Legal Duty of Property Owners to Protect their Visitors from Harm

Jun 09

The US National Safety Council (NSC) Injury Facts records more than 8 million slip and fall accidents every year, making this type of accident one of the top causes of serious injuries in the U.S. and the most frequent type of accident that results in lawsuits (premises liability lawsuit).

Slip and fall accidents can be caused by wet or icy surfaces, moss-filled floors, uneven floors or walkways (especially those that are not well illuminated), unstable surfaces, exposed wires, absences of railings or guardrails, uncovered metal or wooden pegs, faulty stairs, unmarked obstacles, and so forth. While this type of accident can happen to anyone, those who are most seriously affected and hurt are people 55 years old and above. Injuries can include a fractured wrist or elbow, knee injury, torn muscle and ligament, back pain and fractured hip.

A slip and fall accident can happen not only in public places, such as hospitals, churches, malls, restaurants and near swimming pools, but also in private residences where one goes to as a visitor (as an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser, who is an unwelcome visitor, of course).

Identifying an injured visitor’s status on the premise or reason why he/she entered into another’s land entails major legal significance as it will determine a property owner’s extent of responsibility for the safety and well-being of his/her visitor, as well as the extent of a visitor’s rights in seeking compensation. And where protection from harm is the issue, invitees are afforded the highest level.

An invitee refers to a person who has received (direct or implied) invitation from the property owner to come onto his/her property to further the owner’s purposes. Persons directly invited to special family gatherings, such as anniversaries, or those entering a shop to transact business with the store owner, are considered invitees.

Invitees are types of guests who naturally assume that the place they enter onto is totally safe; thus, in the event of an accident, which results to an invitee’s injury, the property owner (or anyone directly responsible for the maintenance of the place) can be held totally responsible.

A licensee is another type of guest who has been granted permission to be on the owner’s property; his/her presence there, though, is personal, as it is for his/her own purpose or amusement. Family friends and party guests (and those to whom an open invitation to visit has been extended) fit this visitor description.

Property owners are also obligated by law to ensure the total safety of licensees, unlike in the case of trespassers, towards whom owners do not owe the responsibility of giving warnings about the dangers naturally occurring on the premises (unless the owner becomes aware of a trespasser’s presence).

Property owners or those responsible in the maintenance or upkeep of a place, but who negligently fail to perform their duty, can be held accountable under the premises liability laws, in the event of an injury.

As explained by the law firm Crowe & Mulvey, LLP, there are a number of different ways in which individuals may be put in danger of suffering a serious injury by unsafe premises, resulting in a premises liability claim. Some of the most common reasons people seek legal help for premises liability claims include: dog bites, slip and fall, elevator and escalator injuries, porch collapse, stair collapse, fires, lead paint poisoning, mercury poisoning or swimming pool injuries. As a guest at someone else’s home, or a patron of a business, you have a right to expect that a certain level of safety will be provided for you.

 

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Bankruptcy: Legal Solution to Regaining Financial Freedom

Mar 28

Loss of job and lesser chances of finding a high-paying one are two major effects of unstable economy. Anyone who loses the privilege of earning good income can lose the chance of maintaining his/her life style; it can also affect his/her capability to pay all his/her bills, including credit card billings and other monthly bills. Next to failure in payment of monthly bills is most likely financial worries as this will result to the increasing debts that may soon become hard, if not impossible, to manage.

This is one common situation to thousands of Americans. For like a chronic disease that develops and worsens overtime, so too do debts, becoming too overwhelming and impossible to settle.

After only two to three months of failure to make payments, especially car loans and mortgages, banks and credit card companies would already consider a person’s loan or account as bad debt. This would most likely be referred to a collection agency, which will do anything, even resort to harassing tactics to make a debtor pay.

