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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Am I owed compensation if I was injured in my parked car?
Most people assume that an accident claim involving a parked car should be easier than one involving two moving cars—simply because the owner of the parked car shouldn’t be held responsible. However, these kinds of accidents often involve liability issues, especially if the car was parked illegally. If you were injured or sustained property damage while your car was parked, you will need to act quickly to protect your right to compensation.
Steps to Take If You’re Injured in Your Parked Car
If you are able to exit the vehicle safely, you should exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver and take a picture of the driver’s license plate. If there are any witnesses, write down their names, phone numbers, and what they said regarding the crash.
After collecting names and numbers, you should take the following steps immediately:
- Call the police. Even if you don’t believe you’ve sustained injuries in the crash, you should always call the police after an accident. Police officers can assess the damage, take contact information if you are unable to do so, and make an official report of the incident that you can refer to later.
- Take pictures of the scene. Photos and videos of the accident scene allow you to get as much information as you can as quickly as possible. Use your smartphone to snap pictures of the damage and positioning of both cars, road conditions, and any other relevant factors. If there are surveillance cameras nearby, note their locations, so you can ask for additional video evidence.
- File a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. Rhode Island follows a fault-based system for car accident injuries, meaning the at-fault driver’s insurance company is responsible for all injuries and damages for everyone involved in the crash. If the other driver’s insurer refuses to pay for some or all of your costs, you may need an attorney to help get compensation.
- Contact your own insurance company. Rhode Island law requires all auto insurance providers to offer uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage. If you have purchased UM coverage, you have the potential to recover damages if the at-fault driver’s insurer refuses to pay, if the driver who struck you does not have enough insurance to cover the damage, or you were injured by a hit-and-run driver. If your insurance company is able to recover these costs from the at-fault insurance company, you may be able to argue against any rising premiums or deductible costs on your end.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help you get payment for your medical bills and lost income after an accident, and we 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.
How do I change my name after a divorce?
Women undergoing divorce proceedings must choose whether to keep a former spouse’s last name or revert back to a maiden name. While it is up to each individual to choose the name she prefers, there are factors that can influence the decision, including the length of the marriage and whether or not there are children who share the former spouse’s surname. If you have decided to change your name, there are a few things you need to know in order to make the change permanent and legal.
Going Through the Legal Name Change Process After a Divorce
In Rhode Island, spouses can revert back to a former name as part of the divorce proceeding. It must be specifically stated in the divorce decree that you wish to change back to the name you held before marriage (the name stated on your birth certificate).
Once you have obtained a copy of the divorce decree ordering your name change, you will need to update your:
- Primary identification. The first step toward changing your name is to take the divorce decree and your birth certificate to your local Social Security (SS) office to obtain a new SS card. Once your SS card is updated, you may visit your local DMV office with your current RI driver’s license and proof of name change (your new SS card) and apply for a new license. Once a driver’s license in the new name has been issued, the license may be used as a primary ID to obtain a new passport.
- Legal identification. You will need to update your name on any legal documents, including your will, deeds or trusts, and property titles. You should also update your name on your voter registration card if you plan to vote in any upcoming elections.
- Address and account identification. It is your responsibility to update your legal name with the post office, your bank, and anywhere your name is used. You may need to submit a name change form to ensure that your taxes, car title and registration, bank accounts, credit cards, retirement accounts and 401K, investment accounts, mortgages, employment records, insurance policies, and medical records use your correct name. While you are changing your name on these accounts, you may want to change your beneficiary designations, so your ex-spouse does not inherit your assets if you want them to go to someone else.
- Child’s identification. If you wish to change your children’s names along with your own, this will have to be done through the family court system. However, a minor name change petition will only be approved if both parents have given consent.
Divorce forces people to make a lot of decisions in a short space of time, many of which will continue to affect them for years into the future. The legal team at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help you through this process. Please get in touch with us today via our online contact form.
How long do I have to be employed to be eligible for workers’ compensation?
In Rhode Island, all workers who are classified as non-exempt employees are entitled to workers’ compensation medical and wage loss benefits. If you are covered under the law, you qualify for benefits even if you are injured on the first day of the job. However, if you’re employed under another worker classification, it may affect whether you are covered under Rhode Island Workers' Compensation laws.
Employees Exempt From Rhode Island Workers' Comp
To qualify for Rhode Island workers’ compensation benefits, you don’t need to be employed for any specific length of time, be a United States citizen, or be properly documented to work in the U.S. However, you do have to qualify as a covered employee.
