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.
- Page 8
What are Rhode Island's safety restraint laws for adults and children?
Most people understand that seat belts save lives. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that wearing seat belts and using child safety restraints properly can reduce the risk of death and serious injury by half. However, you should also understand Rhode Island laws and the penalties you face if you violate them.
Adult Seat Belt Laws
In 2011, Rhode Island made seat belt violations a primary offense—meaning police can pull over and ticket drivers and their passengers for not wearing seat belts, even if no other violation was committed. Rhode Island requires:
- Any person 13 years of age or older, in any seating position, to wear safety belt and shoulder harness systems properly while being transported.
- Any vehicle operator to wear a safety belt or shoulder harness system properly while driving.
Child Safety Restraint Laws
In addition to safety restraint rules for teens and adults, Rhode Island also has strict laws on restraining children properly. It’s important to note that the driver is responsible if he violates any of the following child safety restraint laws:
- Any child under the age of 8, shorter than 4’ 9”, and less than 80 pounds must be properly restrained in a rear-facing car seat, or booster seat safety system.
- Any child age 8 to 12 must be properly restrained with a seat belt, in any seat position in the vehicle.
If a law enforcement finds a child riding in the front seat, or any child age 8 or older not wearing a safety restraint, you will be fined $85. If you transport a child without any child restraint, you must appear in court.
After an Accident, You Need Legal Help
If you need help understanding Rhode Island’s seat belt laws, or you have recently been involved in a car accident, contact the attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum. They can answer your questions and help you make informed decisions about your case. To get started, fill out the online contact form on our website.
Does my company have to carry workers’ compensation insurance?
If your company has one or more employees, your employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. However, some exemptions exist. If you’ve been injured, it’s important to understand how workers’ compensation works, the benefits it offers, and how to check if your employer is required to carry it.
Understanding Workers’ Comp
Employers have a responsibility to keep the work environment safe for employees. When there is an accident, workers’ compensation is designed to help injured workers pay for medical expenses and lost wages while they recover. While each state has different rules, workers’ comp insurance serves two main purposes:
- Providing coverage for injured workers who lose income and accrue medical bills after a work accident.
- Preventing lawsuits against employers from people who were injured on the job.
Workers’ Comp Provides Benefits
If you become injured on the job and are unable to return to work for at least three days, your benefits may begin on the fourth day after the injury. The types of benefits you may receive include:
- Medical payments. Workers’ compensation insurance will pay for any medical costs related to the work injury. Additionally, once a doctor determines that the injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement, the worker is afforded 12 more doctor visits or another 60 days of care—whichever comes first.
- Partial disability. An injured worker who is not totally disabled will receive wages to compensate for lost time at work until he has reached maximum medical improvement and can return to work.
- Total disability. A worker who is totally incapacitated and unable to return to work permanently is eligible to receive 75 percent of his spendable base wage. Additional allowances may be made depending on history bonuses and commissions.
In addition, if an injured worker is killed in a work accident, workers’ comp also provides for surviving family members.
Employers should post their workers’ compensation insurance provider in a visible place at your workplace. If a company is found without workers’ compensation insurance, criminal charges, fines, and jail time could apply.
Companies Exempt from Carrying Workers’ Comp Insurance
Most employers must carry workers’ comp insurance, but some are exempt, including:
- Sole proprietors
- Independent contractors
- Partners of a company
Choose a Knowledgeable Attorney for Your Injury
If you were injured on the job and need help understanding your next steps, consult with an experienced lawyer. The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can ensure that you get the medical attention and wage compensation you need, so contact us at 888-591-9976 to get started on your case.
Who Is Eligible for Workers’ Comp Death Benefits in Rhode Island?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 4,281 work-related fatalities in 2014. Workers’ compensation death benefits exist at both the federal and state levels to provide assistance to the family members of someone who died on the job. If you’ve lost a loved one in a work-related incident, you should understand that only certain family members are eligible to receive workers’ comp death benefits.
