Behind on your car payments?

Are you one of the 7 million Americans that are 3 months behind on their car payments?  If so, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you keep your car.  Call us today!

A record 7 million Americans are 3 months behind on their car payments, a red flag for the economy
The Washington Post

There are even more Americans behind on their auto payments today than during the financial crisis era. Read the full story

Liability on a Cruise Ship.

There’s nothing like a cruise ship vacation. Sailing away into the sunset, sea gulls wheeling overhead, the roll of the ocean, the salty wind in your face…. not a care in the world.

That is, until you fall down the deck stairs, or slip in the shower in your cabin. Then its all hands on deck! to try and figure out whether the cruise ship is liable for your injuries.

Proving Cruise Ship Liability. Not Such Smooth Sailing.

Unfortunately, cruise ships have recently been attracting more attention for violent illnesses suffered by passengers and crew member assaults than their luxurious accommodations. If you are injured on a cruise ship, you have the right to recover for your injuries from the responsible party, just as you would if you were on land.

Cruise ships are common carriers (like airplanes, passenger trains or the bus). But they are also virtually floating cities. Despite their size and fancy amenities, many cruise ships unfortunately lack basic safety policies, procedures and protocols needed to protect their passengers from harm. Making matters worse, antiquated laws and contractual language that limits a passenger’s rights and remedies (your ticket), add to the flotsam and jetsam of cruise ship liability.

Proving personal injury cases that occurred on cruise ships are fraught with complexities — including choice of law issues, forum issues, disclaimers and limitations of liability etc. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that cruise ships are common carriers and are held to a “reasonable standard of care under the circumstances.” To hold a cruise ship liable for personal injuries, then, injured passengers must prove that the cruise ship was negligent in some way. It’s not enough to simply prove that you were injured while on board ship. You must prove that the cruise line was negligent or at fault.

This is very often quite difficult to do. Not surprisingly, many cruise ship injuries are caused when a passenger slips and falls; on deck, down the stairway, over a threshold, in the cabins. To hold a cruise ship liable for your injuries, you will have to do more than just prove you slipped and fell. For example, because federal and international shipping law mandates that cruise lines have thresholds in certain locations to keep the ship watertight, a cruise ship is not negligent for having thresholds as a design feature in the vessel. That means that if your injury was caused by tripping over a threshold, the cruise line will not be liable unless you can prove that they failed to put up necessary warning signs.

Cruise Ships Not Liable for Injuries Caused by Independent Contractors.

While cases have held that cruise lines are liable for the acts of their crew — even intentional acts, like assaults, the courts have frequently refused to hold cruise lines liable for injuries caused by independent contractors. For example, although a large part of any cruise involves on-land excursions, which may cruise lines arrange, many cases hold that cruise ships are not liable for injuries caused to passengers while they are taking part in on-land excursions. Similarly, it  has been held that cruise lines are not responsible for the acts of doctors or nurses, where the medical staff are  not cruise ship employees but are independent contractors.

Before You Go on Your Next Cruise, Contact Us. 

We can help you navigate your rights and the pitfalls of proving cruise ship liability if you have been injured. Take advantage of our free consultation and talk to one of our experienced attorneys today. Call us at 1-800-682-9568 or visit our website.

Are Property Owners Liable To Trespassers?

What happens if you are trespassing on someone else’s land and are injured? Do you have a case?

Everything depends on the facts of your particular case. That’s why it’s important to have competent counsel in your corner. We are experienced personal injury attorneys. We practice in Oregon and we provide free consultations to assist you.

In law, actions concerning injury to persons are called “personal injury” cases. Personal injury cases that occur because of the negligence of a land owner or premises occupier are commonly called “premises liability” cases.

Let’s take a closer look at Premises Liability and whether it protects trespassers.

What is Premises Liability?

First, premises liability is the general rule that says that all property owners have a duty to maintain their land to a certain standard. The rule exists to protect people who come onto another’s property. The law tries to protect people from unnecessary injury. It applies to private as well as public properties.

But does it apply to trespassers?

Let’s see.

Who Does The Law Protect?

To decide when and to what extent a property owner is responsible for injuries that occur to people who enter onto the owner’s property, the law divides people into different classes. They are:

  • Licensee —someone who is present for his own purposes, but enters with permission of the owner.
  • Social guest—is someone that is a guest, present with the owner’s permission.
  • Business Invitee— customers, or others who enter the property at the invitation, and for the benefit of the owner. This invitation usually implies that the property owner has taken reasonable steps to make the property safe.
  • Trespasser— someone who enters the premises without permission and has no right to be on the property.

