September 23, 2017

Legal News You Can Use: Proving Negligence in a Car Accident Case

Photo by Samuel Foster on Unsplash

SPONSORED POST: To recover compensation in a car accident case, a plaintiff must satisfy the required elements of a negligence claim: duty, breach, causation and damages. Specifically, the plaintiff must persuade the jury that the defendant breached his or her duty of care, resulting in injury, by a preponderance of the evidence standard.

Element Two: Breach of Duty

As we discussed in a recent post, every licensed driver has a duty of care to operate his or her vehicle in a responsible manner. That duty includes abiding by traffic laws and paying attention to traffic and road conditions. Thus, the most contested element of a car accident case is usually not whether a duty existed, but whether the defendant driver’s actions breached that duty.

Types of Evidence in a Car Accident Claim

A plaintiff may use both direct and circumstantial evidence in a car accident case. Thanks to technology, there may be direct evidence of a defendant driver’s actions. For example, street cameras may have recorded the driver running a stop sign or red light. If a crash victim suspects that the other driver was texting behind the wheel, a subpoena to the driver’s cell phone carrier may confirm that suspicion. Many newer motor vehicles also contain an Event Data Recorder (EDR), or “black box,” which may have recorded speed and braking patters immediately before the collision.

Creating a Trial Narrative With Expert Testimony

Suisman Shapiro also has established relationships with accident reconstruction specialists. These professionals may offer testimony that interprets circumstantial evidence, such as skid marks, vehicle resting positions, EDR data, and the driver’s memories immediately before the crash. However, none of this evidence may be apparent without the skilled investigative efforts of a personal injury attorney.

The Law Firm of Suisman Shapiro focuses on this area of the law.

Source: Washington Post, “Study on drug-impaired driving gets pushback — from other safety advocates,” Fredrick Kunkle, May 1, 2017

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Legal News You Can Use: How do you Hold an Impaired Driver Accountable After an Accident?

SPONSORED POST: In fatal motor vehicle accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration collects blood alcohol content levels for analysis in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.  This reporting requirement applies to all states.

However, authorities do not have as standardized an approach to non-fatal crashes. After responding to the scene of an accident, police authorities may request testing of a driver who exhibits signs of intoxication. Yet is this enough? There are many influences that may render a driver unfit to get behind the wheel, including prescription drugs, opioid medications, or marijuana use, which may not be as noticeable as the effects of alcohol.

Significantly, an analysis of federal crash data from 2015 indicates that more drivers in fatal motor vehicle accidents had been under the influence of drugs, legal or illegal, than alcohol. Specifically, the data indicated that 43 percent of drivers had been drug impaired, compared to 37 percent who were driving under the influence of alcohol.

This begs the question of whether a crash victim will be able to hold a negligent driver accountable under the law. In Connecticut, an individual may file a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent driver. By a preponderance of the evidence standard, the crash victim must prove that the named defendant(s) breached the duty of safe driving incumbent upon all licensed drivers.

In a personal injury case, a reasonableness standard is used to evaluate the actions of an allegedly negligent driver. Examples may include failing to obey traffic laws, driving inappropriately for traffic or road conditions, or getting behind the wheel when drugs or alcohol render you unfit to drive.

The Law Firm of Suisman Shapiro focuses on this area of the law.

Source: Washington Post, “Study on drug-impaired driving gets pushback — from other safety advocates,” Fredrick Kunkle, May 1, 2017

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Legal News You Can Use: Protect Your Most Precious Cargo

As the seasons change and we transition from winter to spring, many of us also experience a change in our daily lives and schedules.  The days get longer, and children begin outdoor activities. As these inevitable changes occur, the need for parents to transport their children sometimes becomes more frequent.  This being the case, it is imperative for parents to be aware of and to employ proper car safety practices while transporting their children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States during 2014, 602 children ages 12 and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle accidents,  making car accidents one of leading causes of death for children under 12-years-old.  CDC studies also revealed that in 2014, more than 121,350 children under 12 year of age suffered injuries while occupants in cars involved in accidents.

In order to lessen these disturbing statistics, the CDC recommends the following to parents while driving with their young children:

  • Use proper car seats, booster seats and seat belts in the back seat on every trip. Which option is appropriate will depend on the child’s age, weight and height;
  • Use a rear-facing car seat for children under 2 years of age;
  • Use forward-facing car seats for children ages 2 through 5;
  • Use booster seats from age 5 until the seat belt fits properly. Seat belts should fit so that the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt lays across the chest;
  • Never sit a child in front of an airbag. Children should ride in the back seat of the car, preferably in the back middle seat as that is the safest place in the car.
  • Use the proper restraint system on every trip, no matter how long;
  • Install and use car seats according to the owner’s manual or get help with installation from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician;
  • If purchasing or using a pre-owned car seat, be sure to research the make and model to check for any recalls and if necessary contact the manufacturer to obtain an owner’s manual for proper installation and maintenance instructions.
  • Set a good example for children and always wear a seatbelt.

Aside from the important safety concerns discussed above, parents can face further consequences for failing to employ proper car safety practices with children.  Connecticut law not only requires all drivers to wear seatbelts, it also requires them to ensure that any occupant of their vehicle under 16 years of age wears a seat belt.  Connecticut law also requires children less than 6 years of age and under 60 pounds to ride in a proper safety seat.  Infants less than 1 year of age and under 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing child seat at all times.  Drivers who fail to abide by these laws can face punishment including fines.

Apart from potential criminal liability, the failure to properly secure your child can affect their ability to recover civil damages for injuries they suffer as a result of a motor vehicle accident.  Such failures can be viewed as contributing causes of injuries and negate or decrease a civil settlement or verdict.

Injuries to children are some of the most difficult and emotional cases with which Suisman Shapiro deals.  We implore parents and guardians to educate themselves on and employ proper car safety practices for children.  Unfortunately, even when all proper safety steps are taken, accidents and injuries still occur.

If you or your child is injured in a car accident or due to the fault of another person, our law firm is here to help you.  Contact Suisman Shapiro today online or by telephone to arrange a free initial consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

SPONSORED POST

About the Author: Roger Scully is an associate attorney at Suisman Shapiro in New London, CT, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut. His practice focuses on civil and personal injury litigation and criminal defense. Attorney Scully has extensive jury trial experience. Prior to joining Suisman Shapiro, he served as Assistant District Attorney for the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office, representing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in a diverse range of criminal matters. To contact Roger Scully visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call 860-442-4416. Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT 06320.

