The Answers You Need for the Questions You’re Forced to Ask
One of the worst aspects of pursuing a case—whether you’re fighting for injury compensation or trying to settle a divorce—is not knowing what to expect. Before you get yourself knee deep in the details of your case allow us to answer some of your questions first. We’ll help you be more fully prepared and more confident as you move forward.
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Do grandparents have visitation rights after a Rhode Island divorce?
There are many ways a grandparent may be separated from grandchildren after a divorce is final. One spouse may prevent the other spouse’s relatives from seeing the children, or visits with surviving grandparents may stop after one spouse has died. If visitation is suspended, grandparents can petition the Family Court to seek "reasonable visitation rights" for the grandchild.
Grandparents May Request Visitation Rights
No matter who gets custody of a child after a divorce, it is expected that the child will be able to enjoy access to both parents (unless there is some legal reason the other parent should not interact with the child). However, there is no guarantee that grandparents will be able to visit the grandchildren of a divorced spouse. If a grandparent wishes to ensure visitation of a grandchild after a divorce, he must make an official request through the Family Court.
The Court will consider a few factors in order to determine whether the child should be allowed to visit the grandparent(s), including:
- Whether visitation is in the best interests of the grandchild
- Whether the grandparent is fit and responsible to be granted visitation rights
- Whether the grandparent has attempted to visit the grandchild within the previous 30 days before petitioning, but he was prevented from doing so
- Whether court intervention is the only way the grandparent would reasonably be able to visit the grandchild
- Whether the grandparent has clear evidence that a parent’s decision to refuse visitation was not reasonable
Once the Court grants visitation rights to the grandparent, it can also take action to enforce the visitation rights if the parent is unwilling to accept the ruling. In addition, the law requires that any further custody or visitation petitions be provided to all parties that have been granted visitation. This allows grandparents to remain a presence in the child’s life unless the Court issues an order removing visitation rights.
If your visitation rights have been suspended after a Rhode Island divorce, we can help. Fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation with a divorce and family law attorney at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum.
Can I get pain and suffering through a workers’ comp claim?
While the workers’ compensation system guarantees payment regardless of fault, the payments offered are limited to medical expenses and lost wages. Pain and suffering is not considered a covered loss and cannot be collected through workers’ compensation. However, pain and suffering can be obtained by filing a lawsuit against the person responsible for causing the injury.
How Injured Workers May Be Paid for Their Pain and Suffering
Workers’ compensation is known as the “exclusive remedy” against employers for injuries suffered on the job. This means, if an injury qualifies for workers’ compensation, claimants are barred from suing the employer. The only exception is if the employee has suffered workplace discrimination or defamation, in which case the employee is allowed to sue the employer for damages (including pain and suffering).
In some cases, accidents are caused not by the employer, but by the negligence of a third party. Third-party claims can be sought regardless of workers’ compensation status and may include the costs of pain and suffering, punitive damages, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life.
For example, workers may pursue a third-party claim against:
- A driver of a vehicle (not employed by the same employer) who caused a car accident
- A general contractor or sub-contractor responsible for a construction site injury
- A company who manufactured a defective piece of equipment
- An engineer or designer who created hazardous machinery or working conditions
- Property owners who allowed a dangerous condition to exist on their premises
- Maintenance companies who failed to adhere to cleanliness or safety standards
It is important to note that workers may have to pay the workers’ compensation insurer back if they recover damages from a negligent third party. A successful negligence claim often includes payment for lost earnings and medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering, and employees who have already been paid for some of these costs through workers’ compensation can be ordered to reimburse the insurer. This prevents claimants from being paid twice for the same losses and allows the third party to be held liable for the full costs of the accident.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum know how to properly negotiate the amount you are owed for your injury and will explore all options to maximize the value of your claim. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule a no-cost initial consultation.
Why shouldn’t I post on social media after an injury?
Social media is a great way to stay in touch with your friends and family, so it may seem like a good idea to tell everyone about your accident by posting on Facebook or Twitter. However, this common mistake can hurt your chances of obtaining compensation, and it can make it much harder for you to win damages in an injury lawsuit.
