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Negligence Contributed to Coronavirus Outbreaks in SC Nursing Homes

Nursing homes have been called “ground zero” in the COVID-19 crisis. Nationwide, nearly half of all coronavirus-related deaths have occurred in nursing facilities. In South Carolina, more than one-third of those who have lost their lives because of COVID-19 were nursing home residents, even though these residents make up only about 12% of those who have tested positive for the virus.

There are 194 nursing homes in South Carolina, and even though the state put restrictions on visitors to these facilities back in early April, coronavirus outbreaks have occurred in several of them. The facilities with the most serious outbreaks tend to be the ones that held the lowest 2019 quality ratings, and many of them had been cited in recent years for violations of standards that were meant to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Nursing homes constitute a “perfect storm” of conditions that would pose a threat of widespread fatalities with a virus as deadly as COVID-19. Coronaviruses spread most rapidly within indoor settings that are climate controlled where people are in closed quarters for an extended period of time. This is why in addition to nursing homes, many outbreaks happened in factories, meatpacking plants, on cruise ships, and within ethnic communities where large families tend to live under the same roof and often in more compact spaces such as apartments.

What made things even deadlier for nursing home residents is their vulnerability to COVID-19. This particular type of coronavirus hits the elderly and infirmed especially hard, and according to the American Council on Science and Health, more than 80% of COVID-related deaths have happened to individuals who were 65 years of age or older. If you add in the 55-64 age group, this number goes up to 92%.

There is no doubt that nursing home patients are the most vulnerable group with regards to the coronavirus, and even under the best of conditions, it would have been difficult to fully contain the spread of COVID-19 within these facilities. Unfortunately, many of the nursing homes in our state did not take this situation as seriously as they should have, and a large number of them failed to take the steps needed to protect our elderly loved ones.

Complaints were filed against several South Carolina nursing homes alleging that residents have been repeatedly exposed to “dangerous or unsanitary conditions.” Some of the specific complaints include allegations that facilities refused to test residents for the coronavirus (as was required by the state) and that facilities refused to provide adequate supplies and equipment to protect staff and residents.

Many nursing home employees tried to sound the alarm with state regulators about what was going on in these facilities. Here are just a few of the complaints that were lodged with the South Carolina DHEC:

“The residents in this facility are in immediate danger as staff are not following isolation precautions as directed for COVID 19”

“We, the staff are scared for ourselves and our residents, but we are scared to stand up because we will lose our job”

“Based on what I saw for my two shifts, the patients in inpatient rehab would most likely be safer at home with family members”

The COVID-19 outbreak is the most serious public health crisis our country has faced in decades, and it is especially tragic that so many of our elderly loved ones have perished in nursing homes – largely due to negligence on the part of the facility. It is very important that those who are responsible for allowing these substandard conditions to occur be held fully accountable, not only so that victims’ families can be compensated, but also to help ensure that this situation never repeats itself!

Contact an Experienced South Carolina Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer  

If you have recently lost a loved one or a loved one has become critically ill because of a COVID-19 outbreak in a South Carolina nursing home, you may be entitled to damages. At Peake and Fowler, we understand that this is a difficult time for you, and we are here to help you deal with the complicated legal process. For a free consultation to review your case, message us online or call our office today at 803-788-4370. We look forward to serving you!

How to Avoid a Pedestrian or Bicycle Accident during the COVID-19 Shutdown

As South Carolina deals with the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, non-essential businesses have closed, and many people are either unemployed or working from home. This has reduced vehicle traffic, but at the same time, there are more people out walking and riding their bikes. We need to get out and get fresh air and exercise while we are waiting out this crisis, so these activities are not only allowed, but encouraged.

Even though there are fewer cars on the road, the increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic heightens the risk of a vehicle colliding with a pedestrian or biker. And unfortunately, these types of accidents tend to result in far more serious injuries. While we are staying “safe at home”, we also need to do everything we can to stay safe when we venture out of our homes for a walk or bike ride.

Tips for Avoiding Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents during the Coronavirus Pandemic or Anytime

For Pedestrians

  • Stay Visible: Try to wear lightly-colored or reflective clothing at night and brightly-colored clothing during the day. Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street. And whenever possible, make eye contact with drivers in vehicles that have come to a stop before you cross in front of them.
  • Stay Alert: There are numerous distractions these days, and it is important for pedestrians to avoid them as much as possible, especially when they are crossing the road. Limit smartphone use when you are walking and keep the volume on your headphones lower so you can still hear what is going on around you.
  • Stay Sober: Approximately half of all pedestrian crashes involve alcohol consumption. In the majority of these cases, the crashes are caused by an impaired driver (more on that later). But still, approximately one-third of the crashes involve a pedestrian that consumed alcohol.
  • Follow the Rules: Understand and adhere to the traffic rules, signs, and signals in whatever area you are walking. Be predictable and only cross the road at designated crosswalks and other places where it is legal to do so.
  • Walk in Safe Places: When possible, walk on sidewalks and walking paths rather than on the streets. If you must walk on the street, make sure you are going the same direction as the traffic and stay as far off to the side of the road as possible. Another recommendation specific to the COVID-19 restrictions is to limit the number of people you walk with, and if you are walking with someone from a different household, maintain at least a six-foot distance.

