Month: May 2017


Mini-opening statements are a relatively new phenomenon that is catching on in most states. A mini-opening statement is simply a 3 to 5 minute opening statement that takes place before the jury is questioned on the case.  Each counsel presents an overview of the case from his or her client’s perspective and previews the issues jurors will have to decide.  They are non-argumentative and are not a substitute for opening statements. It sets forth the basic positions of the parties and allows to jurors to understand what issues may spark a bias or concern for a particular juror.  It follows that basic premise that a juror should know the subject matter of the litigation before exploring personal biases. 
Should the juror know that “texting and driving” is going to be a big issue in the case? Or that there will be a significant amount of medical photos that some may find particularly gruesome? Or that the case involves a gang member who grew up in poverty and is now accused of a crime for which he is claiming an alibi, but the alibi witness is also a gang member?  Do you think that jurors may have some biases if a personal injury lawyer Newport Beach CA turns to is allowed to give a brief mini-opening statement concerning the fundamental outline facts of the case?  Indeed, in these difficult cases, jurors will be able to give much better information concerning their biases if they are given some facts upon which to reflect on those biases. Hey, I love football, but I hate the Dallas Cowboys.  I could be “fair and impartial” to the NFL, but if the specifics of the case involved an advantage that the Dallas Cowboys may achieve with a trial win, I may have to reveal some of my biases and dislike for the Dallas Cowboys and let the lawyer decide whether I am right for the case.
In certain states it can be difficult to get a judge to allow mini opening statements, even though they save time and money and will result in a better equipped jury panel to decide any case—criminal or civil. Judges are usually slow to change. It is up to the lawyers to argue effectively for the use of mini-opening statements. Below are particular arguments that have been helpful and successful in the past.
Courts should allow mini-opening statements for two reasons.  First, mini-openings make the voir dire process more efficient, complete, and meaningful.  These mini opening statements bring issues and relevant factors into focus for prospective jurors and the parties, and elicit better informed and candid responses during questioning.  This helps parties and the court quickly uncover concerns, biases, and prejudices from the venire, and allows parties to make more effective and intelligent use of their peremptory strikes.  Second, mini-openings have a time-saving and attention-grabbing advantage over a written and read “joint statement of the case.”  Based on several pilot programs in California, mini-openings generate interest in the case so that prospective jurors will be less inclined to claim marginal hardships and waste time.  One study also reported that mini-openings elicit greater interest from prospective jurors in fulfilling jury service.
These are not novel findings.  The courts are essentially allowing the jurors to preview the back jacket of the book to determine if the book is of interest to them or if, for some reason, they have moral or philosophical objections to the book’s subject matter.  Mini-openings are neither argumentative nor a substitute for opening statements.  They instead permit counsel to outline their case to the venire, raise questions and concerns, and facilitate a more productive and comprehensive questioning process by providing context and interest to jurors.
Diligent counsel needs to push hard for mini opening statements as they are the best way to discover true bias of any prospective juror. The goal is to begin a case with a fair set of jurors. This tool helps facilitate that goal better than any other.

bruno nalu

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Bruno | Nalu for their insight into the importance of mini-opening statements.

Will a personal injury award affect my taxes?

If you are in the process of settling a personal injury claim, the allocation of damages is critically important because an incorrect allocation can result in taxable income. Generally, a recovery from settlement or judgment is excluded from income if it is a result of physical injury or physical sickness. Damages include, but are not limited to, elements such as medical and legal expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and emotional trauma. There are a few exceptions to this rule.

The first exception is that punitive damages are taxable. Second, any amounts received that are attributable to interest is taxable. Third, if the taxpayer has deducted any of the expenses related to the settlement, the amounts previously deducted are taxable. Finally, any portion of the recovery that is allocated to property damage is taxable to the extent that it exceeds the basis of the damaged property.

For example, say you were dragged off an airplane by security and, as a result of the overly aggressive guards, you banged your head against a seat causing a concussion, broken nose, and your $2,000 laptop was destroyed. A few months later, your personal injury lawyer contacts the airline requesting compensation for your medical bills, emotional trauma, and lost wages from your physical injuries. It agrees to settle after the video of the incident goes viral. The settlement agreement stipulates that you receive $148,000 for medical expenses, pain and suffering and emotional trauma, and $2,000 for your computer. This settlement is 100% tax-free, for federal tax purposes, assuming you have not previously deducted any of the medical expenses.

