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Pharmacy Mistakes Can Threaten Patient Health

Like other people in the medical services field, pharmacists are highly trained, licensed, and regulated professionals. Their work requires a constant attention to detail. Providing the wrong dosage or the wrong medication can lead to serious consequences for the patient. In some cases pharmacy errors have even caused patients to die.

Pharmacies face a lot of challenges when it comes to getting things right. The list of potential sources of errors is long:

  • The names of different medications can be confusingly similar.
  • Pills of two very different drugs may look the same.
  • Hand-written prescriptions can be notoriously hard to decipher, with abbreviations and other shorthand increasing the risk of errors.
  • In the fast-paced environment of a pharmacy, it can be easy to get disorganized, make storage mistakes, or accidentally skip necessary safety steps.

Strict policies and procedures can reduce the risk of mistakes, but pharmacists are human and errors still happen. When they do, and the patient suffers a serious injury as a consequence, a lawsuit may be necessary to recover compensation for the costs associated with the injury or, in the worst case scenario, the costs of the patient’s wrongful death.

Pharmacists and their employers may be held civilly liable for malpractice. As specially trained professionals, pharmacists owe patients a high duty of care. This duty extends to all aspects of filling a prescription, including:

  • Verifying that the prescription is valid, lawful, and complete. As the last line of defense, pharmacists also need to be ready to catch mistakes in a prescription, such as accidentally high doses.
  • Accurately filling the prescription.
  • Providing the patient with complete, accurate information about the medication and its use, including information about side effects and potential interaction with other medications the patient is taking.

If a pharmacist fails to fulfill these duties and the patient suffers an injury as a result, a lawsuit may be appropriate. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury and professional negligence cases for over 45 years. If you or a loved one has been injured as a consequence of mistakes by a pharmacy, please give us a call today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.

What Kinds of Emergency Care Are Hospitals Required to Provide?

After an accident an injured person may be rushed to the nearest hospital without much consideration for questions like insurance coverage or ability to pay for care. Just an ambulance ride can be very expensive, not to mention the costs associated with treatment in an emergency room. Once at the hospital, patients or their loved ones may have questions about how much care a hospital is obligated to provide, regardless of ability to pay.

One of the challenges of answering this question comes from the variety of medical facilities in Nevada. Medical facilities run the gamut from local clinics with limited physician staffing to full-scale, 24-hour hospitals. Facilities are licensed and regulated according to the type of services they provide. This piece focuses on hospitals and the statutory rules that govern them.

Nevada state law also requires provision of emergency care

Under NRS 439B.410 a Nevada hospital is required to provide emergency services to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Hospitals are also prohibited from transferring patients to other facilities as a consequence of the patient’s insurance status. Emergency care includes:

  • Screening the patient to identify any emergency medical condition, which is defined as the presence of acute symptoms that could result in serious jeopardy to the patient’s health, serious impairment of the patient’s bodily functions, or serious dysfunction of an organ or body part.
  • Provision of care, including surgery, to relieve or eliminate the emergency medical condition.

Nevada law requires that patients who are admitted on an emergency basis are provided with an appropriate place within the hospital (a bed, chair, etc.) within 30 minutes of arrival at the hospital. NRS 450B.790. Note, however, that hospitals can’t be sued for breaching this rule.

Federal law places specific requirements on hospitals that accept Medicare

Federal law requires any hospital that accepts Medicare to provide emergency services to patients regardless of whether the patient is eligible for Medicare or otherwise has the ability to pay for services. 42 CFR § 489.24. The obligation to provide basic emergency services arises whenever a person presents themselves on hospital grounds and requests care or appears to be in need of medical care. This includes arriving by ambulance. Medicare hospitals must:

  • Provide initial screening exams to evaluate the patient’s condition.
  • If an emergency medical condition exists, provide stabilizing treatment and, if determined to be necessary, admit the person as an in-patient or transfer the patient to a hospital that can provide appropriate treatment.

These services must be provided without delaying to first find out if the patient has insurance or the ability to pay, but hospitals are allowed to ask such questions in the course of registering the patient.

Hospitals can still charge for emergency services

Even though a hospital is required to provide emergency services regardless of a patient’s apparent ability to pay, the hospital can and will bill for the services it provides. This can come as a shock to patients who seek care and later get huge bills in the mail for ambulance rides, surgeries, and so on. Bills can be especially high for patients who are not insured, or who have been treated by a facility that is not within their insurer’s network.

