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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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.
Can I get workers’ compensation for a repetitive stress injury?
Yes, but it can be difficult to prove your claim. Although a repetitive stress injury (RSI) is a common type of work injury, it is generally harder to get benefits for it. A claim that’s based on a single event such as a pallet falling on a worker’s foot and breaking a bone is typically more clear cut that a claim that involves the cumulative trauma of day-to-day work.
Employees May Have Trouble Getting Fair Payment for Repetitive Strain Injuries
RSIs, also known as repetitive motion or repetitive strain injuries, are caused by repeated movements that create wear and tear on a particular part of the body. A common RSI is carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes severe wrist pain in people who work on assembly lines or computers.
Problems with these types of claims often include:
- Proving that the injury is work related. The biggest hurdle in these kinds of claims is establishing that the injury is work related. This is usually done with medical evidence and a doctor’s opinion that links the type of work performed to the specific injury. Insurers may try to deny claims with a weak link between the injury and the workplace, so a strong connection is vital in proving that the injury occurred on the job.
- Filing a timely claim. Rhode Island workers' compensation law requires workers to report injuries in a timely manner. However, this can be difficult when an injury occurs over a long period of time. Cases are typically stronger when they’re filed as soon as the injury becomes problematic or soon after the worker first seeks medical treatment.
- Getting proper payment. Workers' compensation provides benefits for lost income, medical bills, and even disability caused by a work-related injury. However, the worker cannot get additional financial support for pain and suffering, and usually he cannot sue the employer. If a repetitive stress injury has resulted in large financial losses or significant impairment, it is a good idea to speak with an attorney to determine whether your employer could be subject to a lawsuit to make up the additional costs of your claim.
While many RSIs may heal with rest or surgery, some can lead to lifelong complications such as arthritis or a disability. In order to get fair compensation for your suffering, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to learn about your options. Contact us today to schedule a no-obligation consultation with our legal team.
Who pays for my medical expenses if I was injured as a passenger in a car?
In most car accident claims, a victim has the burden of proving that the other driver was more at fault for causing the crash. However, when a passenger is hurt in a car accident, he cannot be held liable for causing the accident since he was not in control of any of the vehicles. While this usually means that the passenger has an easier time getting compensation, there are many situations that can make it difficult for the passenger to recover injury costs.
Common Problems When Passengers Seek Car Accident Injury Costs
Passenger injury claims are similar to other injury claims, except that the passenger cannot be held liable. Typically, the passenger can file a claim against the insurance policy of the vehicle he was riding in, the policy of the other driver, or even against both drivers. The amount of injury damages will depend on which driver should pay for your injuries, as well as the limits of the at-fault driver’s car insurance coverage.
However, compensation for passengers is not always straightforward. There can be significant barriers to adequate injury payments, especially if the accident involves:
- Multiple vehicles. If the accident involved two cars, one of the drivers will likely be found liable for the crash. However, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to fight about which driver caused the accident, leaving the passenger waiting weeks or months for injury payments. In many cases, the passenger can make a claim against the insurance companies of both drivers after a two-car crash, especially if his injuries are severe.
- One vehicle. If the accident only involved one car—if the driver ran off the road or struck a pothole, for example—then the driver of the car will be the one liable for damages. The driver of the car you are riding in should be able to pay for your injuries as well as his own through his policy, but splitting the limit of the coverage between you can leave you both underpaid.
- Multiple passengers. The more people who are injured in a crash, the less each one will be awarded for his injuries. For example, if three passengers sustain injuries and are awarded damages through the negligent driver’s insurance, the passengers will have to split the total amount of the coverage under the driver’s insurance. If the insurance payout is not enough to cover their injuries, the passengers may have to file an injury suit.
Get Help As A Passenger in A Car Accident With Compensation
Even if there is no way a passenger can be liable for a car accident, the passenger may still need an attorney to negotiate with the insurance companies to get full and fast payment for medical bills and lost wages. At Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum, we will review your case details, help you understand your legal options, and build a case to maximize your recovery. Fill out the quick contact form on this page to speak with a member of our team today.
Do I have to pay taxes on the assets that I inherit?
