Monday, March 31, 2014

Maryland Personal Injury|Pre-Settlement Funding

Being involved in an accident can become a financial burden. There are unexpected daily expenses that arise as a result of being injured in an automobile accident. Many are inclined to take out pre-settlement loans to ease their financial burdens.

Be warned, there are many pit falls to pre-settlement loans. These are not like traditional loans that you would receive from your bank. The interest on pre-settlement loans is very high and increases the longer the loan goes unpaid. Typically, rates range from 2% to 4%, plus fees, compounded every single month. A $1,000.00 loan could cost you $1,601.03 after a year. That is a 60% increase.

Pre-Settlement funding companies woo clients with misdirection and word play. They tell clients that the loan is not a direct cost to them, but rather a cost against their final settlement. Any cost against the final settlement is a cost to the client. The money for repayment of that loan comes out of the client's portion of the settlement proceeds. The loans, like any lien on a case, must be paid before medical expenses. Depending on the age of the loan and the compounded interest, clients could find themselves receiving nothing out of their settlement. Further, clients could find themselves receiving nothing out of their settlement and still owing money for medical expenses.

It is true that if your case is not successful, you do not pay back the loan. However, success can come at a high cost.

We caution our clients against taking these loans unless absolutely necessary and only after they have exhausted all of their option such as seeking financial assistance from their families and friends or their private lending institution. If you find yourself in a position to take a pre-settlement loan, it is recommended that you take only a small amount of money, essentially take only what you absolutely need. Do not borrow yourself out of your own recovery.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Maryland Dog Bite Attorney|New Bill Seeks to Make All Dog Owners Liable For Bites

In 2012, the Court of Appeals made the controversial ruling that outraged dog lovers across the state: owners of pure bred pit bulls would be held strictly liable for all bites because pit bulls were deemed inherently dangerous. To top it off, landlords could be held liable as well. This court ruling caused many pit bulls to be put into shelters and many landlords to ban pit bulls from their property.

A new bill has been proposed to take another look at dog bites and liability. This bill would set a measure that applies to all dogs, no matter their breed, and would presume that all dog owners are liable for a dog bite, even if that dog has not bitten anyone before. In addition, the law would allow for owners to neutralize that presumption by showing that their dog had been docile before the bite occurred.

The previous breed-specific law caused uproar amongst dog lovers and made many disproportionately wary of pit bulls. This new proposed law holds all dog owners equally responsible for the actions of their dogs and is sure to gain favor in this respect, but some remain wary that the ability to neutralize the presumption would allow dog owners to escape responsibility entirely.  We will have to wait to see what a dog owner will actually have to show in order to prove that their dog was 'docile' before a fight. For the sake of dog bite victims, I hope that the standard is high.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Maryland Car Personal Injury Attorney, Jonathan Portner, Now Offers Free Case Recovery Evaluation

Jonathan Portner, a partner at Portner & Shure, and a member of the National Top 100 Trial Lawyers and Million Dollar Advocates Forum is now sharing his experience and giving back to the Maryland community by providing free case evaluations in car accident cases. Read more...


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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney|Fred Phelps Pushed the Limits of Free Speech

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it" is often the mantra for those who protect First Amendment rights. These words are truer than ever with the passing of one of the most confrontational men in modern times.

As many across the United States sighed with relief upon hearing the news of Fred Phelps' death, we cannot deny that he pushed the limits of his First Amendment rights and helped define our rights as Americans. The Westboro Baptist Church is renowned for their hate speech and cruel protests against homosexuality, and in turn, AIDS victims. They believed homosexuality to be the downfall of America and, in turn, rejoiced in the deaths of soldiers fighting abroad in conflicts, seeing it as a punishment for the tolerant views of Americans. Phelps had an unwavering hatred for ministers who preached that homosexuality was a sin, but believed that God's love was greater than this sin.

            With these radical views, Phelps created enemies at every turn. Many attempted to suppress his hateful words through the justice system, but the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled in 2011 that the First Amendment protects even the hatred preached by Phelps. 

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Maryland Criminal Law Attorney|Obama Takes Another Look at Immigration

Just last week, President Obama ordered a review of the immigration policy that has been strongly criticized as of late. Obama seeks to find ways to soften the effects of the current policy. This decision arose after Obama met with three members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and was moved by the pain from which families suffer as a result of the immigration policy. The separation of families is an unwanted effect of the "broken immigration policy." The congressmen implored the President to find a way to relieve the pressure of 11 million illegal aliens. We will have to wait and see how Obama seeks to make a new change.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Maryland Criminal Law Attorney|New Bill would Allow Doctors to write Marijuana 'Recommendations"

Just this past Monday, the House of Delegates approved a bill that would allow certain physicians to recommend the use of medical marijuana to patients with debilitating medical conditions. As of now, the bill is to go to the Senate, but many are optimistic about the outcome.

