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Bankruptcy 101

For many, declaring bankruptcy may seem like a daunting task. It may also symbolize failure and hitting rock bottom. While media and news reports may seem to confirm those fears, many don’t realize that bankruptcy can actually be a brand new start. When financial obligations become far too big to handle, bankruptcy can represent a brand new start.

This, of course, doesn’t change the fact that the bankruptcy process is beyond confusing for most of us. A few hours of Internet surfing helped me understand the basics of the bankruptcy process. Check out what I found below!

Chapters of Bankruptcy

There are four filings of bankruptcy, which all are located until Title 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. The four chapters are Chapter 7 – Liquidation, Chapter 11 – Reorganization, Chapter 12 – Adjustment of Debts of a Family Farmer with Regular Annual Income, and Chapter 13 – Adjustment of Debts of an Individual.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 is the most common bankruptcy filing, and because it is so common, it is usually what individuals think of when they hear the term “bankruptcy.”

With this bankruptcy filing, the debtor (the person owning the debt) completely dissolves all their assets and starts over completely. This chapter basically outlines the process of liquidation, which is when a debtor’s property (thats is not exempt) is sold and the proceeds raised from that sale are given to various creditors.

As the above sentence suggests, there are certain forms of property that are exempt from the bankruptcy process. A lawyer can let you know what, if any, of your property is exempt from the process.

Chapter 12 and 13

Chapters 12 and 13 are very similar, except for the fact that Chapter 12 is for family farmers and Chapter 13 is for individuals. Under these filings, those with steady incomes and debts less than $269,250 can file to create a repayment plan with the help of their trustee.

Individuals choose to file under Chapter 13 for a couple of different reasons. The biggest one is that under this filing, and individual does not have to go through the liquidation process. They are allowed to keep all their property. The repayment plan also allows the debtor to (usually) pay back less than what they actually owe — so it may work out better for some people to choose Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Chapter 11

The final chapter to discuss is Chapter 11. This chapter is very similar to Chapter 13 — the main difference being that there is not a limit on how much money can be owed by the debtor, in contrast to the $269,250 limit in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Many large corporations file under this chapter, but individuals are able to file under this chapter as well.

No matter what option you may be considering, I hope this blog post gave you some basic information about the bankruptcy process. Remember — only an attorney like Erin Shank, the Central Texas Bankruptcy Attorney can give you sound legal advice and you should reach out to one if you plan on filing for bankruptcy!

Negotiation Tactics 101

I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who once said, the only guarantees in life are death and taxes. That has certainly been true in my experience. Everything else has to be earned through hard work and a solid amount of luck.

However, hard work is not always equal. For example, a person may spend a lot of time and energy to push a mower around a lawn to cut grass. That can be a lot of hard work.

But that person could have used a riding lawn mower. Those machines take work and attention, too, but require much less concerted physical effort. This is just one example of how work can be inefficiently applied.

To properly work hard and to leave yourself open to good fortune, you need to know how to negotiate. Someone may achieve way more success if they can bargain their way to it, even if they work with less effort toward the same goal.

The first tactic to remember in negotiation is to try and appear in-line with the goals of the person with whom you are negotiating. For example, if a person wants to make as much money as possible, frame yourself as not impeding their profit. Instead, you need something from them as you strive toward an unrelated motive.

Keeping this in mind with decrease the severity or intensity of a conflict. The worst thing, both strategically and ethically, is to stand in the way of a person attempting to achieve something — especially if what they are working toward is a good thing, like helping others!

Another negotiating principle to keep in mind is to contextualize your resources and abilities as compared to the person sitting across the table. As explained on the website for the Kentucky personal injury law firm, Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP, sometimes legal negotiations include discussing options with powerful actors like insurance companies.

If you are a single individual arguing against a powerful interest or entity like an insurance company, then it is best that you remember you are only one person. In regards to money, staffing, or time, it is likely that you can only do so much. Time management, prioritization, and relying on your loved ones is important — especially when negotiating. But you can only go so far or do so much.

And the final negotiation tactic is to know when to say no — or walk away from the table entirely. One of the best examples of unfair and bad-faith behavior is when people make offers for a product or service that are so humorously low, you almost want to laugh.

There is a good chance that whatever you are negotiating, be it a pay raise or the delivery of a service, is available somewhere else. Always remember the value you hold and the principles you are pursuing. In doing so, you will know when the right time is to walk away from someone who is not acting in good-faith. Or, if a person is offering something insultingly, always feel comfortable in your decision to say no.

These are just a few methods to be aware of, to become a better negotiator and more successful. Even with these tools in mind, perfection is not guaranteed. However, you have a better shot than without them!