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Legal News You Can Use: Workers’ Compensation: How it Works

hph-workers-compensation-insurance-compressed
Sponsored Post:
The day begins like almost any other. You arrive at the workplace, spend a few moments interacting with your co-workers and begin the daily task. Maybe it’s a job that you’ve done a thousand times, or perhaps the demands of that day result in your performing an assignment for the first time. And then “it” happens ~ you feel a twinge in your back or shoulder; there is an ache in your hands that doesn’t subside; or there is an exposure to a substance that is foreign to you. What do you do then?

The origin of Workers’ Compensation
 in Connecticut dates over a century, the original Act becoming part of the Law in 1913. As the result of a “Contract of Employment” (whether written or implicit) with the employer, he/she/the business will cover medical benefits and lost wages for an employee who suffers an injury out of and in the course and scope of their employment. There are, essentially, three different types of injuries covered in Workers’ Compensation. They are:

(1) Accidental injuries. These are injuries that can be located in time and space; e.g., the lifting of heavy equipment, which results in an Employee screaming in pain.

(2) Repetitive trauma injuries. These are claims that arise not from one injurious situation, but are cumulative over time. Examples would include repetitive computer work with one’s hands, or kneeling on steel every day for years.

(3) Occupational disease/exposure. These injuries are those where there is a clear link between the workplace and substances to which the individual is exposed; e.g., asbestos in a shipyard; a dental hygienist contracting Hepatitis.

When an employee has sustained, or has reason to believe they have sustained, an injury related to their employment, what are the next steps?

(1) Report the injury. In accidental injuries and repetitive trauma claims, there is a one year Statute of Limitations for reporting of the injury. In Occupational Disease claims, the general rule is that the injury needs to 
be reported within three years of when the employee knew, or should have known, of the connection between the occupational exposures and the medical condition alleged.

The better approach is to report the injury to your employer at the first opportunity, or when you have reason to believe there is a connection between work activities and your injury. Employers and insurance carriers become increasingly skeptical about the validity of an injury claim when there is a delay in reporting an injury.

(2) Obtain medical treatment. Any significant injury requires treatment from a medical provider. Even if you have to use your own insurance at an initial appointment, treatment and opinions on causal connection should be obtained. Insurance companies can sort out the issues at a later date. Again, employers and insurance carriers are more likely to be skeptical about an injury if there is a significant delay in obtaining medical treatment.

(3) File notice of the injury. In Connecticut, the Form 30-C is the vehicle to place employers and their carriers on notice that an individual has suffered an injury or illness related to their employment. The Form 30-C should be sent via Certified Mail and is the ultimate protection for an injured worker. Also, note that Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-290a protects the injured worker from retaliatory actions or discrimination by an employer for asserting their rights to Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Now that the claim has been properly filed, what benefits are obtainable for the injured worker? Clearly, medical treatment is paid for by the employer or insurance carrier with no deductible for the injured worker. Other “indemnity” benefits may also be appropriate, including:

(1) Temporary total disability benefits. If an injury results in lost time from work, a weekly (or bi-weekly) monetary payment, based upon earnings in the preceding 52 weeks, is payable to the injured worker until they are able to return to their job, or some other work within their restrictions.

(2) Permanent partial disability benefits.  
If an injury results in permanent impairment to a body part; e.g., following a surgery, the injured worker is entitled to obtain a “rating” for their loss of use from their Attending Physician. Additional benefits
 are payable pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-308b. In certain, specified situations, an injured worker may also be entitled to a disfigurement award, depending on the site of the injury.

(3) Wage loss benefits. If, as the result of
 a work-related injury, the injured worker is capable of work, but cannot perform the same job and there is a resulting loss of income, the injured worker is eligible for a period of wage loss. This, too, is controlled by the Connecticut General Statutes, and appears at Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-308a.

(4) Death benefits. Where an injury results in the death of the injured worker, benefits are payable to the surviving spouse and/or other dependents of the decedent.

Being pro-active in reporting an injury and obtaining medical care will be beneficial to any injured worker.

This article represents an overview of the Workers’ Compensation System. While the System was designed to be user-friendly, complexities often arise which may dictate hiring a Lawyer.

Attorney James P. Berryman

Attorney James P. Berryman

About the author: Jay Berryman is a Director at Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law in New London, CT, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut. He concentrates in Workers’ Compensation Law and Social Security Disability claims. Attorney Berryman was named by “Bench- mark Plaintiff” magazine as a Local Litigation Star, and his department at Suisman Shapiro was selected by the 2013-15 editions of U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” among all law firms in Connecticut for Workers’ Compensation – Claimants.

For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860) 442-4416. Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT 06320.

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Legal News You Can Use: What Parents of Teens and Tweens Should Know About Social Media

CautionSocialNetworkSponsored Post: Social media has forever changed our society. Nowhere is this shift more prevalent than in the arena of parenting. The exponential growth of the internet generally, and social media specifically, has created relatively uncharted territory for parents of teens and “tweens.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 22 percent of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times per day. More than half of adolescents log on to a social media site more than once a day, creating an environment where a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the internet or cell phone.

Consider this reliance on social media in conjunction with a U.S. National Institute of Mental Health study (The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction). This study indicates that an adolescent brain is constantly being “revived” and “upgraded” until their mid to late twenties. If our children do not use social media responsibly, it can be a recipe for disaster. Not only can they be victims of irresponsible social media behavior, they can also be perpetrators.

The explosion of social media applications has also created new ways for online sexual predators to find victims. Several social media sites claim to be able to verify age to ensure safety for our children, but the reality is that this verification cannot be done effectively. Predators posing as teenagers on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and in chat rooms permeate the internet and pose dangers to our children.

Some parents may try to forbid their children from even having an account on one of these sites, but it can be difficult to keep them away from social media. Should you decide to allow your children to access social media, you should implement some guidelines to protect your child. The website Protectkids.com suggests some “Rules N Tools” for social networking sites such as:

  • Teach your child to never give personal information over the internet
  • Pay attention to the photos your child posts online
  • Regularly ask your child about their online activities and friends
  • Instruct your child never to plan a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online
  • Act like a child; search blog sites children visit to see what information is posted
  • Establish rules on how your child can use the computer and how much time they can spend online

You should also set parental controls on all computing systems, instruct your child to use privacy settings on their accounts so they will limit who is able to see their social media profiles, and stay up to date on anti-virus and anti-spyware software which gives you the ability to view online activity. For an in-depth discussion of these topics, Protectkids.com has a wealth of helpful information to make your child’s use of the computer safer.

