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What Kind of Damages Can You Get for a Dog Bite in Ohio?

Posted on Tuesday, June 13th, 2017 at 12:02 pm    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Ian Fasnacht, a law student from Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

According to the case Beckett v. Warren, Ohio residents may simultaneously pursue statutory and common law damages for injuries sustained as a result of a dog bite. Ohio’s dog bite statute does not permit punitive damages, monetary compensation award beyond medical expenses; however, dog bite victims may seek punitive damages under the common law if the victim can demonstrate the dog owner knew the dog was vicious.

Facts of the Case

A minor child suffered injuries to her head when she was visiting the home of Richard Warren and Mary Wood. Approximately two weeks earlier Mr. Warren and Mrs. Wood’s dog had attacked another individual, and Mr. Warren and Mrs. Wood took no additional precautions despite having a child in their home.

Common Law v. Statutory Law

Common law is judge made law, which means it is created in a courtroom by a judicial decision rather than by a legislature passing a bill. At the common law, to recover for a dog bite an injured party has to prove that (1) the defendant owned or harbored the dog; (2) the dog was vicious; (3) the defendant knew of the dog’s viciousness; and (4) the dog was kept in a negligent manner after the keeper knew of its viciousness.

The requirement that the dog owner had to know the dog is vicious in order for the injured party to recover created the “one free bite” problem. Unless the injured party could prove a previous person had been bitten he/she could not recover. Therefore, a dog owner could escape liability for one bite before he/she could be held liable for injuries sustained as a result of their dog’s bite.

Ohio codified – meaning they created a statute – the common law dog bite rule, but took out the knowledge requirement. Therefore, Ohio’s dog bite statute, R.C. 955.28, is strict liability. The injured party only needs to prove that (1) ownership or keepership [or harborship] of the dog; (2) whether the dog’s actions were the proximate cause of the injury; and (3) the monetary amount of the damages. Because the injured party does not need to prove the dog owner knew his/her dog was vicious, no punitive damages are available.

Ohio Supreme Court’s Holding

In determining that both remedies were available, the Ohio Supreme Court interpreted the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1964 Warner v. Wolfe holding, which allowed a suit under the “statute or at common law.” The Ohio Supreme Court held the “or” did not require an injured party to chose which law he/she would bring a suit under but rather allowed an injured party to bring a suit under both.

In further support, the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision referenced the text of R.C. 955.28, which did not indicate an injured party could only bring a suit under either the common law or statutory law.

The Ohio Supreme Court worried if injured parties were forced to pick between the two causes of action some injured parties would not receive compensation for their sustained injuries because he/she would file the case under the common law and lose.

Therefore, The Ohio Supreme Court interpreted the Warner decision and R.C. 955.28 as eliminating the “one free bite” problem by allowing injured parties to always recover his/her medical expenses without proving the dog owner knew the dog was vicious. Conclusively, an injury party will always receive monetary compensation for his/her medical expenses under Ohio’s statutory law but only receive punitive damages if the injured party can prove the dog owner knew the dog was vicious under the common law.

The Ohio Supreme Court disagreed with Justice O’Donnell that juries would be confused by the court’s holding because a judge could instruct the jury to award additional punitive damages if the jury found the dog owner knew his/her dog was vicious. Both common law and the statutory law allowed for the injured party to receive medical expenses, therefore, a party would not recover twice because the judge would either award damages based on the statutory or common law depending on if the jury determined the defendant had the requisite knowledge.

O’Donnell’s Dissent

Justice O’Donnell dissented because in his opinion the Warner decision required injured parties to bring a suit either under the statute or at common law, but a party could not bring both suits. Choosing between the two would not have served as a barrier for injured parties because if the injured party could prove knowledge then he/she could recover both medical and punitive damages. In contrast, if the injured party could not prove knowledge then he/she would bring a statutory claim and recover medical expenses.

Under Justice O’Donnell’s theory, if an injured party brought a common law suit and lost the injured party would receive nothing and be barred from bringing a statutory claim for the same injury. However, this negative consequence was within the injured parties choice and necessary for courts to supply juries with simple instructions.

Justice O’Donnell argued that choosing between the two actions was necessary because juries would be confused if forced to apply two different rules to the same set of facts. He argued that jurors now have to ignore facts presented during trial that relate to the parties knowledge while applying statutory law, but then the jurors have to apply facts indicating the defendant knew the dog was vicious to the common law.

He argued the Warner decision removed this confusion and allowed juries to apply whichever law the injured party filed his/her action under.

If you or someone you love has been injured by a vicious dog, you have rights. Call Lawrence & Associates today for a free consultation to find out how you can recover. We are Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!


Liability for Asbestos Exposure: The Story of Mary and Clayton

Posted on Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 at 10:58 am    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Linda Long, a Juris Doctor student at the NKU Salmon P. Chase College of Law.

The case Boley, Exr. et al., Appellants v. Goodyear Tire is the story of a husband and wife whose normal day-to-day routine led to a terrible disease and a big corporation not accepting responsibility for it.

Mary Adams and her husband Clayton had a pretty typical life. That life included Clayton going to work, day in and day out, at the Goodyear Tire Company and Mary taking care of the home. Mary, being a dutiful wife, always washed Clayton’s work uniforms. This routine went on for years, Clayton working and Mary washing. A tragic interruption came into the Adams’s lives- Mary was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March of 2007. She struggled with the disease, and died in July of 2007.

After Mary’s untimely death, Clayton and the executor of Mary’s estate gave it a lot of thought and concluded that Mary developed mesothelioma because of the debris that was collected on Clayton’s uniform. Clayton and the executor reasoned that because the Goodyear Tire Company used chemicals that contained asbestos, asbestos residue was left on Clayton’s uniform, and Mary inhaled it as she laundered Clayton’s uniform causing the development of the disease. After coming to that conclusion, Clayton and Mary’s executor filed a lawsuit against a group of about 200 defendants (including Goodyear Tire Company). Goodyear moved for summary judgment, arguing that the prevailing law did not provide a remedy against the company. Clayton and Mary’s executor raised the counterargument that the prevailing law applies only to premises, and that liability claims and therefore the law does not prevent their claim.

Procedural History of Claims

The trial court ruled in favor of Goodyear Tire Company’s movement for summary judgment. The court of appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court. The court of appeals held that R.C. 2307.941 (A) (1) precluded liability with regard to the alleged claims because of Mary’s exposure to asbestos did not occur at Goodyear’s property. The current opinion comes from the Supreme Court of Ohio. The question presented before the court at this level was whether R.C. 2307.941 (A) applies to, what the court called, ‘take home exposure’. This means that the court had to decide if the controlling law is applicable to exposure that is indirect, since Mary was not exposed on the premises but at her own home.

