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Questioned by the Police? - Don't Forget Your Rights

One of the special things about our country's criminal justice system is that if you are suspected or accused of committing a crime, you have certain fundamental rights. Unfortunately though, many people aren't aware of their rights, or, in the head of the moment, they forget about those rights.

For instance, citizens who find themselves being questioned and in police custody may not even be aware that they have a basic fundamental right to have an attorney present any time they are being questioned by any branch of law enforcement.

Truth is, having an attorney present if you are being quested is vitally important.

Why is that?

For one thing, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you from incriminating yourself, can make sure that you don't answer questions that are designed to trick you, and can keep officers from asking the same question over and over again. Bottom line - having a criminal defense attorney on your side can help make sure that you don't ma…

Your Rights When You're Pulled Over for a Supected DUI

Fact is, most people don't even know their rights if they're pulled over! Here's a quick list of the most important rights you need to know and how the conversation may go if you are pulled over:

"Do you know why I pulled you over?" It's typically the first thing you'll hear. It's also deliberately designed to get you to admit to certain behavior. Be polite and simply ask, "Why do you ask?" and then wait for a response. Do not comment. That phrase "anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law" is truer than you'll ever know, trust us.

"Have you had anything to drink tonight?" If you truthfully have had nothing to drink that night, say, "No." If you've had something to drink, you don't have to share that information! Telling the officer that you've been drinking will be evidence used against you. Instead, say, "I have no statement to make." While it may seem unnatura…

Important Safety Warning from the CPSC

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC) had issued an important alert urging consumers to immediately stop using the LayZ Board self-balancing scooters (known as hoverboards). The CPSC has evidence that the LayZ Board was the hoverboard involved in the tragic fire on March 10, 2017, in Harrisburg, PA, which took the lives of two young girls.

Numerous other fires have occurred in recent years as a result of the lithium-ion batteries in hoverboards, although this is the first fire that is believed to have directly led to fatalities.

The LayZ Board hoverboards were manufactured in Shenzhen, China, and more than 3,000 units were imported into the United States.

Due to the fire hazard posed to consumers of all ages by these hoverboards, the CPSC is urging the public to stop charging and stop using their LayZ Board. Consumers who choose to dispose of their hoverboards should take them to a local recycling center for safe handling of the lithium-ion battery.

The CPSC is also asking…

This Sign of Alzheimer's May Precede All Others

Familiar symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and dementia include memory loss; inability to follow or continue with a conversation; a decline in exercising good judgment; confusion as to what day, month, season, or year it is; and social withdrawal. But a recent study points to a warning sign that precedes all these symptoms, to the surprise of many.

According to research published in the journal of Alzheimer's disease, navigational issues may crop up before memory loss, and well before a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's is made. Participants in the study were asked to navigate a virtual maze on a computer, using various patterns and landmarks to find their way around. The study consisted of a control group of healthy subjects and a group who had preclinical alzheimer's - they had a few markers but weren't clinically diagnosed.
The preclinical Alzheimer's test subject had far greater difficulty assessing, mapping, and navigating their virtual environment than the …

Overbooked Flights and Knowing Your Rights

Overbooking is standard practice across the airline industry. Airlines want planes as full as allowable upon takeoff. They also know there will likely be no-shows, therefore they overbook. Unsurprisingly, overbooking sometimes leads to would-be passengers getting bumped from flights. It may also happen if a plane is too heavy, or to make room for an air marshal or relocate staff (reminiscent of the infamous United Airlines incident).

The Department of Transportation requires that airlines first ask for volunteers to switch flights. Airlines will generally offer incentives such as a travel voucher or a future flight or a gift card. If you feel the offer is worth the inconvenience, go for it. Once an offer is accepted, however, you can't come back later and ask for more.

If there are no volunteers, the airline will choose who gets the heave-ho according to their own "bumping" policies - but federal rules kick in at that point. Exceptions are frequently those with disabilit…

When Relocation Gets Complex

A job opportunity, education, military duty, marriage, and a change of scenery are among the reasons why people relocate. However, when children from a previous relationship are involved, it's not a simple matter. A move can have a significant impact on the child as well as the visitation rights of the noncustodial parent.

A custodial parent needs to be familiar with possible travel restrictions in their divorce or child-custody agreement, and with state law, before contemplating a relocation. Although laws differ form state to state, frequently, the custodial parent must notify the noncustodial parent of their intention to move. It is incumbent upon the noncustodial parent to file an objection with the court if they are not on board with the relocation. They may also seek a change in the custody agreement.

It's a very serious matter when a custodial parent does not abide by the agreements stipulated in the divorce/child-custody decree or state law concerning a move. They risk…

Full Custody, Joint Custody, and Sole Custody - What You Need to Know

We figured it might be helpful to produce a short article that summarizes the key differences among different types of custody.

Full custody: this means that one parent is granted the majority of custody time and legal rights for the child.

Joint custody: in this situation, the parents can split the physical custody of the child, and then have just one of the parents handle the legal custody (and, as a result, make any major decisions on behalf of the child). More common is to have parents share legal custody and then have one parent awarded physical custody. True joint custody arrangements, in which parents share both physical and legal custody equally, tend to be rare because of the logistical and personal issues involved (scheduling, added stress, disruption of the child's routine, costs, etc.)

Sole custody: this means that one parent is awarded full legal and physical custody. These arrangements are rare, and are typically only set up if one parent is deemed unfit or whose conduc…

I Filed for Bankruptcy... Why Am I Still Receiving Letters from Creditors?

People are often surprised to learn that even after they file for bankruptcy, they still may receive letters from creditors and bill collectors for a month or two afterwards.

In a perfect world, the letters would stop as soon as you file for bankruptcy. After all, when you file, you are immediately under the protection of the court and an automatic stay prevents any and all collection activities by creditors and bill collectors, including sending letters.