People faced with significant bills can often negotiate them down. In general, hospitals would rather get paid something rather than hand over a large bill to a collection agency with little hope of seeing a dime. If the emergency that led to the hospital visit arose as a consequence of an accident, the hospital may accept a lien against the anticipated settlement with the person responsible for the injury. A personal injury lawyer can help sort out these options.

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. If you have questions about how to handle the aftermath of an emergency room visit, we may be able to help. Call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Medicare Reimbursements from Lawsuit Settlements

After suffering a serious injury the first priority is always to seek medical care. Ideally the injured person is insured, so that the insurance company picks up most of the initial costs of emergency care and any costs associated with follow-up treatments. If the injury also leads to a personal injury lawsuit, the insurer typically will demand that it be reimbursed from any settlement or final judgment award in a process called insurance subrogation. The same is true of Medicare, which has unique requirements for recipients who receive covered care for expenses that are later made part of a settlement.

Placing Medicare subrogation in context

Putting aside the jargon for a moment, it’s worthwhile thinking about what a personal injury lawsuit is for. The goal of filing a lawsuit is to recover compensation for all of the various costs associated with the injury, by making the person responsible for the injury also responsible for those costs. Although medical bills tend to be a substantial part of the damages a plaintiff seeks to recover, other costs like lost earnings and noneconomic factors like pain and suffering are also a component. The object of filing a lawsuit is not to give the plaintiff a big financial windfall.

In that light, insurance subrogation makes sense. Essentially the insurer that provides coverage for someone who later files a lawsuit can be thought of as having borne costs that were the defendant’s obligation. The insurer therefore naturally should be reimbursed. It would not be fair to the insurer or the defendant if the plaintiff could walk away with the cash value of medical care that the insurer has already paid for. In technical terms, Medicare is a secondary payer, while the defendant is the primary payer.

How Medicare’s right to reimbursement works

Medicare recipients must comply with a range of important requirements, beginning with the accident itself. By law Medicare is entitled to a lien on any settlement or judgment award paid out in connection with injuries that it covers. What this means in practice is that the injured plaintiff cannot receive any financial compensation until Medicare releases the lien, typically after it has determined that it has been sufficiently reimbursed. Here is a summary of the major components of Medicare’s process:

  • Preliminary notice. Notify the Medicare Benefits and Recovery Coordination Contractor (BCRC) of the injury and the facts of the accident that caused it. It’s important to get this notice submitted as soon as possible after the injury, in large part because Medicare can take a long time processing these notices.
  • Monitoring by Medicare, and monitoring Medicare. The preliminary notice sent to Medicare will trigger a review of the plaintiff’s file and ongoing monitoring for new costs. Medicare will eventually send what is called a conditional payment letter setting out in detail the charges that Medicare believes are related to the plaintiff’s legal claim. It is the plaintiff’s responsibility to correct any errors in the conditional payment letter, which can happen if the plaintiff is being treated for conditions other than the injury subject to the lawsuit. For example, if the plaintiff suffered a broken leg in a car crash, but later suffers a burn that requires medical care, Medicare may lump the treatment of the leg together with the burn on the assumption that the two were related. The plaintiff needs to get the burn’s costs taken off the list to prevent Medicare from seeking reimbursement for it from the defendant.
  • Notice of settlement. Personal injury cases typically reach a settlement without going to trial. Once settlement is reached Medicare must be informed as soon as possible. Medicare is told how much the settlement was for, the amount of attorneys’ fees, and other details.
  • Appeals process. Medicare uses the settlement information to compile a final demand letter setting out the amount it believes it is owed. This amount must be paid or appealed within 60 days. In rare cases Medicare will adjust their final demand amount, but by this point it is often difficult to get adjustments made.

This is only an overview of some of the issues that arise for a Medicare recipient who is seeking compensation for an injury. Given the stakes involved, the correct approach is always for the attorneys handling the personal injury case to also assist with the Medicare compliance process. Making mistakes with the Medicare process can lead to long, frustrating delays that are best avoided.

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation in personal injury cases. We help clients navigate the Medicare process and get the compensation they deserve. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.

