Monday, November 13, 2017

Construction Accidents


Because construction work is inherently dangerous, the risk of injury to workers is greater than in other industries and workplaces. However, construction workers have a right to a safe work environment. While construction injuries are usually covered under workers' compensation laws, it may be possible to pursue a lawsuit based on negligence against site owners, contractors, subcontractors, their employees and agents for violations of applicable safety laws.

There are number of causes of construction accidents, including:

  • Falls - from roofs, ladders scaffolding and other heights
  • Falling objects - improperly secured tools, equipment and construction material can fall and strike a worker, causing head, neck, brain and spinal injuries
  • Equipment accidents - workers can be injured by machinery and equipment such as forklifts, cranes, nails guns and dumpsters
  • Fires and explosions - hazards arise from exposed wires, flammable materials, blow torches and leaking pipes which can lead to catastrophic injuries and fatalities
  • Trench/ Building Collapses - workers can be buried, injured and killed in trench collapses or by buildings that are being constructed or demolished
  • Repetitive Motion Injuries - physical labor often requires bending and lifting that can lead to muscle and joint damage
  • Respiratory illnesses - as a result of exposure to dust, asbestos, and other pollutants

Construction accidents can lead to a variety of injuries. For example, many injuries require fingers, toes and limbs to be amputated. In addition, broken bones and fractures are common as are shoulder, knee and ankle injuries. Workers can suffer head or brain injuries from falls or falling objects as well as spinal cord injuries or paralysis. Other common injuries include eye injuries or loss of vision, and hearing loss.

If you are a construction worker who has been injured on the job, you have the right to be treated for your injuries and the right to receive workers' compensation benefits. If the injury was the result of negligence, however, you may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Parol Evidence Rule


The Parol Evidence Rule

 One of the purposes behind memorializing an agreement in a written document is to ensure that the parties to the contract do not recant what they originally agreed upon.  Often, parties may dispute contractual terms if contracts are not working out in their favor or are resulting in negative or unanticipated consequences.

When a document is drafted by an attorney, parties usually feel more confident and secure about the transaction. A legal document will help prevent any future deviations from its original intent because all aspects of the matter have been stipulated in the final written document.   

If there is any disagreement regarding the written contract, the court’s consideration of evidence is limited.  For example, the courts may look into the prior deals between the parties and check out industry practices as a means of comparison.  However, it is typically prohibited to admit evidence of prior agreements or negotiations of the parties on the same contractual matter at issue.

The court may also inquire as to whether the agreement is partially or completely integrated. A fully integrated document is one intended by the parties to represent all of the terms to the exclusion of any prior writings or oral agreements.  If the agreement is fully integrated, then all other information will likely be excluded. On the other hand, if the document is only partially integrated, the court may take note of circumstantial evidence if such evidence does not contradict the agreement. 

“Parol evidence” is generally oral evidence.  It is beneficial and may be admitted under certain circumstances after the parties agree to a final written agreement.  For example, if the parties to the contract made a mistake, such as omitting or mistakenly listing a term, parol evidence may be considered.  In that case, the option of bringing in subsequent agreements in limited circumstances may be available.  

Parol evidence also comes into play when the writing of the document is unclear or if there is a dispute as to the meaning of certain terms within the contract.  Finally, new evidence is admissible if there is illegality or fraud relating to the contract.  Conferring with a contract attorney will help to clarify how parol evidence rule may affect current and future dealings.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Umbrella Insurance: What It Is and Why You Need It

Umbrella Insurance: What It Is and Why You Need It

Lawsuits are everywhere. What happens when you are found to be at fault in an accident, and a significant judgment is entered against you? A child dives head-first into the shallow end of your swimming pool, becomes paralyzed, and needs in-home medical care for the rest of his or her lifetime. Or, you accidentally rear-end a high-income executive, whose injuries prevent him or her from returning to work. Either of these situations could easily result in judgments or settlements that far exceed the limits of your primary home or auto insurance policies. Without additional coverage, your life savings could be wiped out with the stroke of a judge’s pen.

