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Credit Card Purchases: Why Calculating Interest Is the Most Important Step You’ll Ever Take

Posted on Friday, August 19th, 2016 at 11:02 am    

credit-cardsCredit cards are ubiquitous in American society. We get offers to take out a new credit card when we turn eighteen, prisoners get offers to take out credit cards while they are still in jail, and even the recently deceased still get offers to take out a credit card well after the day they died. It is obvious that credit card companies don’t pay much attention to whom they are loaning money to, and therefore have no idea whether they’ll get paid back. So how do they make money? The answer lies in the magic of compound interest.

Most of Lawrence & Associates’ bankruptcy clients never think about the massive amount of money they will put toward compound interest in their lives. Many schools don’t teach students how to manage their finances, and many parents don’t learn these lessons through life experience in time to pass them on to their children. For the poor and middle class, a multi-generational cycle of dependence on debt is now in full swing, where grandparents were sold on an idea that the American Dream is fueled by debt, and their grandchildren already have more debt – starting with student loans – than they can pay off in their working lives.

Some debts are necessary; almost no one can buy a home without financing a large part of the purchase. And some debts are smart; it can be a good idea to take out a low interest SBA loan for the purpose of financing a well-planned business venture. But many debts are neither necessary nor smart, and this brings us back to credit cards. It is important for anyone anticipating a credit card purchase to understand the effect that compound interest will have on their purchase. Unfortunately, a shockingly small minority of people know how to calculate compound interest.

How to Calculate Compound Interest

Before making any credit card purchase, the buyer should determine whether they can pay this purchase off at the end of the credit card’s monthly billing cycle. A credit card purchase paid off before the end of the monthly billing cycle incurs no interest, and is actually a smart decision because it improves the buyer’s credit. Only purchases that cannot be paid before the end of the monthly billing cycle will incur interest and need to undergo the following calculation:

The Compound Interest Formula looks like this:

There are also a number of compound interest calculators on the internet that will perform this calculation for you, taking into account the effect of your monthly payment toward the debt. (The monthly payment toward the debt makes the formula shown above even more complicated.)

The numbers are staggering once you take a look at this. This article shows how an average credit card debt of $15,956, with the average credit card interest rate of 12.83%, results in the credit card company making a whopping $2,629,628.64 off of you in interest between ages 25 and 65. Again, that is over two-and-a-half million dollars in interest on a balance under $16,000!!!

Is it any wonder 819,240 Americans filed bankruptcy in 2015? Despite that huge number of filings, the credit card industry rakes in billions of dollars every year. As shown by the example above, the interest they charge is so astronomical that the credit card industries are mathematically certain to make tremendous amounts of money even if a large number of the people they lend to file bankruptcy or otherwise don’t pay them back. This is why credit card companies don’t bother checking a person’s credit score, or even whether they are still alive, before sending them a credit card offer. It is a volume industry, and the more money they lend the more they are likely to make.

What Can You Do If You Have Crippling Credit Card Debt?

Given all we’ve said above, a large percentage of the people reading this article are statistically likely to be in credit card debt that they have no hope of paying off. How can they get a fresh start and return to financial stability? There are many ways, but the surest way is to file bankruptcy on the credit card debt. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy wipes out credit card debt completely. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires you to make payments toward credit card debt, although often the debtor pays only pennies on the dollar. In either event, the debtor – who has probably paid off the original debt many times over – saves a large amount of money on credit card interest.

Bankruptcy has other benefits as well. All running interest on credit card debt must stop. All lawsuits must stop. Collection calls must stop. In a bankruptcy, for the first time, the debtor has all the muscle and all the power. Credit card companies must follow laws that are favorable to the debtor, rather than the laws that are typically more favorable to the creditor.

If you think you may need to file bankruptcy on credit card debt, call our attorneys for a free consultation. We’ll let you know if bankruptcy is right for you, and if so, what kind of bankruptcy you should file. There is no obligation to a consultation, and our friendly staff will make you feel at ease. We are working hard for the working class, and we can help you!

