Blog Post

What to Do If You Have Doubts about Your Medical Care

Sometime in the 1970’s, the American Hospital Association drafted a Bill of Rights to inform patients of what to expect while in the hospital. Different groups have since then come up with different declarations resulting to multiple versions of the Patient’s Bill of Rights. This essentially means that there are many provisions under the law that protect your rights as a patient. And some of the more significant ones that you should remember are:

  • You have the right to accurate and easy-to-understand information about your health plan, health care professionals, and health care facilities. If you speak another language…or just don’t understand something, help should be given so you can make informed health care decisions.”


  • You have the right to be informed about your treatment options and take part in decisions about your care. You have the right to ask about the pros and cons of any treatment, including no treatment at all. As long as you are able to make sound decisions, you have the right to refuse any test or treatment, even if it means you might have a bad health outcome as a result. You can also legally choose someone who can speak for you if you cannot make your own decisions.


  • You have the right to a fair, fast, and objective review of any complaint you have against your health plan, doctors, hospitals, or other health care personnel. This includes complaints about waiting times, operating hours, the actions of health care personnel, and the adequacy of health care facilities.


“Health is wealth”, no doubt. And because the cost of health care in the United States doesn’t come cheap, it is but natural for everyone to expect to get the appropriate care and treatment they need. Let’s face it, these doctors and health care providers are very important part of our lives. When you or any loved one receives treatment and care from a healthcare professional, they are bound by law to attend to your medical needs to the best of their abilities. Sadly, that isn’t always the case. And their inability or negligence to provide the appropriate care and treatment could result in medical complications and serious or even life-threatening conditions.

In case you are unsure about the care or treatment you or a loved one is receiving, here are some things you can consider doing:

Gather your medical records. Getting copies of your medical records is an important first step. If you are not happy with the care and treatment provided by your current doctor, you will most likely search for another doctor and you’ll need to provide that new doctor with your medical history and records. It also makes sense to keep copies for yourself.

Keep track. It takes a long time for a medical malpractice cases to get resolved so it would be very advisable that you spend extra time to recording things.

Seek second opinion. A second opinion is critical in becoming educated regarding your treatment options. The more you know, the better chance you have of receiving the most appropriate and adequate medical care. If the second opinion is consistent with the original diagnosis and medical assessment, you can have peace of mind. On the other hand, in case you are somehow misdiagnosed, a second opinion can minimize the risks or complications.

Learn more. “Knowledge is power”, right? Get yourself more actively involved in your or your loved one’s care by understanding and learning more about your medical condition and symptoms. This will enable you to get the proper health care and attention you need.

Consult a medical malpractice lawyer. If ever you think that you or a loved one have not received the appropriated and optimum standard of care from your healthcare provider or you or your loved one suffered an injury because of a medical professional’s mistake or negligence, you may demand for a full explanation. And if you feel you have a case for medical negligence, it would be wise to consult a medical malpractice attorney. Medical malpractice or medical negligence occurs when a medical professional does something or fails to do something that results in an injury or causes harm or discomfort to the patient. Although you might think your doctor has made a mistake while treating you or your loved one, your claim still has to be proven whether it is true or not. There’s actually a lot more to a medical malpractice case than meets the eye. A medical malpractice attorney can undertake a legal and factual assessment and advise you on whether you may have a legal claim. More often than not though, a malpractice case is a long and complicated legal matter and usually takes some time to resolve.

Now in case you have doubts about the quality and appropriateness of the care and treatment that you or your loved one received, you may consult an attorney to determine if you have a case. In order to file a legal claim, the following have to be established first:

1. A duty of care exists between your or your loved one’s health care professional.

2. The duty of care has been breached by the standard of care that you have received.

3. The treatment or care that you or your loved one received has resulted to an “avoidable harm”, meaning pain, discomfort or complications which could have avoided had you received the appropriate care and treatment.

01 Oct 2014

How To Avoid Tax Audits After Divorce

A study revealed that 60% of taxpayers actually need the help of a professional to get through their own return. This means that 6 out of 10 people need the help of a tax professional to minimize the possibility of committing errors and minimize the probability of being audited. According to a tax expert, one factor that increases the likelihood of being audited by the IRS a painful and ugly divorce. According to Forbes, an ugly divorce results to a still unhappy ex-spouse who might think of reporting you to the IRS to inconvenience or spite you.

