Who is at fault in a multi-car pile up?

Every year in the United States there are over 5-million crashes involving motor vehicles. Accidents happen for a number of reasons including distracted drivers and individuals failing to follow the rules of the road. In larger cities, the fast paced gridlock of traffic often causes multi-car pile-ups where three or more drivers are involved in a single accident. In a two car accident, it may be easier to determine who is at fault. However this is often not the case when there are more drivers involved.

Status Quo

The driver at the end of an accident is most often the one to blame. In many cases, this individual crashing into the rear of another car causes that car to propel forward and hit the car in front of them. The chain reaction can continue leading to a multiple vehicle accident. However, depending on the personal injury protection laws of a state, the blame can be divided among multiple drivers. This means that if you are the car in the middle, you may still be to blame.

What to Do?

Anytime you are involved in a major motor vehicle accident it is important to contact a legal representative and your insurance company. There are numerous circumstances where an accident might not be the fault of the last individual. For example, if several vehicles spin out of control on black ice, then assessing the blame becomes more complicated.

Avoiding Multi-car Pile-ups

The majority of multi car accidents are caused by drivers who are failing to follow basic rules of driving including keeping a safe distance between the vehicle in front of them. Maintaining an adequate distance of at least two car lengths (four during inclement weather) should be part of your everyday driving habits.

Keep your driving distraction free, as well. Your attention should be on the road and on the vehicles around you. Attentive drivers are significantly less likely to get into an accident because they are actively monitoring their environment and can respond to changes quickly. Newer vehicles have started to make it easier for drivers to focus on the road by including controls for things like music and the mobile phone directly on the steering wheel.

Additionally, keep in mind that hands-free phone usage while driving is the law in California. Roughly 40% of accidents today are caused by drivers who are operating a cellular device when they should be focused on operating their vehicle. In any event, seek legal counsel of SM Law Group if you are involved in an accident.

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5 Tips for Avoiding Collisions Caused by El Nino

The well-known complex winter storm system called El Nino continues to work its way up the west coast of the US from South America. This system brings along with it intense rains, flooding, and heavy wins. Weather related disasters and collisions are the aftermath of these systems in Southern California. There are several tips to follow to avoid collisions.

1. Maintain Good Tires. Planning for the heavy rain systems is just as important for those on the West coast as planning for snow is on the East coast. Tires should always be kept in good health. This means checking the pressure and thread regularly. All season tires are a good option for handling wet roads. Proper tires prevent hydroplaning which can lead to accidents.

2. Upgrade Windshield Wipers. Visibility is key in preventing a collision. Updating your windshield wipers to high quality ones like Rain-x which are designed with the weather in mind is always a good option. High quality blades such as these typically last longer that cheaper versions, and are therefore worth the price.

3. Give Yourself Extra Time. The leading cause of collisions is drivers who are in a rush. Account for potential delays due to slow moving traffic during El Nino by providing yourself with extra time for travel.

4. Keep a Safe Distance. Another reason for collisions is drivers who follow too closely. As everyone is struggling to see the road and maneuver through the stream of rain, it is likely that they will need to stop short or abruptly. The standard rule of driving is to keep two car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you. During a storm like El Nino, keep at least twice that distance. Remember that not only will vehicles stop quickly but it can also take longer to stop when the roads are wet.

5. Adjust Your Speed. Just because you drive an SUV and the speed limit is 55 doesn’t mean you should be going that speed. Roads may become flooded causing even the largest vehicle to hydroplane. The general rule of speed limits is to adjust them based on traffic and driving conditions. Plan to slow down when driving through intense weather elements.

While these tips are designed to keep you safe, you cannot account for the actions of other drivers on the road. In the event of an accident, contact the necessary authorities and the Attorneys of SM Law Group can guide you through the appropriate steps to handle the situation.

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5 Common Ways Creditors Violate Consumer Protection Laws

Anytime an individual falls behind on paying bills, it can be stressful. Most creditors will provide a few months of leeway and try to work with the consumer to bring accounts current before submitting them to a debt collection agency. However, if you fail to make arrangements or bring your accounts current then you may be faced with some of the additional stress that comes from different creditors who violate consumer protection laws with various antics. Each and every day there are individuals who fall victim to these tactics because they don’t know that it’s a violation of the laws put in place by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Here are five common ways creditors violate consumer protection laws:

1. Relentless Calling. Creditors should contact consumers no more than once per 24 hour period. Often third-party debt collection agencies that thrive on violating protection laws will call relentlessly up to 10 times throughout a day.

2. Contact at Work. Most employers do not allow their employees to receive personal calls at work unless it is an absolute emergency. In the day of mobile technology, it is rare for any employer to allow their staff to be on the phone. It is common for creditors to attempt to collect a debt by contacting you at work however it is also against consumer protection laws.

3. Threatening Harm or Police Action. Some creditors may employ aggressive tactics such as threatening the use of violence or police action over the phone. It is not uncommon for an aggressive collector to attempt to scare consumer into action. In the United States you cannot be arrested or imprisoned for debt. Such threats are a direct violation of these consumer protection laws.

4. Claims to be An Attorney. Another common tactic is when these individuals attempt to claim that they are from a law firm. More often than not, they may even use an extension of a legitimate firm and also state that firm’s name. However, when you contact that firm directly you will find out that there is not a debt collection attempt through them.

5. Add on Unauthorized Interest and Fees. Debt amounts can increase substantially as creditors continue to tack on their own interest and fees that are not authorized. Each state has its own guidelines which creditors have to follow. Additionally, some debts may not be pursued if you no longer live in that specific state.

In many cases depending on the type of harassment or violations it is possible to sue a debt collection company. Additionally, the fastest way to eliminate these calls altogether is to work with a legal representative to help consolidate debts and create a repayment plan to get you back on the right track financially.

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Can I File for Bankruptcy More Than Once?

The process of filing for bankruptcy is one that many individuals see as a necessary evil. While it is not advantageous in terms of credit health, it is one way to get out from underneath seemingly insurmountable debts. Hard times can happen to anyone as the economy continues to experience dramatic upswings and plunges. If you have filed for bankruptcy in the past then you might be asking: Can I file for bankruptcy more than once?

Basic Info

The terms for filing subsequent or a second bankruptcy is subject to the different terms laid out based on the type of bankruptcy which an individual is filing. Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the two typical types filed. The time since the first filing may also play a factor in eligibility for a second filing. At this time, there is no absolute bar from filing for bankruptcy a second time. However, creditors and courts alike are aware of individuals who continually overspend and try to manipulate the system by discharging debts. If someone is believed to be a serial bankruptcy filer it is likely that they will be ineligible.

Chapter 7 Prerequisites

In terms of filing for a second case of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, individuals must undergo a specific waiting period. This type of bankruptcy consists of liquidating assets to pay off debts. The waiting period is eight years between a first and second filing. However, if they intend to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy the second time then they only have to wait four years. There may be some exceptions to the rule as there is plenty of misinformation about the right way to approach bankruptcy, it is always advised to seek legal counsel to best understand your options.

Chapter 13 Guidelines

Chapter 13 filings give individuals the opportunity to pay back debt over the course of 3 to 5 years. The average monthly payments may be relatively small, less than $200 per month. How the outcome of the hearing is handled afterwards will ultimately determine if an individual may qualify to file for bankruptcy a second time. One such guideline states that if it has been six months since a bankruptcy case has been dismissed for any reason that an individual may not qualify for a second following. In terms of this type of filing, it is most important that individuals have already taken care of the details of their previous case before attempting to file another one. There are no specific waiting times involves with filing a second chapter 13 bankruptcy otherwise.

SM Law Group Can Help

Bankruptcy can be a saving grace for many individuals who are struggling. It’s a tough decision that requires legal consultation to ensure that each individual files appropriately to meet their needs.

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Debts Discharged in Bankruptcy Vs Debts Settled

The two primary types of bankruptcy which individuals file for are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages for the filing party. One of the big issues today is that there is too much inaccurate information available to consumers that makes it difficult to understand the process in which one is most beneficial. Before filing bankruptcy it’s important to understand the difference between debts discharged in bankruptcy and debts settled.

Debts Discharged

Discharged debts are those in which the courts absolve the filer of responsibility. Generally this is done through filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It prevents creditors from making any future attempts to collect this debt. Not every type of debt is dischargeable. Debts which are include credit card debts, medical bills, collection accounts, personal loans, utility bills, business debts, civil judgments, attorney fees, and money owed under lease agreements.

In rare cases individuals may also be able to discharge student loan debt. However, this is not that common. Individuals who are able to win this type of case will be absolved of all of these types of dischargeable debts up to the date of the hearing. When filing this type of bankruptcy, individuals can expect to experience a massive hit to their credit score and the filing to be reflected on their credit report for up to 10 years.

Debts Settled

Debt settlement is the process of consolidating debts and pursuing a repayment plan. Most creditors will allow individuals to repay debts over a 3 to 4 year period. However, long-term debt settlement is not typically in the favor of the filer. During bankruptcy court, it is possible to pay a one-time lump sum to completely pay off a settled account that results in less interests and filing fees in the long run. This sum might also be less than the original debt was for.

Filing bankruptcy can be complicated. The needs of each individual are unique and therefore may require assistance from a qualified legal professional who specializes in bankruptcy filings. Contact the experienced attorney of SM Law Group today to get start your bankruptcy filings.

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Do Ride Share Services Cover Personal Injury Claims?

Apps like Uber and Lyft have quickly taken over the traditional approach to getting around without a car. Their success is directly linked to the type of service and quality which they can provide. Courteous drivers with newer vehicles, competitive pricing, and the option to receive free rides just for sharing with friends are just a few of the benefits riders gloat about. Yet, one of the more common questions riders ask is the question of: do ride share services cover personal injury claims?

Driver Insurance

Every driver on the road should have insurance. This insurance usually includes passenger protection. Some of the larger cab companies like Yellow Taxi have made allegations that drivers for rideshare services do not have adequate insurance. This is where the question begins. In the case of most insurance policies, if a driver is in an accident as an Uber or Lyft customer, then the insurance company is able to deny the claim to cover personal injury of the secondary party. According to the leading automotive companies, passengers sustaining personal injury are not protected if the vehicle was being operated in a business capacity such as a livery service.

Rideshare Insurance

Next we take a look at the insurance policies of Uber and Lyft. Despite the allegations against them, both popular companies have extensive coverage for their drivers. More so than a traditional taxi company. The type of coverage offered is considered “excess coverage”. This means that if a driver’s insurance company will not cover a personal injury claim, the rideshare company will. Both companies carry a liability policy of up to $1-million. This is across the board for every driver.

Taxi companies carry insurance based on their own state regulations. This can be as low as $125,000 in some states and as high as $500,000. They may carry the minimum amount of insurance required by state law. While Uber and Lyft do provide full-time drivers with mobile devices and gas reimbursement, but the general expenses of owning and operating a vehicle fall onto the driver themselves.

If you are in an accident and struggling to understand who is going to pay for your medical bills after using a rideshare service, contact the Attorneys of SM Law Group. This is the best way to find out where you stand, without question.

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How is My Credit Score Calculated?

A person’s credit score is one the most important “numbers” in their life. Unfortunately, few people are aware of what it is, what it is used for, and how it can impact your life. Understanding your credit score is an important part of proper financial planning and money management. With the right tools and information, anyone can learn how to boost their credit score and reap the benefits that come along with it.

What is a Credit Score?

In a nutshell, a credit score is the number that is generated based on open credit accounts, loan amounts, payment history on debts, and unused credit. Different types of credit and credit inquiries can impact your overall score differently. For example, if you are interested in moving into a new apartment, the credit check is deemed a “soft hit” and is therefore less likely to drop your score. However, if you are interested in financing a car, this “hard inquiry” will likely cause a temporary drop in your score. Additionally, credit card usage and limits weigh heavier than things like personal loans.

Your credit score is broken down and calculated by five different details:

Credit Mix – This refers to the different types of credit which you have including store credit cards, bank credit cards, automotive loans, and mortgage loans. Your credit mix makes up for 10% of your score.

New Credit – When you open a new line of credit, it is considered new. This can have a temporary negative impact on your score. Your amount of new credit makes up 10% of your credit score calculation.

Credit History Length – The longer you have a credit account in good standing, the better it is for your score. It is recommended that even if you do not use a credit card you own, you should continue to keep it open to benefit your revolving credit amount. This accounts for 15% of your score calculation.

Amount Owed – Commonly referred to as your usage amount, this is the percentage of your available credit which is used. It is recommended that usage remain below 30% of the available credit. Your usage amount accounts for 30% of your credit score calculation.

Payment History – The largest factor in your credit score is your payment history. Companies who may want to offer you a loan will review this information to find out how successfully you have maintained your credit and paid off accounts. Past due payments can have an adverse impact on your score. Payment history contributes 35% of your credit score.


What is it Used for & How Does it Impact Life

An individual’s credit score is one of the most important defining factors in qualifying for different types of credit. It is used to help companies make a variety of decisions about your financial worth to their company. Low credit scores can result in additional deposits on utility bills or cellphone plans as well as disqualify you from being eligible for certain types of loans. The higher your credit score, the lower interest rates you may be eligible for on high dollar amount financing including buying a car or home.

Your credit score impacts nearly every aspect of your life. For this reason, it is vital that consumers keep themselves in good financial standing. If you are struggling to manage your current debt, contact SM Law Group for assistance in debt consolation and settlement.

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5 Things You Should Know About Credit Card Debt

Between 2008 and 2012, the amount of credit card debt among U.S. consumers climbed to an all-time high. The struggles of a volatile economy and the open-door policy of many credit card companies aided in the financial downturn that faced millions. Today, after a slow climb back to the top, credit card companies and consumers alike have learned that financial responsibility should be a top priority. Here are five things that every person should know about credit card debt.

Control Your Spending. One way financially smart people use credit cards is to pay monthly expenses which have set rates. This include cell phone plans, cable/internet, and insurance. They set aside the funds for those expenses and pay off the balances on their credit cards each month. This keeps their overall balance low and controls unnecessary spending.

Don’t Use it If You Can’t Afford It. Just because credit is open and available to you does not mean that you have to use it. Some individuals save credit card usage for large purchases or emergencies. This allows you to keep benefiting from having revolving credit. A good rule of thumb with any credit purchase is to not make the purchase if you know you cannot afford it and it is not a necessity.

Debt Affects Your Credit Score. The amount of usage on your credit cards can have an adverse impact on your credit score. Credit reporting companies look favorably upon consumers who use less than 30% of their available credit each month. If you happen to make a big purchase, you can pay down your balance before the end of the billing cycle to keep the reported balance below this point.

Credit Card Payments Also Affect Your Score. Timely payments are crucial to boosting your credit score. Continued late payments are reported and can cause a drop in this score. Credit card companies also use your payment practices as a guideline for helping them decide whether or not to increase your limits. Consistent payments of more than the minimum balance will help you remain in good standing.

Ask for Help When Necessary. Most credit card companies have programs now to assist individuals with deferred payments if they undergo a change in their financial situation. It is in their best interest to work with card holders to keep them as customers. Just the same, it is in your best interest to work with them and find a way to remain in good standing through the ups and downs of everyday life.

If you find yourself at a crossroads of late payments and too much debt, then it might be time to consider your options for getting out of debt. Contact the attorneys of SM Law Group today for a free consultation.

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How To Enforce Settlement Payments

After the long hours invested into a personal injury claim most clients are happy to have reached a settlement. However shortly after this occurs, the waiting game begins. Defendants are typically given a window of time to pay the settlement agreement. While most are prompt with the matter, there are cases from time to time where the settlement check may be delayed by one excuse or another. When this happens, the plaintiff can have the settlement payment enforced by the courts.

How Does This Work

Two different laws work in the favor of the plaintiff. According to California Code of Insurance Regulations Section 26965.7, all settlements are to be paid within 30-days. However, if they are not paid, Code of Civil Procedure Section 664.6 authorizes the courts to enforce this timeframe and subsequent action. Additionally the laws give the court power to award the plaintiff additional damages for added court costs if the settlement is not paid in a timely manner and further action is necessary.

How to Enforce Payment

To enforce payment, start by contacting SM Law Group regarding the matter. They will file the necessary paperwork for noncompliance with the courts. The defendant should also be notified that they are in violation of the settlement agreement and the related laws regarding payment enforcement. For injury settlements, negotiation of enforcement may be complicated.

What are the Advantages of Hiring SM Law Group?

When it comes to personal injury and settlements, emotions are always heightened. This can lead to the plaintiff taking drastic measures to receive his funds. This is not a favorable option for any individuals involved. In some cases, the adverse reaction to non-payment may actually do more harm than good to the situation. Hiring one of our dedicated lawyers will alleviate this stress. In the capable hands of our team, your settlement and its enforcement will be handled properly in accordance to the laws set forth.

Keep in mind that not any lawyer will do. Our firm specializes in personal injury law and has successful experience with these types of cases. The circumstances of every personal injury case are unique. You want legal representation that dedicates the time and effort to advocate for you and takes all necessary measures to ensure you receive your settlement in accordance to the laws established.

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3 Types of Special Damages Recovered in Personal Injury Cases

For personal injury cases there are two types of damages – general damages and special damages. The term “damages” refers to the settlement amount that is awarded to the plaintiff (injured party). These damages may also be called “economic” and “non-economic”. General damages generally include full compensation for mental anguish, decreases in quality of life, physical disfigurement/impairment, and loss of companionship. Special damages are deemed those that are an after result of the injury which may be out of pocket expenses for the plaintiff and should be covered by the at-fault party. Three types of special damages are:

Repair/ replacement of property. Let’s say that Driver A was hit by Driver B who was under the influence of alcohol. The general damages for this situation would include medical bills incurred by Driver A. The special damages includes the cost to repair or replace Driver A’s damaged vehicle.

Future medical expenses. The long term effect of injuries sustained by Driver A are unknown. This can lead to settlements taking longer to finalize as both the plaintiff and their physicians will want to be sure that any potential health risks are accounted for.

