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What You Should Know Before Filing for Bankruptcy

filing for bankruptcy

When debt piles up beyond what you can manage, it can feel like drowning. You receive a constant flood of letters and phone calls from collectors, and the compounding interest takes on a life of its own. For people in this situation, declaring bankruptcy can be an attractive option. It wipes out many, if not all, of your debts and allows you a fresh start. 

However, bankruptcy is not to be taken lightly and is a complicated process. Here is what you should know before filing for bankruptcy.

Two Types of Bankruptcy

The first thing to be aware of before filing for bankruptcy is that there are two primary types of bankruptcy for individuals: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7, also called liquidation bankruptcy, is the more common type. The debtor’s “non-exempt” assets are sold off, and creditors receive the proceeds; after this, the debts are canceled. California, in particular, has generous exemptions regarding the types of property that must be sold, allowing people to keep more of their essential property. However, there is a means test for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, preventing it from being used by high-wage earners.

Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, debt is reorganized, and the debtor must follow a pre-approved repayment plan over three to five years. After completing this plan, the debts are considered satisfied. Chapter 13 is more appropriate for people with a steady income.

Not All Debt Is Canceled by Bankruptcy

People may get the wrong idea that any debt is wiped out by filing for bankruptcy, but that is not the case. Bankruptcy can only eliminate “unsecured” debt, such as credit card debt and medical bills. A debt is secured when it is backed by collateral, as is the case with home and car loans. Creditors of secured debt may still seek to repossess the collateral assets. Also, student loans are not covered by bankruptcy.

Hiding Assets or Going on a Spending Spree Can Get You in Trouble

When people know they will file for bankruptcy, they sometimes convey their assets to others to keep them from being liquidated. They may also go on a big spending spree, thinking the new debt will be canceled, so it’s free money. Both behaviors are considered fraud and can get you in legal trouble. Creditors can also object to recent debt, which will keep you from getting the clean slate you need.

Bankruptcy Is Not Fast or Free

Don’t expect an overnight solution by filing for bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy typically takes around four to six months to close, while Chapter 13 cases stay open for years. You should also be aware that both types of bankruptcy require hundreds of dollars in filing fees.

Long-Term Consequences

Declaring bankruptcy can provide you with the debt relief you need, but there are lasting consequences. For example, a bankruptcy stays on your credit report for ten years, making it harder to take out a loan or find a place to live.

A Bankruptcy Attorney Can Be a Big Help

It’s important to know what you should expect when filing for bankruptcy.  Hiring a bankruptcy attorney may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but doing so can help you avoid costly mistakes. Filing for bankruptcy is a complicated legal process, and the clerks and judges cannot give you legal advice. A lawyer can also help ensure that you are maximizing the amount of property you are allowed to keep from being sold off, so you’re not starting over from scratch. Schedule an appointment today to meet with an experienced bankruptcy attorney and discuss your options.

Why Hire a Real Estate Attorney Before Buying a House?

Why Hire a Real Estate Attorney

Buying a home consistently ranks as one of the most stressful life events people experience. Not only is a lot of money on the line (for most of us, it is the single largest purchase we’ll ever make), but our hopes and dreams for the future are tied up in it. Home buyers regularly consult with a slew of experts along the way—real estate agents, inspectors, mortgage bankers, title examiners, etc.—and yet, despite the fact that it is a complex legal transaction, they rarely hire a real estate attorney.

Though many people will not find it necessary to hire a real estate attorney before buying a house, there are several reasons why it may still be a good idea.

Negotiation

There is usually a lot of wiggle room when it comes to housing prices. Still, buyers regularly leave money on the table because they are simply not comfortable with negotiating. While many real estate agents are great at their jobs, they are generally paid a percentage of the purchase price, so they have every incentive to close the deal and not much motivation to drive the price down.

Real estate attorneys, on the other hand, love to negotiate. The net savings gained from letting a lawyer haggle on your behalf generally more than justifies the expense of hiring them.

Smoothing Out Title Issues

Title and lien issues can derail a home purchase or make your life a nightmare if they are only discovered after the fact. A real estate attorney can perform the title and lien search for you. If the search turns up any potential problems, they can either help resolve them or, just as importantly, let you know when it’s time to walk away from the transaction.

