The Legal Insider

December 2010

Top Legal Pitfalls During the Holidays

One unfortunate twist on the holidays is unexpected lawsuits. I realize it's time for our friends and family to show how much we care about each other, but thousands of lawsuits are filed each year as a direct result of holiday parties. Unfortunate and sad, right?

That's why we whipped up this list of 5 quick items to keep in mind during your holiday festivities and preparations - to keep you out of any potentially awkward and financially draining situations.

Host Liability for Drinking — Just because the tradition of Eggnog is all about getting tanked doesn't mean it's okay to send guests home when drunk. A host may be liable if a guest gets into a car accident or damages property.

Host Liability for Slip and Fall — It's winter. If you live in places where it's cold, you could slip on ice; in others, spilled drinks can render an injury. It's always important to look around your house for possible sources of injury, like broken floorboards, exposed electrical wires, and loose handrails.

Taking a Vacation — A simple liability waiver can save you a lot of headaches and money if something happens. Allowing your kids to take friends on vacation trips is great, but sometimes accidents happen. A liability waiver can be drafted by an attorney for relatively cheap and guard you against any unwanted lawsuits.

Gift Giving — Remember to always pay attention to the age appropriateness of your gift and make sure it's something safe. There are lots of dangerous gift ideas.

Allergies — I'm sure you heard about the man who sued his co-worker over the egregious amount of cologne he wore. We learn more about allergies each year and they can be deadly. Make sure your holiday party is safe for your guests. Check out the most common food allergies.


Speaking Bluntly About Holiday DUI/DWI

'Tis the season for those high-pitched bell ringers, tons of great snacks, and even more free drinks. It's hard not catching the holiday spirit! Your last ditch effort can always be the latest Disney Holiday movie, albeit it's still early. I love the new postal and shipping commercials, plus of course: eggnog. Oh right, there's the New Year celebration too. You can probably guess where I'm going with all of this: the dangers of drinking.

Before your eyes gloss over with PSA horror, hear me out. DUI/DWI charges are both life-changing and expensive. Some know it first hand.

I'm not going to lecture you on drunk driving; I'm here to let you know what to expect from a DUI or DWI charge. If it's your first conviction, you should expect fines, suspension of your license, up to 3 years probation, a DUI/DWI education course that will last several months, and possibly some jail time depending on the jurisdiction,. Certain other things can increase your sentence, including driving 20-30 mph over the speed limit, refusing a chemical test, driving when you're under age 21 years old, causing injury or damage, plus whenever your blood alcohol level exceeds 0.20.

Second offenses usually result in more drastic punishments. In addition to the daunting list above, second offenders are subject to more severe penalties including larger fines and jail time, plus longer probation.

We're advocating a truly safe holiday season. Walk or get a designated driver. When bad things happen, LegalMatch has a team of lawyers in your area who are ready to take your case.


Holiday Passport Watch List

For those of you who are lucky enough to be going to other countries this holiday season, you'll want to know about passport access and limitations. We know things have gotten "rough" with those TSA searches. We wouldn't want you caught in an awkward situation while trying to board a flight with your family or friends. It's probably too late if you still need to apply for a routine passport, but expedited services are available (for an additional charge).

Below are a list of reasons your passport could be revoked, restricted, or otherwise limited:

  • Outstanding felony arrest warrant(s).
  • A court order forbids you from leaving the U.S.
  • Your Immigration VISA prohibits travel.
  • A court order commits you to a mental institution.
  • You have been subpoenaed to appear in the prosecution of a felony.
  • You are a convicted drug trafficker.
  • You are declared legally incompetent.
  • You engage in activities abroad that cause, or are likely to cause, serious damage to the United States security or foreign policy.
  • You obtained your passport through fraud.
  • You are attempting to smuggle illegal substances.
  • When one parent is traveling with their child and not the other parent, it's always a good idea to have a note from an absent parent so the authorities know it's not a potential child abduction situation.

Legal Guide to Holiday Temporary Employment

Seasonal jobs are a great way to earn a little more money or get your foot in the door at a place you would like to work. Lots of folks, an average of 700,000 to be exact, will pick up a few extra shifts at a retail store like Bloomingdales or Macy's while others will snag those great paying positions at parcel carriers like UPS and FedEx.

If you're thinking about applying for some extra work or have already secured a position, you should know your rights as a part time employee.

Part time status means you work less than 40 hours each week. Part time workers normally operate with the same company rules, policies, and procedures as full-time employees.

However, part-time employees are not entitled to company benefits like health insurance, vacations, pensions, and profit-sharing programs. Federal law stipulates that employees working 1,000 hours or more in a pension plan year must be included in plans offered to similar workers. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may apply to your situation, but many companies employing seasonal work are exempt because they employ a sufficient number of temporary or contract employees. The Equal Pay Act secures equal pay for men and women working in the same position. Of course, there are also always questions about wrongful termination and discrimination in the workplace.

If you believe you've been treated unfairly because of discrimination or think your employer has violated your rights, you may be entitled to compensation. Speak with a lawyer who is experienced in employment law.

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