What are Consumer Protection Laws?

Consumer protection laws are federal and state statutes that regulate seller and lender practices concerning consumer goods. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are federal agencies that handle product safety standards and consumer complaints, respectively.

These laws typically go beyond the traditional legal remedies available for breach of warranty. These laws are found in nearly every state, but the details may vary.

  • Fair Debt Collection Act (FDCPA)
    • Limits what debt collectors can do when contacting or seeking you out to repay a debt.
    • Specifically prohibits such things as harassment.
    • Statutory damages and attorney’s fees can be awarded for debt collectors that do not comply.
  • Truth in Lending Act (TILA)
    • Covers a broad range of conduct, such as charging exorbitant interest rates on credit cards and other loans.
    • Covers hiding fees and penalties in the fine print of agreements.
  • False or Misleading Advertising and Pricing
    • This is covered under federal law, and most states have their own statutes that address such practices.
      • Many states tie-in warranty clauses.
    • Examples of false or misleading practices can include car salesmen using “bait and switch” tactics. Another example could be a seller selling you a broken product, whether intentionally or negligently.

A big problem that consumers face is the relatively small amount of economic damages that they suffer as a result of a company’s improper conduct.

A class action lawsuit helps to equalize or tip the balance of power. An individual whose rights have been violated can join together with others who have similar claims against the same defendant.

In ordinary lawsuits, a plaintiff can typically only recover his or her actual losses. However, many consumer protection laws allow consumers to seek additional penalties, which can drastically increase the damage award, sometimes even tripling the amount of actual damages.

If you think that your rights have been violated, contact a consumer rights lawyer that can answers your questions and get you the help that you need. Many lawyers offer free consultations, and there are statute of limitations to consider in some cases. Thus, it is in your best interest to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

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What Traffic Law Violations Cause Wrecks?

Vehicle safety regulations exist largely to minimize the number of auto accidents and improve the efficiency at which traffic moves. Disobeying a traffic law can often put other vehicle occupants and pedestrians at risk for injury in a traffic collision. Police enforce traffic laws rigorously, and if a violation results in an accident, the driver may be responsible for injuries and damages resulting from the crash.

A skilled lawyer can utilize police reports, observe damages and injuries resulting from the crash, talk to eyewitnesses and work with professionals who can reconstruct an accident in order to determine who is at fault and whether someone broke a law.

Breaking almost any traffic law can cause a car crash, but some of the most commonly broken regulations that result in collisions include:

  • Following too close/tailgating – Drivers must maintain a safe distance from other drivers on the road so that if one car needs to brake suddenly, the driver behind it has time to react and stop before a rear end collision occurs. These back end crashes can cause severe injuries, especially when the vehicles involved travel at high speeds.
  • Failing to stop at a red light or stop sign – Disregarding stop signs or traffic lights can result in fatal accidents, especially when the violating vehicle strikes another car directly on the driver or passenger’s side.
  • Speeding – Driving above the speed limit may give a driver less time to react to sudden obstacles, poor road conditions or other vehicles. Drivers should also adjust their speeds to compensate for weather conditions such as rain or fog.
  • Driving while Intoxicated – Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense, since it greatly inhibits a driver’s reaction time and other factors that are important for safe driving.
  • Cell phone use while driving – Many – but not all – states ban drivers from texting and talking on cell phones or other mobile devices while driving.
  • Careless driving, reckless driving and similar offenses – Various offenses exist to penalize drivers who are inattentive or driving dangerously. The definition of these terms and what types of behavior are prohibited by law differ from state to state. However, reckless driving typically indicates a willful and wanton disregard for traffic laws and comes with severe punishments.

Need to Talk to a Lawyer Who Investigates Traffic Violations?

Breaking the rules of the road may not only lead to criminal punishments, but also civil liability. In order to prove whether any traffic violation occurred, you need to seek out an experienced lawyer who can investigate accidents in order to determine the cause.

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Illinois Strikes Time Limits to Criminally Prosecute Sexual Abuse of Minors

In August 2017, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into the law SB 189, an amendment to the criminal code regarding sexual abuse of minors. The new law allows for prosecution of sexual abuse of children at any time, basically completely eradicating the statute of limitations for criminal cases. Previously, the victim had 20 years after attaining the age of majority at 18 to come forward for a criminal prosecution to take place. This law is hailed as progress and an achievement for individuals who have been childhood victims of sexual abuse. Some of these people harmed as minors do not understand what happened to them as young children, or they have repressed the memories. This new law allows police and prosecutors to pursue criminal perpetrators of sexual abuse without time limitations, and reads as follows:

(j)(1) When the victim is under 18 years of age at the time of the offense, a prosecution for criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, or felony criminal sexual abuse may be commenced at any time.