Lawn Tips: Take Care of Your Drainage

When you think about ways to improve the quality of your lawn, your mind probably runs to a few common options: adding new, higher quality sod, reseeding, getting more direct sunlight, using better fertilizers, and other such things. Those are all good ideas in many situations, but one issue that I often see ignored in these lists is improving drainage. I’ve seen many people puzzling over why their lawn just isn’t looking great no matter what they do. They’ve put down new sod. They’ve trimmed back some trees to get more light. They’ve bought the best fertilizer on the market. They water their lawn regularly. They keep it trimmed to a good length. Yet, still, it’s patchy with large areas that never quite flourish. What’s up with that, they ask me. What am I doing wrong?

You probably aren’t doing anything wrong. The problem isn’t in what you’re doing for your lawn. It’s very likely the issue is simply too much of a good thing. In many cases, your lawn is simply getting too much water.

Take a look at your lawn after a big storm. Does it look more like a pond than a yard? It’s likely your issues aren’t with fertilizer, it’s with drainage. There are a lot of drainage issues that your yard might have. Ware Landscaping points out a few of the biggest concerns:

  • Your yard was improperly graded
  • Your yard doesn’t have outlets where the water can flow
  • Your yard is uneven, leaving water pooled in certain places
  • Your sprinkler system is pouring too much water in certain parts of the yard
  • Plant debris is holding the water in certain parts of your yard
  • The soil is too compact and can’t absorb the water
  • Your gutters aren’t functioning properly

There can also be issues with there being too much rain over a short period that has overwhelmed the drainage system and the yard. In all of these situations, your yard isn’t going to improve just by cutting it regularly. You will need to make changes where it matters: to your drainage system.

If the issues are obvious, you can probably handle this yourself. In the case of plant debris, it may simply be a matter of picking up branches and other debris that has been reducing the ability of the rain to move where it needs to. However, with more serious issues, like the grading of your lawn, you may well need to work with professional landscapers to make sure the right grading is measured for your yard and then implemented.

So, if you are having drainage issues, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that your yard can be saved and you haven’t been hurting it by laying new sod and putting down new fertilizer. The bad news is that you may have a significant amount of work ahead of you to get your lawn to that healthy, attractive point you’ve been working towards.

The difficulties of the trucking industry

Trucking has for decades been one of the iconically American jobs. If the idea of a trucker comes to mind anywhere in the world, odds are people think of a biggish American man behind the wheel. How many other careers can that be said for?

Perhaps baseball players and the almost extinct cowboys, but there are few others.

The career, though, for all its semi-romantic Americana nature, is not the easiest in the world. There are many difficulties that come with taking to the long-haul road.

It can be dangerous, for instance. Tuckers are involved in a lot of accidents every year, which is, of course, to be expected, since they spend so many hours on the road. But the number of accidents is certainly increased by difficult deadlines that can require truckers to drive very long hours without enough sleep. Beyond this obvious danger, there is the less obvious potential for assault or robbery. Anyone who has passed by rest stops late at night knows they don’t always appear to be the safest or most pleasant places. While they have improved over the years, there is still some danger and discomfort to be expected there.

Another issue is the wages. While truckers make, on average, slightly more than the national average for a single earner, the strenuous nature of the job may mean that isn’t really enough. Truckers are away for days and weeks at a time, meaning families often can only have one earner, or else require extensive child care, which is, of course, quite expensive.

These strains have led to an entire business model that advances truckers their fees from recently delivered freight. This is called factoring, and the business appears to be thriving.

A final concern for truckers is the long-term viability of their work. While the truck and the trucker have long been mainstays on American roads, that era may soon be coming to a close. In fact, it may be sooner than many anticipate, and sooner than much many will be able to prepare for. Already, numerous companies are test-driving driverless cars, and many experts believe, at the current rate of advancement, that truckers may be left unemployed by automation within a decade. Even if that timeframe is optimistic, there is little doubt that the trajectory of the trucking industry is heading towards increasing automation, and so, lower wages and fewer jobs.

While Americans every day benefit from the work truckers do, the job, for all its necessity, does not in many respects show the level of that benefit. With unavoidable dangers, lowish wages, and a lack of long-term job prospects, trucking is not the most attractive business.

On some level, it may be worthwhile to demand more respect and better working conditions for those in the trucking industry, but it may also be argued such efforts are pointless since the job itself will soon be a relic of the past, just like the all American cowboy.

Common Sleeping Disorders

Sleeping is one of the few relaxing moments of adult life. This opportunity should be maximized to reinvigorate not just your brain, but your entire body. But there are people who are not able to maximize this opportunity because of sleeping disorders, putting them at risk of physical, emotional, and psychological problems.

