Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Unbundled Services and Limited Representation: 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 has created greater access 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, Michels & McKay, PLLC offer in certain cases, 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.

            Another option is limited representation. This is similar to unbundled services, but is more appropriate when a person only wants the attorney to handle a single hearing. For example in the divorce context, a person may only want representation at a mediation or for a status conference/temporary hearing. The client can then provide the attorney with a smaller retainer, and the attorney can handle that specific hearing. Once the hearing is concluded, and the orders issued by the Court, the attorney’s representation ends unless the client wants the attorney to continue to be involved. Limited representation is allowed in certain contexts, and may not be appropriate for all cases. However, it provides greater access to legal services to those that may be unable to afford an attorney full-time.

At Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC, we offer unbundled services and limited representation in certain contexts. 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.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Workers’ Compensation: What is a Permanent Impairment?

                In Workers’ Compensation, it is commonly misunderstood by most people what an injured person is entitled to. In previous blog posts, we talked about how an injured worked unable to work is entitled to 60% of their average weekly wage while they are out of work. They are also entitled to have all medical bills that are incurred due to the work injury and reasonable and necessary medical treatment paid by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Yet, what happens when a person has a permanent injury that prevents them from working?

                First, it is important to separate that an injury that causes someone to be permanently and totally disabled entitles them to continuing wage (indemnity) benefits from the insurance carrier as long as they can’t work. If they can never work again, they are entitled to receive permanent wage benefits, and also possibly social security disability benefits. While often permanent injury cases are settled, there remains the possibility of the injured worker being paid a weekly benefit for life if they can never work again.

                Second, the injured worker who has a permanent injury is also potentially entitled to a permanent impairment award. This award is governed by statutory law, and has a series of potential injuries that affect the calculation. Most commonly, it involves a person with a permanent injury that affects their whole person. Thus, under NH law, they are entitled to a permanent impairment award for that injury.

                The way this is calculated is to have a doctor review the injured worker’s injuries under the American Medical Association Guidelines for Impairment, 5th edition. The AMA guidelines include a lot of information that doctors utilize to come to a percentage that a person is impaired. Thus, a person with a fused spine at one or two levels likely has a permanent injury, and a doctor would “rate” them with a percentage that affected their whole person. This percentage is then plugged into a calculation to determine the monetary award for the permanent impairment. So, for example, if a claimant received $500 per week in wage benefits from the workers’ compensation carrier, and they have a whole person impairment of 10%, then the calculation under RSA 281-A is to take that $500 per week, multiply it by 350 weeks, and then multiply it by the percentage for the final number. So, for example, the hypothetical person calculation above would be ($500x350)x0.10 = $17,5000. Thus, the permanent impairment award would be $17,500.00.

                This is a complicated process, and doctors often do not agree on the percentage that a person is impaired. If you were injured and think you have a permanent impairment, the experienced attorneys at Parnell, Michels and McKay can help you navigate this process effectively, and allow you to recover the full amount you 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. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

NH Pro Bono Hockey Game - Tickets Available!

Attorney Rory Parnell and Attorney Neil Nicholson of McCandless & Nicholson have organized a great charity event to raise money for the NH Pro Bono Referral Program. These funds help the program find attorneys for those who cannot afford their own legal representation. We have limited playing spots available, but we have plenty of tickets for spectators to come and watch their lawyer friend skate. 

Come and watch nearly 30 members of the NH Bar who have signed on to participate in the charity hockey game to benefit the NH Pro Bono Referral Program.  Tickets remain available at a cost of $25.00 each, which provides entry to the NH Pro Bono Hockey Game and the Monarchs game that follows.  The game will be held at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, NH on January 16, 2016 from 4:20-5:20 p.m.  The Monarchs game begins thereafter at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets to both games can be purchased by contacting Neil Nicholson at neil@mcnich.com or 603-856-8441 and must be purchased by January 7, 2016. 

The event is being sponsored by Connelly Reporting and Videoconferencing; Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC; McCandless & Nicholson, PLLC; Upton & Hatfield, LLP and Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell, PC.