The Legal Insider

October 2011

Unthinkable Halloween Lawsuits

You may not believe it, but Halloween has been a hotbed of lawsuits for years. Besides the usual costume design infringement claims (don't even think about making your own gorilla holding a cage!), Halloween can present some uniquely scary opportunities for lawsuits. Check this craziness out:

  • While many parents worry about candy and strangers with Halloween approaching, a Jacksonville mother said parents really should be aware of something else — flammable costumes.  More on Personal Injury Lawsuits.
  • Can the hapless Jersey Shore duo prevent a company from selling high-haired wigs and gel-filled do's by claiming Trademark Infringement?  Are the Jersey girl and boy distinct enough to bring to mind these particular TV personae, or just any "typical" boy or girl from the New Jersey Shore? More on Intellectual Property Rights.
  • Curious what the Top 20 Most Popular Costume Ideas are for 2011, according to Yahoo search results?  Seems like a few might lead to a lawsuit
  • We all know provocative costumes at the company's Halloween party can lead to sexual harassment lawsuits.  But the sued CEO showing up in a different costume for each of his 6 days of deposition?  That's new.   Learn more about Sexual Harassment Lawsuits.
  • Will last year's popular costume still be a hit in 2011?  The costume that spurred a thousand lawsuits: the BP Oil Spill Costume.  Find more about Environmental Lawsuits

Top 5 Haunted House Safety Tips

It doesn’t matter if you’re decorating with your kids, have been out of work with a stockpile of black garbage bags, or just like Halloween a little too much. We totally understand your Halloween enthusiasm. Heck, we share it. Like always, we just want to make sure you’re safe.

Below are the Top 5 Safety Tips for Building a Haunted House:

  • A lit path. Slip and fall injuries logically happen most when there are plenty of darkly lit, round pumpkins around.
  • Beware of fire. We love the old-fashioned tea lights inside pumpkins, too. But be careful of your fires and those haunting knickknacks you picked up. There are a number of better spooky fire-safe products available.
  • The scare. Whether you opt for the “suddenly animated scarecrow” holding the bowl of candy or the “pop-out” from behind the bushes, try to prepare room for the backward stumble or potential knee-jerk reaction. Remember not to touch anyone because it could be considered assault.
  • Give out store bought candy. It’s unlikely you would be considered liable for an allergic reaction, but food poisoning is a real threat for homemade treats. Razorblades hidden in apples were an urban legend, but people still shy away from any open or homemade giveaways. Save your time and grab that 2 for $5 deal.
  • Put your decorations away at night. Yes, people still love smashing pumpkins (no, I don’t mean the band). When you put your decorations away, you will know they won’t be ruined or stolen like last year's Christmas inflatables.

Halloween, Death, and Wills

Halloween, Death, and Wills Halloween is all about the spooky, and traces its roots back to the Day of the Dead celebrations, among others.  What better time to address death head-on, and create a will? It’s really much quicker and simpler than you may think. A will can provide much needed protection at any stage of your life.

A will is a written communication by a person stating exactly how they wish to have their property divided upon death. You may not be aware there are actually 3 major types of wills: 1) self proving will, 2) holographic will, and 3) the oral will.

  • The self-proving will is the most common and most secure will. Self proving wills are governed by state law and require certain formalities and witnesses to take part in the process.
  • A holographic will is normally handwritten without the presence of a witness. It’s one of the least recognized among courts. Holographic wills are only accepted by some state courts and in very limited instances.
  • Oral wills have been around for centuries, but have lost much of their legal weight because, unless it’s recorded, the beneficiary could be lying. In the limited states that recognize oral wills, they are only legitimized under convincing circumstances.

A lawyer who is familiar with your local and state probate laws will be able to advise you on the best course of action while drafting your will. Lawyers who specialize in wills also can explain the other requirements to drafting a will including provisions, executor appointment, signatures and requirements of “sound mind.”

Winter Auto-Accident Guide

Winter Auto-Accident Guide Fall is here. The roads will now be more treacherous with the presence of ice and rain. You shouldn’t be surprised to find that Fall and Winter are the most accident prone seasons. We can prepare our vehicles with special tires and by checking brakes, but there are some instances in which an accident is nearly unavoidable.

Below are the steps you should take if you find yourself in an auto collision this season.

Fact gathering will help your personal injury case. Normal evidence includes police reports, traffic tickets issued as a result of the accident, photos of the scene, medical bills, photos of your injuries, witness information, and any data about wages lost as a result of the accident. You should also remember to get the other party’s name, phone number, insurance information, car make and model.

Insurance company negotiations are crucial these days, so it’s best to have a lawyer consult with you on how much your case is worth. In addition to taking on the insurance company, a lawyer can assist you in placing a specific dollar amount on your claim. Injury lawyers are skilled at proving the other person and insurance company are responsible for your lost income, injuries, and/or other damages.

In many cases these steps result in some type of settlement. However, if you are denied a settlement, you have the option to file a lawsuit against your, or the other party’s, insurance company.

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