November 15, 2019

Legal News You Can Use: How do you Know When to Return to Work after a Burn Injury?

Photo by Cullan Smith on Unsplash.

Burn injuries are serious. They can lead to infections, deformities and other chronic issues with your body. Severe burns range from the most painful to those that leave you without the nerve endings you need to recognize pain.

When you’re at work and exposed to fire, hot items or chemicals that could cause burns, you must take steps to stay safe. Those steps could be anything from wearing appropriate personal protective gear to staying a distance away from hot objects.

After a burn injury, returning to work can be frightening. However, there are many resources that can help you return to work. One benefit offered by workers’ compensation, for example, is training for a new position or job so that you can return to work when you are able.

How do you know when you’re ready to return to work?

There are a few ways that you will start noticing that you are ready to return to work.

  • Your medical provider has stated that you are physically capable or safe to return to work
  • Your health care provider agrees that you are mentally or psychologically prepared to return to work
  • You feel you have the support and guidance to return to the job
  • You and your employer have discussed having you return to work and the role you would take on

Not everyone gets to a point where they can return to work, especially with serious burn injuries. However, if you feel you are ready, you may be able to train for a new position away from hot items or be able to return to your old position with new safety steps in place to prevent similar accidents in the future.

Editor’s Note: This is a Sponsored Post from Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law.

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Legal News You Can Use: What is a Nonadversarial Divorce?


Sponsored Post from Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law 

If you are in a situation where you and your spouse agree that a divorce is the right path, then you may want to pursue a nonadversarial divorce. The nonadversarial divorce process takes only 35 days at most and doesn’t require you to go before the judge. Typically, a divorce takes three or more months.

What makes you eligible for a nonadversarial divorce?

You may be eligible for a nonadversarial divorce if you have been married nine or fewer years, are not pregnant, have no children (adopted or biological), have no real property or interests, have no pending bankruptcy and have no property owned over $80,000 in value.

You will also have to show that there are no protective orders or actions for the dissolution of your marriage pending at the time you apply for the nonadversarial divorce. If so, you may need to wait for those to be dismissed.

You might ask yourself who would pursue this type of divorce, but there are many people with few marital assets and no children. Those are the primary factors that you’ll need to meet to get the divorce, along with being married less than a decade. If that sounds like your situation, then you may wish to reach out to your attorney to see if this divorce is right for you.

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Legal News You Can Use: Injured at Work? Should I Make a Worker’s Comp. Claim?

Looks safe enough, but injuries can happen anywhere in a work environment.

Sponsored Post from Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law 

Imagine that you’re working at your desk. There are no significant hazards around you. You reach up and pick up a heavy box above you, and you suddenly feel a snap along your shoulder. You’ve been working in the same position for many hours, and combined with the strain of the weight of the box, you’re now struggling with a painful injury.

Situations like yours aren’t uncommon. It’s actually relatively common for accidents to happen on the job with little that can be done to prevent them. Whether it’s because of repetitive motions, picking up something too heavy or other causes, injuries can happen in an instant.

When they do, you need to know what to do next. No matter what kind of injury you suffer, your employer should help you file a claim with the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. If your injury is extremely painful, a coworker can take you to the hospital, or your employer can call for an ambulance.

It’s important that you receive care right away so that you can prevent the injury from worsening.

What information should you keep from the hospital visit?

Keep every piece of paperwork you receive. You should also inform the medical provider that this is a work-related injury so that they can give you copies of the correct documents for your employer.

If you are hurt on the job in any way, workers’ compensation should be there to protect you and pay for your medical care. Don’t delay in telling someone if you get hurt so you can get care quickly.

The Suisman Shapiro website has more information on the compensation and benefits you may receive after a work injury.

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Legal News You Can Use: Are Connecticut Roads Prepared for Winter?

Snow’s so pretty but are the roads — and you and your vehicle — ready for the next winter storm? Photo by Korey Moore on Unsplash

SPONSORED POST by Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law.

Connecticut’s first winter storm of the season in mid-November caught many people off-guard, including the Department of Transportation. Snow blanketed many areas of the state just as people left work. Although the DOT salted the roads, it wasn’t enough.

Crashes and stuck cars closed three highways, causing major back-ups. A man from Florida died when he left his spun-out vehicle and another car hit him. Connecticut is no stranger to snow and winter driving, so what went wrong this time?

More snow than expected

First, the state received more snow than expected, but not by a huge amount. Fairfield County took the brunt of it, but many areas received over half a foot. This may have been enough to cause trouble. Drivers knew there would be snow, but didn’t expect quite so much of it. Connecticut drivers are used to driving in snow, and they may have thought they could handle it.

Bad timing

The storm’s timing did not help matters, either. Anytime bad weather coincides with the rush hour commute, you have a terrible combination. Commuters hurrying to make it home blocked the plows trying to clear the roads. Police had to escort them out of traffic.

Operations center failure

Unfortunately, the storm also caught Governor Malloy off-guard. He was speaking on prisoner reforms in California at the time of the storm and did not activate the emergency operations center. Nor did his chief of staff, Brian Durand, who sought advice from the Transportation Commissioner.