Only Dependents Are Eligible to Receive Death Benefits
A family may struggle financially after a loved one’s work-related death because the income for that wage earner is gone. The purpose of death benefits is to act as a portioned replacement for those wages. For this reason, only the following dependents are eligible for death benefits under the law:
- The spouse
- The children, including step-children, adoptive children, or biological children
- Other family members who lived in the employee’s house and were financially dependent upon him
In addition to the lost earnings, employers of the deceased worker will also pay $15,000 to the dependents to assist with funeral and burial expenses.
The Details of Death Benefits
Receiving death benefits may lighten some of the financial stress in the face of losing the companionship, love, and support of a parent or spouse. These death benefits provide a great deal of assistance, including:
- The employer pays a weekly amount equal to whatever would have been paid for total incapacitation or the employee’s wages at the time of death—whichever is greater.
- A dependent child under 18, or each child who is physically or mentally incapacitated, receives an extra $40 per week.
- The surviving spouse will receive a four percent increase in benefits each year to account for cost of living increases until she is no longer eligible for benefits.
However, some limitations include:
- If the deceased worker’s dependents are only partially dependent, they will receive partial benefits.
- If a surviving spouse without dependent children remarries, benefits end on the date of remarriage.
- If the child is enrolled full-time at an educational facility, the benefits can last until age 23.
When You Need Legal Assistance
If you’ve lost someone you love in a work-related accident, you should consult with an attorney. At Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum, our attorneys can help you file a claim properly and walk you through all the steps required for your claim. To speak with a member of our team today, call us at 888-591-9976.
How do Rhode Island dram shop laws affect liability for an alcohol-related accident?
Dram shop laws place some liability for a drunk driving accident on an establishment or a person who overserved alcohol to the responsible party. If you’ve been involved in an alcohol-related crash, it’s important you know who is liable, how Rhode Island dram shop laws affect your case, and how an attorney can help you.
Dram Shop Laws in Rhode Island
Rhode Island dram shop laws make it possible for injured victims to establish a civil claim for damages against the alcohol vendor who sells alcohol to a minor or someone obviously intoxicated and later is responsible for an accident. These dram laws also clearly define negligence and recklessness in making a determination about liability:
- Negligence. If a reasonable person in the same circumstances would have chosen not to serve any further drinks to the person who caused an accident, the vendor could be found negligent.
- Recklessness. If the vendor serves alcohol to someone he knows is a minor or clearly intoxicated, he knowingly creates the risk for serious injury and could be found reckless.
Whether a vendor is found to be negligent or reckless, dram shop laws do not reduce the personal responsibility of the drunk driver. Both or one may be held liable.
Additionally, social host laws in Rhode Island allow victims to hold hosts of private events responsible for serving alcohol to a minor or visibly intoxicated person who then causes an accident.
Liability in Your Case
Drunk driving accidents can be especially devastating, and you may wonder who you can look to for fair compensation. Under Rhode Island dram shop laws, the following factors affect who can be held liable in your case:
- Whether the vendor knew a particular person to have a habit of drinking in excess
- On what premises the driver became intoxicated—the server of one bar cannot be held liable for the serving practices of another
- Whether the driver’s behavior, appearance, or speech would identify him as drunk
- Whether a vendor actively encouraged an unsafe intake of alcohol
You Need Trustworthy Legal Help
If a drunk driver injured you or someone you love, it’s important to speak with an attorney who can appropriately file court documents, gather strong evidence, and advocate for your interests. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum, to start a conversation about your case. Call us at 888-591-9976.
What will it cost to hire a car accident attorney?
In car accident cases and other personal injury matters, it’s common for lawyers to provide clients with a contingency fee payment arrangement. If clients don’t have money to obtain legal representation or pay a lawyer upfront, a contingency fee allows them to pay for legal assistance out of a percentage of the settlement amount. Not only does this payment type provide everyone better access to great legal help, it also ensures a lawyer will work hard to secure a fair settlement for his client.