Reviewing Contracts

As anyone who has ever purchased a home can attest, there is a lot of paperwork involved. Most buyers have no frame of reference and are simply told everything is “standard,” so they sign whatever is put in front of them: HOA covenants, inspection reports, disclosures, and more.

While there is usually nothing sinister going on, these documents are important, and the fact that you signed them may come up later. At a minimum, a real estate lawyer can review them and let you know what you’re getting into, but they can also draft new agreements and eliminate many of the junk boilerplate clauses.

Facilitating Complex Transactions

Even a typical home purchase is complicated, but some transactions are significantly more complex. Sales involving trusts, corporations, and other legal entities present different issues, and the assistance of an attorney is strongly encouraged.

Easier Closing

Closing a real estate deal involves orchestrating multiple complicated components, such as filing the deed, closing escrow, and delivering the final payment. Having an attorney on your side can help greatly with keeping everything on track and negotiating any last-minute issues that pop up, such as unexpected home repairs.

Talk to a Real Estate Attorney Today

The best way to find out what a real estate lawyer can do for you is to talk to one. Whether you want full-service assistance throughout the transaction or just need to deal with a specific issue, our experienced attorneys can help ensure your home purchase goes as smoothly as possible. Contact our office to schedule an appointment.

Your Rights as a Tenant in California

Your Rights as a Tenant in California

Everyone deserves a home; in California, nearly half of all households rent their home. Luckily, California also has some of the strongest tenant protections in the country. However, these protections don’t have much meaning if renters don’t know about them, so we’ll cover some of California’s most important tenant rights.

Right to Non-Discrimination

Both federal and state law prohibits landlords from refusing to rent a property to someone (or renting it to them on unequal terms) for discriminatory reasons. These laws protect specific classes (personal characteristics), including:

  • Race or color
  • Age
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Disability, mental or physical
  • Sex or gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or gender expression
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Familial status
  • Source of income (including housing vouchers)
  • Military or veteran status
  • Immigration Status
  • Primary language

Right to Habitable Premises

Landlords must provide a safe and habitable rental unit to tenants. This means keeping the property in good condition and including certain basic amenities. The tenant may break the lease and move out or withhold rent if the property is uninhabitable. 

Requirements that make a property habitable include:

  • Hot and cold running water
  • An electrical system, including lighting, that is in good working order
  • A functioning deadbolt on the main entry door and locking devices on the windows
  • A working toilet and bathtub or shower
  • Natural lighting from windows or skylights in every room
  • Clean and sanitary property grounds
  • Smoke detectors
  • Free from structural defects
  • And more

If a condition makes the property uninhabitable, the tenant should bring it to the landlord’s attention and allow them a reasonable amount of time to fix it. Tenants also have their responsibilities, such as keeping the property clean and sanitary; if the tenant created the problem, the landlord may not be responsible for repairing it.

Refundable Deposits

Almost all landlords require renters to pay a security deposit before moving in. The total amount of the deposit required may not be more than the cost of two months’ rent for unfurnished properties or three months’ rent for furnished properties. Landlords may not require a non-refundable pet deposit or any other non-refundable deposit. When the tenant moves out, the landlord may deduct unpaid rent or the reasonable repair cost for damage beyond normal wear and tear. They may also deduct cleaning costs if the property is less clean than when the tenant moved in.

Right to Privacy

Except in an emergency, a landlord may not enter the premises without first giving the tenant written notice at least 24 hours in advance.

Rent Control

Statewide rules about how much landlords can raise the rent annually in California. For most multifamily properties at least 15 years old, the rent may only be raised once per year and by no more than 5% plus the cost of inflation (for a maximum 10% total increase).

Eviction Protections

In most cases, a landlord needs a cause to evict a tenant. The most common cause is failure to pay rent, but it can also be due to a violation of the lease’s material terms (e.g., having a pet when pets are prohibited). The landlord must serve a 3-day notice on the tenant to cure the violation or quit (leave) the premises. The landlord may file formal eviction proceedings if the tenant does not cure the violation.

If the landlord wants to terminate a month-to-month tenancy, they must give you at least 60 days’ notice if you have been there one year or more, or 30 days’ notice if you have been there less than a year. Tenancies involving rental assistance require 90 days’ notice.

Protect Your California Tenant’s Rights

California laws protect renters’ housing rights, but it can feel empty if you don’t fully understand those rights or know how to enforce them. Our attorneys have years of experience in this area and can help you protect your rights through various means, from negotiating with landlords to representing you in court. Schedule a consultation meeting today to learn how we can help you.