Controlling Law R.C. 2307.941 (A) (1)

The Ohio law that is being reviewed in this case is Ohio Revised Code section 2307.941 (A) (1). This statute was specifically enacted to address the health issues that the mass use of asbestos caused. It is better stated as follows: “[t]he current asbestos personal injury litigation system is unfair and inefficient, imposing a severe burden on litigants and taxpayers alike.” The legislative intent behind this bill is to protect citizens from the effects of asbestos. The Ohio Supreme Court reviewed specific areas of the statute to come to a conclusion in Clayton and Mary’s case.

One of the portions of this statute that is relevant here is deals with where the exposure occurs. “A premises owner is not liable for any injury to any individual resulting from asbestos exposure unless that individual’s alleged exposure occurred while the individual was at the premises owner’s property.” This is the language that both the trial court and the court of appeals hung their hats on, because the exact language states that an owner is only liable if the injured person is injured while on the owner’s premises. This is important because Mary was not injured on the Goodyear premises when she was injured. That was a huge hurdle for Clayton and the executor.
So, one issue is statutory interpretation. “In cases of statutory construction, ‘our paramount concern is the legislative intent in enacting the statute.” With that precedent, things did not look good for Mary and Clayton, but the real determinative factor is intent.

To determine intent the court will look to the language of the statute and the purpose that the legislator wanted to accomplish by the statute. The Ohio Supreme Court said that its role to evaluate a statute “as a whole”. The court found that the legislative intent was apparent. The intent was to protect owners from tort liability when someone is injured while off their premises. Just like regulations were put into place to protect society at large from the damaging effects of asbestos, there are laws in place to protect the owners of property, for better or worse.

The argument that Mary’s executor and husband presented claimed that the words “exposure to asbestos” modified “on the premises owner’s property.” The court cited concerns with this interpretation. The court reasoned that going with this interpretation would eliminate the power of subdivision (A) (1); which, was meant to protect individuals who are property owners. So, the court had a serious balancing act to consider: protect the property owners or protect the individuals?

The Ohio Supreme Court’s Ruling

Overall, the court affirmed the ruling of the lower court. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a premises owner is not liable in tort because of the language in R.C. 2307.941 (A) (1). That means that any claim that arises from asbestos exposure that originates from asbestos from the owner’s property unless the exposure occurred at the owner’s property. So, what does this mean for Mary? Well, it is pretty simple, Mary’s executor and Clayton are now out of luck. Based on your definition of ‘fair,’ you may be disappointed by this outcome, but this was a ruling that was absolutely based on the law.

Personally, my knee jerk reaction to this ruling is that it is unfair. I think that it is unfair because, as I understand it, but for the actions of Goodyear, then Mary would not have (or her chances would have been dramatically lower) contracted mesothelioma and she would not have subsequently died. But for the actions and practices of Goodyear, Clayton would not have lost his wife in this way. For those reasons, this ruling saddens me. However, this was a ruling based on law, and Mary’s family will have to heal in another way.


Medical Bills, Bankruptcy, and Trump – How the Pending AHCA Bill Could Affect Bankruptcy Filings

Posted on Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 at 9:37 am    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Ian Fasnacht, a law student from Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, took effect in 2010 and has been the center of political tension for almost a decade. From 2010 to 2016, personal bankruptcy filings have decreased by 50%. Courts do not require individuals to disclose why they are declaring bankruptcy, but research indicates medical bills are the “single largest factor in personal bankruptcy” accounting for between 50 and 62% of all personal bankruptcy filings.

Also illustrative is 2010 Massachusetts, which had been operating under Romneycare for several years. Romneycare served as a base model for the ACA. Massachusetts in 2010 had a 30% lower personal bankruptcy filing rate than any other state in the Union. The average Massachusetts medical bills were also one-third of the average medical bills in every other state.

Because of the close correlation between personal bankruptcy filings and medical bills, the ACA is considered a driving factor in the decline of personal bankruptcy filings in recent years. Medical bills can be expensive and unexpected, which forces families and individuals into debt.

Potential Changes Under Trump

With President Trump and Congressional Republicans working to repeal and replace the ACA, will medical bills increase and cause personal bankruptcy filings to increase? Two proposed changes that could increase the number of personal bankruptcy filings are eliminating the individual mandate and retracting the expansion of Medicaid.

A. Eliminating the Individual Mandate

Eliminating the individual mandate may lead to an increase in personal bankruptcy filings as people choose to forego medical insurance due to higher premiums. The individual mandate requires all persons to purchase health care insurance or pay a penalty to the IRS for failing to have health insurance.

This provision was originally included in the ACA to drive down the average policy premium despite insurance companies being required to offer medical insurance regardless of a pre-existing condition. One of the criticisms is premium costs have risen in some areas of the country, and the individual mandate forces people to pay higher premiums.

However, if cheaper insurance options are not made available people may choose to not purchase health insurance, which would leave them financially vulnerable to unexpected medical bills.

If the final revision of the AHCA bill does not eliminate the individual mandate, the Trump administration could effectively eliminate the penalty by no longer requiring the IRS to ask taxpayers to disclose if they have purchased health insurance. Without the knowledge of who does or does not have insurance, the IRS would lose the ability to efficiently issue a penalty for not having insurance.

Instead of an individual mandate, the proposed AHCA bill would allow insurance companies to charge up to a 30% penalty to those who forego insurance and then purchase insurance after they have been diagnosed with an illness. This provision is designed to persuade rather than mandate participation. This change could have the same effect as people not purchasing health insurance because individuals may not be able to afford the higher deductibles for emergency health and may be forced to file bankruptcy.

B. Decreases in Medicaid

The AHCA may eliminate the Medicaid expansion provision that accounted for half of all insurance coverage gains under the ACA. The ACA included a block grant to states to expand their Medicaid programs. The expansion would provide Medicaid to anyone making 138% times the poverty line ($33,600 for a family of 4). States could refuse the Medicaid expansion, but 31 states, including Ohio and Kentucky, accepted the expansion.

The AHCA may eliminate the Medicaid expansion offered to states and return Medicaid coverage to pre-ACA levels (100% of the poverty line or $24,300 for a family of 4). The potential change would require all those who do not qualify for medical expansion to purchase insurance in the open marketplace. If there is not an individual mandate, those removed from Medicaid may choose not to purchase health care insurance and be at risk of unexpected medical bills. Alternatively, they may select a policy with a low premium but high deductible and minimal coverage. If a severe illness occurs, minimum coverage policies may not offer substantial financial assistance and force individuals or families into debt.