Typical liability insurance coverage is included as part of your home or auto policy to cover an injured person’s medical expenses, rehabilitation or lost wages due to negligence on your part. The liability coverage contained in your policy also cover expenses associated with your legal defense, should you find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Once all of these expenses are added together, the total may exceed the liability limits on the home or auto insurance policy. Once insurance coverage is exhausted, your personal assets could be seized to satisfy the judgment.

However, there is an affordable option that provides you with added liability protection. Umbrella insurance is a type of liability insurance policy that provides coverage above and beyond the standard limits of your primary home, auto or other liability insurance policies. The term “umbrella” refers to the manner in which these insurance policies shield your assets more broadly than the primary insurance coverage, by covering liability claims from all policies “underneath” it, such as your primary home or auto coverage.

With an umbrella insurance policy, you can add an addition $1 million to $5 million – or more – in liability coverage to defend you in negligence actions. The umbrella coverage kicks in when the liability limits on your primary policies has been exhausted. This additional liability insurance is often relatively inexpensive in comparison to the cost of the primary insurance policies and potential for loss if the unthinkable happens.

Generally, umbrella insurance is pure liability coverage over and above your regular policies. It is typically sold in million-dollar increments. These types of policies are also broader than traditional auto or home policies, affording coverage for claims typically excluded by primary insurance policies, such as claims for defamation, false arrest or invasion of privacy.

Monday, June 8, 2015

10 Things to Bring to Your First Meeting with Your Attorney

10 Things to Bring to Your First Meeting With Your Attorney

Hiring an attorney is not something most people do every day, so being a little bit unsure of how things are going to go is perfectly normal. To help ease some of the stress and make the process go more smoothly, take time to compile and bring the following list of items with you to your first meeting.

  1. A list of all your contact information. Your lawyer is going to need to know your full legal name and any other names you go by, your address, phone number(s), and email address.

  2. The names and contact information of other people that might get involved with the case - people on the other side, people on your side, witnesses, doctors, police, insurance agents, etc.  If a case has already been filed against you, the name(s) and contact information of the lawyer(s) representing the other side will also be needed.

  3. A typed up or written down account of the circumstances surrounding the situation that is causing you to seek legal help. Try to make your summary of events as detailed as possible. If writing or typing isn’t one of your strengths, try creating an audio recording.

  4. A timeline of events. The best way to do this is to buy a calendar, write all the important events on it, and bring it to the meeting with you.

  5. Any materials (including documents, digital files and photos) you have that relate to your legal matter. If possible, put the documents in an order that makes sense when paired with the summary of events and timeline you put together above.

  6. A list of information (particularly documents) you wish you had or thought you had but can’t seem to find now.

  7. The truth. You don’t have to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth unless you are taking the witness stand in the courtroom, but lying to your attorney will not help your case. 

  8. Bring a good idea of what you hope to get out of the case. Think about what winning looks like to you. It is difficult for your attorney to figure out how best to help you if they don’t know what you want. 

  9. An open mind paired with a good sense of what your gut is telling you. Your lawyer may suggest a solution that you would never have imagined, or let you know that you don’t have a case. Listen to what they tell you, but don’t be afraid to share your thoughts on their suggestions.

  10. A list of any questions you have. The meeting will be far more productive if you leave without nagging questions or lingering doubts.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What is a Surety Bond ?

What is a Surety Bond?


A "surety bond" is a legal tool used to guarantee that a promise will be kept.  It ensures that contractual requirements will be met and work will be done according to specifications.  If they are not, the bond will cover some or all of the damages that result.


The "surety bond" commits three parties to a binding contract. 


First, there is the "principal," the contractor, business or individual purchasing the "surety bond" as a way to assure others that work will be done as agreed.


Second, there is the "obligee," the party seeking assurance that the "principal" will fully complete the task.  Obligees are sometimes government agencies putting out bids, or any company or institution trying to be certain that it does not suffer financial loss at the hands of a contractor.


Third, there is the "surety," often an insurance company, which backs the bond and makes payment to the obligee in the event that the principal fails to meet its responsibilities.