Does Premises Liability Protect Trespassers?

Generally, no. A trespasser is someone who enters onto property without the right to be there. If you do not have permission to be on the property, you are trespassing.

Property owners do not have a legal duty to protect trespassers from injury by exercising reasonable care to either keep the premises in reasonably safe condition or to carry out activities so as not to endanger trespassers.

On the other hand, you can’t go setting booby traps or make other efforts to actively injure a trespasser. Further, if the property owner knows people are trespassing on his property, the owner could be held liable if a trespasser seriously injures himself or herself if the property owner created conditions that were dangerous but hid them.

Consult With an Attorney.

Personal injury cases are never cut-and-dried. If someone has been injured on your property, or if you or someone you love has been injured, you should consider talking with an attorney. We provide free consultations and we have offices throughout Oregon and in Washington. Visit our website or call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

Don’t Forget to Get a Police Report

Car accidents happen every day. But somehow, you are never expecting to be in one.

If you are involved in a car accident, it can leave you not only injured, but emotionally and mentally shattered as well. That’s why it’s important to know how to handle a car accident long before one happens.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to prepare for the unexpected.

Be Prepared.

One of the best things you can do to prepare for an accident is to have a first aid kit in your car and carry safety cones and lights in your trunk.

Another is to make sure your phone is fully charged at all times.

Being organized also helps. Keep important papers, like your insurance card, where you can easily get to them. And keep a pad and pen available that you can use to take down names of witnesses and other information in the event of an accident.  Take pictures of the other driver’s car, license plate, and any documents he or she gives you at the scene.

Get Medical Attention.

Your first point of concern after a car accident is your well-being and that of your passengers. If you or one of your passengers is injured, your immediate concern is to get medical attention. Call 911 or ask someone else to. If you are seriously injured, don’t move until the medics arrive.

Get a Police Report.

Whether the accident is major or just a fender-bender, it is important to get a police report. After an accident, call the police. When the police arrive, ask that a police report be filled out, and be sure to get the names and badge numbers of the officers who respond.

It is very important to remember to get a police report. If you need to bring a personal injury action, having the police report can be critical to your case.

Exchange Information.

Assuming you are not seriously injured, be sure to exchange information with the other driver. Get the names, numbers, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information from all drivers involved. If there are passengers, get their names numbers and addresses also.

A few cautions here: don’t argue with the other driver, don’t admit fault, and don’t talk too much.

Why?

Because you just might be admitting legal liability. Until an accident is fully investigated, you really don’t know whose fault it is. So stay calm and keep quiet.

Take Photos.

Again, assuming you are not injured (and assuming you moved to a safe spot), if possible, take pictures of the scene and the damage to your car. Pictures can help your insurance adjuster determine how much you should be compensated for the damage to your car and can serve as evidence if you have to bring a lawsuit.

Finally…

Consider Hiring An Attorney.

When you are injured in a car accident, find out whether you should file a lawsuit. We provide free consultations. We have offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. We offer free consultations and we can help you. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

Why You Should Know About Social Host Liability

 

It’s the morning after, and you’ve got…a horrible…

Lawsuit.

Social Host Laws.

Social host liability laws are laws that impose liability on social hosts for alcohol-related injuries that occur to minors, and in some states, to anyone who was allowed to drink to excess and who was injured or killed, or caused another’s injury or death. Social hosts are generally private individuals who serve alcohol in non-commercial settings.

Social host laws make a host liable for property damage related to these kinds of accidents. In most states, to be held liable, the social host must be aware that his guest was intoxicated and should not have been served more alcohol. These laws don’t just apply to alcohol – they can also include other intoxicating substances.

While many social host laws are aimed at reducing alcohol-related deaths and injuries suffered by or caused by minors, some states, like Oregon, have social host laws that apply to guests of all ages.

What Social Host Laws Mean to You.

Liability for personal injury cases generally encompasses economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to money losses, like medical bills, car repair costs, lost wages, etc.

Noneconomic damages, however, refer to more intangible damages, like injury to reputation, mental distress, or humiliation. In the context of a personal injury action, “pain and suffering” generally refers to the noneconomic, mental or emotional damage you suffer as the result of an injury or accident.