Loss of wages or earning capacity. Driver A was forced to undergo shoulder surgery as a result of the accident. The limitation on his range of motion will not prevent him from being able to do his former job as an emergency service worker. His inability to apply heavy amounts of pressure to his shoulder (a necessary part of the job) may leave him needing to find something new. This loss of wages must also be accounted for.

Special damages are generally exact dollar amounts based on the facts and figures at hand. For example, if Driver A drove an old car and the insurance company assessed its value at $500, then this would be the amount that Driver B would have to pay. Determining the cost of future medical expenses and loss of wages is more complicated. Expert witnesses are typically needed to attest to their projected concept of these damages before a settlement can be reached.

As an injured party, it is vital that your settlement include both general and special damages. The best approach to this is to enlist an experienced legal representative who knows the ins and outs of personal injury claims. With careful consideration to your current situation, mental anguish, and potential future problems, it is possible to receive the settlement you deserve to reestablish your quality of life. The Attorneys of SM Law Group have years of experience getting the settlement results our clients want. Call us today for a free consultation.

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3 Things You Should Know About Personal Injury Cases Involving Minors

Personal injury cases involving minors relatively common. For parents or guardians, there are three things you should know about filing this type of claim.

Guardian Ad Litem is Appointed

As children are not in a capacity to defend themselves, a guardian ad litem is required by the courts. This person serves in the best interest of the child during settlement negotiations. This individual is chosen by the court, and is typically the parent or guardian of the child. The guardian ad litem has no legal right to recovery during this process. Their sole purpose is to act in the best interest of the injured child.

Statute of Limitations

In most states, there is a statute of limitations of two years on personal injury cases involving a minor. However, the statute does not start until the child reaches 18-years of age. The long term of effects of an accident may not be known for years in some cases. This typically leads to a drawn out court process in hopes of determining a settlement.

Settlements Are Placed in a Blocked Account

Settlements for cases involving personal injury of a minor are different because the funds are placed in an annuity or similar blocked account. This is to ensure that the settlement in fact goes to the child when they reach legal age of adulthood. In order to receive this settlement, the individual must have legal fees paid and file the proper paperwork with the courts to disburse the funds. Periodically, expenditures may happen in special case situations.

The biggest factor in any settlement is determining long term damages and expenses for the minor. A personal injury lawyer, such as the attorneys of SM Law Group, is recommended for representation. As soon as an accident occurs, contact us immediately to start the assessment process. Our experience is invaluable to most guardians of an injured minor. We are able to handle the claim and ensure that the settlement needs are not only met, but exceeded. This kind of support is essential for any individual fighting for a settlement for personal injury involving a minor. Contact SM Law Group today for a free consultation.

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What Is Exempt Under California Bankruptcy Law?

If you are having difficulty paying your bills and making loan repayments, you may consider filing bankruptcy to help stop all collection attempts and have your debts discharged. When filing for bankruptcy, your creditors may try to collect what they can from you by trying to seize some of your assets, like money in your bank accounts, garnishing wages and make other attempts to fulfill your debt to them. However, under California law, certain types of property are exempt from debt collection efforts.

System 1 Exemptions

Under California bankruptcy law, there are two systems for claiming exemptions, System 1 and System 2. Here are some of the exemptions for System 1:

Homestead: Any real property you own and occupy may be exempt from debt collection, which may include a boat, mobile home, condo, and other property types valued up to $75,000 if single and not disabled, $150,000 if you have a family and your spouse doesn’t have a homestead, $175,000 for those 65 and older, or if you are mentally or physically disabled; $100,000 if 55 or older, single and make less than $25,000 per year or married and make less than $35,000 per year.

Personal Property: Any furnishings or appliances in your home, food or clothing that you need are exempt from debt collection. Your personal jewelry, any art or heirlooms you own valued at $5,000 total is also exempt. Other exempt items include burial plots, building materials to repair your home up to $2,000, any money you receive from Social Security up to $2,000 or $3,000 total for a husband and wife, health aids, motor vehicles worth up to $1,900, as well as some payments received from a personal injury.

Wages – Up to 75% of your wages may be exempt from collection attempts.

Trade Tools – If you are a trade professional, such as a carpenter or plumber, any tools you need for work, along with your work vehicle up to $5,000 total, or $10,000 for both spouses if you both need your tools for work, are exempt.

In addition, some insurance policies, public benefits and pensions are also exempt.

System 2 Exemptions

Under System 2, most of the exemptions are the same, but the values of the items may be vastly different. For example, for the real property you occupy, the exempt value is only $25,575 and any unused part of the property can be applied to any property.

Under personal property, instead of a total value, each exempt item is given a value of $650 and may include books, livestock, crops, appliances, furniture, musical instruments, clothing and other household goods. The jewelry you own is exempt only up to a value of $1,525 and the equity in your vehicles increases to $5,100. None of your wages are exempt, the tools you use for work are exempt up to $7,625 and you can exempt $1,350 of any unused burial or homestead exemption for property under a “Wild Card.”

You can only pick one system to file bankruptcy under and, before filing bankruptcy, you need to consult with the attorneys of SM Law Group.

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5 Tips To Know Before Negotiating Your Medical Bills

One of the most prevalent financial problems in the United States is medical bills. People who may not have insurance, or at least good insurance, are often left with medical bills they simply cannot afford to pay. However, instead of letting those bills go into collection and linger over your head, you may be able to negotiate and reduce what you owe.

Read Information Carefully

When you receive a bill after having a procedure done at the hospital, go over it very carefully to check for mistakes. Sometimes the wrong coding is used for a procedure and you may be billed more than you should be. You could be charged more than once for the same procedure or other mistakes, such as balances left over that should have been paid by your insurance company or expenses that should have been bundled, may be on the bill. Look up the medical codes online to check for accuracy and then call the billing company to get mistakes corrected.

Know the Charges

Before having surgery or other procedures done, find out what you will be charged and how much you will be responsible for after your insurance has paid its portion. For an elective procedure, such as a rhinoplasty or nose job, shop around to find the best rates, but be sure to vet the doctor as well. Ask for the costs you’re quoted to be sent to you in writing and make sure all of the doctors are covered by the quote to avoid surprises when you are billed.

Find Out About Discounts

Ask about any discounts that you might be qualified for when you’re inquiring about the costs of a procedure. There are several discounts that may help you pay the bill, including discounts you would not be aware of unless you asked about them. Some doctors work with charities to help patients pay their medical bills and you should check to see if you qualify for any programs in which your doctor participates.

Know the Terms

Educate yourself about insurance terms so you know what they mean and will be able to find out how much your out-of-pocket responsibilities are when you visit a doctor or have a procedure done. You should know what a deductible means and how it is applied to your bill. You should be aware of what a co-payment is, what co-insurance means and how to determine if the medical provider is in or out of your insurance network.

Pick Up the Phone

If you find errors on billing or are having problems making payments on medical bills, calling the billing department or pay them a visit in person. You should be able to get the mistakes rectified and the bill recalculated to find out what you actually owe. In addition, the billing department will usually work with patients by reducing payments or extending the amount of time to have to pay a bill.

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How to Avoid Defaulting on Student Loans

The rate of defaults on student loans keeps rising every year as people often find it difficult to make payments because they cannot find a job or are underemployed. Fortunately, you can avoid defaulting on your student loans with careful planning before you enroll in school, by maintaining a budget when you’re in school and educating yourself about your loan terms and who owns your loans.

Choose Your School Carefully

To avoid defaulting on your student loans, you first need to carefully select the school at which you will study. If you do not like the school or struggle to keep up with your studies, you will be more likely to quit school, which makes you more likely to default on your loans. Instead of attending a school based on an emotional attachment or at the urging of a family member, do your research on colleges before applying to them.

Compare Costs
Find Out Graduation Rates
Find Out Income Expectations Post-Graduation
Rates for Repaying Loans

With this information, you should be able to make a wise choice in where you attend school and be less likely to default on your loan payments.

While Attending School

It is easier than ever to apply for and be approved for student loans, which means you can run up quite a student loan bill. In addition, buying everyday items like snacks or coffee can add up to thousands of dollars while you’re at school, money that you could have saved to pay for your education. To help keep your expenses under control and help pay for college after graduation, you should set a budget and set aside a certain percentage of your earnings, if you work during the school year and/or during the summer.

By watching the amount of money you spend and saving a portion of your earnings, you could pay for some expenses out of pocket rather than take out a loan. For instance, you may earn enough on your summer job to pay for your books for at least one semester. Also, by keeping track of your expenses and staying on budget, you may be able to save enough to pay some of your tuition too.

Post-Graduation

A majority of former students who have defaulted on their loans never contacted their loan holder or they were often unaware of exactly what they owed and from whom they borrowed the money. Also, most defaulters never managed to make one payment toward their student loan debt. To avoid these issues, keep track of all of the paperwork you get for any student loans you take out, highlight the loan holder and keep them informed about where you’re living so you receive any notices or bills for your loans.

Get all of the information you can about your student loans and the repayment options you have for them. If you have trouble making payments, contact the loan holder to see if you can get the payment amount reduced. You can also contact SM Law Group for help.

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5 Important Steps to Take Before Filing for Bankruptcy

When you’re having trouble paying your debts because of a job loss or being too far in debt, filing for bankruptcy may seem like an easy way to get out from under what you owe. However, a bankruptcy should always be done as a last resort as it does not fully erase your debts. Before filing for bankruptcy, there several steps that you will need to take for the process to go smoother and to help you start recovering financially.

1. Hire An Attorney

While you can file for bankruptcy on your own, it is a long, arduous process and you could end up losing assets you could have retained simply due to your lack of knowledge about the process. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer will advise you on the steps to take to prepare for a bankruptcy, determine which debts can be discharged and they will help you determine which type of bankruptcy is best for you situation.

2. Determine Type of Bankruptcy

Most people who choose to file for bankruptcy select a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13. A Chapter 7 allows for most of their debts to be discharged, except for student loans and back taxes. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows a repayment plan to be set-up to help settle your debts, sometimes at a reduced rate. There are specific requirements for each type of bankruptcy and your attorney will advise you on them.

3. Do Means Testing

A “means test” is one of the requirements you will need to fulfill prior to filing for bankruptcy. The means test takes a look at your income and the debts you owe to determine your ability to repay your debts. If you are able to pass the means test, you can then file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, otherwise you will need to file a Chapter 13. If you are a business owner or make a high income, speak to your attorney about filing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

4. Speak to a Credit Counselor

Before you are allowed to file for bankruptcy, you will be required to go to credit counseling. A credit counselor can negotiate with your creditors to get what you owe reduced or allow more time to pay off your debts. There are several credit counselling services that offer free help and advice. This requirement can be fulfilled with online credit counseling or by speaking to someone in person.

5. Gather Documentation

You will want to gather all of the information you have about the debts you owe. Make a list of all your creditors and whether your debt to them is secured or unsecured. A secured debt is one in which there may be a lien or mortgage on any property that you own. If you are uncertain whether a debt is secured or unsecured, note that information. Your attorney should be given copies of all of the documentation.

SM Law Group Can Help

Filing a bankruptcy has several long-term consequences, so you will want to carefully discuss your options with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer.

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Find Out If You Qualify For A Student Loan Discharge, Forgiveness or Cancellation

The high cost of a college education has left many people with outstanding debt that stays with them for years. Unfortunately, some economic hardships, such as losing a job or not making enough money, has made many people default on their student loans. Fortunately, if you are having problems repaying your student loans, you may be able to get your debt forgiven, discharged or cancelled.

Types of Loan Discharges

There are several ways in which you may be able to get your student loans discharged. You may qualify for a discharge because of:

Schools that have Closed
A Total, Permanent Disability
Death
Filing for Bankruptcy
False Certification of Student Eligibility or an Unauthorized Payment
Refunds that were Not Paid

In most of these cases, you have to apply to have your loan discharged and many of these discharges only apply to loans that were made on or after January 1, 1986. Usually, the entire amount of the loan will be discharged if your application is approved. However, for refunds, the college is only liable to pay any amounts they did not refund you.

Types of Loan Forgiveness

Your student loans can also be forgiven instead of discharged or cancelled. Usually, student loans are forgiven if you are:

A Teacher
Working in Public Service

There are certain qualifications that have to be made in order for your loan to be forgiven. For teachers, they must work in a low-income elementary or secondary school for five consecutive years. If approved, only $17,500 can be forgiven from their debt on a Direct Loan or a FFEL Program loan that were made on or after October 1, 1998.

For certain public service workers, the remaining balance of their loan can be forgiven if they have already made 120 payments under certain repayment plans. The forgiveness only applies to a Direct Loan that was made after October 1, 2007.

Loan Cancellation

If you took out a Perkins Loan to pay for your education, you may be able to have it cancelled if you are having a difficult time paying the balance you owe. However, to qualify for a cancellation, you need to be employed as:

A Teacher
A Nurse
A Medical Technician
Work in the fields of either law enforcement or corrections
Be employed by Head Start
Work in the fields of children or family services
Work as a professional in the field of early intervention
Serve in the armed forces and be stationed a hostile area
Be a Peace Corps, VISTA or ACTION volunteer

For each year you worked in one of these fields, a certain percentage of the loan may be cancelled. The percentage forgiven is also dependent on the type of service you’ve done. Unlike a loan discharge or forgiveness, there isn’t an application for a Perkins Loan cancellation. You have to contact the school you attended where you were given the loan.

If you are having difficulties paying back your student loans, contact an attorney at SM Law Group with questions about having your loans discharged, forgiven or cancelled.

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Preventing A Pedestrian Accident

uick thinking can often help a pedestrian about to be hit by a car or truck. While many pedestrian/vehicle accidents can be fatal, they don’t necessarily have to be deadly. By reacting quickly, you can keep from becoming another statistic if you are in the path of a vehicle that doesn’t stop.

If you notice that you are about to be hit by a vehicle, you need to react in such a way that keeps you from being run over by the car or truck. Since most vehicles weigh about a ton, if not more, it limits the amount of reaction time by the driver to make sudden changes. The best way to react when you are about to be hit is to jump up or to the side of the vehicle. This will help minimize the chances that you will be hit and dragged under the vehicle or run over.

Even being able to lift yourself up slightly may help you be able to roll over the hood of the car and land to the side, not in front of it. This can help diminish the impact of a hit and help prevent more severe injuries. However, if the vehicle you are about to be hit with is tall, you need to jump to the side instead of trying to jump up.

The best way to lessen the impact of a pedestrian/vehicle accident is to prevent it in the first place. Some of the best ways to prevent being struck when walking across a street are:

– Look both ways before crossing a street

– Don’t assume vehicles will stop, wait for them to do so before stepping off the curb

– Do not wear headphones or turn down music in order to hear warning horns

– Carry your identification and medical insurance card in your purse or wallet

If you or a loved one is hit by a car or truck, contact an attorney at SM Law Group to see if you are entitled to compensation for your injuries, along with pain and suffering.

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The Importance of Representation for Children’s TBI Cases

While a traumatic brain injury, abbreviated as TBI, can have devastating consequences for adults, children who suffer from even mild TBIs can have their lives completely disrupted. Since a child’s brain is still developing, if they do suffer a head injury like a TBI, it can alter the way their brain and body functions. Their ability to learn may be permanently impaired afterwards as well.

In some children, the symptoms of mild to moderate TBI may not be noticed right away and can take years to recognize. This is because the consequences may not be apparent until a child’s affected skills are needed at a later stage in their life. Unfortunately, when these problems do appear, they are often mistaken for learning or behavioral disabilities instead of being connected to a previous head injury.

Children who have more severe injuries, including those who were in a coma, may have suffer from lifetime physical, emotional and learning disabilities. Their recovery often takes years and it can be a frightening time for them and their families, especially if they have lost motor functions, memory loss or the ability to clearly communicate.

These children will not only experience problems due to their injuries, but they will often suffer psychologically as well. Depression is a common symptom in people who suffer TBIs and children may also feel socially and physically isolated from their peers. Depending on their age, they may not be able to accurately voice their frustrations, which can make it even more difficult for their parents.

The families of these children are not only devastated because of their children’s injuries, but they are often financially devastated as well. If the TBI was a result of an automobile accident that was another party’s fault, it is important to get advice from an attorney experienced in personal injury cases. They can help people negotiate a settlement with the other party’s insurance company or, if necessary, take them to court.

Along with compensation for the initial medical bills, families will need to consider their child’s future medical and rehabilitation expenses. Moderate and severe TBI cases often leave children with lifetime disabilities and some children may never be able to take care of themselves physically or financially.

Along with future medical expenses, these children and their families may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. To get more information, contact SM Law Group to schedule a consultation.

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Life After A Catastrophic Accident

Traffic or industrial accidents can leave you with severe injuries that can change your daily routines. Sometimes, an injury to an arm or leg is so severe that an amputation may be the best solution for you to live a pain-free life. While making the decision to have an amputation can be difficult, it can help some people retain their quality of life.

Thanks to medical technology, prosthetic limbs are no longer clunky and immobile. Many of them are made from lightweight materials that are easier to carry on the body. In addition, computer technology has also made it possible for prosthetics to function similarly to a natural limb. However, this technology is not cheap.

Depending on the type of prosthetic that is purchased, it can cost between $5,000 to $50,000 for a prosthetic leg and between $3,000 to $30,000 for a prosthetic arm. Although cost is an important factor in deciding what type of prosthetic to purchase, there are more important factors to consider.

A prosthetic needs to be chosen based on its appropriateness for the patient using it. To determine this, the patient’s residuum, age, their daily activities, profession and medical issues all need to be considered. In addition, the type of technology and the materials used to make the prosthetic needs to be factored in was well.

After a catastrophic accident, you may not be able to return to your previous occupation. On top of your medical bills for the original accident and the cost of a prosthetic, if you do decide to have an elective amputation, you may also experience a loss of income, which leaves you unable to pay for your daily living expenses. If you have a family and are the primary bread winner, losing your ability to make money can have devastating consequences.

If the accident you were involved in is not your fault or if the company you worked for was negligent in some way that lead to the accident, you will need to hire an attorney experienced in helping people like you receive the compensation they deserve. Your insurance or workman’s compensation will only cover a small portion of your expenses and you shouldn’t have to pay the rest of them out of your own pocket.