Divorce is something no one wants to experience. But the reality is that around 1 million divorces happen every year. That’s 50% of the 2 million or so marriages that occur annually. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which is the best annual national data source for marital events, the number of divorces per 1,000 married people was 19.0 in 2012. That’s why we all need to know more about the possible effects and consequences of divorce.

After a divorce, the law allows the IRS three (3) years to audit your finances during the marriage.  This could be even longer depending on the scale of the “discrepancy” or the existence of “fraud.” Now in case you learn that the IRS is auditing you, you have to remember that being selected for an audit doesn’t necessarily mean that you did something wrong. Perhaps there might just be something in your tax return that got you flagged for an audit, or you could have just been randomly selected. In 2011 alone, 1,724,728 returns were audited out of the 184,596,616 that were filed. So it’s not at all impossible to be one of the more than 1 million-and-a-half people in the United States who become subjects of an audit.

You have to realize that the IRS has the biggest database of personal information ever collected on American citizens. Notice of marriage is required to be disclosed by filing as (1) Married Filing Joint or (2) Married Filing Separately while divorced individuals are required to file as either (1) Single or (2) Head of Household. As difficult and painful divorce is, it can even actually become a recurring nightmare if ever the IRS audits you after your divorce. Because of the required “forensic audit”, undisclosed income or assets and other facts can get exposed in a divorce proceeding. These are collected and reported by forensic accountants to determine the amount of all the income and assets that will be subjected to “equitable distribution.”  The Judge is required to review all the facts and circumstances as well as to report or refer any reasonable inconsistencies to the IRS under their ethical requirements.  Thus, the Judge is legally required to report these facts to the IRS for a tax audit.

There are more Americans now who go through divorce more than just once. And every time someone goes through the process, the judge might think that person could somehow be violating tax codes. The possibility of being audited after a divorce that involved complex property division issues is something that ex-couples must be ready for.

The stress from divorce goes well beyond dividing assets and negotiating an agreement on child custody and visitation, especially when things don’t end on the best of terms. Divorcing couples have a lot of anxiety so it often times becomes very difficult to communicate with and to get information from the other party.  That lack of communication can lead to circumstances that eventually result to an IRS audit.

Here are some common red flags that you need to watch out for because these can increase the possibility of being audited by the IRS during or after a divorce:

Undisclosed assets and underreported income. According to Forbes, hidden assets and undisclosed income can lead to a red flag from the IRS. These can happen during the property division determination part of the divorce. Do not attempt to underreport income or not disclose certain assets – like others have done –just to try to get a larger portion of the marital property. A review of the marital assets is conducted as part of the divorce and judges are ethically obligated to report any inconsistencies that they may discover.

Missed deadlines. Individuals who are attempting to file taxes after a divorce might need information from the ex-spouse. To ascertain the correct preparation and timely filing of your taxes, give yourself more than enough time to gather and secure all the documents and information you need from your ex-spouse.

Your filing status. The IRS only cares about one day with regards to your filing status — December 31. To clarify, if you are married on December 31, then it is as if you are married for the whole year — whether you married on New Year’s Eve, or 20 years before that. On the other hand, if you get divorced by December 31, it is as if you are divorced for the whole year. For example, if your divorce was final by December 31, 2012, then you cannot file as a married person for your 2012 taxes. Your filing status options are “Head of Household” or “Single.” Keep in mind that if you will be filing as “Head of Household”, you should meet all the requirements to qualify under that status. Generally, the one who has custody of the child/children for more than half the year (even if it is only one day) can use this designation. IRS regulations state that the parent with whom the child spends more time may claim the child as a dependent. However, this can also be negotiated. For example, the parent who had custody of the child for more than half of the year may opt to allow the other parent to claim the child as a dependent. But this must be stated in writing and the parent must execute the required IRS form (Form 8332).