If this legislation passes, it would replace the current system which restricts medical marijuana use to those patients who receive care at an academic medical center. The problem with the current system is that none of the academic medical centers have participated and, thus, no patients have received the drug through this program. The new bill proposes to allow certain licensed physicians to write a "recommendation" for the use of medical marijuana. A "recommendation" is akin to a prescription, but due to federal law, the bill cannot call it that.

This bill is a step forward for patients who would benefit from medical marijuana because they would be able to seek the recommendation from their current physicians and would not need to seek a new physician from an academic medical center, as the current rule requires. It is essential for patients and their care givers to maintain their relationships to ensure comfort and the best care for the patient.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Maryland Criminal Law Attorney|Marijuana Decriminalization Passes Senate, Awaits House

Just last week, the Senate voted 36 to 8 on a measure that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense as opposed to a criminal offense. Under this bill, if one is caught with 10 grams or less, a civil citation will be issued along with a fine up to $100.

Last year, almost 20,000 Marylanders were charged along with 3,000 fined or jailed. Supporters of the bill argue that recreational marijuana use should be decriminalized to protect those who could lose their jobs or be kicked out of school for possession. Furthermore, treating marijuana as a crime is simply a waste of public resources that should be used to catch the real criminals.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney| Baltimore Cracks Down on Fake IDs

Just this week, the Baltimore County Liquor Board and the Department of Health held a conference in Towson to help business owners recognize fake IDs. More than 200 representatives from 109 businesses showed up to hear an expert, Marty Johnson, dive into the details of spotting fake IDs and the types of people who use them. While fake ID users can be terrorists, identity thieves, criminals, or those with a suspended license, the presentation focused on underage drinkers. Johnson also explains that the three different types of fake IDs are altered genuine IDs, a genuine ID used by another person, or a completely fake ID. He teaches tips, like using face reference points and UV lights, to spot the fakes in each category.

This presentation was a way for the Liquor Board to educate business owners in an effort to scale back on their enforcement. Underage drinkers beware: The bar owners of Baltimore County are now equipped with fresh information on how to spot fake IDs. If you are caught drinking underage, you may face a fine and a suspension of your driver's license. Furthermore, you could put your safety in danger if you choose to drink and drive, along with the possibility of a DUI or DWI. 

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Maryland Car Accident Attorney|Asleep at the Wheel

Most of us understand the risks of driving after a few drinks. We arrange for a designated driver or we take a taxi when we have had too much to drink. But few of us consider the risks of driving when we are tired. None of us have ever considered a designated driver because we are tired. Perhaps you should.

According to a study by AAA 41% of drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel. 1 in 10 of that 41% admitted that it occurred within the last year. That is a lot of sleepy drivers.

AAA found, through research, that people who hadn't slept for 20 hours had a 50% slower response and speed time than drivers who were well rested. The sleep deprived become impaired and their reaction, response and reflex time is the same or similar to a person with a .05 blood-alcohol content.

It is recommended, for your safety and the safety of others, that you recognize the signs of drowsiness. AAA suggests that you not ignore these signs - unable to hold your head up, unable to keep your eyes open, day-dreaming, drifting in and out of your lane, and tailgating.

If you are too tired to drive, such as on long road trips or after working a long shift, ask someone for a ride. Do not push on. You are just as impaired as someone who has had a few drinks. Use public transportation, if necessary. Take a bus on a train. You can even get a nap while you ride. Also, take medication labels seriously. When you see on the label, "do not operate heavy equipment" that does apply to motor vehicles. These tips can keep you and others on the road safe.

AAA recommends 6 hours of sleep before embarking on any long drives.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney|Maryland Second Chance Act

Many ex-offenders are stained by mistakes made lifetimes ago. The biggest hurdle for this group is finding respectable employment since many employers are wary of convicts. A new bill will soon be heard in Annapolis that hopes to give former inmates a chance at a new beginning. The bill authorizes an individual to petition a court to shield court and police records relating to a "shieldable conviction" no earlier than 3 years after that individual has satisfied the sentence imposed for the conviction, including parole, probation, or mandatory supervision.

To "Shield" a conviction means to render the court record or police record inaccessible to the public. While some ex-offenders are able to make a petition to shield their record under the current law, they face the hurdle of obtaining a full and unconditional pardon from the Governor. This bill would eliminate that hurdle.

Under the bill, if a person is convicted of a new crime during the 3-year waiting period, the first conviction is not eligible for shielding unless the new conviction becomes eligible for shielding. Furthermore, a persona may shield only one stand-alone conviction, or one unit of convictions per lifetime - meaning that there are no third or fourth chances.