The dangers do not stop there.  There are a variety of crimes children can commit with their use of the internet, social media and cell phones. The previously referenced AAP article states rather ominously, “What goes online stays online.”

Your child may send a threatening text in anger, send or post a photo meant to embarrass another person, send sexually suggestive words or pictures, or use social media to bully someone. All of these behaviors can violate laws and lead to criminal charges. Even if a post is deleted, other people can easily capture the image or video and cause it to proliferate across multiple sites.

The most dangerous behavior is the transmission of sexually explicit images or videos. Should your child send such an image, it could be considered the transmission of child pornography. If they receive such an image, it could be considered possession of child pornography. Not only could this behavior result in criminal charges, it could result in a civil lawsuit demanding monetary damages as well.

Our office once represented an individual who was accused of making an offensive, threatening post on a social media site. Realizing their mistake, they removed the post. However, another individual had already taken a screenshot of the post and forwarded it to law enforcement. Imagine being the parent of this child and having the SWAT team show up at your door to arrest your child because of a post they made on social media. While this is an extreme example, it is a real one.

In closing, work with your child to discuss how they should behave online and set acceptable parameters for internet use. Stay vigilant by monitoring their access and utilizing appropriate filters and anti-spyware software. Talk with them so that a mistake made during their formative years will not be one which they will have to carry with them into adulthood.

About the author: Attorney Michael A. Blanchard is a Director at Suisman Shapiro whose practice concentrates in criminal and family law. Please contact him via email at mblanchard@sswbgg.com or via phone at (860) 442-4416 with questions regarding these laws.

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Legal News You Can Use: Divorce and Your Teenager

parents-arguing-350Sponsored Post: Divorce is painful for children, no matter how old they are. How kids deal with divorce greatly depends on their age and level of maturity. While younger children may cling to parents, teenagers often pull away and become uncharacteristically rebellious.

To make things even more complicated, social media has made the landscape much more dangerous. However, there are warning signs you can look out for, and the good news is that there are clear ways to make the separation and divorce process easier for teens.

How does divorce feel?

Always keep in mind that although your teenager may appear mature physically, he/she is still growing emotionally, and is not an adult on the inside. Teens have a lot going on, and divorce can pile on more drama than they are equipped to handle. They may feel angry and embarrassed. Or, they might feel responsible and blame themselves. Teens often feel torn between their loyalties to each parent. When children have been dealing with disharmony and parental fighting for a long period of time, divorce may even come as a relief. Remember, this is also the time that adolescents start thinking about their own future love life. Divorce may make them feel like they have less chance for success in love. This is all very scary and confusing for a teenager.

Struggling for independence

The teenage years are when adolescents begin to strive for more independence from family. Sometimes this desire accelerates with divorce. Kids may withdraw emotionally as a form of punishment. They may put their peers ahead of family time more than usual. This can make teenagers more susceptible to drug /alcohol abuse or sexual promiscuity. It’s very important to set limits and enforce rules, while also being flexible and understanding. Your teen may not want to visit the non-resident parent. Neither parent should take this personally, and teens should be given some say in visitation schedules while still maintaining routines. Letting your child bring a friend during visitation is sometimes a nice compromise.

Social media issues

These days, almost all teenagers have cell phones and multiple social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many other platforms. Make sure to enforce the same rules about cell phones and posting at both parents’ homes, and monitor social media activity. Clearly explain that everyone MUST keep personal family information and situations out of posts. Aside from obvious privacy concerns, when personal information is broadcast in a public forum, it can impact your divorce case.

Warning signs

Keep an eye out for the following behaviors in your teenager:

-Change in eating or sleeping habits

-Appearing withdrawn or depressed

-Mood swings or emotional outbursts

-Aggressive behavior; lack of cooperation

-Problems at school; drop in grades

-Losing interest in activities that were once very important to them

Encourage your child to talk about his/her feelings. Be available and make sure they can always reach you. Teens need to be able to talk to either parent whenever they want, even if it’s during the other parent’s scheduled parenting time. If you are uncertain about your child’s well-being, be sure to seek professional help.

Ways to make the process easier

– Don’t criticize the other parent in front of your kids

– Don’t use your teen as a confidant to talk about new relationships

– Don’t make your teenager change schools if at all possible

– Never try to be a friend rather than a parent, and DO NOT allow underage drinking or illegal activities to occur in your home.

– Do respect your teenager’s feelings, and keep his/her confidences

– Do make time for your teen, and schedule some activities individually with each child

– Do keep regular routines without being stubborn or unyielding

– Do try to attend meetings at school, doctors’ appointments, etc. with the other parent

– Do ask other adults about how your child is doing (teachers, friends’ parents, and coaches)

– Do get the support you need, from friends, family or a trained counselor. Having a healthy outlet will help you to be a better parent during this difficult time

It is achievable to have an amicable divorce, and to start a healthy new life for both you and your children.

Attorney Robert Tukey

Attorney Robert Tukey

About the author: Attorney Robert G. Tukey is a Director at Suisman Shapiro whose practice concentrates in family law. Contact him via email at rtukey@sswbgg.com or via phone at 860-442-4416 with questions about divorce and custody matters.

 

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Legal News You Can Use: What a Revocable Living Trust Can and Can’t Do For You

trustA revocable living trust (or RLT) is a widely used estate planning device, often promoted in magazine articles and at seminars.  There is no doubt that individuals and couples can achieve substantial benefits, both tax and non-tax, through the use of revocable living trusts.  It is important, however, that people considering making a revocable living trust part of their estate plans have a clear understanding of what the revocable living trust can and cannot accomplish.

Some of the benefits that can be realized through the use of revocable living trusts are:

  • Any assets titled in the name of the Trustee of the trust upon death do not need to pass through probate.
  • People who own real estate in multiple states may avoid having their estates conduct probate proceedings in each state by titling the real estate in the name of the Trustee during life.
  • A revocable living trust can provide a mechanism for managing assets in the event of lifetime incapacity. The Settlor (person who established the trust) of a revocable living trust will designate a person or financial institution to assume the duties of Trustee in the event the Settlor is unable to manage his or her finances.
  • If privacy after death is a concern, a revocable living trust may help alleviate that concern because a revocable trust does not become part of the Probate Court’s public file after the death of the person who created the trust.