Support. You have to be mindful on how support is claimed on your taxes. Spousal support can be deducted but child support cannot. In the view of the IRS, it is a parent’s legal obligation to financially support his/her child. On the other hand, alimony (spousal support) must be reported as taxable income by the recipient and can be deducted by the payer, unless you agree otherwise. You can deduct spousal support payments on your income tax return, but not child support or property distributions.

These are only a few of the things that the IRS looks into after a divorce. If ever you are going through a divorce, it would be good idea to get some legal advice. Taxes can be complicated in any year and any person who is divorced or is headed towards that road should certainly consult with a legal expert to ensure that the taxes related to marital assets and support are taken into account and also to minimize the risk of an audit after the divorce is complete.

01 Sep 2014

Should You Settle Your Case Outside of Court?

Are you aware that most cases end up being settled even before going to court? Statistics show that about 95% of pending lawsuits actually end in a pre-trial settlement. In simple terms, that’s 1 out of 20 cases. What this means is the option of a pre-trial settlement is something worth looking into.

A settlement is a resolution between disputing parties that both parties agree on either before or after court action begins. The courts will enforce the settlement and in case it is breached, the party in default could be sued for breach of contract. In the United States, a settlement is submitted to the court to be “rolled into a court order”. This is done so that the court, which was initially assigned the case, may retain jurisdiction over it. The court then has the option to modify its order, if necessary.

In a settlement, one of the parties offers a payment or award of some sort to the other party. Although settlements tend to favor plaintiffs over defendants, it actually benefits both parties because settling a case out of court can protect the reputation and dignity of the defendant.

Lawyers need to scrutinize the details of a settlement offer and determine if it would be in the client’s best interest. However, the client still makes a final decision on whether to accept it or not.  It is not rare that the settlement terms don’t fully compensate the other party’s damages. However, some lawyers encourage or even pressure their client to accept it in order to save time and quickly end the case.

So why do a lot of people eventually decide to opt for settlement? Is it more beneficial than going to trial? Well, the numbers don’t lie. Most legal claims filed in civil court do not reach the trial stage because they get resolved through a negotiated settlement. Even an informal settlement can occur before any lawsuit is actually filed. Here are some of the significant benefits that settlement offers:


  • Less costly. Going to trial entails attorneys, travel and time. Most of these expenses related to these can be reduced if a settlement occurs even before going to trial.
  • Less stressful. Going to trial can become very stressful so settling can certainly reduce some stress if it an agreement can be reached before going to trial.
  • Privacy. Sensitive details pertinent to the case can be kept private upon settling. When a case goes to trial, the court documents become public record. On the other hand, most of the details are kept out of the court documents in a settlement. Many settlement agreements also have confidentiality agreements, so the case won’t be discussed in public
  • Predictability. A settlement is certainly more predictable than a jury decision
  • Saves time. Going to trial may take 1-3 years before reaching a verdict. Settlement happens within a very short time frame.
  • Finality. If a case goes to trial, the losing party can appeal the decision, which will make the process even longer. In contrast, settlements cannot be appealed. It also ascertains the closure of the case.
  • Flexibility. There are strict guidelines and rules about what can be said and presented in court. A settlement offers more flexibility during discussions.
  • Absence of a “Guilty” verdict. In a settlement, the defendant may not want a record of guilt and settling a case is a way to pay for a mistake, but not admit wrongdoing.


If you receive a settlement offer, here are 10 important things that you have to consider and discuss with your attorney before you make a decision whether to accept it or not:

  1. Monetary value of the case.
  2. History of decisions and settlements in similar cases.
  3. Chances of winning if you choose to go to trial.
  4. Possibility of a smudged reputation or image.
  5. When the case is likely to be called for trial.
  6. Practical difficulties in trying the case.
  7. Weaknesses in your evidence as well as the other party’s.
  8. The other party’s financial capability and resources.
  9. What you’re willing to give up to get the case settled.

How much is the minimum amount you will accept.

01 Aug 2014

Auto Accidents Caused By Running a Red Light

Red light running pertains to a vehicle entering an intersection at any time after the signal light has turned red. Running a red-light is a serious driving safety issue in the United States. In fact, vehicle collisions caused by red light runners are more likely to happen (47%) than any other type of vehicular crash (33%). The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) released a report which revealed that in 2011, there were 85,367 red light violations every week in the state of Ohio. The report analyzed data from red-light safety cameras in operation from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011.