However, because many creditors and bill collecting companies are large, bureaucratic organizations, it can take a good amount of time - maybe even a couple of months - for a notification from the court to get to the right department  of a big creditor and get entered into the system properly so that letters are no longer generated. So, if it's just a month or two after filing and you still receive some letters, it's most likely nothing to be worried about.

There are times, though, when aggressive bill collectors will simply …

Is Your Credit Report Accurate?

In today's world, a lot rides on your credit report, and keeping that report up-to-date and accurate is extremely important.

But do you know what errors or possible corrections to look for or how to go about cleaning up your credit report?

First of all, go through the entire report and find any information that is out-of-date. This commonly occurs with unfavorable information that's over seven years old - such as lawsuits, judgments, criminal records, paid tax liens, late payments, or overdue child support. You should also look out for any bankruptcies listed that occurred over ten years prior and any credit inquiries over two years old. There's no sense in keeping that information on your credit report if you no longer have to.

Your next objective is to clean out any inaccurate information. This can include incorrect names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, social security numbers, or inaccurate employment information. Other inaccuracies may included bankruptcies tha…

Wills and Trusts: Both Important but Very Different

We often hear a lot of confusion regarding the terms "will" and "trust", with some folks even thinking that they are one and the same, which is definitely not the case. Though both are key elements of estate planning, they serve distinct roles.

A will only goes into effect after the will's creator  - also known as the testator - has passed away. The person then responsible for carrying out the desires of the testator and distributing assets to the beneficiaries is referred to as an executor. Executors are in charge of wills, not trusts.

So, whats a trust? A trust is a legal arrangement under which one person or institution, called a trustee, holds legal title to property that will eventually be distributed to beneficiaries. Unlike a will, a trust can be "active" the moment it is created. It may be used to distribute property to beneficiaries prior to the death of the trust's creator (settlor), upon the death of the settlor, or delayed well after t…

Reliability of DUI/DWI Tests

If you are arrested for suspicion of DUI/DWI, you are obligated to undergo a chemical test of your breath, blood, or urine at a police station or local hospital. If you refuse, you will incur stiff penalties, including suspension of your driver's license and a longer sentence if convicted.

Chemical tests are generally reliable but not infallible. For example, police station breathalyzers may be thrown off by alcohol-containing substances in the mouth, such as breath fresheners and mouthwashes. Low-carb diets produce acetone on the breath, which may be identified as alcohol. Even a burp before blowing into the machine may cause a false-high reading.

Urine test are the least reliable of the three chemical tests. It takes longer for alcohol to be metabolized by the body and appear in a person's urine, generally 60-90 minutes. Because of this, a person may be required to give two urine samples - first sample given; bladder voided; wait 20 minutes; give a second sample. This purge…

SSDI - The Listing of Impairments

Suffering from a severe disability or condition is bad enough, but when that disability or condition keeps you from working, a difficult situation can quickly become far worse. That's why Social Security disability benefits are so important; they can help provide financial relief when holding a job is just not possible.

In order to make the process of obtaining benefits smoother, the Social Security Admininistration (SSA) developed what's known as the Blue Book, which contains a listing of the most common impairments that are severe enough to keep people from working.

The listing of impairments covers a wide range of major body systems such as respiratory, neurological, cardiovascular, digestive, skin, and several others. Additionally, there is information under each body system about what types of disabliling conditions can occur within each and detailed requirements about the severity, symptoms, clinical findings, lab tests, etc., that are required for an applicant to qualif…

Divorce and Frozen Pensions

Over the past decade, economic circumstances have played a major role in pension plans being frozen at a large number of corporations. Many traditional defined-benefit plans provide a monthly annuity payment to employees at retirement.

A freeze on a pension plan means that the plan does not make any further additions to the employee's benefit. The traditional formula for determining benefits is based upon salary and years of service. The benefits grows larger with the numbers of years employed and with increases in salary. When a pension plan is frozen, the benefit ceases to grow and is locked in at the amount when the "freeze" occurs. A frozen pension plan will still pay benefits; it's just that there won't be as much to pay out since it was frozen.

many people earn their largest amounts of income just prior to retirement. Those who are closest to retirement will see the largest portions of expected additional benefits denied them due to the pension being frozen…

SSD Fraud Affects Everyone

Depending on who you talk to, Social Security Disability (SSD) fraud is either running rampant or it's a fairly infrequent occurrence - more likely, it's somewhere in between. The bottom line is that it happens. Fraudulent claims anywhere across the country can be detrimental to your legitimate claim in a number of ways:

Getting your claim approved becomes more difficult. The social security administration doesn't like it when it finds out that numerous people are poaching the system and making off with undeserved benefits. The SSA clamps down on approvals throughout the country, which doesn't bode well even for legitimate claims.

Benefits are denied to those who need them most. When people bilk the system, the federal government is less likely to provide the necessary funding to cover SSD benefits in all states.
It drags out case processing times. Processing times are already extraordinarily drawn out. When great chunks of time are spent on fraudulent claims, it means th…

"100 Deadliest Days"

The stretch between memorial Day and Labor Day has been called the "100 Deadliest Days" by AAA, as the number of fatal car crashes involving teen drivers spikes during this time. Over 5,000 deaths have been reported over the summer for the past five years, a rate that is 16 percent high than other times of the year.

Teens drive more over the summer than other times of the year since school is out. They frequently drive greater distances as well, traveling to summer jobs or heading to the beach or other vacation destinations. In addition, teen drivers are generally the least experienced drivers out there and are the age group that's most likely to drive while distracted. All these circumstances make for a violate combination.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that a whopping 60 percent of crashes involving teen drivers were due to distracted driving. The organization conducted a study from 2007- 2015 in which teen drivers' cars were equipped with a camera sy…

Filing for Bankruptcy May Be an Option for the Elderly

Staggering medical bills, rising prescription medication costs, and declining pension amounts, among other factors can lead to a mountain of debt for seniors. Instead drawing down available retirement assets, declaring bankruptcy might be a better option for some.