How Does a Surety Bond Work?


A contractor  (the principal) usually pays an annual premium to an insurance company (the surety) in exchange for the insurer's commitment to uphold the contractor's promise to the organization or company that hired the contractor (the obligee).  If the contractor misses a deadline or breaches some other term of a contract, the organization it contracted with can ask the insurer to cover any losses that have ensued, up to the amount of the surety bond.  If the company has a valid claim, the insurance company will make payment.  After making good on the bond, whether the maximum amount or a lesser sum, the insurer usually tries to recover the funds from the contractor.


When Is a Surety Bond Required?


There are a number of circumstances in which an individual or business may need to buy a surety bond. 


  • To receive contracts from the government or from some general contractors, a construction firm or other bidder may need to have a surety bond.  Varieties of surety bond can include:  "bid bonds" guaranteeing that a contractor will accept a contract if its bid is successful; "performance bonds" guaranteeing that a contractor will complete a contract according to its terms; "payment bonds," guaranteeing that a contractor will pay subcontractors and suppliers, particularly on federal projects; and "maintenance bonds," guaranteeing that a contractor will provide upkeep and repairs for a certain amount time.


  • A surety bond such as a "license bond" or "permit bond" is sometimes a requirement for receiving certain business licenses or permits.


  • A business may need a "business service bond" or "fidelity bond" to protect itself or its clients against theft or other crimes by its employees


  • "Judicial bonds" may be needed by parties in civil or criminal litigation to guarantee court remedies or penalties.  These can include "bail bonds."


  • "Fiduciary bonds" are sometimes needed by individuals working with probate courts.  These ensure that these individuals will care for the assets of others professionally and honestly.


If you need advice relating to surety bonds, a business law attorney can help.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What is a Mechanic's Lien ?

What is a mechanic's lien?


A mechanic's lien is not just for mechanics.  It is a legal tool used to protect workers and suppliers who contribute the labor and materials used to improve a property, real or personal.  Workers and suppliers can file a mechanic's lien if they do not get paid and may be able to force the sale of the property to receive payment. 


How Does One Place a Mechanic's Lien on a Property?


To place a mechanic's lien on a property, a "contributor"—someone who supplies labor or materials—must provide the property owner with notice describing the material or service contributed.  Depending on state law, the owner usually must receive this within a certain number of days of when the work began.


If the contributor isn't paid after completing a job, it can file a "claim of mechanic's lien" in the county where the property is located.  The contributor then has a few months to bring a lawsuit to enforce the mechanic's lien.  If the enforcement action doesn't take place by the deadline, the lien is no longer valid.  If the lienholder wins the lawsuit, the property can be sold at auction, with the proceeds used to pay the lienholder.


Mechanic's liens often have priority over other security interests in a property, such as a mortgage, though it may depend on when the lien was filed.  Construction loans may sometimes take precedence over mechanic's liens in certain states.


Who Can File a Mechanic's Lien?


Laborers and professionals who can take advantage of a mechanic's lien include carpenters, electricians, HVAC providers, plumbers, architects, and civil engineers.  Suppliers may include lumberyards, plumbing and electrical supply houses, and offsite fabricators of items that become part of a project.



How Can Property Owners Protect Themselves?


Property owners who are concerned that a mechanic's lien may be filed can obtain a "Release of Lien" from everyone connected to a project, relieving the owner from the threat of a lien.  Before making final payment, owners can also insist on an affidavit from their contractors listing anyone not yet paid.  The owner can then insist that those parties sign releases.


An owner can also file a "Notice of Commencement" before beginning a project listing all the contractors and subcontractors working on it, and a "Notice of Termination of Notice of Commencement" when the project is concluded and everyone has been paid and/or has signed a release. 


If a lien has been filed, in many states there is a procedure by which an owner can challenge it on technical grounds, such as improper notice or identification of the property.  Owners may also file a "surety bond"—a promise to pay backed by an insurer—with the court to protect themselves against enforcement of the lien.

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