Injured at Work: Separating Jones Act from State Workers’ Compensation Claims

Posted on Monday, August 15th, 2016 at 2:19 pm    

seamenIn this article, Justin Lawrence explains the difference between Workers’ Compensation benefits and the Jones Act, which provides benefits for men and women who work on navigable waterways such as the Ohio River.  Workers should know under which system they are eligible for benefits, and what benefits they are supposed to receive if they get injured.

Know your rights!  Call us if you have any questions about a maritime or land based injury – we can help!

Click here to read the article.

Legal Fee Arbitration — Knowing Your Rights as a Lawyer

Posted on Thursday, August 4th, 2016 at 11:53 am    

Follow the link to read Justin Lawrence’s most recent article in The Advocate, educating Kentucky attorneys about Kentucky’s fee arbitration system that acts as an alternative to costly civil suits over legal fees.

Legal Fee Arbitration — Knowing Your Rights as a Lawyer

Learn How Personal Injury Protection Can Help After an Auto Accident

Posted on Monday, July 25th, 2016 at 11:54 am    

In this video, Justin Lawrence describes and defines Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage as it relates to Kentucky drivers, and talks about the types of bills that PIP should cover after a motor vehicle accident.  Justin also describes the process for receiving PIP benefits, and talks about warning signs that your automobile insurance carrier may be ready to cut off your ability to access this important, post-injury coverage.

Marisa’s Story

Posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2016 at 9:34 am    

Long before I was an attorney practicing in the area of Worker’s Compensation and long before I started representing injured workers, not one but two immediate family members of mine got hurt on the job. One family member smashed her arm in between two extremely heavy skids while at her place of employment, the other developed serious back conditions due to stocking heavy inventory at the major grocery chain she worked at for over 20 years. While the two injuries sustained were quite different and the circumstances leading to the injuries were unalike, the response of the two employers for which these dedicated employees worked was much the same. Both employees were strongly encouraged not to report their injury, and were made to feel as if they were being unfaithful to their company if they filed a Workers Compensation claim.

dyson-mainNow, many years later, the more I practice Worker’s Compensation in Ohio, the more I have come to realize that this experience is quite typical. More times than I can count an injured worker will say something along the lines of “I didn’t think I was hurt all that bad” or “My boss told me to just try and shake it off”, then several months down the road the injured worker has come to realize that he or she was in fact hurt badly, and the injury is in fact something that simply cannot be shaken off. Sometimes months after an injury the injured worker will come to understand the injury will require medical treatment to remedy and that their employer is the one who should be covering such care. Much to the injured worker’s surprise, the very boss that encouraged him or her to be loyal to the company by avoiding a Worker’s Compensation claim, will become unsupportive and fail to help the injured worker get the care they are entitled to under the Ohio Workers Compensation system. Sadly, the injured worker who tried to “tough it out” or “shake it off” will be accused of lacking credibility when they fight to have their claim allowed because they did not file a claim or start treatment right away.

It is for these reasons it is in the best interest of Ohio injured workers to get an attorney and file a claim as soon as possible after sustaining a work place injury. While it is true that the Ohio Revised Code section for work place injuries, the sooner an injured worker files a claim and seeks legal help the better off they will be. This is true not only because a delay in treatment will inevitably cast doubt on the credibility of the claim, but also because hiring a trained professional to advocate for the injured worker’s rights will help protect that worker from making common mistakes and will enable them to avoid pitfalls that could later cost them both medical treatment and monetary compensation.

If you have been hurt on the job in Ohio do yourself a favor: don’t tough it out, shake it off or ignore your pain. Rather, find an attorney you can trust to demand you receive the medical care and financial support you are entitled to.

You can find out more about Marisa Dyson on her profile page.

Understanding the Rights a Mortgage Company Has After Bankruptcy

Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2016 at 2:25 pm    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Mark Ashley Hatfield, a Juris Doctor student at the University of Kentucky College of Law.

Understanding the Rights a Mortgage Company Has After Bankruptcy

house-304005_960_720Most homeowners in America do not own their home free and clear. In fact, a study conducted by online real estate marketplace, Zillow, revealed that the percentage of American homeowners who do own their home free and clear hovers around the low-figure of 30%. This means that roughly 70% of homeowners do not own their homes outright and are dealing with mortgage companies on a regular basis. Understanding that home ownership is one of the most significant responsibilities a person can have, it is particularly important to understand the rights you sign away to a mortgage company when you are securing money for your home. This article will examine a recent Ohio Supreme Court case (Deutsche Bank Natl. Trust Co. v. Holden) that establishes the rights a mortgage company retains even after the mortgager (the homeowner) has filed bankruptcy.