How Social Media Can Hurt Your Personal Injury Case
It’s only natural to want to reassure your friends that you are all right after an injury, but it is important to realize that anything you post online can be used as evidence in your injury case, even if it is unrelated to the accident. Nearly everything you post can be used against you in some way, including:
- What you say. Your own words can easily be used to poke holes in your injury case. Some people cope with trauma by making jokes about the accident, which the defense attorneys may take literally. Even if you post something positive about feeling much better after changing doctors or taking a new medication, the defense attorneys may use it to undermine the seriousness of the injuries you have.
- How you look. Any photos you share—or that others share of you—can be used as evidence. Pictures of you having a drink, attending a party, or even smiling can potentially be harmful to your case.
- Where you are. People who have been severely injured in a crash often take weeks to recover, and it can be a long and frustrating process. While it is a good idea to socialize with friends and visit relatives, any pictures that show you on vacation or out of town recuperating can be used as evidence that your injuries are not serious.
- What you’re doing. Pictures that show any physical activity should be kept off of social media. Obviously, a person who is seriously injured would not engage in skiing or running a marathon, but even necessary or low-impact activities (such as raking leaves or walking the dog) may be seen as evidence that you are not in any pain.
It’s important to suspend your Facebook and social media accounts until after your case is concluded. If you cannot do that, you should adjust your privacy settings, so that only a small number of people can access your account. For more help on your claim, contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule a no-cost initial consultation.
Do all estates have to go through probate in Rhode Island?
When a person dies, his property must go through probate proceedings before it can be passed on to named beneficiaries. Probate is typically a long and expensive process, and in some cases, it does not make sense to make heirs wait before inheriting a relative’s property. This is why state law allows some smaller estates to be exempt from probate in Rhode Island.
What Are Rhode Island’s Small Estate Laws?
If a person dies with less than $15,000 of personal property, probate may be shortened under the "small estate" provision. The executor of the estate will have to file the necessary forms with the probate court, but the waiting time for the closure of these estates is typically much shorter and far less costly.
In order to close a small estate, an executor must:
- Complete a schedule of all known assets and the estimated value of each one
- File the decedent’s original will with the probate court
- Present the deceased’s death certificate to the clerk of the probate court
- Pay applicable filing fees
- Make payments from the estate to creditors
- Pay any necessary final medical and funeral expenses using estate funds
- Distribute the remaining assets according to the terms of the will
The person who is named an executor should be willing and able to discharge all necessary duties that are required to close the estate. If an executor does not perform these duties to the letter of the law, family members may hold the executor liable for mishandling the estate.
Even when the estate is small, probate proceedings can be frustrating and an arduous process. The best way to avoid unnecessary costs and confusion is to enlist the help of an estate planning and probate attorney. Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help you protect your assets and avoid going through probate in Rhode Island by retitling your assets and creating a living trust. Simply fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation.
How long will it take to resolve my personal injury case?
Many injury victims want to know how long they will wait before receiving compensation after an accident. Not only does a personal injury claim place strain on a victim’s personal and family life, it can make financial decisions difficult and make the future uncertain. The truth is, there is no set length a time in which a claim must be settled after it is filed, but there are ways to estimate the time it will take before the matter is resolved.
Why It May Take Longer to Resolve Your Rhode Island Personal Injury Claim
In general, in can take between two months to several years to resolve a claim, with most cases falling in the middle. While the exact time varies from case to case, claims may take longer depending on:
- The type and extent of your injury. The impact of some injuries is fairly obvious, but it may be more difficult to show how other injuries have affected your life. For example, a broken bone shows up easily on an x-ray, requires time and immobility to heal, and has known complications. Soft-tissue injuries are harder to diagnose, and the prognosis can vary from patient to patient.
- Your medical treatment history. The at-fault party in your lawsuit may scrutinize your medical details to see if there is any way you could share blame for the injury. If you waited to seek treatment, stopped treatment early, or had previous injuries to the same part of the body, you will have to respond with additional evidence in your injury case proving why you are still entitled to the settlement amount requested.
- How long it has been since the accident occurred. Under state law, all victims have three years from the date of an injury to file a lawsuit. However, the longer you wait to file, the more difficult it may be to track down vital evidence needed for your case.
If you’ve suffered injuries after an accident, contact the legal team at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum by filling out our online contact form to tell us what happened in your no-cost initial consultation.
Are there time limits on workers’ compensation benefits?
Most injured workers have their hands full with emergency medical care and follow-up health appointments to begin thinking about filing a workers’ compensation claim. However, these claims are subject to a variety of different deadlines, beginning with the time frame to report a workplace accident to an employer.