Opponents of the bill fear that it will prevent employers from obtaining records necessary to evaluate the candidate for employment as some of the shieldable convictions are relevant to making an informed decision about a potential employee. Furthermore, there is a fear that this will delay background checks as a clerk will have to review the file before a disclosure can be made.  

The convictions that are eligible for shielding are:

  1. Disorderly conduct

  2. Disturbing the peace

  3. Failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order

  4. Malicious destruction of property under $500

  5. Trespass: Posted Property

  6. Obtaining property or services with bad check under $500

  7. Misdemeanor theft under $1,000

  8. Possessing or administering of a controlled dangerous substance

  9. Use of or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia

  10. Driving without a license

  11. Driving while privilege is canceled, suspended, revoked or refused

  12. Driving while uninsured

  13. Prostitution

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Maryland Social Security Disability Attorney|New Bill Seeks to Ensure Foster Children Retain Survivor and Disability Payments

A new bill seeks to pass legislation to keep the Department of Human Resources from taking benefits from foster children. Advocates state that foster children are entitled to this money and that it should be utilized to provide that child with savings that will act as a jumping-off point when they leave the foster care system. Those who support the bill state that the funds from the child's benefits and property should be used for that individual child. They claim that taking these benefits is a roundabout way in which the state intends to create savings for the state's general fund.

Those who oppose the bill claim that the state of Maryland needs this money to benefit those very children within the foster system. The money is taken and used to cover the cost of care, including medical expenses, even for those with extensive medical needs. They claim that if the new bill is passed, the services provided to those within the system will be cut.

The Court of Appeals recently determined that the state of Maryland is forbidden to apply to collect the Social Security benefits without notification to the foster child from which it took these benefits. This notification is required alongside a detailed summary of how the money was used. This means that, as for now, at least foster child can make attempts to fight the action and set up a fund of their own in which the benefits can be deposited. 

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Maryland Workers' Compensation Attorney|The New "Move Over" Law that Seeks to Protect Tow Truck Drivers

A new bill, nicknamed the "move over" bill, seeks to protect those who work in one of the most dangerous industries on the road. The bill has just cleared in the Maryland House of Delegates unanimously just this week. The Senate vote is awaiting action the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Tow truck drivers face grave danger every day in their line of work. The AAA Mid-Atlantic found that from January 2000 to December 2005, 130 tow truck drivers were killed nationwide while assisting clients. This number does not even take into consideration the countless tow truck drivers who have been seriously injured on the job.

The new bill will require motorists to move into an open lane when tow truck drivers are attending to clients who need roadside assistance. This procedure is the law for when motorists approach police and other emergency vehicles. 

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney|Baltimore City to Pay $250,000 for Alleged First and Fourth Amendment Violations

The city of Baltimore is set to pay $250,000 to Christopher Sharp who claims that law enforcement officers took his cellphone and deleted a recording he took of police officers making an arrest in 2010. While the police deny the allegations, the attorneys state they are settling the case to resolve the issue at hand in an effort to save time, money, and uncertainties. The way I see it, this is their attempt to assuage public outrage.

Last year, the police conducted an investigation into Mr. Sharp's past in order to portray him as a drug addict, contacting his ex-wife and former employers for personal information. While the police were admonished for their actions, it cannot be denied that some police officers choose to take advantage of the power instilled in them. This case has led to new policies that uphold the right of the individual to record police officers. Thankfully, this is one step towards holding police officers accountable for their actions towards individuals.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Maryland Court of Appeals Helps Criminal Defendants Filter Prospective Jurors

Before a juror can be chosen to serve in a jury, there is a process known as voir dire. This is the questioning of prospective jurors to determine if the juror would be biased in a particular case. Last week, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in Maryland, reversed a criminal conviction, Cervante Pearson v. State, while setting new standards for questioning prospective jurors: The court found that if the prosecution's case relies heavily on police testimony, the defense may require that all jurors be asked if they have ever been a member of a law enforcement agency.

The court found that if a case for a criminal conviction is strongly based on the testimony of members of law enforcement agencies, and the prospective juror has been a member of a law enforcement agency, that potential juror may give more weight to those testimonies because of this affiliation. Because of this, a defendant is entitled to know of this association and be given the opportunity to strike him as a prospective juror. 

The court, along with this, also overturned a 2011 holding which allowed for defense to ask prospective jurors if they have "strong feelings" about the crime that would make it difficult for them to "fairly and impartially weigh the facts of [the] trial." The court removed the condition which asked if these strong feelings would make it difficult for them to fairly and impartially weight the facts of the trial. Now, the question only asks of the prospective juror has strong feelings about the crime and allows the litigants to determine if these feelings will make it difficult for the prospective juror to be fair and impartial.

While these holdings is good news for future criminal defendants, the court made it clear that convicts may not use these new standards to overturn their convictions. 

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