Crushing debts have caused many individuals so much worry and stress, besides having ruined many families and professional relationships. Debts, however, are not unsolvable problems, for the law offers legal means that will enable individuals with overwhelming debts to address their debts and regain control of their financial situation. One such legal alternative is bankruptcy, a legal declaration of one’s inability to settle personal or business loans. One immediate beneficial effect of filing for bankruptcy is that once it is filed in court, all attempts by agencies to collect debt payments will be stopped (a protection “automatic stay”). Creditors will also lose any right to have a debtor’s salary garnished or his/her bank account levied.

There are different Chapters of Bankruptcies that a person may apply for, depending on his/her financial standing, work or assets and properties. These are

  • Chapter 7, also known as liquidation bankruptcy. Through this chapter, a person is enabled to pay his/her non-dischargeable debts through the liquidation of some of his/her non-exempt assets. With regard to business firms, these will need to cease operations, as a court-appointed trustee will need to sell or liquidate their entire assets. Residual proceeds, after having paid all creditors, will be returned to individual debtors or business owners;
  • Chapter 11, or business reorganization. The business owner usually acts as a trustee (if the court does not appoint one). He/She also becomes a debtor-in-possession since the law allows continuous operation of his/her business;
  • Chapter 12, which is designed for farmers and fishermen with a regular annual income and who own the whole or more than half of the farming/fishing business; and,
  • Chapter 13, which allows a debtor to make a three-year or five-year proposal through which to pay his/her debts.

Very helpful information to those with overwhelming debts is shared by the Amerio Law Firm. According to this firm, “When you are facing overwhelming debts and dealing with non-stop creditor calls, filing bankruptcy may be your best option.

The benefits of bankruptcy are clear:

  • Completely discharge your unsecured debts through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or
  • Work out an effective repayment plan over the course of 3 to 5 years
  • Stop harassing creditor calls
  • Stop wage garnishments, bank levies, property liens, and foreclosures
  • Get your financial freedom
  • Re-build your credit

Bankruptcy can certainly be the financial solution to your current situation. However, if you do not qualify for a bankruptcy, or may be struggling with the idea of filing bankruptcy, an experienced bankruptcy lawyer will be able to provide you alternative solutions, including debt negotiation or tax services.

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Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

Dec 22

More than 15,000 registered nursing home facilities in the U.S. offer care and shelter to at least 1.5 million elders, mentally incapacitated young adults, patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and victims of accidents requiring therapy and rehabilitation. Though sending a loved one to a nursing home, where his/her needs is believed will be provided, is a common practice, many Americans are beset by worries due to widespread news of abuses committed to nursing home residents.

The most common reported abuses committed against elders include emotional abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse and sexual abuse, the most wicked of all types of abuses. Mistreating elders and other residents sexually can be done through many different ways. It can be through fondling, showing of pornographic materials, forced nudity, forcing another resident to kiss or touch the victim and, worst of all, forced penetrative acts.

Many nursing homes reason out that they do not have enough number of nurse aides, staff and/or registered nurses, thus their employees are often overworked, tired and fatigued from all the needs and requests of residents which seem to be endless.

Sexual abuse is usually never immediately obvious, but being really observant of sudden changes in a resident’s behavior may just manifest the fact that something is wrong. Sexually abused residents typically:

  • Begin to display low self-esteem;
  • Avoid having eye contact with other residents;
  • Stop speaking openly, to hide the abuses they are suffering from;
  • Start feeling hopeless, disturbed, or afraid;
  • Become depressed and withdrawn; and,
  • Begin to show abrupt mood swings

While injuries or any kind of harm sustained by residents in a nursing home facility may be considered a personal injury and, thus, deserving compensation, the act of abuse itself is considered a criminal act, deserving harsh punishments.

In the website of the law firm Karlin, Fleisher & Falkenberg, it is said that “Allegations of sexual abuse are serious and will need to be duly investigated by the appropriate authorities. That being said, you need to take immediate action to protect your loved one if you suspect he or she has experienced unwanted or otherwise non-consensual sexual contact.”