No changes to the ACA are finalized, but potential changes may lead to higher personal bankruptcy filings. A better understanding of potential effects on personal bankruptcy filings will be available after changes to the ACA are finalized.

Medical Bills, Bankruptcy, and You

Regardless of what changes occur to federal law, high medical bills can lead to bankruptcy. Bankruptcy may provide a solution for financial hardship created by burdensome medical bill debt.

A. Medicals Bills Can be Discharged in Bankruptcy

Medical bills are considered an unsecured debt, in contrast to secured debt, such as a home mortgage secured by the value of the home. All unsecured debt is dischargeable in chapter 7 bankruptcy, except for student loans. Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires the filer to repay part of their debt, but medical bills can be partially dismissed. Chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy have different income and debt requirements, it is best to speak with an attorney to determine which, if any, is best for you.

B. Spouse and the Doctrine of Necessity

Generally, one spouse is not obligated to pay the debts of another spouse. However, if assets were held jointly, i.e. joint credit cards, then the surviving spouse would be obligated to pay. One exception to the general rule is the doctrine of necessity.

Under Ohio’s doctrine of necessity, spouses are responsible for all bills of necessity, such as food, shelter, and health. Therefore, some medical bills may be considered a necessity and debt collectors can sue a surviving spouse. Bankruptcy may be a solution to discharge debts of necessity.

Kentucky has a similar doctrine of necessity, but only holds the husband liable for the debts of his wife; the wife is not liable for the debts of her husband.

Debt collection agencies do file suit over unpaid medical bills, which can lead to liens or seizure of real and personal property. However, collection agencies will often offer the opportunity to establish a payment plan before filing suit. Speaking with an attorney can help you understand your rights and determine what debts must be paid.

C. Filial Responsibility Laws

Ohio and Kentucky have filial responsibility laws, which hold adult children responsible for caring for their parents. Care can include assisted living or medical bills. However, these laws are rarely enforced due to other available assistance.

Filial responsibility laws are rarely enforced because nursing homes need to prove the parent resident is unable to pay. However, Medicaid is typically available if parent residents do not have enough money. If Medicaid bills remain unpaid, the State can collect from the parent’s estate.

Generally, parental debts are not their children’s responsibility and it may be best to contact an attorney to understand your rights and obligations.

Have you been hit with medical bills and have no hope of paying them in this lifetime? Lawrence & Associates may be able to help you! Call today for a free consultation. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!


What is “Med Pay,” And Should You Have It?

Posted on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 at 1:08 pm    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Jessie Smith, a law student from the University of Kentucky.

Medical payment insurance, (commonly referred to as simply “med pay” insurance) is an often overlooked, but nonetheless, useful element of most drivers’ automobile insurance policies. Unfortunately, many people are either unaware that their auto insurance policies include med pay coverage, are unfamiliar with what med pay coverage actually is, or are unwilling to contact their insurer to inquire about med pay coverage, despite how important such coverage may be in the event of an accident. The goal of this blog post is to explain the concept of med pay insurance, exploring what, exactly, med pay is, when it should pay an insured driver, how drivers can obtain it, and whether acquiring med pay coverage is a good idea. In addition, the statute that establishes med pay coverage in Ohio will be analyzed, and insurers’ obligations under that statute will be discussed.

Before you start, please realize that “med pay” is different than “PIP”, which stands for personal injury protection. Lawrence & Associates has a blog post about PIP, which take the place of med pay for Kentucky automobile insurance policies.

What is “Med Pay” Insurance?

Before discussing the more complex questions referenced in the introduction, it is necessary to provide an answer to a very basic question – what exactly is “med pay” insurance? The simplest answer to that question is that med pay coverage is a component of many automobile insurance policies, which will pay medical bills that are the result of an automobile accident. A more detailed answer is that med pay coverage permits a driver that has been injured in an accident to submit their medical bills to their insurance providers for payment, regardless of whether said driver was the cause of the accident. The coverage is not limited to just the driver; it extends to any occupants of the driver’s vehicle, as well.

The inevitable questions that arise from these descriptions of med pay insurance are: why does one need med pay insurance if they already have health insurance? Is med pay insurance really necessary, or will it only serve as an excuse for insurance companies to increase one’s premiums? Will taking the additional steps necessary to acquire med pay coverage really pay off if one is involved in an accident?

The short answer to these questions is that, yes, obtaining med pay insurance is, generally, a good idea, and most drivers should probably consider contacting their insurer to determine whether their policy includes med pay coverage, and, if not, how they can go about getting it. A more detailed, satisfying answer to these questions will be discussed in the following section, entitled “Is Obtaining Med Pay Insurance a Good Idea?”

Is Obtaining Med Pay Insurance a Good Idea?

Obtaining or retaining med pay coverage is a good idea for most drivers. Although many will believe that med pay only serves to increase the amount of money that they have to shell out every month for their auto insurance policies, or are under the false impression that health insurance coverage will suffice to cover the expenses of injuries sustained in auto accidents, or even believe that injuries sustained in accidents that are the fault of another driver will be reimbursed by that driver through their insurance or as the result of a lawsuit, these assertions are ungrounded or are simply false. The benefits provided by Med Pay far outweigh any negative aspects of obtaining coverage.

First, med pay coverage will do little to increase most drivers’ premiums. Generally speaking, such coverage is very inexpensive. Insurance.com states that the cost of adding med pay coverage to one’s auto insurance policy is as cheap as about $5.00 a month under most policies. When this cost is compared to the amount of coverage one receives in exchange, which is typically about $5,000 to $10,000 per person, the economic feasibility and financial sense provided by med pay coverage becomes apparent.

Second, even if one has health insurance, most would agree that obtaining med pay coverage is nevertheless a good idea. Many drivers choose to get med pay coverage in order to bolster their existing health insurance plans. However, many drivers with health insurance choose to also get med pay because many health insurance policies are accompanied by high deductibles, co-pays, etc., that saddle the policy holder with the responsibility of paying a certain amount of medical expenses out-of-pocket and upfront before the health insurance company steps in to cover anything. Med pay, however, has no deductible or co-pay, and it pays medical costs quickly. Another advantage of med pay over typical health insurance policies is that med pay will provide coverage for a plethora of expenses that many health insurance policies will not, including ambulance fees, chiropractor fees, dental fees, etc.