While there is no inheritance tax in Rhode Island, a deceased person’s estate may be subject to state and federal estate taxes. Unlike inheritance tax, estate taxes are paid by the estate of the person who died, not by the heirs and beneficiaries. The maximum state estate tax rate is 16%, and the maximum federal estate tax rate is 40%, both of which are paid out of the total cash and assets of the deceased before the rest is left to the beneficiaries. However, in many cases, all but the wealthiest Rhode Island families will be exempt from state and federal estate taxes.
Paying Taxes on Your Inheritance
A decedent will only owe estate taxes if the amount of his assets has a gross value of more than the exemption limit. The gross value of an estate is the total combined amount of assets, including cash, real estate, vehicles, certificates of deposit, investment accounts, life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts, and personal property. These limits are adjusted every year but stand at $1,515,156 for Rhode Island tax and $5.49 million for federal tax in 2017. If the gross value is under the limit, the estate will likely not owe any taxes.
The following factors may result in lower estate taxes (or no tax liability at all):
- Deductions. Depending on the number of exemptions claimed on the final tax return, the taxable portion of the estate may be reduced so low that no taxes are owed.
- Spousal inheritance. Assets left to a legally-married surviving spouse, whether an opposite-sex or same-sex partner, pass on to the spouse free of federal and Rhode Island estate tax.
- Assets held in trust. In most cases, assets in irrevocable trusts are exempt from estate taxes.
- Small cash gifts. Cash gifts or donations over $14,000 per year may be taxable unless the gifts are given to a spouse or an eligible charity.
Help With Rhode Island Esate Tax
Not only do heirs and beneficiaries inherit most assets free of tax, they also will not have to pay income tax on inheritances other than inherited retirement accounts. To ensure that you and your family receive the amount of assets intended by your loved one, speak with our experienced legal team. Call us today at 401-946-3200 or fill out our online contact form for more information.
What’s the difference between divorce and annulment in Rhode Island?
While a divorce terminates a valid marriage, annulment is an official statement that the marriage was never legal in the first place. Annulment is not usually a valid alternative to divorce, and very few couples will qualify to have their marriages annulled. In Rhode Island, there is no way to legally annul a marriage except to have the marriage declared void during a divorce proceeding.
Grounds for Nullifying a Marriage in Rhode Island
In order to nullify a marriage in Rhode Island, spouses must go through all the legal requirements of divorce. The person who is petitioning for divorce will state the grounds for the divorce as well as the reasons that the marriage should be nullified. In Rhode Island, the only legal grounds for annulment are:
- Incest. Spouses are closer blood relations than first cousin.
- Bigamy. One spouse (or both) is married to someone else who is still living at the time of the current marriage.
- Mental incompetence. One spouse (or both) does not or did not have the mental competence to enter into the marriage willingly.
- Refusal to consummate marriage. One spouse (or both) refuses to have sexual intercourse with the other.
It is worth noting that impotence and drug addiction are not valid legal reasons to seek annulment in Rhode Island. If a petitioner has valid legal grounds to invalidate the union, he must provide evidence to convince a judge. This evidence can be documented proof or witness testimony. If the judge rules that the marriage was invalid from the start, the annulment will be issued, and both partners can legally state that they have never been married.
If the voided marriage produced children, the children are considered legitimate to both parents under state law. As a result, both parents must provide child support after divorce, and both parents have a right to custody and visitation. The terms of child support, custody, and visitation must be included in the divorce proceedings even if the marriage is declared invalid.
Unsure If You Need a Divorce Or Annulment?
If you need help creating a child custody plan or settling on the final terms of your divorce, we can help. Simply fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation with an attorney.
How can I choose the right estate planning attorney for my family?
Many people will hit roadblocks during their estate planning simply because they are unsure which options would benefit them most. Estate plans are often left unfinished, leading to guardianship issues, unnecessary probate proceedings, disinheritance, high taxes, and other sources of contention and confusion within the family. With so much at stake, asking an attorney to evaluate your estate plan is a relatively easy way to prevent devastation down the road—but it’s important to choose the right attorney for your family.
3 Tips for Choosing Your Ideal Estate Planning Attorney
The choices you make throughout the estate planning process can affect your family for decades, so it is important to think critically as you make these decisions. Because estate plans often involve complex financial, legal, and tax implications, it is vital that you have all the information you need before making your final decisions.