Note that this new law affects criminal prosecutions of sexual abuse of minors in Illinois, not civil actions. However, Illinois does have an extended time period to file a civil lawsuit for personal injury for childhood sexual abuse victims. Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 735, § 13-202.2(b) allows a victim 10 years after discovering the injury and that the injury was caused by child sexual abuse:

§ 13-202.2(b): An action for damages for personal injury based on childhood sexual abuse must be commenced within 10 years of the date the victim discovers that the act of childhood sexual abuse occurred and that the injury was caused by the childhood sexual abuse.

Anyone thinking about disclosing their childhood abuse in criminal and civil court should have a personal injury attorney evaluating the situation and offering legal advice and options. Individuals who speak out against these horrific crimes need support to shine a bright light on these criminal behaviors.

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Is Florida Deporting Undocumented Immigrants Who File Workers Comp?

Generally, all injured workers whose employer has workers’ compensation or is required by the state to have workers’ comp insurance have the right to file a claim after being hurt on the job. All states allow this, as the states know that whether they like it or not, undocumented immigrants are an important part of the United States economy. Many employers, whether right or wrong, rely on this labor in the hospitality industry, the restaurant industry, the construction industry and more. No matter how someone feels about this reality, states recognize that it is essential for an injured person to have access to medical treatment and a portion of lost wages after a job accident. However, Florida immigrants are facing a large problem due to a loophole in this law that is allowing police officers to use the workers’ comp filing against them for deportment proceedings.

In the Florida workers’ comp law, it is a crime to file a claim using a false identification. Insurance companies that review workers’ comp claims have actually been turning people into the police to avoid having to pay out workers’ comp benefits. This is not only terrible for the employee, who is already injured and will have other difficulties, but the employer, who has lost an employee and the economy as a whole. Further, many of these immigrants have their own families in this country that they support through their employment. Deportation of the breadwinner will seriously harm these remaining family members, who may fall into poverty and then become even more dependent on the states for assistance.

Undocumented workers and immigrants already have enough to fear in today’s political climate without having to further worry about being deported after being seriously injured at work. Anyone injured at work, whether a citizen, resident, work permit holder or undocumented immigrant should always speak to a lawyer after being hurt. A consultation with a lawyer is 100% confidential, and the attorney can guide the person towards their best options moving forward.

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Illinois Revamps Child Support Calculations

New child support regulations will be implemented on July 1, 2017. Prior to this overhaul of the calculations, child support was generally determined based upon the payor’s income and number of children. For example, a person who was obligated to pay child support (generally the non-custodial parent) had to pay 20% of his or her net income for one child, and higher percentages for more children.

This model of child support calculations seems to be dated, however, as most states now use the dual income model, where both parents’ income is used together to determine what the correct amount should be. Further, non-custodial parents can get credit if they have custody of the child for over 146 days per year. Although this is generally seen as fair to parents, others worry that parents might further fight over custody if one parent is trying to reach the 146 day threshold to lower the child support payments.

Another issue that arises is whether many parents are going to try to modify their child support payments if the new calculation results in a lower payment. However, the modification of child support is still generally going to be based on whether there has been a substantial change of circumstances that would justify the court reviewing the child support calculation. This could be 10% or more difference in payment either up or down.

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Were You Hurt in a Traffic Accident?

Traffic accidents happen regularly, and they often result in significant damage and injuries. In most states, the person at fault for a traffic accident is the one found negligent, and that person or the insurance company (who is not a party to the lawsuit, typically, but has a third-party contract with the driver) is responsible for the medical bills, vehicle repairs and victims’ damages.

However, the determining who is responsible is not always simple, and disputes can arise about who was at fault for a crash. When victims of auto accidents do not receive the compensation they need, personal injury lawyers can help. Injury lawyers know how to investigate car accidents and talk to the at-fault driver’s insurance company in order to get victims compensation.

When is a Driver Negligent?

Many actions can make a driver negligent and ultimately responsible for a traffic collision. Examples of negligence include:

  • Inattentiveness – If a driver is in a hurry or simply forgets to observe the road fully, a serious traffic accident can result.
  • Disobeying a traffic law – Many traffic laws are in place to make the road safe. When a driver travels at an unsafe speed, tailgates another vehicle or attempts another type of illegal maneuver, that driver acts in violation of the law and is liable for damages.
  • Driving while distracted – Though cell phone use in a vehicle is not illegal in every state, it still counts as a distraction and anyone using a handheld phone at the time of an accident is negligent. Other distractions include eating, drinking, applying makeup or anything that takes a driver’s focus away from the road.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs – Driving while intoxicated is one of the most serious offenses a driver can commit. Drunk drivers often cause fatal accidents, which can result in both criminal and civil liability.

How Can a Lawyer Find Out Who is at Fault for a Traffic Accident?