In basic terms, Chapter 7 bankruptcy enables you to discharge many of your debts. However, nonexempt assets may need to be sold to pay creditors. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to maintain all of your assets as you work out a new payment plan to pay creditors over a 3-5 year period.

IF you have a large amount of equity in your home, you'll need to know how much is protected during bankruptcy proceedings. Amounts vary from state to state. Some states protect the full value of a home; other protect only a small amount, which could lead to the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee selling the home in order to pay creditors.

Medical-bill debt can be wiped out under Chapter 7 proceedings. Keep in mind that bankruptcy only eliminate…

Probate - What It Is and Why You Should Avoid It When Possible

Probate is a legal process by which the court establishes the validity of a will; determines the value of the estate; resolves issues with payment of creditors, taxes, and other debts; and distributes assets to heirs. It also has some serious drawbacks.

For one thing, probate is a public process; financial privacy goes out the window. Probate can also drag out for months, sometimes over a year, due to court hearings and other court-related matters. Last but not least, probate can be expensive. Attorney and executor fees can drain up to 5 percent of an estate's value in some circumstances. Throw in appraiser's fees and court costs, among other expenses, and heirs take a significant hit in the final estate distribution.

There are a number of tools available to minimize (or eliminate) the toll probate takes on an estate. Properly designate beneficiaries or title assets so they transfer directly to beneficiaries (apart from a will) - e.g., life insurance policies, IRAs, annuities,…

Challenging a Drug-possession Charge

If a person is charged with possession of illegal drugs, their attorney may seek to challenge the prosecution on one or more grounds: refuting the stated facts, testimony, or evidence; zeroing in on procedural missteps; or pressuring the prosecution to provide all necessary evidence at trial.

A defendant has the right to due process of law, including search-and-seizure protocol that is carried out properly. For example, if drugs were spotted "in plain view" in their car, they can be used as evidence. If a trunk was pried open without the defendant's consent, that's another matter altogether.

A defendant can also claim they hadn't the foggiest idea that the drugs were in their residence or vehicle, and that the drugs must be someone else's. A skilled defense attorney can put the squeeze on the prosecution to prove "ownership".

An attorney will force prosecutors to produce, in court, the actual drugs involved in the case. This isn't always a lock,…

A Look at the Adoption Process

Adoption can be a long and emotional undertaking. Familiarity with adoption rules and procedures can benefit would-be adoptive parents.

For an adoption to be legal, the birth parents must consent to the adoption - unless they have been legally stripped of their parental rights (e.g., unfitness). Most states do not permit the parents to sign a consent form until the child is born. In some states, birth parents need to wait three or four days.

Even after a child has been placed in their adoptive home, in many states the birth parents still have a window of time during which they can change their mind- a period of angst for the adoptive parents. Understandably, some states require counseling for birth parents before they sign a consent form.

Prospective adoptive parents will undergo a "home study" to make sure they are fit to raise a child. A state agency or licensed social worker will investigate issues such as marital stability, lifestyle, financial situation, physical and me…

Avoiding a Misdiagnosis... Trying to Detect Breast Cancer

The numbers are scary; there's simply no other way to put it. Breast cancer continues to take a terrible toll on women's lives and their families.

In 2015, nearly 300,000 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed, of which over 230,000 were invasive breast cancer (cancer that spreads from the milk duck to surrounding breast tissue and then sometimes throughout the body). That same year, over 40,000 women died from breast cancer, making it the second most lethal cancer in women, behind only lung cancer.

As with any cancer, early detection is critical in prolonging survival. Unfortunately, diagnosing breast cancer in its earliest stages can be challenging, and there are often errors and disagreements over whether a suspicious area is benign or malignant.

While there aren't always clear signs and symptoms of breast cancer, self-examinations can often reveal potential trouble. In fact, it's estimated that nearly 70 percent of all breast cancers are found through self-exami…

Updating Your Will

One of the most common misconceptions people have about wills is that they're basically a "set it and forget it" type of deal. Meaning that once you've got the document in place, you really don't have to make changes to it. The reality is that wills should be updated throughout your life to account for important changes that happen to you and to make sure your assets are distributed in the manner in which you had intended.

Some life changes or circumstances that could warrant a change to your will can include:


If you find yourself no longer getting along with the executor or a beneficiary of your will.If there is the death of a beneficiary or the birth of a new family member. If the size of your estate has significantly increased or decreased.If you decided that you want to change the amounts you are leaving to beneficiaries.If you move to another state.  If changes aren't made to a will it won't necessarily invalidate the document, but at the very least, …

Good Credit, Medical Bills, and Filing for Bankruptcy

You have excellent credit, but you've racked up some substantial medical bills. Is filing for bankruptcy a viable option?

Your good credit will definitely take a hit if bankruptcy is filed. On the flip side, if unpaid medical bills prompt a flurry of late-payment notices, and eventually the medical provider hands you over to collections or wins a court judgment against you, that doesn't bode well for your credit rating either.

Filing for bankruptcy is a tool to help you regain your financial footing, but it should be a last resort. Explore other options first. For instance, make sure all your available insurance coverage has been utilized. In addition, if your bill (or a chunk of it) was for uninsured medical costs, your medical provider may offer a significant discount.

Depending on your income, you may qualify for the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program, which affords you free or reduced-cost hospital care for medically necessary services.

If filing for bankruptcy …

Auto Accident Victims and Lost Wages

If you've been injured in an auto accident due to the negligence of another driver, and our injuries prevent you from working or reduce your ability to work, you have a right to recover lost wages. Generally, to recover for lost wages, one of two things must occur: An injury must be the direct result of the accident, or a pre-existing injury was made worse by the accident.

To prove lost wages, produce the pay stub from your most recent paycheck prior to your injury. Tips and non-salary benefits should be included as well. If you are self-employed, you will need to submit proof of what you would have earned. Keeping detailed, organized records pays off in these circumstances.