In a different study which was conducted during several months at five busy intersections in Fairfax, Va., prior to the use of red light cameras, revealed that a driver ran a red light every 20 minutes at each intersection.

In 2013, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a survey which found that that although 93% of drivers say that it’s unacceptable to go through a red light if it’s possible to stop safely, an astonishing 35% of the respondents said that they actually did in the past 30 days.

Red lights were designed to help ease the traffic flow. However, there are drivers that are in too much of a hurry who accelerates speed when they approach a yellow light and drive through an intersection even after the light has turned red. When one vehicle collides with another at high speeds when running a red light, the effects can be disastrous.  Do you know that drivers that run red lights are a top cause of car accidents that results in nearly 1,000 deaths and about 90,000 cases of personal injury every year? Unfortunately, the most common excuse of drivers that run a red light is “being in a hurry”. This selfish and irresponsible driving habit has led to these staggeringly high vehicular collision statistics.

In Ohio, the penalty for running a stop sign or red light ranges from $100 to $200. However, these figures may change over time and differ by county.

To those who are unaware, Ohio’s Red Light/Stop Sign Law states that:

4511.12 Obedience to traffic control devices.

(A) No pedestrian, driver of a vehicle, or operator of a streetcar or trackless trolley shall disobey the instructions of any traffic control device placed in accordance with this chapter, unless at the time otherwise directed by a police officer.

No provision of this chapter for which signs are required shall be enforced against an alleged violator if at the time and place of the alleged violation an official sign is not in proper position and sufficiently legible to be seen by an ordinarily observant person. Whenever a particular section of this chapter does not state that signs are required, that section shall be effective even though no signs are erected or in place.

(B) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree.

One way to decrease the chances getting in a red light accident is to look out for cars rushing through intersections at the end of a red light. If you are the first person in line at a red light, quickly look both ways before proceeding once the traffic light turns green. This can help you avoid colliding onto a driver who may be trying to make it through the intersection on the yellow light. If you rush into the intersection soon as the light turns green without watching out for that oncoming car, you will get hit. It’s something that happens a lot of times.

Vehicular accidents can happen any time. However, being an attentive driver, following traffic rules and driving defensively minimizes the risk of getting into an accident which in turn can save you a lot of time and money, and not to mention, your life.

01 Jul 2014

How To Avoid Costly Mistakes When Filing A Personal Injury Case

In the United States, a large percentage of the civil litigation cases involve personal injury claims. Personal injury is legally defined as an injury to the body, mind or emotions, as opposed to an injury to property. It is the branch of tort law that pertains to any wrong or damage done to another in his person, property, rights, or reputation. Torts are civil wrongs recognized by law as grounds for a lawsuit. These wrongs result in an injury or harm constituting the basis for a claim by the injured party.

Accidents are unforeseeable and thus can happen at anytime. As such personal injury can occur at work, in a traffic accident, because of a faulty product or a faulty repair, because of a mistake during medical treatment, or because you slipped and fell on a wet floor. It can be physical or psychological but, to be considered actionable, it must have happened because of the negligence or unreasonably unsafe actions by the accused party.

The most common types of personal injury claims are road traffic accidents, accidents at work, tripping accidents, assault claims, accidents in the home, product defect accidents and holiday accidents. Personal injury also incorporates medical and dental accidents and conditions that are often classified as industrial disease cases.

Handling the legal aspects of a personal injury claim isn’t that simple. In fact, a lot of people make common mistakes when filing a personal injury case that eventually end up costing them a lot of money.  To keep this from happening to you, we offer you the following tips on things to consider when filing a personal injury case.