Imagine the following fact-pattern: a family refinances a mortgage on their home, signs a promissory note to ensure the lender the money will be paid back, and in a few years, when hard-times hit, the family is unable to make the mortgage payments. Consequently, the family, after seeking advice and attempting to resolve the issue, files for bankruptcy relief. Perhaps you have heard a similar story or experienced a similar situation yourself, but for Glenn and Ann Holden, it was not just a story they overheard, it was their personal experience.

On September 1, 2005, the Holdens refinanced the mortgage on their home and Mr. Holden signed a promissory note for $69,300 in favor of Novastar Mortgage, Inc., and both Holdens signed a mortgage identifying Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) as mortgagee (lender). Around November 1, 2005, Deutsche Bank purchased the debt, and the next month, the loan servicer, JPMorgan Chase Bank, received physical possession of the original note, indorsed in blank (“a signature by the creator of an instrument, such as a check, which enables any holder of the instrument to assert a claim for payment”), on behalf of Deutsche Bank. Thereafter, the Holdens made their mortgage payments to Chase Bank. Less than four years later, in August of 2009, the Holdens were struggling to make their mortgage payments. After seeking advice from Chase Bank, the Holdens decided to default on their loan in order to be able to seek a modification on their loan. Unfortunately, the Holdens were still unable to receive a modification on their loan and resulted to a petition for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court subsequently granted the petition and discharged the Holdens obligation on the promissory note. Shortly after, on September 17, 2010, Deutsche Bank received an assignment of the mortgage from MERS. I know this paragraph is very dense with facts, but understanding the facts of this case is important to make sense of the court’s ruling; so feel free to re-read it a few times if necessary.

The court battle itself would begin nearly a year after the recording of the mortgage assignment when Deutsche Bank filed a foreclosure action against the Holdens on August 12, 2011. Here are where the detailed facts come back into play. The Holdens filed an answer and counterclaim premised on the fact that Deutsche Bank did not actually own the promissory note or the mortgage at the time it commenced its foreclosure action against them. This is an argument stemming from the fact that, as you may recall, the note was endorsed in blank. Meaning there was no proof, besides the testimony offered by Deutsche Bank, that the note had been transferred to it from Novastar. After this initial filing, the case proceeded through the Ohio court system making its way to the Ohio Supreme Court as follows: Deutsche Bank won on a summary judgment (no question of fact that Deutsche Bank was the rightful owner of the note) motion at trial; Ohio’s Ninth District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision explaining that Deutsche Bank had failed to show they were the owners of the note; and Deutsche Bank appealed to the Supreme Court.

Before the Supreme Court of Ohio was the issue of whether Deutsche Bank had standing (“whether the claimant has sufficient personal stake in the litigation to obtain a judicial resolution of the controversy”) to foreclose on the Holden’s home in order to collect the debt of which they were owed. The peculiar facts of this case, as you may remember, is that the Holdens had already filed for bankruptcy by the time the foreclosure was commenced. Not only had they filed, but they were granted their petition, and relieved of the debt owed under the 2005 promissory note. This little twist in the facts forced the court to look to its precedent for guidance.

The court stated that they had previously recognized that “upon a mortgagor’s default, the mortgagee may elect among separate and independent remedies to collect the debt secured by a mortgage.” After listing several remedy options for the mortgagee, the court stated that it has “long recognized that an action for a personal judgment on a promissory note and an action to enforce the mortgage covenants are ‘separate and distinct’ remedies.” Thus, simply because a note has been discharged and mortgagees are legally unable to seek a personal judgement against the mortgagor on that note does not mean that the mortgagees are barred from raising an action on the mortgage itself. Essentially, although the bankruptcy court had relieved the Holdens of their obligation on the promissory note, their home was still not safe from foreclosure because the owner of the note and mortgage still had a property interest created by the default on the mortgage.

