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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Can an employer fire me for filing a workers’ compensation claim?
While most people know that workers' compensation provides medical and lost income benefits to workers who suffer an injury on the job, they may not know of the additional employment protection it affords a worker after filing a claim. Some employers may be tempted to threaten or harass an employee to discourage him from filing a claim, or the employer may simply want to fire the employee. If this happens, employees can take action against the employer to recover civil damages for unfair treatment.
Protection From Employer Retaliation
To ensure that employees are able to collect their work injury benefits without punishment, workers’ compensation laws prohibit employers from taking adverse action against a worker who has brought a claim in good faith. The employee is protected from retaliation immediately after the qualifying injury occurs, even before the claim is filed or the employer notified of the accident.
Under workers' compensation laws, employers are forbidden from retaliating against workers in the following ways:
- Termination. Workers' compensation laws typically prevent an injured worker from suing an employer. However, if the employee was laid off or fired because he sought workers’ compensation benefits, he may bring a retaliatory discharge lawsuit against the employer.
- Workplace harassment. Employers may make threats against employees who file claims, including blacklisting them from future job opportunities.
- Discriminatory treatment. Discrimination can come in many forms, including disciplinary action, salary reduction, demotion, being passed over for promotion, or being assigned a new title or another position.
- Forced leave. Employers cannot force an employee to use or forfeit accrued paid time off, paid medical leave, pension benefits, or other earned income in lieu of workers’ compensation income replacement benefits during recovery.
If you believe you have been discriminated against or discharged in retaliation for seeking workers’ compensation benefits, we can examine the details of your case and help you get what you’re owed for your injury. Simply fill out the easy online contact form on this page, or call Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum to set up a consultation with our work injury attorneys.
How can I find the right divorce lawyer for me?
Once you have made the decision to separate from your spouse, you may turn to the internet to search for an attorney who can handle the case. While online research is a helpful first step, it can quickly become overwhelming, as there may be hundreds of attorneys near you. With so many lawyers who could handle your case, how do you find the one that’s right for you?
Finding the Right Attorney to Handle Your Divorce
The most important thing when selecting an attorney to handle your divorce is to choose a family law attorney. All law firms have areas of focus such as personal injury, business law, workers’ compensation, and estate planning. Your chosen attorney does not need to handle divorce cases exclusively, but one who regularly works in divorce and family law has a much better chance of obtaining a favorable outcome for you.
The right divorce attorney for your case will be the one who:
- Has experience in your type of divorce. There are many different ways to separate from a spouse, including mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigating the case in court. The divorce process you use will depend on the specifics of your case and whether you and your spouse can work together during separation. Spouses who divorce amicably may only need an attorney to act as a legal guide to help them file paperwork, discover and divide all assets, and update financial documents and estate plans after separation. On the other hand, if your spouse is hiding assets or threatening to leave you penniless, you will likely need an attorney with trial experience.
- Addresses your specific needs. Ask yourself: what is most important to you in your case? Is it custody of your children, obtaining spousal support, or moving on as quickly as possible? Are you concerned about dividing business assets or getting a fair portion of the marital property? The answer can steer you toward the right person to achieve that goal.
- Communicates well and keeps you informed. The right attorney should never make you feel as if you are a bother or that you are not a priority. When you meet with an attorney, don’t be afraid to ask questions about who will be working on your case and how often you will be updated on its progress.
If you need more information on filing for divorce in Rhode Island or have child custody questions, we can help. Please contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum today via our online contact form.
How can I help someone in my family going through a divorce?
When someone you know announces her divorce, it can be very difficult to know how to respond. Grandparents may be afraid of losing access to the couple’s children, siblings of one spouse may become angry at the other, and friends may simply stay away because they are unsure of how to act. If someone you love has decided to divorce, there are a few things you can do—and avoid doing—to show your support.
How to Be Supportive of Someone Getting a Divorce
Divorce can place an enormous strain on family relationships, and it is often hard for those involved to ask for help. If a friend or family member is going through a divorce, here are some ways you can help make things easier:
- Be a good listener. Couples often hide their problems until they announce a divorce, and as a result, the divorce comes as a surprise. Even if you don’t know what to say, it can be helpful just to listen. If the person is comfortable talking about it, be a sympathetic listener, and if she doesn’t want to talk, let her know that’s okay, too.