While social host laws are limited to economic damages only, such money damages can still be significant. When you consider that Oregon  have social host laws that impose a duty of care of a party host to any guest, and then consider that most accidents caused by intoxicated adult guests are drunk driving incidents, the serious consequences of one’s duty becomes obvious.

Talk to a Lawyer!

It’s important that you know your legal duties as well as your rights. If you think you may be liable under the social host laws, or believe someone else is, talk to us. We are experienced attorneys with offices in Salem, Medford, Bend, Portland, Albany, Eugene Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. You can call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

Understanding Discovery

 

Have you ever wondered how attorneys come up with those surprise questions at trial that make the witness cry on the witness stand? You know, like the way they do it in movies: Mr. Attorney suddenly turns on the sweet little old lady witness who has been giving the most damming evidence against his client until now, and says in a deep, booming voice, “isn’t it true, Mrs. Witness, that you didn’t see the light at all…because you are legally blind!” and everyone gasps in surprise and the witness crumples, dissolving into tears. Or, where plaintiff is losing her case, and her attorney suddenly says, “I call my next witness, Mr. Whosit!” and the courtroom doors swing open and to everyone’s astonishment, Mr. Whosit, who everyone thought was long dead, comes swinging in and takes the witness stand. How do attorneys work all those astonishing surprises into a litigation?

Well, they don’t.

Civil Discovery.

While it makes for good television, in real life, civil cases (like personal injury, car accident cases, toxic torts, breach of contract cases etc.) have a set of legal procedures, called “discovery,” that are designed to prevent surprise at trial.

Why?

Because our legal system is designed to foster fairness in litigation and promote early settlement. The discovery procedures allow each side to find out as much as possible before trial, of the strengths and weaknesses of the other side’s case, and his own.

What’s the point of that?

Well, the more you know about how strong or weak your case is, and how strong or weak the other side’s case is, the more likely both sides will be willing to settle their differences instead of going to trial. Trial is time-consuming, emotionally exhausting, and costly. If both sides have a realistic view of their case and the other side’s, they can very often reach a settlement that is fair to both sides without having to resort to trying their case before a judge and jury.

Written and Oral Discovery. 

Civil discovery is a thorny, sometimes burdensome, but very important part of litigation. Briefly, discovery allows you to obtain information about the other side’s case (including who they intend to call as witnesses at trial) in both written and oral form.

Written discovery generally consists of written questions (called “interrogatories”) that the other side must answer in writing, under oath, and document demands (“requests for production of documents”). A document demand requires the opposing party to produce documents to support his or her case.

Oral discovery generally refers to depositions. Depositions, while not as formal as in-courtroom testimony, are nevertheless sworn testimony subject to punishment for perjury. Depositions allow each party to interrogate the plaintiff or defendant, witnesses, and expert witnesses, under oath, before trial. These sessions are recorded and transcribed by a court reporter and can often be videotaped as well.

We Are Here To Help You.

If you are a witness, have been sued, or are thinking of bringing a lawsuit, you will be required to participate in discovery. We can help you through it. We have offices in Salem, Medford, Bend, Portland, Eugene, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

What is a Subrogation Action?

 

If you are in a car accident, “subrogation” is a term you need to become familiar with.

Why?

Because a subrogation action by your insurance company can impact your claim Subrogation is not a term that many people hear about. That’s because it is generally a matter that is between insurance companies.

So let’s see what it is and why it’s important.

What is Subrogation?

Subrogation is one of the ways in which car insurance companies recover money they have paid out in claims to drivers that they have insured.

Subrogation is the act of one party claiming legal rights of another that it has reimbursed for losses. Subrogation usually occurs in personal injury or casualty cases where one insurance company pays its insured damages and then brings its own claim against other parties or their insurance companies who caused or contributed to the loss, for reimbursement.

To make this clearer, let’s say you are in a car accident. Generally, you will submit a claim to your insurance company for the damages you incurred (medical bills, damage to your car) related to that accident. Your insurance company will conduct an investigation of the accident, and based on its conclusions, will reimburse you some amount for your damages. Let’s say that your insurance company determines that that accident was entirely the fault of the other driver, so it pays all of your expenses. Your insurance company will then seek reimbursement for what it paid to you from the other driver’s carrier. Your insurer is “subrogated” to the rights of your policy and can “step into your shoes,” which means that your insurance company can recover what it paid to you, its insured, from the other insurance carrier.

Why is Subrogation Important to You?

