The Legal Insider
In this issue:
6 Tips to Consider When Choosing the Right Attorney
How many lawyer jokes are in existence?
Only three. All the rest are true stories.
All lawyer jokes aside, legal matters can be frustrating and many find themselves in need of an attorney at some point in their life. Here are 6 tips to consider when choosing the right attorney.
- Consultations. Just the same as buying a house or car — you're going to shop around. Think of initial consultations the same as you would an interview, except, this time, you're the one in charge and asking all the questions. Most attorneys will offer initial consultations free of charge and this is a great way to put your feelers out to determine which attorney fits your needs best.
- Experience. Less experience isn't necessarily a negative, but this is definitely an area that you want to consider when shopping around for an attorney. Maybe you have a complex case that would require a veteran attorney or maybe it's a shut-and-close case that a newer attorney is used to handling on a day-to-day basis. It's not so much the years of experience, but whether the attorney is knowledgeable in your area of need. If their primary practice is devoted to family law and you need a criminal defense attorney, they're probably not the right fit for you.
- Size of Law Firm. This one can easily get bypassed, but it's important to consider. Sometimes bigger firms have multiple attorneys working on a case, while smaller firms don't have that same capacity and work more on a one-on-one basis. Either way, it's all about preference and what you feel comfortable with.
- Fee Structure and Billing. Albeit you want an attorney that's experienced, but probably one of the most important factors is how much it's going to cost and whether it fits your budget. Ask to see a detailed fee structure before you sign anything. Do they charge by the hour? What services do they bill for? Do they charge on a contingency basis? Make sure to ask those important questions.
- What is the Likely Outcome in My Case? No one can predict the future and certainly an attorney is no different. An attorney can, however, tell you based on their experience possible outcomes. This may not always be good news either. A good attorney will be both positive in their legal representation of your case and honest about any possible negative implications as well.
- Comfortability. Honesty is key in any legal relationship, so it's important you feel comfortable enough with your attorney to be 100% honest with them. If you're not, they're probably not the right fit for you.
5 Reasons You Need to Hire an Attorney to Fight That Pesky Traffic Ticket
You may not think it's necessary, it's just a measly traffic ticket. But, did you know those tickets put points on your license and, in turn, can cause you to lose your driving privileges or, even worse, lead to criminal charges? Whether it be for speeding, following too closely, or reckless driving, an attorney experienced in traffic law can help. Here are the top 5 reasons you need to hire an attorney to fight your traffic ticket.
- They Know How to Get Out of It. Did you know most prosecutors won't even talk to a driver about their ticket prior to your day in court? They will, however, usually always talk to an attorney. Sometimes it can be as simple as negotiating a lower ticket or even negotiating a special driving class to get rid of the ticket. A traffic attorney will know the ins-and-outs of your locality.
- Getting Your Ticket Reduced. Some localities won't negate a ticket, but many will be open to negotiating with an attorney for a reduced infraction. This can be something as simple as negotiating your speeding ticket down to a seat belt violation, which is a smaller fine and typically a non-point infraction.
- Points. Every state is different, some are invariably stricter than others, but most can dole out some serious consequences that affect your every-day life. Accumulating too many points within a certain time frame can mean license revocation or suspension. This can be especially daunting for commercial truck drivers, who have to follow stricter rules. Getting 2 serious traffic violations within a 3-year period can mean suspension of a CDL license, which means a loss of an ability to earn a living. When you're driving constantly for a living, 2 violations don't leave much wiggle room.
- Collateral Consequences. Certain tickets may increase your insurance or you may not realize that paying that last ticket pushed you over the point limit and your license is now going to be suspended. Getting caught driving while on a suspended license can mean criminal charges — that means a criminal record. Getting a ticket for reckless driving doesn't always mean just paying a fine. Not only are those tickets some of the highest point earners, but a local prosecutor could use your admission of guilt (paying the ticket) and decide whether or not to bring criminal charges against you for reckless driving.
- Convenience. Hiring an attorney typically negates the need to appear in court because attorneys can usually appear on your behalf. This is especially convenient for commercial truck drivers who often don't even live in the state where they're ticketed.