The experienced attorneys at SM Law Group have several years of experience helping people receive the compensation they need and deserve. Contact us today for an appointment to discuss your case

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Rippling Effects Of Post Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury, commonly referred to as a TBI, is the result of a blow or hit to the head. One of the main causes of TBIs in the United States are vehicle accidents in which the injured party sustains an injury or a blow to the head.

There are many symptoms and disabilities that are associated with TBIs, ranging from minor to severe. It is important to be able to recognize some of the symptoms because a TBI doesn’t always manifest immediately after a blow to the head. Some of the more common symptoms of a TBI include:

– Confusion
– Blurry vision
– Headaches
– Difficulty concentrating
– Dizziness
– Memory Loss
– Sleep Disturbances

These symptoms are usually associated with mild TBIs and they can easily be missed by doctors or family members because the injured person may appear to be acting normally. These symptoms may not appear for several days or weeks after an accident, so that is why it is important to be aware of what they are so the injured party can get help when they do appear.

Moderate or severe TBI symptoms will be easier to recognize as they can include anything from slurred speech, loss of motor functions to the patient being in a coma. The consequences of a moderate to severe TBI will depend on many factors, including:

– The severity of the initial injury.
– Functions that were affected.
– Rate of physical recovery.
– Resources to aid recovery.

There are also financial consequences after a TBI caused by an auto accident and those consequences can be devastating. A patient may become permanently disabled from a TBI and may be unable to care for themselves. This can be a huge financial burden to the family of the victim.

The insurance company of the party at fault for the accident will want to try to settle out of court as soon as possible, so it is important to seek representation to make sure your financial interests are considered. Along with the initial medical bills, many TBI patients need extensive cognitive, physical and psychological therapies to help them function in their daily lives.

If you, or someone you know, has been in a vehicle accident and diagnosed with a TBI, it is important to get an experienced lawyer on your side. Contact SM Law Group to have your case evaluated and find out what compensation you may be able entitled to for your injuries.

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What To Do If You Are Injured On Unsafe Premises

When it comes to injuries, there are a lot of factors to deal with once you are suffering. You have to deal with the hospital, undergo any treatments, therapies and surgeries that are recommended to downgrade your pain level. In addition to that, if you were injured somewhere other than your own home, you have to deal with the legal repercussions and legal steps necessary to have the property owner help pay the hefty medical fees that are associated with your treatment.

How Do You Determine Who Is At Fault?

The first step to dealing with a situation where you were injured on a property other than your own is to determine who is at fault. If the property is not cared for in the manner required by law and is therefore unsafe, then the property owner is responsible. Likewise, if you were on a property for a legitimate reason and were acting in ways that were proper and safe, the liability falls to the property owner for that situation as well. If, for some reason, you were on another individual’s property and were acting recklessly or were there without reason and without permission, you may be wasting time. Still, it is best to consult a lawyer who can help you determine the person at fault for the injury you suffered. The lawyers at SM Law Group will be happy to help you consider any factors you may not have thought of and find the person responsible for your injury.

One important note here is that the reason you fell, for example, has to have come to be on the ground due to the actions or lack of action by the property owner. The property owner will not be liable if it is proven that another individual or group was responsible for the object that tripped you or otherwise caused your fall.

How Does Negligence Play Into Owner Liability?

When considering a property owner’s negligence, there are some factors to consider in determining whether they are negligent or simply uninformed. For example, if you were injured due to a piece of carpet that was loose or an obstruction in a well-traveled pathway, how long has that obstruction been there? Has there been time to notify the property owner? Are there communications that can be proven that attempted to make the property owner aware of the hazard?

Were you given any warning that the obstruction was present? Did you have a legitimate reason to be in the area of the obstruction, and more importantly, could the average person while paying attention have avoided the obstacle or was it hard to see?

A clear and concise discussion of events will go a long way toward helping an insurance adjustor get an accurate idea of the incident. In order to get financial assistance from a liable property owner, having all the potential issues covered in your conversation with the adjustor is a good first step. If you are unsure of certain things associated with that conversation, get in touch with a lawyer from SM Law Group, and they can help you better understand the proceedings.

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Rebuilding Your Credit After Divorce

A divorce is emotionally difficult and turns your life upside down. You have to figure out how to live on your own again, and finances are a challenge when you have been depending on another person’s income for years while living together. Take a look at your credit score and evaluate what you need to do in order to improve that score and get back in good financial standing on your own merit. This can be a challenge if you have not been keeping close track of your credit score in recent years. Still, it is manageable with the following tips.

Deal with Bad Debt

Even in a case where the divorce is final and the judge ordered your spouse to handle a specific debt, if it is left unpaid and your name is associated with it, then it has a negative impact on your credit. Therefore, it is important to deal with all the outstanding debt. If your spouse is failing to handle it, the first step to try is to send a letter of explanation and copy of the court order to the credit agency. However, their main interest is getting their money, so they may continue to pursue you to handle the debt even after receiving this information. At that time, it is important to weigh what is more important: having good credit or having your ex handle that specific account. He or she may never plan on handling that debt, so you may need to pay it off in order to start improving your credit again.

Establish New Credit in Your Name Only

This is where having a lawyer on your side is going to be helpful, so consider putting in a call to SM Law Group today. Some companies understand divorces happen, and they are willing to issue a credit card to you alone. Others will need a letter from a lawyer to push them in the right direction to close joint accounts and issue you a card and account in your name. This is particularly important for those joint accounts where you both are authorized users. Failing to close these accounts means your soon-to-be ex-spouse can use the account or allow someone else to use the account in your name and run up bills and bad credit.

Avoid Post-Divorce Spending Sprees

We all know that even an amicable divorce leaves scars, and amicable divorces are in the minority. Therefore, you may want to go out and make a big purchase or take out more credit to buy something to show you are starting a new chapter in your life. Reconsider that idea if it will put you in a bad spot with balancing the money you make and the amount that is going right back out to pay bills. Remember that you are down to living on what you bring in only, rather than two incomes, and it may take a while to get on your feet. Adding a new expense is not the way to show your post-divorce financial savvy.

Pay Bills On Time

One important thing you can do to improve credit, and one that is difficult for many people, is to keep paying bills on time. That means your car payment, your rent and even your utilities like gas and electric. These payments reflect positively on your credit score when they are not reported for lack of payment. That shows your creditors or a potential creditor that you can be relied on to pay bills.

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Top 3 Ways To Boost Your Credit Score

At SM Law Group, we see a lot of people struggling with bad credit. They are not sure how they got to this point, and it is even harder to gauge the best way to improve that credit score from where it is now. First of all, stressing over the score constantly will not help it improve. Next, try these three tips to give your credit score a small boost over time.

Pay Bills On Time

Failing to pay bills on time is one of the biggest hits your credit score takes. Therefore, if you have high balances on cards, be sure to get that payment in before the due date. This also avoids the late payments, which are just additional fees that could have been put toward the balance of your card had you paid the bill on time.

Utility bills, when paid on time, are also helpful to boosting your credit score. Keep that in mind when it is tempting to spend that money on something fun rather than your bill. Your credit score will suffer for that fun purchase.

Leave Good (Paid) Old Debt On Report

If you have paid off a car or other balance that was owed, be proud of that feat. Do not fight to have that debt removed from your credit report. It shows you can succeed in paying off credit when it is given to you, and that is a skill that is appealing to creditors. Also, keep in mind the longer the positive history is, the better it looks to creditors. So consider keeping old accounts open when they show you were good at keeping up with payments and having them paid on time.

Keep Credit Card Balances Down

In order to increase your credit score, it is a good idea to look at ways to minimize the current level of credit being used. For the cards you have, 30% or lower is the optimum when it comes to balances on that card. Therefore, it is a smart idea to aim for this number, or a lesser percentage in order to improve that credit score.

While you are keeping those balances low, consider the fact that having multiple cards with low balances is also not an appealing trait when it is noticed by creditors. Pay off the low balances on multiple cards, then pick one or two at most to use for everything. The balance may be higher, but in the longer run having only two cards that you are using shows you are responsible and can make the payments for additional credit at this point.

These tips and more are regularly shared by the experienced staff at SM Law Group. Our lawyers are here to help you improve your lifestyle and overall satisfaction, and we recognize that things can be very depressing when you are dealing with a low credit score. Take the time to consult with us today, and you will be very happy with the changes you can see in your credit score in a very short time. We can help you set short-term goals that can have a positive impact on your credit score quickly.

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Can I Negotiate My Medical Bills?

Many people have been faced with an unexpected illness at one point in their lives. If that illness required surgery and or prolonged time away from work, the debt accrued can be considerable. For those people, it becomes a matter of figuring out the best way to pay those bills back on an extended timeline. In America, the amount of money credit companies are seeking that traces back to medical bills is surprisingly high. In fact, one-third of the total amount sought by credit companies is related to medical bills left unpaid.

Some people are curious about the possibility of negotiating medical bills, so their ultimate amount due is more manageable. It is also a common scenario to think you have it under control and suddenly find out you are about to have the bills sent to credit agencies and have a bad credit report. When considering the route of negotiation, it is important to remember the following ideas in order to be successful and avoid those bad credit reports.

Keep Track of Conversations

For those who are attempting to work out agreements and payment plans, it pays to know who you talked to, where they were in the billing chain and when you had the conversation. Keeping track of names and reference numbers can save you time, since you can ask to talk to the same person again the next time you are forced to call, or you can let the person you are talking to know you already discussed this with another individual at the company, and you are trying to get to the next step of handling your bills.

Be Prepared/Do Your Research

Read through your policy carefully and be aware of what is and is not covered. Likewise, before a procedure is done (provided it is not an emergency situation), look into the cost of the procedure at various local facilities in order to determine the best place to go for that procedure. It is also important to look at the billing as the statement comes in, and for any aspect of the medical bills that should have been covered and was not, it pays to call and bring that to the attention of your insurance company.

Consider All Available Options

If you have some funds at your disposal, consider asking your hospital about discounts for paying in full within a certain amount of time following the procedure. This can drastically reduce the amount you are required to pay. It also pays to ask about financial assistance if you do not have much money at your disposal and if you are a lower-income family.

If you have done all of the above and are still drowning in medical debt, do not hesitate to call a professional. The attorneys at SM Law Group, are well-versed in handling medical bills and negotiating for the lowest payments and shortest plans to help you get the debt paid and get on with your life. For the times you can not see how the debt will ever be paid, call for a consultation with those who have experience in handling situations like yours.

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Stop Receiving Repo Collection Harassment Calls

Owing money to credit agencies is not something anyone enjoys, but when your debt is sold to a company that employs tactics that are borderline illegal or simply illegal, your stress level can drastically increase. For that reason, it is a good idea to attempt to get rid of the calls plaguing you. Below are ideas to help you deal with debt that you owe and debt owed by other individuals who are being called on your personal phone numbers.

Stop the Calls for Other People at Your Number
If you have recently gotten a new phone number and are receiving repeated calls at that number for other individuals who lived at your address, that can easily be stopped. After the first time the credit company calls asking for a certain individual, write a letter to that company saying you dispute the debt they are trying to get repaid because you are not the individual in question. Send the letter, preferably via certified mail, to the company’s address. This must be done within 30 days after their initial call to your number. Then, they have to provide proof that you owe the debt and not another individual. That will not be possible in this case. Therefore, per the FDCPA, they must stop calling you. They also have to mark the debt as in dispute, so they can not sell it to another agency to get the money and have you back to dealing with the calls.

Stop Calls for Your Debt

There are several methods commonly used by credit agencies that are technically illegal. Catch them using these methods in a way that you can prove and take them to court. The methods that are illegal include calling repeatedly to annoy you, trying to collect more than you owe, threatening violence and failing to send you a written notice of your debt within five days of their first contact with you.

Now, the first one (calling repeatedly to annoy you) is a subjective one. Keep track of the times they call and how many times each day. Make sure to save messages they leave and make note of what they say. Then, you can share these pieces of evidence with the judge and hope that the judge will agree that the amount of contact was enough to be harassment.

Failing to send written notice can also get you out of dealing with repetitive calls, because the law states they must inform you of the amount you owe, the original creditor to whom you owe the debt and your rights when it comes to disputing the debt. Failure to provide you with said information can lead to your winning a dispute against them in court.

If these all sound like intense processes, it may be in your best interest to reach out to professionals who can guide you through dealing with creditors and successfully seeing an end to the repetitive calls regarding repossession or collection efforts. The lawyers at SM Law Group have handled numerous cases like this for happy customers, and they will be sure to let you know the best options for you and the way you should move forward to end the calls that bother you day and night.

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Bankruptcy vs. Debt Collection

Today’s society has easy access to credit, and that credit can get out of hand and bury you in debt that you can not repay. If you are to a point where the bills far outbalance the money coming in per month, it is time to consider your options. Those options involve filing for bankruptcy and turning to debt consolidation.
Both of these options have various aspects that can be different for different people. Therefore, there is no blanket ideal route to take for anyone. It is best to consider the options carefully to find the best options for you and handling debt.

What is Debt Consolidation?

Debt consolidation is a great route before you start filing for bankruptcy. The intent of debt consolidation is to work with all your creditors and create a single payment each month that goes toward all the bills you currently owe. Usually, this is done by working with a company that specializes in debt consolidation.

When considering debt consolidation, ask yourself the following questions: Can I be disciplined and not re-spend once my balances are at zero again? Will it be worth it to consolidate my high-interest debts? Is the contract from the debt consolidation company in my best interest?

It is also to be noted that certain types of debt are not eligible for consolidation through companies like this. So consider carefully what your debt is, what is eligible and whether it is the best route for you and your specific debts and future plans.

What is Bankruptcy/What Types Would be Relevant?

Bankruptcy is when a person acknowledges they are buried by debt and allows the person to get past some debts and arrange a payment plan to deal with others. There are two types of bankruptcy: Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is for when the person in debt has no reliable means of income to pay back the creditors. In this instance, all nonexempt assets are sold to put the money toward the bankruptcy, with a few notable exceptions such as one vehicle as a means of transportation, etc..

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is for those who are in debt but have a regular income. This helps these individuals create payment plans or otherwise address the debt in question. This is a good idea for those who are hoping to save their home from being foreclosed on. It also is helpful since it does not focus on possessions and their sale as a means to pay back debt.

How Do I Know What’s Best for Me?

Since there is a lot more to each of these options than mentioned above, it is a good idea to consult a legal professional if you are still unsure which option is best for you. The lawyers at SM Law Group have extensive experience in dealing with debt and determining the best option for your specific situation. They can help you consider factors you may have ignored while determining the best option for you. They can also help you find a reputable debt consolidation company if that is the route you choose to take.

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What You Need to know About FDPCA Laws

The FDCPA is a government law that shields customers from uncalled for or oppressive debt accumulating practices. It gives you the privilege to debate on the debt. It controls how and when a debt gatherer may get in touch with you and what the debt authority can say to you. What’s more, it gives you the privilege to compel debt gatherers to allow you to sit unbothered.
Debt collection offices and their debt authorities have been known for pestering as well as using alarming strategies to compel account holders to pay old debts. Regardless of the possibility that they are not the perfect individual who owes the debt. The most pertinent legislation that guarantees your rights as a buyer and as a citizen of the U.S against debt gatherers’ out of line practices is the FDCPA or Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The following are a few guidelines need to know about this law:

What sorts of debt are secured by this law?
Cash owed from an exchange in which the reason for existing is essentially individual, for family or the family unit, regardless of whether such commitment has been decreased to judgment.
It incorporates your charge card debt, home loan, auto advance, credit and hospital expenses.

What creditors can’t do?
-They can’t contact your companions, family or some other persons joined with you, about your obligation.

-They can’t reach your partners, family or whatever other persons associated with you, more than once to acquire your area information, unless the individual asked for that they call once more.

-They can’t employ any dialect or image on any envelope or in the content of any correspondence sent using email or telegram, which demonstrates that it is originating from a debt authority. Besides, the letter that identifies with the gathering of a debt.

-They can’t call you before 8 o’clock in the morning and after 9 o’clock at night depending on your time without an assent or consent from a court that has purview over you.

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Frequently Asked Bankruptcy Questions

The stories are varied, but the problem almost always comes down to a series of events you couldn’t have predicted. The lay-off just as the economy started to slip, and just as you make a major purchase. The illness, the accident or the divorce all hard enough to endure without having the painful reality of what this will do to your credit. Bankruptcy isn’t what anyone wants, but it can help you recover financially.

Will Bankruptcy Stop the Constant Credit Agency Calls?
Since the act of filing for bankruptcy stops all actions against you by those you owe money, creditors must end the non-stop harassment once you file your documents. Creditors can’t take you to court, garnish wages, or make telephone calls. If creditors continue calling you after your bankruptcy, you can report their behavior to the Federal Trade Commission.

Who Will Know if You Declare Bankruptcy?

For many people the idea of not being able to pay their bills is humiliating, but certainly if you are in this position you aren’t alone. In a slowly recovering economy, declaring bankruptcy is a common fact of life for those attempting to move past bad points in their lives. While bankruptcy filings are public records, few people will know. Credit Bureaus will record the bankruptcy, and it remains on your record for 10 years.

Will I Lose All My Credit Cards?

Whether you lose all your cards depends largely on the creditor’s response to your filing bankruptcy. If you are listing this line of credit as part of the bankruptcy, they will cancel the card. If you make arrangements to reaffirm the debt, you should understand that the amount you owed before the bankruptcy filing will still remain. Not all credit card agencies will accept reaffirming your debt. After the filing it’s possible they will cancel your card even if you have kept the card paid up, and owe them nothing.

Will I Spend Years Without Credit?

Not having a credit card isn’t a problem for most who declare bankruptcy. Many banks offer secured credit cards. This is a good way to begin building your credit back. A creditor will let you put up a certain amount of money, such as $200 or $500 in a bank account to secure the money you spend through the card. As you reestablish your credit history, it can be possible to get a mortgage loan, or get a loan for a car. While the bankruptcy stays on your record even before the 10 years is up you will see more and more creditors interested in your business.

