Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Know your legal rights

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Know your rights and when to claim them
We’ll start out with a basic bit of criminal procedure.

I think it is safe to say everyone has watched the television show, Cops, and seen the police arrest someone and read them their Miranda rights. Often, the arrestee (the person in handcuffs) shouts “I know my rights!” just before they start answering an officer’s questions without requesting an attorney.

So let’s talk about rights.

Miranda refers to a case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, wherein a thoroughly unpleasant individual was taken into custody without being informed of his right to keep his mouth shut, or his right to an attorney, and questioned for two hours. He admitted to the theft for which he was arrested ($8.00), as well as kidnapping and raping an 18-year old woman 11 days earlier. This confession got him a ticket to jail for a long time. He appealed, claiming the police failed to guarantee his right to remain silent and his right to an attorney, and the Supreme Court agreed. (He was eventually re-convicted without the confession.)

As a result, the police now have to recite the Miranda rights—the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney—to anyone taken into custody before they are interrogated.

You are taken into custody when you reasonably believe you are no longer free to leave. If you are in handcuffs or the back seat of a cop car, you are in custody. It isn’t so clear when you have simply been pulled over.

You are being interrogated when a police officer is asking you questions and you are in custody.

Anything you say before the Miranda warning can still be used against you under some circumstances, like if you said something incriminating spontaneously. Watch your mouth.

You have the right to remain silent; anything you say will be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you.
If they think you did something wrong, the police will do anything to get you talking. They will say things like “this is your chance to clear yourself.” They are wrong. You can never be punished for invoking your right to keep your mouth shut, so claim the right. Don’t try to talk your way out of the situation.

The one exception to this rule is simple. The only thing you should say is “I want to speak with an attorney.” And that’s it, the cops will back off. They have to back off once you have requested an attorney. Definitely call an attorney at this point. Apply for a public defender or pay for your own attorney. The alternative may be prison.

Is there any time you might not want to invoke your rights? Yes. Only if you truly did nothing wrong, and you have a simple and believable explanation. But if you were caught on the scene with blood on your hands, so to speak, you should probably talk to a lawyer before answering any questions.

Birth defects injury

Monday, March 21st, 2005

Birth defects caused by
workplace pre-natal injury

Unborn children can be injured by the mother’s workplace exposure to toxic
chemicals during pregnancy. The following are frequently asked questions
regarding such injuries:

Q. I BELIEVE MY CHILD WAS HARMED BY MY EXPOSURE TO TOXIC CHEMICALS
DURING MY PREGNANCY. DO I HAVE A RIGHT TO SUE?

Over forty states allow children and their parents to bring a lawsuit for pre-natal injuries.

Q. WHAT CONDITION HAS BEEN LINKED TO TOXIC SOLVENT EXPOSURE
DURING PREGNANCY?

A child’s abnormally small head circumference, called Microcephaly has been shown to be in some cases a result of exposure to certain chemicals during pregnancy, causing an interference with a normal development of the child’s nervous system. Such exposures include the inhalation of solvent vapors, radiation exposure, and certain pharmaceutical drugs. In particular, a solvent known as methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) has been shown to produce microcephaly in children.

Q. MY CHILD WAS BORN WITH THE CONDITION OF MICROCEPHALY;
HOW DO I KNOW IF IT WAS GENETIC OR CAUSED BY CHEMICAL EXPOSURE?

The answer to this question is complex, and ultimately must be determined by a physician Typically, this determination will be made by examining the following factors:

1. Whether your child has any recognized genetic syndrome;
2. Whether there is a family history showing a familial syndrome which includes as a symptom microcephaly;
3. Whether the child has physical features, which suggest that the microcephaly is genetic in origin.

Once all other potential causes have been ruled out, and it can be shown that the child’s mother was chronically exposed to MEK while pregnant, the child’s microcephaly will likely be attributable to the MEK exposure..

Q. WHAT IS MEK?

MEK is a colorless, volatile, organic solvent with a pungent odor similar to lacquer thinner. It is commonly used as a cleaning solvent in several industries.

