The Legal Insider

October 2010

Pool Safety in Winter

It's getting colder and folks are beginning the "winterizing" projects around their homes. There are over 12 million swimming pools in the United States and about half of them stay open all year. Winterizing your pool can save you money and guard against dangers like a personal injury lawsuit. About 3,500 people each year, most of them children, are injured or drown in swimming pool accidents.

A recent news story covered an alarming high school craze: using Google Earth to find private pools so they can run from one to the next. Swimming pool owners have a legal duty of reasonable care to protect guests from injuries. That means a pool owner could be paying big money if someone is injured or killed. Accidents always seem to happen when there is a lack of supervision.

Below are a few tips to keep you safe from a nasty pool related lawsuit:

  • Surround your pool with a tall gate that locks so nobody can enter without the key.
  • Cover your pool in the winter or while not in use with a durable cover that prevents drowning.
  • Always supervise guests and children while at the pool.
  • Have someone trained in CPR present at all times.
  • Check your homeowner's insurance policy to make sure your policy covers against pool related lawsuits.

4 Reasons Why You Should See A Lawyer Today

There are lots of things that you "should do." If you're anything like me, the last thing on your mind is encountering some kind of legal problem.  Even worse, your family may not know your wishes if something were to happen to you.

Below are 4 things you should write down today. If you're really smart, you'll also see a lawyer to make sure you've got everything correctly squared away.

  1. Health – Make sure your medical decisions are made, or you could put you family in a very tough position. Even worse, someone could make the wrong decision on your behalf. 
  2. Insurance – More people are going without insurance these days, especially renters. While homeowner's insurance is essential, renters insurance can save you a lot of money, and costs very little. Many policies include theft, flood, and accident protection.
  3. Beneficiaries – If you do not designate your beneficiaries for your life insurance or retirement plan, your family may never receive it. Those payments are made automatically to beneficiaries upon death and many, by default, are set up to be paid to the estate. Make sure your money ends up in the correct place.
  4. Will – By executing a will and having a lawyer review it, you are ensuring that your intentions will be carried out and property will be divided according to your wishes.  Wills can be as simple or complex as you wish.  Lawyers can also help you make decisions and foresee any problems.

Food Recalls and Poisoning Lawsuits

You've probably turned on the news lately and caught the egg recall horror stories. The investigation into the largest egg recall in U.S. history revealed conditions and handling that was, putting it mildly, under par.  Mass food production is convenient but does have some drawbacks.

So what's the deal with food recalls?

There are a number of Federal and state agencies that regulate food safety. The most common are the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).  If food is contaminated or mislabeled, it can be voluntarily recalled by manufacturers and distributors. In some cases, government agencies like the FSIS will detain products for testing.

If you've been the victim of food poisoning because of recalled food you may be due compensation. That means the company responsible may repay you for any pain or medical costs incurred by the bad product. In very extreme cases, wrongful death proceedings can be in order. Contact a lawyer today if you think that you or a family member was poisoned by food contamination.


Steps to Take After Your Legal Consultation

Nearly every lawyer offers a free consultation, but many people don't exactly know what they get out of that "initial 30-minutes."

Besides getting a feel for your lawyer, here are a few things you should know after that "free" time period:

  • Cost: You're going to need to alter your personal budget to include all expected attorney fees, unless your lawyer will work with you on a contingency fee basis (most common in injury cases). That means you need to know how he or she charges (hourly/flat rate), what the $ rates are, and how many hours they will need.
  • Time: A lawyer will often be able to estimate you how long it will take before your legal matter is solved.  For example, drafting a will can be quite quick, while a criminal appeal could take a year or more.
  • Availability: Ask who specifically will be working on your case - the lawyer you spoke with, an associate at the law firm, or some other staff member. Many lawyers end up taking on too much and that could mean they have less time to allocate to your legal matter. Make sure you're getting what you paid for: the lawyer's professional attention.
  • Options: Depending on your legal need, you may have a number of options open to you. If you were opening a business, for example, a lawyer may advise you on the best entity to form. In criminal cases, they may discuss different options like plea bargaining.
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