You may be wondering why subrogation is important to the consumer if it’s just a matter of reimbursement that occurs between insurance companies. There are two main reasons why understanding how subrogation works is important:

  1. If your insurance company decides to pursue subrogation to recover its costs, they are required to try to recover the costs of your deductible as part of their subrogation claim. If they recover the costs of your deductible, they are required to refund that money to you.
  2. If your insurance company is not able to recover the money it paid directly from the other company, it may have a lien on your settlement. There may be issues to attack the validity of the lien. If you find yourself in this situation, you should have legal counsel assisting you in the matter.
  3. While it is rare, a subrogation claims might possibly limit your ability to make agreements with third parties regarding liability. Your insurance policy will very likely require you to cooperate with any subrogation attempts they make. This means that you may not be allowed to sign waivers that release the other driver from responsibility.

To fully understand subrogation and how it impacts you, you should discuss it with a personal injury attorney.

Talk to an Attorney.

If you have been in an accident, consult a personal injury attorney about your rights. We have offices in Salem, Medford, Bend, Portland, Eugene Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. You can call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

How to Move Forward After Bankruptcy

 

Going through a bankruptcy —– from decision to discharge— can be a long and stressful ordeal. Eventually, though, you get the breathing room you so desperately need. And after Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 comes the next chapter: putting your life and your credit back together.

How can you do that? A bankruptcy stays on your credit report forever, and you’ll never be able to get a mortgage or another credit card, right?

Wrong.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years; a Chapter 13 for 7. Maybe restoring your credit won’t be easy, and maybe it won’t be instant, but you can put your life and your credit back together after bankruptcy. We can help you figure out what strategies will work best for you. We have offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. How quickly you recover from bankruptcy depends a lot on you and what you do after discharge. We can help you develop a sound approach to your fiscal recovery.

In the meantime, here’s a few tips to help you get started down the road to emotional and financial recovery.

Let it Go. Put it Behind You and Move on.

If you’ve recently gone through a bankruptcy, you might be feeling like a failure. You might feel like you are all alone or are some kind of financial outcast. Think again. According to the United States Courts, bankruptcy filings were down in 2017 but they still totaled a whopping 794,492.  You are definitely not alone. But you are the only one that you must forgive.

In order to rebuild your life and move forward, you need to be able to come to grips with the past. You need to take a look at what happened and why, so you can prevent it from happening again, if at all possible. You should look at the past, but you don’t have to live there. Think about what happened and how you can make sure things will be different from now on. Then forgive yourself, and move on. Make a plan to live a better, more responsible fiscal life, and start living that life!

Pay Your Bills on Time. Consider Getting a Secured Credit Card.

One of the best ways to get your financial life back on track is to make a plan and be diligent about paying your nondischargeable debts (taxes, child support, alimony etc.) on time. You can also consider getting a secured credit card. Unlike other credit cards, with a secured credit card, you deposit small amounts of money in your bank account and that becomes your credit line. However, not everyone qualifies for a secured credit card and they often come with high fees.

 Talk to a Lawyer!

Don’t know where to start? If you need help making a plan to rebuild your life after bankruptcy, or if you are considering filing bankruptcy, contact us. We can give you the help and guidance you need.

Bankruptcy and Medical Bills

As the old saying goes, “nothing is more important than your health.” When you are injured or sick, you know how true that is. When you or a loved one is facing a serious or catastrophic illness, the cost of medical care can very quickly skyrocket. Before you know it, the costs of medical care can drive you into bankruptcy.

If that’s your situation, don’t despair. We can help. A significant number of people file bankruptcy every year due to crushing medical bills. At least one study has found that nearly 1 billion people filed bankruptcy due to medical costs.

In fact, filing bankruptcy may not only be a good choice for you if your medical bills have gotten out of control, but looked at correctly, it is the right thing to do.

How can that be?

Because overwhelming medical bills are exactly the type of debt that the bankruptcy code was designed to address. The whole point of bankruptcy is to give an honest debtor relief from overwhelming and insurmountable debt. When your mountain of bills was caused by an accident or serious illness, that’s not something you deliberately sought out. It’s not your fault. It very likely could not have been avoided or foreseen. After the illness or injury, you needed medical attention to recover. Now you need bankruptcy to recover from the insurmountable costs of health care.

How Medical Debt Is Classified in Bankruptcy.