I’m now going to change the facts a little to show how easy this is to turn into a taxable recovery. Assume the same facts as before, except that the settlement agreement now stipulates that you receive $130,000 for medical expenses, etc.; $10,000 for prejudgment interest; $2,000 for the computer; and $8,000 for the unrecoverable files on the computer. In this example, $18,000 of the settlement is taxable income. This income could have easily been avoided by allocating the interest and lost files to mental anguish; instead, you will have a tax bill on April 15th.

In summary, it is important to consider taxes when deciding how to allocate a settlement recovery. If you are not careful, you can turn a windfall into a substantial tax bill when nothing should be owed. For more information about the taxation of tort awards or tax issues in general, be sure to consult with a Bethesda, Maryland tax attorney.
AaronPRichterThanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Office of Aaron P. Richter for their insight into the effects of a personal injury award on you taxes.

5 Rules of the Road You Had No Idea You Were Violating

Unfortunately, traffic violations are incredibly common and even the best, most-careful drivers can make mistakes from time to time. Statistics compiled by Time magazine show that the average number of yearly traffic citations is down in many states around the country. Still, this could be because fewer people are being caught and as a result, they may not realize they did anything wrong.

In fact, the average driver commits approximately 400 traffic violations for every traffic citation or ticket they actually receive. The problem is so widespread that the majority of drivers commit these and other violations frequently and often without knowing it.

Following Too Closely

One of the most common violations many people commit is following the car in front of them too closely. Typically, citations aren’t handed out for this offense except in the case of an accident or when someone is truly tailgating another driver. Nonetheless, the vast majority of drivers tend to drive far too close to others.

Most states have somewhat vague laws as to what exactly constitutes following too closely. Generally, the law might say something to the effect that a person cannot follow closer than is considered safe based on the speed and conditions. However, drivers are expected to keep at least one to one-and-a-half car lengths behind the driver in front of them for every 10 miles per hour they’re travelling. This means you need to be around six car lengths behind when you’re travelling 40 mph.

Driving in the Left Lane on a Multiple Lane Road

Although you wouldn’t know it from traveling down most highways, the majority of states have laws that state that the left-hand lane is reserved for passing on any road with two or more lanes. Too many drivers staying in the left lane can quickly cause traffic buildups and potential accidents, which is why some state highway patrols have recently begun cracking down on this all-too-common violation.

Not Stopping for Pedestrians

Pedestrians always have the right of way, which technically means that you need to stop any time someone walks out into the road. However, this is especially true in places where there is a crosswalk and no traffic light. In that scenario, you can easily be ticketed for failing to stop when a person is waiting at the crosswalk, even if they haven’t yet stepped into the street.

Improper Left Turn at a Traffic Light

Virtually everyone has made a left turn on a yellow light in order to avoid the frustration of having to wait through another set of lights. However, most states have laws in place that state that drivers must make a careful turn at the green light. This means that making a rushed turn when the light suddenly turns yellow could see you cited for an improper turn.

Improper Turning

Improper turning doesn’t only relate to making a turn at a light. In fact, people often make improper turns almost every single turn they make. For example, when you make a right turn into a street, driveway or alley, the law states that you are supposed to stay as close to the right edge of the road as possible. Still, many people tend to swing out wide before making a right turn, which is another citable improper turning violation. The same thing goes if you swing out too far to the right when making a left turn.

Although the majority of these traffic violations are minor, they could still add up to a big problem should you be a repeat offender. Therefore, considering the rising number of traffic deaths each year, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if everyone started paying more attention to following the laws of the road. By doing so, you can hopefully help avoid paying huge fines or potentially needing the assistance of car accident lawyer Minneapolis MN trusts to defend you in traffic court, or worse, an attorney to defend you if you were to injure someone.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Johnston Martineau PLLP for their insight into car accident cases.

Can a Doctor Refuse to Treat a Patient Without Insurance?