  1.  Avoid misrepresentation. Never attempt to exaggerate the severity of your injury just to support your claim to get a higher compensation. On the other hand, do not underreport your physical ailments just because you don’t totally understand how serious it is or you failed to get a thorough examination. Best thing to do is to get medical attention and have your condition diagnosed by a medical expert. It is imperative that you accurately report your injury to avoid any discrepancies or inconsistencies later on.
  2. Don’t forget to file a police report. Filing a police report will ascertain that there is an official record of important information regarding the incident such as the identity and contact information of all involved parties and important facts related to the accident. Moreover, the police report can be used in court in case a lawsuit arises.
  3. Seek legal advice right away. To better protect your interests, seek legal advice and hire a lawyer soon after the accident.  Don’t sign anything until you have conferred with a lawyer. Although you need to communicate with the other party after an accident, be discreet with your statements. You are not bound by any law to state whose fault the injury was or to offer additional information. And while you haven’t spoken to an attorney yet, refrain from giving a statement to the insurance company or discussing the incident with others, and even describing the events to a doctor. The reality is that there is the risk that things can be taken out of context and even used against you. So be careful what you say at the scene of the incident. Do not admit any guilt before speaking with an attorney. However, also keep in mind that not all personal injury lawyers are the same. So look for one who is most suitable for your situation.
  4. Keep accurate records related to the incident. This includes all records of all the costs and expenses incurred because of the injury you suffered e.g. medical bills, property damage, lost income, insurance records. We also suggest that you keep a written account of the injury as well as an “injury journal” to document the frequency as well as the amount of the pain you are experiencing.
  5. File your claim soon as you can. Time becomes of the essence here because there is a window of time after an accident that allows you to file a personal injury claim. This is known as the “statute of limitations” and this varies depending on the state and the type of accident. You should make yourself aware of the deadline and submit all the necessary documents on time. Once the statute of limitations expires, you won’t be able to file your claim anymore.

01 Jun 2014

Factors That Will Prove Who Is Liable In An Auto Accident

According to a research conducted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Motor vehicle crashes and fatalities in highways increased in 2012 after six consecutive years of declining fatalities. The increase in crashes can be seen across many crash characteristics such as vehicle type, alcohol impairment, location of crash. Another alarming stat is that around 2.36 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2012, representing a 6.5% increase from 2011. Even pedestrian and motorcycle fatalities showed an upward trend in 2012 where motorcycle and pedestrian fatalities increased by 7% and 6%, respectively. Alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities increased by 4.6% in 2012 representing 31% of all fatalities. A related study by the NHTSA indicates that drivers at .04 g/dL BAC, which is way below the legal limit of .08 g/dL, have a significantly higher relative risk (ratio of 1.18 to 1.00) of being involved in a traffic crash than drivers at .00 g/dL BAC.

The critical issue in most vehicular accident cases is determining which driver is at fault. Normally, if one driver is negligent which means that he or she failed to use reasonable care or caution while driving – that person will be considered to be at fault. Fact is that many states have complicated systems of determining fault which usually results to different monetary obligations for each party. So in the end, the drivers’ insurance companies –which make claims for damages—actually make the decision on each driver’s liability.

Although common sense can usually tell us who was at fault in an accident, the more important issue is determining the laws or rules the person at fault violated which makes him or her liable. There are several factors that can determine who is liable for a vehicular accident. For example, if a driver gets injured because another driver cuts in front of him after turning onto the street. However, that driver could be found liable if he or she was speeding or made an illegal lane change before the accident. In this case, the liability will be determined based on motor vehicle statutes, rather than the traditional, common law definition of “fault.” Insurance companies lobbied state legislatures to base vehicular accident liability more on motor vehicle statutes than on common law notions of fault. This consequently made it easier for insurers to challenge fault and liability in cases wherein the other party has violated a traffic law, especially since liability insurance is required in all states.