Q. ASIDE FROM EXPOSURE TO MEK, WHAT OTHER FACTORS CAN
CAUSE MICROCEPHALY?

Microcephaly can also be caused by the following factors:

1. Maternal infection (such as Rubella) during pregnancy;
2. Maternal exposure to radiation;
3. Maternal ingestion of certain medications;
4. Maternal “recreational sniffing” of solvent based glue, paint or paint thinner;
5. Maternal ingestion of alcohol during pregnancy..

Lead Paint Poisoning

Childhood lead poisoning has declined dramatically in the U. S. due to limits on lead
in gasoline, paint and other consumer products. However, lead poisoning is still
affecting an estimated 890,000 preschoolers. Hence, about 4.4% of children
aged 1 to 5 may be suffering the effects of having too much lead in their bodies.
If you believe your child under the age of six may have been exposed to lead, have your child’s blood tested for lead. Make sure it is the blood-lead test and that you are told the actual number for your child’s blood lead. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a blood lead of ten ug/dl as a level of concern, indicating that you should take steps to reduce ongoing lead exposure. At higher blood lead levels, more aggressive measures are recommended.
See cidnetwork.com for information on protecting yourself and your family from Lead poisoning around the home.

Q. I BELIEVE MY CHILD MAY HAVE BEEN THE VICTIM OF LEAD POISONING.
DO I HAVE A CASE?
A typical case involves a child under six years of age with a venous blood level of 25 u.g./d.c.l., (micrograms per deciliter of whole blood) or greater. If your residence has tested positive for the presence of lead paint, you may have a case, typically against the property owners whose apartment or house contained the lead paint.
Remember: It is illegal for landlords to discriminate against families with children, sneak in waivers of liability or threaten with eviction which is retaliatory.

Child Heatlh Burn Injurys and Legal Claims

Saturday, March 19th, 2005

Tragically, every year children suffer from disfiguring burn injuries in auto accidents,
home fires, day care fires, or exposure to dangerous chemicals. Frequently, these
injuries require a long succession of painful and expensive treatments. The following
are some frequently asked question asked by parents facing such injuries to a child:

Q. MY CHILD WAS INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT AND SUFFERED BURN INJURIES
WHICH REQUIRE SURGERY, BUT WE HAVE NO HEALTH INSURANCE.
CAN YOU HELP?

Yes. In qualifying cases, we can assist you in obtaining high quality medical treatment for your child on a lien basis through our network of potential funding sources and healthcare professionals. Call us to find out how.

Q. ALTHOUGH MY CHILD IS COVERED BY HEALTH INSURANCE, THE INSURER
TELLS ME THAT THE PLASTIC RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGERY SHE NEEDS IS
NOT COVERED. WHAT CAN I DO?

Typically, health insurance plans will cover only those treatments which the insurer deems “medically necessary” and will not cover plastic reconstructions which it deems are for purely “cosmetic” or “aesthetic” purposes even if the injuries are profoundly disfiguring. In qualifying cases, we can assist you in obtaining on a lien basis those non-covered reconstructive and plastic procedures necessary for your child’s maximum possible physical and mental recovery.

Children in Auto Accidents.Insurance Claim.

Saturday, March 19th, 2005

The period immediately following the serious injury to a child is probably the most
difficult time faced by a parent. If your child was the victim of a serious motor vehicle
accident the following tips can assist you in assuring that in these emotionally
tumultuous you do everything necessary to protect your and your child’s legal rights:

1. If you were also injured in the accident, don’t ignore your own recovery. Understandably, parents of seriously injured children tend to focus their energies and attention on the well-being and recovery of their children. Consequently, it is not uncommon for parents to disregard their own recovery to the detriment of their own health. Do not allow yourself to fall victim to this tendency; if you were also injured in the accident, obtain the medical treatment you need to recover as soon as possible. You will be of no help to your child if you do not have your own health.

2. Closely monitor your treatment and the treatment of your child. Although most facilities are staffed by well trained, dedicated healthcare professionals, the incidence of mistakes and improper treatment will be lessened by your insistence on obtaining constant, regular updates and information on the status of your child.