When choosing an estate plan attorney, you should consider:
- Areas of practice. Estate planning is very different from other areas of law, and your attorney should have a demonstrated track record helping clients in this domain. Experience in estate planning is a must, but he should also have experience in related fields such as probate law, family law, accounting, divorce, and business disputes.
- Attention to your needs. A comprehensive plan will typically include a last will and testament, financial and healthcare powers of attorney, guardianship designations, and a detailed list of assets and beneficiaries. However, each part of an estate plan can (and should) be customized to the specific needs of each client. If you desire a revocable or irrevocable trust, you attorney should help you create and fund each trust, so assets can pass to beneficiaries without probate. Your lawyer should have a clear understanding of what you want in order to create the best plan for you.
- Dedication to clients. It is not enough for your lawyer to understand how your estate plan works; he must also be able to explain the terms and limitations of your plan to you and your beneficiaries. Your attorney should take the time to walk you through complex matters, ensure that you fully understand each of the documents you sign, and offer a regular “check in” every few years to update your existing plan.
If you need help creating your estate plan, the probate lawyers at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can provide knowledgeable guidance. Call us today, or fill out our online contact form to get started.
Are independent contractors eligible for workers' compensation in Rhode Island?
Some workers are exempt from claiming workers’ compensation benefits. Babysitters, domestic employees, sole proprietors of businesses, and independent contractors are not entitled to workers' compensation after an injury on the job in Rhode Island.
However, this does not mean that workers who are injured have no way to get payment for their injuries. Depending on the facts of the case, a worker who has been labeled an independent contractor may be eligible to seek payment through a work injury lawsuit.
Independent Contractor vs. Employee
An independent contractor is hired by an employer to do a specific job for an agreed-upon rate. Contractors are not only exempt from workers’ compensation but also unemployment, overtime, and other work-related benefits. As a result, employers often wrongly classify employees as independent contractors. So, if you’re injured while working, you should closely examine the terms of employment to determine if you fit the definition of an independent contractor. Contractors differ from employees because they:
- Are free to work for other employers
- Have a signed contract outlining the responsibilities of the worker and employer
- Are free to perform work at the time and manner they prefer
- Perform work that requires a particular or specialized skill
- Set their own hours and use their own tools
- Can be paid either by the job or by the hour
- Do not have a long-standing working relationship with the employer
- Operate their own business or have their own employees
Even if an injured worker is an independent contractor, he or she can still get compensation. Unlike regular employees, contractors are not barred from suing an employer for a workplace injury or illness. We can examine the facts of your case and advise you on the best way to move forward with your claim. Contact our work injury attorneys today to schedule your no-obligation consultation.
What Should I Do If a Dog Bites Me or Someone In My Family?
Dogs may be members of a household, but they can still be dangerous—especially to young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 4.5 million dog bites occur every year, while one in five of these injuries requires medical attention. Over half of the time, people are bitten by a dog they know such as a neighbor’s dog, a friend's dog, or their own family pet.
What to Do After Someone You Know Is Bitten by a Dog
Children are more likely to be seriously injured by dog bites than adults, but all people can suffer infections and scarring due to improperly treated bites. To care for a dog bite injury, here’s what you should do following the incident:
- Immediately. If the wound is bleeding, place a clean towel over the injury site, and elevate the wounded limb until the bleeding stops. When you remove the towel, allow cold, clean water to run over the wound, and dab the bite carefully with soap and water. If the wound is not deep, apply a sterile bandage smeared with antibiotic ointment to the wound.
- Within a few hours. If the bite is deep or the injury has become swollen or tender, you should go to the hospital immediately for treatment. Even if you can treat the wound at home, it is vital that you see a doctor in the days following the dog bite incident. The doctor can clean the wound more thoroughly, assess your risk of infection, and tell you which symptoms and complications to look for as you heal.
- In the next week. Find out as much information as you can about the dog, including who the owner is, if the dog was properly restrained, if the dog was provoked, and if the dog is up to date on rabies shots and all necessary vaccinations.
Contact An Attorney After a Dog Bite
After you have done these things, it is a good idea to speak to an attorney about your injury case. You may be able to get compensation for your time off work, your injuries, and any long-term consequences a dog attack may cause. Call us today at 401-946-3200 or fill out our online contact form on this page to make an appointment in our Rhode Island personal injury law office.