The Legal Insider

January 2013

Funny and Important Laws for 2013

With every New Year, states across the U.S. adopt hundreds of new laws.  The State of California alone enacted more than 800 new laws on January 1, 2013, three of which are notable and may indicate trends nationwide.

First, California drivers who are suspected of Drunk Driving/DUI will only have the option of a breathalyzer or blood test – no more urine tests, which often prove unreliable.  Second, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will be issuing driver’s licenses to those who do not have social security numbers (purportedly to encourage more licensed and insured drivers).  Third, it’s now illegal to possess a shark fin in California.  Marijuana is still okay though.

Florida, not to be outdone in 2013, will be supplying homeless residents with free identification cards.  Additionally, the contentious battle over flashing your high beams to warn drivers of a police presence is over.  It’s now legal to warn oncoming drivers of a speed trap by flashing your lights.  Ticketed motorists rejoice.

Connecticut residents aiming at becoming new adult drivers in 2013 will be forced to undergo the normal three-month learner’s permit period before testing for their license.  According to a Connecticut DMV spokesperson, highway safety issues and a need to better understand how to operate a vehicle prompted the law.  This law change will not affect the elderly traveling at 40 mph in the freeway’s fast lane. No, they’ll still be there.

In a case of “OMG I can’t believe that was still legal,” minors living in New York will no longer be able to purchase e-cigarettes.

The State of Maryland joined an increasing number of states supporting equal rights for same-sex couples. There are now 31 U.S. states that allow same-sex marriages.


Suing an Unsafe School

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting raises a lot of questions about safety.  What duty does a public or private school have to keep our children safe?  Are schools liable for injuries that happen off campus like on a field trip or the bus?  Can a school be held responsible for injuries caused by another student?

The points below outline the basics of school liability.  Accidents happen all too often.  Thankfully the most common injuries sustained by kids at school are still scraped knees and hurt feelings. 

Students injured by their classmates—A school can be held liable for students who are injured by their classmates if negligence was a factor.  Most negligence cases are directed at school personnel who fail to provide reasonable supervision or preventative action.

Field Trips—This is when things get even more complicated. There are a lot of different factors in holding a school liable for a field trip injury. The two that matter most are gross negligence and willful misconduct by school personnel.

Athletic Injuries—Generally, everyone must sign a waiver before the season that includes a release clause for any injuries associated with that particular sport. Most successful lawsuits stemming from athletic injuries tend to involve some egregious type of wanton misconduct or negligence.

Transportation—School districts are not required to provide transportation for their students; however, districts do assume a duty of care when taking on the service. School districts have been held responsible for the driver’s negligence or a lack of bus stop supervision. There are some exceptions involving sovereign and governmental immunities.

For more information on suing a school, check out any of the LegalMatch Law Library links above, or contact a personal injury lawyer today. 


The 4 Best Pieces of Legal Advice

Unfortunately, most of us will find ourselves in need of a lawyer at some point in our lives.  There are lots of reasons to see a lawyer: draft a will or trust, immigration visa, personal injury, divorce, and bankruptcy just to name a few.  The first question most people ask when faced with a legal problem is: “Could this have been avoided?”

Over the past year of wading through legal headlines and speaking with lawyers I’ve culled a short list of advice.  Below are 4 helpful pieces of legal advice I was given in 2012:

  1. Ask first.” This applies to everything from trespassing to home renovations. Make sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s to ensure you’re not responsible for wrongdoing and understand what you are getting yourself into.
  2. Get it in writing.” The Law is fiercely concerned with proof.  Get everything in writing and address the “what if’s” to avoid future problems.
  3. Don’t drink and drive.” DUI/DWI is one of the most common and avoidable driving fouls. Take public transit, call a friend, or walk.  A DUI/DWI is expensive and life changing.
  4. Be realistic about your case expectations.” Not every case is the multi-million dollar winner. Your lawyer will get you as much compensation as possible but remember it’s relative to your costs and damages associated.  Don’t expect $30 million if you turn your ankle.

Separation vs. Divorce vs. Annulment

Are you considering splitting up with your significant other? You’re going to want to get the “lay of the land,” as they say.  One positive aspect of consulting with a lawyer is that an attorney can clearly explain each legal option and how they will impact your life later on. 

An option that is less permanent than a full divorce is a legal separation. Legal separation is when a married couple makes a binding agreement about how to manage their affairs and assets while living apart. This is not a divorce. Legal separation is a popular option for couples with children. Legal separation is available in every state except 7. The states that do not offer legal separation include Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

An annulment is an option for couples who wish to completely dissolve their marriage.  Different from an actual divorce, annulments reverse the marriage process to make it as if it never happened. Many people explore annulments for personal or religious reasons. 

Despite what route to separation you select, a seasoned family lawyer will be able to advise you best on your particular situation.  They understand that this is a serious life-changing decision and can help you sort out the countless odds and ends like child support and custody, spousal support, and even the division of property. 


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