3. Do not speak to any insurance adjusters. No matter how helpful, friendly, or compassionate a liability insurance adjusters may seem, you must always keep in mind that it is the job of that adjuster to limit the amount of money the insurance company will have to pay on your and your child’s claim to the greatest extent possible. Remember they are not there to help you; their mission is to attempt to find facts and circumstances which would allow them to either avoid paying your and your child’s claim altogether, or to pay an amount far less than the actual damages you and your child have suffered. Therefore, do not speak to any insurance company representatives nor sign any documents before you consult with an attorney!

Beware; these days insurance companies will go to almost any length in order to limit or avoid a claim. For example, we recently represented a four year old girl in a serious accident which took place when the mother’s car was rear-ended at high speed. Although, all passengers in the car remembered that the child was wearing her seatbelt, although the police report stated the child was properly restrained, and although the emergency personnel notes reflected the same, the insurance company nonetheless took the position at trial that she was not wearing a seatbelt and that the mother was therefore responsible for her injuries. They even managed to hire an “expert” witness who testified at trial that the child did not have her seatbelt on. Although we eventually prevailed, we later found that some of the jurors actually believed the “expert’s” testimony!!

Once again, the lesson is: Do not sign any papers or engage in any conversation with any insurance representative before speaking with an attorney.

4. Be consistent and timely both in seeking medical care for you and your child and in following the advice of your and your child’s instructions. In addition to being the best way to assure the quickest possible recovery for you and your child, immediate resort to medical care and strict adherence to your doctor’s instructions are also important in preserving you legal claim and that of your child. In seeking to limit or deny your and your child’s claim, the insurance company will look for either delays in the onset of treatment or “gaps” in the course of treatment. They will point to theses as evidence that you and your child were not really injured. In addition, if the medical records show that the doctors treatment advice was not followed, the insurance company will claim that the injuries did not resolve, or did not resolve more quickly because of the failure to follow the doctor’s advice, and that they are therefore not responsible for the full extent of the injuries. Therefore, after an accident, seek immediate medical attention for all of your and your child’s injuries. An injury that at first feels minor (such as minor back pain) can in fact be a symptom of a serious injury. Likewise, carefully follow your doctor’s and your child’s doctor’s treatment advice.

4. Watch out for the infamous “IME”. Although this stands for “Independent Medical Examination” you should never allow such an examination to take place by insurance companies without first consulting with your attorney. This medical exam is anything but “independent”; it is simply a method by which the defense can begin to obtain evidence that could potentially hurt or defeat your child’s case. The doctor that conducts the IME is hired by the insurance company. Frequently, these doctors begin the examination by asking questions about the facts of the accident, and sometimes inaccurately record these facts. The “inconsistencies” thereby created are frequently thereafter the focus of the insurance company’s defense to the claim. Therefore, do not agree to submit yourself or your child to an IME before consulting with an attorney.

5. Do not attempt to settle your child’s claim yourself; consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Attempting to settle your or your child’s personal injury claim on your own makes as much sense as performing surgery on yourself. The cost of a mistake may be irreparable, and devastating.

Frequently, insurance adjusters are trained to be extra “friendly” and “helpful” at the beginning stages of your claim, shortly following the accident. They may even try to convince you not to hire an attorney. This is strictly to their advantage; their attorneys begin working on the case immediately if the accident is serious, and they want to insure that you remain at a disadvantage as long as possible during this process. Usually, they will continue to be “friendly” until they believe they have gathered enough evidence and no longer need your cooperation. Typically, after that stage they will either offer to settle your and your child’s claim for a small fraction of the claims’ value, or they will begin ignoring your calls. At that point you would probably resort to retaining an attorney, but by that time, you may have already seriously compromised not only your own claim, but also that of your child.

It is important to understand that your child’s legal claim arising from this accident will be the only opportunity he or she has in his or her lifetime to receive compensation for his or her injuries no matter how serious those injuries are; once the claim is settled, it is settled for all time!
Do not risk denying your child full compensation for his or her injuries; consult with an attorney before compromising your child’s claim.