- Avoid taking sides. If someone tells you she’s getting divorced, she’s likely hurting and in need of sympathy. However, you should resist the urge to badmouth her spouse. No one except the couple really knows what goes on in a relationship, so try to stay impartial and decline voicing judgments.
- Be careful what you say. When people hear that others are getting a divorce, their first response may be unkind. Many will want to offer advice, give their opinion, or even say “I told you so.” Above all, do not repeat any conversations with a divorcing friend or family member to others. Even if these responses come from fear or shock, your friend is relying on you for support, and these behaviors are not helpful.
- Make an open offer of help. Ask your friend if there is anything she needs (such as financial help, child care, or a temporary place to stay), and work together to come up with a solution. If she declines help, let her know you are available if she thinks of anything she may need in the future.
- Stay present. Many spouses put off filing for divorce because they are afraid that everything in their lives will change. It can be a great comfort to a divorced friend to continue to treat her as you always have, including maintaining your relationship with her children. Friends and family can be of great help in the transition of divorce just by staying in contact and maintaining a sense of normalcy.
If you need more information on filing for divorce in Rhode Island or have child custody or support questions, please contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum today via our online contact form.
Why should I see a doctor after a car crash if I don't feel injured?
It’s understandable that you would want to go straight home after being involved in a car accident. The stress of talking to police officers, notifying family members, and spending hours at the accident scene can be overwhelming, and you just want to get back to comfortable and familiar surroundings. However, victims who fail to get medical attention before returning home may have a more difficult time with a personal injury claim.
Why Seek Medical Treatment After a Car Accident
It’s easy to make mistakes after a car accident, but refusing medical care is one of the most costly. Some victims may assume they are not seriously injured, while others may fear the cost of emergency room treatment. No matter what your condition is after an accident, it is always worth it to be checked by a doctor before you return home.
There are many reasons victims should see a doctor after a crash, including:
- Preventing further injuries. When it comes to your health, it is always better to be safe than sorry. A checkup after an accident can detect conditions that appear minor at the outset (such as hematoma or compartment syndrome) that can be fatal if left untreated.
- Collecting medical evidence. Victims are often in shock after a crash, causing their brains to block the worst of the pain in their bodies. This is why people who report minor injuries at the scene may feel debilitating pain in the days after the crash. If victims wait to see a doctor, the injury may be attributed to something other than the crash. X-rays, scans, and diagnostic tests performed hours after the crash can serve as vital evidence of your injuries.
- Protecting your accident case. The adrenaline rush of a crash can cause victims to say things that can hurt them later, even if they are not in their right state of mind. If you tell police officers at the scene that you are “fine” or refuse to be examined by emergency responders, it may be recorded and used by the insurance company. However, if you consent to medical treatment and a serious injury is detected, your initial remarks are easier to ignore because you are not a medical professional and you acted like a reasonable person by going to the hospital.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum offer free initial consultations for injury victims and do not charge for services until your case is resolved. Contact us today via our online form to schedule your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.
What penalties can an employer face for not having workers’ compensation insurance?
Employers can face significant penalties for failing to protect their employees with workers’ compensation insurance. First, the employer can be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000 per day for each day insurance is not provided. Employers can also face criminal felony charges, which carry a sentence of up to two years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $10,000 upon conviction. Finally, if the failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance is determined to create a significant danger to employees, business operations can be suspended until workers' compensation and employers' liability insurance is secured.
When Your Employer Doesn’t Provide Workers’ Comp
If you suspect your employer does not have insurance, you can report Rhode Island workers’ compensation fraud to the Fraud Prevention and Compliance Unit. As long as you make a complaint to the Fraud Unit in good faith, the employer cannot take any legal action against you for making the report.
The Fraud Unit can help in a variety of matters concerning bad faith on the part of an employer, including:
- Premium fraud. Employers may not have sufficient insurance to cover work-related injuries due to premium fraud such as underreporting the number of employees in order to pay less for insurance. Premium fraud is a criminal offense.
- Falsifying claims information. Any employer who intentionally makes false statements to prevent an employee from filing a claim or obtain benefits may be prosecuted.
- Encouraging fraud. Employers may be charged with a criminal offense if they encourage workers not to file claims or command workers to report any work-related injuries they suffer as happening outside the workplace.
- Penalties. Any person convicted of workers’ compensation fraud may be ordered to pay monetary penalties up to $50,000 and face imprisonment for up to five years.