What is covered by Bankruptcy?

Very few debts are not covered by bankruptcy. However, child support and alimony, student loans, and debts incurred by having caused injury or death cannot be absolved through this process.

SM Law Group Can Help

If you or someone you know is thinking of filing for Bankruptcy call the attorneys of SM Law group. We will help you decide the best route for your individual situation. Call us today for a free consultation!

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Personal Injury Settlements FAQ

No car accident is a deliberate act. While you might not hold any anger against the person who caused an accident, it’s still often a necessity to take them to court. It’s surprising how often a driver who promises to take on expenses, or who acknowledges the accident was his or her fault will change stories when talking to the insurance company. Then too, the insurance company involved might also want to offer an amount that will never pay for all your medical bills, not to mention all the pain and suffering you’ve experienced. Going to court is frequently the best solution.

Why Not Settle With An Insurance Company?

Insurance companies will typically offer an amount they feel is sufficient to address compensation after an accident, but doesn’t address everything you feel you are owed. When you know you will see more medical expense, or you know the amount will not cover your losses from the accident talking to a lawyer before signing the settlement is important. Once you sign this agreement, you will not be able to take either the driver or the insurance company to court. Despite the fact future medical bills are incurred, you may only have the money from that settlement, and you may never see additional compensation in the future.

Does The Insurance Company Have A Desire To Reach A Personal Injury Settlement?

Insurance companies do not like going to court. A lawsuit, even if not decided in your favor will most likely cost the company money. For this reason they are often interested in reaching a settlement, but are more inclined to hear about future expenses, or additional compensation from your lawyer.

Should All My Injuries Be Included In Settlement?

One question that many injured people hear from insurance companies is in regards the degree of injury. Some hear questions about whether or not an injury had some pre-determining factor, and that the accident is not completely responsible for the full extent of the medical costs. Compensation from a personal injury claim or through litigation is for the purpose of returning you to the point you were in before the accident. Rejecting a settlement that doesn’t include costs for a condition that was made worse by the accident is recommended.

If I Reject The Offer of Insurance Company—-Is Court The Only Answer?

Often, an insurance company will want to settle even after you have filed for your case to go to court. Again, most companies don’t want the expense of going to court. If you are being reasonable in the amount you want to see for compensation it’s very likely the insurance company or driver will want to make another attempt to settle before the case goes to court.

Will I Need to Pay Taxes On The Settlement Compensation?

If you have filed your returns, and claimed the medical expenses as a deduction, then you will need to pay income tax on the amount you receive. This will be noted as “Other Income” on your next reporting to the IRS. You will also need to report money for pain and suffering, and any amount above the amount needed to cover actual medical expenses. Any amount of your settlement intended for interest is taxable.

If you or someone you know has been injured and looking for compensations contact the SM Law Group today for a free consultation.

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What To Do If You Are Receiving Loan Collection Calls?

No one likes to receive calls about a loan, especially if you have fallen far behind. Collection calls can feel threatening, and they can make it difficult for you at work, or interrupting daily life. When this happens, it’s time to empower yourself, and find out the steps you can take to resolve this problem at a pace that’s comfortable for you.

Where Did You Get Your Loan?

Go through your paper work or contact your University if you don’t recall where you got the loan. For most in the U.S. Sallie Mae is a major loan distributor. Look for your documents or see if your college will tell you who to contact. It’s possible when speaking directly with the agency that gave you the loan to work out payment arrangements. It’s also possible to ask for a deferment of forbearance under certain conditions. If you went through Sallie Mae you can also go to their website and look for links under “postpone payments”, and you can see if your circumstances fit either option.

The Next Step: The Department of Education

If you aren’t able to get a payment plan, or and deferment or forbearance doesn’t work out, then the next step is the Department of Education. The Default Resolution Group can help with solutions. Unlike a collection agency this department has valid reasons to work with you on a reasonable payment plan. Often, they will work with you even if you have reached the default stage or your wages have been garnished.

Stop The Phone Calls

Even as you are working out the details of your payment plan you need to stop the calls that are disturbing you at work and home. Just telling them to stop will not work. You need to write the agency a letter, as sending a formal written request is necessary. Be formal in the letter and strongly request they stop calling you. Don’t use foul or causal language, and be concise. Make a copy of this letter, and keep it for your records. Send the letter to the collection agency through certified mail. When you get the receipt returned to you in the mail, hold onto it for your records with your copy of the letter. This proves they have the letter. It also means they are obligated to stop calling. If the agency tries to continue calling you or uses tactics such as calling friends or relatives to harass you, then report them to the Department of Education.

SM Law Group

Sm Law Group can help you with your student loans. If you are receiving collection phone calls or under threat of wage garnishment give us a call today for a free consultation. We will guide you through the best process for your situation.

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The Obama Student Loan Forgiveness Program

The Obama Student Loan Forgiveness Program is beneficial to those who owe money for student loans. There are many stipulations to this program so it is important to know if and how you may qualify for the program.

Income Based and Pay as You Earn

While these two new policies sound much the same, in fact there are differences. With IBR the plan bases the borrower’s payment to his or her own income and the size of this individual’s family. With IBR the balance of the loan and the interest aren’t used in calculating a monthly payment plan. Instead the borrower will be responsible for 15% of their discretionary income toward their federal student loans.

Some might have no payment at all until their income changes. IBR interest doesn’t capitalize on the subsidized portion of the loan. Unlike a typical deferment the amount due will not increase dramatically due to interest for the first three years of the IBR. The Pay As You Earn plan is also based on income, but uses 10% of the borrower’s discretionary income toward payment. Qualifying for PAYE is, however, harder than for the IBR. Both of these plans help those who can’t find higher paying jobs after college. The unpaid balance and interest is still owed, and new payment arrangements will need to be made when income levels change.

Income Contingent—Loan and Income Balance

With this plan you can arrange to make a payment on student loans based on your income size, family size without having to calculate this against the balance of the loan, or the interest rate. The payment through this plan can go down to a zero amount per month. It’s important to remember, however, that when the individual enters a new income level he or she will still owe the amount of the loan that’s still unpaid.

Standard Repayments Haven’t Changed

For those who have the income level the fixed rate amount is still viable. The payment is determined by amount, interest rate and the number of years of the loan. The benefit here is the loan will be paid quickly, instead of having it waiting for you the second you take a new job, or start to earn more money.

Graduated Repayment

This is possibly the best of both worlds for those who have to pay back student loans while in entry level jobs. This repayment plan starts out with lower payments. These payments will gradually increase over two years. This allows for some breathing room as the borrower can still afford to make professional and lifestyle choices without so much concern over a higher monthly payment for student loans.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

For those working in public service, it’s possible to qualify for forgiveness of student loan debt after 10 years or 120 payments. This payment forgiveness is also available for teachers and for those with total and permanent disability.

If you need help with student loans call SM Law Group today for a free consultation.

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Student Loan Forgiveness Programs: How to Qualify

The National Student Loan Data System for Students states that students have 6 months after they graduate to find a job before they begin paying back their federal loan. But can the loan be pardoned if a student remains unemployed?

Yes! However, there are select criteria that must be met before the loan can be pardoned or reduced. Loan forgiveness refers to the situation wherein a student does not have to repay all or part of the loan.

How can loans be forgiven?

Loan forgiveness and loan discharge differ with respect to the considerations that could invalidate the debt.

A loan discharge occurs when the student:

Is unable to pay the loan under any circumstances. For instance, death or complete disability

Cannot use the education for which the loan was taken. For instance, the student’s college closes down before the course is completed.

A loan forgiveness occurs when:

The U.S. government, the forgiving party, decides that the student has repaid the community in a manner put down by it, such as public service or teaching.

Students may need legal help to determine which loan forgiveness program they are eligible for, but there are several options they can explore.

The eligibility for student loan forgiveness is influenced by the kind of student loan taken. For instance, if the loan is a federal Stafford loan, a part or all of the loan may be forgiven by participating in medical practice, military service, public service, or volunteer work.

A student must meet these criteria in order to qualify:

Offer to work in Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Peace Corps, or AmeriCorps.

Work as a doctor in certain communities or as a teacher in schools dedicated to low-income children.

Serve in nonprofit positions or public interest areas, as directed by the forgiveness program.

Serve in the Army National Guard or other military outfits.

Discharge in bankruptcy

Bankruptcy student loan discharge is not an automatic process. You must prove that you are unable to repay the student loan. Filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may or may not discharge you from the loan. You must have to prove that repayment of the student loan is going to be extremely difficult for you.

Conclusion

The IRS may treat the forgiven loan amount as income and require the student to pay tax on it. The student should also get written verification of the amount to be forgiven and the situation in which forgiveness is asked for.

At SM Law Group, we can help you with student loan discharge. Call us today for a free consultation!

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Can Bankruptcy Affect Your Retirement Plans

Yes, those regular credit card and bill payment calls are annoying. You want to get out of debt and put an end to those pesky calls. But is bankruptcy the right solution? Filing a bankruptcy petition has long lasting consequences and ramifications. Will bankruptcy jeopardize your IRA, pension, 401(k), or retirement plans? No, it won’t.

Unless you use the funds to pay off your debt obligations, a bankruptcy petition is unlikely to have any effect on your retirement savings.

In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you get to keep your property, but you have to pay all or some of your debts over a period of 3 to 5 years. That means that your assets are not liquidated. Instead, they are reorganized and the bankruptcy is funded by your wages. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will probably have to surrender some property, but your retirement accounts are usually exempt. They are not considered as part of your bankruptcy estate.

The federal government amended the bankruptcy laws in 2005. The new laws have made nearly all pension plans and retirement accounts exempt from the creditors of the individual. The new ruling allows individuals to maintain these funds just in case they plan to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Since the pension plans and retirement accounts are now exempt, in Chapter 13 bankruptcy they won’t be considered while calculating the amount you have to repay to your unsecured creditors in your repayment schedule.

Pension plans and retirement accounts that are exempt and protected, include profit-sharing plans, defined-benefit plans, money purchase plans, and all ERISA-qualified plans including 401(k)s, 403(b)s and IRAs.

How SM Law Group can help you?

Filing for bankruptcy is a complicated process. Even simple errors can result in the dismissal of your petition. Our experienced bankruptcy attorneys can guide you through the process and protect assets that are important to your future financial security. We will help you get the maximum benefit out of the discharge. In addition, a qualified attorney will prevent creditors from circumventing the discharge.

In order to ensure your financial security in the long term, you should know how bankruptcy will affect your retirement plans. Our qualified bankruptcy attorneys are aware of your rights, obligations, and exemptions regarding your pension and retirement accounts. Do you think bankruptcy might be the right solution for you? Contact us at SM Law Group and we’ll go through your case and advise you accordingly.

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Everything You Should Know About Repaying Federal And Private Student Loans

For many students, paying for advanced studies beyond highschool is their number one financial priority. If you don’t have enough investments or cash savings to fund your higher education, you will probably want to investigate various loan options.

There are mainly two kinds of student loans: federal loans and private loans. Federal student loans are offered by the federal government. On the other hand, private student loans are given by a lending institution like a bank, state agency, credit union, or school.

Repayment

There are many differences between private loans and federal loans. In the case of federal loans, you have to start repaying the loans only after graduation. In the case of private student loans, repayment may start immediately. If you default on your monthly payments, your credit rating will suffer.

When should you take a private loan?

Private student loans are worth considering in certain situations. For example, if you have a good job waiting for you, obtaining a private loan is not a bad idea because your job will earn you enough money to pay off your debts. Generally speaking, private student loans should be the last option you consider. If it is the only means of paying for your studies, you should consider going to a less expensive school.

Repaying Loans

Repaying private loans is not easy. In fact, several factors can make it more difficult than you would imagine. You will probably want to pay off your loan early to avoid paying more interest. However, some lenders charge a prepayment penalty.

Federal student loans can be retired either partially or fully if you are willing to do a couple of years in service-related programs like Teach for America or Peace Corps. Students who find it difficult to repay their loan may be eligible for postponement, consolidation, or forbearance options. If a student dies or sustains injuries that disable him, the loan may be retired.

Repaying private loans is tougher. These loans don’t offer flexible payment or forbearance options. In addition, these loans may also require you to find a cosigner who will be responsible for repaying the loan if you fail to make your payments. And if the student dies before the loan is paid off, the lender may chase the cosigner.

SM Law Group Can Help

Although private loans are easier to obtain than federal loans, most students prefer federal loans. Contact us at SM Law Group to learn more about repaying your student loans.

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Telephone Consumer Protection Act – Know Your Rights

Telemarketers are a nuisance to many, with phone calls—which are often automated—coming frequently throughout the week and even throughout the day. Fortunately, much has been done over the past several years to limit the number of such calls. Originally passed in 1991, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA, was a good first step towards reducing the impact of telemarketers as a nuisance. In 2012, Congress revised the TCPA with its purpose being to limit the number of phone calls that are made to consumers across the States.

The part of the TCPA that was most heavily revised was that relating to automated phone calls, or robocalls. The revisions to the TCPA make it so that the consumer would need to provide consent for the robocalls (or prerecorded phone calls), and to make it easier for consumers to opt-out of these same phone calls. In addition, there needs to have been an existing professional relationship between the consumer and the telemarketing company in order for these types of phone calls to be legal. In the state of California, there is also a legal timeframe during which these phone calls must be made.

In the state of California, consumers are allowed to sue telemarketing companies; if a consumer gets an injunction against the company and the calls persist, the consumer can receive financial compensation from the company. Consumers may also seek compensation for the violation of the TCPA; if the consumer can provide evidence that a telemarketer was in violation of the TCPA, they could make $500 for each phone call that was in violation, and up to $1500 per phone call if it can be proved that those calls were made intentionally in violation of the TCPA.

The issue of telemarketing isn’t just a nuisance issue, but a privacy issue. If you have been bothered by telemarketers for any reason and especially if they are trying to collect money from you, contact our offices today. Our attorneys have years of experience working with these types of issues and would be happy to help you battle against collection calls and other telemarketing nuisances. At SM Law Group, we can defend your rights as a citizen and can ensure that you get the compensation that you deserve.

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Preventing Motorcycle Injuries – Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

May is motorcycle safety awareness month, and while we hope that you are following safe driving practices every time you ride, we have some tips to share with you about how to make your rides safer. It is dangerous to assume that other drivers will be aware of your presence on the road, and taking these precautions can make your ride safer and more enjoyable:

– Wear proper riding attire. Wearing the proper clothing can protect you not only if you crash, but it can also protect you while you are driving your motorcycle. For example, it is important to wear pants because the exhaust on the motorcycle gets extremely hot, and a burn to the leg could distract you from the road and result in a crash. Likewise, wearing a sturdy pair of shoes can make it easier for you to shift gears, providing a smoother, safer ride.

– Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure that you are aware of where the other vehicles are on the road while you are operating your motorcycle. It would be nice if every driver was attentive to motorcyclists, but that is not always the case. Make sure that you give yourself space to maneuver should the need arise. If you find yourself riding in a group of traffic, find a way to get more space; traveling in a pack of cars reduces your visibility, and it is much more difficult for other drivers to see you than it would be if you were in open road.

– Don’t press boundaries. Know what you are capable of, especially if you have a passenger. It might be fun to drive fast and to weave in between cars, but if you are a new driver or are not comfortable with your motorcycle, these actions can be dangerous. You should also pay attention to the weather and its effects on the roads; if it is raining, be careful in turns and driving in general, as the roads are slick and visibility is limited.

– Take a safety course. If you are still uncomfortable with riding a motorcycle, it may be in your best interest to invest in a motorcycle safety course. You can learn valuable tips on safe driving, how to be aware of your surroundings, and even practice with an instructor.

Hopefully you find these tips useful for your rides. Being prepared and following safe practices can make your rides more enjoyable and less likely to result in tragedy. If you do find yourself injured in a motorcycle accident and you need representation to get the compensation you deserve contact the attorneys at SM Law Group. Call us TODAY for a free consultation. We offer affordable payment plans.

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Will Bankruptcy Help My Student Loan Debt?

Student loans have become a serious burden for many people over the years, and failure to pay back your financial institution or the government can lead to very hard economic times for you and your family. Bankruptcy is one option that is often considered. Some people say that bankruptcy can hurt you when it comes to repaying student loans or at the very least that there is no benefit at all.

However, there are also positive outcomes for filing for bankruptcy with student loans. It’s important to remember that bankruptcy can hurt you even if it is your co-signer that is filing, not you. However, more often than not, nothing will happen to your student loans if you file for bankruptcy; you generally cannot have your loans discharged, but neither will you face penalties for doing so. Now, if
you are having your wages garnished or have a social security offset, you could benefit from filing for bankruptcy; this is because collection activity stops for your student loans when you file for bankruptcy.

As long as you have everything cleared up by the time your bankruptcy is completed, you essentially have a ‘fresh start’ and don’t have to worry about how much will be taken out of your paycheck to cover your loans.

Deciding whether or not to file bankruptcy is a big decision, especially with student loans, and it greatly depends on your personal situation. If you would like to gain more insight into help with your student loans, contact SM Law Group today – we’d be happy to speak with you.

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Student Loan Basics IBR, ICE & PAYE

So you’ve completed schooling, taking out loans along the way to cover costs – now what? Well, there are several options available to you (not to mention a six month grace period to figure out which repayment plan is best for you!), including repayment plans that are created based on your income.

Three of the main income-driven repayment plans are Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plans, Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plans, and Pay As You Earn Repayment (PAYE) Plans. As you would imagine from the name, IBR plans set your payment amount based on your discretionary income, typically 10 to 15 percent of this income per month. Because this income is based on a percentage, your payments will go up or down depending on how much money you are earning, and these types of repayment plans are usually approved for people that will have difficulty making the standard, flat payment fee.

Similarly, ICR plans are based on income; unlike IBR plans, these are based on your annual income as well as the size of your family. You can also expect your payment amount to change as your income changes.

Finally, PAYE plans are another form of income driven repayment plans. The percentage rate for these plans typically tops off at 10 percent of your discretionary income, but no more than what you would be paying on a standard ten year repayment plan. Unlike IBR and ICR plans, however, if you do not finish paying off your balance at the end of 20 years, the remaining balance will be forgiven. These and other repayment plans have regulations.