Third, any notion that med pay coverage is unnecessary because of a potential suit against another at-fault driver should be dispelled immediately. Even if one is involved in a multiple-vehicle accident (keep in mind that med pay coverage extends to single-car accidents, as well, as it is not limited to multiple-car accidents), and even if the other driver(s) were partially or totally at fault, bringing suit against them is long process – a process that may take months, or even years, before any sort of damages will be awarded. Additionally, simply bringing a claim does not guarantee success; the aforementioned years-long legal battle may end in the plaintiff having been awarded an amount less than what they expected, or even having been awarded no damages at all. Med pay coverage, however, pays medical costs almost immediately, and is not contingent on the outcome of years of litigation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, given the myriad of benefits that become available once med pay coverage is obtained, most insured drivers should take steps to acquire med pay coverage if their current policy does not provide for its inclusion. Med pay coverage will provide for payment of medical fees that are not typically covered by many health insurance policies, and will often provide for quick payment of these bills. These benefits, and others, can be obtained for as little as $5.00 a month under most auto policies, but will deliver to the insured the advantage of, typically, $5,000 to $10,000 in benefits in the event of an accident. Because of the multiple advantages associated with med pay, and because of its low cost, it makes economic and financial sense for most drivers to do whatever necessary to secure med pay coverage.

Have you been injured in a car accident, live in Ohio, and do you have additional questions about med pay? Call Lawrence & Associates today for a free consultation! We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!


Can Someone Sue Me if They Get Hurt on My Trampoline?

Posted on Tuesday, May 9th, 2017 at 11:46 am    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Raphael Jackson, a law student from the Chase School of Law.

Trampolines are a common fixture to many a suburban household. Many parents raising children in the digital age can appreciate the old fashioned outdoor fun they can provide their children by installing a trampoline in the backyard. An added advantage is the relative safety a parent may feel when his or her child does not have to venture far from home to enjoy the outdoor recreation.

Averaging $200, trampolines are more affordable than most playground sets, which can run anywhere between $500 to $2,000. The safety of keeping your child close by, however, may be negated by the injury that is likely to occur if you own a trampoline. Given the relatively low costs and ease of installation, trampolines are an attractive means of recreation, not just for children, but for people of all ages. However, from a legal standpoint, this “attraction” is precisely what a homeowner or tenant must be concerned about.

How Often Do People Really Get Injured on a Trampoline?

A study published by Dr. Randall T. Loder, chair of orthopedic surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine, revealed that trampoline injuries have led to 288,876 fractures and over $1 billion in emergency room visits between 2002 and 2011. 92.7% injuries occurred in children age 16 and younger. Thus, chances are, if you do have a trampoline someone is likely to be injured while using it.  A landlord may be liable for your personal injury, or the personal injury of a visitor, guest, or a trespasser.

Simply said, trampolines pose numerous safety hazards. If you are a renting a home you may have had an encounter in which a landlord insists that you remove, or not introduce, a trampoline onto the premises. If you are a home owner, you may have experienced insurance clauses which forbid trampolines.

Will My Insurance Cover Trampoline Injuries?

Many insurance policies will refuse to cover the insured if the owner insists on having a trampoline. Insurance companies are aware of the greater likelihood for injury on those who own a trampoline and they have reacted in the following ways:

  • Outright cancellation of insurance
  • Mandatory trampoline exclusion
  • Additional “nuisance surcharge”
  • Mandatory netting/ fencing/ and or locks on trampoline

Premises Liability is a legal theory that usually applies to personal injury cases. In order to prevail on a personal injury claim the party needs to prove that the property owner was negligent in the ownership or maintenance of an equipment or a condition on his property.

Whether you are a tenant or a landowner, you are likely to have invited or uninvited visitors on your property.  These visitors can be divided into three main categories. To each category the landowner owes a special duty of care. The three main categories of visitors are invitees, licensees, and trespassers.

  • Invitees – An invitee is a visitor that has the owner’s express permission to be on the property. People who fall into this category include friends, guests, neighbors, and relatives. The duty owed to the invitee is simply to exercise reasonable care in keeping the property in a relatively safe condition.
  • Licensees – A licensee is someone who has either: the owners express permission to be on the property; or the owners implied permission to be on the property. The difference between a licensee and an invitee is that the licensee is visiting for his or own purposes. Licensees might include the pizza delivery person or the vacuum cleaner salesman. The landowner’s duty to the licensee is less than that of the invitee. The landowner has a duty to warn of a dangerous condition only if:
    1)      The landowner knows about the condition; and
    2)      The Licensee is not likely to discover it.
  • Trespassers – A trespasser is someone who has no authorization to be on the property. The landowner’s only duty to the trespasser is not to engage in any willful or wanton misconduct. There is an exception however to the duty owed to trespassing children.

A different legal theory applies, however, to tenants or landowners that maintain a condition or piece of equipment on property which is likely to attract children. This can extend to swimming pools, farm machinery, playground equipment, skateboard ramps, and trampolines. Most trampoline accidents involve people under the age of sixteen. If you have an accessible trampoline on your property you likely have what may be considered an attractive nuisance. An attractive nuisance is a legal theory that states that a landowner may be liable for injuries to children trespassing on their property if the injury is caused by an item that may attract children to the property.

What If Someone Was Hurt Because the Trampoline Was Defective?

If you or a loved one were not engaged in any risky behavior on a properly-installed trampoline yet you still suffered injury due to a manufacturing defect, then you may have a cause of action under a products liability theory. In this event the legal question will centered on one or more of the following questions.

Was there a manufacturing defect with the trampoline?

Was the homeowner negligent?

Was a third party user negligent?

Did the injured party assume the risk?

What Steps Should I Take to Avoid Becoming Part of a Trampoline Lawsuit?

Aside from avoiding legal liability it is also generally advisable, from a safety standpoint, to avoid installing a trampoline in your backyard. However, for those who insist on owning one, it may be wise to adhere to the following guidelines.

  • Purchase trampoline insurance coverage
  • Consider investing in a fence around your property
  • Discourage or forbid multiple simultaneous users on the trampoline
  • Purchase a trampoline safety net (and lock for the net)
  • Consider ground level installation of your trampoline.
  • Maintain and Inspect trampoline for defects regularly
  • Supervise your children’s usage of the trampoline

Following these guidelines may not serve as a protection to legal liability for personal injury, but they can go a long way in ensuring personal safety. The complexity of the rules of liability vary state to state, thus it is wise to contact an attorney for a consultation in order to address your specific case.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a trampoline related accident, call Lawrence & Associates for a free consultation. We are Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!