Stated succinctly by the court,
Where a promissory note is secured by mortgage, the note, not the mortgage, represents debt… When a debtor declares bankruptcy, the creditor’s surviving right to foreclose on the mortgage can be viewed as a ‘right to an equitable remedy’ for the debtor’s default on the underlying mortgage. (citations omitted)
The court, after stating its position, stated that Deutsch Bank still had the burden of proving that it was the rightful holder of the note. Clarifying one of its older opinions, Schwartzwald, the court said that this burden did not include a magical combination of documents. The party bringing the claim simply needed to show that it had a personal stake in the outcome. Here, even though the note showed no physical signs of being transferred to Deutsch Bank, the facts presented were enough for the court to deem that Deutsch Bank had standing to bring the foreclosure action.

The takeaway from this case should not be a newfound (or increased) fear of dealing with mortgage companies. Instead, the key takeaways should be a better understanding of your state laws and how mortgage relationships may affect you in the future. Here, the Holdens filed bankruptcy in hopes of being relieved from their debt. The Ohio court was not so inclined to share the same belief, however, and established a principal that allows the holder of the mortgage “standing to foreclose on the property and to collect the deficiency on the note from the foreclosure of the sale of the property.” Learn from this case. Make sure you understand the mortgage process and have a firm grip on your financial situation before signing the dotted line.

What Net Neutrality Ruling Means for You

Posted on Friday, July 8th, 2016 at 5:43 pm    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Mark Ashley Hatfield, a Juris Doctor student at the University of Kentucky College of Law.

D.C. Court of Appeals… Net Neutrality… and You

Internet1If you are reading this article, a recently decided D.C. Court of Appeals may have more of an impact on you than you realize. In an ongoing battle over cyberspace, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of maintaining the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules against a petition by broadband service providers. Confused as to how this would ever apply to you? Rest assured you are not alone, but this case affects nearly everyone, whether you realize it or not. In this article we will attempt to break down the significance of the 180-page opinion handed down by the Justices of the D.C. Court of Appeals and analyze how it may impact your use of the internet.

In order to better understand what this case means, it is important to have some background knowledge on the concept of net neutrality and to know how similar cases have been treated in the past.

First, the term net neutrality essentially refers to the idea of “internet openness.” To break it down further, net neutrality refers to a set of rules introduced by the FCC to keep the internet experience free of gatekeepers who seek to control the available content. Particularly, this goal aims to prevent service providers (i.e., AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, etc.) from favoring certain content over others; for example, choosing what content gets downloaded more quickly or what content is blocked completely. Thus, the entire idea of net neutrality can crudely be broken down to the idea that all content must be treated equally regardless of its source.

As the case further explains, the internet is made of four major participants: end-users (you and me), broadband service providers (AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, etc.), backbone networks (provides path for transfer of information), and edge providers (Netflix, Google, etc.). Among other similar concerns, those in favor of net neutrality worry that, if these rules are removed, broadband service providers might limit end user’s access to certain edge providers or degrade the quality of certain edge provider’s content. Doing so would allow them to collect fees from those providers to boost their content, or to show favoritism to their own competing services. What this would mean for you, as an end-user, is filtered content. For example, your broadband service provider may limit your ability to access Netflix in hopes that you will change your preferences and subscribe to Hulu TV instead. In the case at hand, the D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the current net neutrality rules; an act that, for now, prevents service providers from showing favoritism towards any content.

Although the internet is merely in its adolescent years, this is not the first time it has been the focal point of judicial scrutiny. For years, interest groups have debated over whether services should be classified as “information services” (i.e., Google ) or “telecommunication services” (i.e., phone service) under FCC rules. The differences between the two can get somewhat messy and a bit technical, so we will avoid getting too deep into the weeds for now. For the purposes of this article, it is only important to know that the FCC’s rules for services deemed to be information services are much more lenient than those afforded to telecommunication services. Thus, service providers like those mentioned above have been arguing that the internet they provide to end-users should be treated as an information service because they do not want to adhere to the stricter rules imposed on telecommunication services. Unfortunately for the service providers, the majority in the D.C. Circuit of Appeals was not so inclined to agree and ruled that service providers shall be subject to the more stringent rules that govern telecommunication services

Explicitly before the D.C. Court of Appeals in this case was the argument that the FCC had incorrectly classified broadband internet as a telecommunication service. Among other arguments, the service providers attempted to argue that they provide more than just a medium for end-users to connect to the internet. Although true, the court downplayed the significance of these add-on services (i.e., email) offered by service providers citing studies that illustrated end-users turned to third-party providers (Google and Yahoo in the case of email) for those add-on services.