For Bikers

  • Stay Visible: As with pedestrians, it is important for bikers to be seen by motor vehicle drivers. Wear the same lightly-colored or reflective clothing at night or brightly-colored clothing during the day and be sure to turn on your lights and reflectors at night.
  • Stay in Your Lane: Be aware of your location in relation to vehicles at all times. If there is a designated bike lane, stay in that lane. If there is no bike lane, stay as far to the right of moving traffic as possible while maintaining a safe distance from parked cars.
  • Follow the Rules: Remember to follow all of the traffic laws. This means, among other things, riding with the flow of traffic along the right-hand side of the street, obeying traffic light signals, stop signs, and other road markings, and not making illegal turns. With the coronavirus pandemic ongoing, you should also limit the number of people you bike with and maintain a safe distance from each other.

For Drivers

  • Put your Phone Away: Although most motorists are aware of the dangers, far too many continue to send and receive texts and other electronic messages while they are driving. Do not be one of them. Refrain from any electronic smartphone activity while driving, and if you must make a call, make sure the phone is in “hands-free” mode.
  • Stay Sober: As mentioned earlier, about half of all pedestrian crashes involve alcohol, and about two-thirds of those involve a drunk driver. Avoid drinking and driving at all times – decades of tragic deaths have proven that driving with any amount of alcohol in your system is just not worth it.
  • Obey Traffic Rules: Follow the speed limits, do not run stop signs or red lights, and do not otherwise drive in an aggressive or reckless manner.
  • Watch for Bike and Pedestrian Traffic: Be mindful of bicycle and pedestrian traffic, especially in downtown areas where it tends to be heavy. During COVID-19, also be sure to watch out for increased traffic while driving within your own neighborhood.

Injured in a Bike or Pedestrian Accident in South Carolina? Peake & Fowler is Here to Help

As we get through the coronavirus pandemic, we want you to know that Peake & Fowler is still open and ready to serve your legal needs. We are following all of the social distancing guidelines and doing most everything remotely, but we have the technology and resources to handle accident injury claims in the same effective manner that our clients have come to expect. Court cases are moving slower, but we can still complete much of the groundwork for your claim even with everything going on.

If you or a loved one suffered injury in a pedestrian or bicycle accident, message us online or call our office today at 803-788-4370 for a free consultation and case assessment. We look forward to serving you!

The Impact of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Claims

The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event that has disrupted everyone’s lives and impacted every area of our society. The social distancing guidelines that have been put in place to stop the spread of the virus have forced millions of businesses throughout the United States to close, and those who still have a job are most likely working from home unless they are “essential” workers such as healthcare personnel and truck drivers.

While personal injury claims are still being filed and those that had been filed prior to COVID-19 are progressing, this situation is creating some challenges. That said, we at Peake & Fowler are still open, and we are well equipped to provide the strong personalized representation our clients have come to expect. We are taking all the precautions and following the social distancing guidelines, and we are doing most of our tasks remotely while the pandemic is ongoing. But rest assured, if you have suffered an injury that was caused by another person or party, we are ready and able to serve your legal needs even during this difficult time.

How the Coronavirus is Affecting Personal Injury Cases

Here are some of the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic might affect a personal injury claim:

Medical Treatment Delays

When someone is injured in a car accident or suffers any other type personal injury, it is extremely important for them to get immediate medical attention. It is also very important to follow the recommendations of those who are treating you, which means keeping all of your follow-up appointments and going through with tests and procedures as directed by your doctor.

This is not only for the sake of your physical health – it is a legal issue as well. If you file a personal injury claim, you have a legal duty to mitigate your losses, which means doing everything the medical professionals recommend toward recovering or reaching maximum medical improvement. You will also need to have documentation showing the full extent of your injuries in order to recover the full and fair compensation you deserve.

The coronavirus outbreak has created a couple of challenges with regards to medical treatment for personal injury victims. First of all, people are understandably apprehensive about seeing a doctor with the threat of contracting COVID-19. This might cause them to miss important appointments and not receive the treatment they need to get on the road to recovery. Keep in mind, however, that the hospitals and clinics that are open are taking all of the necessary precautions to keep their patients safe, and the risk is very minimal compared to the cost of not following through on the treatment plan.

The other potential issue is the possibility that some appointments and/or treatments and procedures may be postponed for a while. Hopefully, this will not be much of an issue in South Carolina and most of the rest of the country, but you never know. If there is a major outbreak and more resources need to be directed toward treating COVID-19 patients, then personal injury victims may find that their treatment plan has to be delayed. There is not much you can do if this happens, but you must be diligent and follow the plan to the best of your ability.