Time Limits Applied to Workers’ Compensation in Rhode Island
There are time limits on nearly every aspect of a workers’ compensation claim. Here is a brief overview of those deadlines:
- How long do I have to give my employer notice of my injury? You have 30 days to report an injury or illness to your employer. However, it is best to report your condition as soon as possible, since your employer is required by law to file a declaration form with the Rhode Island Division of Workers’ Compensation.
- How long do I have to file a claim? Workers can file a workers’ compensation claim up to 2 years from the date of injury. The deadline is lengthy because many injuries and occupational diseases covered under Rhode Island workers' compensation may take a long time to manifest. Employees who file workers’ compensation for repetitive stress injuries or work-related cancers often do not have one sudden incident that results in injury but suffer day-by-day exposure that causes injury over time.
- How long must I be unable to work before I can collect workers’ compensation? There is a waiting period of 3 days on wage loss benefits. You are officially considered disabled on the 4th day of missed work.
- How long can a person receive benefits? Employees who are temporarily or partially disabled may continue to receive benefits for up to six years as long as they maintain disability status. If a person is permanently and completely unable to work, benefits may continue indefinitely.
- How long does my employer have to hold my job? Rhode Island is one of only a handful of states that protect your right to return to your old job. Once you are cleared for return to work by your doctor, you must claim your position within 10 days.
No matter the time limits, you should take action immediately to report your injury or file a claim. Any hesitation to do so may be seen as evidence that your injury isn’t severe, potentially damaging your case. The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can examine the details of your case and help you get the benefits you deserve. Contact us by filling out our online form to tell us what happened in your no-cost initial consultation.
What is the value of my Rhode Island personal injury claim?
Many accident victims want to know if their settlement amount will be enough to compensate them for the hardship and struggles they’ve endured. If the case goes to trial, the claim will be worth whatever the jury decides. However, the vast majority of cases are settled out of court, and attorneys in the case will determine a figure during settlement negotiations. In both cases, it can be difficult to know the exact amount that a victim can receive without a careful examination of the facts.
Factors That Can Affect the Value of a Personal Injury Claim
Attorneys and insurers must consider many different variables before arriving at a fair settlement value for a case. They may consider recent Rhode Island jury verdicts and settlements as a starting point for negotiations, especially if those amounts help their cases.
Your ability to recover fair compensation will depend on:
- Your medical bills. These should total the amount you have paid for trips to or stays in the hospital and all medical costs associated with the injury, as well as the amount you could pay for medical costs in the future.
- Your property losses. These losses can include property damage (such as the loss of your vehicle), as well as expenses for property modification due to your injuries (such as installing a wheelchair ramp).
- Your ability to work. Because your past lost wages, future loss of income, and permanent disability can amount to thousands of dollars, you will need substantial medical evidence to prove the extent of these losses.
- Your story. There is no limit on the amount of damages a victim can receive to compensate for pain and suffering. If you have suffered unfairly during the course of your injury or recovery, the jury will likely be more sympathetic to your case.
- Your attorney. Finding the right personal injury attorney is vital to your case. The person representing you should have experience handling your kind of accident, know the difficulties of the specific injuries you have sustained, be familiar with all applicable laws involved, and have experience in settling cases, negotiating with insurers or other lawyers, and representing clients in court.
At Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum, we take the time to go over every facet of your case, the details of your injuries, the emotional aspects caused by your injuries, and your treatment. We work to learn exactly how the accident and the injuries affected your life and strive to understand the true value of your case. Contact us by filling out our online form to start a no-cost, initial consultation.
What documents should I create when I begin the estate planning process?
Many people begin the estate planning process to ensure that loved ones will be provided for and to designate beneficiaries of the estate. Proper estate planning can also accomplish many other goals, including the division of your assets to your spouse, children, and beneficiaries, a way to help avoid family conflicts, and a way to designate who will care for minor or special needs children. However, these goals can only be enacted if the plan includes the necessary legal documents.
Vital Documents to Include in Your Rhode Island Estate Plan
An estate plan is not simply a will; it is a collection of legal documents that each have important functions. A robust estate plan will include:
- Will. Your last will and testament distributes your property according to your wishes. If you do not have a will, your property will be distributed according to state law. Your will also names the executor who is responsible for the management and closing of your estate, including paying final debts and disbursing personal assets. Your will may also name the legal guardian for any dependents you leave behind.