The Legal Risks of Intervening in a Crime

Intervening to stop a crime can involve a significant degree of personal risk. This can be especially true if the criminal is armed or behaving in an unpredictable way, whether due to mental illness, drug use, or other causes. When the intervening person uses force and causes injuries to others or to property, it’s possible that the intervention could lead to civil or even criminal liability. Understanding these issues is important for anyone who thinks they might step in to stop a crime.

“Good Samaritan” laws may not apply in self defense cases

A common misconception is that someone who intervenes in a crime falls under the concept of the “Good Samaritan.” The Good Samaritan idea is that someone who intervenes in an emergency situation to help other people should not be held responsible for injuries that they cause in the course of helping someone else. The textbook example of a Good Samaritan is someone who pulls over to assist people who have been injured in a car accident. In the course of helping someone who has been injured it’s very easy for an untrained person to aggravate the injured person’s injuries. Nevada law shields ordinary people from liability for such incidents. NRS 41.500.

A crime, even a violent one or one that involves the threat of violence (for example, an armed robbery) may not qualify as an “emergency” under Nevada’s Good Samaritan law. The Good Samaritan law therefore may not protect the intervening person from liability if in the course of the intervention the person causes personal injury or property damage. Even though there may be a good argument that such damage arose only as a consequence of the criminal behavior, that might not be enough to prevent liability.

Using a weapon in self defense

Advocates for concealed carry permits often argue that having responsible, armed gun owners in public enhances public safety. For those who exercise their right to carry a gun in public, encountering an opportunity to prevent a crime presents an important decision point. Should a carried weapon be used to intervene in the crime? The answer to this question can be complicated, and depends on a range of considerations, including:

  • How clear is it that a crime is being committed at all? Threatening someone who was not doing anything criminal is itself a crime.
  • What sort of danger does the apparent criminal pose? Is he or she armed?
  • What is the nature of the crime? A violent crime may justify a different level of response from a property crime like shoplifting.
  • Is immediate intervention absolutely necessary to protect others from harm, or can the problem be safely left to the police?
  • Is the intervening person adequately trained to handle a firearm in an emergency context?
  • What else is going on? Are there lots of people around?

Firing a weapon in public is likely to draw scrutiny from law enforcement, regardless of how justified the shooting may have seemed at the time. Someone who intervenes in a situation with a weapon risks a number of consequences, the most significant being civil and even criminal liability for injuries to bystanders and even the criminal. At a minimum, be prepared to comply with police instructions, and also be prepared for the possibility that other armed citizens may arrive on the scene and mistake you for a criminal.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases. If you are in need of legal representation after intervening in a crime, call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Train Accidents and Personal Injury Lawsuits

Over the last decade a number of tragic train accidents have drawn significant media coverage and raised questions about train safety. Although traveling by train is still overall considered to be safe, an accident—from a common slip and fall to a major crash—is always a possibility. Someone who has been injured in an accident involving a train may have the option of filing a lawsuit to recover compensation.

Trains are common carriers

The law categorizes passenger trains, along with public busses and airlines, as common carriers. As a general rule, common carriers owe passengers the highest duty of care. The operator of a train is required to use the utmost care and diligence to prevent passenger injuries. Courts have interpreted this standard to mean that even the slightest lapse in care could make a common carrier legally responsible for injuries that arise from the lapse.

Train operations have a long, rich history of disciplined processes and procedures designed in part to ensure the safety of passengers. Things like hand rails, properly maintained seats, and restrictions on where passengers can stand are all examples of steps train operators take to keep things safe. Operators also routinely inspect their tracks for problems that might cause a derailment or other serious incident.

When is a train operator liable?

Every incident where a train passenger is hurt can conceivably give rise to a lawsuit. The key questions a personal injury lawyer will analyze are: (1) whether the train operator has breached its duty of care toward the injured passenger, and (2) whether the operator’s breach of its duty caused the passenger’s injury. There is a wide variety of ways an operator might do this:

  • Failing to clean up a wet and slippery floor that causes a passenger to fall.
  • Improperly maintaining a door that shuts dangerously hard.
  • Failing to fix a problem with tracks, which might include damage to the track itself, debris, inadequate signs warning passenger vehicles about the track, and so on.

Someone who has been injured on a train and is dealing with significant medical bills or lost work time should contact an attorney to learn about their legal options. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. If you have suffered an accident on a train please call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or by sending us a request through our site.