So, will bankruptcy erase all of your medical bills? Yes. When you file for bankruptcy, your debts are separated into different categories. Some debts, like child support or alimony, are not dischargeable (in other words, can’t be wiped out). But other debts, like credit card debt and medical bills are considered unsecured debt and do get discharged in bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 and Medical Bills.

Chapter 7 (often called “liquidation bankruptcy”) is the most common type of bankruptcy filed by individuals. To qualify for a Chapter 7, you must pass a “means test.” That is to say, you must be at or below a certain disposable income level. If you are, then you can qualify for Chapter 7. If you qualify for Chapter 7, there is no limit to the amount of amount of medical debt that a Chapter 7 discharge can wipe out. Just like credit card debt, medical debt is considered unsecured debt that is dischargeable. And any medical bills that you paid with your credit card can also be discharged.

In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Unlike a Chapter 7 which is designed to liquidate your assets and pay off your debts wiping the slate clean, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to put a repayment plan in place (“Chapter 13 Plan” or “Plan”) that will allow you to pay off your creditors over time. In a Chapter 13, your medical bills are lumped in with all the other general unsecured debts in your Plan. The amount you have to pay to general unsecured creditors depends on your income, expenses and nonexempt assets.

In Chapter 13, each creditor receives a pro rata portion of the total amount going towards these debts in your plan which is typically only pennies on the dollar. However, keep in mind that you may not qualify for Chapter 13 if your medical bills and other debt exceed the Chapter 13 limits.

We Can Guide You To The Right Decision.

If you are facing insurmountable medical bills, we can help. We have offices in Portland, Eugene, Coos Bay, Medford, and other cities in Oregon and we have offices in Washington. We offer free consultations and reasonable rates. Contact us by phone or email anytime to set up your free consultation.

What the Automatic Stay Can and Cannot Do

One of the immediate benefits of filing bankruptcy is the relief that the Bankruptcy Code’s “automatic stay” gives to a debtor. The automatic stay brings all collection efforts against the debtor to a screeching halt. It prevents creditors from collecting on their debts until discharge, the case is closed, or the stay is lifted. The automatic stay goes into effect immediately— without need for a court order —and it applies to all of the chapters of the Bankruptcy Code. It has a very broad reach. But it’s reach is not limitless.

As you might expect, there are many things the automatic stay can do, but there are also some things it cannot do.

Let’s take a closer look at the powers of the automatic stay.

What the Automatic Stay Can Do.

The automatic stay is found in Section 362 of the Bankruptcy Code. It prevents creditors from taking pretty much any action outside the supervision of the bankruptcy court that would give one creditor an unfair advantage over any other creditor.

Here are just two of the things the automatic stay prohibits:

  • Anyone from bringing or continuing any judicial, administrative, or other action or proceeding against the debtor that either was commenced before the bankruptcy was filed, or which could have been commenced before the bankruptcy was filed.
  • Enforcement of a pre-petition judgment against the estate (i.e., the bankruptcy estate), property of the estate, or the debtor. It prohibits all collection activity including: levies, garnishments, restraining notices and all post-judgment collection remedies.

What the Automatic Stay Cannot Do.

While the automatic stay applies to many actions against a debtor, as we said, it is not limitless. Here are just three things that the automatic stay cannot do:

  • Stop criminal proceedings. The automatic stay does not apply to criminal proceedings or criminal investigations against the debtor.  
  • Prevent tax audits or some actions to collect taxes. The automatic stay does not apply to prevent tax audits, notices or demands. It does not prevent all acts to collect any tax, or to enforce, create or perfect any tax lien. It doesn’t restrict the government from continuing with any tax audits. It won’t prevent the issuance of notices of tax deficiencies or a demand for tax returns or tax assessments.
  • Last forever. Generally, the automatic stay terminates on the happening of one of these events:

1. The case is dismissed;
2. The case is closed;
3. A discharge order is entered or denied by the court;
4. The property is no longer property of the bankruptcy estate; or
5. An order is entered that terminates, vacates or modifies the automatic stay.

Understanding the automatic stay— its reach and its limits —is very important. We have attorneys in Portland, Eugene, Coos Bay, Medford, and a number of other cities in Oregon and in Vancouver and the Tri-Cities in Washington, who can explain the reach of the automatic stay to you.

We Are Here To Help You.

If you are looking for relief from collections calls and creditors coming after you, the automatic stay may give you the break you need. We are experienced bankruptcy attorneys with offices in Washington and throughout Oregon. We offer free consultations, reasonable fees, and are committed to getting our clients the relief they need. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us through our website.