If a motor vehicle accident results in a long-lasting or permanent injury-including chronic pain or fatigue - that will affect your ability to earn a paycheck, you may have grounds to recover for "lost earning capacity." In some situations, you can claim this even if you can work- for instance, if th…

Wrong-way Accidents: Infrequent but Lethal

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), over 350 highway deaths each year are the attributable to wrong-way incidents, with the vast majority of them due to head-on collisions at high speeds. One percent of conventional auto accidents involve fatalities; the figure skyrockets to 22 percent for wrong-way collisions.

a 2012 report issued by the NTSB stated that over half of wrong-way incidents involved alcohol-impaired drivers, with over 60 percent of them ahving blood-alcohol readings of .15 or higher- nearly double the legal limit in most states. Fifteen percent of wrong-way collisions are initiated by drivers age 70 or above. Confusion and impaired vision are aggravating factors in these accidents.

Many wrong-way accidents begin with a driver mistakenly entering a highway from an exit ramp; others originate with people who realize they have missed their exit, so they make a U-turn and head the wrong way back to the exit. Nearly 80 percent of wrong-way accidents …

Post Bail or Go to Jail

Bail is cash, a bond, or property that an arrested individual gives to the court to regain their freedom - at least until their trial - and to ensure that they show up for all scheduled court appearances. If they fail to do so, the court will keep the bail money and issue an arrest warrant.

The bail amount is set by a judge. Factors taken into consideration include the seriousness of the crime, the accused's prior criminal record, their financial resources, and their likelihood of being a flight risk. In some states, a suspect may request a lowered bail at a special bail hearing or at their arraignment (first court appearance).

If the accused has been charged with a particularly serious or violent crime, or the judge believes that they are a danger to the community, might flee to avoid trial, or will likely obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses or destroying evidence, bail may be denied.

If a suspect violates the court's conditions of release (e.g., obeying all laws, st…

Starting a Family Takes Some Thought

Starting a family can be exciting, stressful, joyful, and daunting - all rolled into one. As with most endeavors, a little foresight and planning can go a long way.

Prior to a newborn's arrival, know the facts about what and how much your health insurance will cover. Give some thought as to whether you want a doctor or midwife to provide prenatal care and deliver the baby. Choose a pediatrician before a baby's birth.

In the workplace, find out how much maternity leave can be taken and how much of it will be paid. Inquire as to your employer's policies on taking time off for doctor's appointments or to prepare for adoption. Consider the steps you must take to get health insurance coverage for your bundle-of-joy-to-be.

Research the safest baby products available and which ones to avoid. Is your home free of hazards? Do your homework on child safety seats. Know your legal rights to nurse in public. When returning to work after the birth, be informed on what your rights ar…

Juvenile Deliquency Proceedings

In most states, juvenile delinquency proceedings involve persons age 18 or under. A few states might go lower, at 16 or 17, and one state (Wyoming) sets the age at 19. All juvenile cases are civil matters, not criminal.

In juvenile delinquency cases, instead of being charged with a crime, the juvenile is accused of committing a delinquent act. A prosecutor or probation officer typically gets the ball rolling by filing a civil petition, which states the charge and requests that the court determines that the juvenile has been delinquent.

Juveniles have the right to attorney representation at an adjudicatory hearing (where the judge weighs the evidence in a case), but they do not have the right to a trial by jury. If a delinquency determination is made, the court has broad powers as a to what constitutes the best interests of the child and a suitable course of action.

Common delinquent acts include theft, drug abuse, simple assault, and disorderly conduct, among others. Roughly 3 perfect…

Common Vehicular Injuries

Auto accident injuries are wide-ranging, but some are more common than others. They can be influenced by seatbelt usage (or lack thereof), airbags, the direction the impact came from, the speed of impact, or the position of the occupant's body when the impact occurred (facing straight ahead or turned).

Soft tissue injuries - those involving ligaments, muscle, or tendons - are most common car accident injuries. Whiplash is a noticeable one. Muscles and ligaments of the neck and shoulders are unnaturally stretched to due to sudden, high-energy movements caused by impact. These forces are responsible for many back injuries as well, including serious ones involving the spine.
Scrapes and laceration can result through contact with something solid inside the car; loose, flying objects, such as a cell phone, eyeglasses, or a bag of groceries; or getting smacked in the face by an airbag.

A blow to the head can cause a concussion, as the brain is slammed against the interior of the skull. A …

Truck Rollover Accidents

Dangerous tractor-trailer rollover accidents -- which occur when a truck flips over while moving -- are frighteningly common on our nation's roadways. Because the wheels have left the ground, the vehicle is totally out of control. Other motorists on the roadway are in jeopardy, as objects that happen vehicles or posing obstacles on the road that may prompt evasive maneuvers... and more accidents. Not to mention, hazardous/toxic payloads can trigger widespread injury and property damage miles from the original accident site, and perhaps long after the incident has occurred.

The most common causes of tractor-trailer rollover accidents include:
Improperly loaded trailer. If a load's weight is not evenly distributed or properly secured, it may shift while traveling and result in a rollover.


Speeding: The higher the speeding, the more potential for rollovers. Rounding a curve or turn too quickly, a shifting load, or hitting an object on the road is all it takes.Wind: Tractor-trailer…

Valuation of a Decedent's Stocks and Bonds

The values of stocks and bonds change from one business day to the next. Actually, from second to second when the market is open for business. When someone who owns stocks and/or bonds passes away, one of the first tasks an executor or personal representative will undertake is to prepare a schedule of assets. Each security should be listed and identified, as well as the nature and type of ownership.

Stocks and bonds are valued based on the date of the decedent's death. The price will be calculated by taking the average of the highest and lowest quote during the day of trading. If the decedent died on the weekend or other time that the market was closed, the high and low quotes from the trading day immediately before and immediately after the date of death will be averaged. Sometimes the average is weighted.

Stock dividends may have been declared before the date of death, to be paid sometime in the future. Those values should be added to the schedule of assets.
Determining bond val…

When a DUI Arrest is Unlawful

If you are ever arrested for a DUI, the last thing you may be thinking about is whether the police officer who arrested you was unlawful in making the arrest. If the officer was unlawful, though, it may be enough to get your charges dismissed.