The Most Common Causes of Real Estate Litigation

commercial real estate litigation

Real estate transactions are time-consuming and often stressful, so we want them to go as smoothly as possible. Sometimes things go wrong, however, and litigation may be necessary due to the value and importance of the transaction. Here are buyers’ and sellers’ most common causes of real estate litigation.

Breach of Contract

Real estate transactions are primarily about contracts, so it shouldn’t be surprising that one of the most common reasons for litigation is a breach of contract. Setting obligations for everything from title clearance to closing dates, so both parties understand their respective responsibilities can minimize confusion. One of the more common types of a breach is when one of the parties backs out of the sale before it is complete. If the buyer backs out, this will usually mean losing their earnest money. On the other hand, if the seller backs out, for example, to sell to someone else at a higher price, the buyer can sue for breach of contract and sometimes even compel the seller to complete the transaction.

Breach of Duty

Real estate agents have a fiduciary duty to their clients, meaning they must act in their client’s best interest. It may breach their fiduciary duty if they have a conflict of interest and don’t disclose this. For example, suppose a real estate agent represents the buyer and doesn’t disclose that they are friends with the seller or have a personal financial stake in the property. In this case, the buyer suspects that the agent’s interest is divided and costing them money.

Failure to Disclose Defects on the Property

If a seller knows or should know about a defect on the property that affects its value, they must disclose that defect to the buyer. There are many such defects, from roof leaks to mold to electrical problems. However, the problem must not have been evident to the buyer. For instance, if there is a five-foot-wide hole in the roof, the buyer probably should have noticed that on their own. Buyers who litigate over failure to disclose defects usually seek to recover the difference in property value.

Boundary Disputes

Real estate’s legal boundaries should be registered with a government office, typically the county commissioner. However, sometimes those boundaries are registered incorrectly. Other times, the “practical” boundary line doesn’t match the registered boundary lines. For example, an owner may build a fence or even a building on their neighbor’s property, believing it to be their property. These mistakes come to light during the sale of one of the properties. Therefore, verifying the parcel’s boundaries is important to the buyer’s due diligence.

California Real Estate Specialists

The best strategy for real estate litigation is to avoid it entirely. However, consulting with one of our real estate attorneys during the buying or selling process can help bring potential problems to light so they can be dealt with in advance. If you are already in a situation where litigation is necessary, our team can help you resolve the matter fairly. Contact us today to schedule a meeting.

 

What You Need to Know About Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

bankruptcy attorney

If you’ve been injured through someone else’s fault and haven’t been able to recover fair compensation for your injuries, filing a personal injury lawsuit against the other party may be your only option. A lawsuit is a complex and adversarial process for determining the facts of a case and how the law applies to those facts. Here we’ll go over what you need to know about filing a personal injury lawsuit.

However, if you are considering filing a lawsuit, it’s important to consult with at least one attorney first. Because of its complexity, it is easy to make a mistake that can lead to you recover less in damages, have your case dismissed, or even a lawsuit against you.

Timing

There’s a strict time period to file a civil lawsuit established by the statute of limitations.  In California, the statute of limitations for most (but not all) personal injury claims is two years. That means a plaintiff must file their lawsuit within two years of the date of their injury. If the time limit is two years and you file a claim after two years and one day, the claim will be dismissed.  However, some claims are on “toll” or on pause. For example, if the plaintiff is in a coma for three years following their injury, the statute of limitations period begins running when they wake up.

Venue and Jurisdiction

It’s not always obvious where a lawsuit should be filed; a plaintiff may have multiple options. They must consider factors related to jurisdiction and venue. Jurisdiction refers to the power of any given court to hear a case. For instance, suppose a plaintiff is a California resident and gets into a car accident in Nevada with a Nevada resident. 

In that case, three separate court systems potentially have jurisdiction over the case: 

  • California state courts
  • Nevada state courts 
  • Federal courts (which have the power to hear cases between residents of different states)

Plaintiffs and defendants may prefer to be in one jurisdiction over another for various reasons, from the rules of procedure to the judges likely to hear the case. Venue is the choice of location within a court system. In the example above, if the plaintiff wants to file their lawsuit in a federal district court, they have a choice between the federal court in Las Vegas or one closer to their home in California.