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The Supplemental Security Income Program Cash Benefits: Who Can Receive These?

Oct 13

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers four major types of benefits:

  • Disability benefits;
  • Retirement benefits;
  • Benefits for spouses and/or other survivors of a family member who has passed; and,
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The first two are benefits given to Social Security members or employees (and to family members of employees, as in the case of the third type of benefits) who have worked in jobs covered by Social Security and who have earned the number of credits required by the SSA. A maximum of four Social Security credits are earned annually through payment of Social Security taxes. These taxes, which are identified as Federal Insurance Contributions Act “FICA,” payments, are automatically deducted in employees’ monthly take home pay.

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or State Supplementary Payment (SSP), on the other hand, offers cash assistance payments to:

  • Adults who are disabled and have limited income and resources;
  • Children who are disabled and who have limited income and resources; and,
  • Individuals at least 65 years old who may be without any disability, but who meet the financial limits set under the federal benefit rate (FBR).

This cash assistance payment is meant to provide for its recipients’ basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter. For SSI purposes, the word “disabled,” is defined as physical or mental impairment and emotional or learning problems that:

  • Have lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months;
  • Can be expected to result to severe functional limitations (in the case of children) or in the inability to perform any substantial gainful activity (in the case of adults); and,
  • Can be expected to result in the disabled person’s death.

With regard to the words “income” and “resources,” “income” refers to :money earned from work; money received from Social Security benefits, Workers Compensation, the Department of Veterans Affairs, unemployment benefits, friends or relatives; and, free food or shelter. “Resources refers to things personally owned, like cash, bank accounts, U.S. savings bonds, stocks, life insurance, land, vehicles, personal property, and whatever can be converted to cash and used for food or shelter.

As explained by an Indianapolis Social Security Disability lawyer of the Hankey Law Office, the Social Security system offers a special form of financial assistance for people who are elderly, injured, or ill as well as impoverished. However, applying for SSI benefits can be daunting due to the practice of evaluators to reject applications even for minor errors. The many requirements and the complex application process may bear faster and more positive results if these are to be entrusted to a seasoned SSI claims lawyer.

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How Much Cash Benefit does Workers’ Compensation Award to Injured Workers?

Jul 05

Workers who sustain job-related injuries or who develop an occupational illness can file a claim for benefits with the Workers’ Compensation, also known as Workers’ Comp. Cash benefits will cover cost of medical treatment and hospitalization, wage replacement, rehabilitation, retraining, disability, and death (which includes payment of benefits to survivors of the worker killed on the job). The usual wage replacement is two/thirds of the injured worker’s average wage; however, there is a fixed maximum amount set by states so that the benefits will not go over it.

Workers’ Compensation is an insurance-like program that is mandated and administered by the state. It is designed to provide immediate financial benefits to workers regardless of who was at fault for the injury or illness. Because it is almost exclusively financed by employers, it, therefore, serves as a sort of an exchange wherein injured employees, by choosing to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits, automatically waive their right to sue their employer for additional compensation.

There are limits, by the way, to the types of injuries paid under the Workers’ Comp program. As a rule, benefits will never be paid to workers whose injury was self-inflicted, who were intoxicated at the time of the injury, or whose injury was a result of actions in violation of the law or company policy.

At only two/thirds of the injured worker’s average wage, the amount of monetary benefit that Workers’ Comp awards to injured workers is really low. This amount is definitely not enough, especially if the injury leads to temporary or permanent disability, or a severe chronic illness. Workers’ Comp also does not pay compensation for injured workers’ pain and suffering; it also makes no provision for punitive damages, which would serve as punishment to an employer for failing to eliminate dangerous conditions in the workplace in order to ensure safety of employees.