Expanding on its position, the court explained the vast presence of third-party content:

Indeed, given the tremendous impact third-party internet content has had on our society, it would be hard to deny its dominance in the broadband experience. Over the past two decades, this content has transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, from profound actions like choosing a leader, building a career, and falling in love to more quotidian ones like hailing a cab and watching a movie. The same assuredly cannot be said for broadband providers’ own add-on applications.

Broadband providers, according to the majority, serve merely as a conduit for end-users to access other content they wish to discover.

In the Open Internet Order of 2015, the FCC officially reclassified broadband internet service as a telecommunication service stating that: “broadband service satisfies the statutory definition of a telecommunications service: ‘the offering of telecommunications for a fee directly to the public.’” Again, much debate has occurred over this topic, but with this ruling, the D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the FCC’s recent reclassification. The broadband service providers have stated they will seek review by the Supreme Court, but until such a review is held, this ruling will set the precedent for how the internet is used and regulated.

To be sure, this case is more than just a battle between service providers and the FCC. With a strong dissenting opinion and a string of cases essentially flip-flopping on the issue as the internet has grown and developed, the battle may just be beginning. Certainly, a review by the Supreme Court is not out of the question. Even more notable for end-users like yourself, this case is more than just another legal precedent. With the majority of America’s population being internet users, roughly 85% according to some surveys, this case serves as an indication of how we can expect our internet usage to be policed in the future.

For now, our access to the internet remains an open platform where the large tech company’s website based in Palo Alto, California gets treated the same as the start-up tech company’s website based in Covington, Kentucky. Net Neutrality effects many different groups including the average internet user, and if regulations like these cease to exist, we could find ourselves surfing an internet that has been bought out by the highest bidder.

What To Do Immediately Following an Auto Accident

Posted on Monday, July 4th, 2016 at 4:17 pm    

In this video, Justin Lawrence discusses the best way to handle the aftermath of a car wreck where you have damage to your vehicle, injuries, or pain that suggests an injury.  How you handle the insurance companies, what you do on the scene of the crash, and how you interact with the other driver and the police are all important factors that can mean the difference between having the insurance coverage to heal completely and having a fully repaired vehicle, versus having to pay for your treatment and repairs out of your own pocket.  Check out the video for more.

Social Media and the Law

Posted on Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 at 8:53 am    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by James Haney, a Juris Doctor student at NKU Chase College of Law, Northern Kentucky University.

Social Media and the Law

The Effect Your Social Media Account Can Have on Your Personal Injury or Criminal Defense Claim

social-mediaSocial media is arguably the largest collective platform of information the world has ever seen. It brings people, ideas, thoughts, facts, and opinions together, in a way that nothing else has the ability to do. People put so much of their personal information on the various social media platforms, assuming safety as a given. As is the case with most things in life, nothing is a guarantee, though. Regularly, whole sites or individual profiles are hacked, resulting in information being leaked to the public, or used in nefarious and malicious ways. Recall the mass hacking of Apple’s Cloud, in which a number of celebrities had their personal pictures stolen, and uploaded to public sites. It is not only hackers who can find their way into someone’s personal social media site, though. Often, attorneys and police investigators will use the law to allow them to collect information from a site, which would otherwise have been considered private information.

Recently, the Florida Bar’s Ethics Committee returned an opinion stating that it is perfectly acceptable for a lawyer to advise their clients to make any social media profiles “private,” so as to make it impossible for the general public to view information. This would seem like a no-brainer, but, it apparently bears repeating. A 17 year old in Timmins, a city in Canada, was arrested by the Timmins Police Service after a video was uploaded, which depicted the assailant attacking another person. The person was found by police, and charged with assault. So, if your lawyer has not already instructed you to do so, keep your profiles private.