As useful as a revocable living trust can be to accomplish your estate planning goals, there are some things that it cannot do for you:

  • Transferring assets to a revocable living trust will not protect those assets from your creditors during your life.  Further, most revocable living trusts have language directing the trustee to pay the Settlor’s just debts after death.
  • The RLT does not shield trust assets from the costs of long term care, such as nursing home care. Everything in a revocable living trust is considered available to pay for nursing home care.
  • A revocable living trust will not prevent assets from passing through probate unless the assets are transferred to the revocable living trust during the life of the Settlor. Assets that are not transferred to the trustee during life may pass through probate, unless those assets are payable to a named beneficiary or owned jointly in survivorship.
  • A revocable living trust will not reduce the size of your gross taxable estate. Everything in your revocable living trust will be part of your gross taxable estate when you die.  Estate tax savings may be realized as part of your estate plan due to provisions contained in the revocable trust instrument, though, such as gifts to a spouse or charities.
  • The revocable living trust will not reduce the statutory fee that your estate must pay to the Probate Court after the death of the Settlor. Connecticut statutes set forth the Probate Court’s fee schedule based on the size of the gross taxable estate, and the Probate Court does not have the power to deviate from the fee schedule.
  • Even if you transfer all of your assets to a revocable living trust, you will not be able to completely avoid contact with the Probate Court. Your trustee or executor will be required to file at least a Connecticut Estate Tax Return after your death.

Attorney Jeanette Dostie is a Director at Suisman Shapiro in New London, CT, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut. She has a wide experience in estate planning, ranging from simple wills to complex estate plans designed to maximize estate tax savings for clients. For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860) 442- 4416. Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT 06320.

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Legal News You Can Use: Is My Case a Personal Injury or Worker’s Compensation Claim?

WorkersCompAs an attorney who practices both Worker’s Compensation and Personal Injury Law, I find that many people are confused as to if and where these systems overlap. Although there are many similarities between these two areas of law, there are a number of significant differences that make the representation of clients in either scenario unique.

Personal injury claims fall under the broad area of law called torts, and arise out of what is known as the “common law.” The “common law” is derived from the English legal system and is essentially a set of laws and rules that have developed over hundreds of years of court and appellate decisions.

It is a body of law that is constantly changing as courts review prior decisions and either affirm, or modify the decisions that came before. Although there are certain statutes (written laws passed by the State and Federal Legislatures) that govern personal injury actions, by and large most personal injury actions are based on common law decisions.

Specific to personal injury actions, it is the law of the land that all individuals or entities (like businesses) owe a duty to all members of society to act in a way that is reasonable and does not intrude on anyone else’s safety. If a person or entity breaches that duty and someone gets injured, that someone (who is now a potential plaintiff) has a cause of actions against the breaching party (now a potential defendant). In these claims the plaintiff must prove that the defendant is at fault. If they win, they are entitled to recover money for both economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) and non-economic damages (including pain and suffering).

In Connecticut these claims can be brought in court if the parties cannot agree to a settlement.  There the claims can either be tried before a judge or a jury of six. In the alternative, if the parties agree, the claims can be privately mediated outside the court system. If the plaintiff prevails in his or her claim, most often the damages are awarded all in one shot. No matter what though, eventually every case comes to an end by way of settlement or trial and verdict and very rarely will a plaintiff receive any type of compensation until the case is over.

Although a form of lawsuit, Worker’s Compensation is the exclusive remedy for injuries that occur on the job. Claims are brought before the Worker’s Compensation Commissioner and an injured worker cannot sue their employer at common law.  Why? Because around the turn of 20th Century, with industrial production in America in full bloom, workers injured on the job had the right to sue their employers for injuries on the job. As the advent of the contingency fee allowed people who could never afford it before, access to the courts, and employers pressured the legal system to come up with theories to limit recovery, something had to give.

It was actually employers (who wanted to be able to cap their potential exposure in the event they were sued) who pushed for Worker’s Compensation laws. Under virtually every Worker’s Compensation scheme injured workers are entitled to both economic and non-economic damages. However, a big difference between Worker’s Comp and personal injury is that Comp is a “no-fault” system. An injured worker need not prove that his/her employer was at fault for his/her injuries. He/she need only prove that they were injured while in the scope and course of their employment. How it happened is relatively unimportant.

If the injured worker can establish that, then they are entitled to benefits. But unlike personal injury, what the injured worker is entitled to is entirely dictated by statute rather than the common law. In addition, because it is “no-fault,” whatever they are entitled to, they receive as soon as it becomes due. The trade-off is that there are built in caps on these statutory benefits.

For example, there is a maximum weekly compensation rate you can receive regardless of how much money you make, and irrespective of how badly you are hurt. Likewise, there are statutory rules governing exactly how much pain and suffering you can receive based on a scheme too complex to explain in this brief article. However, unlike a personal injury suit, a Worker’s Compensation case never has to come to an end. Although Comp cases are often permanently settled, neither side is obligated to do so and the claim could remain open until the death of the claimant.

Regardless of which system you are looking at, as someone who has practiced in both areas for almost 25 years, they represent a good faith attempt to make whole those individuals who unfortunately need to avail themselves of these laws. Although far from perfect, they are part of the fairest and most accessible legal system on the planet.

About the author: Attorney Robert B. Keville is a Director at Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut.  If you have questions about these topics or other injury matters, he can be reached via email at rkeville@sswbgg.com or by phone at (860) 442-4416.

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Legal News You Can Use: The Gift of Real Estate From Parent to Child

real-estate-giftShould I gift my house to the kids now, or leave it in my estate?  This can be a tricky question.  There are also many other factors to consider, including mortgages, capital gains tax, Medicaid regulations, and other risks. 

GIFT TAX

The current federal law gives each donor (maker of a gift) a $5.43 million lifetime exemption from the federal gift tax.  The Connecticut statutes provide for a $2 million lifetime exemption from the Connecticut gift tax.  Therefore, there is no gift tax due unless the donor has made more than $2 million in taxable gifts during his/her life.

Each donor receives a  $14,000.00 annual gift tax exclusion per donee (receiver of a gift) for gifts of a present interest, meaning that the recipient can use and enjoy the gift immediately.  For example, the exclusion for a gift from a parent to two children may total $28,000.  If both the donor and their spouse join in the gift, the exclusion would be $56,000.00.  That is, the value of the gift for gift tax purposes would be reduced by $56,000.00.

The $14,000.00 annual gift tax exclusion is not available for gifts of a future interest, such as a gift of real estate in which the donor reserves a life use.  So, if your total estate is below the $5.43 million federal estate tax exemption and the $2 million Connecticut estate tax exemption, there is really no practical difference in this case.