Limited Court Access

In South Carolina, jury trials have been put on hold in all federal and state courts until the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Non-jury trials have been allowed to continue at the judge’s discretion with only the attorneys, their clients, and necessary witnesses being able to appear. Videoconferencing is also being used in some cases for pretrial conferences and other meetings. What all this adds up to is that, if you file a personal injury lawsuit, you can expect significant delays in the process.

Motivation/Pressure to Settle Quickly

Because of court delays and tighter finances, personal injury victims are likely to feel more pressure to settle their cases. With the prospect of waiting several months for a jury trial, many people may be motivated to take the money now. Insurance companies are also aware of this, and they are likely to take advantage of the situation. The goal of an insurer is to pay out as little as possible for an injury claim, and they may give a victim a lowball offer knowing that many people need the money right away.

Those hit the hardest will be claimants who do not have legal representation, because most are not familiar with the process or the common tactics that insurers use to minimize the value of a claim. Now, more than ever, it is extremely critical to have experienced attorneys in your corner who have the proven ability to secure maximum compensation on their clients’ behalf.

How South Carolinians are Pulling Together during the Coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic has ravished our country unlike any viral outbreak during our lifetimes. Hundreds of thousands across the country have tested positive for the coronavirus, and thousands have died from it. In South Carolina alone, more than 2,000 people have contracted the virus, and there have been dozens of deaths. South Carolinians are now under a “stay-at-home” order, with only essential workers being allowed to keep working outside their homes.

Whether you have contracted the coronavirus or not, no one has been immune from the impact of this crisis. Restaurants, bars, sports and entertainment, and other businesses where large crowds tend to gather have all been closed, and most non-essential workers are stuck at home. This has impacted everyone in one way or the other, and there are many in our local communities who are struggling with the effects of this pandemic.

On the bright side, South Carolinians are coming together as we have always done when we have faced a crisis. Neighbors are helping neighbors (albeit from a distance), and people are pitching in wherever they can to help their communities get through this.

Here are some of the things people are doing to help others in need as we all try to get through the COVID-19 crisis:

Donating or Volunteering at Food Shelters: The local food shelters are having a lot of trouble with the coronavirus situation. Many of the volunteers cannot come in because they are seniors or others in high risk categories. At the same time, donations have dropped because finances are a lot tighter for many households, especially if they have just lost a job because of COVID-19. To fill these needs, some who suddenly find themselves at home are volunteering at the local food shelters to replace those who can’t be there right now. Others who are still working are stepping up their monetary and food donations to try to close the financial gap that has been created by this crisis.

Donating Blood Safely: Blood supply has dropped significantly as a lot of people are afraid to donate blood with the risk of catching the virus. To address this issue, the Red Cross has taken several steps to make blood donations as safe as possible. They take everyone’s temperature before they come through the door, and they keep donors at least six feet away from each other. All Red Cross workers are wearing gloves, and they are also sanitizing all of the surfaces between donations. This has allowed those who are able to donate to do so at minimal risk of viral exposure.

Encouraging and Helping Seniors and Other Shut-Ins: Many of the elderly and others who are immune compromised are afraid to leave their homes for fear of catching the virus. The isolation causes a lot of loneliness and depression, and the inability to go out makes them unable to obtain groceries and other essentials. Those in their neighborhoods have found creative ways to help with this. Some are utilizing the extra time they have on their hands to call or text elderly neighbors, check in on how they are doing, and encourage them. Others are sending letters and greeting cards to help lift their spirits, and still others are going out and picking up groceries for the shut ins so they can stay safe at home.

Sending Food and Facemasks to Front-Line Workers: Truck drivers, those who work in grocery stores, and hospital workers are among those on the front lines who are considered “essential” and must go to work. Though they risk exposure to the coronavirus, they are still going out to work to treat those who are sick, and to keep our society functioning. Others in the community are helping front-line workers by ordering them pizzas and other types of meals or coffee to help them get through their long shifts. And some who have the skills are sewing homemade masks that they can send to workers to help protect them from being exposed to the virus.

Supporting Local Restaurants: With restaurants being forced to shut their doors or limit their service to takeout and delivery, those who are stuck at home are doing their part to try to keep them solvent. Some are going out of their way to patronize local restaurants however they can, while others are purchasing gift cards that they can use when the restaurant reopens.

Together, we Will all Get Through This

These are just a few examples of the many ways South Carolinians and all Americans are stepping up to help everyone get through this unprecedented crisis. This will be over soon, and because we rose to the challenge, we will all come out stronger because of this experience.

At Peake & Fowler, we are doing what we can to help our community during this difficult time. We also want you to know that we are still here to serve your legal needs. Like most everyone else, we are doing the majority of our tasks remotely as we follow all of the social distancing guidelines. The wheels of justice will be turning more slowly for a while, but our firm is still fully functional, and we have the technology and resources to effectively represent our clients as we always have.

To speak with a member of our legal team, message us online or call our office today at 803-788-4370. We look forward to serving you!