There are many reasons why someone might not have medical insurance. Perhaps they can’t afford to pay for it or they’re in-between jobs and waiting for their new health coverage to take effect. Unfortunately, accidents are never convenient, and they can happen when someone doesn’t have insurance to pay for treatment. As a result, they may wonder if a doctor can refuse to treat them because they don’t have insurance coverage.

There’s not a simple answer to this question. Doctors have the legal right to turn down patients, but it’s not always simple to explain why they have this right when medical necessity is in question. Each state has specific laws regarding medical treatment and the refusal of a doctor to see a patient. It’s difficult to discuss the legalities without knowing specifics regarding your case.

  • If a doctor or medical facility turned you away as a patient because you don’t have health insurance, call a medical malpractice lawyer Miami FL relies on to discuss your legal options.
  • If your medical condition seriously worsened because you were refused emergency treatment, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. A personal injury attorney can review your case and offer an opinion as to whether or not you have grounds for a lawsuit.

Right to Refuse

Doctors have the right to refuse medical care for many reasons. The most common reasons include the following:

  • Patients are seeking narcotics because they are addicted to that drug
  • There is no illness present
  • A patient is destructive or dangerous
  • The doctor’s office has no openings and is no longer accepting new patients for basic care. (This applies in a non-emergency situation.)

Sometimes, patients aren’t actually denied medical treatment but they are forced to wait long hours to receive care. This occurs most often in an emergency room, and it causes many patients to get up and leave. These patients feel they are denied treatment when they’re actually waiting for a doctor to have time to see them.

  • Emergency rooms and doctors are legally required to see emergency cases before anyone else.
  • If you walk into an emergency room with a broken finger and someone else walks in five minute after you with chest pains or a head wound, that person is always a priority.
  • Serious injuries always come before lesser injuries, and this sometimes means other patients wait long periods of time to see a doctor.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act

This is a federal law that requires all doctors and medical facilities to see a patient who is suffering from a medical emergency or is in active labor even if the patient has no ability to pay the anticipated bill. A good example might be a homeless woman or transient who comes into an emergency room in labor or with life threatening injuries. Without a job or even a home they have no ability to pay, but the doctor is required by law to see them.

While a doctor has every right to deny treatment for various reasons, they can’t refuse to treat a person with life-threatening or serious injuries even if they don’t have health insurance or the ability to pay.

Call a personal injury attorney if you have concerns about medical care that was denied to you. An important part of a lawyer’s job is to help determine whether medical care was legally denied or if there was a gross negligence. Contact a law firm without delay to determine if your legal rights were violated.


Thanks to our friends and contributors from Needle & Ellenberg, P.C. for their insight into medical malpractice practice.

3 Myths About Car Accident Cases

Nobody ever plans on getting into a car accident, but when it happens it is good to know what to do.  Often times, individuals that get in car accidents find themselves in a frantic or panicked mental state because of the adrenaline rush that naturally occurs as a self defense mechanism.  For this reason, many people don’t calmly and rationally evaluate the situation and fall victim to common myths about car accidents.  The following are three common myths about car accident cases that everyone should be aware of.
Myth #1:  It Was Just A Minor Accident – So It Is Okay To Leave The Scene.
Don’t believe this myth.  Although every state has different laws, it is not a good idea to leave the scene of any accident. Leaving the scene of an accident could result in a misdemeanor charge against you – even if it seemed like no one was injured or the property damage was minimal.
You should do the following:
  • Safely pull over to the side of the road and check to see if anyone is injured.
  • If the other driver does not stop, try to get the license plate, make and model of the car.
  • If there are any injuries, or property damage, call the police to report the accident.
  • Exchange insurance information with the other driver.
  • Exchange driver license information.
  • Get their license plate number.
  • Take pictures of the accident scene.  Pictures are helpful to establish the date, time, place, weather conditions, and other important information regarding the car accident.
  • Avoid making any statements about the accident to the other driver – but cooperate with them in exchanging information.
  • If the police arrive, make a complete statement to them, but do not admit fault.
  • Get the names and contact information for any eye witnesses, and find out what they observed.
  • Inform your insurance company of the accident within 24 hours to make a claim
  • Go to the doctor to so they can evaluate if you have sustained any injuries.
  • If you have been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
Myth #2: I Don’t Need to See A Doctor – I Feel Fine.
If you were jolted in anyway during the accident, you should seek an evaluation from a doctor.  It is important to establish a record of your physical symptoms and conditions from the start.  Seemingly minor injuries can worsen over time, and result in chronic pain if not properly treated.  If you postpone receiving treatment, the insurance companies may deny reimbursement for medical treatment due to a “gap” in treatment.  It is always better to play it safe and seek medical treatment after a car accident.
Myth #3: My Insurance Company Will Take Care Of Everything – I Don’t Need An Attorney.
Depending on what state you live in, if you were not at fault, your insurance may play a minimal role in helping you recover damages from the at fault driver’s insurance.  The other driver’s insurance is definitely not going to look out for you – they want to pay you bottom dollar and have you waiver your claims against them immediately.   If you were seriously injured, do not make any statements to the other driver’s insurance company without talking to an experienced personal injury lawyer.  Most personal injury lawyers do not charge upfront for their services, they typically take a percentage of the amount they recover for you.  Most attorneys negotiate settlements that will not only cover their fees, but get you a higher settlement (even after taking the attorney’s fees into consideration) than you would receive working directly with the insurance company.  Let anOrange County Personal Injury Attorney deal with the headache of negotiating with insurance companies and medical providers, so you can focus on getting better and moving on with your life.
Thanks to our colleague and contributor from Chudleigh Law P.C. for his insights into common myths about car accident cases.