To support your claim that the person caused the accident, you will need to undertake some actions and secure documents to reinforce your case. It is best to have tangible proof of traffic law violations or negligence. Remember that insurance companies are inclined to settle claims quickly and inexpensively so your argument should be short and direct. Here are the factors that are considered in proving who is liable in an auto accident:

  1. Police Reports. The police don’t always go to the scene of an accident. But whenever they do, they are compelled to write an official police report about the accident. If a police officer arrives at the location of the accident, don’t forget to ask how you can secure a copy of the accident report. You will need it to support your claim because these reports include documented observations and opinion of the police officer about the accident.
  2. State Traffic Laws. Another thing you can consider in reinforcing your claim that the other driver was at fault is the state laws that govern driving. The State traffic law more commonly known as the vehicle code. A simplified version of these laws known as “The Rules of the Road” can be found at your local DMV office. Or if you prefer, you can also find many full vehicle codes online at various state government websites. After you find the appropriate code that is applicable to your accident, copy the text and the statute number so that you can use it in negotiating your claim with the insurance company.
  3. Rear-End Collisions. If your vehicle gets bumped from behind, it is almost always not your fault. Rear end accidents are one of the most common types of vehicular accidents. The basic principle in driving requires a vehicle to have enough distance from the vehicle in front so that he can stop safely in case the need to suddenly stop arises. If the vehicle behind cannot stop safely, it only means that the driver isn’t driving as safely as the driver in front. Another way to determine fault and liability is the damage. If the front of one vehicle is damaged while the other vehicle’s rear end is, it’s hard to argue that the vehicle behind hit the one in front. Keep in mind though that the driver of the vehicle that hit you might have a claim against another driver who caused you to stop suddenly, or against a third vehicle that caused his or her vehicle to crash into into yours. However, that doesn’t affect his or her responsibility for injuries to you and damage to your vehicle. There may be cases though when the amount of your compensation could be reduced due to “comparative negligence”. For example, one or both of your brake or lights were not working during the accident, or if you had mechanical problems but failed to move your vehicle off the road.
  4. Left-Turn Collisions. In general, a vehicle making a left turn is at fault for a collision with a vehicle coming straight in the other direction. Exceptions to this near-automatic rule are rare and difficult to prove. However, even though vehicles coming straight into an intersection have the right of way, the driver of that vehicle can still be found at fault based on a few circumstances.
  • The speed of vehicle going straight was beyond the speed limit.
  • The vehicle going straight went through a red light.
  • The vehicle making a left turn began its turn when it was safe, but something unexpected made it slow down or stop. This is very difficult to prove because any vehicle making a left turn must wait until it can safely complete the turn before moving in front of oncoming traffic.

01 May 2014

Injured at Work? Call Your Lawyer Right Away.

When you get injured on the job, don’t make it worse by not contacting your lawyer right away. Next to your family, your doctor and your lawyer are the two professionals that should absolutely be on your speed-dial.




A lot of people never file a claim because they don’t know that they are entitled to receive compensation for injuries sustained at work. Some are scared, or confused about what to do. Many attempt to work things out with their employers directly, much to their belated regret.




Going to the company doctor, or to your employer’s accredited urgent care facility, may not really be your best choice. Choosing your own doctor ensures that the care that you receive is entirely in your best interests.


Remember, an urgent care center that has a contract with your employer, shall be evaluated by your employer based on money saved, and how soon you are sent back to work.  So you could be shortchanged on the quality of your treatment; or worse, be sent back to work before you are completely ready.





Will you lose your job, your insurance benefits, or your pension, if you file a claim? NO.  Will you be paid for the time that you are away, and injured? YES.  Do you really need to call your lawyer?  YES. DO IT NOW.


Under Ohio law, you can submit your Ohio Workers’ Compensation claim, at any time up to TWO YEARS from the date of your injury. If you file a claim, these are what you are entitled to receive:


  1. Payment for Medical Expenses.
  2. These are for the reasonable treatment of conditions related to your workplace injury. Remember, you can choose your doctor and treatment provider.
  3. Payment for Lost Wages, also called Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Compensation, after an initial waiting period.
  4. Wage Loss Payment. This is for any decrease in or loss of your earnings as a direct result of restrictions in the allowed conditions of your claim.
  5. Payment under a Violation of Specific Safety Requirements (VSSR) Claim. This is additional compensation given due to an employer’s safety violations, under the Ohio Administrative Code.
  6. Scheduled Loss Award.  This is payment for any loss of vision or hearing suffered by a worker prior to beginning his treatment.
  7. Percentage of Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Award. This is payment for any permanent physical or psychological impairment which remains after treatment, as a result of the injury.
  8. Permanent Total Disability (PTD). This pays you for the loss of your earning capacity because of your inability to perform employment, due to allowed conditions under your claim.
  9. Lump Sum Settlement (LSS). Full settlement, at an amount negotiated between you and your employer, subject to Bureau of approval.