Bear in mind that the issues of venue and jurisdiction are just about where the proceedings will take place; the question of what laws apply is a separate issue.

Filing the Lawsuit

To officially initiate a lawsuit, a plaintiff must draft a document called a “complaint.” The complaint contains:

  • A statement of facts that supports a cause of action.
  • A demand for judgment for relief.
  • The number of monetary damages sought.

The plaintiff must serve one copy on the defendant and another copy to the courthouse.

They must also file a proof of service of the defendant’s copy with the courthouse. The defendant then has a set amount of time (30 days in California) to respond to the complaint in the form of either a “demurrer” or an “answer.” A demurrer is an objection to the complaint, e.g., that it does not establish subject matter jurisdiction or fails to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action. An answer will likely deny some or all of the facts but does not challenge the complaint itself.

If a demurrer is successful, the judge will dismiss all or parts of the complaint. This dismissal can be with or without prejudice; a dismissal with prejudice means the plaintiff cannot try again.

Before Filing, Speak to an Attorney

Filing a lawsuit means stepping into a world full of complex legal rules that take years to learn. An innocent mistake can cost you your entire case and any hope of recovering damages. If you are even considering filing a lawsuit, consulting with an attorney is your best option. Contact us today to speak to an experienced personal injury claim attorney.

Do I Need a Bankruptcy Attorney?

bankruptcy attorney

Few situations are more stressful than having more debt than you can manage. At those times, declaring bankruptcy might be your best option, but it’s a complicated process. Before you go down that road, you should understand what bankruptcy is and whether or not you need a bankruptcy attorney.

Hiring a bankruptcy attorney might seem 100% counterintuitive—you might say, “I don’t have any money. How am I supposed to pay a lawyer?” While that feeling is understandable, there are a few reasons it’s still a good idea to at least talk to an attorney before making a decision.

Choosing the Right Bankruptcy and Knowing Your Rights

There’s not just one kind of bankruptcy; there are different options that might be better or worse, depending on your situation. The two most common types of bankruptcy for consumers are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. 

Under Chapter 7, also called liquidation, all dischargeable debts will be wiped out at the end of the process, but your assets can be seized and sold off to pay your creditors. 

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is quite different. Called a wage-earners plan, Chapter 13 bankruptcy lets the debtor negotiate a repayment plan. After making the required payments for three to five years, the debts are then discharged, usually without liquidating any assets.

Though bankruptcy is handled exclusively by federal bankruptcy courts, state laws should be considered. Crucially, California bankruptcy laws have generous exemptions that protect many of a

the debtor’s assets from liquidation. If you don’t understand how these exemptions work, you may end up unnecessarily agreeing to sell off assets.

 Proper Filing and Documentation 

Declaring bankruptcy is a fairly complex and document-intensive process. It is easy to file your paperwork incorrectly or forget to include certain documents. Such mistakes can draw things out longer than necessary but also have more serious consequences. There are also filing deadlines that, if missed, can potentially prejudice your case.

It’s possible to navigate the legal and bureaucratic aspects of bankruptcy on your own, but it won’t be a very pleasant experience. An experienced lawyer can greatly cut down the stress of it.

No More Dealing with Creditors

The one thing most people want more than anything when they’ve reached the point of considering bankruptcy is to be done with the endless harassment from creditors. Once a person files for bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect. This means that, in theory, creditors must cease trying to collect any debt from you.

In reality, some debt collectors will not stop harassing you, especially if they don’t think they’ll get much via bankruptcy. They may continue contacting you, trying to get as much money as possible. If you have an attorney, insist that any further communications go through them. If the creditors persist, your lawyer should be able to stop it.

Talk to a California Bankruptcy Expert

You don’t have to go through bankruptcy alone. Our attorneys know the process inside and out and can eliminate much of the stress in what is already a very difficult time. We also know how to work out a fee arrangement that works for you and helps you put you back on your feet. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

10 Reasons You Can Sue Your Landlord

Sue your landlord paperwork

If you are renting an apartment or house, it’s always best to try to remain on good terms with your landlord; nobody wants their housing situation to become a source of stress. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, though, when the landlord is violating your rights or refusing to honor their contractual commitments. In these cases, pursuing a legal remedy may be your best option.

Here are the most common reasons to sue your landlord.

