Friday, March 30, 2012

Navigating the NH Circuit Courts: Things to Know

            A few years ago, our Court systems faced a significant problem. The model they had structured themselves with was not working, cases were being delayed, and litigants were being frustrated. The New Hampshire legal community, Administrative Office of the Courts, and the legislature got together and completely reformed our court system. Out went the old, and in came the new Circuit Courts.
            While many people have not had issues with the new Circuit Courts, it is important to understand a few of the more important changes as part of this reconstruction project. First, the Courts are generally all located in the same physical place, but they now bear new names, like the 10th Circuit Court – Family Division at Derry, which used to be the Derry Family Court. A call center has also been initiated, which has freed up the clerks to process Court orders and do other paperwork that was being delayed by their interactions on the phone. While the transition has been slow and methodical, many callers find themselves having their questions answered by the call center now and not the specific Courts.

            However, not all changes have been met with positive results. For instance, many people are not aware that the Court will unilaterally close a court file if the last order was issued over thirty days in the past, and no pending motions or hearings are scheduled. This can come as quite the surprise, as it now costs about $150.00 to reopen those files and have new or old issues addressed.

            It is also important to make sure you know the docket number to your case. If you do not know it, the Courts can require you to file a request for information that costs $20.00 to file. The docket number is the number assigned to your specific case. It includes the Court code, the year the action was first initiated, letters symbolizing the type of case it is, and finally a number that specifically identifies your case. It is very important number to remember, and you should always make note of your docket number if you are involved in the New Hampshire Court system.

            At Parnell & McKay, we have a tremendous amount of experience navigating the New Hampshire Court system, both old and new. If you find yourself in need of legal help, contact us today. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Workers’ Compensation: How to Make Sure an Injured Employee is Getting What They Deserve

            Injuries happen to all of us. Often, a person will be injured at work as the result of the duties of their employment. It is at these times that an injured person must understand the workers’ compensation system, and how to protect your rights.
            When a person is injured at work, and they have to miss time, the first thing they should understand is that your medical visits are covered. If an injury occurs during the course of employment, then the workers’ compensation insurance carrier will be required to pay for the medical services provided for treatment of that injury. If the insurance carrier denies the payment of a medical bill, and the Department of Labor finds it should have been paid, the insurance carrier will also likely have to pay for the injured employee’s attorneys fees. This helps injured persons with little resources to help facilitate getting the legal help they need.
            The injured employee is also entitled to workers’ compensation wage benefits for the time they miss work. This figure is based on sixty percent (60%) of the average weekly wage of the injured person. Thus, if a person makes $1,000 a week in average weekly wages, they will be entitled to $600.00 per week in wage benefits. 
            The injured employee may also be entitled to compensation for any permanent impairment as a result of the work injury. This is commonly referred to as the “Permanent Impairment Award”. This is based on the disability the injured worker has, and the effect of that disability on their ability to work. A typical situation would be someone who lost a hand in an industrial accident, and now has a very serious permanent disability. The injured worker is entitled to a calculation based on the injury, the permanency of that injury, and the wages the worker was making before being injured.  All of these are factored into a complex calculation that compensates the injured employee for their permanent disability. Our firm will also help assist disabled persons in obtaining social security disability benefits, if they qualify.
            Workers’ Compensation law is complex, and requires the aid of an experienced attorney in navigating the system. Here at Parnell & McKay, we have been providing our learned and experienced advice to our workers’ compensation clients for over 20 years. Contact us today to find out how we can help you. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Unbundled Services: How a Greater Portion of the Population has Gained Access to Legal Services

People now have greater flexibility than ever before in accessing and utilizing legal services. “Unbundling” of legal services is now allowed and the effect should be greater accessibility to legal services by segments of the population historically unable to secure needed assistance of counsel in dealing with legal projects. The one exception to this new form of representation is criminal law. Unbundled services is a development we at Parnell & McKay, PLLC are very excited about as it means we will have much greater flexibility in customizing services to fit clients’ particular needs where money is a real issue for the client.

Simply put, unbundling means breaking down a project into its component parts. Once a legal project is broken down, it is easier to determine what a particular individual is capable of doing on their own and what they may need assistance to complete. A home remodeling project is a good way to demonstrate unbundling. Included in the typical bundled remodeling project is framing, drywall installation, wiring, floor covering installation and painting or wallpapering. After breaking the project down to its components, or “unbundling” the project, one can determine what he or she comfortably can do and with what components he/she will need help. For example many are comfortable painting or wallpapering but might be uncomfortable with the other components of remodeling.  With an unbundled approach to remodeling, the homeowner secures services only in the components he or she does not feel skilled enough to handle.

How does this process work? It is actually pretty simple. Like the remodeling example, any legal project can be broken down into component parts. For example let us take a simple divorce. Among others, components of a simple divorce include initiating the action with a petition for divorce; engaging in discovery (the process of learning the other side’s case, how they intend to support it and securing information from the other side that helps present your case); document preparation; determination of support issues, property settlement, motion practice and court appearances. An individual contemplating a divorce or finding themselves a party in one initiated by their spouse and wanting to explore the option of unbundled services, simply determines, ideally in consultation with a legal professional, what components of the process they are comfortable handling and the components with which they would like assistance. An agreement is then made, and the attorney does the agreed upon work, and the client handles the rest of the matter they are comfortable with on their own.

At Parnell & McKay, PLLC, we pride ourselves in being in the forefront of this new movement toward unbundling of legal services. Our goal throughout our existence has been to provide competent legal services at a reasonable cost. If you find yourself in need of legal help, contact us today.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Collaborative Law – How the Collaborative Process may be right for you

            As our main site explains, the collaborative process is most prominent in family law. In this arena, its benefits are very much amplified.
Each party signs an agreement to commit to the collaborative process. This agreement includes a number of provisions that describe the commitment to the process, and working out the differences without the necessity of Court involvement.
            The reasons these provisions are included is because the Court process can be a long, arduous, and emotionally draining ordeal. Parties that wish to work with legal, financial, and psychological professionals can utilize the central tenets that serve the backbone of collaborative law. The financial advisor is a third party, selected jointly by the parties and their attorneys, who has training both in the collaborative process, but also serves as the expert the parties need to understand complicated financial matters. The psychological professionals offer sage advice on parenting, co-parenting, and handling the stressors of the new life the parties are beginning. Each legal professional, an attorney trained in collaborative law, then works with all parties to develop an agreement that is fair and reflects the equal input of everyone involved.
            The process itself takes place after each party and professional has an opportunity to gather and review the party’s documentation. A meeting is then conducted with all parties and professionals present. Each party is afforded an opportunity to speak openly and discuss the issues in a civilized and appropriate manner. Sometimes, it can take a few meetings to work out the entire agreement. However, commitment to the process always bears fruit, because the parties learn critical communication and coping skills to deal with new issues as they arise. This helps eliminate future legal costs, and gives the party the tools to resolve any and all future conflicts.
            Attorneys that practice collaborative law are specially trained, as Catherine McKay is at Parnell & McKay. If you would like to see the benefits of collaborative law, please contact us to learn more.