Brushing Up On Legal Issues as Your Kids Head Back to School
As summer ends and school's looming around the corner, you're probably thinking of a million things to check off your list. School supplies, day care, and transportation schedules are among a few, but have you thought about potential legal issues that may arise during the school year?
Technology and Social Media Policies
Social media is prevalent is just about every kid's life and the repercussions can be heavy. This is obviously a big one in this day and age. Technology can encompass not just safety and privacy issues, but social media is oftentimes used as a method of bullying. Review your child's school policy in regards to social media and technology use. Discuss with your kids the safety and security issues that come with sexting or posting pictures online, as well as the negative effects, sometimes even criminal, of cyberbullying.
Notifying Your Child's School of Accommodation Needs and Their Rights
Giving your child's school a heads-up will ensure a smooth transition if they need any special accommodations, but if your child has a learning or physical disability, you need to be aware of their rights. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures children aren't disciplined for behavior related to their learning and/or attention issues. Even so, a school handbook is a good place to start and policies regarding expectations for conduct should be reviewed prior to the start of the school year so you can discuss this with your child.
Liability Releases and Waivers
Whether it be for sports or after-school activities, these are easy to shrug off as just another form you need to sign, but it's important to read these releases and waivers carefully. You shouldn't ever sign something without reading it, especially when it comes to the safety of your kids. You don't want to sign away away any legal liability on behalf of your child's school, so don't be afraid to cross out language you're not comfortable with.
Potential Dangers and ConsequencesWhether it be from technology use, drugs and alcohol, hazing, pranks, or even driving related dangers, it's important to speak to your children about all of the above. Truancy polices are another big issue. Did you know you can get in trouble, as a parent, for your child's unexplained absences? Not only can your child's school have specific conduct policies that call for specific punishments when violated, but criminal charges can result from some of these dangers. Talk to your kids and make sure they understand the consequences of their behavior.
Whatever the subject, it's important to not only be aware of these big issues that will inevitably surround your kids while at school, but to discuss these topics with your children as well.
First Steps to a Workers' Compensation Claim
Most people are aware that if they are injured on the job, they can file a workers compensation claim to recover for their medical costs. However, many do not know the steps to take when filing a workers' compensation claim. Workers' compensation claims are straightforward, but it would be helpful if one knows the essentials of a workers' compensation claim and the certain steps involved.
Is it a Work Related Injury?
If you want to bring a workers' compensation claim for your injury, it's important to know that workers' compensation is only for injuries that occur at work or injuries that are related to performing a work-related obligation.
Notify Your Employer
If you have been injured on the job and the injury is work-related, the first thing you need to do is to notify your employer or supervisor of your injury within the first 30 to 45 days of the accident or injury. If you delay this, it can result in denial of your workers' compensation benefits.
Once notice is given to your employer or supervisor, the employer is required to submit a report detailing the injury to the state worker's compensation board. After the state workers' compensation board is notified, they will begin paying for your injuries' medical costs and also a percentage of your average weekly income though temporary disability checks.
Get Immediate Medical Help
Sometimes the process can be different if the employee goes and sees a doctor prior to notifying the employer. If the doctor discovers that the injury or illness is work related, the doctor may have the employee fill out a workers' compensation claim form. Once this occurs, the employer and the employer's workers' compensation insurance company will be notified that the employee has suffered a work-related injury. A medical record of your injuries will serve as an official record of your injuries.
Follow Up with Your Claim
Most of the things that you would need to do in a workers' compensation claim are complete after your file the necessary paperwork. However, it's important to follow up with your claim and keep detailed records.
Do All Workers Compensation Claims Get Approved?
Not all workers' compensation claims get approved once they are filed. If the employee's injury did not occur at work or was not work related, the workers' compensation carrier can reject the employee's claim. The claim can also be rejected if it is determined that the employee was injured while they were doing something that violated company policy or was voluntarily impaired at the time of injury. If rejected, the employee can always appeal the rejection of a claim with the state's workers' compensation board.
Getting Legal Help
Dealing with legal matters such as workers' compensation claims can be complicating for non-lawyers with no legal experience. Getting an experienced employment lawyer can be helpful in the process. Many states also have dedicated hotlines and websites that provide the basic information for you to decide whether and how to pursue a workers' compensation claim.