1. The Landlord Has Kept Your Security Deposit

Landlords in California have 21 calendar days to return your security deposit after you’ve moved out of the property. After that, they must provide an itemized list of deductions if they keep any money. Common reasons for deducting money from the deposit are:

  • Unpaid rent.
  • Damage to the property.
  • Cleaning costs (the apartment must be at the same level of cleanliness as when the tenant moved in).

However, a landlord cannot charge the tenant for normal wear and tear, such as faded paint, worn carpet, or loose doorknobs.

2. The Landlord Is Entering the Property Illegally

Landlords have a right to enter and inspect their property, but this is balanced against the tenant’s right to privacy in their home. Unless it’s an emergency, California landlords must give 24 hours’ notice before entering the property. Even then, if the landlord is repeatedly entering with little or no reason, you might still have a harassment case.

3. Housing Discrimination

Federal and state laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against current and prospective tenants based on certain protected characteristics. In California, these include race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, age, sexual orientation, veteran or military status

4. Failure to Reimburse for Repair Costs

Leases may vary, but it is typically the landlord’s responsibility to repair the property. Sometimes the two parties may agree that the tenant will make repairs, and the landlord will reimburse the tenant for the cost. However, if the landlord refuses to honor the agreement, the tenant can sue for this money. So be sure you talk to the landlord before making any repairs.

5. Injury Due to Landlord Negligence

Tenants may sue their landlords if they are injured because the landlord fails to maintain safe conditions. For example, if a ceiling piece falls on your head or a handrail gives out while leaning against it. A major factor in such cases will be whether the landlord knew or should have known about the unsafe conditions.

6. Failure to Disclose Hazardous Conditions

If hazardous conditions on the property can affect the tenant’s health, the landlord must disclose these in advance. Common examples are lead paint and mold. If you are harmed due to the landlord’s failure to disclose such hazards, you may have a case.

7. The Property Has Become Uninhabitable

Landlords are required to keep rental properties in “habitable” condition. If uninhabitable conditions arise and the landlord refuses to fix them, the tenant has legal recourse, usually in the form of vacating the property and seeking reimbursement for associated costs. Examples of uninhabitable conditions include lack of hot water, entry doors that don’t lock, and leaking sewage or gas. Remember that you must first give the landlord a chance to make repairs, and if you vacate the property and don’t successfully prove it was uninhabitable, you will likely be liable for unpaid rent.

8. Illegal Provisions in the Rental Agreement

Tenants have rights under state and federal law, and a rental agreement generally can’t require a tenant to relinquish those rights. So, for example, a lease can’t require the tenant to vacate the property immediately on notice of eviction or allow the landlord to enter without notice.

9. Illegally Raising the Rent

Some California cities have laws limiting how much a landlord can increase an existing tenant’s rent per year. Outside of those cities, however, there is no such limit. Landlords must provide adequate notice to the tenant before the increase goes into effect. Most increases require at least 60 days’ notice, or 90 days if the increase is more than 10%. There are exceptions to this rule.

10. Illegal Eviction

A landlord must have legal cause to evict a tenant and go through a formal process. If the landlord evicts you without cause or tries to do it outside the required procedure, you may have a legal claim against them.

Landlord-Tenant Specialists in Southern California

Landlord-tenant law is complicated, especially in California. When your home, and potentially your health, is on the line, the best thing you can do is consult with an attorney. Our team has years of experience in this field and can help you reach a fair outcome that protects your rights. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Who Regulates Escrow Laws in California?

Person reviewing legal documents | Who Regulates Escrow Laws in California?

A home sale or purchase may be the largest financial transaction we will ever make. With all the work it takes to find the right home, negotiate the price, and procure a mortgage (or find a buyer if selling your home), the actual transfer of funds and title seems like a mundane affair. The orderly exchange of property and large amounts of money cannot be taken for granted, however, especially between two parties who barely know each other. Escrow services exist to make this transfer more secure, but who regulates escrow laws in California?

What Is Escrow?

You may have heard of escrow before without giving it much thought, but if you plan to buy or sell a home, you should familiarize yourself with the term. The legal definition of “escrow” is a transaction in which the buyer and seller transfer funds, evidence of title, or other items of value to a third party until the happening of a specified event or performance of a prescribed condition. At this point, the property is transferred to the respective parties as agreed. What does that mean? Let’s take a common example:

A buyer makes an offer on a house, which the seller accepts. Since the title transfer process is not instantaneous or free, the seller requires “earnest money” from the buyer to ensure they are serious. Similarly, the buyer wants to be sure the title transfer is legitimate and does not want to simply hand over a check to the seller. So, they agree to use an escrow service.