If you have questions about repaying your student loans, contact SM Law Group today!

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What Happens When You Meet Your End of a Deal to Stave Off a Foreclosure and Then the Bank Forecloses on Your House Anyway?

While you might have done everything you can to avoid a foreclosure, there could still be a potential that a bank may try to foreclose on your house. This is in spite of all the effort you have done to stop it.

You might have gotten the money that you require to stop the foreclosure but there could be a potential for a bank to evict you from your property. You could still give the money to that bank but you may be in danger of being evicted as the bank could have the final say as to what will happen to you. This is regardless of what you have done.

The fact is that when you do agree to pay off the money and you actually do get what is owed ready, you are entering into an agreement that the bank created. The bank established this offer with the intention of ensuring that you can avoid a foreclosure as long as you do what it tells you to. In this case, you will have to get a certain amount of money ready. This is a concept that should have been appropriately written in paper.

By getting this money, you will have avoided the foreclosure in accordance with the initial agreement. The bank has the full duty to actually agree to what you have done and should allow you to stay in your home.

If a bank forecloses on your house then it will have engaged in deceptive practices. These are illegal and are subject to substantial penalties from the government. These penalties may entail millions of dollars.

If your home is being foreclosed upon even if you have paid off what you were supposed to then you should contact a lawyer for assistance. A lawyer can provide you with legal representation to argue your case in court and to show that the bank is breaking its contract with you. You may get a settlement from the bank to cover the entire cost of your loan and to ensure that you will not be at risk of serious problems relating to what you owe.

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5 Best Alternatives to Foreclosure

A foreclosure is a difficult concept to think about as it may cause you to lose your home. The damage that it may cause to your credit rating can especially be threatening. Luckily there are many alternatives that you can utilize to avoid a foreclosure.

Loan Modification

A loan modification is a program that allows you to adjust the terms that are featured on your home loan. It may be adjusted to have your delinquent payments added to your original loan while utilizing a fixed rate that may be lower than what you originally had. Still, whether or not you will be able to qualify for a loan modification will be based heavily on the additional forms of debt you hold.

Refinancing

Refinancing is a different alternative to foreclosure than a loan modification as it entails getting a completely new loan. A new loan will pay off the old mortgage loan in this case. You will then be responsible for paying off the new loan. This loan may come with terms that are more favorable to your needs.

Partial Claim

A partial claim will allow you to get an interest-free loan to assist you in making your loan current. The lender will take in less than what you owe but the loan will still be considered current after the partial claim is fully paid off. Not all lenders will accept this alternative to foreclosure but they will often accept it simply as a means of reducing their losses. They know they will not lose as much money off of this as what would be lost in a foreclosure.

Repayment Plan

A repayment plan will allow you to create a new schedule for how you will pay back your mortgage loan. You can devise a plan with your lender to make regular monthly payments and then add an extra amount of money to it each month. This may assist you in paying back the amount money that you are delinquent for.

Forebearance Plan

A forbearance plan will allow you to either temporarily reduce the amount of your monthly payment or even suspend your payments. The payment value that you will owe will be increased later on. This is done to help you prepare enough money to actually pay off the delinquent amount that you owe.

If you or someone you know is facing potential foreclosure contact SM Law Group today.

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Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Can Save You from Foreclosure

ust because you have received the foreclosure letter, it doesn’t mean that you have lost your home. In fact, by filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can stop the foreclosure and save your property. Chapter 13 gives you another chance to pay your mortgage arrears before the bank sells your home. We at SM Law Group can help you through this process.

Lenders are required to give a notice to their borrowers. They have to inform the borrower that their payments are in default and that they face the risk of foreclosure. The lender has to wait for some time or get a court judgment before they can start the foreclosure process. The borrower will be notified when the lender sets a sale date. If you have received a foreclosure letter, you can’t waste any time. If you are confident that you will be able to pay the arrears if you get enough time, you should file for Chapter 13 immediately.

How Chapter 13 provides protection against Foreclosure

Chapter 13 bankruptcy prohibits your lender from selling the home. Creditors including your lender are prohibited from proceeding with any collection attempts without court permission. This gives the borrower an opportunity to save the home provided that it hasn’t already been sold.

Catch up on missed mortgage payments

Besides stopping the foreclosure, Chapter 13 gives you an opportunity to catch up on your mortgage payments through its repayment plan which can last up to 5 years.

How does this work?

You make monthly payments to the bankruptcy trustee to bring pending mortgage payments current. The trustee will pay the lender the catch up payment mentioned in the repayment plan. It should be remembered that in addition to the catch up payment, you have to make regular mortgage payments after filing for bankruptcy. This gives you an opportunity to bring past due payments current.

SM Law Group Can Help

There are certain eligibility criteria to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Contact SM Law Group today for a free consultation.

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Notice of Default – What You Should Do

When a borrower fails to make monthly mortgage payments, the first thing that the lender does is to notify the trustee. Upon receiving this notification, the trustee will issue the Notice of Default. It is a public document filed with a judicial court. If the borrower still fails to pay, a notice of sale is issued. In case the borrower manages to catch up on their missed payments, the lender will halt the foreclosure process.

In California, lenders have the option of using a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure process. Of these two, the non-judicial process is the more common. When a lender starts the non-judicial foreclosure against a borrower, they give up their right to obtain a deficiency judgment. Contrary to popular belief, the lender does not seize the property when the borrower defaults. The right to sell the property lies with the third party trustee. When you obtain a mortgage, you sign a deed of trust. This deed gives the third party trustee the right to sell your home if you default on your payments.
Sometimes the lender may use the judicial foreclosure to claim the home. In this case, the homeowner will be given an opportunity to buy back the home from the highest bidder within one year of the auction. The homeowner only has to pay the price the home fetched at the auction. In a non-judicial foreclosure, the homeowner doesn’t enjoy the right of redemption.

When a lender starts a judicial foreclosure, they have to obtain a court order to seize the property. This process takes longer than the non-judicial foreclosure.
The public can review the notice of default. There are predatory companies that review these records to take advantage of homeowners facing the risk of foreclosure. Don’t commit the mistake of signing over the deed of trust to third parties to avoid foreclosure. If you need assistance, the federal government has appointed HUD-approved counselors.

If you are facing the risk of foreclosure and need to hire an attorney to stop the process, contact us at SM Law Group to schedule a free consultation. Our lawyers have years of experience and will offer affordable payment plans to help ease your financial burdens.

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How Bankruptcy Can Prevent Foreclosure

Most of us have been taught to avoid a bankruptcy at all costs, heard that it ruins your credit and can stay on your credit report for many years. But if you’re behind in your bills, including your mortgage payment and your mortgage lender is threatening you with foreclosure, a bankruptcy may just be your best solution to preventing foreclosure and keeping your home!

The two most common types of bankruptcy for individuals are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. In many cases, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will not save your home, but will delay the foreclosure process for several months, giving you the time you need to find your family a new place to live. Once you file for bankruptcy, the lender cannot proceed with the foreclosure, which gives you several months in your home where you’ll owe no mortgage payment and be living essentially for free. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will also cancel out your debts, including the mortgage (and any second mortgage or home equity loans you may have). If you are looking to “start over” due to a change in your financial circumstances, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be in your best interest.

If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may be able to hold onto your home. The way a Chapter 13 bankruptcy works to prevent foreclosure is that this form of bankruptcy lets you pay off all your late, unpaid payments over a length of time determined by you, your lender and the courts – which can be up to 5 years. You’ll need to provide proof of income to support this new repayment plan; however, which is tricky for some homeowners who have been faced with layoffs or hour reductions. You’ll also need to keep current with the new payment plan, or else your lender may again begin foreclosure proceedings. If you have run into financial difficulties but would like to try to keep your home, call our office today to speak to an attorney about whether a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing may work to prevent foreclosure for you.

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Everything You Need To know About The Foreclosure Process In California

Are you currently facing foreclosure and receiving legal paperwork from your lender regarding your mortgage, or have you been recently laid off and expect that you may soon begin to miss your mortgage payments? If so, you probably have questions about how the foreclosure process in California works. The information provided here is what applies to most people – however, foreclosure law is complex and some of the rules will vary depending on your unique situation, which is why we recommended contacting one of our local foreclosure attorneys to find out what solutions may be available to you.

A foreclosure occurs when a homeowner fails to make the agreed upon payments on their home to their mortgage lender. When a homeowner falls behind on payments, the lender can force the sale of the property in order to recoup what is owed to them under the mortgage loan. In California, lenders may foreclose on properties both through the court system and also outside of the court system, via a nonjudicial foreclosure.

What you need to know: before a lender can pursue a foreclosure, they must contact you (and anyone else listed on your mortgage loan) to discuss your financial situation and look into options to avoid foreclosure. A lender cannot start foreclosure proceedings until they have contacted you to have this discussion, called a foreclosure avoidance assessment. If you cannot come to terms with your lender, they can file a Notice of Default in the county where your home is located. The lender must send you a copy of the Notice of Default, and give you 90 days to pay the lender the amount owed. If you cannot pay what is owed, the lender may file a Notice of Sale, which allows the lender to sell your home at auction. Remember that you can authorize an attorney to speak to the lender on your behalf at any time during this complex process, and that your lender must notify you in writing before taking further action against you. In a foreclosure preceding, time is of the essence. Our local, experienced foreclosure attorneys are here to help you.

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The Truth About Lapsed Auto Insurance and Car Accidents

Many people have driven without insurance (ridin’dirty). It is a huge epidemic in the state of California, where driving is such a huge part of people’s day-to-day commutes. Car insurance is mandatory in every vehicle driving on the road. And if asked by law enforcement, all drivers must provide proof of insurance through a car insurance company or some other form of proof.

What happens if you have no car insurance in the state of California?

The short answer is that you can get into trouble. The long answer is that if you don’t have car insurance in California, whether you let it lapse or never purchased it to begin with, the state can access punitive penalties designed to encourage you to fix the problem. Fact is, in California, you need insurance. Not only to drive a vehicle, but also to park it on any public road. So in other words, you may not even park an uninsured vehicle anywhere on the street, or even in front of your home under any circumstances.

Penalties for driving without insurance

Drivers caught behind the wheel of an uninsured vehicle at times face harsher penalties – especially if the vehicle is unregistered, or has had its registration suspended. The driver can also face severe fines or the suspension of their license. To boot, a driver involved in an accident with an uninsured vehicle can also have their license suspended for a year. In any case, proof of insurance is necessary in order to reinstate the license.

It’s not worth it

Beyond the possible suspension of registration or your driver’s license, there is an additional cost to not having car insurance in California. When you do finally attempt to get your vehicle properly insured that cost will be reflected in the price. Your DMV records will be available to any insurance company you attempt to get a policy through. Those records will reveal your unwillingness to obtain the legally required insurance prior to your suspensions, which will deem you as a high-risk driver and cause your premiums to be higher.

The simple fact is having car insurance in California is required. It makes no sense, financially or otherwise, to try to escape the facts.

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What To Do If You Find Yourself In A Parking Lot Accident

Parking lot accidents are very common in California, but there are basic steps you should take if you find yourself in this situation. These basic, but important, rules in terms of dealing with parking lot accidents and liability should be your first course of action.

Camera phones

If you are ever involved in a parking lot collision keep your car where it is, and use your camera phone. You should obtain both close-up and from-a-distance photos of the vehicles as they were upon impact. The photos should detail where the vehicles were in relation to each other and to the parking lot where the collision happened.

Get the other person’s information

If having the police there is out of the question, the responsibility to exchange insurance and contact information falls squarely on those involved. Writing down information off of a car insurance card may not be enough. The insured will most times be the owner of the car, but what happens if the person driving isn’t the cars owner? Write down the name and address on the driver’s license to be sure you have the driver’s contact information. It’s impossible to pursue court damages for someone if you don’t have anything to identify the person with.

Keep your identity yours!

In parking lot accidents, emotions can run high – even if they are only minor. So remembering that your phone number, address and insurance information are all you need to give to the other party is important. Anyone who asks for your Social Security number or other private, unrelated information should raise an eyebrow.
No one needs your date of birth or Social Security number to get in touch with you, or to file a claim with your insurance company – so keep sensitive personal information to yourself.

To claim or not to claim

If you sustained any sort of bodily injury or substantial vehicle damage, you’ll want to file an insurance claim as soon as possible. In fact, if you are at fault in the accident, failing to report it could be a violation of the terms of your insurance contract. But there are scenarios where there is no damage to the vehicles and or persons involved in the accident. In this case it may be best to not claim the incident and get something in writing that clears all parties of any liability.

He said, She said

In the instance where there is a dispute over how the parking lot accident happened, the only option is court, but you should first weigh the legal fees you could be facing versus the potential payout you could receive.

If you ever find yourself involved in a parking lot accident following the above plan of action will keep you on track for the easiest resolution!

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FILLING FOR BANKRUPCY DURING A DIVORCE

Filing Bankruptcy During Divorce

Divorce is difficult enough with going through the legal process and fees. Before or during this time period, one may face monetary trouble. As a result, the spouse or spouses wanting to divorce are bankrupt. What does one do to file for bankruptcy during a divorce? This question can be answered with the help of San Fernando Valley bankruptcy lawyers, SM Law Group.

Here at SM Law Group we have many years under the firm’s belt dealing with these types of cases. Bankruptcy is one of our specialties. If you have already retained a family law or divorce attorney, we can still represent you as bankruptcy counsel.

All of the spouse’s property–marital or community–will be discussed for the bankruptcy proceeding. Make sure that all property listed is yours in case the spouse lists the property as marital or community property. Proof is necessary. Filing for bankruptcy solo during the divorce isn’t recommended. If both parties agree, a joint bankruptcy is best. This is because it quicker, more cost efficient, and helps in both divorce and bankruptcy cases. Few assets will be exempt under bankruptcy laws if it is joint. Otherwise, any debts from the marriage will allow creditors to contact the non-bankrupt partner.

There is a term that spouses who file will be introduced known as “automatic stay”. That means, if divorce is still pending and bankruptcy is filed, divorce proceedings have to be put on hold until financial matters in the spouse’s bankruptcy case are closed and the bankruptcy courts give approval. Matters that do not involve finances will not be part of this automatic stay, so other matters pertaining to custody of children, for example, can be solved. It is not uncommon for former spouses to claim bankruptcy post-divorce. There have been some alterations to bankruptcy code which disallows the former spouse to discharge certain debts such as child support.

Filing for bankruptcy during a divorce can be a complex situation and it best to let the attorneys at SM Law Group help you navigate the process. Confirming eligibility to file for bankruptcy is the first step in the process. Be aware that joint debts may still need to be paid off if bankruptcy is not filed to wipe them out. Also, filing bankruptcy will not eliminate all debts. Chapter 7 files will not do this, but Chapter 13 may have a certain payment plan so the spouse can pay the trustee, and the trustee pays the creditors. If property is involved, the spouse will have to make payments to the other spouse in exchange for the property.

If you or someone you know is considering filing for bankruptcy while going through the divorce process, call SM Law Group today for a free consultation.

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MIDLAND FUNDING

The People vs. Midland Funding LLC

Many people have been sued by junk debt buyers. One of the most common junk debt buyers is called Midland Funding LLC. Many individuals have been contacted via telephone, letter, or other forms of communication. If you or someone you know is being sued by Midland Funding LLC, contact SM Law Group for a free consultation. Here at SM Law Group, we understand how stressful it can be when having legal issues right at your doorstep.

About Midland Funding LLC

Who or what is Midland Funding LLC? Midland Funding LLC is a specific JDB (junk debt buyer) that buys charged off debt for cheap. For example, if you have a credit card and can’t pay back what you owe, the credit card company may decide to sue or sell the account. The JDB comes in and offers to pay for a few cents on the dollar between a penny and a dime worth. In turn, the junk debt buyer will legally sue the person for the debt, plus added interest, on their account. The credit card account can be sold since it is included in the contract the individual signed. The account and all rights are bought out by this junk debt buyer. This process is very legal as Midland Funding can request the individual to pay the full amount of the debt. These junk debt buyers follow similar processes across the United States. The people working for them are simply following the same text like an actor does with his script and will try to have you send money directly to them.

There is no question that collection agencies such as the one mentioned are wreaking havoc among men and women. As overwhelming as it may be, it is important to follow some tips to help everything move smoothly. Contact a lawyer, specifically a financial/bankruptcy attorney from SM Law Group. The attorney will listen to you and read or listen to the information sent by Midland Funding LLC pertaining to the lawsuit. Here is some positive news: these cases are can end in a win for our clients.

What to Do if Being Sued by Midland Funding LLC

First step in fighting your case is to file an answer to the JDB’s complaint. Both sides have to create a disclosure statement, which allows each side to tell their side of the story with facts. This includes witnesses each party plans to introduce in the case and documentation planned to be used in court. One of the attorneys at SM Law Group may be able to help you collect the evidence they need to determine if you should recommend settling or continue taking the case to court.

Call SM Law Group Today

Relax and let the attorneys of SM Law Group advice you. Our consultation is free and we provide reasonable payment plans. If you are someone you know is being sued by Midland funding LLC call us today!

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SAN FERNANDO VALLEY WAGE GARNISHMENT LAWYER

How To Get Wage Garnishments Removed

If you have ever had a wage garnishment, you know how frustrating it can be. When a debtor is already in a stressed financial situation, a wage garnishment can make it even more difficult for them to get out from under the debt they are facing. Wage garnishments can also have an impact on your employment situation, causing you stress and resulting in your employer and human resources department becoming aware of your private financial issues. If you have a wage garnishment that you want to have removed, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. At SM Law Group, we believe that every debtor has a right to work on a comprehensive plan to alleviate their debt with the assistance of legal representation, instead of facing liens, bank levies, and wage garnishment.

What is a Wage Garnishment?