If your employer did not secure workers’ compensation insurance, you and your fellow employees are not prohibited from filing lawsuits against the employer. For this reason, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible after an injury at work. Simply fill out the easy online contact form on this page, or contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum at 401-946-3200 to set up a consultation with our work injury attorneys.
What is an open and obvious risk in a slip and fall claim?
Slip and fall cases will usually involve some degree of negligence on the part of the property owner. If the owner knew or should have known about a defect on the property or did not warn visitors of the defect, the owner can be held responsible for the injuries the defect causes. However, there is an exception to this rule: the “open and obvious” doctrine.
Owners May Not Be Responsible for an Open and Obvious Risk
Rhode Island courts have held that property owners are not responsible for warning visitors of any open and obvious hazard on the premises that could cause injury. The theory is that the risk is so obvious, a reasonable and prudent person would have taken steps to avoid it, making the victim the negligent party. In an “open and obvious” defense, the property owner may accept that the open condition caused injury, and even that he failed to warn about the condition—but may not agree as to fault.
In most cases, recovery for an open and obvious risk case will depend on:
- Negligence. All premises liability cases are decided based on which party was negligent. Failure to warn of a dangerous condition or failure to fix the condition are types of negligence that can be attributed to the property owner. On the other hand, a jury may find a victim to be negligent if he should have seen the hazard and realized it was dangerous but did not try to avoid it.
- The nature of the condition. In order for the open and obvious doctrine to apply, the defect must be large, plainly visible, unobstructed, or otherwise easily identified. Types of open defects might include construction on the property, rolls of new carpeting, or piles of snow.
- Evidence of the risk. The burden is on the victim to provide evidence of the dangerous condition. However, if the victim does not take photographs at the scene, the property owner may make repairs while the victim is recovering, making the case more complicated.
- Degree of fault. Even if the condition is ruled open and obvious, Rhode Island injury laws allow victims to recover damages even if they are mostly at fault—but the amount of damages will be limited by the victim’s percentage of fault.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, the attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum offer free initial consultations for injury victims and do not charge for our services until your case is resolved. Contact us today via our online form to schedule your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.
What if I can't afford a personal injury attorney?
Many people assume they do not have the funds to hire an attorney. The high settlements and hourly rates of big-name lawyers lead many people to believe that attorneys are for the wealthy. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth—especially for victims of serious injuries. While many lawyers are paid by the hour, the majority of injury attorneys work on a contingency-fee basis, meaning the injury victim does not pay anything up front for legal representation.
The Potential Costs and Fees Associated With an Injury Lawsuit
In a contingency-fee arrangement, the attorney will cover all court costs until the matter has been resolved. If the attorney is successful, his fees are paid with a portion of the amount recovered—usually between 30-40% of the total damages, as well as reimbursement for any costs paid on the victim’s behalf. If the attorney does not win the case, the victim only needs to pay for any costs the attorney covered out of pocket.
Some of the most common questions about payment for legal services include:
- How much is the contingency fee? The amount of contingency percentage is based on the complexity of the injury, the details of the accident, and the time and effort it will take for the attorney to build a strong case. If the case is likely to go to trial, the attorney may quote a higher percentage because trials can double or triple the time it takes to resolve a case.
- What costs are not included in the contingency fee? Common costs deducted from the settlement include filing fees, the hiring of medical experts, employing an investigator, copying and mailing, and records requests.
- Is it worth it to hire a lawyer? In most cases, it is worth the cost of hiring a lawyer if the injuries sustained are severe. A successful injury case can pay for the victim’s lost income, disability, lost quality of life, and past and future medical treatment—even after the amount paid to the lawyer has been deducted from the settlement.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum understand that victims are often struggling financially after an injury. That is why we offer free initial consultations for injury victims and explain our payment schedule before we begin working on a case. Contact us today via our online form for your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.
Is workers’ compensation paid under state or federal law?
In Rhode Island, any worker employed by a private employer, state agency, or local government is owed benefits under the state workers' compensation board. However, there are some Rhode Island residents—such as federal workers or maritime employees—who may qualify for workers' compensation under a federal law.
Qualifying for Federal Workers’ Comp Benefits
While the majority of workers’ compensation programs are administered under state law, some workers are exempt from state workers’ compensation due to the location, risks, or injuries associated with their work. In these cases, injured workers can collect wage replacement benefits, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and disability payments through the U.S. government.