Truck vs. Auto Accidents – Everything You Need to Know to Help Protect Your Rights

With an estimated 300 million cars and trucks on the road, vehicle accidents are inevitable in today’s busy, commuting-centric world.  For minor fender benders, parking lot accidents or other low speed collisions that don’t involve bodily injury, direct interaction and negotiation with insurance company is usually all it takes to resolve any liability and make a person whole.  When it comes to trucks, specifically big-rigs or other large commercial vehicles, the situation can get more complicated.  Many times, these complications will lead to the need to hire a personal injury lawyer Brookhaven GA relies on with experience in truck accidents in order to make yourself and your property whole after a crash.

Bigger Vehicles Equal Greater Damage
Trucks are naturally larger vehicles so it makes sense that the damage they can inflict in an accident would be greater than that of a typical vehicle.  Big-rigs, 18 wheelers or other commercial vehicles can easily crush a smaller personal automobile, leading to significant property damage.  In addition, the force created by these larger trucks is more likely to cause bodily injury for those driving passenger autos.  When these higher dollar amounts are at stakes, insurance companies can be less likely to settle or assign fault in your favor, necessitating the need for professional help.

Additional Evidence Collection
The bigger stakes of big-rig and other truck accidents often create the need for collection of additional or different evidence than that of a typical car crash.  In an accident involving two automobiles, the police will typically take statements and prepare a report which is then used to assign liability and resolve any claims or criminal actions.  Modern commercial trucks are often equipped with dashboard video cameras or other sophisticated monitoring systems that are used to collect evidence that may or may not be in your favor.  Witness statements, driver logs, vehicle weigh ins and other key pieces of evidence may all play a potential role in your accident.  These details often escape owners given their lack of day to day experience in dealing with the nuances of truck accidents but can be turning points in determining liability and compensation.

Who is Responsible
When drivers are involved in an automobile crash they generally don’t have to worry about any third parties that may be responsible for paying the bill.  In the case of a truck, there will often be employers, companies, insurers, contractors or other individuals or organizations that may be responsible in the end.  This can create a whole host of complications.  In some cases, car owners involved in collision with a truck may not want to communicate directly with the driver.  In others, it may be downright detrimental to do so.
Who the driver was delivering from or to, the carrier, or who paid for their vehicle insurance and maintenance, are just a few of the questions that may help to determine liability.  For victims that are unrepresented by experienced legal counsel, it can be difficult to understand which questions you should be asking and why, much less how their answers may affect yours or another party’s liability for damage or injury.

The Bottom Line
In the end, experienced legal counsel with knowledge of the specific facts and nuances involving truck accidents versus automobile accidents can be a critical factor in recovery in the event of a crash.  Automobile accidents, especially those that do not involve major bodily injury, can sometimes be resolved on your own.  This is not the case for truck versus auto.  Solid legal representation will protect your rights and ensure a better resolution.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Tobin for their insight into truck and auto accident cases.