Are you prepared?

If you haven’t done your winter car check, now is the time to do it. You should check the following before hitting the snowy roads:

  • Battery. Many garages can test your battery. Carry jumper cables, even if you have a good battery. You may be able to save a neighbor in need.
  • Fluids. Top them off, especially windshield washer fluid and anti-freeze. Keep your gas tank at least half-full, as well.
  • Tires. Switch to winter tires if you have them. Otherwise, make sure your all-weather tires are in good condition.
  • Lights. It gets dark much earlier, and you want other drivers to see you.
  • Emergency kit. Make sure you fully stock your winter car kit with flashlights, water, snacks, a warm blanket, a first aid kit and kitty litter or sand.

Winter has only just begun. We will see more snow before the season is over. Stay safe and make sure you are prepared for the next winter storm. 

Visit the Law Firm of Suisman Shapiro  at this link for more information.

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Legal News You Can Use: Prepare for Autumn Driving Hazards

Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Sponsored Content by Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law. Driving around to see the beautiful fall foliage is a welcome activity for many people. If you are planning on heading out to do this, you must ensure that you are prepared for driving in this season.

You might not think of autumn as a season with specific hazards. Here are a few to remember as you head out the door:

  • The glaring sun can make it difficult to see, so choose polarized sunglasses as part of your driving gear
  • Leaves that have fallen are slippery, so don’t brake quickly on them
  • Deer and other wildlife might cross the roads, so remain watchful for them
  • Your eyes need time to adjust to the light outside, so plan for a couple of minutes for this before you pull out of the driveway
  • Fall rains can make driving conditions treacherous, so remember to avoid slamming on your breaks and steer into a skid if you hydroplane

Remember, even when you are driving safely, others might not be doing the same. There is a chance that you will be involved in a crash. If this happens, be sure to keep your wits about you.

  • Get medical care if there is any sign that you suffered an injury
  • Contact the police to get an accident report
  • Try to gather what evidence you can at the scene, including pictures and contact information
  • Be careful about what you say as you don’t want to admit fault, even if you didn’t mean to

All of this can protect your right to seek compensation if you should decide you need to pursue that path.

The Law Firm of Suisman Shapiro focuses on this area of the law. Visit their website at this link for more information.

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Legal News You Can Use: Spousal Support Could be Affected by Tax Law Changes

Sponsored Content by Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law.  From property division to spousal support, financial issues have been some of the most significant factors for Connecticut couples going through a divorce. Alimony payments are already a contested issue in many divorces, leading to lengthy negotiations and even court battles. Spousal support issues could become even more complex, however, following the adoption of changes to the U.S. tax code in Dec. 2017.

While each state has an individualized approach to spousal support, there has also been a uniform federal tax approach to the finalized payments. In federal tax law, the payer of alimony has been able to deduct those payments from their income taxes. Meanwhile, the recipient of spousal support reports the income and pays taxes on it alongside their other income. However, as of Jan. 1, 2019, this situation will flip as alimony payers will no longer be eligible for a tax deduction. On the other hand, support recipients will no longer need to pay taxes on the income received.

This is expected to have a variety of impacts on the alimony payments that emerge from negotiations and court orders. The overall payments may be lower as the tax burden will now make those support bills much more expensive for the payer. For the recipient, the funds will no longer be eligible for investment in an Individual Retirement Account restricted to taxed income.

The changes are sending some couples to a family law attorney to seek advice about the impact of the changes and to act quickly to finalize a divorce in 2018 prior to the new law’s effective date. A divorce lawyer may be able to provide representation for a spouse seeking a divorce on a wide range of contentious matters, including child custody, spousal support and property division, to achieve a just settlement that protects a divorcing spouse’s assets.

The Law Firm of Suisman Shapiro focuses on this area of the law. Visit their website at this link for more information.

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Legal News You Can use: It Takes Two – Except When You’re in a Single Car Accident

Sponsored post:  One misconception people have about motor vehicle accidents is that “It takes two” – two or more vehicles to justify a claim.

Some drivers are embarrassed to say they were injured while sitting alone in their cars – as if it makes them appear foolish.

In truth, there are several major categories of single-car accidents – many of which involve negligence by a third party, even there’s no third party visible.

Here’s how it happens

  • A truck drops material on the road and drives on. You hit the lumber, or gravel, or boxes of merchandise and lose control. It’s a single vehicle accident because the truck is long gone.
  • A farm neglected to maintain its fences and several dairy cows wander onto the freeway.
  • The highway department failed to patch a pothole, or failed to erect a sign warning drivers about it.
  • Your mechanic, rotating your tires, replaced all the lug nuts but left two loose.
  • The “phantom collision”: another driver forces you off the road and into a utility pole without realizing it, and speeds away.
  • A county snow plow deposits a load of snow onto the highway, instead of carting it away.

Not every single-vehicle injury leads to a claim. If you fall asleep at the wheel and drive into a tree, that’s probably on you.

What sets these accidents apart is that you don’t file a claim against the other party’s insurance carrier. Instead, you present claims to your own insurer.