When traffic collisions occur, experienced lawyers have a variety of tools at their disposal that allow them to find out who is at fault for a traffic wreck. The following are a few resources lawyers use to assist victims:

  • Police reports – Police officers can greatly support a victim’s case. A police report specifies the details of the crash based on the information the officers can acquire at the scene.
  • Injuries and Damages – The physical effects of the accident on the vehicles, people and environment can provide significant details about the cause of the wreck.
  • Expert Investigators – Professional car and truck accident investigators can use available evidence to reconstruct the scene of the accident in order to determine what occurred.

Lawyers Who Handle Traffic Accidents

Many personal injury lawyers deal with traffic wreck liability. If you have a dispute about how much compensation you should receive from an insurance company or other driver following a car accident, having a lawyer on your side is imperative. A lawyer can negotiate a settlement or take a case to court if necessary to seek compensation on your behalf.

 

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Need an Attorney for Tax Law?

In the United States, tax laws are difficult to comprehend without a professional at your side. A number of lawyers are also CPAs, and other types of attorneys focus on tax litigation.

Different regulations dictate when the government can tax citizens for personal income, real estate, business profits, gifts, estates and a variety of other sources.

Is the IRS Claiming You Owe Back Taxes?

Income tax is a common source contention between the government and individuals and/or business owners. When a person owes back taxes, the worst thing he or she can do is ignore the notices from the IRS. The sooner you can review the situation with a tax lawyer, the better. Tax attorneys can negotiate with the IRS on the behalf of a person or business, and litigate the issue in tax court when necessary.

When an individual ignores IRS collection notices, penalties and interest will start to build. Further, if the IRS places a lien on a piece of property or a business asset, you will likely lose the ability to file bankruptcy and discharge the tax lien.

Can Bankruptcy Lawyers Help People with Tax Problems?

Bankruptcy can be an extremely useful tool for individuals with income tax debt. Certain income tax debt is dischargeable if it meets the eligibility requirements.

Once an IRS debt becomes a tax lien on a piece of property, it changes from being an unsecured loan to a secured loan. This has the effect of making the lien non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. However, you may be able to stop foreclosure from the tax lien by filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Most bankruptcy attorneys offer free consultations to review your debt situation and offer you options.

How Do Estate Planning Lawyers Minimize Taxes?

The federal government exempts a certain amount of a person’s estate from taxation. In 2015, this amount was over $5 million. Therefore, estate taxes (sometimes referred to as “death taxes” as an anti-estate tax political euphemism), only affect multi-million dollar estates. Some states have their own estate taxes, with exemptions that are typically lower than the federal exemption. A few states also have separate inheritance taxes, which affects those who receive portions of an estate.

An attorney who plans estates attempts to lower the total taxable value of an estate so that little or none of the estate is taxable. Lawyers who plan estates for clients can utilize several techniques in order to lessen or altogether eliminate the effect of taxes on a person’s estate. Depending on a client’s specific situation, an estate planning lawyer may advise actions such as the following:

  • Irrevocable trusts – Trusts involve the owner of an estate setting aside funds to reserve for beneficiaries. Most importantly, money in a trust is not taxable. However, the owner of the trust usually is unable to access the funds. Certain trusts may allow benefits to be paid out to beneficiaries when the owner dies or they may allow a spouse or other person to access the funds.
  • Designate a beneficiary through an annuity, IRA or other fund – Certain types of funds allow owners to name a beneficiary who gains from the fund after the owner passes away. These funds are typically exempt from the estate tax.
  • Lifetime gifts– Another way for estate owners to limit estate taxes is to be generous and give funds to future beneficiaries before passing away. Anyone may give gifts worth up to $14,000 annually before gift tax liability would apply. Those seeking to lighten their estates can avoid the gift tax altogether by paying for another person’s medical bills or college tuition directly.
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Can I Receive Social Security Disability?

Social Security provides financial assistance for those with disabilities. People in these situations can apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Those who apply for and successfully receive Social Security may receive benefits to help them live as they are unable.

However, these programs differ in a few important ways, and if you are considering applying for Social Security, you should speak with a Social Security lawyer who can find out if you are eligible for the program and assist you with the application process. A rejected claim will cost you time and may cause you to lose important benefits. A skilled attorney can make sure your claim is accepted. Be wary of non-attorneys who practice SSDI or SSI law; they will likely charge similar fees even though they are not lawyers. If you need assistance with an SSDI or SSI claim, always hire an attorney who has experienced in Social Security law.

Am I Eligible for Social Security?

To be eligible for either kind of Social Security, you must have a disability that affects your ability to work. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), an individual is disabled and potentially eligible for benefits if that individual has been or expects to be unable to work for at least 12 months due to one or more mental or physical health issues.

What is the Difference Between SSD and SSI?