Biking in the Rain Increases Injury Risk

As bicycles become more popular as alternatives to cars people are more and more willing to ride in weather that would deter a casual rider. Rain in Nevada can come in dramatic bursts that can make roads unsafe even for drivers. While riding on the road during rainy weather it’s worthwhile keeping a few things in mind.

Tips for safely riding bicycles in the rain

Perhaps the best advice for cyclists who want to ride in the rain is: don’t. But sometimes it can’t be avoided, because there isn’t another mode of transportation available or the weather has turned without warning. When on the road in the rain, these safety tips can reduce the risk of an accident:

  • Take steps to be visible. In addition to having the legally required minimum front and rear reflectors, cyclists who ride in rain should also wear bright colors and ideally should have front and rear lights. It is almost impossible for a cyclist to be “too visible” on the road during wet weather.
  • Ride conservatively. Rain drastically reduces traction. Stopping distances will be significantly greater. Making aggressive turns on wet pavement can easily cause wheels to slide, leading to a crash.
  • If possible, take the lane. Nevada law allows cyclists to take an entire lane on multilane roads that do not have a separate, designated bike lane. It is significantly safer for a cyclist to take an entire lane than to try to hug the shoulder. Even if riding on a single lane road, cyclists are permitted to take the lane if the shoulder is full of debris or standing water.
  • Be prepared to wait out the storm. Riding in an especially heavy downpour is not worth the risk. If the roadway is inundated with water there may be no safe speed at which to ride.

The law and cycling in the rain

Nevada law treats bicycles like other vehicles for traffic purposes, meaning riders are required to obey all the rules of the road. There is no special rule that dictates how drivers must behave during rain, so it remains up to the rider to decide what is safe. In that respect, the rider takes a degree of personal responsibility when riding in the rain.

Riding in the rain will likely become an important issue in litigation if a bicyclist gets into an accident. Cases involving bike accidents have sometimes hinged on the cyclist’s assumption of the risk of injury. In a case where the rain played a factor in causing an accident one should anticipate the argument coming up. For example, if a cyclist rides into a deep puddle and falls in front of an oncoming car, the car’s driver probably will argue that the cyclist assumed the risk of injury or committed an act of contributory negligence by riding in conditions that were unsafe.

Talk to a Las Vegas personal injury firm about your bike accident

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez represents clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury and accident cases. If you have been injured while riding a bicycle in the Las Vegas area, please reach out to us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.

The Role of Depositions in Personal Injury Cases

Oral testimony often forms a central part of a legal case. For many people outside the legal profession “oral testimony” often conjures images out of courtroom dramas, with a witness nervously breaking down under an attorney’s barrage of questions. The reality is usually quite different. Most personal injury cases settle without going to trial, so courtroom exchanges never happen. Instead, lawyers talk to witnesses in pre-trial processes called depositions.

What is a deposition?

Depositions are part of the broader pre-trial discovery process, during which the parties to the dispute gather facts from each other about the events that led to the controversy. In a personal injury case, discovery often involves a mix of documents (for example, medical records or accident reports) and answers to questions that attorneys pose to witnesses. Such questions can be put before a witness in writing, in so-called interrogatories, or they can be asked in person, during a deposition.

Depositions can be thought of as formal interviews. Attorneys from both sides in a dispute are present and may ask the witness questions. The witness may also be represented by an attorney. The answers given in a deposition are under oath and can be used as evidence at trial. A deposition is typically held in an attorney’s office with a courtroom reporter present to take down a transcript of everything that is said.

The witness’s role in a deposition

The purpose of a deposition is to help the two sides in a dispute clarify what a witness knows about the case. If the case goes to trial, the deposition will have given both sides a better idea of what to expect if the witness is called to testify in court. In practice, personal injury cases rarely go to trial. Instead, they will settle out of court, quite often with the attorneys for both parties negotiating a settlement in light of the facts that are brought forward during the discovery process.

The specific nature of a deposition often depends on the kind of witness that is involved. Depositions of the people directly involved in an incident may delve into a wide range of matters as opposing attorneys seek clarity on facts and probe for weaknesses. For example, in a car accident case one can expect the driver who was allegedly responsible for the crash to be asked about drug and alcohol use prior to the accident. Other potential witnesses may include people who saw the incident, people who can attest to the nature of the plaintiff’s injuries (friends, family, and medical professionals), and expert witnesses who provide insights into technical matters that are germane to the case.