A wage garnishment is a tool used by creditors of many different varieties to attempt to regain the monies that are owed to them. Creditors obtain wage garnishments by providing evidence of the amount owed as well as nonpayment, and getting a judgment from the court. The monies owed can then be automatically deducted from your paycheck without your permission or consent, at rates up to 25% of your income. This is a large portion of a person’s available income, and many subjects of wage garnishment find themselves with a net paycheck that compromised their ability to pay their bills, which can further complicate their financial difficulties.

Is a Wage Garnishment Permanent?

Even though a creditor may tell you that there is no way to overcome a wage garnishment, we are here to tell you that there is. There are ways to dispute and to remove wage garnishments. One such way is through the bankruptcy process, which will stop the wage garnishment, eliminate or restructure your debts, and allow you to create a plan so that you can move forward. If you are feeling like you are underwater in your bills and you have a wage garnishment that is making it impossible for you to pay all of your debts, you should speak to an attorney about your options. At SM Law Group, we believe that you should have the opportunity to have a say in the restructuring of your debt, so that you can find a solution that is workable and beneficial to your long-term financial health.

Call SM Law Group Today

If you have a wage garnishment that is taking money from your paycheck every week, you do have the ability to challenge it and get it removed. At SM Law Group, our attorneys have helped many San Fernando Valley residents reorganize their finances and shake off their wage garnishments. If you are seeing your paycheck go out the window before you even see any of it, you need to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible to try to get your debt in control and move forward.

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SAN FERNANDO VALLEY JUDGMENT LIEN LAWYER

What To Do When A Judgment Lien is Issued Against You

If you are the subject of a judgment lien, you need an experienced attorney to represent you and work to remove the lien from your assets. A judgment lien is a serious issue that will not go away on its own. If you are in the legal process where a lien is being threatened or sought against you, you need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to attempt to prevent the lien from attaching. Liens are binding legal judgments that are not easily removed, and they can often balloon quickly with high rates of interest, leaving the individual with a serious financial issue that can have a serious effect on their future. Liens can attach against many different types of assets, including homes, personal property, vehicles, and bank accounts (usually called a bank levy). If you are in danger of facing a judgment lien, don’t delay. Call SM Law Group as soon as possible.

Stopping Judgment Liens Before they Attach to Your Property

If you have a debt and your creditor is initiating the lien process against you, you have to act quickly to preserve your assets. One way to stop the judgment lien process is to file for bankruptcy. In many bankruptcy cases, this will automatically prevent the lien, and instead will allow you to restructure your debts and will force all of your creditors to seek reimbursement through the bankruptcy process, and not through wage garnishments or judgment liens. If you believe that a creditor is seeking a judgment lien against you, you should call SM Law Group today to see what can be done to prevent the judgment lien from attaching to your property.

Removing Liens Already on Your Property

A judgment lien that has been assessed against your property severely limits your financial freedom. A lien is an encumbrance on your property, whether the property in question is a bank account, car, home, or other personal property. A lien limits your ability to sell, refinance, transfer, or, in some cases, use the property that belongs to you. As such, it can often be a crucial step to your financial health to remove the encumbrances so that you can get your finances in order. At SM Law Group, we can help remove a judgment lien so that you can be on your way to reorganizing your finances.

Call SM Law Group Today for Help with Judgment Liens

If you have a judgment lien on your property or you are facing a potential judgment lien, SM Law Group can help. Our attorneys are experienced in handling these types of situations for clients throughout the San Fernando Valley area. Whether you are looking to prevent a lien from happening by seeking bankruptcy protection or you need to remove a lien in order to liquidate property or protect assets, our attorneys are available to assist you. Call our offices today to learn more about how you can take legal steps to prevent a judgment lien from damaging your long-term financial health.

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SKATEBOARD ACCIDENT REPRESENTATION

Here at SM Law Group, our attorneys see a variety of injury cases on a daily basis. One type of accident that has been increasing in frequency on the streets of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley are skateboard accidents. Skateboards are a popular mode of transportation, and the rules of the road that apply to pedestrians and bicyclists also apply to skateboards. When a driver is negligent and somehow injures a skateboarder, that skateboarder has a right to file a personal injury claim to compensate for their pain and suffering.

The following situations are skateboard accidents that could give rise to a personal injury claim under California tort law:

AUTO ACCIDENTS: There are many reasons why the driver of a car could collide with a skateboarder. Either not following traffic laws, running red lights, or failing to observe crosswalks could all result in serious injuries to a skateboarder. However, one of the increasingly dangerous situations that all pedestrians, bicyclists, and skateboarders face is the danger of being struck by a distracted driver. Talking on cell phones, texting, or any other activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the road can be deadly for a skateboarder on the sidewalk.

POTHOLES, DANGEROUS SIDEWALKS, UNEVEN SURFACES: When skateboarding, serious accidents can occur if the road that is being utilized is dangerous and not properly maintained. Depending on whether it is a private of publicly maintained surface, the injured skateboarder may be able to file a claim for pain and suffering.

SKATE PARK ACCIDENTS: Accidents at a skate park can be extremely dangerous and even fatal. These accidents can include collisions with other individuals or accidents caused by dangerous design of the park. These accidents can cause serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment.

FAULTY EQUIPMENT: Skateboards, helmets, and other protective gear that is manufactured incorrectly or otherwise defective can also give rise to a lawsuit against the manufacturer who produced dangerous equipment.

If you or someone you love were involved in a skateboard accident in the San Fernando Valley, don’t be turned aside by an insurance company simply because they treat skateboarders differently than pedestrians. You still have rights to compensation and the fact that you were on a skateboard does not change the responsibility of others to drive or otherwise behave in a manner that is safe. Drivers, other skateboarders, and the makers and maintainers of parks and public roadways have a duty to act in a manner that will not expose other individuals to an unreasonable risk of harm.

At SM Law Group, our attorneys keep up with the cutting edge of personal injury law, including distracted driving, skateboard accidents, and other new areas of law. Our attorneys and staff are available to discuss the facts of your case and will advise you on whether or not you might be able to file a claim for your injuries. Call our office today and get started seeking justice for injuries from your Los Angeles skateboard accident.

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HOW PAIN AND SUFFERING CLAIMS WORK

San Fernando Valley Law Firm SM Law Group Explains Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury claims were created to compensate men and women who were injured because of another person’s negligence. Here at SM Law Group, our attorneys and staff assist the people of Los Angeles with a wide variety of personal injury claims, including car accidents, workers’ compensation, slip and falls, and other injuries. One of the common questions we get from clients is about their compensation for “pain and suffering.” What does this mean? How is it calculated? How much can I expect to receive?

Pain and suffering claims can often be an abstract concept that can only be quantified after a thorough review of a client’s case after their medical treatment is completed, all relevant evidence is reviewed, and the defendant’s financial situation is analyzed. In general, pain and suffering was instituted to give additional payment to an accident victim to compensate them for losses they incur other than medical bills, property damage, and lost wages.

How is Pain and Suffering Calculated?

Compensation for pain and suffering is usually calculated based on a weekly rate. For example, if you were hospitalized for three weeks and then were able to go back to work on a limited basis for ten weeks after that, you will usually be compensated for three weeks of total disability and ten weeks of partial disability. What insurance companies value total and partial disability depends on a variety of factors, which is why you need an attorney to negotiate with them and ensure that the rate you are getting is fair given the pain and inconvenience that the accident caused you. Your attorney will utilize your medical records, testimony, and other evidence to demonstrate why it is that you should be entitled to a greater weekly rate for your pain and suffering in your San Fernando Valley accident.

How Much Will I Get?

There is no one answer to how much you will get as compensation for your pain and suffering. If the individual you are suing is represented by an insurance company, it will be easier to determine what the potential payout could be from a settlement. However, if insurance isn’t available and you will be suing the defendant as an individual, you will need to speak with your attorney about possible sources of income, including other insurance policies, co-defendants, and the financial status of the defendant. While this should not affect the amount you are awarded, it may affect the amount you are able to collect.

Call SM Law Group Today

If you have questions about filing a San Fernando Valley personal injury case and the amount that you could be entitled to for pain and suffering, the best thing to do is speak to an attorney. Here at SM Law Group, our lawyers and staff can help you make important legal decisions about your accident case. Remember that you have a limited amount of time to file a claim. Call SM Law Group today.

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Can I keep my car if I file bankruptcy?

In most cases, yes you can keep your car after filing bankruptcy. In California, you can exempt, or protect, approximately $30,000.00 of any assets including a car so that they are not sold off to repay your creditors. This exemption is in addition to specific other assets which may have their own limited exemptions. So if your car is worth less than that its all yours.

In a Chapter 13 reorganization, you will definitely be able to keep your car regardless of the value because in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy your assets are not sold to repay creditors. Instead, there is a monthly payment plan based on your disposable income. But if your car has a high value or has high equity in it, then this and other assets that are not exempted may increase your monthly payment amount.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy however, there is a risk of the car being sold off if it cannot be exempted when considering the totality of your assets. We must first determine how much equity there is in a car. Equity is the difference between the fair market value of the car and the loan amount that is owed on it. Car loans are considered “secured debts” in bankruptcy. If the car is completely paid off, then there is 100% equity in the car and thus the entire value must be within the exemption limits. But if there is a loan on the car, and the value of the car is more than what you owe on it, then the only value we need to protect is the equity. If your car is leased, then there is no equity at all and you can keep the car after bankruptcy so long as payments are being made on time. The same applies if your car is financed. If loan balance on the car is more than the car’s market value, then there is no equity and thus no reason to exempt or protect it. Just make sure to keep up with your car payments so that the lender does not repossess the car after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

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What is a Reaffirmation Agreement?

A reaffirmation agreement in bankruptcy applies to debts that are attached to an item of property that you own such as a home with a mortgage or a car that you financed. These debts are called “secured debts” because your lender has a security interest in that specific item of property. If payments on the loan aren’t kept up to date, then your lender has the right to take that item of property, by repossessing it or foreclosing on it.

When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all of your debts are discharged and eliminated including secured debts. This means that you are no longer required to pay those debts, and the lender cannot come after you for any money. However, your lenders holding secured interests still have a right to get their security interest back should you choose to stop paying them. You, as the Debtor, have the choice to “surrender” the property and stop making payments on it, or retain the property and continue making payments. If you choose to stop paying, and “surrender” the item of property, then your lender can only get that item of property back and it ends there. But if you prefer to keep the property and continue making payments, then that’s where a Reaffirmation Agreement may be requested by your lender.

If your intention is to keep the property and continue making the loan payments, then your lenders would prefer to keep things the way they were before you filed bankruptcy, and a reaffirmation agreement helps them do that. After you file your bankruptcy, your lenders can no longer contact you, they can no longer bill you, and they can no longer report on your credit. This may make things difficult for both you and the lender. By signing the reaffirmation agreement, you are basically “renewing” the loan, and turning it into a post-bankruptcy debt which can no longer be discharged. Once this is signed, your lenders can contact you, send you regular statements, and report your on-time payments to the credit bureaus so that you can rebuild and establish your credit after bankruptcy.

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Does “Credit Repair” Really Exist?

For those of you that have wondered, there is no such thing as instant “Credit Repair” or “Credit Removal” if the information on your credit reports is true and accurate. Don’t fall for the scams claiming they can erase information on your credit report. The only way to truly “clear” your credit is by discharging the debt through the power of a bankruptcy, granted under federal law.

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Filing a Small Business Bankruptcy or Corporate Bankruptcy

A corporate bankruptcy or small business bankruptcy is a difficult thing to face. During these hard financial times more and more small businesses are facing the difficult task of operating their business while costs of operations have gone up and profit margins down. Since the majority of small corporations do not have much in assets to begin with, the shareholder/business owner will have to initially personally guarantee any funds for the corporation whether through a bank or other lending institution. But incurring debt also means higher costs. If the corporation is costing more to operate than the income it generates, most shareholders will want to cut their losses and walk away from the corporation. This is not as easy at it seems, mainly because any assets that the corporation has under its name will have to be sold for the benefit of the corporate creditors first.

At SM Law Group we help our clients by first organizing the liquidation of assets (if any) that the corporation may have. We can then guide the corporation in terms of how any of its assets should be spent and which creditors should be paid prior to the filing of a bankruptcy. This strategy is in place to make sure that the shareholders do not accidentally or unintentionally loot the corporation (in other words, selling off corporate assets for the benefit of anyone but the corporation’s creditors). We have helped hundreds of small business and corporations through insolvency and bankruptcy. It is often a difficult choice for any business owner to walk away from a business that they’ve put so much time and money into.  However the business owner needs to realize that once the business becomes unprofitable it is simply a matter of time before they have to throw away good money after bad. At SM Law Group, we can help our clients through this difficult time to make the right decisions and make sure the process is completed as smoothly and stress free as possible. We offer a variety of strategies and solutions for a business going through insolvency.

Please call us for a FREE consultation. Our lawyers are available to assist.

© 2013 SM Law Group, APC

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Dealing with Collection Agencies

You have a variety of options when your past due account is transferred or sold to a collection agency. But before discussing those options, there are a few things to understand about why your past due account goes to a separate collection agency.

First, your lenders and credit card companies make money by giving loans or extending credit and charging interest. They are not in the business of trying to collect past due loans or accounts. So when an account becomes seriously past due, they would rather sell the account off to another company and make their money that way rather than incur the time and costs of trying to collect on a past due account. Creditors expect a certain percentage of their accounts to become past due, and selling them is a normal business practice. They can sell the account to collection agencies for less, usually between 40% and 80% of the total amount due. Once the account is sold off, and the lender makes what money it can, you may see the account listed as a “Charge Off” or “Charged Off” on your credit report. This does not mean you no longer owe the money. It just means you the money to someone else.

The collection agency (or law firm, since many law firms are in the business of collections) will then try to collect the entire past due amount against you, and thereby make a profit since they purchased it for less. Their collection attempts can be much more aggressive than your original creditor’s. You may receive constant phone calls, letters, calls at work, and even threats of a lawsuit.

So what options do you have to resolve this, and stop the collection calls and attempts? For starters, you can file a bankruptcy and not pay them a penny. The bankruptcy filing will stop all collection attempts permanently. It will immediately stop the calls, letters, and even a lawsuit or judgment. After your bankruptcy is discharged, the debt will show a ZERO balance on your credit report. You will not be taxed on the discharge of debt either.

If bankruptcy is not an option, you can try paying the account off in full. If you can afford to pay it off in one lump sum payment, this will clear the debt and you can even ask the collection agency to remove the past due account from your credit report. Unfortunately, this is not an option for most borrowers these days.Â

If you don’t have all the money to pay off the account in full, you can request a monthly payment plan. Some collection agencies will negotiate on the monthly payment amount, some won’t. But know that if you choose this option you must pay off the debt in full over time. They will not settle for less. Some collectors may take the account off your credit report once its paid off, some may not.

If you have some money available to pay them, negotiating a settlement for a lesser amount is another option. Many collection agencies will take a lump sum payment for less to close out the account. However, this will not get the past due account off your credit report. In addition, you may be taxed on the difference between the original amount owed and the amount you paid to settle it since that is considered income.

SM Law Group, APC can assist you with each of these options. Please call us for a free consultation to see how we can help.

© 2013 SM Law Group, APC

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I am Facing Foreclosure and/or Eviction

A Chapter 7 will delay a foreclosure so that the property is not auctioned and sold on the sale date. But only temporarily. The lender is unable to proceed with the foreclosure until it gets a court order from the bankruptcy court authorizing it to proceed, or until the bankruptcy case is closed. Therefore, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing will help buy you time in your home as well as discharge your other debts.Â

In a Chapter 13 you keep everything you own while you make payments on your debt. The payment is based on many factors, including your income, your assets, and the amount of your debt. If you are behind on mortgage payments and being threatened with a foreclosure, a Chapter 13 reorganization will stop the upcoming foreclosure sale, allow you to get caught up on mortgage payments, and keep your home indefinitely. Â Unsecured debts, taxes, and car payments can also be resolved in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

© 2013 SM Law Group, APC

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Will bankruptcy ruin my credit forever?

A question I’m often asked by potential clients is “Will bankruptcy ruin my credit forever?” It’s become apparent that many people in need of a bankruptcy’s benefits will avoid filing one and just live with their piling debts due to this fear. However, nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, a bankruptcy can be the quickest way to rebuild your credit.Â

It is true that a bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for ten years, yet that does not mean you will not be able to build or obtain credit for those ten years. The simple fact is that so many people are filing for bankruptcy during these economic times that a bankruptcy showing up on your credit report doesn’t carry the negative weight that it once did.

A large portion of people filing for bankruptcy aren’t filing because they are irresponsible or careless with their debts (which is usually the reason people are denied credit by lenders). There are many people who file for bankruptcy due to a recent illness, a divorce, a loss of a job, or some other unexpected change in circumstances that makes it impossible to continue paying debts.

Some people who are in a comfortable situation when they first apply for and incur debt don’t anticipate a loss in income. Other people file bankruptcy just because it’s a good business decision. Creditors and lenders understand that this can be the case. They know that people need to file for bankruptcy to get a fresh start and start over. Just because a person can no longer afford to pay bills does not mean they aren’t creditworthy. Therefore, creditors may not be so reluctant to deny credit after a bankruptcy at the risk of losing a potential customer.

So will a bankruptcy ruin a person’s credit forever? Of course not. People that file for bankruptcy actually receive credit cards in the mail without even applying for them. Of course these are minor credit cards with very low credit limits, but they are a start towards rebuilding credit and getting back towards a high credit score. We advise our clients of three simple things after they file bankruptcy: One, USE YOUR NEW CREDIT CARDS. Use them each month to buy something simple like a pack of gum or a cup of coffee. Two, DO NOT MAX THEM OUT. Just use them to pay for the small things. The more available credit you show, the better your credit reports and score look to newer lenders. Three, PAY THEM BACK ON TIME. If you’re only charging on the cards once or twice a month, and leaving lots of available credit on them then you’ll have a very low and affordable payment due. Even better if you can pay off the entire balance each month. You’ll save a bunch in interest and fees.