Unless you commit a traffic violation, such as speeding or running a red light, a police officer can only pull you over if he or she has reasonable cause to believe you are driving under the influence. Reasonable cause is a very broad term, but some of the things that police officers look for can include:


SwervingWeaving in between lanesEndangering other vehiclesFollowing other vehicles too closelyDriving well under the speed limitErratic braking By exhibiting any of these actions, you can give a police officer reasonable cause to assume you're driving under the influence.
If you are pulled over or are stopped at a sobriety checkpoint stop, remember that a police officer cannot search your vehicle without your consent. As a United States citi…

Avoiding Home Foreclosure

Teetering on the edge of foreclosure can be an unsettling experience, to say the least, but you have options to avoid it:

Loan modification: Most lending institutions are open to changing the terms of your loan to make it more manageable. Foreclosure doesn't benefit either party.

Repayment plan: If you are behind on mortgage payments, many lenders are willing to offer a repayment plan that enables you to make up missed payments gradually, not in one fell swoop.

Forbearance arrangement: If you financial difficulties are temporary in nature, a lender may agree to this process. The mortgage payer is granted a 3-6 month reprieve from payments. After this period, the payer resumes payments, plus some extra to make up for the skipped payments.

Refinancing: If the current mortgage rate is below what you're paying, your rate can be readjusted through financing to lower your payments.

Short sale: If you owe more money than what your home is currently worth, short selling may be an option. W…

Changing a Child Support Order - What You Need to Know

One of the realities of life is that it throws us curves sometimes. Usually we're able to adapt and move on, but in some cases that's easier said than done... especially if that curve involves a major change such as a job loss or an unexpected medical emergency for one of your children.

If you are falling behind on child support payments or having trouble caring for your child on your current support level because of a change in your life's circumstances, you may need to look into changing your current child support order.

This can be done in a couple of ways. The easiest way is to simply check with the other parent to see if she or he is amenable to changing the support terms. If so, you can typically ask a judge to approve the new terms.

If you and the other parent are unable to come to an agreement on modified support terms, you'll need to request a court hearing. At that hearing each of you will make your case for the amount you feel is fair. To get a modification …

Contesting a Will - When it Makes Sense

There are times when a person passes away and leaves behind a will that may surprise (or even shock) the survivors because of who is chosen to receive the assets.

If you've been left out of a will or feel the terms of a will are unfair, there are certain instances when it may be worth challenging the validity of the will in court, such as when:


Your loved one didn't seem mentally fit shortly before death but signed or made changes to his or her will during that time frameA lawyer didn't assist in drafting or executing the will (this can increase the chances that the will doesn't conform with state laws). The will wasn't signed by your loved one or the signature on the document does not appear to be that of your loved one.Undue influence led to changes in the will. This is sometimes seen when caregivers push for changes that benefit them. There are inconsistencies between beneficiary designations of the will and other aspects of your loved one's estate (life insur…

Skeletons in Your Closet?

It's a scenario we see all too often:

Let's say you're involved in a wreck that wasn't your fault, suffered some pretty serious injuries, and are filing a personal injury claim to receive compensation for those injuries.

Now, let's also say that you were in an accident years ago or have some old, pre-existing injuries or conditions that you feel hurt your claim, so you're thinking about withholding that information from your lawyer.

We've got some absolutely critical advice for you: DON'T DO IT!
The reason why is that you can be sure that the insurance company will be digging into your past to discover any old accidents or injuries, and trust us, their investigators will find out that information and they will use it against you to minimize or deny your claim altogether.

The good news is that if you share that information with your lawyer right from the start, he or she can be completely prepared to deal with those kinds of issues and can build the stro…

Do Everything You Can to Avoid A Rollover

Rollover accidents are among the worst for occupants of a vehicle. Although rollovers account for only 3 percent of all serious crashes, they are responsible for roughly 30 percent of fatalities.

Any vehicle can roll over, but taller, narrower vehicles (e.g., SUVs, pickups, and vans) are more susceptible since they have a higher center of gravity and tend to be more top heavy. In addition, rounding a curve or a sudden turn at the wrong speed- or overcorrecting for a sudden turn- renders these vehicles more vulnerable to weight shifts that, when combined with gravity, can lead to rollovers.

Steering maneuvers aren't the primary cause of single-vehicle rollovers, however. Bumping into a curb at significant speed, striking a pothole, or two wheels countering a soft roadside shoulder can cause a vehicle to "trip." The government estimates that 95 percent of rollovers are due to "trips".

Drivers have a say in minimizing rollover danger. Avoid placing heavy loads on …

When You've Soured on Your New Car

For some people, the excitement of driving a new vehicle quickly dissipates with the emergence of a significant malfunction, defect, or other problem that wasn't part of the deal. To meet the criteria of "lemon," a vehicle must have a substantial defect that presents itself within the warranty limits, or continue to have the defect after a reasonable number of attempts to fix it.

Generally speaking, when a defect occurs that is not caused by the owner after purchase- unlike, say, someone driving their car into a lake - and it impairs the use, value, or safety of the vehicle, then it's considered "substantial".

If your car meets the terms of substantial defect, the dealer and/or manufacturer get a "reasonable" number of cracks at repairing it. Up to four repair attempts is commonly considered reasonable, but serious safety defects may qualify after just one attempt. A car may also be deemed a lemon if it has exceeded "x" number of days in…

Shoulder Injuries and Car Accidents

Shoulder injuries often occur as a result of car accidents, partly due to the actual structure of the shoulder itself but also because of other important factors. Here's why:

A shoulder is an extremely complex part of the body, with a lot of moving parts working in concert. One key component of the shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint (shoulder socket) in which the ball at the end of the arm's humerus bone (upper arm) rests within a small depression of the scapula (shoulder blade); however, the ball is larger than the socket. This allows the joint to swivel in many directions, providing great range of motion. But this benefits comes at a price.