MORTGAGE

Most mortgage documents prohibit the borrower from transferring an interest in the real estate without the lender’s written consent.  To be assured of avoiding trouble with the lender, be sure to seek this consent before making a transfer.

CAPITAL GAINS

A donor may have purchased real estate many years ago at a price that is much lower than the property’s current value.  Because the gift recipient’s basis for capital gains tax purposes is the same as the donor’s basis, if and when the donee children sell the property, they could anticipate paying capital gains tax on a substantial gain.

By contrast, if the children were to inherit the property at the parent’s death, the children’s basis would be the fair market value of the property at the parent’s date of death. In that case, if the property were eventually sold, the gain upon which capital gains tax may be due would be much smaller than it would be if the property were received by gift and then eventually sold. 

MEDICAID

The current Medicaid regulations provide that if a person makes a gift of assets, and subsequently applies for Medicaid sooner than five years from the date of the gift, a period of ineligibility based on the value of the gift will apply.  For instance, if a parent gifted real estate to a child on September 1, 2014, and the parent or the parent’s spouse needed to apply for Medicaid to pay for the cost of long term nursing home care prior to September 1, 2019, the parent or their spouse would be ineligible for Medicaid.  Because of this five year look back rule, it is important to examine what other assets are available to pay for long term care.

OTHER RISKS

What if your child passes away before you do?  As much as we don’t like to think about these scenarios, this can be particularly problematic if the parent has not reserved a life use in the gifted property. In this case, the deceased child’s interest would pass under his/her own estate plan documents, possibly to a spouse or to the deceased child’s own children.

Other unexpected events such as bankruptcy, or an accident suffered by one of the donee children, or a divorce, could leave the gifted real estate vulnerable to claims of creditors or claims of the child’s spouse.

The long and short of this complicated discussion is that it is very important to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney before making the decision to gift property to your children.

Attorney Jeanette Dostie is a Director at Suisman Shapiro in New London, CT, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut.  She has a wide experience in estate planning, ranging from simple wills to complex estate plans designed to maximize estate tax savings for clients.  For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860) 442-4416.  Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT 06320.

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Legal News You Can Use: Technology can be Worrisome for Parents

internet_safetySponsored by Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law:

The issues facing parents today, as technology ushers in newer and faster means of communicating, are markedly different from those faced by our parents.  Through ever increasing methods of communication, our children have, at their fingertips, the ability to reach a multitude of people in an instant.  Take that instantaneous availability, and mix in the processing and maturity of the adolescent brain, and, in the blink of any eye, circumstances may be set in motion that can immediately change the course of your child’s life.

While the above may seem drastic, it is, nevertheless, true.  On the Internet, our children can access and disseminate child pornography, commit racial and bigotry crimes, and violate our state’s bullying laws, without even knowing it.   Through posts on Facebook, Twitter, Yik Yak, Flickr, Tumblr and MeetUp, just to name a few social media sites, words and images can be sent into the vast world of social media and the internet, where they can be reposted, retweeted, tagged and sent to all corners of the globe.  Once sent, they are there for all to see, including law enforcement.

This onslaught has led organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics to issue clinical reports on the impact of social media and sexting on our children (Fn1).  Further, it has led each state, Connecticut included, to pass laws making it a crime to engage in certain activity that affects the health and safety of our children.

While this article is not meant to be an in depth analysis of each and every statute which criminalizes certain conduct of our children through their use of social media, it bears mentioning some common issues which arise.  One widespread problem that occurs in the educational environment is bullying.

Connecticut has enacted a comprehensive statute, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education, to ensure that bullying does not impede our children’s learning environment.  Enactment of criminal laws, some of which are felonies punishable by more than one year in jail, has made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Another common problem occurs if your child sends a “visual depiction” of child pornography (nude or showing genitalia) of himself/herself or that of his/her partner, and either one of them is under 16-years-old, they have violated our state’s “possessing or transmitting child pornography” statutes (fn2).  If they use their Facebook account to meet someone under 16, for the purposes of engaging in a sexual act, they have violated our state’s “enticing a minor” statute.

The above is just a snapshot of the complex issues that occur when you mix the not-yet-fully formed mind of a child and the speed of the Internet and social media.  It is also the reason you should seek competent legal representation when confronted with these issues.  Consulting with the right attorney can potentially prevent mistakes such as those mentioned above from affecting your child’s future.

Editor’s Note: Attorney Michael A. Blanchard is a Director at Suisman Shapiro whose practice concentrates in criminal and family law.  Contact him via email at mblanchard@sswbgg.com or via phone at (860) 442-4416 with questions regarding these laws.

Fn1.  Clinical Report-the Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families; O’Keeffe, Gwenn Schurgin, Clarke-Pearson, Kathleen and COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA; published online March 28, 2011; Sexting and Sexual Behavior among Middle School Students; Rice, Eric PhD, et als; published online June 30, 2014.

Fn2.  Connecticut General Statutes sections 53a-181i through 53a-181l.

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Legal News You Can Use: Know Your Rights When Unexpected Injury Occurs

Car_accidentAn unexpected injury can be frightening and disorienting, whether from an automobile accident, slip-and-fall, or a “freak” accident.  It is helpful to know your rights, and consider in advance the important steps you should take in these situations.

#1. Seek Emergency Medical Care

This may seem obvious, but take a minute to be sure you’re alright!  If you are able to do so, check on any passengers in your vehicle, or on others who may have been injured in a motor vehicle accident.  Once you have taken precautions for your safety, move your vehicle out of the lane of travel, if possible.  Then, call 911.

If you refuse treatment at the scene, go directly to your doctor or the local emergency clinic to be checked out, even if you think your injuries are minor.  Often times it is well after the adrenaline wears off that we start to experience pain.

#2. Inform Authorities and Get Copies of Reports

Wait for the police to arrive on the scene, and, respectfully ask that the other driver do the same.   If you have been injured in an accident on the premises of a business, notify the manager or supervisor immediately, or, inform the homeowner if you have been injured on residential property.  Always remain calm during the course of any conversations with the police, authorities, business representatives, or other parties involved.  Remember to ask for copies of any accident reports that are generated.

#3. Exchange Insurance Information and Take Photos

Try to get the names and contact information for any witnesses to the accident. If you have been in a motor vehicle accident, you should exchange insurance information with the other driver.  If you were injured on residential or commercial premises, ask for contact information for the appropriate insurance company.  Take photos of any visible injuries and damage to your vehicle or property.