Paying on a Contingency-Fee Basis
Because many who are injured in car accidents may not have the ability to pay a lawyer’s retainer fee or hourly charge, they can still obtain legal representation by using this contingency fee option—paying the attorney only if he wins a settlement. But there are a few other important things you should know about contingency fees, including:
- The client won’t pay any attorney fees if the case is not successful.
- The attorney accepts financial responsibility for costs related to his work, including the hiring of expert witnesses and investigations.
- If the case is unsuccessful, the client is still responsible for some lawsuit costs such as filing and court fees.
Contingency Fees Benefit Both Lawyer and Client
People who need legal help may be afraid of overpaying an attorney for his work, and attorneys want to help clients resolve their cases as quickly as possible and get paid fairly for the work provided—whether or not the case goes to trial. Contingency fees help each party get what they need because:
- If the lawyer is successful, he is paid a fair percentage from the client’s settlement
- If the lawyer is successful, the client’s injuries and damages are covered
- The client can count on a lawyer working quickly and thoroughly on the case
- The attorney will only take a case on a contingency-fee basis if he sees real opportunity for success
Finally, it’s important to mention that—although the client does risk some cost—there is more risk involved for a lawyer when he accepts a case on a contingency-fee basis because he’s not guaranteed a win. And, if he loses a client’s case, he must absorb the cost for his work.
Get Trustworthy Legal Assistance Today
If bodily injury and property damage from a car accident left you with ever-increasing bills, you may want to enlist the help of an attorney on a contingency-fee basis. At Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum, we consistently help our clients recover for their injuries. Start a live online chat with us on our website today.
How is child custody determined in Rhode Island?
The child’s best interests are at the center of a child custody case, including those disputed in Rhode Island. Although no standard definition for “best interests” exists, Rhode Island courts use a great number of factors to determine what this means for each individual child. Parents’ lives, the child’s needs, and even the child’s wishes are important determining factors in who gets custody.
What Is Custody?
Child custody is an umbrella term that refers to many facets of parental rights, parent-child relationships, and parental obligations. It’s important to understand the following legal terms used in court when custody is being determined:
- Legal custody. A parent or both parents have the legal right to make all decisions pertinent to the child.
- Physical custody. Children live with a parent or parents who have physical custody.
Understanding the Standard of Best Interests
If parents cannot come to a custody agreement, Rhode Island courts consider many factors before making a decision. Each factor speaks to the best interests of the child. In addition to making sure a child has access to basic needs such food, shelter, and healthcare, courts also consider:
- Emotional ties. The courts want to ensure that a child can maintain healthy relationships with siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other mentors.
- Parental abilities and resources. If one parent makes more money, has better health insurance, or lives in a safer neighborhood with better schools, this might factor into the court’s decision.
- The child’s needs. The court considers if the child has special needs, either physical or mental, and one parent can better meet those needs.
- Parental health and safety. If one parent has a physical or mental illness, or a history of violence, that may affect his ability to safely and fully care for the child, the courts will take this into consideration.
- The child’s wishes. Rhode Island is one of eleven states in the U.S. that takes a child’s wishes into account. Considering the age of the child, the courts want to know the child’s perspective on which parent would be a better choice for physical or legal custody.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help in Your Custody Dispute
Child custody disputes can become complex, so it’s prudent to hire an attorney who has been through the process before. The team at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help you better understand Rhode Island family law and build a strong case. To speak with us, start a live online chat on our website.
What factors influence the value of my medical malpractice case?
According to the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), there were 916,264 practicing physicians in the U.S in 2014. With this many doctors, it’s not surprising that medical malpractice occurs. If you’ve been injured by a medical professional, it’s important you know how partial fault, extent of injuries, and other factors can increase or decrease the worth of your medical malpractice claim.
What You Need Affects Your Settlement
Injury and illness can easily throw a life off track. If a mistake made by a doctor, nurse, clinician, or other medical staff member caused you serious injury or illness, you and your lawyer can work together and build a case for fair compensation within two main categories:
- Calculable Damages. Increased medical bills, need for long-term care, physical therapy, loss of wages, and loss of earning capacity are all damages that can be calculated and itemized in a medical malpractice suit.
