Friday, July 12, 2019

Dog Bites Injuries



                Dogs are man’s best friend. Most of us have had them as a part of our families over the years. However, dogs (especially poorly trained dogs) can be highly dangerous animals. When they attack, they can cause lasting and permanent physical and emotional scarring. Some breeds (like pit bulls, German Shepherds or Dobermans) can cause even more significant damage because of their physiological makeup. These breeds are often black listed by insurance companies because of this. Often, insurance companies will charge higher premiums to dog owners who own dogs like a pit bull or Doberman. This is not necessarily because they are more aggressive than other dogs, but because the damage they cause is so much more significant.

                In New Hampshire, dog bite cases are strict liability. This means that the owner of a dog is strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog’s attack. So, an insurance company normally cannot claim that the victim of the dog attack contributed to our caused the attack. While there are exceptions to this rule (like deliberately antagonizing a dog), it is a very difficult defense to establish. Our firm also handles looking at whether other entities could be held responsible besides the owner, as it is not always just the owner’s fault for the dog attacking someone.

                While dog bite cases are not that complicated when it comes to liability, they are much more complicated when it comes to damages a person can suffer. Often, the injuries are open wounds but do not involve broken bones. They typically involve permanent scarring, which can have lasting effects both physically and mentally. It is also common to suffer significant emotional trauma from a dog attack. This can include the victim being unable to be around dogs for fear of their safety, or post-traumatic stress from the incident.

                At Parnell, Michels & McKay, we have experienced personal injury attorneys that can address all the ramifications of a dog attack. Contact us today if you were a victim of a dog or animal attack, and see how our team can help you.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Divorce - A Personal Perspective


DIVORCE
-          By Christian Bonnano
With almost 50% of all marriages in the United States ending in divorce or separation, most people you encounter will have one ‘crazy’ family story or another. Sadly, when I was 13 years of age, my parents decided it was time to end their marriage and get a divorce. At the age of 13, I did not fully understand why they were leaving each other and the circumstances around it. Nothing too bad was going on, in reality, they just weren’t in love with each other anymore and wanted to separate. Of course, they had their moments, but from what I have seen throughout my life, most divorces are very difficult.
At such a young age, my parents did not expose me to the legalities surrounding their divorce. I would constantly hear them arguing about property, money, and even me. At the time, I could care less about all of that, I really just wanted my parents to get back together, but as the years have passed I look back and wish they explained the concept of divorce a little better. All that arguing I heard them do had a deeper meaning and it took a few years before I fully understood why and what it was all about.
Through all the arguing and frustrations between my parents, they decided to work together to make sure I was happy. Growing up with divorced parents, I was allowed to live where I want and visit the other parent at free-will. Although they worked together to make sure my life was good, they could not work together when it came to money. Money is something my parents have always argued about and even to this day, with their limited number of conversations, do not see eye to eye on. When I was young, I really just thought they were complaining for no reason because I did not fully understand how child support or alimony worked; now, I see why there were many arguments and frustrations from both sides.
Overall, I appreciate what my parents did to assure my happiness, although I still wish they would have explained things to me back then. I completely understand the fact that I was 13 and might not understand, or even care, about the legalities surrounding their divorce, but I believe it would have helped me understand why certain things were happening. Today, I have a great relationship with both of my parents and both of them are doing great. Yes, they still argue, but most divorced couples do. At the end of the day, I know they are both there for me and love me and that’s all I could ever ask for.
Moving on from my life story, I think it is important to note an interesting fact about divorce in New Hampshire.
1.       New Hampshire is a no-fault and a fault state.  – No fault divorces mean that there does not have to be a reason for divorce. If a couple decides they have had enough of each other, like my parents, then they can separate. At fault divorces mean there is a specific reason of separation, such as cruelty, incarceration, alcoholism, etc. This makes it easier to get a divorce, and makes the process simpler and with less animosity. This is one of the reasons collaborative law (https://www.pmmlawyers.com/collaborative-law.asp is an important development as well. 
As my internship at Parnell, Michels & McKay moves forward, it is interesting to learn the application of these rules, especially with the great lawyers I am able to work with. The law is ever changing, and understanding the law is important for anyone interested in a legal career like myself.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Social Media and Litigation: Why you need to be wary of posting online?

                It is common for most of our society to be on social media. At this point, even most of our grandparents have a Facebook page. While this is a great way to connect to people online, it also presents potential problems for those of us engaged in potential or ongoing litigation. As many people like to say, beware what you post on social media! This is good general advice, but also good legal advice. Social media requests have become common place in litigation discovery requests, and courts are not as reluctant to order that information released.