#4. Don’t Ignore Follow-up Medical Treatment, and Keep Good Records

Don’t skip follow-up appointments, and be sure to obey the recommendations of any medical professionals who are treating you. Not keeping your medical appointments or failing to follow your doctors’ advice may hinder the healing process, and can also have an impact on any compensation to which you may be entitled. Insurance companies often try to reduce compensation for failing to do these things, calling it “failure to mitigate damages”. Your medical records will provide documentation in the event that the insurance company asks for it.    Save copies of doctors’ notes, time off from work, and receipts from any expenses incurred.

#5. Seek Legal Counsel

It’s important to understand your rights after an accident. It usually takes time to assess the full nature of your claim, including your injuries, property damage, loss of wages, out-of-pocket expenses associated with the claim, etc.  Do NOT sign any documents, releases or checks from the insurance company without first consulting with an attorney.

Beware of insurance companies who are quick to offer you cash after you have been injured.  Often, accepting a cash payout from an insurance company shortly after the incident means signing a written promise that you will not bring a claim or a lawsuit against the insurance company or the party they insure.  If you discover additional injuries or property damage after you have made this promise, you may inadvertently waive future recovery to which you may be entitled.

#6. Claims

Many, but not all, motor vehicle collisions have a two-year statute of limitations.  This means that you have the right to bring a lawsuit claiming damages arising out of the collision up to two years after the date on which it happened.  On the other hand, in some situations, if you fail to notify certain parties within as little as 60 to 90 days that you intend to bring a claim, you may forfeit certain legal rights. The time limits prescribed by Connecticut law vary depending on the type of accident and if the responsible party is an individual, business, municipality, or other entity; where the accident occurred, and other factors.

It is wise to consult with a competent attorney who can advise you as to the statute of limitations that applies to your particular situation.  It’s important to understand your rights after an accident. Many people mistakenly assume that if they file a lawsuit, they will be required to go through the stress and anxiety of a court trial.  However, the majority of lawsuits that are filed settle before reaching the point of a trial.  Following the important steps above will help make the road to physical, emotional and financial recovery much smoother.

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Attorney John A. Collins III

Editor’s Note: Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law is the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut, serving the community for over 70 years with a wide range of legal services.  John A. Collins III is the Managing Partner of the firm and a Director/Shareholder who concentrates in the areas of Personal Injury Law and Civil Litigation. For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860)442-4416.

Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT  06320

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Legal News You Can Use: Man’s Best Friend (?) and the Law

Dog with LeashThe state of Connecticut is very strict about the keeping of dogs.  In addition to requiring all dogs to be licensed and leashed, Connecticut has what is known as strict liability as to injury that may be caused by man’s best friend.  Section 22-357 of the Statutes provides:

“If any dog does any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper … shall be liable for such damage except when such damage has been occasioned to the body or property of a person … who was committing a trespass or other tort or when the person was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog.”

So, the law specifies that the dog has the right to defend its owner’s property against a trespasser and no one has the right to abuse a dog.  This is called Strict Liability, because if a dog causes harm, the victim does not have to prove that the dog was of “known vicious propensities” as is required in some states.  Or as it is known in those states, “the dog is entitled to its first bite.”

Connecticut’s Strict Liability law only applies to the owner or keeper of the dog.  However, victims of dog bites are not limited to the owner or keeper of the dog.  If the victim can show another person, e.g., a landlord, was aware of a known vicious dog kept by his tenant, the landlord could be held personally responsible, similar to the other states described above.  This is called the common law.

Insurance

Homeowner’s insurance has traditionally provided coverage for injuries caused by the owner’s dog.  However, with the growing popularity of special breed dogs, e.g., Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Akitas, etc. more insurance companies are excluding such breeds from coverage or excluding all dogs completely.

Apartment dwellers can also obtain tenant’s insurance with the possibility of exclusions as in homeowner’s insurance.  Of course, where these are such exclusions, special endorsements to include dogs can be obtained, for an extra premium, of course.

Damages

The usual cases we see arise from dog bites which can be quite serious.  Risk of infection, even rabies is always a possibility – therefore any dog bite should be reported to the dog warden/animal control officer/police so the dog can be quarantined for the proper length of time.  Medical attention should be sought immediately, especially if the skin is broken.

Next the identity of the dog and its owner should be obtained – from its license and/or the Town Clerk.

Any witnesses should be identified and contact information be obtained.

Next, any injury should be photographed.  Frequently, we employ a professional photographer because scarring and disfigurement are difficult to portray accurately and realistically.

Cosmetic surgery may be required or recommended.  This may be problematic for children as surgery may have to wait until their teens.  Meanwhile, children must live with scars and disfigurement, which can be psychologically traumatizing.

There will be medical bills, which, if paid for by health care insurance, may have to be reimbursed.  Future medical costs also may have to be considered.

So although a dog may be man’s best friend, it’s usually your own dog, not the other guy’s dog.

Editor’s Notes: i) Attorney Matthew Shafner is a Director at Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law in New London, and a nationally recognized lawyer in the fields of personal injury, asbestos injury, maritime injury and workers compensation law. Contact him at mshafner@sswbgg.com or (860) 442-4416.
ii) Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law is the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut, serving the community for over 75 years with a wide range of legal services.  For more information, visit suismanshapiro.com or call 860-460-0875.  Suisman Shapiro is located a 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT  06320.

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Legal News You Can Use: What Do You Mean — I Don’t Have Enough Insurance?

Car Crash
In our personal injury practice we frequently deal with clients injured in automobile accidents. Frequently (and sadly), we often have to explain to severely injured people that their insurance may be inadequate to compensate them for their injuries. Thus, part of our initial client consultation is spent reviewing – and trying to simplify – Connecticut’s laws dealing with liability and uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage.

Our job is to zealously advocate for our clients . . . and to provide good counsel.  So, let’s cover some basics (different rules may apply for commercial and fleet policies):

1. What is “liability coverage”?
This coverage protects the negligent operator and/or owner of a vehicle for injuries caused by negligent operation of the vehicle up to the amount of the purchased coverage limit. This coverage is generally found in Part A of your policy.

2. What is uninsured motorist (UM) coverage?
Connecticut law (C.G.S. 38a-336) provides that that each automobile liability insurance policy shall provide uninsured motorist coverage with limits equal to the policy’s “liability” limits. Uninsured motorist coverage provides protection and compensation to the driver and/or passengers in a vehicle if they sustain injuries and the negligent tortfeasor (“the bad guy”) does not have insurance. This coverage is generally found in Part C of your policy.