What Are The Primary Reasons Social Security Disability Benefits Are Denied?

Posted on Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017 at 8:48 am    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Jessie Smith, a law student from the University of Kentucky.

Many people suffer from debilitating injuries or conditions that prevent them from working at all. Others’ conditions so severely limit the amount of time that they can devote to work each month that they, effectively, are prevented from earning a livable wage. Oftentimes, the only place for people in these positions to turn is the Social Security Administration in an attempt to obtain Social Security Disability benefits. Unfortunately, requests for these benefits are often denied. This blog post will explore the primary reasons that such requests are denied.

1. Lack of Adequate Medical Documentation to Support One’s Claim

When one applies for Social Security Disability benefits, his or her request will be solely decided upon the proffered medical documentation. What this means for someone who has applied, or is going to apply, for disability benefits is that the more medical records one has to demonstrate that they suffer from the condition claimed, the more likely it is that their request will be granted. Practically speaking, of course, one would have to make regular visits to a physician to obtain treatment for their medical condition. Such frequent visits will result in the accumulation of medical evidence to support one’s claim, which will, in effect, make it more likely that the Social Security Administration will approve a request for disability benefits.

The problem many people face, however, is that frequent visits to a treating physician can be cost-prohibitive and time-consuming. Medical treatment, for any condition, rarely comes cheap. Even if one has medical insurance, deductibles for many plans are high – too high for some to take advantage of frequent medical treatment. Those who do not have insurance at all are in a worse condition; paying for medical treatment, relying solely upon out-of-pocket resources, is an option few can afford.

For those who find themselves in such a position, it is wise to pursue low-cost or free medical treatment options that are available in their community. Many communities have cheap or low-cost medical clinics where they can obtain treatment, and thus amass medical records. Others can seek out treatment from physicians that offer low, monthly payment plans, or offer services based on a sliding scale fee basis (a “sliding scale fee basis” is a plan under which a physician bases the costs of his or her services on the patient’s ability to pay). Finally, few communities are without a hospital, and therefore an emergency room. Therefore, if no other option exists, visits to the local ER are another way to build a portfolio of medical evidence that can later be used in making one’s Social Security benefits determination.

Ultimately, if an applicant has not sought and obtained medical treatment for their condition recently, the Social Security Administration will require said applicant to have a “consultative medical exam” performed. These exams are performed by physicians hired by the Social Security Administration; they are performed so that Social Security disability examiners can have recent medical records at their disposal when making disability determinations. The problem with these “consultative medical exams” is that they are often performed hastily, are oftentimes not thorough, and rarely reveal many of the symptoms that a disability applicant is claiming. In other words, they are a poor substitute for obtaining medical records via one of the aforementioned means, i.e., private physicians, local clinics, and emergency rooms.

2. Once One’s Claim is Denied, They Fail to Fully Pursue the Appeals Process

The vast majority of disability claimants are denied benefits upon initial application. In fact, one source provides that nearly 70% of all Social Security Disability claims are denied under the first application. Many people do not realize that an appeals process exists under which they can continue to pursue receipt of disability benefits.

The first step in the appeals process is to file a “request for reconsideration.” Such a request must be filed within sixty days of the date one receives their letter denying disability benefits. For those who pursue this option, close to 15% are ultimately approved for benefits.

If a request for reconsideration fails, the second step in the appeals process is to file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). This hearing typically involves a review of existing evidence, but new evidence may be considered, as well. At these hearings, a disability claimant, as well as witnesses, including medical experts, may be questioned by the ALJ. For those who pursue this second step in the appeals process, around 60% are ultimately approved for the receipt of disability benefits.

The third step in the appeals process is to request a review by a Social Security Appeals Council. If an Appeals Council reviews one’s case, it may decide the outcome of one’s case on it’s own, or, alternatively, may return the case to the ALJ for further consideration. It is important to note that an Appeals Council may deny one’s request for review; however, if this occurs, or if the Appeals Council decides the case on it’s own, and denies one disability benefits, a lawsuit may be filed in a federal district court. This suit represents the last step of the appeals process.

Ultimately, based upon the aforementioned numbers, the more one appeals their decision, the more likely it is that they will ultimately be approved for receipt of disability benefits. Statistically speaking, if one is initially denied benefits, the appeals process is likely to reverse this negative outcome. However, failing to pursue any of these options, whether due to lack of knowledge of the process, or an unwillingness to engage in these often lengthy processes, would result in never receiving disability benefits.

3. One’s Disability is Not Included in the “Social Security Impairment Manual”

The Social Security Impairment Manual provides a list of many conditions that the Social Security Administration considers to be disabilities. It also provides a list of the specifications that must be met to constitute being afflicted by these disabilities in the eyes of the Social Security Administration. Many people whose disabilities are not listed in this manual are often denied Social Security Disability benefits. However, the simple fact that one’s disability is not included in the manual does not mean that they are not eligible for disability benefits. In fact, most disability claimants that are provided benefits do not suffer from any of the conditions listed in the Impairment Manual.

Ultimately, suffering from a disability listed in the Impairment Manual is typically sufficient, but is, by no means, necessary, to obtain disability benefits. If one suffers from a disability not included in the Impairment Manual, the Social Security disability adjudicator is required to apply other rules to determine whether an applicant is, in fact, disabled.

An Attorney May Be Able to Help You for No Out of Pocket Charge

In sum, the three primary reasons Social Security Disability benefits are quite often denied stems from a lack of medical documentation to support one’s claim of disability, failure to fully pursue the entirety of the appeals process, and, to a lesser extent, suffering from a disability not included in the Social Security Impairment Manual. Ultimately, however, each of these problems stems from the lack of medical evidence to support a claim of disability. The more medical evidence one accumulates, the less likely it is they will be denied their initial application, the less likely it is they will lose during the appeals process, and the less likely it is that they will be denied benefits simply because their condition is not listed in the Social Security Impairment Manual.

A good social security attorney is trained to prove your disability for you whenever possible. Further, social security attorneys do not charge a fee out of pocket to you, so you never have to worry about paying one. Rather, the attorney’s fee is a percentage of your back due award, if any. If you think you may be able to claim disability, call Lawrence & Associates today and ask for a free consultation. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!


Can You Receive Workers’ Compensation for an Injury in the Parking Lot at Work?

Posted on Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 at 10:51 am    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Caitlin DiCrease, a law student from Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

What is the “Coming and Going Rule?”

