses are held accountable for producing them. For a free, confidential case evaluation, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078

North Carolina Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak Claims Fourth Victim

A fourth person has died from the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak recently linked to the NC Mountain State Fair held at the Davis Event Center at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center.  The fair ran from September 6–15 in Fletcher, near Asheville, NC.  There have been 141 cases of Legionnaires' disease from around the surrounding counties, with 94 hospitalizations to date.

Legionnaire’s disease is a severe form of pneumonia that people can contract when they breathe in aerosolized water (aka mist) containing the legionella bacteria.  It usually cannot be passed from one infected person to another.  Individuals typically begin to show symptoms between two to ten days after exposure to the bacteria.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include:

  • A fever that could be 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • A cough which might produce mucus and occasionally blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Confusion or other mental changes

The outbreak was announced on September 24, 2019.  State officials said that a hot tub display at the fair was the likely cause of the outbreak, although because investigations did not take place until 2-3 weeks after the fair, officials have not been able to pinpoint its source.  Most of those infected had been near the display during the last five days of the fair.

The next event at the Davis Event Center was the Asheville Quilt Show, which ran from September 27 – 29.  After one test from the women’s restroom reportedly came back positive for the legionella bacteria, the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center managers have since claimed to have disinfected and flushed the water lines in the building. However, a new Legionnaires’ case was reported in a person who attended the quilt show, but not the fair.

If you or a loved one visited the NC Mountain State Fair and contracted Legionnaires’ disease, please contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free case evaluation right away.

Categories: Personal Injury

Taking Your Aging Mom’s Car Keys: How to Steer the Conversation

An auto accident dumps enough problems on your life. But, if you are a senior citizen, its complexity grows when an accident triggers the dreaded question: Should you even be driving at your age?

And further, what determines whether you should or should not drive and who makes that determination?

What Determines if Your Aging Loved One Should Drive

According to experts, reports U.S. News & World Report, whether or not a senior citizen should continue driving should be determined by function – not necessarily age. Nuance can creep into these decisions.

For example, a senior’s personal decision to stop driving at night may be praiseworthy, but may also be a sign for concern. Or perhaps they’re not venturing out onto I-277 near downtown Charlotte during peak times when there are events at Bank of America Stadium, NASCAR Hall of Fame, or Spectrum Center. Or perhaps you notice that they begin to avoid certain busy and dangerous intersections like the following, which are rated the most dangerous in Charlotte:

  • Reagan Drive at Tom Hunter Road
  • John Kirk Drive at University City Boulevard
  • North Tryon Street at University Pointe Boulevard
  • East W.T. Harris Boulevard at North Tryon Street

The U.S. News article noted that doctors consider three areas that impact seniors’ driving abilities: vision, mobility, and thinking or cognition. Observing driving habits can help determine whether your aging loved one should consider giving up their driver’s license. Confusing the gas pedal for the brake is serious, for example, but riding the brake is perhaps less serious.

Perhaps you notice them driving too fast or too slow, struggling to change lanes. Their reaction time may be slower and they don’t seem to follow signals as they should. Hearing loss can cause some seniors to miss hearing horns and other sounds.

NC DMV Guidelines for Aging Drivers

The DMV will also help you determine whether your loved one may need to consider curbing their driving partially or fully. Remember that the process of aging impacts everyone differently and every state has its own rules. In North Carolina, licenses issued to adults 66 and older are valid for five years, according to the NC Department of Motor Vehicles.

In addition, the North Carolina DMV might not license an individual who suffers from a mental or physical condition that could keep them from driving safely. A person with a disability might be issued a restricted license, provided the condition does not keep them from driving safely.

If a DMV evaluation is needed, it can be recommended by a family member, police officer, or emergency medical technician. An authorized DMV officer would conduct the examination, which would include an interview and perhaps vision, written, and driving tests.

How to Talk With Your Mom or Dad About Giving Up Their License

As you consider whether your aging loved one should stop driving, think of how important your own independence is. But also keep in mind the safety of your loved one and that of others. It’s a tough decision.

To help dispel any defensive reaction, begin this conversation well before issues arise. Make it a casual conversation and use empathy and tact. Perhaps use the weather to slide into such a discussion by noting that heavy rain can be a bad time for driving – for anyone, not just seniors.

Have a plan in mind that includes perhaps keeping the senior behind the wheel but in a limited capacity like driving only during the day and only to familiar places. Engage a local senior center or council on aging. These facilities are typically equipped to help with rides and to help caregivers deal with the question of whether seniors should stop driving.

Also important is for family members, friends, and caregivers to remember that a senior’s ceasing to drive could result in additional responsibilities for them, like providing rides for the senior and spending more time with them. Help set up these alternatives for them.

Click here for more ways to try to help your loved one keep their freedom and independence even without their car.