Questions posed during a deposition can be far-ranging. Although attorneys often raise objections during depositions, the witness usually is obligated to answer questions as truthfully as possible even if the question would not be allowed in court. That is because the rules governing depositions are not as strict as the rules of evidence that apply in the courtroom. Witnesses are often represented by attorneys during depositions to protect the witness from questions that stray too far from relevance.

Talk to a Las Vegas personal injury attorney about your case

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases. We give each case the personal attention it deserves. Protecting our clients’ interests is paramount to our practice, and that includes helping them get ready for depositions. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.

Suing for Dialysis Treatment Mistakes in Nevada

People who suffer from kidney problems often need to resort to dialysis treatment to preserve their health. Dialysis involves running the patient’s blood through a machine that replaces the filtering function ordinarily performed by the kidneys. Depending on the type of dialysis a patient receives, the process may be repeated anywhere from once or more per day to two or three times a week. In the course of treatment complications can arise that can lead to serious health problems or even death. In some cases the mistakes that lead to such complications can form the basis of a lawsuit for professional negligence.

What are the risks of dialysis?

There are three types of dialysis. The most common, hemodialysis, uses a machine outside the patient’s body. Peritoneal dialysis involves an implanted catheter that allows waste materials to be filtered through a membrane in the abdomen. A third type, continuous renal replacement therapy, is an in-patient procedure for patients with acute kidney failure. Each type of dialysis involves some form of surgery, to implant a catheter or other medical equipment that will allow blood or waste to be removed from the body.

There are a range of common complications from dialysis treatment. Many complications are an unavoidable side effect of the treatment itself. For patients undergoing hemodialysis, problems like low blood pressure, anemia, and cramping are common. As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection at the entry site.

Potential mistakes during dialysis

Some complications from a procedure like dialysis may be unavoidable, but others are caused by mistakes by the medical professionals administering the treatment. For a mistake to serve as the basis of a lawsuit in Nevada the plaintiff must prove a number of things, including that the defendant failed to use the reasonable care, skill, or knowledge ordinarily used under similar circumstances by similarly trained and experienced providers of health care. NRs 41A.015. In the case of dialysis, such mistakes might include:

  • Failure to operate the dialysis machine in accordance with manufacturer specifications or in accordance with physician instructions.
  • Improper sanitation procedures that result in infections.
  • Failure to adequately maintain equipment in safe operating condition.
  • Improper administration of medications.
  • Failure to adequately monitor the patient during the course of treatment.

Someone who is injured by a mistake like this may require immediate emergency medical attention. In addition to the costs of emergency care, the patient is likely to suffer both physically and emotionally. It is often a good idea to consult with an attorney as soon as possible following discovery of a significant medical error to determine if there is a case for seeking compensation for such injuries.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For over 45 years the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury cases. If you or a loved one has been injured due to mistakes during dialysis treatment we are happy to discuss your case with you. Call today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.

What Obligations Does a Nevada Mall Have to Provide Security?

Malls are an interesting example of privately owned public spaces. Like any public space where a significant number of people interact, there’s always a chance of something happening at a mall that could lead to personal injury. When the personal injury arises from what could be broadly described as a “security incident,” such as a fight between two patrons or a random shooting, the victims may want to explore filing suit against the owner or operator of the mall. But what obligations does a mall have to provide security?

Premises liability and security considerations

Someone who is injured in a purely accidental way at a mall often has a cause of action under the theory of premises liability. The law of premises liability requires businesses to keep their premises in reasonably safe condition for use. Sprague v. Lucky Stores, 109 Nev. 247, 250 (1993). If a business fails to comply with this rule and a patron is injured as a consequence, the business may be liable for negligence.

A typical example of a premises liability case is a slip-and-fall on a wet floor at a supermarket. Provided the supermarket caused the wet floor (for example, an employee mopped the floor and left it wet) or knew or had reason to know the floor was wet (a customer dropped a bottle of wine, or the wet spot had been there for long enough that the store should have discovered it) premises liability probably will apply.

Negligent security is a variation of premises liability. In Nevada business have a legal duty to prevent foreseeable criminal acts against visitors. Providing security is one way a business can do this, but the scope of the obligation will vary by the location and nature of the business. For example, a small strip mall may only be obligated to ensure that its parking lot and other publicly accessible spaces are well lit at night. But a large mall probably needs more: surveillance cameras, on-site guards, and so on.