Employees who may not be covered under workers’ compensation include:
- Independent contractors or workers who are performing certain contracted tasks or do not meet the definition of an employee
- Agriculture employees, including farmers, nursery operators, or farm laborers whose employers do not employ 25 or more farm laborers or agricultural employees for at least 13 consecutive weeks
- Domestic service employees such as babysitters, housekeepers, or nannies
- Any licensed real estate broker or salesperson whose payment is earned through a salary or commission (rather than payment for the number of hours worked)
In some cases, covered employees may be told that they are exempt from workers’ compensation benefits when this is not the case. For example, large scale agricultural employees (who work for a person or company with 25 or more workers) who receive pay for growing or harvesting fruit and vegetable crops, working in orchards, harvesting lumber, participating in dairy farming, or raising livestock may be eligible for benefits. The best way to determine eligibility is to discuss your case with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
If you have suffered a work injury, the legal team at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help. Simply fill out the online contact form on this page, or call us to set up a consultation with us.
What are the most common causes of slip and fall accidents?
Although there may be a wide range of serious injuries that can occur as a result of a slip and fall accident, the majority of these accidents occur for one primary reason: negligence. Most slip, trip, or fall accidents can be traced back to instances of negligence on the part of a property owner or someone else who had a duty to make the premises safe.
Top Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
To recover payment after a slip and fall accident, you must be able to show that the property owner should have been aware of a hazardous condition and failed to address the condition, directly causing your injury. Our attorneys can gather evidence (such as video surveillance or maintenance records) to build a case against the negligent party.
The most common types of negligence in slip and fall accidents include:
- Poor property maintenance. Property owners have a duty to reasonably maintain their properties to prevent injuries. Torn carpets, uneven flooring, slippery ramps or stairs, and broken sidewalks or curbs can form the basis of a slip and fall claim.
- Inadequate warnings. Owners should warn visitors if there is a dangerous condition on the property or if the property may be temporarily more hazardous due to renovation or repairs.
- Failure to address a known hazard. Owners have a duty to address hazards on their property within a reasonable period of time. Allowing puddles to remain on floors or ice and snow to build up on walkways only increases the potential for accidents to occur.
- Inadequate training. Owners of commercial properties have a duty to train employees on fall prevention methods such as covering power cords with mats, keeping walkways clear, and cleaning up spills in a timely fashion.
- Faulty property design or construction. A property may be flawed from the very beginning, whether in its initial design stages or during construction. A property that has been improperly designed or was constructed in violation of building codes may be inherently unsafe for visitors.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help you get payment for your medical bills, lost income, and other expenses after your personal injury—and we do not charge for our services until your case is resolved. Contact us today via our online form to schedule your initial consultation with our slip and fall lawyers.
Why can accidents with small trucks be as serious as those with a semi truck?
Big rigs traveling at highway speeds aren’t the only source of truck accidents. In fact, pedestrians and motorists may have a higher risk of being struck by box trucks or utility vehicles, especially while traveling on city streets. Although these trucks are often smaller than semis, accidents involving these types of trucks can cause serious injuries. Because owners and drivers are bound by the same federal regulations that govern other commercial trucks, victims in these accidents may hold the owners liable for their injuries.
Small Trucks Can Still Cause Big Injuries
Box trucks, dump trucks, and other heavy-use vehicles may be smaller than tractor-trailers, but all can be difficult to maneuver and may be overloaded with cargo. Additionally, operators of these vehicles are just as likely as semi truck drivers to make deadly truck driver mistakes that can have fatal consequences for other drivers and passengers.
Many Rhode Islanders are injured each year by:
- Delivery trucks. Speeding is a major contributor to delivery truck crashes, as drivers are put under pressure to meet tight deadlines. Delivery truck accidents are especially common on city streets and in parking lots, as a truck driver may not see pedestrians crossing in front or behind the vehicle.
- Ambulances. Ambulances must travel at high speeds in order to save lives, but drivers still have a duty to drive safely and obey traffic laws. A driver who takes a corner too quickly can roll the vehicle, causing injuries to those inside and to other drivers.
- Dump trucks. Because dump truck drivers are often paid by the weight of their load, there is a tendency to overload the trucks. This makes it more difficult for the truck to stop, more likely to roll over, and more apt to release hazardous debris onto the roads. Additionally, drivers may try to increase their pay by making more runs than is safe, which can lead to speeding and driving recklessly.
- Utility trucks. Utility and service trucks may be outfitted with equipment that can affect the balance and maneuverability of the vehicle (such as cranes and lifts). Drivers who are not properly trained in the operation of these vehicles may accidentally strike nearby cars or even cause traffic backups by colliding with low bridges.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help you get payment for your medical bills, lost income, and other expenses after an injury with a small truck, and we 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 my spouse does not show up to divorce court?