Should I include my personal injury award in a prenup?

As a law firm who practices both personal injury cases and divorces, we know that people going through a divorce are concerned about their assets and how the assets will be divided in a divorce. A common question for those who have been involved in a car accident case, or any other personal injury case is what happens to the personal injury settlement check? Most states give at least some consideration to the spouse that was not injured, meaning the personal injury award generally belongs to both spouses.

One of the ways to protect a personal injury award is by either doing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement otherwise known as a prenup or postnup . If your personal injury award has already been given, or it will be given before you get married, then the settlement would be considered separate property and you would not have to worry about doing a prenup.  However, if you expect your personal injury settlement to be awarded after you get married, or if you expect you may be in a common law marriage relationship, then you should consider doing a prenup to protect that personal injury award as separate property that would belong to you. If you are already married and get involved in an accident after your marriage and expecting a personal injury award, then you will need a postnup instead of a prenup.

Other than doing a prenup or postnup, be sure to follow other ways to protect your personal injury award such as keeping a separate bank account for the money awarded. Following these kinds of tips have commonly helped protect award like these in divorce proceedings from becoming a marital asset.

If you have any further questions or concerns about your divorce process and how your personal injury settlement may be divided in a divorce,  contact a skilled divorce lawyer in North Texas or else where before proceeding any further.

ATLAWThanks to our friends and contributors from A.T. Law Firm for their insight into if and how to define a personal injury award in a pre- or postnuptial agreement.

Criminal and Civil Consequences of Driving under Revocation or Suspension

Driving under revocation or suspension is when you are caught driving while your license has been suspended or revoked. Your license may be suspended for a variety of reasons, both criminal and civil, but it is usually related to a violation committed with your vehicle. This may be a DUI, or an accumulation of penalty points, or your car is involved in the committing of a serious crime.

Criminal penalties

If you are convicted of a DUI or for having too many driving violations you license will be suspended for a period of time depending on your local laws. If you are found driving during this period of revocation you will be cited and possibly arrested. The consequences may be steep fees, jail time or a longer suspension period. If you are on a conditional sentence like a deferred judgment or probation, a DUR may cause those to be revoked.

Depending on the underlying violation, driving under revocation may also affect one’s immigration status.

Civil Penalties

Sometimes the suspension is a conditional one, and once those conditions are met the license may be reinstated. This could be a hold on your license for a failure to appear in court or pay a fine; or even to maintain special insurance like an SR-22 if it is required of you.  A hold on your license may occur for other civil reasons too, like failing to pay child support or another civil judgment.

Unfortunately, when your license is suspended you may only be informed by mail. If you have moved or mail is misplaced in some way, you would not know that you are under revocation until you are stopped for another reason. Once this driving under revocation charge is made it could complicate opportunities to alleviate the civil conditions. Maintaining a current address and checking your driving record with the DMV if you are facing civil penalties may help avoid this situation.

Consequences for both civil and criminal revocations may also include extended suspension and seizure of the vehicle under nuisance and abatement statutes, if that vehicle is suspected of being part of a serious crime.


In most cases the driver’s license is not automatically reinstated. The driver usually has to reapply for a license and meet certain conditions, usually paying fees and retaking the driving tests, as well as proving any other holds or conditions related to the revocation have been met.

Driving under suspension is a serious charge that can lead to significant consequences and complicate other legal matters you may be dealing with. Contact Colorado’s trusted criminal defense firm if faced with a driving under revocation charge.

Thanks to our friends at Hebets & McCallin for their insight into driving under revocation cases!


What Are My Responsibilities as an Estate Executor?

An executor is the person designated in the last will and testament to oversee the affairs of a person’s estate after that individual has died. Legally speaking, an executor is legally responsible for marshalling or collecting the assets of an estate, safeguarding them, and overseeing the proper distribution of a deceased person’s property according to the directives contained in a will. In this regard, if you are named as an executor, you have certain duties you must appropriately discharge.

Fiduciary Duty

The paramount responsibility you owe to an estate as an executor is what legally is known as a fiduciary duty. A fiduciary duty is classified as the highest standard of care, according to the Cornell University School of Law.