Don’t add insult to injury. Protect your right to a fair settlement.  If you get hurt at work, CALL YOUR LAWYER.

12 Mar 2014

Strategies to Protect Your Retirement Savings in a Divorce

Retirement savings count as one of the largest assets that many divorcing couples own. Protecting as much of your retirement savings as you can, as you go through your divorce, requires clear, careful preparation.  Divorce mediator Bruce Derman points out, “The decision to obtain a divorce is one of the most crucial decisions a person can make with consequences that last for years or a lifetime.”

The process starts way before any thought of a divorce comes to mind. It starts before you even get married. In The Last Lecture, Carnegie-Mellon professor Randy Pausch said, “Another way to be prepared is to think negatively… (W)hen trying to make a decision, I often think of the worst-case scenario. I call it ‘the eaten by wolves factor.’ If I do something, what’s the most terrible thing that could happen? Would I be eaten by wolves? One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist, is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about, because I have a plan in place if they do.” 

Protect your retirement savings with a PRE-NUP.

It’s not just for rich people. A pre-nuptial agreement is a practical means to spell out how you want your premarital assets to be handled during your marriage. It can protect whatever you establish as your “separate property”, and specifies what would be “marital property”. Marital properties are the ones which get divided in a divorce. A fool-proof way to protect your entire retirement savings would be to specify that your 401(k) or IRA will remain separate, not marital, property.

What if you never signed a pre-nup? Here’s what you can do:

  1. Keep meticulous records of your premarital assets, as well as your marital acquisitions. Have all documents on file. You will need them.
  2. Know your state’s divorce law, regarding division of property. Most states, including Ohio, follow “equitable distribution of property” in a divorce. In these states, only funds that were contributed during the marriage are subject to equitable division. Any pre-marital portion remains with the spouse who earned it. There may or may not be a 50/50 split, depending on certain factors. Know these factors. However, if you live in a “community property” state, all your assets will get divided equally. These states are: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  3. As soon as you even consider a divorce, stop making voluntary contributions to your IRA. Or ask your employer to stop your contributions to your 401(k). Some people have lost half of the contributions that they made long after they have separated, just because they kept up with their 401(k) during the divorce process.
  4. Hire a professional. Good legal advice will ensure that you end up with what is rightfully yours, and give up only what is legally necessary. Any division of your retirement plan requires a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO, pronounced “quad-row”). This defines what, when and how your retirement savings will be divided. If your lawyer is inexperienced in QDROs, you could end up paying higher legal fees. Or you could get taxed on money which would no longer be yours.
  5. After the divorce, roll-over your funds into a new 401(k) or open a new IRA. Look into what would be best for you.

Remember, plan ahead. Document everything. Know your law. Make informed decisions in order to protect your retirement savings. Good luck!

03 Feb 2014

Three things you need to know about OVI or DUI in Ohio

Statistics show that in Ohio, drivers that operate a vehicle under the influence (OVI) cause approximately 400 deaths every year. In the United States an alcohol-related death occurs every 30 minutes and an injury every two minutes. In fact, almost half the drivers arrested for driving under the influence (known as DUI in other states) are repeat offenders.

If you have been drinking, the best way to avoid a conviction for an alcohol-related charge is to not get into the driver’s seat of a car. If you and your friends are going out, designate a driver.  And if you find yourself alone, call a friend to come pick you up.  Any place that serves alcohol will be happy to call you a cab.

But if you are pulled over for OVI in Ohio here is what you need to know:

1. Ohio has strict OVI or DUI laws

In the State of Ohio, you can have a “low” blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and still be guilty of an alcohol-related offense.

  • If you’re under 21, a BAC of .02 can get you arrested
  • For drivers above 21, the BAC limit is .08
  • But for commercial drivers the limit is .04

How many drinks is that? This BAC chart can help you figure that out.