If you and your spouse are seeking an uncontested divorce, you may not need your spouse to appear in court. As long as you agree on how to resolve all issues related to the marriage (such as custody arrangements, alimony, and division of property) and meet the requirements of a Rhode Island no-fault divorce, the court does not require both spouses to be present in order to grant a divorce.
Proceeding With a Divorce If a Spouse Refuses to Appear in Court
Once paperwork is filed, a court hearing date will be set. If only one spouses appears at the hearing, the divorce may proceed as a “default divorce,” meaning the judge may grant the divorce based on the testimony of the spouse that is present.
In order to proceed with a default divorce, you must ensure that:
- Your spouse was properly notified. If you are the person who requested the divorce, the burden is on you to ensure that filing deadlines are met and your spouse has had every opportunity to participate in the process. This includes filing divorce papers with the family court clerk, serving the divorce papers on your spouse through the sheriff’s office, and filing a copy of the delivery form with the clerk's office to prove that your spouse received a notice of the proceeding. If you have proof that your spouse received the papers, you can proceed with the divorce even if your spouse did not submit a reply.
- You have witnesses to testify on your behalf. You will need to bring at least two witnesses to your hearing who can testify that you have lived in Rhode Island for at least one year and can offer insight as to the reason for the dissolution of the marriage. In particular, the judge may want to know how long you and your spouse have been separated and if you’re still living together.
- All marital property and financial issues have been resolved. Once a divorce order is granted, neither spouse can bring property distribution or alimony cases in the future. For this reason, it is best to consult with a divorce attorney to ensure that you will receive a fair portion of shared assets, debts, and property.
The legal team at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can carefully examine your situation and ask the judge for a divorce settlement that is fair to you. If you need more information on filing for divorce in Rhode Island, please get in touch with us today via our online contact form.
How can I be sure my employer has workers’ compensation insurance?
It is up to each individual employer in Rhode Island to contact an insurance agent and select workers' compensation coverage that meets the requirements of state law. Employees can quickly and easily determine whether an employer has an insurance policy in place or if an employer is non-compliant. Additionally, an employee can report the employer to the Department of Labor & Training.
Exemptions to RI Workers' Compensation Requirements
Under Rhode Island Workers' Compensation law, every person, firm, public service, or private corporation that has regular employees is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Employees can check the Rhode Island database of insured employers at the Director of the Department of Labor & Training to verify that their company has workers' compensation insurance in place.
However, there are employers and organizations that may not be required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, and there are employees who may not be covered. These include:
- Sole proprietors and partnerships. If you work for an organization that is registered with the state as a sole proprietorship or business partnership, the company may not be required to carry workers' compensation coverage.
- Government employees. Federal employees (such as postal workers, police, and firefighters) are covered under federal compensation programs, while municipal employees may only be covered if the municipality has elected to purchase insurance.
- Special services employees. In Rhode Island, certain real estate, agricultural, and domestic service employees are not covered by workers' compensation.
- Self-insured employers. Some employers may pay for the costs of a work injury out of their own profits instead of purchasing workers’ compensation insurance, while others may not be listed due to limitations with the policy information.
- Employers who are breaking the law. If employees are unable to verify coverage, the employer may be noncompliant or committing worker’s compensation fraud. Employees can check by emailing [email protected]
If you have suffered a work injury, the workers’ compensation attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help. Simply fill out the online contact form on this page, or call us to set up a consultation with our legal team.
Aside from my estate plan, are there other legal documents I need to update after my divorce?
Once your divorce is finalized, you may believe all of your financial interactions with your spouse are finally settled. However, this may not be true if you have not removed your former spouse as a beneficiary on your individual accounts. Even if you have updated your will to exclude your former spouse, he may still receive some or all of your benefits if you have not named a new beneficiary for each plan or policy where his name appears.
Accounts and Legal Documents to Update After a Divorce
Your attorney should perform a full investigation of your accounts and holdings to ensure that all of your assets have the correct beneficiary designations. In most cases, beneficiary designations will supersede what is written in a will—even if you named your spouse as a beneficiary decades before your death.
In addition to updating your estate plan after a divorce, you should also consider changing the beneficiary designations on your existing accounts, including:
- Healthcare plans. The beneficiary of a healthcare policy is a separate designation from a healthcare power of attorney. It is vital to consider whether an ex-spouse will continue to benefit from a shared health plan, particularly if the ex-spouse cares for children who are also covered under the plan.