The escrow service holds the earnest money and the written instruments needed to transfer the title to the buyer. Once the various requirements have been completed (the title has been verified, the buyer’s mortgage lender has provided the remaining funds, etc.), the escrow service transfers the money to the seller and registers the property title in the buyer’s name. The transaction is finished, and both parties walk away.

Escrow works as a specialized form of trust in which the escrow agent acts as a trustee of the parties’ property for the duration of a complex transaction.

Licensing of Escrow Agents

Because of their critical role in real estate transactions and because they routinely hold large amounts of other people’s money, escrow agents must usually be licensed by the state. In California, the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) handles the licensing and regulation of escrow agents. While the applications for an escrow license are complex and involve extensive documentation, here are some of the main requirements:

  • Only a corporation may receive an escrow license, not an individual
  • At the main office, there must be at least one person with a minimum of five years of escrow experience and at each branch office, a person with at least four years of escrow experience
  • The corporation must deposit a surety bond with the state of up to $50,000, depending on its financial obligations
  • It must maintain a tangible net worth of at least $50,000, including at least $25,000 in liquid assets

While “independent” escrow agents must be licensed in this way, there are numerous other persons and institutions who may perform escrow services without a license. The reasoning is that so-called “non-independent” escrow agents are already regulated in other ways. The four categories of non-independent escrow agents are:

  • Banks, trust companies, building and loan or savings and loan associations, credit unions, or insurance companies doing business under California or federal law
  • A licensed attorney who has a bona fide client relationship with one of the principal parties and who is not engaged in the business of an escrow agent
  • Any person whose principal business is preparing abstracts or making searches of titles that are used as a basis for the issuance of a title insurance policy
  • Any broker licensed by the Real Estate Commissioner working as an agent or party to the transaction and performing work that requires a real estate license

Real Estate Law Experts

If you are buying or selling real estate and plan to use an escrow service (which is recommended), be sure to use only a qualified escrow agent, such as a licensed attorney. Our escrow lawyers have years of experience facilitating real estate transactions, helping to resolve disputes, and making sure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

5 Critical Mistakes People Make With Personal Injury Claims

Gavel and Stethoscope: 5 Critical Mistakes People Make With Personal Injury Claims

Bad things happen to everyone. We’re involved in car accidents, get hurt at work, or are injured in some other way—often through no fault of our own—and then we’re left wondering how to pick up the pieces. A personal injury claim is something that many people end up filing in such instances.

If you’ve been injured and think you may have a claim against someone else, it’s important to understand that how you handle things (from the point of injury onwards) can have huge consequences for your case.

Here are five of the most common mistakes people make concerning personal injury claims.

1. Not Hiring an Attorney for a Personal Injury Claim

You may read this and think, “Of course, an attorney will say that,” but this is absolutely the most common and critical mistake. People who are injured and have a potential legal claim are unlikely to understand the real value or the full extent of that claim. They are also much more likely to make a huge mistake that can undercut their case.

Think of it from the defendant’s side. Insurance companies and other business entities will definitely have lawyers on their side. The standard playbook for those lawyers is to get a potential plaintiff to settle the case for little or no money before talking to an attorney.

If the defendant can’t settle the case, the next best thing is to convince the plaintiff to delay hiring an attorney as long as possible in hopes that they will trip themselves up and spoil their own case. They do this because it is in their best interest, and their interests are directly opposed to yours.

Most plaintiff’s attorneys who handle personal injury cases do so on a contingency basis. This means the client does not pay any upfront fees, and the attorney instead receives a percentage of any compensation the client collects. There is no downside to consulting with an attorney in this scenario, so don’t delay.

2. Failure to Document Evidence

A personal injury claim only has value if it can be proven, so it’s important to collect and retain evidence. The more objective the evidence, the more helpful it is (as opposed to relying solely on your own testimony).

For example, if you are in a traffic accident, call the police. They will investigate the scene and create a report. If there are witnesses, talk to them and get their contact information. Take photos of everything and if other people take photos, ask for copies. Anything that documents the event and its consequences has the potential to be helpful.