That price is instability of the shoulder joint. What stability the shoulder does have originates from the soft tissues-muscles, tendons, and ligaments- that wrap around it, not from bone, meaning the shoulder is more susceptible to injury.

Soft-tissue damage, fractures (i.E., collarbone, shoulder blade, humerus), nerve impairment, shoul…

Supervised Visitations

In post-divorce situations, there is sometimes tension between two premises: 1) It is generally best for ex-spouses' children to maintain ongoing relationships with both parents; 2) welfare of the children must not be compromised.

If the custodial parent believes that their children will be harmed in some ways with unsupervised visits with their ex-spouse, emotionally or physically, he/she may file a petition with the court requesting supervised visits. Solid reasons and evidence must accompany such a request. Generally, dislike and bitterness toward an ex-spouse are not going to cut it. A hearing will be scheduled during which both parties can state their case and defend themselves.

Reasons a court may order supervised visits include the noncustodial parent having problems with drug or alcohol abuse; a history of physical and/or emotional abuse; the noncustodial parent and child have been separated for a long time and or have never spent time together; or the noncustodial parent …

Legal Terms of the Month...Deposition and Pro Se

A deposition is the oral testimony of a party or witness in a civil or a criminal proceeding that is taken before trial and it takes place most often at an attorney's office. An attorney asks the questions and the deponent, the person being asked questions, responds to those questions. These questions and answers are recorded by a court reporter/ and or videographer and become testimony.

Deposition testimony is generally taken under oath so the court reporter and deponent sign affidavits that state the testimony is accurate. The testimony is then transcribed into a written transcript and used as a discovery tool by attorneys to prepare for trial

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To act "pro se" in a legal claim means that you are representing yourself without the help of an attorney. For those people who do file cases on their own behalf, it is important to understand that the court still expects pro se filer to follow all the rules and procedures that an attorney would follow.

If you …

A Case of Stolen Identity

Identity theft is a personal violation with potentially severe consequences for the victim. Immediate action can make a difficult situation more bearable:

Contact the "big 3" credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and the TransUnion. Get a copy of your credit report from each agency; review them thoroughly for accuracy and suspicious activity. Ask the agencies to a fraud alert and to attach it to your report.

Call the police. Fill out a crime report at your local police department. Document who you talk to, phone numbers, dates, and time. Obtain copies of the police report; creditors will likely want to review it.

Close out accounts that have been fraudulently accessed... or might soon be. Contact all creditors, banks, credit card companies, and other service providers with whom there has been fraudulent activity. Request that creditors report closed accounts as "closed at consumer's request."

Stop payment on checks. If you've had checks stolen, contact one of t…

Coconut Oil May Just Help You

Coconut oil, also known as copra oil, is an edible oil that derives from the kernel or meat of coconuts.  With a wide range of uses - largely due to its antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties - coconut oil has become very popular in recent years. In addition to being a super food, users swear by it for everything from health and wellness to utilizing it as a diverse beauty product.

Ironically, the rise in popularity of coconut oil may have been impeded by our own country's own health initiatives. Back in the 1970s, in an effort to address a growing epidemic of obesity and heart disease, Americans were advised to switch our diets from red meats, full-fat dairy and eggs with new, 'healthier ' diets containing low-fat foods. With its 90 percent fat content, coconut oil was not making its way into many Americans homes or lifestyles!

Because of its naturally occurring, non-hydrogenated fats, coconut oil has quickly been dubbed a "miracle oil" for its heal…

The Heroin Scourge

Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to alleviate pain. Some can be legally prescribed by medical doctors; others are illegal, such as heroin. Since the year 2000, the number of heroin users in the United States has nearly tripled, to over 1 million. Deaths attributed to heroin have increased five-fold.

All social and economic statuses are affected by this highly addictive and deadly drug, and it has springboarded from once-narrow belt across the Northeast to Midwest to infiltrate every area of the country. In its wake lies shattered families, child abuse and neglect, the heartbreak of infants born into addiction, and the spread of affiliated diseases (e.g., hepatitis and HIV).

In the late 1990s, many pharmaceutical companies promoted a wider use of opioids, such as OxyContin, claiming the risk of addiction was extremely low- which wasn't true. Doctors overprescribed opioids on a grand scale for well over a decade. Many patients became hooked.

In recent years, the U.S.…

Chronic Lyme Disease and Social Security Disability

The bite of a tiny deer tick is the source of Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that can make life miserable.

The effects of Lyme disease vary greatly from individual to individual and may progressively worsen the longer the condition goes untreated. Diagnosing Lyme disease is tricky since the disease's symptoms and the emergence of a "bull's-eye" rash; to memory loss, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and panic attacks; to severe symptoms affecting the neurological system, heart, eyes, joints, and bladder... among many others.

Lyme disease has the potential to be a major disruption in a person's life if left untreated, or if treatment is delayed. If Lyme disease interferes with your ability to work, you may be able to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD). Lyme disease dos not have a specific disability listing in SSD's "blue book" of impairments; someone with advanced Lyme disease is far less likely to obtain automatic approval. However, advan…

DUI cases - The police report is key

If you are arrested for DUI, you will likely want to see the police version of events. You may have to wait a bit, however, as the police report won't be available in most states until your arraignment. And upon review, you may not believe it's referring to you.

The police report is a crucial document that possesses the crux of the case against you- namely the account of the incident and all the evidence piled high or low- and can determine if fighting the charge is worthwhile.

It will typically contain a checklist for the field sobriety test which consists of three standard tests- a printout of the pas test (a handheld device used to measure blood-alcohol concentration), a print out of the breath machine result, a lab report showing the blood or urine test results- and a written version of events from the police officer(s) at the scene.

This written narrative is sometimes a bone of contention. Some police officers fail to treat each DUI as a separate event. They may "cut…

Why Was I Rejected for My Social Security Disability?