However, if already under investigation, it is illegal for a person to destroy evidence that may reasonably be used in court, in regards to whatever case it is relevant to. If removed, the data must be preserved in some way if it is known or reasonably should be known to be relevant to the reasonably foreseeable proceeding. Essentially, if you are under investigation, do not, DO NOT, erase or destroy anything that may be used as evidence. That, in itself, is a criminal offense. I personally worked on a case in which a person burned a diary that had been marked for evidence, and then claimed that the information held within would have exonerated them.

Discovery is the phase of a lawsuit, or trial, in which the opposing sides gather as much evidence and information as possible. Knowledge is always key. During this time, a lawyer may petition for discovery of any and all social media sites known to be used by the client on the other side. Only information that is relevant to the trial at hand is considered admissible, but it is all made available. By all, I mean friends, followers, suggested contacts, sent and received messages, contents of any inbox, activity, tweets, mood updates, notifications, personal information, and basically anything else housed on the site. In another case I assisted on, the popular messaging application, Kik, was used to recover messages sent to an underage plaintiff. On the same case, I spoke with the lead attorney, and asked about where that information could be reached, if the application had been deleted. Her response: “everything is stored somewhere.”

Relevance of information to the case is entirely up the the trier of fact, which is the judge who presides over the case. If I took anything away from learning evidence, though, it’s that everything is relevant. Obviously, that is a bit of an overstatement, but not much of one. Relevance deals with getting from A to B. If an argument is made which the judge finds convincing, then anything may be deemed relevant, even if it may not be immediately obvious on the surface. A picture of you in the park may well be relevant when trying to attain access to your Twitter feed.

In Romano v. Steelcase, 907 N.Y.S.2d 650 (Sup. Ct. 2010), the defendant petitioned for access to the plaintiff’s Facebook content, both current and past, claiming that it was relevant to the extent and nature of the plaintiff’s injuries. The court noted that the plaintiff’s public profile page showed her outside of her home. This was only a problem because the plaintiff had claimed that the injuries she had sustained had kept her confined, almost entirely, to her bed and to her house. In this case, the judge determined that information may have been held within the private portions of her profile, which could further act as evidence for or against her claim. The court found that the privacy concerns of the plaintiff were outweighed by the potential for relevant information to be found.

I think this may be the simplest way to think about it, in terms of realizing just how wide open your information is, once it’s online. A social networking site (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is where you go to share your life with other people. Those other people have no limit as far as what they do with said information. According to Zimmerman V. Weis Mkts., Inc. 2011 WL 2065410 (Pa. C.P. May 19, 2011), any relevant, non-privileged information that a person puts up on their social media account, and is shared with others, can be used by defendants as evidence. If you find yourself in the midst of a suit in which social media may be used, open it up to your attorney, and make certain they 1) find out what is on the site, 2) find out what the opposing side has seen, and 3) figure out the status of the images as fair game.

To summarize, never assume anything posted on social media is actually private. Should you find yourself involved in a lawsuit, it is entirely possible that a judge will order discovery of your accounts. Beyond that, anything shared with another person can be considered public information. I leave my accounts public, purely for the intent of marketing. If you have no reason to make your information, posts, pictures, etc. viewable to everyone, don’t. Be careful what you post. It is very likely that, so long as the request for discovery is narrowly tailored, a judge will grant an attorney the right to dig into parts of your social media outlets. It is always best to assume that anything that goes on the internet is open to anyone. Keep that mindset, contact an attorney, and be smart.

The Injured Plaintiff’s Bankruptcy — Pitfalls for the Civil Litigator

Posted on Friday, June 24th, 2016 at 11:21 am    

Justin Lawrence recently wrote an article for the Advocate, Kentucky’s trial lawyer community’s premier publication, about what needs to be done when a person who is injured by an automobile accident, slip and fall, or workplace injury files for bankruptcy while their lawsuit is still pending.

Justin regularly advises other attorneys on the best course of action to take when personal injury, workers’ compensation, social security disability, and bankruptcy claims come together, so injured men and women get the best results possible.

Click here to read his article on the injured plaintiff’s bankruptcy.

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