Our office receives multiple calls a week from people who have been injured in a fall at a store or other property, slipped on ice, or tripped on a sidewalk/defect on pavement. The mechanism of falling often causes severe injuries. If you are the victim in a slip/trip fall or with someone who has fallen, you should: At the scene, try to document the cause of your fall immediately, before it is fixed. For example, did you slip on an icy sidewalk where ice was permitted to form from a dripping drainpipe? Did you trip over a defective sidewalk or [...]
Do Not Go At It Alone A recent Government Accounting Office study showed across the nation that claimants who had representatives such as an attorney at hearing, were awarded benefits at a rate nearly three times higher than individuals who appeared without representatives. This is due in large part to a representative’s ability to gather medical evidence and other records to fully develop and help the individual present their case to an administrative law judge. This report also studied decisions made by Administrative Law Judges and concluded that judges who joined the Social Security Administration between 2007 and 2015 awarded [...]
Purchasing Automobile Insurance in Pennsylvania – A Guide to Coverage While the selection of automobile insurance options can be confusing, follow these five guidelines to ensure that you and your family are properly protected. 1. Do Select the “Full Tort” Option and not the “Limited Tort” Option For a modest reduction in premiums, insurance companies and their agents will attempt to sell you a policy providing for the limited tort option. This option prevents you and your family from making a claim for personal injuries suffered in a car accident. There are limited exceptions, such as if you sustain a [...]
An important aspect of estate planning is making sure that you have an understanding of the Pennsylvania inheritance tax and how it will impact your estate. Most assets that are in your name at the time of death are subject to Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax. The tax rate is based upon who receives the asset or assets from your estate. Assets received by your spouse are taxed at a rate of 0.00%, assets that are transferred to children and grandchildren are taxed at a rate of 4.50%, transfers to siblings are taxed at a rate of 12.00% and all other heirs [...]
Pennsylvania has strict penalties for traffic violations. Multiple infractions can sometimes lead to accumulating points on your driving record. An accumulation of points or some violations alone can lead to a driver’s license suspension. Additionally, you could likely see an increase in your automobile insurance premium. At Personal Law, we work with individuals who have been charged with violations that include, but are not limited to, careless driving, hit and run offenses, DUI offenses and speeding tickets. Some people attempt to navigate through the system on their own and end up pleading guilty to charges which have hidden penalties and [...]
In Pennsylvania, Sellers of homes are required to provide prospective Buyers with a fully completed Real Estate Seller Disclosure Form. It is critical to take time to fill out this form and disclose all defects with your home relating to the topics covered by the form. If the sale of the house is completed, and you failed to disclose a defect in your home that you had knowledge of, you may be liable for the cost to repair the defect as well as attorney’s fees and other damages. However, if you disclose the defects prior to the sale of the [...]
Most of my clients think that if they die without a Will, all of their estate assets will go to their spouse. They are surprised to learn that is not the case in Pennsylvania. If you die without a Will and are married with children, the first $30,000 of your net estate assets are distributed to your spouse and the remaining assets are split 50/50 between your spouse and children. This can be especially problematic if you have minor children, as their inheritance has to be set aside until they are adults. Also, assets inherited by your children are subject [...]
The Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law was enacted to protect the public from unfair and deceptive business practices. Business practices that are illegal under this Act include false advertisement, misrepresentation, misleading price reductions, failing to comply with a written guarantee or warranty, and any fraudulent or deceptive conduct that creates a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding among consumers. The Pennsylvania Attorney General and County District Attorneys can enforce the Consumer Protection Law by filing a lawsuit to stop conduct that is in violation of the Act and require payment of fines and restitution for those who have [...]
Our office recently concluded a complex trial that was able to be settled after the jury empowered in the case heard three days of testimony. Our client was the Estate of a man killed in an industrial explosion here in Beaver County. Our client was working at the facility on July 22, 2010, when the explosion occurred. Evidence showed that the defendant corporation had rebuilt one of the refinery columns 12 days earlier. The plaintiff’s engineer opined that the defendant negligently left foreign material, in the nature of excessive refractory mortar, inside the column. The plaintiff contended that the refractory [...]
Not so good news out of Washington for those applying for Social Security Disability benefits. It is taking longer to get a hearing date. In our area, for example, the wait time is now about 14 months. The Judges are tending toward denying more claims. The number of cases pending per Administrative Law Judge is increasing while the number of Judges is decreasing. At the end of November 2014 the number of cases at the Administrative Law Judge hearing level nationwide surpassed one million. Despite this news we continue to fight the fight for our clients applying for Social Security [...]
The Social Security Administration issued a new Ruling dealing with evaluation of claims for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The revised rule appears to be positive as it added additional criteria to be considered.
Statistics from 2013 published by the Social Security Administration concerning appeals from Judge decisions to the Appeals Council are quite revealing. Only 1 % of the time did the Appeals Council overturn the Judge and award benefits. 17 % of the time the Council sent the case back to a Judge for further review but did not award benefits. 82 % of the time the Council dismissed or denied the appeal. This underscores the belief that winning the case at the Judge level is all important.
In March 2014 the Commonwealth Court ruled that a County Court Judge had no authority to order an insurance company to compromise a lien it had against a worker’s third party recovery. Jurisdiction over a dispute concerning such a lien rests with the Workers Compensation judge.
The Commonwealth Court recently ruled that an insurance company that stopped paying wage loss benefits to a worker without obtaining an agreement to do so, or without filing the proper forms, should have to pay additional money as a penalty for its actions. Injured workers receiving compensation should always look out for themselves and not believe everything the insurance company has to say, particularly about payments.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently granted benefits to a police officer for mental stress cause by a mental stimulus. Known as “mental –mental “ cases, these are the hardest cases to prove. The case involved suicide by police officer. Prior case law required a showing that such conduct had to involve abnormal working conditions. The Court seemed to deviate from this requirement in granting the officer a disability award.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently decided a case that will have a huge impact on how insurance companies try to reduce or stop paying benefits to injured workers based on the “availability of work”. Many workers are faced with a possible reduction in benefits because an “earning power assessment” and “labor market survey” have been prepared showing the existence of jobs at certain wage levels. Although it was possible to defend against this effort, doing so was hard. With the new decision in place workers can now inquire about the actual availability of the jobs mentioned and tell the judge [...]
Recently we read about an interesting case where an injured worker was asked by the insurance company to complete a form about work the worker was performing. The injured worker signed and returned the form but did not date it. The insurance company suspended payment. The judge said because the form was not dated the insurance company was right to suspend payment. The worker appealed. The Commonwealth Court upheld the judge and the suspension. This case points to the trappings that are part of the workers compensation system. For a free consultation about your case call or email us.
The Social Security Law Judge allowance rate ( i.e. awarding benefits to a disability applicant) for the fiscal year ending Sept 30, 2013 was 47% , representing a 40 year low. Put another way 53 % of the time judges across the country are denying benefits. This was according to testimony given by the Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration at a hearing before a House of Representatives subcommittee in November 2013. Email , call or visit our offices for a free consultation regarding your Social Security Disability claim.
The Estate and Tax Team at McMillen, Urick, Tocci, Fouse & Jones believe that there are three essential estate planning documents: Last Will & Testament: this document contains your last wishes and directions for the distribution of your assets after your death. Without a Will, your assets will be distributed according to state law. For example, if you are married and wish for all of your assets to be provided to your spouse at the time of your death, you will need a Will to provide for that distribution in the event that you also have children. Per current Pennsylvania [...]