Foreseeability can be a significant question

For a mall owner or operator to be liable for negligent security the event giving rise to the plaintiff’s injury must have been foreseeable and criminal. Foreseeability poses an interesting problem for some plaintiffs. One might successfully argue that muggings, sexual assault, and fist fights are all foreseeable possibilities in a place where large numbers of people congregate. But is a random shooting incident also foreseeable? In these times perhaps the answer is yes, but the next question is: what reasonable steps can a mall take to prevent such events?

Negligent security focuses on violent criminal behavior. Boorish and even harassing behavior isn’t necessarily criminal, even if the victim has a potential civil cause of action against the perpetrator. By the same token, however, providing a safe environment probably requires intervention in some otherwise noncriminal situations. This list of a mall security officer’s duties includes mediating disagreements between patrons. In some cases a security officer may make a situation worse, and may end up committing negligence as a consequence.

Talk to a personal injury lawyer about your case

Premises liability, and in particular negligent security, is a complex topic that relies heavily on the specific facts of each incident. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients recover compensation. If you have been injured in an incident at a mall and you questions about your legal options to seek compensation from the mall’s owner or operator, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

How Personal Injury Judgments Fare in Bankruptcy

When an injured plaintiff sues a defendant in civil court to recover compensation for personal injury, the plaintiff is hoping to obtain a favorable judgment. The judgment may come about after a trial, or it may be the result of a negotiated settlement. Either way, a court judgment orders the defendant to do (or not do) certain things. In a personal injury context, the judgment typically orders the defendant to pay the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s creditors (insurers, health care providers, and so on) a certain amount of money. Financially speaking, the defendant becomes a debtor to the prevailing plaintiff and others who have incurred expenses on the plaintiff’s behalf during treatment of the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff, in turn, becomes one of the defendant’s creditors. This debtor-creditor relationship remains until the judgment is paid in full.

Judgment liens and other creditors

A successful plaintiff typically is not the defendant’s only creditor. Most people in the United States have multiple debt relationships: auto loans, mortgages, educational loans, credit card debt, utility bills, and so on. Not all debt is created equal. Debt can be categorized in a variety of ways, but one of the more important distinctions is between secured and unsecured debts:

  • Secured debt is tied to certain tangible collateral. Car and home loans take the car or home as collateral. Credit card companies can require a deposit of cash collateral from customers with no or low credit. Lenders in such arrangements have a straightforward remedy if the borrower fails to pay: they simply repossess the collateral property and sell it to recover the value of their loans.
  • Unsecured debt is not tied to specific property. Most credit card debt is unsecured. For a credit card company, the remedy is to keep piling on late fees and charging interest.

A civil judgment is often secured by what is called a judgment lien. A judgment lien allows the plaintiff to make a claim against the defendant’s valuable property and sources of income until the debt is paid. For example, the plaintiff can file a lien against the defendant’s home or car, ensuring that as a legal matter the home or car can’t be sold without first satisfying the debt.

The bankruptcy option

Defendants who face an unmanageable debt load will sometimes declare bankruptcy. In the most common form of personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7), a debtor is forced to sell or surrender nonexempt property to repay as much of his or her debts as possible. Creditors typically get paid in order of their priority, and here is where a plaintiff can get unpleasantly surprised. Unless the defendant has a substantial cash or liquid investment pool to draw upon, senior lenders (mortgage lenders, auto lenders, even credit card companies) may take all the defendant is required to pay before the plaintiff sees much, if anything. If a judgment lien has been attached to exempt property (for example, a defendant’s primary residence) the lien may be removed as a consequence of the bankruptcy process.

Plaintiffs who face this possibility need legal representation in the defendant’s bankruptcy proceeding to ensure that every effort is made to prevent the defendant from escaping their obligation through bankruptcy. In some cases (drunk driving incidents, for example) the defendant cannot escape financial responsibility through bankruptcy. In other cases the plaintiff must argue the case, often in contention with large lending organizations.

Talk to a personal injury attorney about your case

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. We help plaintiffs through every phase of their civil litigation, from pretrial strategy to post-judgment collection. If you have questions about how you can collect on your civil judgment, call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We’re available at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

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