3. Making Unnecessary Statements

As a general rule, starting from the moment of the injury, it is best to make as few statements about the incident as possible. This includes statements to family, friends, and especially to potential defendants. Don’t post anything on social media. Everything you say can be used as evidence, and defendants will be searching intently for anything that weakens your case. One common issue is that some people are naturally very polite, and they end up apologizing for something that isn’t even their fault—that apology can be used as evidence of their guilt.

This rule goes hand in hand with having an attorney. If anyone wants to talk about the incident, you can (and should) simply refer them to your attorney and politely end the conversation.

4. Not Documenting the Full Extent of Your Injuries

If you don’t document your injuries, it will be more difficult to receive compensation for them later. Some people are accustomed to suffering in silence; they receive treatment for broken bones after an accident but never mention that they’ve started to have migraines or nightmares every day. If you tell a healthcare provider about any issues you are having as they arise, other people are more likely to believe they are real.

5. Settling Too Quickly

It’s natural to want to settle a case quickly. Lawsuits can take a long time to resolve, and people often just want to move on with their lives. They may also really need the money that is being offered just to pay for basic necessities or medical care. Defense attorneys know this, and they will try to take advantage of it. They will drag out the case and offer $100,000 to settle a claim that is worth a million dollars or more.

If it is at all possible, avoid falling into this trap. Holding on a little longer is usually worth the trouble.

Speak to a Personal Injury Claim Attorney

If you’ve suffered an injury and think you might have a legal claim, don’t make one of these mistakes. Contact our office to speak to an experienced personal injury claim attorney as soon as possible.

I’m Breaking A Lease. What Are My Rights?

Breaking a Lease

At one time or another, most renters will consider whether breaking a lease is a good idea. There can be a lot of reasons to break a lease—a decrease in earnings, poor conditions on the rental property, or perhaps they just found a better deal. But people often stick it out because they’re worried about the potential fallout. Breaking a lease agreement can be done but it’s important to understand what happens if you do so and when it might be legally justified.

What Happens When You Break A Lease

When you move out of a rental property before the lease term has expired (i.e., “break the lease”), the primary consequences are financial. Simply put, you’ll probably owe the landlord money for the remainder of the lease.

For example, if you have a 12-month apartment lease with $2,000 in monthly rent, you’ve agreed to pay the landlord $24,000 in 12 monthly installments. If you move out after six months, you still owe them $12,000. If the lease is month-to-month and you leave without giving the landlord the required notice (usually 30 or 60 days), you would owe rent for that notice period.

The landlord does have a legal responsibility to “mitigate damages.” Rather than just leaving the property empty, they have to attempt to find another suitable tenant to take your place. If they do find another tenant, you would generally be responsible for paying rent for the time the property was sitting vacant, but not the period after someone else is paying rent.

Because breaking a lease is essentially like incurring debt and not paying it, it will also likely have a negative impact on your credit score and could make it difficult to find another rental.

Justifications for Breaking a Lease Agreement

The situation above may sound dire, but there are a number of legal justifications for breaking a lease, meaning that you could do so without paying the remainder of the rent due. Here are some of the justifications recognized in California:

1. The property is unsafe or uninhabitable

There’s a legal principle called “constructive eviction,” where conditions at the rental property are so poor that the tenant has no choice but to leave. These conditions have to be serious problems—e.g., no heat in cold winter, no lock on the front door, etc.—that are the landlord’s responsibility to fix. The landlord also must be given a reasonable amount of time to address the problem.

2. Harassment or violation of your rights

This is an extension of the constructive eviction principle described above. For example, suppose a landlord repeatedly enters the property without giving you at least 24-hour notice or performs deliberately harassing actions such as changing the locks. In that case, you may be able to break the lease without paying rent.

3. Active military duty

Under federal law, a member of uniformed services who is called to active duty may terminate their lease within 30 days of the next rent payment, regardless of how much time is left on the lease term.

4. Victim of domestic violence and other crimes

Under California law, if you or an immediate family member has been a victim of domestic violence, stalking, assault, or other crimes, this can justify terminating a lease early. In these cases, the tenant is only responsible for 14 days of rent following notice to the landlord.

If You Need to Break Your Lease

If you’re in a position where you need to break a lease agreement, advice from an experienced attorney can make the process much easier. An attorney can evaluate your situation to see if you have a legal justification for breaking the lease. Even if you don’t, they can negotiate with the landlord to minimize the negative consequences. Contact our office today for a consultation.