Once creditors see that you’re responsible with the new credit you’re given, then that will only lead to more creditors wanting to extend credit. As your creditworthiness grows, so will your ability to get large credit lines within a year after bankruptcy, car loans with low interest rates within a year after bankruptcy, and even mortgage loans within two years after bankruptcy. These three simple steps can lead to a credit score in the 700s or even 800s within TWO years after filing a bankruptcy.

If you have any concerns about the pros and cons of a bankruptcy, please feel free to contact our attorneys for a free consultation. You can find our contact information at www.sm-lawgroup.com.

© 2013 SM Law Group, APC

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Welcome to our Blog

Welcome to our Blog, here you will find articles that help guide you to make the right decisions. Here at SM Law Group, we understand that in many cases time is of the essence. You may be facing a foreclosure tomorrow, or a garnishment next week.

We have the experience and capability to get your case complete and filed or settled as quick as possible to prevent you from suffering any losses.

SM LAW GROUP, APC
15300 Ventura Blvd., Suite 503
Sherman Oaks, CAÂ 91403

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Four Ways to Stop Debt Collection Scams

Having significant debt to pay back is scary enough, but things get even more challenging when you face the possibility of debt collection scams conning you into giving away your hard earned cash. People all over the United States are experiencing situations where scammers and con-artists pretend they are debt collectors in order to take thousands of dollars out of peoples’ bank accounts. Sometimes these people do not even owe any money, while other times the fake collectors can get their hands on your genuine bills and threaten you through those means.
It is easy to shrug off this news and say you would never be fooled. However, these scammers are really good at what they do, and many good people have been duped in the past. Here is a look at four ways you can ensure that you are never the victim of a debt collection scam.

1. Ask Questions
It is easy to get scared when the other person on the phone says they are a debt collector. It is our natural instinct to panic and question whether we have any unpaid debts. Perhaps you do have debts that need paying, and you are worried they might start garnishing your wages. However, it is very important to take a stern tone with these callers and ask questions of your own. If they are really debt collectors, they will know your social security number and other personal information. They can also tell you who they work for and how you can contact them directly through a business phone number.

2. Status
It is easy to look up the name and address of debt collection businesses. Sometimes scammers will take over the address and/or phone number of an old collection agency. If you go online, you can probably find details about whether that agency is still active. If they are not, or their website has not been updated in years, you are probably being scammed.

3. Validation Notices
This notice indicates how much money you owe and the names of the specific institutions that are owed the money. Tell the collectoryou cannot pay any money until you know for sure who is owed what.

4. Credit Checks

It is easy to get your credit score and full credit report these days, with many reputable online sites offering this service. Simply check your report to see if the mentioned debts are present. If they are not, you may begetting scammed.
If you are receiving harassment from debt collectors SM Law group can help. Call us today for a free consultation.

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How to Immediately Spot a Fake Debt Collector

Debt collection scams are popping up all over the United States, with the target being individuals and families. It is not uncommon for homes to receive calls from individuals who claim they are from the IRS or a debt collection agency. They say that you owe money in back-taxes, or that you need to pay off your debts immediately in order to avoid collection and other possible penalties.
Sometimes it is very difficult to tell the difference between a scammer and the real agency, because a lot of these callers have information that makes them seem authentic. For example, they may have gotten their hands on your social security number and address, which makes it easy to believe they are the real deal.
One of the first ways to detect a scam is when they ask for your money immediately. No matter how much money you owe in back-taxes or to a debt collection agency.A lot of elderly couples have reported that they receive phone calls that are extremely harassing and threatening. The callers often indicate the couple could end up on the street and facing “dark times” if they do not comply.
Another way to spot a scam is if you have not received any written notification. If a debt collection agency knows your home phone number, they also know your address. If you really owed debt, they send you a written notice multiple times outlining what you owe and what your options are. If you still do not respond, they will start calling. Phone calls that come prior to any written notice are probably scams.
Scams also involve asking people to go to a local Walmart or chain store where they can deposit money through Western Union, Moneygram or other money sending services. If you are ever asked to do this, there is a 100 percent certainty you are being scammed. A collection agency would give you a written request of how to send in your payment, not ask you to quickly go to Walmart and wire money to an unknown person’s bank account.

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Is it Possible for Creditors to Garnish Social Security?

When you are in financial trouble, bankruptcy is often a viable option to get yourself out of a hole. While you may lose a lot through a poor credit score, such as the ability to get credit cards or loans, you also clear up a chunk of your existing debt. However, people often wonder whether their social security money is in jeopardy if they file for chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy. Here is a look at the issue.

Social security helps people when they reach retirement age, with most individuals making contributions to social security during their working life. There is also supplemental income for people who suffer from disabilities.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy occurs when you are no longer able to repay your debts. The courts will assist you in liquidating all your assets and paying off as much debt as you can. If you own a home, it is sold off. If you have a nice car, it is also sold to pay off creditors. A trustee is appointed to oversee your finances and handle the entire process, along with setting an income level that you receive monthly through the process. You emerge debt-free (aside from student loans).

Social Security and Bankruptcy:
If you are applying for bankruptcy, they are probably going to ask you to take a means test. This determines whether you have enough money in your accounts and holdings in order to pay your unsecured creditors. Remember, secured credit is paid by selling off the assets you secured to get those loans.
The means test requires you to list your income and any assets that are not secured. However, social security income does not get included in this test.That money should be present and under your name when the bankruptcy process is over.

Anyone filing for chapter 13 bankruptcy is encouraged to speak with an attorney about the entire process. It is slightly different and more complicated to chapter 7. While most states do not include social security in chapter 13, it is best to know the laws specific to your circumstances.

SM Law Group Can Help
The bankruptcy attorneys of SM Law Group can make the entire process a lot easier, because they know the law inside and out. Instead of spending hours trying to figure out these complications yourself consult with one of our trusted attorneys today.

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Does Bankruptcy End a Creditor’s Lawsuit?

Credit card debt is a serious problem for a lot of people. Not only does credit card debt often lead to the possibility of declaring bankruptcy, but it can even get you into a lawsuit. Credit card companies are legally able to file suits against anyone who refuses to pay their due amount.

If you are sued by a credit card company, it is important to talk with an attorney and get the right information on how you can protect yourself. There are a few reasons why a credit card company might sue.
1. Breaking Contract: If they believe that you violated terms in your contract, a lawsuit is possible.
2. Debt Collection: Companies often do not collect your credit card debt themselves. If they see that someone is not willing to pay, they pass the case over to a debt collection agency. This agency files the claims and potential suits on the credit card company’s behalf. They often give you multiple chances and possible deals in order to pay back as much of the debt as possible.

Bankruptcy:
If you file for chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy and there is a pending credit card lawsuit, it is often automatically stayed. Creditors are not allowed to continue their debt collection pursuits, because the bankruptcy case will deal with most of these situations.

Lawsuits are almost always dismissed in chapter 7 bankruptcy, because the trustee in charge of your finances determines how much of the credit card debt you can pay. Even if you cannot pay the whole amount, the case goes away because you have made every attempt to repay this money through bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a little more complicated and often includes new agreements with creditors, such as credit card companies or debt collection agencies, to pay your dues. This involves monthly amounts you must pay in order to stay current with the debt. Most repayments are stretched out to three or five years.
Lawsuits are dismissed when the repayment plan is created, but failure to make those agreed payments could put you at risk of a new lawsuit. In addition, it is not possible to get a suit discharged if it is indicating fraud. While bankruptcy covers your debts, it does not cover any fraud you may have committed against the credit card company.
If you are worried about a lawsuit, or already got served with papers, it is time to speak with a bankruptcy attorney at SM Law Group about your options!

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If a Spouse Dies, Am I Responsible for their Debt?

There are so many emotional challenges involved with losing a spouse. It is tough enough to get over that heartbreak, but the addition of financial problems only makes things more difficult. There are a number of cases where spouses pass away and their partners must deal with the debt they incurred while alive.
There are a number of states, such as Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas and Washington, where community property laws mean that husbands and wives are responsible for paying each other’s debts. This also pertains to debts left behind when one spouse passes away. If your spouse passed away before being able to deal with their financial issues, it may be a good idea to hire an executor to deal with their property and debts.

Debt and Consolidation:
If you live in a state where community property laws are in effect, there is almost no way to get out of debt that belonged to your spouse. Even if their name is listed on the bills and collection documents. When the debt levels are extremely high from a number of sources, it is best to think about the option of debt consolidation.
Debt consolidation offers you the chance to group all of these loans and debts into one large pile. While it does not reduce the monetary concerns, it makes the loan a lot easier to manage. Instead of juggling ten different payments each month, you only have to take care of one payment. In addition, many debt collection agencies have the ability to help you get a lower interest rate and relaxed late fees with this consolidation.

Debt Settlement:
Consolidating your debt is not the same as settling it. If you go through debt consolidation, you are still liable for the entire amount that is owed. You are simply restructuring the loan and combining all your debts to make things simpler. For some people, this is a valid option. However, others may want to consider debt settlement.
In the settlement process, you and the creditor engage in a discussion about how to repay the money. This often means you have to pay the amount in full, but it also results in the creditor lowering the overall amount. After all, they are happy to get some money instead of no money.

Debt collection is not a simple process and you should always have an attorney advising you about entering into such deals. the attorneys of SM Law Group have years of experience getting their clients the results they deserve. Call today for a free consultation.

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Ways to Relieve Credit Card Debt

With credit cards, loans and other means of debt so easy to acquire, it is no wonder that so many people in the United States are struggling to keep up with their payments. The type of debt that often leads to the most problems is credit card debt. If you have thousands of dollars in unpaid credit card bills, SM Law Group can help!

It is easy to feel hopeless and powerless during this process. So many people earn a good living, but they see a majority of their paycheck go towards paying back debt. If you are looking to save money, or make new investments, this represents a challenge. There are even cases where you can struggle to pay your monthly rent and grocery costs, because your money is going towards past debt. Instead of continuing this struggle, you may have other options.

Debt Consolidation:

The general advice we get about credit card debt is to not spend the money in the first place.While this advice is coming from the right place, it is not helpful if you are already in debt. Most people with that much debt know they made poor choices, and they would not make those choices again. But, they also know that they cannot continue spending most of their hard-earned money on payments.Debt consolidation is useful because they give you a chance to tighten up your finances and group together most of your debt.

Secured Loans:

Sometimes people will look into consolidation through a secured loan. This involves taking out a second mortgage or a line of credit against your home or other valuable possessions. These loans come with lower interest rates and lower monthly premiums. However, they also mean that you are putting your assets on the line. Only engage in a secured loan if you are very certain that you can keep up with those payments down the road.

SM Law Group Can Help
If you find yourself in debt and not sure what options you have, SM Law group can help. We will walk you through all bankruptcy and repayment options. Call us today for a free consultation.

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Three Steps to Take After a Rear End Collision

Getting rear ended by another person’s car can be an unpleasant situation. The circumstances become even more challenging when the individual realizes that the insurance claim related to these accidents can be extremely complicated.
Insurance companies like to dispute claims, even if it was obvious that the other driver made a mistake. This is why individuals who get rear ended must remain proactive during the event. Here are three steps to follow in such circumstances:

1. Take Pictures –
It is absolutely crucial that you get documentation of the damage suffered on your vehicle after the accident. It is much harder for insurance companies to dispute these claims if there is photographic evidence. They cannot claim that the victim of the rear ending is fabricating the story about their car getting a certain amount of damage.

2. Insurance Information –
Instead of reacting angrily and getting in a fight with the other driver, recognize that they are human and must have made a mistake. Talk with them calmly and ask them for the appropriate insurance information. This makes it a lot easier for you to contact their insurance company and file the relevant claims. Even if you initially assume that your car did not suffer much damage, it is better to act in a cautious manner. And under no circumstances is it acceptable to take cash or other damage payments from the other driver, because this can lead to unwelcome outcomes.

3. Call the Police and See a Doctor –
Contact the police and make sure they have a detailed report of the incident. The law will be in your favor, and getting this report through the system ensures that there is proper documentation of the incident. This makes it a lot harder for the insurance company to brush your claim aside, because there is plenty of real evidence of what happened.

Getting a neck injury from a car accident is fairly common. Sometimes the pain is not obvious until the next morning. It is a good idea to visit a doctor and get an initial check-up to make sure everything is okay. Ensure the medical appointment is made correctly and the doctor provides documentation of your visit and the reason for this visit.

Aside from these three steps, it is also important to speak with an attorney if you are having any issues in getting compensation from an insurance company for a rear end collision that was another driver’s fault. Contact the attorneys of SM Law Group to get the results you deserve.

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Four Apps Making the Road Safe for Motorcyclists

Driving on the road in a motorcycle is always dangerous, even if someone is extremely careful while they are riding. Some drivers in cars and trucks do not pay attention to the road, which can lead to dangerous moments involving motorcyclists. This is why it is best to take every available safety precaution. Lately a number of apps have released that help make the road safer for motorcyclists. Here is a look at the top five such apps:

1. Wind Chill and Wind Speed –
This is a great app for discovering details about the weather before a motorcyclist sets off on their ride. Any experienced rider will tell you that experiencing a serious wind chill is very unpleasant when you are on a motorcycle. By adding the ride speed to this app, it can calculate what the “real feel” weather will be for motorcyclists.

2. Rain Alarm –
Rain is another element that makes riding unpleasant in certain situations. A little drizzle never hurt a motorcyclist, but serious storms can make it extremely dangerous to keep riding. With Ride Alarm, you can ensure that your phone beeps or rings whenever there is a chance of rainfall.

3. Pocket First Aid and CPR –
Sometimes individuals have a tendency to overestimate their ability to react to difficult situations when they are “off the beaten path.” While it is a lot of fun to ride in the wilderness and get a sense of adventure, it is also dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. With this app, riders have a plethora of first aid information available at their fingertips. Fixing broken bones or applying bandages to certain types of cuts is much easier with this app.

4. Eat Sleep Ride –

Almost any type of information that a rider needs is available in this app. Everything from track speed to elevation is covered. There is even a feature that can detect if the rider is currently involved in an accident, with the app programmed to dial or message the rider’s emergency contact(s). This is the best way to stay safe no matter where you are riding.

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Five Step Hit and Run Accident Check List

Being in a car accident while you are driving is difficult. However, being the victim of a hit-and-run incident is incredibly devastating for the party left behind. Not only is there the possibility of serious injuries to the passengers involved, but a hit-and-run usually means significant damage to the vehicle.
Even if the parties involved are scared after a hit-and-run, it is best to remain calm and rational. Here are five steps everyone should follow after a hit-and-run incident.

1. Medical Services –

Do not hesitate to get an ambulance or another ride to the hospital soon after the accident. If there is evidence of any serious injuries, call 911 and have them send an ambulance. Do not panic and try to ensure everyone else involved is also calm.

2. Documentation –

Resist the urge to track down the person who did this within minutes after the accident. Stop, make sure everyone is okay, call the police if necessary and step outside to look at the vehicle. Take photographs of the car to document damage from the accident.

Take out your phone or a notepad and write down everything you remember about the vehicle that sped away. License plate information, car make, model and the driver’s appearance are details that can prove very useful to insurance companies and the authorities.

3. Witnesses –

When you step out and examine your car, see if any other cars stopped after the accident. There is a chance that someone had a better view of what happened. They can also help you document the events in as much detail as possible. If someone else got a good look at the car’s license plate, or at the driver’s face, this can prove incredibly useful.

4. Police –
Call the police even if no one is seriously injured. Have them come to the scene and tell them what happened. It is crucial that the police file a report and remain on the lookout for this vehicle and driver. If you give them an accurate description, along with a partial license plate, it makes their jobs a lot easier.

5. Call a SM Law Group –
If you have car insurance, your insurance company should also get a call about this incident. Tell them what happened so they can start the relevant claims process. But victims of a hit-and-run should also contact a lawyer the next day. This is the best way to ensure that you get justice and adequate compensation.

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What You Need to Know About Personal Injuries at Construction Sites

Construction work is never easy, especially when a project is falling behind schedule and workers are encouraged to speed up the process as much as possible. This is usually when a majority of accidents happen – because workers are too busy trying to work quickly and safety standards begin to slip.

If someone falls victim to an accident, there is a tendency to blame themselves. This is common among all construction workers. They will think that they made a mistake – and this feeling is encouraged by their superiors. After all, no employer wants a workplace accident suit on their hands.

However, it is important for construction workers to protect themselves. This is a dangerous job and workers need to be at peak physical condition to continue working. If someone suffers an injury, it means they need to take time off work. If their employer refuses to provide workers compensation, it is important to call an attorney and have them handle a case.

SM Law Group can help with these cases. They have experience of dealing with companies and employers who do not want to pay up. They can fight through the paperwork and delaying tactics from these employers, while their legal knowledge gives them a huge advantage.

Some workers are more fortunate and they escape with a few bruises or a minor injury to a part of their body. However, some accidents have led to very serious injuries. Some workers experienced traumatic brain damage, injuries to their spine, major breaks on their arms or legs, and other long-term injuries. If you suffered an injury at a construction site, contact a SM Law Group immediately.

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What You Need to Know About Porter Ranch Gas Leak Law Suits

One of the biggest examples of a wrongful death suit occurred recently in Southern California. It involved the gas company, SoCal Gas, and how they were sued by a woman’s family. This family accused SoCal Gas of playing a major role in her lung cancer’s development. The woman, from Porter Ranch, passed away recently, but she asserted that the gas leak at SoCal Gas exacerbated her condition.

There is a lot of misinformation about this case, with people saying that she accused SoCal Gas of causing her to get lung cancer. This is not true at all. The woman’s family specifically stated that she already had lung cancer at the time of the gas leak. However, her death was hastened because of the gas leak and the damage those leaked chemicals caused in her body. She also suffered a lot more because of the gas leak, per the lawsuit.

A specific correlation was found by the victim’s family that shows how the woman’s condition got a lot worse as soon as the gas leak occurred. While she had lung cancer before the gas leak, she was still actively living her life and hoping to beat her diagnosis. However, she was too weak to move around within a few weeks of the gas leak. She needed an oxygen tank for breathing and could not walk without the assistance of a cane.

Eventually she was hospitalized, and ended up passing away within a month of her hospitalization.