To find transportation services in your area call 1-800-677-1116 or click on the links below to visit:

NC Car Wreck Lawyers Offer Free Case Evaluation

We are lawyers, but we are also sons and daughters of aging parents too. If your aging loved one has been injured in a car crash that is not their fault, contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. We’ll try to see to it that your loved one gets the maximum compensation they are potentially entitled to.

Deadly Cars in the Triangle: Which Car Models Should You Stay Away From?

Whether you’re buying used or brand new, purchasing a car can be an exciting time. Although, with so many makes and models to choose from, car shopping can often get overwhelming. In the midst of your confusion and stress about car buying, a car salesman swoops in and offers you an amazing deal. You don’t know much about the car, but they’ve “talked to their manager” about giving you a lower price, and now the price is right where you want it.

Convenient, right?

Before you sign on the dotted line, it is important to know which makes and models have a pattern of driver/passenger fatality in a collision, especially in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Research Triangle area. The car’s aesthetic and the latest electronics aren’t worth much if the car itself can’t save your and your passengers’ lives.

The Triangle’s Deadliest Vehicles

According to a study conducted by iSeeCars, an independent automotive research firm, occupant fatalities from collisions occurs at a higher rate in some vehicles than others.  In the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle, the top 5 cars with the highest occupant fatality rates are as follows:

  1. Nissan Versa
  2. Hyundai Accent
  3. Jeep Wrangler
  4. Ford Fiesta
  5. Ford Mustang

A majority of the cars that made the list are smaller cars. The CEO of iSeeCars inferred from the results that even with advancements in technology and safety, subcompact and sports cars still lack sufficient safety features. Additionally, subcompact cars perform at a below-average rate in crash safety tests. The only SUV that made the list, the Jeep Wrangler, is notorious for being an unsafe car. The Ford Mustang, a sports car, also made the list of deadliest cars.

In North Carolina, the Ford Mustang has the highest occupant fatality rate.

The Deadliest Cars in America

Across the U.S., the cars with the highest fatality rates per billion vehicle miles are:

The average fatality rate per billion vehicle miles was 2.6, and in comparing just metropolitan areas around the U.S., the Chevrolet Spark has the highest fatality rate amongst all makes and models included in the study.

Methodology Behind the Vehicle Fatality Study

According to iSeeCars, in order for them to get to the numbers behind the deadliest cars in America, they used the following method of research and analysis:

“The results above came from a study of data from the US Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System as well as iSeeCars unique data. Only cars from 2013–2017 model years in crashes that resulted in occupant fatalities between 2012–2017 were included in the analysis. To adjust for exposure, the number of cars involved in a fatal crash were normalized by the total number of vehicle miles driven, which was estimated from iSeeCars’ data of over 25 million used car sales from model years 2013-2017 sold in 2013-2017. Heavy-duty trucks and vans, models not in production as of the 2019 model year or since the 2013/2014 model year, low-volume models, and models with fewer than 20 crashes with occupant fatalities were removed from further analysis.”

If you are interested in seeing the full report, please click here.

3 Quick Tips Before Buying a Car

Research:

When looking to buy a car, whether new or used, it’s imperative to thoroughly conduct research. One simple Google search will return websites and funded research, like iSeeCars, the NHTSA’s recalls page, Consumer Reports, and the Kelley Blue Book – among many, many others – which should help guide you to the best choice. Additionally, reading consumer reviews can make all the difference. Other consumers have valuable, honest information that car salesmen likely will not tell you.

Test Drive:

You should always test drive the car. Every car drives and handles differently. It is important that you purchase a car that you feel comfortable operating.  Pay special attention to things such as the car’s blind spots that may hinder your driving ability.

Second Opinion:

When buying a used car, it is important to take the car to a trusted mechanic. A mechanic will be able to look in closer detail at the car to make sure that nothing is out of place. Taking this extra precaution may save you from buying an unsafe car that could possibly result in an accident.

How the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin Can Help

A collision can change your life in the blink of an eye. If you or a loved one has been injured in a collision, we can help take the stress and weight off your shoulders. Contact us or call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin’s 24/7 team at 1-866-900-7078.

Protecting Loved Ones from Their “Protectors”: Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

You did your research, you visited the places you liked best, you worked out the finances ever so carefully, and you’re well on your way to providing your mom or dad with the care they need — and achieving some peace of mind for yourself. Care facilities and nursing homes are where your loved ones are supposed to get the round-the-clock help and attention they need, and you trust these facilities to do just that.

But what happens if those same places end up violating their commitment to take care of your loved ones — even when they have the highest ratings in your town or state?

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Case Shocks the Nation

You may remember hearing about the woman in an Arizona facility that gave birth in December 2018, even though she had been in a vegetative state for over a decade, and currently still is. The suspect was one of the male nurses in charge of the victim’s care, and was arrested. Investigations are still underway to find out how the facility did not notice the woman’s pregnancy until her medical distress while giving birth.