- Pensions and life insurance. Under federal law, spouses are the automatic beneficiaries of 401k accounts. If the policyholder wants to name an alternative beneficiary, she will need a signed waiver from the spouse. Some divorce agreements may require that divorcing spouses keep each other as beneficiaries on certain accounts as a way of protecting their children or dividing assets fairly.
- Retirement accounts. The requirements for changing beneficiaries on retirement accounts such as IRAs can be complicated, especially if the policyholder changes the designation before the divorce is final.
- Bank accounts. A named beneficiary on checking and savings accounts, mutual funds, CDs, and annuities will have automatic access to funds after your death, so it is vital that you designate the correct person.
The legal team at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can carefully examine all of your accounts and holdings to ensure that your beneficiary designations reflect your wishes while staying in compliance with state and federal laws. If you need more information on filing for divorce in Rhode Island, please get in touch with us today via our online contact form.
Is it legal that my employer self-insures instead of purchasing workers’ compensation insurance?
All employers who are subject to the Workers' Compensation Act are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance under Rhode Island law. However, it is possible for employers to pay for the costs of a work injury out of their own profits instead of purchasing workers’ compensation insurance (known as self-insuring). These employers must meet eligibility requirements and go through a certification process in order to legally provide benefits to injured workers.
Rules for Self-Insured Employers in Rhode Island
There are a few different ways an employer can offer its own workers’ compensation benefits, such as self-insuring by statute (applies to municipalities), or to become certified by the Department of Business Regulations as part of a self-insurance group. The most common way for businesses to self-insure is to be certified by the state Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC). The certification process takes approximately 60 days and requires:
- Proof of financial guarantee. Every applicant for workers’ compensation self- insurance must be financially secure and must provide evidence of guarantee of coverage with minimum limits of several thousand dollars. Applicants may also be required to carry commercial stop-loss insurance during their first five years of self- insurance to ensure all employee claims will be paid.
- DWC investigation. A DWC investigation may include employer site inspections, feasibility studies, financial obligation requirements, records from a parent guarantor; bonding and payment facilities, and other requests necessary to satisfy the DWC that the employer is eligible for approval or re-certification.
- An administrative hearing. Initial approval will only be granted after a hearing before the Director of the Department of Labor & Training to review the results of the DWC investigation.
- Adherence to workers’ compensation rules and regulations. Self-insured employers are still required to comply with all requirements of workers’ compensation laws, including data processing regulations, workers’ compensation procedures, and the rules and orders of the Workers’ Compensation Court.
- Commitment to payment and reporting standards. Employers are responsible for paying application fees and yearly assessments to the RI Workers’ Compensation Fund, submitting payroll records and other documents to the DWC in a timely fashion, and renewing certification every year to prevent lapses, revocation, or expiration.
If you need help accessing your workers’ compensation benefits, simply fill out the online contact form on this page, or call Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum to set up a consultation with our work injury attorneys.
Should I accept a workers’ compensation settlement?
Rhode Island workers’ compensation settlements are usually final decisions. That means, once you and the workers’ compensation insurance company agree to a settlement, you are unlikely to get any future compensation for your workplace injuries. Thus, you need to make sure that the settlement fairly compensates you for all of your injuries before you accept it.
Types of RI Workers’ Compensation Settlements
In Rhode Island, you may agree to one of the following types of workers’ compensation settlements:
- Denial and Dismissal Settlement. This type of settlement is used in disputed claims and settles before liability is determined. The injured worker agrees that his claim will be denied and dismissed in exchange for payment. The insurance company pays out a lump sum to the employee but doesn’t acknowledge liability, and the employee must pay all medical bills as a result of the injury. Often, the employee will be asked to resign from his position as a condition of the settlement.
- Commutation Settlement. In this type of settlement, the insurance company has already admitted liability and has paid your workers’ comp benefits for at least six months. The settlement will be for all the rest of the workers’ comp benefits you may receive.
Both types of settlements are final, and you give up your right to receive any future workers’ comp benefits, including medical coverage, beyond what is included in the settlement that you sign.
We Can Help With Your Workers’ Comp Case
It’s important that you understand the extent of your injuries before accepting a workers’ compensation settlement. Thus, your doctor should determine that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement for your injuries or illness.
Before you accept any settlement, you should consult with our experienced Rhode Island workers’ compensation attorneys. We will review your medical records and the proposed settlement amount to make sure that the settlement provides you with fair compensation under Rhode Island law. Call us, or reach out to us via this website today to learn more.