3. What is underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage?
UIM coverage provides protection for the same occupants in the event that the tortfeasor does not have enough insurance. Connecticut law requires that the tortfeasor only needs $20,000 in liability coverage.

4. What’s the cost for UM/UIM coverage?
When the liability limits and UM/UIM limits are the same most companies charge a premium for UM/UIM coverage that’s significantly less than the liability premium. Check Part C of your policy declarations page and compare that premium to Part A; it’s often 60-75% less. It’s less because insurance company actuaries have determined that you are less likely to use UM coverage than liability coverage.

5. Should I purchase UM/UIM coverage which is lower than my liability coverage?
The short answer: No. Connecticut Law allows you to reduce your UM/UIM coverage. Don’t do it.  UM/UIM coverage is designed to protect the operator, passengers and family members (and in some circumstances, pedestrians) associated with your vehicle. The cost is much cheaper than the liability coverage premium.

6. Can I purchase higher UM/UIM coverage?
Yes you can . . . and should. Generally, as you purchase more insurance the premium cost becomes cheaper per $1,000 purchased.  Connecticut law allows you to purchase UM/UIM coverage which is double your liability limits. Thus, if you have a $100,000 liability policy, you may elect to purchase $200,000 in UM/UIM coverage. If you can afford it, you should do so for your own protection.

7. What’s the difference between straight UIM coverage and conversion UIM coverage?
Under Connecticut law your insurance carrier is allowed to reduce from your UIM recovery any amount paid to you by the tortfeasor. Here’s how it works:  let’s assume that you have an injury for which $100,000 is fair compensation. Further assume that the tortfeasor has a $25,000 liability policy and that you have a $50,000 straight UIM policy.  You would think that you could collect $25,000 from the tortfeasor and $50,000 from your UIM carrier. Wrong!  If you have a straight UIM policy your carrier can deduct the $25,000 from your $50,000 policy, leaving you with $25,000 from the tortfeasor and $25,000 from your carrier. . . to compensate you for your $100,000 injury. Conversion coverage eliminates the ability of your carrier to claim a credit for money you receive from the tortfeasor. Thus, you could collect $25,000 from “the bad guy” and the full $50,000 from your policy.  Better yet, if you had double UIM conversion coverage ($50,000 x2 = $100,000), you could receive $25,000 from the tortfeasor and up to $100,000 from your carrier, thus fully compensating you for your loss.

There are many local insurance agents who can arrange coverage for you. The intent of this article is to simply better educate you on the need for, and issues surrounding, uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist law, so that you can make a better informed decision to protect you and your passengers in the event that the need to use such coverage should arise.

Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law is the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut, serving the community for over 70 years with a wide range of legal services.  John A. Collins III is the Managing Partner of the firm and a Director/Shareholder who concentrates in the areas of Personal Injury Law and Civil Litigation. For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860)442-4416.

Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT  06320

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Legal News You Can Use: Is Your Teen Gearing Up For A Driver’s License?

Teen_with_drivers_licenseYoung people ages 15-24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population. However, they account for 30 percent ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28 percent ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.1

The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.2

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the leading causes of teenage crashes are as follows:

  • Driver inexperience
  • Driving with teen passengers
  • Nighttime driving
  • Not using seat belts
  • Distracted driving
  • Drowsy driving
  • Reckless driving
  • Impaired driving

Confronted with these staggering statistics, it is only right that we take steps to address this with our children.

While the prospect of getting a driver’s license is an exciting step for teenagers, parents have to be mindful of the risks associated with young drivers in their formative years.  Unfortunately, the worry over executing the parallel park during the road test should be the least of parents’ concerns.  It is ever so important for parents to instill in their teenagers the responsibility that comes along with driving an automobile.  This is especially true considering the wide range of distractions present now as compared to the recent past.  For instance, we all recognize the growth of multi-media applications regularly accessed and used by teens on their cell phones, IPods or tablets.

Parents must be resolute in setting forth ground rules with their young drivers.  Driving is, after all, a privilege – one that perhaps we take for granted, but that endows us with civic and personal responsibility.  Do our young people truly internalize these concepts? Do they understand the power inherent with operating a motor vehicle? Do they consider the consequences of aggressive driving? We were all there once.  Our focus at sixteen or seventeen was the freedom and fun associated with getting a driver’s license.  I would submit that young folks today have similar interests.

You should not be timid or embarrassed to lay down strict rules with your teenage drivers.  Our children are the center of our lives and we’ll do anything to protect them and ensure their safety.  It’s not important to be the cool parent.  Perhaps consider one or more of the following suggestions for ground rules:

  1. Your teenager does not have to get his/her license at the very moment he/she is eligible. If he/she is not working or not participating in an activity that would require transportation not otherwise available, perhaps consider waiting.  This would be especially true for parents who feel that their child is not ready for the responsibility that comes along with driving.
  1. While it may seem obvious, reinforce the seriousness of driving under the influence. The topic should not be taboo, but rather one that parents should broach with their children.
  1. You should determine the friends that you trust to drive your teenager. Whether it’s to after-school practice, the movies or a part-time job, make sure you are comfortable with the friend or teammate who is driving your child.  Once again, do not be afraid to prohibit your child from travelling with another teenager who you don’t fully trust.
  1. Take the opportunity to establish a vested interest in the eyes of your teenager. If your child has a job, perhaps mandate that he/she contribute to the car payment, insurance or repairs.  The obvious benefit is that the teenager will appreciate the privilege of driving.
  1. Practice good driving habits as parents. For the first 16-18 years of his/her life, your child has been observing you driving.  We can be an example for our children by practicing good driving habits.

Driving can be an amazing and fulfilling adventure for a teenager.  In many cases it ushers in rich experiences, both for social and vocational advancement.  It must, however, be approached with care and responsibility and the parents’ role is vital. If we try our best to send this strong message of responsibility and safety, it will go a long way toward ensuring that the driving experience of our young people is fruitful.  Being the caring and loving parent is more important than being the cool parent.

Editor’s Note: Attorney Bryan Fiengo is a Director at Suisman Shapiro whose practice concentrates in the areas of criminal law (including DUI defense), employment law and general litigation. To contact Bryan Fiengo, email him at bfiengo@sswbgg.com or call (860) 442-4416.

Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law is the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut, serving the community for over 75 years with a wide range of legal services.

1Finkelstein EA, Corso PS, Miller TR, Associates. Incidence and Economic Burden of Injuries in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press; 2006.

2Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Fatality facts: teenagers 2012. Arlington (VA): The Institute; 2012 [cited 2014 Sept 29].

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Legal News You Can Use: Choosing Quality Nursing Home Care

Choosing a nursing home for a loved one requires careful research.

Choosing a nursing home for a loved one requires careful research.

As our population ages so does the need for safe and healthy nursing home care.  Whether the purpose is to treat physical ailments, provide rehabilitation, or care for a patient dealing with dementia, nursing homes are here to stay – even with alternatives like assisted living and home care assistance.  So how do we choose the right nursing home for our loved ones?

Of course, the first consideration may be based on the availability of a bed or room.  Sometimes there is no vacancy.  That aside, what should we be looking at?  Forget the nice entry and lobby furnishings – these things tell us nothing about the quality of care.  We should be able to determine what the track record of care has been for the facility(s) we are considering.

The first step in a thorough investigation should start with the “Connecticut Department of Public Health’s Survey of Nursing Homes” which includes information on “official” staffing which has been reported to the state.  Note well any deficiencies. However, the latest report was published in 2011-2012, and staffing statistics often change over time.

A number of other online listings such as the Medicare.gov Nursing Home Compare site, show “deficiencies” for each facility reported by inspectors.  They also show ratings for health inspections, staffing and other quality measures that may be useful in assessing the level of care at each home.  Be especially aware of the same types of deficiencies that are found in subsequent years.  Some of the deficiencies we are particularly concerned with in a legal sense deal with medication errors, malnutrition, falls, abuse, and bed pressure sores (decubitus ulcers).  Tragically, in our law practice we have seen cases of bedsores down to the bone due to neglect.

Of course, it’s most important to visit prospective facilities in person. Multiple visits to a particular home of interest, at different times and shifts, may reveal what really takes place.  Do not rely on advertising and marketing materials!

When interviewing a prospective nursing home, ask for a copy of their Admissions Agreement to take home and review. Especially look out for a mandatory binding arbitration provision.  This provision usually prevents a lawsuit when the facility has injured a patient through its own negligence or neglect.  Arbitration clauses are usually heavily biased in favor of the facility and should be avoided if possible.

Once your loved one is settled in to a nursing home, one of the most important things a family can do is to visit frequently and regularly. If there is any suspicious activity going on, keep a journal or diary, and take pictures.  Photos of happy occasions (e.g. birthdays, anniversaries, holidays) whenever the family gets together, as well as photos of problems, may be important later on to illustrate that the patient was originally doing well, and that the family cares and is not just looking to capitalize on a law suit.

The age of a patient does not give any facility the right to cut a person’s life short through neglect or abuse, or to make their remaining years full of unnecessary pain and suffering.  The last years of life may be the most precious, and it is important for your loved one to retain their dignity and respect.

Editor’s Note: Attorney Matthew Shafner is a Director at Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law in New London, and a nationally recognized lawyer in the fields of personal injury, asbestos injury, maritime injury and workers compensation law. Please contact him via email at mshafner@sswbgg.com or via phone at (860) 442-4416 with questions about laws regarding nursing home negligence.

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Legal News You Can Use: The Do’s and Don’ts of a “Good” Divorce

We are delighted to introduce a new column today, which will be a monthly feature written by attorneys at Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law in New London.  This month’s column discusses ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of a “Good” Divorce’ and is written by Attorney Robert G. Tukey.  He is a Director at Suisman Shapiro whose practice concentrates in family law.

The Do’s and Don’ts of a “Good” Divorce

Divorce_photoUnfortunately, more than 40 percent of marriages in the U.S. will end in divorce.  Divorce can be financially and emotionally devastating and especially stressful for children involved.
If you are faced with the prospect of divorce, it is in your family’s best interest to approach it from an amicable perspective.  As many divorced couples understand, it is possible to have a healthy breakup and start a new life.

Do be respectful and maintain a cordial relationship with your spouse. Try to keep the lines of communication open.  Be reasonable about expectations, and cooperate with your spouse to achieve the best results for your family.

Do put your kids first, and ensure they know they are not the cause of the divorce.  Make sure you and your spouse send a consistent and coordinated message to your children.

Do get professional counseling if needed, for yourself and your children.

Do document everything.  Understand your assets and liabilities.  Get appraisals, and make copies of important documents.

Don’t draw your children into your arguments, and never question them about your spouse’s activities.  Always be respectful of your spouse in front of the children, and remember the Golden Rule: if you do not have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.  Kids do better when they maintain close relationships with both parents.

Don’t violate custody or visitation agreements, including the Automatic Orders that attach to every divorce. These Automatic Orders include not taking the child(ren) out of state without written permission or consent from the other party, maintaining an open line of communication between the child(ren) and the non-custodial parent, maintaining  the child(ren) on any existing medical coverage, and completion of the Parenting Education Program for the benefit of the child(ren).

Don’t attempt to shield property or assets from your spouse.  All items of value must be disclosed.  Your credibility is your most important attribute, which cannot be restored should untruthfulness be exposed during the divorce process.

Do hire an experienced attorney.  Beware of online divorce websites, which promote do-it-yourself divorce as a cheap and easy alternative to working with an attorney.  While the Internet can be a good resource for information, you can also receive bad advice online.

There are many nuances in divorce and custody cases that make “cookie cutter” divorce kits inappropriate.  It’s very important to protect your interests by hiring a knowledgeable attorney, because there are numerous things that cannot be changed after final judgment.

Do explore your options regarding alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration. In addition to facing the emotional trauma of separating a family unit, the process of dividing years of accumulated assets can be complicated and overwhelming. Divorce through the Connecticut State Court can take months, or even years, of time-consuming and expensive Court appearances.

The process of mediation is an attempt to resolve disputes outside of Court with the help of a neutral third party who can achieve a common ground and a mutually agreeable resolution.  If the parties are unable to reach consensus, arbitration allows the parties to efficiently present their respective positions to an impartial, neutral third party decision-maker, similar to a trial judge, called an Arbitrator.

Through arbitration couples have much more control over scheduling and privacy. Both spouses and their attorneys agree on the Arbitrator, hearing time, and location. They also approve the rules and procedures ahead of time. The Arbitrator’s decision is binding, so appeals rarely become an issue in the future. The proceedings can be completely confidential and only the final decision will be approved and filed with the court.

Editor’s Note: Attorney Robert G. Tukey is a Director at Suisman Shapiro whose practice concentrates in family law. Contact him via email at rtukey@sswbgg.com or via phone at (860)442-4416 with questions regarding divorce and custody matters.

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