Much depends on whether your insurance policy contains a clause protecting you against actions by uninsured motorists, hit-and-runs, weather-related accidents and other situations. Most insurance policies do contain these low-cost protections.

You may learn, to your chagrin, that your auto insurance company does not rush to pay your medical expenses after a single-car accident injury. If they can deny, delay or diminish your claim, they will do so.

That’s when it’s advisable to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side and ready to go to bat for you.

The Law Firm of Suisman Shapiro focuses on this area of the law. Visit their website at this link for more information.

 

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Legal News You Can Use: Divorce and Splitting Retirement Accounts

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Suisman Shapiro Sponsored Post — When Connecticut couples divorce, one piece of property they may need to divide is a retirement account. This might be what is known as a qualified plan, including a 401(k), or it might be an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or another non-qualified plan. There are different regulations for dividing these types of accounts.

With a qualified plan, if a person withdraws a portion of the money and gives it to a spouse, that money will be taxed and may be considered an early withdrawal. This can lead to a significant reduction in the final amount. However, if the couple gets a document known as a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), the tax and early withdrawal penalty will be waived.

A couple can have a QDRO for an IRA, though it is not necessary to avoid tax. Furthermore, there will still be a penalty for early withdrawal for people under a certain age. Other specific regulations may differ across company plans or pensions, and a couple may want to look into these regulations. It is important not to assume that the process will be straightforward nor that it will not incur penalties or fees. Furthermore, the QDRO must be prepared accurately as it can be a costly document that becomes even more expensive if there are errors.

One option for couples who do not want to go through the trouble or expense of splitting a retirement account is for one person to keep the retirement account and the other person to take another valuable asset. This might be the home or an investment account. However, it is important that the values of these assets be assessed accurately. This means taking both taxes and penalties into account as well as the liquidity of the asset. For example, a bank account could be more liquid than a retirement account while maintenance and insurance are among the costs of a home that should be considered.

The Law Firm of Suisman Shapiro focuses on this area of the law. If you are seeking experienced legal guidance for a divorce in Connecticut, contact Attorney Robert Tukey to arrange an initial consultation with an experienced eastern Connecticut divorce lawyer.

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Legal News You Can Use: Smartphones May be Causing More Car Accidents


Suisman Shapiro Sponsored Post — Traffic safety advocates believe that smartphones are causing more deadly car accidents in Connecticut and across the U.S., but new federal statistics show that distracted driving deaths actually declined in 2016. What is going on?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, only 448 people were killed in smartphone-related car crashes in 2015. That number dipped even further last year. However, traffic fatalities significantly rose the past two years, and a closer look at the data shows that half of all traffic deaths in 2015 involved cars that were driving straight ahead, rather than veering off the road due to weather or a blowout.

Safety experts believe that indicates that some drivers may have been distracted by their phones and simply plowed into something directly in front of them. This hunch correlates with numbers showing that pedestrian, bicyclist and motorcyclist deaths have risen sharply in recent years. For example, pedestrian fatalities rose 21.9 percent between 2014 and 2016. Over the same period, bicyclist and motorcyclist deaths jumped 15.2 and 15.1 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, studies show that smartphone use by drivers has continued to increase.

So why aren’t more traffic fatalities being classified as being smartphone-related? Experts say that some police investigators are overly focused on other accident causes, such as drunk-driving or speeding. Another problem is that it can be difficult to prove that a smartphone was responsible for a crash.

Car crashes caused by distracted drivers are a major problem in Connecticut. Individuals who are injured by a distracted driver have the right to pursue compensation in court. With the help of an attorney, it may be possible to obtain a settlement that covers medical expenses and other losses that have been sustained.

Source: Bloomberg, “Smartphones Are Killing Americans, But Nobody’s Counting“, Kyle Stock, Oct. 17, 2017

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Legal News You Can Use: Why Many Car Accidents Happen Close to Home

Part of the reason many accidents occur near home is because driving in familiar places can cause drivers to rely on memory instead of what is happening around them. This auto-pilot phenomenon can prevent people from remaining vigilant while driving, potentially causing them to miss important visual cues. It is imperative that drivers combat this phenomenon by staying awake and alert as unpredictable elements, such as other drivers, crossing animals or mechanical failure, can always cause an accident. However, because others are also likely driving on auto-pilot, motorists should also ensure that they always buckle their seat belt no matter how far they are driving.

Further, fatal car accidents are more likely to occur at certain times of times of the day, particularly when workers are heading home or when residents are out running errands. For example, 16 percent of fatal accidents that occurred in 2013 took place between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.. Further, 31 percent of car accidents in 2013 occurred between 6 p.m. and midnight.

Car accidents that occur on interstates, local highways or even rural roads can result in serious injuries or even death. If the accident occurred due to another driver’s negligence or risky driving habits, those who suffered injuries could seek compensation for the damages they sustained in the incident, including recovering the cost of their medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering. However, some insurance companies may attempt to settle the claim for less than what the injured individuals need. In such an event, filing a lawsuit against the at-fault motorist with an attorney’s help might be advisable.

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

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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

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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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