                The most common requests are for Facebook posts. While most Courts will not allow complete access to a Facebook page of a party, they will look into specific posts related to the issue at trial. So, for example, assume a person is involved in a car accident. They were injured, but for the most part escaped serious injury. After the accident, the person posts that they are lucky to survive, but are going to sue the other driver and get a big judgment and they want money. Lots of money. Further, as the case goes on, this same person posts multiple times images of them running marathons, doing strong man competitions and playing sports. In this situation, almost all of those posts can be made public. This is because they go to the actual issues in the case, and the damages claim for the injured party. The post about wanting money can be argued as they are looking to just get paid, and not that they are actually really injured. The posts about their physical activity can be used to show they aren’t hurt. In these situations, those posts can be used against a person.

                These posts can also help. Let’s say the same person is really badly injured, and their social media posts cover their recovery from their injuries. There are posts and pictures of them in rehab and physical therapy, post-surgical pictures, and even posts from their friends on their page lamenting how difficult everything has been for them. These can be used to support the claimed damages.

                Regardless, all of us have to be conscious that our social media posts are for the most part public, and can be used against us. Some of us are aware of this anyways in how we see Twitter and Facebook posts go “viral”. It’s important to be careful about what we post online, especially if you are in litigation. We often advise clients to reduce their posting, and while that is more difficult for the younger generation, it often helps in the underlying case.

                At Parnell, Michels & McKay, we stay apprised of all developments in the law, including how social media affects our clients and their cases. If you are involved in potential litigation and need legal help, contact us to find out how to protect yourself. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

OCTOBER 20-26, 2018 IS NATIONAL ESTATE PLANNING AWARENESS WEEK!


            Congress has designated the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week (October 20-26, 2018).
            It is estimated that at least 60% of Americans do not have an estate plan.  Most people think that only older adults need to have an estate plan.  However, it’s important for younger people to have a Will, especially if they have minor children.  A proper estate plan will provide for a guardian for your minor children to ensure that they’ll be cared for by the people you want as guardians in the event of your death or incapacity. Yet, based on a recent AARP survey, 78% of people age 18-36 and 64% of people age 37-52 do not have a will. 
Without an estate plan such as a Will or Trust, when you pass away, your affairs will be settled pursuant to the intestate laws of the state where you reside.  The intestacy laws may not provide that your assets go to the people you want to receive your property.  In fact, depending on the size of your estate and how your assets are held, your spouse may not receive the entire estate.  It is especially important to have an estate plan if you have a blended family, especially if you want to provide for your children from a prior marriage.
If you don't have an up-to-date estate plan, including durable powers of attorney, and you are unable to manage your financial affairs due to incapacity, the courts will appoint someone to manage them for you.   If you have not designated the individual that you would like to be your agent, the court may appoint someone that you would not want to perform those responsibilities.
A good estate plan starts with a planning meeting with your attorney and proper drafting and signing of appropriate legal documents such as wills, trusts, financial durable powers of attorney and a health-care power of attorney. Having a properly designed estate plan will help your family get through a very difficult and emotional time.
If you would like to discuss your estate plan, please contact an attorney in our office. The attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay have the experience necessary to design an estate plan to achieve each client’s goals and needs.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Workers’ Compensation: What am I entitled to?


                A person that gets injured at work is often unaware of the process involved in workers’ compensation cases, and even more unaware of what they are entitled to. In the first instance, the most important thing is getting medical treatment for the injury they sustained. If the injury occurred within the scope of employment, the workers’ compensation insurer is required to pay for all related medical bills. So, if a person hurts themselves badly at work and has to go to the emergency room, then the workers’ compensation insurer will have to pay for it. In order to have them pay in the first instance, the employer and employee complete a first report of injury. This specifies what happened, where it happened, and how it happened. Then the employee gets the insurance information in order to have the medical provider bill the workers’ compensation insurer directly.

                If the injury takes the person out of work, in New Hampshire the person is entitled to what are called “indemnity benefits”. This is a term that really means “wage benefits”. A person gets paid for the time they miss from work, and in NH this means sixty percent (60%) of their average weekly wage. Thus, if the person makes $1,000.00 per week, their workers’ compensation benefit should be $600.00 per week. In Massachusetts, this figure is virtually identical. However, in Massachusetts, if a worker can prove a permanent and total disability, they would be entitled to sixty-six percent (66%) of their average weekly wage.

                A person may also be entitled to a permanent impairment award. This is only in cases where a person suffers a permanent injury. In NH and MA, the person is entitled to a specific one-time award for this permanent disability. Further, while in MA a person may be entitled to scarring and disfigurement awards without the necessity of a permanent injury, a person in NH can only obtain a scarring and disfigurement award if it is part of another permanent disability from the injury.