If you are taking any prescription drugs that warn you not to operate heavy machinery, do not drive. In other words, you can be prosecuted for OVI for using any drug that affects your physical or mental ability to drive, legal or not.

And in Ohio, an officer could arrest you even if you’re not actually driving the vehicle. Just having physical control can mean you’re guilty.  Yes, that means being in the driver’s seat with the keys in your hand and not in the ignition.

2. Under Ohio law you give “implied consent”

Under Ohio’s “implied consent” law, you are required to take a chemical test. And it must be taken within two hours of driving. The arresting officer gets to choose if they will be testing your blood, breath or urine.

Refusing to take the test has severe consequences. For a first offense, that could mean having your license suspended for one year. Refuse a second time in a six year period and you could lose your license for two years.

If you are a repeat offender, an Ohio officer can use any reasonable means to make you take a chemical test. For example, a nurse can draw blood while the officer holds your arms down by the wrists (State v. Slates, 2011 Ohio 295 (2011).

3. In most cases an OVI conviction equals jail time

The penalty for a first-offense OVI is high. You’re looking at 3 days’ minimum and up to a maximum of six months. There will also be a fine of $250 to $1,000 and a license suspension of six months to three years.

A second-offense OVI could result in 10 days in jail and electronic monitoring. The fines are higher and you can lose your license to drive for up to five years. Your vehicle can be immobilized for 90 days. And you will have to attend a Driver Intervention Program.

Bottom-line, if you are facing an OVI charge in Ohio, or any other state for that matter, seriously consider getting an experienced attorney to help you.

Either way, remember that an OVI conviction in the State of Ohio has serious consequences, and you should never take drinking and driving lightly.

10 Jan 2014

Should a Personal Injury Lawyer be paid on Contingency or Retainer

Unless a lawyer is willing to work pro bono, a personal injury lawyer will represent you on a contingency basis or hourly with a retainer.

Cases on Contingency

When a lawyer represents you on a contingency basis, you will not need to pay up front for the time he spends on your case. At least, not until he has won the case, and you have collected the money. Usually, the legal fees are based on a prearranged percentage of the total settlement. This percentage varies, and depends on ranges that are set state to state. But usually, the fee is somewhere between 30%-40% of your settlement, after all expenses are deducted.

Of course, the fee is negotiable. Some lawyers will take a lower percentage and some will ask for a higher fee. This depends on their experience, and the complexities of your case. In this arrangement, the lawyer usually pays his expenses, which the client later reimburses. In some cases it makes sense to set aside separate funds.

Cases on Retainer

On the other hand, when you engage a lawyer on an hourly basis, you usually have to put down a significant retainer. This money is used to pay the expenses incurred on your case. When on retainer, your lawyer will also periodically bill you for his time and use the money he holds in the retainer trust.

But if you are the plaintiff in a personal injury case, having to shell out a significant amount of money up front can be devastating and prohibitive. To the point that you might not even be able to start the law suit.

4 Reasons To Pay Your Lawyer On Contingency

  1. You won’t have to worry about spending cash up front. As a personal injury plaintiff, you are already in a bad situation. So this arrangement will keep you from making a bad situation worse.
  2. A lawyer, working on your case on a contingent basis, has a strong motivation to work diligently. After all, if he is not successful, he doesn’t get paid.
  3. A personal injury case on contingency is often taken more seriously by the defendants. Taking on a case on contingency is a calculated investment for an attorney.  It is going to cost both time and money. Since the defendants and their lawyers understand this, they know the motivation the ultimate reward provides the plaintiff and his lawyer.
  4. Contingency arrangements actually play a role in eliminating “frivolous” lawsuits. A lawyer on contingency will calculate the cost of the lawsuit against your eventual recovery. There is no money in a “frivolous” lawsuit for a lawyer on contingency.

As you can see, when a lawyer accepts your case on contingency, it usually means he already sees a reasonable likelihood of success. He will have carefully reviewed all the elements of your claim to make sure that it has merit, before taking responsibility for it.  No lawyer wants to take a case on contingency if there is a small chance of success. Usually, when the likelihood of success is low or not at all, lawyers “hedge their risk” and ask for a retainer.

03 Dec 2013