- Financial power of attorney. When you designate a financial power of attorney, you give someone the right to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become physically or mentally incompetent. The person with power of attorney is limited to performing financial matters only such as paying bills, controlling investments, and filing taxes.
- Advanced medical directives. Advanced medical directives can include multiple documents, including a living will and a durable power of attorney for healthcare. A healthcare power of attorney gives someone of your choosing the legal authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. While many people outline the actions they want taken such as dementia care or continuation of life support, the person chosen as representative will have the ability to make decisions on things that have not been planned for (such as which medical treatments you will or will not receive).
- Trusts. The creation of a trust can allow your assets to pass to your beneficiaries without the need for probate, potentially saving your family thousands of dollars in court fees and taxes paid by your estate.
The Rhode Island probate attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help guide you through estate planning matters. Simply fill out our online contact form to schedule your initial consultation in our offices.
Can children get compensation after being injured on someone else’s property?
Most premises liability laws absolve property owners of any responsibility for injuries suffered by trespassers. Generally, it wouldn’t be fair to allow compensation for an injury that occurred while the victim was breaking the law. However, many states make an exception to this rule when children are the victims, since children do not have the same concept of danger and understanding of property boundaries that adults do. In Rhode Island, property owners can be liable for injuries to trespassing children if the child was on the premises as a result of an “attractive nuisance."
What Is Considered an Attractive Nuisance in Rhode Island?
In premises liability cases, an attractive nuisance is any dangerous item that could attract the attention of children and entice them onto the property. The exact definition varies, but most courts agree that attractive nuisances include man-made objects that are solely owned and maintained by the property owner. Here are some common examples of attractive nuisances:
- Water features (including swimming pools, fountains, or wells)
- Holes or tunnels
- Ladders, stairs, or scaffolding
- Paths, gardens, or rock piles
- Dangerous machinery (such as snowblowers or lawn mowers)
- Dogs, cats, or some type of dangerous animal
When Can Parents Sue for a Child’s Injury on Someone Else’s Property?
Parents may be able to get compensation for an injured child if they can prove the property owner knew of the injury risk but allowed the dangerous condition to exist on the property without taking proper precautions. For instance, a child who trespasses into a neighbor’s yard and is injured on a trampoline could be owed compensation if the gate to the yard was not locked or if the neighbor was aware that children routinely jump the fence. While neighbors may attempt to deny liability by posting “no trespassing” signs, some courts do not consider signs as an effective method for deterring children.
If your child was injured on someone else’s property, our attorneys can determine who may be held liable. Contact our offices today to schedule your no-obligation consultation with our legal advisors.
Could another driver be at fault for my truck accident injury?
Just as dangerous truck driving behavior can cause a crash, the actions of drivers of smaller vehicles can cause accidents, too. In some cases, drivers of passenger vehicles can be liable for causing accidents, even if they were not even injured.
How Passenger Vehicle Drivers Can Cause Truck Accidents
All drivers should take extra care when traveling next to semi-trucks. It’s never a good idea to break the law by speeding, texting, or driving under the influence, but those actions can be especially dangerous near trucks. Additionally, you might be found liable in a truck accident if you perform the following risky and unsafe maneuvers:
- Traveling in a blind spot. Trucks have a number of blind spots along the front, back, and sides, and any vehicles in these areas are at risk of injury. For example, a trucker who swerves to avoid a car that suddenly appears out of a
- blind spot may strike another car nearby.
- Tight merging. Smaller cars may be able to squeeze between each other in traffic, but large trucks need far more stopping distance to accommodate a merging vehicle. If a trucker is forced to slam on his brakes to let someone in, a vehicle traveling behind the truck may hit the back of the trailer.
- Improper passing. Passing a truck is significantly more difficult than passing a smaller vehicle. If a driver passes a truck on a curve, both oncoming and following traffic may be run off the road or suffer collisions when the pass is not completed.
- Unsafe turns. Drivers often do not accommodate trucks that need to travel on city streets. Smaller cars may attempt to overtake or turn in front of a slow-moving truck, denying the trucker the time and space he needs to complete the turn safely (and placing pedestrians and other road users at risk).
If you suffered injuries after an accident involving a commercial truck, you should discuss your rights with a qualified attorney. Fill out our online contact form to set up your initial consultation with a truck crash lawyer.