Knowing the differences between SSD and SSI is important when applying for Social Security. Some of the primary differences between these two types of programs include:

  • SSD applicants generally must be less than 65 years old. SSI has a specific plan for those who are 65 or older.
  • Funding for SSI derives from federal tax revenues, while SSD benefits come from payroll taxes.

Possibly the most significant difference for applicants is the qualifications for both programs. Though those applying for SSI and SSD must have some type of disability, only those with low income and few assets may apply for SSI. Specifically, individuals applying for SSI must:

  • Own less than $2,000 in assets
  • Have no more than one automobile
  • Have only one home that serves as the applicant’s primary residence

Married couples have most of the same criteria, but they can possess up to $3,000 in combined assets.

Why Should I Hire a Social Security Attorney?

A lawyer who understands Social Security law can give you more information about specific eligibility requirements and work with you to file your Social Security application. If the SSA denies your claim, you will need to file an appeal in order to get necessary benefits. In this situation, a lawyer can compile the evidence for you and make a case for your right to receive benefits.

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What Can a Lawyer Do for My Small Business?

Starting a small business can be a daunting but ultimately rewarding challenge. Small business owners face a number of complicated laws that a business lawyer can help them understand. Business lawyers train themselves to understand all the legal complexities that businesses of all sizes face. They can assist businesses with a number of legal issues that can arise when starting or growing a small business, as well as any legal conflicts that may arise during business.

An attorney who works with small business owners can provide a number of valuable services for clients. Some of the legal issues these attorneys know how to handle include:

  • Choosing a business structure – Many different types of organizations exist. Should you start a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation? What is the difference between a limited liability partnership (LLP) and a limited liability company (LLC)? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a corporation? Is your business eligible to become a nonprofit organization? The answers to these questions are unique to every business, and a business attorney can talk to you about the structure that would most benefit your small business.
  • Employment Law – Employees have very specific legal rights that may vary from state to state. A business lawyer can allow employers to understand the rights of employees in order to protect employers from wrongful termination cases or other lawsuits. An attorney can also establish contracts for employees and include noncompetition or nondisclosure agreements to protect employer rights.
  • Business Conflicts – Issues such as breach of contract, construction disputes, unfair trade practices, commercial lease disputes and a number of other problems can threaten a small business. Corporations can experience highly complex issues such as shareholder disputes. Lawyers can not only allow businesses to avoid many of these conflicts altogether, but can work to get small businesses through conflicts that have already arisen.
  • Mergers and Dissolutions – Whether a business owner seeks to grow a small business by acquiring other companies or intends to dissolve a business or remove a partner, a lawyer who handles the intricacies of small business can provide valuable services. An attorney can work with businesses on restructuring issues that accompany mergers and acquisitions or work with them to remove a partner or dissolve a company according to the law.

Working with a Small Business Lawyer

The list above is not comprehensive, and lawyers can assist a small business with many aspects of operation. Finding a lawyer who handles business law can improve your company’s likelihood of thriving.

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What Should I Know About Retirement Planning?

Preparing for retirement can be a complex process, but fortunately lawyers can ensure that those considering retirement have legally sound, effective retirement plans. Attorneys who specialize in elder law, estate planning law or probate law may be able to assist clients with retirement preparations. These attorneys may be able to handle all the details concerning retirement and estates in order to meet the goals of those arranging for retirement.

Important Factors in Retirement Planning

Retirement preparations are about utilizing your savings and any sources of income to ensure you are able to stop working. However, it can also include preparations for the later future, such as long-term care and administering your estate. When planning for retirement, some details for which you may want to prepare include the following:

  • Retirement plan – Though lawyers cannot make investment decisions for you, they may be able to structure an IRA, 401(k) or other plan so you can reach your retirement and estate planning goals. An attorney can give you information about what you can and cannot do with a retirement plan and how you can optimize it to meet your needs.
  • Medicaid – An attorney may be able to give you information about Medicaid and decide what medical care options are best for your retirement. If Medicaid is the best option, you can receive assistance preparing all the necessary documentation for a Medicaid application.
  • Long-term care – Whether you eventually plan to move into a nursing home, arrange for a caretaker or some other form of long-term care, planning can be beneficial. You may also want to arrange for a guardian to handle your personal business and take care of your estate.
  • Living will or advanced directive – You may want to prepare for a situation in which you are unable to make medical decisions. Advanced directives can give physicians and loved ones information about how you want to handle certain situations. You can also appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf.
  • Estate planning – Readying your estate to give to beneficiaries is important. You should have a will to provide specific instructions about how to handle your estate when you pass away. Additionally, a lawyer can work with you to prepare trusts and find other ways to distribute your assets to your beneficiaries according to your wishes.

 Get Retirement Planning Assistance from an Attorney

Preparing for retirement is not easy, which is why you should not have to do it alone. An experienced lawyer who handles the legal aspects of retirement planning can make the process smoother for you.

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