As an executory, you have a fiduciary duty to act solely in the best interests of the estate. Your decisions and actions must be directed towards ensuring the assets of the estate are protected and properly utilized and distributed according to the provisions of the estate and mandates of applicable law.


Obtain Key Documents

As part of your duties as an executor, you need to obtain a certified copy of the deceased individual’s death certificate. You also need to find the original copy of the last will and testament, and any other testamentary or related documents the deceased person may have prepared. This can include a trust agreement in some cases.


File the Will with the Court for Probate

Another primary task of an executor is filing a will with the appropriate court to have it probated. Depending on the nature and extent of the deceased person’s assets, and related considerations, the probate process might be fairly simple. On the other hand, a larger estate may result in a more complicated court process to probate the estate.


Obtain Letters Testamentary from the Court

Once the probate process commences, the court will issue what are known as letters testamentary. This is a court order that grants you formal, legal authority to serve officially as the executor of an estate. This is the legal document that gives you the power to address the affairs of the estate.


Locate and Inventory the Estate’s Assets

Once the will has been filed for probate, and letters testamentary are issued by the court, your next step as an executor is to identify, locate, inventory, and protect the assets of the estate. The inventory also includes identifying all liabilities of the estate as well. As a general rule, you will be required to file a formal inventory of major assets with the estate.


Pay Taxes and Bills Owed by Estate

Once the inventory of the estate is complete, as the executor, you pay the legitimate bills and taxes due and owing associated with the estate. Some liabilities may require specific court approval before they can be paid.


Regular Reports to the Court

Depending on the nature of the probate proceedings, you may be required to provide the court with recurring reports on the status of the estate. This must be filed in a timely manner to avoid sanctions from the court.


Final Distribution

Once all of the liabilities of the estate have been satisfied, you return to the court for approval of the proposed distribution of assets in the manner directed in the will. An order from the court provides you the authority to complete the work of an executor in regard to an estate. In some cases involving a smaller estate, you can make the distribution without prior specific approval of the court.


Obtain Professional Guidance

If an estate is larger or more complicated, you may be best served retaining legal representation to assist you in your role as an executor of an estate. An estate lawyer Sacramento trusts typically will schedule an initial consultation with you at no cost to you or the estate.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Yee Law Group for their insight into estate planning practice.

Who Pays For Damages After A Truck Accident?

Few accidents on the road can be as absolutely destructive as an accident with a commercial truck. These large eighteen wheelers can smash a smaller car to pieces while barely sustaining any damage themselves. In the aftermath of the accident, victims can be left with many questions, especially if the accident was the fault of the truck driver. Perhaps the biggest question that will be on the victim’s mind is who will pay for the damage and injuries that were the fault of the driver. A truck accident attorney Dekalb County GA is proud to have working for its community may be able to guide you through this type of legal matter.

Under the law, a company is responsible for the actions of their employees, assuming they are acting within the responsibilities of their job. Applying this principal, the employer of the truck driver would be responsible for any damage caused by the negligence of the driver in an accident.

However, many truck drivers do not work directly for an employer and are considered independent contractors, which is an important legal distinction. Independent contractors have much more freedom to operate as they choose, and the law does not hold a company legally liable for the negligence of an independent contractor. If the driver owns their own truck, pays for the costs of maintenance, and is paid by the company on a per job basis, then they are an independent contractor. In the aftermath of an accident, it will be very difficult or impossible to seek compensation for damages from the company who hired them.

Another important distinction to make is whether the driver was acting within the scope of their responsibilities when the accident took place. Even if it can be established that the driver was an employee of the trucking company, the company can only be held responsible for damages caused in an accident if the truck driver was actively hauling freight to a destination at the time. If the driver had decided to take a detour or drive home early, then the employer will not be considered liable for the driver’s negligence, as they were acting in their own individual capacity.

If you have been involved in an accident involving a commercial truck, contact a skilled truck accident attorney as soon as possible. An experienced truck accident attorney will be able to determine whether the best case will be against the driver or the employer, and can ensure that you receive the compensation you need to fix the damage caused by the negligent driving of the truck driver.

logo.fw_Thanks to our friends and contributors from Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their information on commercial truck accident law.