- Incalculable Damages. Pain and suffering deserve compensation, too. If a father won’t be able to walk his daughter down the aisle, or a person is left to manage chronic pain, these diminished capacities and the anguish surrounding them can be roughly calculated into a settlement.
Other Determining Factors in a Medical Malpractice Claim
Whether or not your case goes to trial, no exact formula exists to calculate the damages owed to an injured patient. Instead, to determine an accurate value of your case, a good lawyer will evaluate all angles in context, hire experts for consultation, and conduct thorough examinations of all documents. In addition to the types of calculable or incalculable damages you need, the most common factors affecting medical malpractice cases are:
- State caps on compensation. Many states set a limit on how much an injury victim can recover in a medical malpractice case; however, Rhode Island has no cap.
- Shared fault. The defense may argue that the plaintiff was at least partially at fault for his injury if he didn’t follow up properly with his doctor, misused medications, or didn’t fully follow a doctor’s orders.
- Verdicts on similar cases. If the circumstances surrounding your case and injuries are similar to another case that already reached a settlement or verdict, a court may consider how much the victim in that case was able to recover when awarding your compensation.
- Permanent or temporary injury. You may be entitled to more compensation, both calculable and incalculable, if your injuries and the aftermath will persist for your whole life.
Call an Experienced Attorney
If you’re the victim of medical malpractice and have questions or need help with your case, the legal team at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum are available to help you. We’ve been serving our communities for years, and we take pride in offering our legal services to you. Get in touch with us by calling 888-591-9976.
What are my next steps after a workplace injury?
Nearly three million workers experienced non-fatal injuries in their workplaces in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. After being injured on the job, it’s important to understand your rights as a worker and the steps to take if you plan to file a workers’ compensation claim.
What Should an Injured Worker Do?
Every Rhode Island employer with one or more employees is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which is a no-fault insurance designed to help workers with injury-related costs such as medical expenses and lost wages. After you’ve been injured at work or become sick because of your job, you should:
- Seek immediate medical attention. It’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible after an injury. At your appointment, be sure to mention every detail of your injury, so your doctor has accurate medical records. Also, remember that you are not required to see a doctor approved by your employer; you are allowed to visit your regular primary physician even if he is not in your employer’s insurance network. Additionally, if your injury keeps you from working for three or more consecutive full-time days or warrants medical attention, your employer is required to file a report within 10 days of the incident.
- Report the injury to your employer as soon as possible. Be sure to tell your employer you’ve been injured and intend to file a workers’ compensation claim, even if the injury seems unimportant or you’re uncertain if the injury is covered under Rhode Island workers’ comp. Some injuries worsen over time and may need treatment later on.
- File a workers’ compensation claim. It is the responsibility of your employer to submit a claim to the company’s insurance carrier. Rhode Island has a strict statute of limitations on workers’ comp claims, so it’s important that you make sure your employer submits a claim within 10 days after the accident occurs. To ensure accuracy and completeness, it would be wise to speak with an experienced workers’ comp lawyer before submitting the claim.
Document the Incident Well
After you’ve been injured on the job, take great care to create a detailed record of the incident immediately. Not only will this help you submit an accurate and complete workers’ compensation claim, well-recorded details will also assist a lawyer if you hire one. It’s important to:
- Document what happened
- Document when the incident occurred
- Document if other people were involved
- Document people who saw the incident and their contact information
- Document if the incident was caused by an ongoing safety issue
- Obtain any video recordings, audio recordings, or pictures
We Can Help
Dealing with a work injury can be stressful and confusing, but the experienced team at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help. We will work to gather records, document events, and build your claim. Reach out to us via live online chat to get started on your case.