Wrongful Death Suits –
There are many cases around California where the negligence or intentional behavior of other individuals or parties may cause another person’s tragic and untimely death. There is nothing wrong with the aggrieved parties seeking financial compensation through a civil suit.

It may seem tactless to try and make money off a loved one’s death, but it is about getting justice in their honor. If someone caused your loved one’s death through their negligence, they must be held accountable in civil court. Wrongful death suits related to road accidents, explosions and defects in products are very common.

How Can SM Law Group Help?
If a loved one died prematurely because of someone else’s mistakes, it is important to consult with a wrongful death attorney immediately. Go over the circumstances of the case with your attorney and explain your loved one’s death in as much detail as possible. This will be painful, but it allows the lawyer to understand whether or not you can file a wrongful death suit.

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Does My Case Qualify as a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful death lawsuits are some of the most complex and emotionally draining cases, both for lawyers and the parties involved. This is why it is so important for people to have a real understanding of what situations can merit filing a wrongful death suit. This information can not only make the process easier to understand, but it also prevents a lot of unnecessary suffering for individuals who file a case thinking they have a claim, but end up getting nothing in return.

Here are three major elements that must be found in every situation in order for it to become a wrongful death suit.

1. Involvement
It is absolutely crucial that the involvement of an individual, group of individuals or company be established if a wrongful death suit is to proceed. If something horrible happens to a person, but you cannot prove the involvement of the other party, there is no wrongful death suit.
For example, someone drinks a can of soda and drops dead five hours later. If it is found that the soda contained unsafe and toxic chemicals, a wrongful death suit is possible. If the soda was found to be a normal can of soda that did not pose an immediate risk to the person, there is no grounds for a lawsuit.

2. Negligence or Wrongful Acts
Even if there is a link between the event and another party, it is up to the wrongful death claimants to prove that there was negligence or wrongful doing on the part of the other party.
We can continue with our first example here. If the person died soon after consuming a can of soda, but it was found that they were deathly allergic to one of the substances in the soda, it could be argued that the other party committed no negligence or wrongful act. If the person in question had simply read the list of ingredients on the can, they would still be alive.

3. Extent of Damage –

These lawsuits are not filed purely because of emotional trauma. While emotional trauma does play a role, it must be combined with real financial losses that you are seeking compensation for. In the first example, there would be medical expenses and funeral costs for the person who died suddenly. If this person was the primary income generator in their family, there are additional lost expenses. And finally, there is the emotional loss of the person no longer being in their family’s life, which is also considered by the court.

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When Do Collection Calls Become Harassment In California

You may be in a situation where there is some type of debt that is long overdue for payment. The last thing you want to do is hide. If you are aware that a debt collector might contact you about past overdue debts, it is better to answer the phone, get their information and make sure they are a genuine debt collector.

Regardless of whether you owe debt or not, it is also important to note that there are some things that a debt collector cannot do in California, even if you owe thousands of dollars in previous debts. It is completely unacceptable for a debt collector to threaten you with any type of violence or other harm when they are making these calls.

In addition, debt collectors are not able to threaten you with punishments through the law that are not applicable in your case. For example, the vast majority of people who owe money are never in any danger of going to jail. It is not legal for debt collectors to make these threats over the phone or in person. It is better to speak with an attorney if you are the subject of such threats.

Debt collectors are also not allowed to call people early in the morning or late at night. This is done in order to make sure that people are not harassed while they are sleeping or trying to spend some time with their family. A debt collector must never use obscene language on the phone or in person, even if they are upset at your inability to pay your debt.

Repeated calls during a short space of time from the same debt collector is also possibly grounds for harassment. If your phone is ringing for 20 or 30 minutes without any pause, you are being harassed by this debt collector and you need to talk with an attorney.

There are options available to consumers who feel they are being harassed by creditors. SM Law Group can help! Call us today as you may be eligible for monetary compensation.

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Can Filing Bankruptcy Wipe Out My Car Accident Judgement In California?

A lot of people wonder what type of financial judgments they can avoid through bankruptcy. For example, everyone knows that if you have a lot of credit card debt or loans, it is possible to wipe out a significant portion of this debt through a bankruptcy filing. This is especially true when you are filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, this courtesy does not extend to all types of debt, especially in certain situations.

There is a common question among individuals about whether filing for bankruptcy can wipe out car accident judgements in California. The reality is that bankruptcy does not always wipe out these judgments, and we will explain why.

Certain debts are declared non-dischargeable when you enter bankruptcy court. This means that even if you successfully declare and have all your dischargeable debts wiped, the non-dischargeable debts are not going anywhere!

There are certain debts you cannot discharge through bankruptcy, such as student loans, child support or spousal support payments, government debts such as tax debt or parking ticket fines and penalties associated with a DUI conviction or DUI accident.

In the specific situation of a car accident, it is difficult to give a definitive answer without knowing more about the case. For example, there are car accident judgements where you cannot discharge the judgment no matter what type of bankruptcy you file. This is especially true if some form of alcohol or drugs were involved in the accident. An individual who drives while under the influence, gets into an accident and causes damage or kills someone cannot get the judgment discharged through bankruptcy.

This applies not only to car accidents but to any injuries caused by a willful or malicious act. But cases where the accident occurred because of a simple driver error, and where no alcohol or drugs were involved, are dischargeable through chapter 7 bankruptcy. This is an important distinction to make for individuals who are thinking about filing.

In some cases, individuals who get into an accident and are deemed at fault will place their property in lien to satisfy the judgment. This is often done by insurance companies if the individual does not have enough savings to satisfy the court’s financial judgment. If these liens are in place, the bankruptcy judgment cannot discharge them.

It is very important to talk with a bankruptcy attorney if you are worried about debts related to a car accident. The attorneys at SM Law Group are experienced in getting the results you deserve. Call us today for a free consultation.

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How To Get Medical Debt Relief

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you need help. Sometimes you end up making too many bad decisions when it comes to credit cards or other loans. There are other situations where you simply cannot control the expenses that add up against your name. For example, many people get into an accident or must go through some type of medical treatment that they did not anticipate. When this happens, you can end up with thousands of dollars in medical bills that you have no way of paying.

Instead of simply accepting the situation or letting it overwhelm you, it is a much better idea to try and take some type of action. There are many ways you can get around your medical bills, especially if you do not have the income or savings to pay them right now. One of the options available is to file for bankruptcy. Contrary to popular belief, bankruptcy is not only designed to pay off credit card or business debts. It can also provide relief for medical debt, especially when the amount has reached an unmanageable level.

By talking with a bankruptcy attorney at SM Law Group you can get all the best information about how to file and what your options are in this situation. The attorney will take a look at your finances, bills and debt to come up with a plan. When you are speaking with the attorney, it is best to be completely honest about your situation. The attorney can only give you good advice if you provide them with all the right information.

There is no special type of bankruptcy that you must file if you have problems with medical debt. It is simply a matter of deciding whether chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy makes more sense in your case. If you have some sort of background in finance, you may have some idea about what type of bankruptcy works best in your case. However, the vast majority of people are better off asking an attorney for advice. This will allow you to get the best advice on how to proceed.

An attorneys at SM Law Group will not only guide you through the process, but they will handle a lot of the paperwork and filings on your behalf.

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3 Tricks Insurance Companies Use After An Accident

Insurance companies are very clever. There is a reason these major companies have been making huge profits for every year for the past few decades. While they do help people who have been in accidents and require compensation, they may also use every trick in their book in order to limit the payouts made in these cases. For those individuals who were involved in a motor accident, it is better to speak with an attorney and make sure you are not falling for one of the following tricks insurance companies use:

1. Undervalue Claims

Insurance companies will engage in certain types of behavior to make sure your claims are as undervalued as possible. They will not make a fair judgment on the situation. Instead, they will try and find loopholes or justifications to ensure that you are paid as little money as possible. This is especially true in cases where the injuries are serious. They will attempt to use this against you so that you accept a lower settlement.

2. Selfishness

Insurance companies do not care if you broke your back in an accident and cannot go to work for three months. They do not care if you have tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses because of an accident you did not cause. All they care about is their bottom line. It is important to know that you need someone on your side when dealing with these types of cases!

3. Tricking You into Not Getting an Attorney

Insurance companies may try to convince people into not getting an attorney to represent their interests. You can be sure that insurance companies have lawyers on their side advising them every step of the way. But why do they not want you to get a lawyer? Because they know that if you have an attorney, you will have someone experienced and knowledgeable fighting for your best interests.

SM Law Group Is On Your Side

Insurance companies want individuals to accept lower deals through quick settlements. They may entice you with the idea of resolving the case within the week. This is done so that you will get excited by the prospect of a quick payment and accept the lower sum on offer. Here at SM Law Group we want to get the best compensation for your situation. Call us today for a free consultation.

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3 Benefits Of Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney After A Car Accident

Going through a personal injury is particularly difficult. This is especially true in cases where the injury is serious enough to warrant a lengthy medical treatment, or time missed from work. People who go through personal injuries also have to answer financial questions, because they need to find a way to pay their medical expenses. Bills can pile up fairly quickly if you are not working for a period of two or three weeks or treatment is not covered by insurance.

Instead of suffering through these problems alone, it is a much better idea to talk with a personal injury attorney and see what options you have for compensation. Here are some benefits to hiring the Personal Injury Attorneys of SM Law Group:

1. Experience

When you show an attorney all your medical bills and other expenses, along with information about your personal injury and how you obtained it, they can tell you whether your case has value. They can immediately complete some calculations and see what type of compensation you deserve from this case.

2. Represents Your Interests

When you are dealing with workplace injuries or personal injuries, there is no doubt that you have to look after your best interests. You may feel that that no one cares about your interests, because they are looking after themselves. Hiring an attorney is the best way to ensure that you have someone fighting for your rights every step of the way.

3. Prepared For The Unexpected

Whether your case is handled through mediation, tense negotiations or a lengthy court case, SM Law Group can handle everything that presents itself during the case. Attorneys know everything related to personal injury law. It is also helpful that they know how to deal with insurance companies that will try any trick in the book in order to limit your settlement.

You do not need to settle fork an unfair settlement if you are involved in an accident. Contact the SM Law Group today for a free consultation.

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4 Things to Do Immediately After a Car Accident

4 Things to Do Immediately After a Car Accident

Accidents happen. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, there are approximately 5.25 million car accidents that happen annually. If you have suffered a car accident or want to be prepared just in case, there are things you should do immediately after the accident happens to ensure your safety, the safety of others and also to protect your assets. Even if your vehicle is only slightly damaged and you are not injured, you should take the proper steps to ensure you are protected. An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.

Call the Police

Although you may be okay, your vehicle only slightly damaged and the other driver fine, there are still reasons to call the law. For insurance purposes, you may need a police report to be able to file a claim for the damage that was done. The police will be able to assess the situation more clearly and may also be able to answer any questions you have about further proceedings. Make sure to keep the scene exactly the way it was when the accident occurred.

Give All the Details

After you call the police, make sure you remain where you are unless you absolutely have to move. Take in the scene and try to remember what happened to the best of your knowledge. When the police or police officer arrives, they will discuss with each of you what happened during the accident and perhaps what caused it. Do not allow yourself to make guesses. You may feel a bit disoriented. If you do, tell that to the officer and allow him to make notes as needed. In order to effectively protect your assets, tell the truth to the best of your knowledge. If you are unsure if you are injured, tell the officer you are unsure. Although you cannot change what the other party states, you can remain truthful in your statement.

The Information Exchange

You may find yourself in a situation where the police do not respond to the accident. Sometimes, minor accidents do not require the police and your insurance company may not require a police report. Some public property, such as a grocery store parking lot, does not involve a police report. If this is the case, you and the other motorist should exchange information. This will include the motorist’s name, address, phone number and any other personal information that will be important for contact purposes. Make the exchange easier by taking pictures of the other driver’s insurance card, drivers license, and license plate, along with pictures of any vehicle damages and the accident scene. If an officer does respond to the scene, allow him or her to gather the information for both parties. When they are finished, you may be given a police report number which you will need for insurance purposes.

Call SM Law Group

Although you may not be able to immediately, you should contact SM Law Group as soon as you can. Our reputable personal injury attorneys will be able to guide you through the process and direct you where to go next. It is important that you let us deal with the insurance companies as any statements given to them may be used against you.

Remember to always seek medical attention if you feel you are injured. Consult your attorney to discover the best plan of action.

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What Should I Do if Hit by a Car While Jaywalking? 

Perhaps you were running to catch a taxi or you simply were not paying as much attention as you should. Maybe your child ran out into the street before you could grab their hand. Whatever the case may be, you may find yourself searching for answers after being hit by a car while jaywalking. Although this can be a difficult situation, there are steps you can take depending on the laws in your state and the driver’s fault during the accident. If you sustained injuries when hit, there are questions that must be answered to ensure you receive the correct support.

To Sue or Not to Sue

You have a right to a fair trial. Unfortunately, both you and the driver are seen to be at fault; you for jaywalking and the driver for hitting you. The driver may state that you are at fault for walking in front of them, no matter if you were injured or not. Fortunately, there are laws and standards in place to keep motorists from getting away from any fault at all. These standards are called: negligence, contributory negligence and comparative fault.

Negligence

Negligence can be described as the responsibility to act reasonably to avoid an accident or causing injury to other people. Motorists that do not act reasonably and cause harm to someone or something in their path have committed negligence on their part. If the motorist does commit negligence, they are then responsible for the damage that was caused. Unfortunately, this leaves plenty of room for the motorist to respond negatively and state that you are at fault for crossing in front of them. They may state that they should not be responsible for injuries that you indeed caused. However, there are two important standards that can be used to combat these statements, depending on the state you are in.

Contributory Negligence

Simply put, if defense can prove that the plaintiff was at fault, there is no liability. This does not matter how much fault the defendant has. If you were jaywalking and the motorist was doing her makeup or he was reading a book, you could agree that the motorist is more at fault due to not paying attention to the road in front of them. Unfortunately, it does not matter and you would not be able to receive any money for the damages, although the fault is not your own. If the state you are in uses this standard, you may be responsible for your injuries.

Comparative Fault

Fortunately, a lot of courts within the United States use comparative fault as their standard of conducting these proceedings. During the proceedings, the jury looks at both sides of the story and the relative degrees of fault. After this, they then assign each of you a percentage of fault. During the case of Murdoch v. Biggers, 2012 BCSC 747, a woman was found to be jaywalking when running to catch a bus. Although she did run in front of the vehicle the judge found the motorist to also be at fault to some degree. The plaintiff was awarded 25 percent of the cost of her injuries. This is how comparative fault works.

It is important to research your state’s standards of negligence and how to proceed. If you feel you need to proceed, you should take the next step to locate a professional attorney to aid you in the process.

Consult an Attorney

After viewing these standards, the next step is to consult an attorney if you wish to proceed. The attorney will be able to explain your state’s standards as well as the next steps to take in the process. Your attorney will discuss the laws and explain whether or not you will receive compensation for your injuries or damages. If you do go to court, the attorney will be able to plead your case for you and give you the ultimate turn around for your injuries. You don’t have to do this alone.

If you are dealing with injuries sustained after a jaywalking accident, there are laws that must be followed to ensure your safety and your assets. You should discuss with an attorney the laws within your state and also the proper steps to take to receive money or action against your damages.

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What are Examples of Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case?

If you are searching for answers regarding wrongful death, you can find solace in the law. Wrongful death can be described as a death by negligence. These deaths can occur at the hand of someone else’s negligence and can result in difficult cases. Unfortunately, there are many examples of negligence within a wrongful death case. These can include deaths that are caused by misconduct, simple negligence and even murder. To determine if your case is a case of wrongful death, there are parameters it must meet to be considered.

Elements of a Wrongful Death

As stated, there are elements that a wrongful death must have before it is considered. These elements include:

Death

Obviously, a wrongful death case must include the death of a human being. This can include immediate death or death later on from injuries that were inflicted or sustained.

Negligence or intent
This death must be caused by negligence or intent to harm the individual. This can include murder or homicide as well, not just simple negligence on the other’s part.

Monetary Injury
There must be family or loved ones who are suffering monetary damages or injuries due to the death of the individual. There also must be a family member who is appointed as a personal representative or power of attorney for the victim’s assets.

If all of these elements are met, a wrongful death case can be opened, of course depending on the actual cause of death.

Examples of Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case

There are several types of wrongful death cases that have arose, most of them involving negligence in some way, except in the case of murder. Negligence can be described as the failure to use care reasonably to prevent damage, harm or injury to someone else. Examples of negligence in wrongful death are as follows:

Death resulting from a supervised activity

Motor vehicle accident

Airplane accident or crash

Exposure to hazardous conditions or substances within occupation

Medical malpractice

Action resulting from criminal behavior

You can see these examples in several famous court rulings. For example, the wrongful death of Phil and Brynn Hartman. Brynn shot her husband Phil and then proceeded to commit suicide. Brynn had been taking Zoloft for her depression at the time of the incident. Her family filed a wrongful death claim against the company Pfizer, the manufacturer of the drug. This case was settled. We can see another example in the case of Aaliyah, a young R&B singer who died in a plane crash. Her family filed a wrongful death claim against different parties involved including the airline as well as Virgin Records. They alleged that Virgin hired a company that had been cited four years in a row. The accident happened on the pilot’s first day with the company and he also had charges against him for cocaine. This case was also confidentially settled in 2003.

What Can You Do?

If you believe your loved one was a victim of wrongful death, there is a process you can follow, depending on your state.

In All States
In all states, a person can file a wrongful death claim for a spouse, a minor child or the minor child can seek a claim for the death of a parent.

In Some States
In some states, relatives of the victim are allowed to seek damages. Some states allow the parents, siblings and grandparents to seek damages on the victim.

If you feel you meet these parameters, you can seek the advice of a professional and licensed attorney who can guide you through the steps you should take next depending on the laws within your state. Although the damages cannot replace the loss of your loved one, you will be able to replace financial loss. In the case for medical malpractice and product negligence, you may be able to further the actions taken to promote product safety. Whatever you decide, an attorney can aid you in the process and make sure you receive what is rightfully yours.

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