Workers’ compensation covers injuries that occur to an employee during the course of his or her employment. Typically, an employee can only recover workers’ compensation for injuries that occur in workplace setting. This generally does not include injuries that happen as an employee is traveling to or from work. Under both Kentucky and Ohio law, injuries that occur during travel are generally not considered work-related and therefore are not eligible for compensation. This legal standard is known as the “coming and going rule.”

However, in Kentucky, an employee’s injuries can be covered when a worker is injured while “on the employer’s operating premises and not substantially deviating from the normal activities of coming or going.” Under this exception, injuries in a parking lot that is under the employer’s control will often be covered by workers’ compensation.

Ohio also usually does not provide workers’ compensation for injuries during travel, under a similar coming and going rule. Ohio law, however, allows workers’ compensation to cover injuries within an employer’s parking lot if the injury “arises from the employment relationship.” In both states, the employee must be injured while doing an activity that is related to his or her employment to be eligible for workers’ compensation.

How Kentucky Case Law Decided to Cover Workers Comp Injuries in Parking Lots

In 2015, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that workers’ compensation can cover an employee’s injury that occurs in a company-controlled parking lot. In this case, a woman was walking from her car and slipped on a patch of black ice which was on the sidewalk in front of her office.

The Kentucky court found that her activities leading up to her injury – namely, parking her car in the employer’s lot and walking on the sidewalk to her office – were work-related and therefore covered under workers’ compensation law. The sidewalk where she was injured was held to be a part of her employer’s “operating premises” due to the level of control that the employer had over the area. Because her injury was work-related and happened on the employer’s premises, the court allowed her to receive workers’ compensation.

The court looked to several factors to determine that the parking lot and sidewalk were part of the employer’s operating premises and that the use of that space was work-related. If employees need to use the sidewalk and parking lot to gain access to their workplace and the area is “in the control of the employer,” an injury occurring in that area will qualify for workers’ compensation. Also, if the employer has provided a parking lot for the use of its employees, the lot will be considered part of the employer’s operating premises. If an employee parks outside of the lot or area that has been designated for employee use, any injury that occurs while going into the office will not be covered by workers’ compensation. The employer need not own the lot for the injury to be covered.

Essentially, if your employer has provided you with a place to park in order to access your workplace, injuries that happen within that parking in that area for work purposes can be covered by a proper workers’ compensation claim. If you park in an area that is not controlled by the employer and that the employer has not pointed out to you as designated parking, injuries that occur within that space will not be covered. The courts will look to the specific facts of the case to decide whether the injury will qualify for workers’ compensation.

How Ohio Case Law Makes it More Difficult to Get Workers Comp for a Parking Lot Injury

Ohio evaluates injuries in an employee parking lot differently than the Kentucky court. In general, travel to or from work is not covered by Ohio’s workers’ compensation claims. In Ohio, employees that are “fixed” in one location – those who complete their employment duties at a specific and identifiable workplace – will not have travel related injuries covered by workers’ compensation. Only if travel is a “special hazard” created by the scope of the employment will an Ohio court allow resulting injuries to be covered.

However, Ohio courts may allow recovery for injuries that happen in an employer’s parking lot. For example, an employee who was injured on a public street adjacent to the employee parking lot has been held by one Ohio court to have been acting “within the zone of employment” such that her injuries qualified for workers’ compensation. Parking lot injuries will be evaluated on a fact specific basis, similarly to in Kentucky.

The courts look at how close the scene of the accident is to the workplace, the degree of control the employer has over the scene of the accident, and if the employee was at the scene of the accident for the benefit of the employer. These factors help the Ohio courts decide whether or not the injury happened while doing an activity that is related to the person’s employment. If the parking lot injury did occur during an employment related activity, it can qualify for workers’ compensation. Typically, workplace parking lots will fulfill the requirements under Ohio law.

Have you been injured at work? Even in difficult cases, our attorneys are here to help. Call Lawrence & Associates for a free consultation today. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!


What You Should Expect from an Ohio Workers’ Compensation Claim

Posted on Wednesday, April 19th, 2017 at 3:16 pm    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Ian Fasnacht, a law student from Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Workers’ compensation can include compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and permanent impairment that occurs during employment. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has several steps necessary to file a claim. The steps will be similar for states other than Ohio, but guidelines may vary and information should be verified with each state’s BWC.

If the injury or illness is severe, seeking medical attention should be the primary objective; however, as treatment proceeds it will be important to keep record of all medical bills for filing purposes.

How To File an Ohio Workers’ Compensation Claim

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has strict guidelines, which must be met to qualify for Workers’ compensation. Failure to meet the guidelines may result in a denial.

First, an employee must report the injury to the employer as soon as possible. After the injury is reported a First Report of an Injury, Occupational Disease, or Death (FROI) will need to be completed. The FROI can be completed by the employer, employee, or by the employee with the assistance of their medical practitioner. Claims can be filed online with the BWC.

Submitting an FROI has strict guidelines that must be met. A claim must be filed with the BWC within two years of the date of the injury. If filing for an occupational disease, the FROI must be filed within two years of the date one becomes permanently disabled, or within six months of the date a medical practitioner diagnosed the illness.

Within twenty-eight days of submitting the FROI form, the BWC will notify the employee if their claim has been approved or denied.

Why Was My Workers’ Compensation Claim Denied?

Workers’ compensation claims can be denied for a variety of reasons, and the specific reason an individual case was denied will be listed on the BWC’s decision, which is released within 28 days of filing. Lack of information, employer denial, or severity of the claim is the most common reasons a claim is denied.

First, claims are denied for a lack of information, failure to file on time, or failure to report. One of the simplest ways to help ensure a claim does not lack information is to keep records of medical expenses and doctor’s diagnoses throughout the process.

Another common reason a claim is denied is because an employer may deny that an employee’s injury occurred at work or that the injury is not a result of the workplace accident. Employers often deny claims because successful claims increase their Workers’ compensation insurance premiums, thus defeating the claim will not raise their rates.

Finally, claims may be denied because the injury was not severe enough to be covered by Workers’ compensation. Regardless of the reason a claim was denied, the all claims may be appealed.

How Appeals Work in the Ohio Workers’ Compensation System

After the claim is denied, an employee has 14 days to appeal. To file an appeal a form will need to be completed through the Ohio Industrial Commission. The forms can be filled out online or printed and mailed. Once the appeal request is received, several steps will follow.

First, a district level hearing will take place within 45 days of the initial appeal. Before the hearing, witness affidavits, depositions, and other evidence may be submitted to the Ohio Industrial Commission’s office for review. In addition, the Ohio Industrial Commission may require an independent medical examination. The examination is mandatory, but the results will be made available to both parties. After hearing the evidence, the presiding officer will make a written decision and mail it to both parties within seven days.