If you have applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, be forewarned that roughly 65 percent of applicants are denied initially. Here are some key reasons why:

The limit for monthly work income for a disabled person is currently $1,090 ($1,820 if you are blind). If you exceed this limit, you're not eligible. Your impairment must cause severe limitation to your ability to work and be expected to last at least 12 months or result in your death. The Social Security Administration (SSA) must be able to contact you regarding your application over the matters. Make sure you are accessible If you fail to release your medical records, or the SSA asks you to undergo a "consultative examination" conducted by an SSA doctor - e.g., you don't have a regular physician or your medical records may be incomplete - and you refuse, your application will be dismissed.Failing to carry out prescribed therapies ordered by your doctor can cost you, although there are a few legiti…

Serious Skin Conditions and SSDI

If you are suffering from a debilitating skin condition that is preventing you from working, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The SSA evaluates skin disorders that may result from hereditary, congenital, or acquired pathological processes. The kinds of impairments covered by these listings include:


Ichthyosis: genetic skin disorders that produce extremely dry, scaly, flaky, or thickened skin that may painfully crack, bleed, and deteriorate.Bullous diseases: autoimmune diseases that cause painfully large blisters or lesions to form on the skin.Chronic infections of the skin or mucous membranes.Severe dermatitis: any type of disorder that causes severe flaking, itching, swelling, or redness of the skin, including psoriasis, dyshidrosis, atopic dermatitis, exfoliative dermatitis,  and allergic contact dermatitis.Hidradenitis suppurativa: a chronic skin condition that features painful pea sized to marble-sized lumps under t…

Document Your Injuries after an Accident! It May Just Save Your Case!

If you have been involved in a car accident, your immediate focus should be on your physical health. Right away, you should begin the process of documenting your injury if you are considering filing a personal injury claim. Here are some tips:

First, visit a doctor as soon as you can. Delaying a doctor's visit after you've been in an accident can give the insurance company all of the ammunition it needs to deny or minimize your claim (the assumption is that you must not be that hurt if you could put off seeing a doctor).

You will want to communicate with your doctor openly and inform them of any pains, bruises, or bumps that have occurred as a result of your accident.

Discuss your daily activities with your doctor. If you experience pain and discomfort while completing your normal daily activities, let your doctor know and get documentation.

It is critically important to keep all follow up appointments after your initial visit. If your doctor recommends physical therapy to recove…

Play It Safe with a Post-Accident Medical Checkup

It's not just major, violent auto collisions that lead to injuries to drivers and passengers. Seemingly minor fender-benders can cause significant injury, too.

Injuries sustained from an auto crash might not be noticed initially - sometimes for hours, days, even weeks - for a variety of reasons. A car crash induces a rush of adrenaline and endorphins, chemicals that raise a person's energy level and frequently block pain. Once the "high" dissipates, pain may kick in.

Soft-tissue injuries cause harm to tendons, muscles, and ligaments and are precipitated by sudden, jarring stops, and when bodies get tossed around inside the car. Whiplash injuries are common. Soft-tissue injury symptoms- pain, swelling, and reduced mobility - might not present themselves immediately, and injuries are not visible on X-rays.

Concussions occur when the brain strikes the inside of the skull with great force. Some concussion symptoms are obvious from the outset. Others may be subtle and/or …

Injuries and School Liability

According to a North Carolina Department of Insurance study, over 3.5 million child injuries occur on school grounds or during school-related activities each year in the United States. Sometimes an accident is just that - an accident. Other times an injury may be caused by an intentional act, or the negligence of the school or one of its employees.

Bullying is an example of an intentional act. In some instances the school may be held responsible if it knew the bullying may tak place but did not respond appropriately to prevent it. Teacher abuse of a student may leave a school district vulnerable to liability for failing to conduct thorough background checks, offer proper training, or implement acceptable oversight.

Schools are obligated to provide shelter, food, transportation, and a safe environment for its students. Generally speaking, if a school fails to follow accepted standards of care in providing these services, and it causes harm to a child, then the school is negligent.

Negl…

Steer Clear of Payday Loans

A payday loan is a short-term loan that is due to be paid back by the borrower's next payday, generally two weeks. The interest rates (or fees) or payday loans can reach staggering levels - 400 percent or higher. Typically, a person will wind up paying $10 for every $100 borrowed.

Payday loans are made by some banks, loan stores, check cashers, and pawn shops. Payday-loan arrangements can also be made through various toll-free number and internet sites. The business through which a loan is arranged often requires your savings and checking account information, and that transactions be made by direct deposit- the money you lend and the money you automatically pay. Others accept postdated checks; if the check bounces, your fees continue to pile up.

The lure of a payday loan is that no questions are asked and no credit checks are required. When a personal loan at a bank is difficult to qualify for, a payday loan seems like a harmless option- until the borrower falls behind on payments…

Caution Urged with NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly utilized over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers that many people may want to take a second look at, depending on their circumstances. Mounting evidence suggest that these pharmaceuticals increase a person's risk of heart attack and stroke.

The Food and Drug Administration thinks the evidence is noteworthy, as they recently ordered drug manufacturers to toughen the warning labels on these medications. Aspirin was not included on the new warning labels, since it has been found to lower cardiovascular risks in some patients.

Taking an occasional  NSAID here and there should not be a problem for someone who has a hearlthy heart if they follow the correct dosages. However, chronic users or those who already have issues elevate their risk of heart attack or stroke anywhere from 10-50 percent, depending on the drug and the dosage being used.


Researchers believe that NSAIDs alter the lining of blood vessels, opening the …

Ulcerative Colitis and SSDI Benefits

Ulcerative colitis (UC), a chronic disease of the colon that affects as many as 700,000 Americans, can be a painful and debilitating condition- one that may make you eligible for SOcial Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits.

With US, a person's colon becomes inflamed and develops small sores, also known as ulcers, that produce pus or mucous. Essentially what happens is that the body's immune system malfunctions and attacks the colon by sending white blood cells there to fight off what it thinks are foreign invaders but are, in fact, just ordinary things like food, bacteria and other materials.