Despite the low amount of cash benefit, many injured workers greatly rely on Workers’ Comp to save themselves and their families from disabling financial conditions. But worse than the receiving an inadequate amount is not receiving anything at all due to denial of claims, a situation experienced by so many injured workers. The law firm Scudder & Hedrick, PLLC, very strongly emphasizes the right of qualified injured workers to receive the benefits that is legally theirs. Thus, it advises injured workers to seek legal assistance from highly-skilled Workers’ Compensation lawyers, who may be able to help make sure that their application for claims is not denied.

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Coping with the Loss of Independence & Solutions to Maintain Independence

Mar 01

It is difficult to know that a loved one is reaching a point in their life and health where they are no longer safe and secure living on their own. This loss of independence is assuredly frustrating for them, as an adult who was able to take care of themselves before changes to their health. Your loved one may suddenly become completely dependent on you to provide stable care for them. This can be extremely disruptive of your life, but the best method of coping with this change is to maintain patience with your loved one. They need your support through this transitionary phase in their life as they come to terms with the changes that need to take place.

According to SeniorAdvice.com, studies have shown that many older adults fear losing independence more than they fear death. Remaining patient is very important as this process unfolds, but another simple way to help your loved one cope is to be there for conversation. Providing a listening ear to your loved one in concern to their fears and concerns not only brings them comfort, but brings the two of your closer to an understanding of how to handle the situation together.

Perhaps your loved one is still in good enough health to maintain some sort of autonomy. There are solutions that provide a sense of security and assistance to your loved one that still allow for them to remain somewhat independent. Here are two options:

  • Home healthcare: Promotes normalcy, allowing the patient to remain at home and receive care daily or on a more part-time basis from a nurse who comes to them
  • Independent living communities: Offer social benefits and readily available medical care to seniors that can no longer safely live alone, but can still perform many if not most everyday tasks for themselves
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Radon exposure at home

Oct 08

Radon is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas that is a by-product of uranium decay. It can be found in rocks, soil, and water, and can penetrate your home through fissures and cracks in the basement walls and crawl spaces. Although radon has been used for different medical and scientific purposes, exposure to it may result in different health complications.

One of the most fatal health effect commonly associated with radon exposure is lung cancer. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 21,000 die in the country because of radon-induced lung cancer every year. However, these deaths due to radon exposure could have been prevented if occupants have been vigilant enough to test their home for radon exposure. Unfortunately, according to the website of The Mokaram Law Firm (view website), you may notice that there can still be negligent property owners who refuse to have their home tested for radon and repaired to cut cost.

There are many ways on how radon may enter your home, here are some of them:

  • Cracks, gaps, or fissures in basement floors and walls
  • Cracks in crawlspaces
  • Construction joints
  • Water supplies (ex. private wells)

When moving into a new home or renting, it is imperative to get your home tested first for radon exposure, even if the property owner insists that the house has no problem with radon. While radon levels vary from one place to another, it is never safe to assume that this radioactive gas only affects certain areas of the country. The only way to know if your home is safe is by getting it tested.

However, living in a house with radon problems doesn’t mean abandoning your home altogether. Many homeowners have been able to fix their radon problems. You only need to contact qualified and professional radon experts in your locality to know what should be done to decrease the level of radon in your home.

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Some Facts about Selling Your Mineral Rights

Jun 04

A landsman trying to get you to lease out or sell mineral rights to your land may have approached you at some point. You are interested in selling your mineral rights, but you are not exactly sure what they are and if own them. Here are some facts for you.

Mineral rights or property is the area beneath the surface land that may or may not contain substances that has market value. It could be gold, silver or copper; it could be uranium or talc; it could be oil, gas, or coal. It could be nothing at all. If your mineral rights are in a good area, you could sell them for a good price even if later it turns out it does not have any minerals at all.

Ownership of mineral rights is not always straightforward. One person could own the surface as well as mineral rights; in some cases, there are separate owners. In other cases, the mineral rights may not march alongside the surface land.

The type of mineral can also affect the scope of ownership. Hard rock minerals are static; they stay in one place with respect to the surface. There may be disputes when two owners share the hard rock, but that is usually easily to resolve. Mineral rights are just like real estate property, so resolving disputes follow the same rules.