What is probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process for handling the affairs of a person who has died. It verifies the will, inventories the assets, pays final debts, and distributes remaining assets to the beneficiaries. Assets included in a living trust, life insurance paid to a named beneficiary, or assets held jointly with rights of survivorship are typically excluded from the probate process—other assets must go through probate.
The Purpose of Probate
The basic purpose of probate is to ensure that the deceased person’s assets are transferred to the beneficiaries in an orderly and controlled manner. Probate is also in place to:
- Settle debts. If the deceased still owed money to creditors, probate ensures that the estate’s executor settles those debts.
- Handle taxes. Depending on the size of the estate, the state of Rhode Island and the federal government may impose estate taxes. In addition, the estate may also owe state and federal income tax or property taxes.
- Distribute property. If a will exists, probate distributes the assets according to the terms of the will. However, if a person dies without a will, probate allocates property, money, and other assets according to Rhode Island intestacy laws.
Avoiding Probate Is Possible in Rhode Island
The probate process can take a year or more—primarily because there are waiting periods and delays built into the legal system. And probate can get expensive—especially when disputes over asset distribution arise or the executor isn’t well-informed. To avoid these issues, many people choose to avoid probate altogether—or at least reduce the number of assets subject to this process. Following are some tools that can be used to accomplish this goal:
- Will: Since a will works to detail a person’s wishes when they die, it gives the executor exact instructions for distribution of property and assets. By itself, a will does not necessarily mean that probate can be avoided, but it can help reduce costs by clarifying issues related to asset distribution.
- Living Trust: To prevent your property from going through probate, you can create a trust—which, upon your death, designates an immediate trustee for all your assets. During your lifetime, you are the trustee of your trust. However, upon your death, a person of your choosing becomes the successor trustee and distributes property for you. Virtually any asset you have can be put into a trust, including real estate, cars, and bank accounts.
- Joint Ownership: During your lifetime, you can enter into joint ownership of your assets with another person, such as your spouse. Upon your passing, the right of survivorship ensures that the property passes on smoothly to the other owner. Of course, some paperwork is involved to verify ownership, but it typically happens much more efficiently than the probate process.
If you need help with a probate dispute or if you are thinking about building your own estate plan, our experienced probate lawyers. Contact us by phone or fill out our handy online contact form today!
Can I limit my personal liability as a business owner?
When you’re ready to start your own company, you’ll need to select the type of legal structure for your business. This decision impacts many important aspects of your business including personal liability if a lawsuit should arise. Here are two main options for setting up a business while protecting your personal property, assets, and your family’s financial future:
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company (LLC) offers you certain benefits that being a sole proprietor does not. A few of the most important benefits of running an LLC include:
- Limited personal liability. As the owner (or a member) of an LLC, your liability for the actions of the business is limited. Therefore, if a lawsuit arises, your personal belongings and assets—such as your house, car, and bank accounts—are not at stake if someone sues the business.
- “Pass-through” taxation. When you form an LLC, you can claim the tax losses of the business on your individual tax form. This often benefits how much you’re taxed, especially if the business is your sole source of income. However, you may also choose to be taxed as a corporation or partnership.
Forming a corporation is also a good option for limiting your personal liability in business disputes. Corporations share benefits and are structured differently. The most notable benefits of corporations include:
- Limited personal liability. Just as with an LLC, a corporation protects its shareholders from personal loss in the event of a lawsuit.
- Outside financing. Although each individual in a corporation likely put up capital to become a shareholder, the business itself is financed through the sale of stock. These profits are then retained by the business for use or disbursed to the shareholders as salary.
- Taxing on income. Similar to an LLC, shareholders can claim profits or losses on their personal tax forms. However, individuals also pay capital gains rates on dividends or the individual rates on profit share and capital.
Your Next Steps
If you’re the sole proprietor of your business, you’re 100 percent liable for the problems, debts, and actions of the business. If you want to choose an alternative business structure for your company, hiring a business lawyer can help. Our legal team at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum is ready to answer your questions and discuss your business needs today. Fill out our online contact form to get started.