Damages – Money awarded by a court to a person injured by the unlawful actor negligence of another person.
Damage Cap – A limit placed on the amount a party can recover in certain causes of action or against particular parties. This may be a fix amount of damages set by the state legislature or may be a formula which incorporates the amount of medical bills. For further discussion of damages in nursing home lawsuits, look here.
Debridement – Process of removing non-living tissue from pressure ulcers, burns, and other wounds. For more information on debridement procedures for bed sores, look here.
Decision – The opinion of the court in concluding a case at law.
Declaratory judgment – A statutory remedy for judicial determination of a controversy where plaintiff is in doubt about his legal rights.
Decubitus ulcer – A decubitus ulcer is an area of skin that breaks down when you stay in one position for too long without shifting your weight. This often happens if you use a wheelchair or you are bedridden, even for a short period of time (for example, after surgery or an injury). The constant pressure against the skin reduces the blood supply to that area, and the affected tissue dies. A pressure ulcer starts as reddened skin but gets progressively worse, forming a blister, then an open sore, and finally a crater. Decubitus ulcers are ‘staged’ or graded according to their severity: stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4 or unstageable. See also: bed sore, pressure sore or pressure ulcer.
Deep vein thrombosis – Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is when a blood clot forms in a vein that is deep inside the body. DVT mainly affects the large veins in the lower leg and thigh. The clot can block blood flow. If the clot breaks off and moves through the bloodstream, it can get stuck in the brain, lungs, heart, or other area, leading to severe damage.
Default – Failure of the defendant to appear and answer the summons and complaint.
Default judgment – A judgment entered against a party who fails to appear in court or respond to the charges.
Defendant – The person defending or denying a suit.
Dehydration – Dehydration means your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should. Dehydration can be caused by losing too much fluid, not drinking enough water or fluids, or both. Vomiting and diarrhea are common causes.
Infants and children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults because of their smaller body weights and higher turnover of water and electrolytes. The elderly and those with illnesses are also at higher risk. When severe, dehydration is a life-threatening emergency. Look here for discussion of dehydration in nursing home patients.
Demurrer – A pleading filed by the defendant that the complaint as filed is not sufficient to require an answer.
Dementia – A general term used to describe a person with deteriorated intellectual ability including: speech, vocabulary, logical thinking, memory loss and physical coordination. The deterioration frequently interferes with difficulty performing daily activities and may remain without treatment options. The underlying medical conditions for dementia may be a number of diseases (Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s or Parkinson’s) or may be the consequence of problems such as organ failure, drug reactions or psychiatric disorders. Learn about some of the complications encountered by dementia patients in nursing homes here.
Dependent – One who derives existence and support from another.
Deposition – Testimony of a witness or a party taken under oath outside the courtroom, the transcript of which becomes a part of the court’s file.
Depression – A psychiatric condition that as many as 60% of nursing home patients are believed to suffer from characterized by feelings of sadness and helplessness. Signs of depression include: withdrawal from friends and family, isolation, weight gain / loss or difficulty sleeping. Thankfully, depression can usually be treated with forms of therapy and medication.
Diabetes – Affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar for energy; type 1 diabetes (the body’s own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas – beta cells), type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes, is the most common, these people produce insulin; however, either their pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin adequately), and gestational diabetes (can occur in pregnancy). Here’s some discussion on caring for diabetic patients in nursing homes.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis – Potentially life-threatening complication in patients with diabetes mellitus, predominately in those with type 1 diabetes, but can occur in those with type 2 diabetes. DKA results from an absolute shortage of insulin; in response the body switches to burning fatty acids and producing acidic ketone bodies that cause most of the symptoms and complications. Here’s some discussion of patients with diabetic ketoacidosis.
Dialysis – Dialysis is a method of removing toxic substances (impurities or wastes) from the blood when the kidneys are unable to remove these substances.
Direct evidence – Proof of facts by witnesses who saw acts done or heard words spoken.
Direct examination – The first questioning of witnesses by the party on whose behalf they are called.
Directed verdict – In a case in which the plaintiff has failed to present on the facts of his case proper evidence for jury consideration, the trial judge may order the entry of a verdict without allowing the jury to consider it.
Disability – Refers to the physical or mental condition of the injured party and their ability to tend to their own affairs. In some jurisdictions, a disability may extend the statute of limitations beyond the period when the statute would normally run.
Discharge planner – A health care professional in a nursing home, hospital or assisted living facility to assist in helping patients and families transition from one facility to another or perhaps back into an independent living situation.
Discovery – The name given pretrial devices for obtaining facts and information about the case. Generally discovery entails an exchange of written information or interrogatories and oral discovery via depositions.
Discovery Rule – In situations where a ‘discovery rule’ applies, the statute of limitations may be extended to allow an injured person or their family to file a lawsuit on a date after the original statute of limitations would have expired. The reasoning behind the ‘discovery rule’ is that if a person has no reason to know that he or she has been a victim of malpractice, the applicable statute of limitations does not begin to run until the victim of the malpractice knows or should have known that he or she has been the victim of malpractice. It is important to check the applicable statutes to determine if a discovery rule is applicable.
Disfigurement – The state of having one’s appearance deeply and persistently harmed medically, as from a disease, birth defect, or wound.
Dismissal – The termination of a lawsuit. (See with prejudice and without prejudice.)
Diversity of citizenship – The condition when the party on one side of a lawsuit is a citizen of one state and the other party is a citizen of another state; such cases are under the jurisdiction of federal courts.
DNR – Do not resuscitate.
Docket – An abstract or listing of all pleadings filed in a case; the book containing such entries; trial docket is a list of or calendar of cases to be tried in a certain term.
Domicile – The place where a person has his permanent home to which he intends to return.
Door alarm – Notification system that alerts others when a person gets out of their room or the room in which the door is alarmed.
Downs syndrome – Also called Trisomy 21, is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically; it affects about 1 in every 800 babies.
Drowning – Death from suffocation (asphyxia) caused by a liquid entering the lungs and preventing the absorption of oxygen leading to cerebral hypoxia and myocardial infarction.
Durable medical equipment – Medical equipment that has an extended usage life. Many times durable medical equipment refers to items such as: hospital beds, wheelchairs or walkers. Most durable medical equipment is prescribed by a physician and is paid for by Medicare.
Dysphagia – Refers to any kind of difficulty in swallowing. Here’s more information on swallowing tests for nursing home patients.