                Workers’ compensation cases are very complicated, and very often contested. There are usually multiple hearings on any given case, and navigating that process in NH and MA can be very difficult without counsel. The experienced attorneys at Parnell, Michels and McKay can help injured workers navigate this process effectively, and allow them to recover the full amount they are entitled to. If you are in need of legal help from a work related injury, please contact our office to find out what your rights are.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

WHAT ARE CHARGING ORDERS AND HOW DO THEY AFFECT MY LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY?


            Congratulations!  You are opening your first business and you have decided to form a single member limited liability company (LLC).  The LLC provides similar liability protection as that of a corporation.  For example, if there is a judgment against the LLC for money damages, in most cases, the LLC judgment creditor cannot attach your personal assets.  However, what if one of your personal creditors has a judgment against you?  If you had incorporated, the judgment creditor may be able to reach your shares in the company as they are personal assets.  But can the creditor reach the assets of your single member LLC?  This is where the charging order comes in.  A creditor may ask the court to enter a charging order requiring the company to forward any distributions you are entitled to receive from the LLC to the creditor.  Although the charging order can reach distributions (usually profits) payable to you, it generally cannot require the LLC to forward any monies which are earned income (i.e. wages) and it cannot force the LLC to make distributions.  In other words, the judgment creditor doesn’t get to stand in your shoes and vote your membership rights.
            But wait a minute – if you are the sole member and the charging order doesn’t allow the creditor to direct any distributions from the LLC, what if you just don’t take any distributions until the statute of limitations on the judgment expires?  In that case, the judgment creditor does not receive anything.
            Well that seems too easy – and it is.   If the creditor can show that the judgment cannot be satisfied in a “reasonable time,” the creditor has the right to challenge the LLC protection.  If successful, the court would force a sale of both your financial and management rights of the LLC.   If there are significant assets of the company, this could be a financial disaster to the member, both personally and for his or her business.  Often, the creditor is the successful bidder at the execution sale and, the creditor can take over your company and, presumably, vote that the LLC pay the distributions or sell off the assets to satisfy its judgment.  But whether it is the successful bidder or not, the creditor would get paid what it is due from the proceeds of the execution sale.
            For all of the reasons above, you may want to consider bringing in a spouse or adult child as a minority member.  This makes your company a multi-member LLC with you as the manager.  As a multi-member LLC, the judgment creditor can still get a charging order against your economic interest in the LLC but it cannot force a transfer of your noneconomic interest (i.e. voting and management rights).  The state law makes a distinction between multi-member and a single member LLCs to protect the other members of the LLC under a theory called “pick your partner.”  In other words, the other LLC members did not intend to become partners with your creditor and the state is reluctant to force them to accept the creditor as a potentially unfriendly owner of your interest.    
When forming your business and choosing the correct entity, contact the attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC.  We offer advice to all types of corporations, limited liability companies and other business entities designed to achieve each client’s goals and needs. Contact us here if you need our assistance.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

FANTASY SPORTS: LEGAL OR ILLEGAL SPORTS GAMBLING


                Fantasy Football is gearing up, and we are on the eve of many drafts and leagues forming for the new season. As attorneys, we often get asked about the legality of sports gambling and in particular, fantasy sports. As some of you are aware, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a gambling ban from 1992 called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Thus, sports gambling is no longer illegal under federal law. However, each state can have laws that restrict or forbids gambling within their state borders. As for fantasy sports, that has been dealt with separately.

                As of May 16 of this year, fourteen (14) states have specifically allowed fantasy sports, and daily fantasy sports to exist (SEE: http://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/14799449/daily-fantasy-dfs-legal-your-state-state-state-look). New Hampshire is one of those states, as Governor Sununu signed the bill into law on July 18, 2017.

                As noted here, the law provides the following:

·         Regulation of the industry will fall to the New Hampshire lottery commission, which is given the power to promulgate some rules to oversee the industry.
·         There is no fee or tax for operators that register with the state. An earlier version of the bill had both an upfront fee and a tax on revenue.
·         Operators must register with the commission, but may continue to operate in the state while the law is taking effect, if they apply for registration.
·         The law sets up basic consumer protections for users at registered DFS sites, including a ban on employee play; the segregation of player funds and operational funds; and responsible gaming protocols.
·         The minimum age for users is 18.

                Thus, daily fantasy sites like FanDuel and DraftKings are specially legalized in the State of New Hampshire. Most importantly, the law mandates you must be eighteen (18) years of age, and provides consumer protections to those using those sites.

                Fantasy sports is something many of us are involved in, and it’s evident that right now all of those that play are not in danger of breaking the law. However, laws can change quickly, and it’s important to know your rights. Here at Parnell, Michels & McKay, we keep ourselves updated on the developments in the law to help he assist all of our clients dealing with legal issues. Contact us today if you need help navigating the legal playing field.