After the district level hearing, either party can appeal for a staff level hearing, which will take place within 45 days of the initial hearing. Usually, no new evidence is permitted, but an officer reviews the information and issues a written opinion to both parties.

The first two levels of appeal are guaranteed, but if the parties are still unhappy they may appeal for a commission level hearing. After reviewing the information from the staff hearing, the Ohio Industrial Commission will either grant or deny an appeal. If the appeal is granted a hearing will be conducted within 45 days and a written decision will be mailed within seven days. The Ohio Industrial Commission’s decision may be appealed to the state courts of Ohio. If the decision is denied an appeal can be made to the state courts of Ohio within 60 days.

Why an Attorney Should Help You Get Workers’ Compensation

The appeal process can be long, and it may be in the employee’s best interest to get help from an attorney to receive the benefits they deserve. Due to the multitude of reasons a claim may be denied – failure to file on time, employer dispute – an appeal may be able to provide an opportunity to add additional evidence in support of the claim.

Additional information such as surveillance videos, co-workers testimony, medical history, and doctor testimony may be able to provide the necessary information on appeal. However, it is possible that evidence that should have been introduced originally will not be allowed to be introduced for the first time on appeal. The best way to make sure you don’t have to appeal is to make sure all your evidence and best legal arguments get presented immediately, and continually re-raised throughout the process. Getting an attorney is the best way to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Seeking legal council is advised for an appeals process because deadlines are short and strict, the process can be long, and the Ohio Industrial Commission will expect an appeal to properly follow the rules of evidence. Additionally, an attorney can help decide if an appeal is the best option based on the specific reason an individual case was denied.

If you’ve been injured in an Ohio Work Accident, don’t go it alone. Call Lawrence & Associates for a free consultation today. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!


Can I Be Liable for my Spouse’s Debt?

Posted on Monday, April 10th, 2017 at 5:04 pm    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Linda Long, a Juris Doctor student at the NKU Salmon P. Chase College of Law.

It’s interesting, there is an older statute still on the books that deals with a husband’s liability to a wife specifically. I’ll include it because I think that it is interesting. Under KRS 404.040 “Liability of Husband for Wife’s debts,” the statute provides: “The husband shall not be liable for any debt or responsibility of the wife contracted or incurred before or after marriage, except to the amount or value of the value of the property he received from or by her by the marriage; but he shall be liable for necessaries furnished to her after marriage.”

This statute is interesting because it is an example of just how far the law in Kentucky and the country has come. We have been brought a long way from gendered laws like these to more non-bias ones, but liability for a spouse’s debt is still an issue. The following is an explanation for the age-old question: Am I liable for my spouse’s debt?

The short answer is- it depends. I know, typical law school answer, but it is appropriate here. The biggest question is whether your state follows common law or community property rules.

Does Your State Follow Common Law, Community Property, or Equitable Division Rules?

As a rule, in common law states one spouse is not liable for the other’s debt. At common law, a spouse may be liable for his or her spouse’s debt depending on:

  • Where you live;
  • Whether the debt is a joint debt;
  • Whether you are a cosigner; and
  • Whether the debt was assigned to you in a divorce proceeding.

Generally, if you live in a common-law state, liability for credit card debts is triggered if the debt was in your name. Typically, if one spouse has put a line of credit or a credit card in his or her name, then you are on the hook as you would be if you two were not married.

However, if the couple lives in a community property state, the analysis of who is liable for debt go to the next step. In community property states, liability can be assigned to one spouse or both depending on the circumstances. For example, factors that are considered in deciding who owes debt are:

  • Whether the debt was incurred during the marriage;
  • Whether the debt benefitted both members of the marriage; and
  • Whether the creditor sues the non-signing spouse who loses the lawsuit and has a judgment against him or her.

So, to put that in perspective, if the debt was acquired during marriage, both spouses are generally liable for the debt incurred. That makes logical sense because at divorce in a community property state, anything acquired during the marriage is divided equally at divorce. It follows that if the wife incurs debt after marrying the husband, then both spouses are responsible for the debt. Just as if the wife had a book deal that earned her 5 million dollars, and she got that after the marriage, in community property states, the husband has a right to half of the profits from the book deal. Same logic, same rule, same outcome.

The second above listed prong kind of goes hand in hand with the first one. If both spouses are benefitted from the debt, then they both may be liable for repaying it. It is like what counts as gross income in the tax world. Per the tax rules, an increase in wealth is gross income and must be claimed for tax purposes. Simply put, if a person gains he or she is responsible. For example, if a husband takes out a loan for a home the wife can be presumed to have benefitted from the debt that the husband incurred. In community property states, the wife would be responsible for the loan that was in the husband’s name.

Thirdly, if the wife takes out a loan, and the creditor decides to sue both the wife and the husband to collect the debt, then, in community property states, the judgment may be enforced against the husband as well.

Community property states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Neither Kentucky nor Ohio are community property states.

Kentucky and Ohio are both equitable division states, and are subject to different rules. In equitable distribution states, it is usually the joint responsibility of both spouses to pay off the debt even if one spouse did not incur it. This is the rule if both spouses are the co-signers on the loan or debt.

How Do Prenuptial and Antenuptial Agreements Affect Spousal Debt?

One spouse can agree before or after marriage to pay the debt of the other. Two spouses can enter a prenuptial agreement that creates an obligation on one spouse to pay the debts of the other even if they are not obligated by law to pay the debt. The same is true for antenuptial agreements. However, both prenuptial and antenuptial agreements are only binding to the married or divorced parties. Neither agreement is binding to third parties. Therefore, a creditor does not have to defer to the agreement of the spouses. Meaning, if the loan is taken out in the husband’s name, and the wife contracted to pay his debt, the creditor still can enforce the loan against the husband.

The following steps should be taken if your spouse is sued or is about to be sued for a debt:

  • Consult with an attorney to learn your state’s laws;
  • Analyze the type of debt (because one spouse may be liable depending on the type of debt; i.e. medical debts), and;
  • Avoid joint financial accounts.

It is advisable to take care to protect your credit after spousal debt is resolved. This takes a lot of work after resolving the issues, but worth it! Swimming in debt is hard, and it can take a skilled swimmer to stay afloat. Most legal professionals are equipped with the skills that can help keep you from drowning.

If you have any other questions about spousal debt, or if you would like a free consultation with an attorney about how a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can resolve spousal debt, call us today.  We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!