Federal laws make compensation for a work-related injury or an occupational disease payable to:
- Federal and postal employees. The Federal Employees' Compensation Act grants workers' compensation benefits to millions of federal employees, including postal workers. Injured federal employees can make a claim for benefits through the nearest district office of the Division of Federal Employees' Compensation (DFEC).
- Maritime employees. Employees who work on open water, oil rigs, or offshore platforms can collect injury benefits under federal maritime laws, including the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), Defense Base Act (DBA), and Jones Act.
- Energy employees. The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) provides compensation to current or former employees of the Department of Energy (DOE) who have been diagnosed with a radiogenic form of cancer after exposure to radiation, beryllium, or silica during their term of employment. The EEOICPA also provides survivors’ benefits to families of employees who have died as a result of work-related radiogenic cancers.
If you are seeking compensation after an injury at work, our attorneys can examine your situation and help determine how much you’re owed for lost wages, medical bills, and other accident costs. Simply fill out our easy online contact form, or call Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum to set up a consultation with our work injury attorneys.
How can a car’s black box help my car accident case?
After a car accident in Rhode Island, you must prove the other driver’s negligence in order to obtain compensation. An important piece of equipment that help you obtain evidence is the car’s black box, which is also referred to as an event data recorder (EDR). While many people associate black boxes with airplanes, they are installed in most motor vehicles, even in some older ones. If you were injured in a car accident in Rhode Island, evidence from this box can help you obtain the compensation you deserve for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering following a car accident.
An EDR Records Helpful Information
A car’s black box records data about the vehicle’s functioning abilities in the moments before and during a collision. The specific information that is stored will vary depending on the manufacturer of the motor vehicle. Most EDRs record data on a continuous loop but will store the information for a period of time following a crash. Some of the helpful information that an EDR can provide includes:
- Speed of the vehicle and any changes in speed before the accident
- Speed of the auto at the time of impact
- Pedal use, including time spent accelerating or applying the brake
- Seatbelt use
- Airbag deployment
- Number of collisions and the time between them, which can be useful in a multi-vehicle crash
Obtaining a Lawyer to Preserve Black Box Data
One reason it is important to retain an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after a car accident is to preserve the data in the negligent driver’s black box before it is recorded over or the EDR is replaced or lost when the vehicle is repaired. Our skilled lawyers understand the importance of preserving black box and other evidence that can help to win your case before it is lost or destroyed. To learn more about how we can assist you, call our office to schedule your free initial consultation today.
What does it mean when a lawyer offers a free consultation?
Most injury attorneys use a contingent fee to charge for their services, meaning a client will only pay the attorney if the case is won. Since the attorney receives a portion of the damages in a contingent arrangement, it’s important that he carefully weigh the potential outcome against the chances of winning the case—and the victim will likely want to know what to expect in the weeks after hiring a lawyer. A free consultation offers a way for both parties to see if working together on the case would be worthwhile.
Getting the Most From a Free Consultation
Free consultations offer many different benefits to victims. First, it allows them to meet with attorneys before committing to work with them, reducing the likelihood of changing attorneys during litigation. Victims are not limited to the number of free consultations they can have while trying to find a lawyer. This allows them to compare legal representatives risk-free until they find the one they want to hire. Finally, victims can get a sense of what to expect throughout the legal process, helping to prepare themselves for a future case.
If you have suffered an injury, a free consultation is an opportunity for you to learn:
- If you need a lawyer or not. An attorney should tell you how to resolve your claim in a way that makes the most financial sense, even if that does not include hiring a lawyer. An attorney should advise you of anything you can do on your own that could resolve the claim (such as filing paperwork) or whether you do not have a viable claim (such as if the statute of limitations has expired).
- If you trust the attorney to handle your case. You should use a consultation to gauge whether an attorney has the experience necessary to win your case. In particular, it is a good idea to ask how long the attorney has been practicing law and how many of your particular injury case he has successfully resolved.
- If you’re ready for the next steps. While an attorney cannot definitively tell you the outcome of your case in a first meeting, he can tell you which strategies and procedures are likely to succeed and how long the case will take to be resolved. You should also learn what your responsibilities will be and how often you can expect to hear from the lawyer as your case progresses.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum are proud to offer free initial consultations for injury victims, allowing you to learn your legal options at no cost to you. Contact us today via our online form to schedule your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.