The Legal Insider

January 2011

Legal Tips for Renovating Any Home

Americans are turning to home renovation more than opting to move. If you love your home and neighborhood, or want to start flipping homes, you're going to want to check out some of the legal tips below. They can save you a lot of time and money if something were to go wrong and help safeguard against unlicensed contractors.

Building Codes - Local and state governments dictate certain fire and safety regulations in your city. It's likely you will need one or more permits if you're adding any structural changes to your home like a pool, sunroom, or garage. The building commissioner should sign off your plans before you start construction, otherwise you could risk having to stop mid-project and pay fines.

Construction Contracts - If you're not a DIY maniac then you will probably be hiring a professional team to do your renovation. A lawyer can look over the contract, explain anything unclear, and help you to make any amendments. If anything goes awry, the original construction contract will be your first and best line of protection. You will also want to keep the contract in case of construction defects or a dispute.

Easements - These can be a great solution for people looking for a little more space or ensure access to a natural resource like Solar energy. An easement is an agreement between two or more parties in which one person legally allows another to use, without any transfer of ownership, the property of another. The key here is having a good deal for your neighbor and having it written up officially.


How to Get a Green Card in 2011

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to get a jump on some of those things you may have been putting off. If you're on a temporary student or work visa and want to permanently immigrate to the United States, you will need to obtain a "green card," also known as a permanent resident card. That also goes for anyone who has entered the U.S. illegally and remains here. Everyone is potentially eligible for a green card and permanent resident status; however, there is a fairly complicated legal process involved.

Are You Eligible?

  • Immediate family members (spouses, children, parents of citizens under 21, and adopted children) should apply for the Immediate Family Member visa.
  • Work visa recipients should research if their skill set is one of those in the "preference categories." Be aware the categories and criteria are very specific.
  • Marriage visas are a type of green card with a unique process. They can grant "conditional permanent residence" to anyone married to a U.S. citizen.
  • Long term illegal residents whose immediate family members are U.S. citizens or would suffer particular hardship from leaving may also be eligible for a green card. It's important to contact an attorney first. Making your illegal immigration status known to the government prematurely could lead to removal proceedings.

There are a number of outstanding immigrant's rights groups who offer free services, but are often vastly overwhelmed with work. The best way to get your green card is to speak with a lawyer today. Many offer free or low-cost consultations during which time you can figure out which course of action is best for your particular situation. Immigration can be tricky and it's best to have a knowledgeable immigration lawyer on your side.


Holiday Moving Violation Recovery Guide

No, we're not talking about those dangerous jerky movements your relatives call dancing. If you're looking to sue your great aunt for throwing an elbow into your temple, then it should be filed under the legal category "personal injury." (An example is here. Yes, the toddler was fine).

The holidays eschew ever kind of driver to the road: the drunk ones, speeders, Sunday drivers, sudden lane changers, gross polluters, and so on. It's a crazy time of the year and sometimes we make mistakes. I'm sure lots of us think the officer was meeting a quota or profiling.

Below are some common violations folks received over the holiday season, including more information on how you can try to contest:

Speeding Tickets - There are more myths than facts floating around about these. If you're going to fight a speeding ticket, you will want to do it right - contact a lawyer. Otherwise, most people decide just to pay the fine and report to traffic school. Lots of states allow you to complete traffic school online and clear the citation from your record upon completion.

DUI/DWI - Much of what lawyers do for Drunk Driving DUI/DWI cases is attempt to show reasonable doubt or get the evidence thrown out for improper procedures. Those are specialized legal skills and knowledge, but you can help by writing down and/or remembering all the details of what happened, and relaying these to your attorney.

Driving Without a License - "I didn't know it had expired" doesn't work. If you were cited for driving without a license, then it probably came with some kind of moving violation as well. It's a misdemeanor in most states, and comes with heavy fines and possibly further driver's license suspensions or restrictions. A criminal defense lawyer will be able to explain your options to avoid serious penalties.

Reckless Driving - Usually an additional charge to speeding or DUI/DWI, reckless driving involves tailgating, excessive speeding, illegal passing, weaving through traffic, disobeying traffic signs and laws or driving a vehicle known to have dangerous flaws like faulty brakes. Consequences for reckless driving include a criminal record, probation, jail time, massive fines, and suspension of driving privileges. Since reckless driving is such a severe crime, you'll want to contact an attorney experienced with criminal traffic violations.


Recommended Legal Steps After an Injury

There were over 2,500 vehicle injuries this Holiday season. The conditions were rough and so were some people's driving skills. If you were injured recently and have incurred medical bills, you may need the assistance of a lawyer to recuperate your costs and receive compensation for your pain and suffering. A lot of times people get the wrong idea about automobile accidents. Things aren't always okay even when the bumpers aren't scratched.

Below are some steps to getting you back on your feet after an injury accident.

  1. See the doctor as soon as possible.
  2. Keep all bills and paperwork associated with time off work and hardships endured as a result of the injury.
  3. Learn more about your case online at places like the LegalMatch Law Library.
  4. Consult with a lawyer who can advise you on the best course of action. Sometimes if your case is especially strong, the lawyer may agree to work on a contingency basis.

This is really just the beginning to getting back on your feet. We know there can be therapy and other hardships after an accident and it's important to know that someone is looking out for your legal interests. You shouldn't be crippled with those payments while you are getting back on your feet.

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