Symptoms of UC can include:


Loose bowel movements and greater urgency with bowel movementsBloody diarrheaAbdominal pain and crampingWeight lossAnemiaRectal BleedingAnal fistula ( an infected tunnel between the skin and the anus) In order to qualify for SSDI as a result of UC, you must meet all of the qualifications for inflammatory bowel disease. Diagnosing UC is relatively easy a…

Mental Illness and SSDI

Mental illness could well be called an epidemic in the United States; the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), estimates that around 60 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year (about one out of every four people in that age bracket).

Common mental conditions can include mood disorders such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Mental illness can sometimes be serious enough to keep you from working. If that's the case in your situation, documenting your condition is the key to proving your disability case.

One of the most important steps for your case will be getting treatment for your condition and tracking down medical records from any healthcare professional that have treated you for your condition.

These records should outline how your mental condition impacts your daily life and limits or interf…

Peripheral Neuropathy and Social Security Disability

Peripheral nerves carry messages from the spinal cord and brain to the rest of the body, and vice versa. Peripheral neuropathy occurs when these nerves are damaged. Diabetes is a major cause of peripheral neuropathy. Other culprits include metabolic disorders, toxins, certain medications, and autoimmune diseases, to name a few.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can range from muscle weakness, balance issues, and diminished coordination to numbness or tingling in the extremities, loss of sensation, and a burning-type feeling, among others. THe end result of these symptoms may be chronic pain and/or walking, standing, and controlling muscle movements. In addition, some people who have lost sensation may unknowingly experience injuries, which can lead to infection and amputation.

For some, trying to work while dealing with peripheral neuropathy may be an extreme challenge or outright impossibility. The Social Security Administration lists peripheral neuropathy in its "blue book"…

Research on New IBD Treatment in Full Swing

Over 1 million Americans are beset with irritable bowel disease (IBD), an umbrella term for various chronic, debilitating inflammatory intestinal conditions, including Chron's disease and ulcerative colitis. Symptoms of IBD include severe diarrhea, pain, fatigue, and weight loss. Currently, treatment options are limited, with many depending on daily enemas to find a measure of relief.

Daily enemas, as one could imagine, are uncomfortable and impractical. In addition, the drugs utilized in enemas are also absorbed by healthy tissues that don't need them, sometimes resulting in further complications.

However, a research team from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, in coordination with other research centers, offers hope of a better way for IBD sufferers: hydrogel.  The hydrogel is composed of ascorbyl palmitate (AP), which is already an FDA-approved material, and is an excellent carrier of medication.

Inflamed tissue is positively charged, while AP is negatively charged…

Making Inroads to Prevent Suicides

Severe depression has long been known to be a risk factor for suicide, with common symptoms including a feeling of hopelessness, a recent significant change or loss in one's life, or isolation from others. However, not all depressive states are the same.

The results of a study recently presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology's annual meeting in Amsterdam expanded upon the warning signs for possible suicide attempts. Not all people who suffer from depression exhibit the same effects.

Some who are depressed may also experience bouts of anxiety or agitation, engage in risky behaviors, or act on impulse wihtout regard for consequences prior to a suicide attempt. For these people- who experience "mixed depressive states"- the risk of suicide was found to be as much as 50 percent higher, according to study results.

Mixed depressive symptoms may sometimes be indicative of bipolar depression (manic depressive disorder). Bipolar patients are at an elevat…

A Tough Nut to Crack

Until now, the only way for those with peanut allergies to steer clear of anaphylaxis- a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction - was to avoid peanuts or peanut by-products altogether. They they accidentally ingest anything peanut related, short of a dash to the hospital emergence room the only option is an EpiPen®, a medical device used to inject a measured amount of epinephrine to counter or stave off anaphylaxis. 

However, recent clinical studies have shown promise that a new weapon for those with severe peanut allergies may boe on the horizon: oral immunotherapy. Oral immunotherapy involves adding a small amount  of peanut flour to meals, and then gradually increasing the amount over time. THe goal is to decrease sensitivity and build up a tolerance to peanuts. 

A recent study involved 99 children ages 7-16. Upon completion of the six-month study, 87 of the kids in the trial were able to eat the equivalent of five peanuts per day without any ill effects, or 25 times more tha…

Elephants and Cancer...the Strange Paradox

Give the immense size of elephants, the amount of cells they have (about 100 times more than humans), and their relatively long life span of around 70 years, it stands to reason that elephants should get cancer and die from it more often than we as humans do.

But that's not what happens.

Instead, elephants die from cancer at a rate of just around five percent. In contrast, humans suffer cancer-related deaths at a rate of 11 to 25 percent.

So, why the big difference? Scientists believe they may have figured that one out.

In a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers showed that elephants have 20 copies of a gene called TP53, which is known for its ability to create a protein that suppresses tumors. Humans have just one copy of TP53.

Scientists conducted experiments (by exposing white blood cells collected from elephants and humans to radiation that damaged the cells' DNA) to see what role the extra tumor-fighting genes might play in…

Chapter 13's advantages over Debt Management Programs

If you're pondering whether to utilize a Debt management Program (DMP) or file for CHapter 13 bankruptcy, consider the following:

Many credit-counseling agencies have pre-arranged terms with credit card companies for repayment. The interest rate may be reduced, but there will still be interest to pay.

Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy enables the debtor to pay off debts with zero percent interest and provides a legal means to eliminate debt. Income left over after a reasonable family expenses goes toward paying off your debts. Anything you can't be paid will be eliminated or discharged. 

DMP's are dependent upon all creditors agreeing to the plan. If just one balks, it may throw a monkey wrench into the whole plan.

Creditors have no influence on a Chapter 13 filing. These filings are approved by a court of law. 

Most DMPs establish a budget and monthly payment amount. By the time arrangements are worked out with creditors, you might wind up having reports of late payment going…