Credit Fraud And The Fair Credit Reporting Act

Posted on Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 at 2:15 pm    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Jessie Smith, a law student from the University of Kentucky.

An unfortunate reality of modern living involves the prevalence of credit scams and creditor harassment. Those who have fallen victim to a credit scam, or suspect they have fallen victim to such a scam, are oftentimes left wondering what, if any, courses of action are available to unwind the inevitable fraudulent transactions that follow suit. The goal of this blog post is to identify some of the most common types of credit scams that exist today, illuminate the legal issues that surround these scams, and discuss some of the remedies that are available to those who have fallen victim to these schemes. To that end, an examination of the most widespread scams that pervade the current legal landscape will first be had.

What Are Some Of The Most Common Types Of Credit Scams?

Whether by simple convenience or sheer malice, the most prominent form of credit scam involves the utilization of consumers’ credit card information. Indeed, according to one source, forty percent of all financial fraud is associated with credit cards. The question that becomes immediately apparent is: how are fraudsters able to obtain one’s credit card information? The answer varies from the inanely basic to the technologically advanced.

For example, one method used by credit card scammers to obtain credit card information is known as “skimming.” Skimming involves placing a device, referred to as a “skimmer,” over swiping mechanisms in credit card readers in stores, ATMs, and gas pumps. When a customer swipes their card through the card reader, the skimmer essentially copies the card’s information. Later, that information is gathered by the criminal and used to make illegitimate transactions under the cardholder’s name.

A method related to, yet distinct from, skimming is a process called “digital skimming,” by which a fraudster utilizes a technology known as “radio-frequency identification” to obtain a victim’s credit card information remotely. This process is, at its most basic, the modern equivalent of pickpocketing. The scammer may use something as mundane and unthreatening as a smartphone, equipped with a particular app, which, when equipped, permits the theft of credit card information from distances of as much as six inches away.

A less advanced, yet common, method of stealing cardholders’ information is mail fraud. A credit card fraudster will look through one’s mail, searching for credit card statements that contain the pertinent information needed to perpetrate the fraud, or, worse, a pre-approved credit card offer. The forms provided with pre-approved offers are filled out and mailed back to the credit card company, and the criminal later steals the newly issued credit card.

Yet another method of effecting credit fraud is a modern phenomenon that involves a low-tech, albeit clever, scheme. A fraudster will call an unsuspecting victim, and, whilst recording the conversation, ask the victim a question with the intent of having the victim verbally utter the word “yes” (often, the question posed will be something like “Can you hear me?”). This recording is later edited and saved so that the scammer can use the recorded statement (i.e., “yes”) to authorize credit transactions in the victim’s name.

Each of the aforementioned methods of credit fraud have one common thread running through each of them: they will, at some point in time, result in negative information being provided to credit reporting companies. Although these companies do not knowingly, nor willingly, participate in these frauds, some of the most damaging consequences of identity theft and credit fraud concern one’s credit report, and, thus, the credit reporting companies that prepare such reports. Luckily for those that fall victim to credit fraud, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (hereinafter “FCRA”) provides a plethora of rights that one may exercise when faced with credit fraud.

What Remedies Are Available To Victims Of Credit Scams?

Although credit scams are clearly a regrettable fact of modern living, there are a number of steps a victim of credit fraud can take to seek some amount of redress for their economic injuries. Some of the options available to mitigate the damage incurred by credit fraud are provided by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (hereinafter “FCRA”). The rights afforded to victims of credit fraud under the FCRA are outlined below:

1. Place a “Fraud Alert” on Your Credit Report
Once one suspects or confirms that they have fallen victim to credit fraud, they have the right to ask one of the three major credit reporting companies (that is, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) to place a “fraud alert” on their credit report. A fraud alert provides creditors with notice that one may have had their identity stolen, and makes it difficult for identity thieves to obtain credit in one’s name. When a fraud alert is present on one’s credit report, creditors must verify one’s identity before issuing credit, which, in many instances, will result in a phone call being placed to one before a transaction is undergone. A fraud alert will remain on one’s credit report for ninety days; however, fraud alerts can be renewed at the end of this period.

2. Place an “Extended Alert” on Your Credit Report
An alternative to renewing a “fraud alert” every ninety days is to place an “extended alert” on one’s credit report. An extended alert remains active for seven years. However, in order to place an extended alert on one’s credit report, one will need to provide an “identity theft report” to the credit reporting company. An identity theft report is, in essence, a police report that has been filed with a law enforcement agency, whether said agency be local, state, or federal in nature.

3. Acquire Documents Related to the Credit Fraud
In addition to the aforementioned rights, victims of credit fraud have the right to obtain copies of credit card applications or other records pertaining to the transactions that have occurred or accounts that have been opened due to the fraud. However, it is important to note that a request for such documentation must be made in writing, and the businesses or creditors involved may ask for a police report, an affidavit, and proof of identity before releasing the records.

4. Gather Information from Debt Collectors, if any are Involved
If a debt collector contacts a victim of credit fraud in an attempt to collect on a debt fraudulently incurred, said victim has the right to obtain information from the debt collector, including the name of the creditor and amount of debt incurred.

5. Ask Credit Reporting Companies to Block Information Resulting from Credit Fraud
In the most unfortunate of circumstances, a victim of credit fraud may find themselves in a position of owing debt that they did not authorize nor incur. When this happens, victims of credit scams have the right to ask credit reporting companies to block information from their credit report that is related to the fraud or identity theft. In order to do so, one must provide the credit reporting company with proof of their identity, as well as an identity theft report.

6. Prevent Creditors from Reporting Negative Information to Credit Reporting Companies
A victim of credit fraud has the right to ask businesses and creditors not to report information to credit reporting agencies, as well. Where a victim of credit fraud believes that information possessed by businesses or creditors is the result of identity theft, they may ask the creditor to refrain from reporting said information to credit reporting agencies, assuming a copy of an identity theft report, as well as identification of the information the victim wishes not to be reported, is provided. In addition, such a request must be sent to an address provided by the business in question.

In sum, it is apparent that, in today’s world, credit fraud is an all-too-common problem that many will face at one point or another. Those saddled with the burden of rectifying credit fraud perpetrated against them face an uphill battle. However, some amount of comfort may be had in knowing that Congress, through passage of the FCRA, has provided those affected by credit fraud with rights that will diminish the damage done to victims’ financial reputation.

Do you need to file bankruptcy as a result of credit card fraud? Don’t go it alone. Lawrence & Associates is working hard for the working class, and we want to help you!

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