Senate Hearing on Nursing Home Sexual Assaults

Sadly, sexual abuse at care facilities is rampant across the nation, and yet little has been done to put the discussion at the forefront of people’s minds.

Thus far, nursing home and care facilities who have been cited for some form of abuse have been able to fly under the radar because so little has been done to keep them accountable. Not to mention, there is a high standard for proving sexual assault, so cases often go unreported.

On March 6, 2019, similar stories emerged during a senate hearing convened for the sole purpose of investigating the nursing home abuse crisis. Witnesses recounted their stories to lawmakers of how their loved ones experienced sexual abuse at the hands of their caretakers. Notably, one witness had placed her mother in a facility that was ranked at the highest possible level for quality of resident care by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). However, it had also been fined for verbal and physical abuse.

Reforms to Long-Term Healthcare Facility Reporting

As lawmakers await reports from watchdog reporting agencies, it would seem reforms are on the horizon regarding how nursing homes and care facilities are run. CMS announced that it was updating their online Nursing Home Compare and the Five-Star Quality Rating System, which helps families find and compare facilities for their loved ones. It also announced that it was updating its guidelines that identify red flags in those situations.

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect – Red Flags

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care released the following checklist that may signal sexual abuse and neglect:

  • Bruises around inner thighs, the genital area, or breasts
  • Unexplained genital infections or STD’s
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, pain, or irritation
  • New difficulty sitting or walking
  • Torn, stained, or bloodied underclothing
  • Extreme agitation
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Panic attacks or emerging PTSD symptoms
  • Suicide attempts
  • Sudden or unexplained changes in behavior including:
    • Fear or avoidance of a person or place
    • Fear of being left alone or the dark
    • Increased nightmares and/or disturbed sleep
  • Victims of dementia will exhibit anxiety or excessive fear around the person providing or tending to their care. They may also engage in more aggressive behaviors.

Click here for common signs of general abuse and neglect at care facilities.

North Carolina Nursing Home and Elder Abuse Investigations Underway

If someone you know in a nursing home, rest home, assisted living, or senior care facility has complained about any mistreatment, we urge you to take them seriously. Ask questions. Get the facts. Talk to management. View their medical records. Place a hidden camera in the room like this Raleigh woman did.

And contact us immediately if you suspect abuse. You may be eligible for compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of care and family duties
  • Loss of the victim’s earnings
  • Wrongful death
  • Funeral expenses for the victim

The statute of limitations for reporting is a short window. We are available 24/7 to offer you a free case evaluation. You can use our live chat feature or send a message through our secure and confidential form on this page.

Contact us or call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 to find out if one of our North Carolina lawyers may be able to help you try to protect your loved one from elder abuse.

Contact Information

Asheville Law Office

300 Ridgefield Court Suite 309
Asheville, NC 28806
Phone: 828-552-8215
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Charlotte Law Office

1001 Morehead Square Drive, Suite 350
Charlotte, NC 28203
Phone: 704-599-1078
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Durham Law Office

280 South Mangum Street, Suite 400
Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 919-688-4991
Fax: 800-716-7881

Fayetteville Law Office

2915 Raeford Road, Suite 204
Fayetteville, NC 28303
Phone: 910-488-0611
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Goldsboro Law Office

1308 Wayne Memorial Drive, Suite B
Goldsboro, NC 27534
Phone: 919-731-2581
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Greensboro Law Office

300 N. Greene Street, Suite 850
Greensboro, North Carolina 27401
Phone: 336-665-7072
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Greenville Law Office

702 Cromwell Dr. Suite G
Greenville, NC 27858
Phone: 252-355-5205
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3227

Henderson Law Office

514 Dabney Drive, Suite 200
Henderson, NC 27536
Phone: 252-492-4600
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Morganton Law Office

216 N. Sterling Street, Suite B
Morganton, NC 28655
Phone: 828-219-3080
Toll Free: 1-844-520-2894

New Bern Law Office

1505 South Glenburnie Rd, Unit P
New Bern, NC 28562
Phone: 252-634-9010
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3422

Raleigh Law Office

4325 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919-834-1184
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Roanoke Rapids Law Office

709 Julian R. Allsbrook Highway
Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870
Phone: 252-537-9670
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Rocky Mount Law Office

144 Woodridge Court
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone: 252-937-4730
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Sanford Law Office

703-B South Horner Boulevard
Sanford, NC 27330
Phone: 919-775-1564
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Wilson Law Office

2315 Airport Blvd Suite A
Wilson, North Carolina 27896
Phone: 252-246-9090
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Winston-Salem Law Office

301 N. Main Street, Suite 2409-C
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078