However, hydrocarbons are not so sedentary, with the exception of coal. Gas and oil move under the surface, so it can be difficult to establish who owns the extracted gas or oil. In most cases, the rules of capture applies. This means that whoever extracts it can own it. However, if there is already a claim for a specific area prior to extraction, then this defines the parameters of the rights. This is why it is important to know what minerals might be lurking under the surface. If you have oil or gas under there, you should make a claim right away so no one else can extract it.

Selling your mineral rights can be a complicated business. It may be better to leave it to a reputal mineral auction company that will help you establish your ownership, the right price for your rights, and the right buyers.

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Examples of Different Dangerous Consumer Products

Jun 03

It seems that you can’t take a couple of steps before you encounter yet another set of dangerous consumer products. Today it is an antipsychotic drug; tomorrow it is the powdered sugar in doughnuts.

Dunkin’ Donuts recently announced that they would be changing the recipe of their products to remove the titanium dioxide they add to the powdered sugar because there is a possibility that it is toxic. Titanium dioxide is a coloring agent usually added to brighten white products. The franchise decided to yield to public pressure before there was any definite proof of a health danger.

However, not all companies are so proactive. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is supposed to police these companies for just such dangerous products. The reality is, the CPSC does not have the resources to do this effectively, and rely on manufacturers and retailers to self-report. These companies should at least warn the public about any risks or dangers of using their products, no matter how unsubstantiated.

Juries are saying just that in the two recent verdicts against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson& Johnson that produces antipsychotic drug Risperdal. Both juries found that Janssen failed to warn the public that long-term use of Risperdal could cause gynecomastia, or the overdevelopment of male breasts in young men. According to the Williams Kherkher website, it is just one of the side effects of Risperdal.

It is important to remember that dangerous products are not just found in commercial food or prescription products. There are many consumer products that have lead, BPA, or other toxic products. The scary thing is many of these products are for or found around children.

If a dangerous consumer product has seriously harmed you because of a company’s negligence, you have the right to compensation. Contact a personal injury or dangerous products lawyer in your area for more information.

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Balayage and Ombre: Hair Coloring the 21st Century Way

Jun 02

Back in the day, dyeing your hair was a closely kept secret. You did not want anybody to know that you had to resort to chemicals to keep the gray at bay, or to hide the fact that you are an unfashionable brunette. Fast forward to the 21st Century and people are flaunting the fact that they have their hair colored, and falling over themselves to get at the latest color trends.

Not so long ago, the solid color job was all there was. And then came foil highlights. Now, master colorists are coming up with clever, more natural looks that have survived several seasons of overexposure as celebrities make the trends trendier. The most sustained of these are ombré and balayage. Yes, they sound exotic, but the look is all natural as seen in the gallery on the Therapy Hair Studio website. More importantly, they are low maintenance, which means they are probably in for the long haul.

The biggest problem of people who change their natural hair color is hair growth. A couple of months after color treatment, the roots start poking up, spoiling the party for the rest of the gang. To address this, colorists started trying out the ombré technique. This is quite simply coloring the hair in gradations, leaving the top dark and the ends lighter. This works wonderfully for those who have naturally dark hair. Because this is a freehand technique, the effect ranges from stark contrast to natural fade, depending on the artist’s touch. A variation of the ombré called somber (for subtle ombré) simply starts the color application higher, about two inches from the roots. Even if the hair grows out, there is no need for a touch-up because the effect stays the same.

Balayage is also a low maintenance look that is the perfect color treatment for summer. The term means “to sweep” and it is a freehand technique of applying color using a dip-and-dye method. The result is alternating light and dark ribbons of hair, giving the hair a softer, sun-kissed look, and hair can grow out as fast as it likes without spoiling the effect. These techniques are beloved, but who knows what the future of hair coloration holds?

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