December 16, 2018

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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