Insomnia

When you think about sleeping problems, insomnia is probably the first thing that comes to your mind. This is understandable, because insomnia is one of the most common sleeping disorders in existence. Contrary to popular belief, Insomnia is not just about difficulty in sleeping.

It is also about the quality of your sleep. For example, if you wake up often in your sleeping hours or if you always feel like your sleep is not satisfying, you may have insomnia. This can have various effects on your body, such as fatigue, increased irritability, and poor cognitive skills.

Sleep Apnea

You are sure you heard that term before, but you don’t really know what it is. Sleep apnea occurs when a person pauses in breathing during sleep, mainly because of respiratory issues, such as blockage in the respiratory path.

This may result into snoring and choking sounds, and on worse instances, your brain may even be forced to wake you to address your breathing problem. According to the website of Silent Night Therapy, sleep apnea may lead to certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension, and even stroke.

Narcolepsy

Unlike insomnia and sleep apnea, narcolepsy is something you may not have heard of before. It is a condition where the brain has difficulty going through its sleep and wake cycle, so those who have this condition may experience sudden sleeping episodes in school, at the office, or even during intense activities such as driving and playing sports.

What makes narcolepsy more dangerous is the fact that it is often undiagnosed. Those with narcolepsy may experience extreme sleepiness despite having adequate sleep the prior night, difficulty in concentrating, and feelings of exhaustion.

The Importance of Social Security Disability Insurance

Those who have been suddenly disabled because of an injury or complication have challenging lives. First, there are hospital bills and treatment costs to pay. Second, they may have limited capability to work and earn money. Third, their limited earning capacity may prevent them from getting their medical needs. And fourth, the disability may reduce their general enjoyment of life.

It is a good thing that there is a program such as SSDI. It stands for Social Security Disability Insurance, and its goal is to provide assistance to social security members who have been disabled and may have financial hardships.
It is important to note that not everybody can claim the benefits of SSDI. They should be eligible for it first, and typically, the eligibility is determined by certain factors, such as the following:

  • The person must be paying social security for a specific number of years
  • The injury or complication has really resulted into a disability

Disability benefits can be classified as short-term and long-term. Short-term benefits are for those whose disabilities are temporary, while long-term benefits are for those whose disabilities are long-lasting or permanent.

These benefits may be calculated differently, but they have one thing in common – the legal process involving them may be complicated, but there are legal representatives that can help you for that.

The important thing is that these benefits serve as a financial cushion for those whose earning capacity has been compromised because of a disability. In one perspective, it is a way for the Social Security Administration to give you compensation after years of contribution, and that is why only those who have contributed for a number of years are eligible for this insurance program. Social security can also be invested into diverse portfolio’s through a broker.

Sustaining an injury or complication that is enough to disable you is already stressful enough, but it becomes more stressful because of the financial burdens it brings, so it is good news that SSDI exists.

Truck Accidents and No-Zones

Truck accidents can be one of the most devastating incidents we can see in our roads. The mere size and weight of trucks are enough reasons for them to have greater impacts when compared to other vehicles like compact cars and sedans.

According to the website of Russo, Russo & Slania, P.C., truck accidents may involve drunk driving, mechanical defects and malfunctions, employer negligence, driver error or negligence, and no-zone accidents.

What makes no-zone accidents different from the others is that they are easily prevented by the diligence of the truck drivers and the other motorists around them who are aware of the dangers of a no-zone truck accident. To help prevent such accidents, you yourself should be knowledgeable of no-zones.

What are No-Zones?

Since trucks are enormous vehicles, they have the tendency to have blind spots, and these blind spots can be factors in triggering traffic accidents.

Front No-Zone

Most trucks have elevated cabs, and for this reason, their drivers may not be able to see things that are directly in front of them, like vehicles, motorcycles, and pedestrians. This space is called the front no-zone.

To prevent front no-zone accidents, truck drivers should always make sure that there is space between them and whatever it is in front of them. Other motorists should also be aware of the front no-zone, so they would avoid getting too close to the front side of the trucks.

Rear No-Zone

Most trucks do not have rearview mirrors, so drivers cannot always see what is directly behind them. Trailers can also be obstructions that prevent them to see the rear end of the truck. This blind spot is called the rear no-zone.

To avoid rear no-zones, truckers should always be mindful that such no-zones exist, and should take this into consideration when they are making decisions in the road. Other drivers should also avoid tailgating or being too close to the rear ends of trucks and trailers.

Side No-Zone

Trucks are long vehicles, and there is a possibility that their drivers do not have complete vision to their side lengths. Of course, side mirrors are there to help, but they are not always fully reliable especially on long vehicles like trucks, particularly in the passenger’s side.

It is still the truckers’ responsibility to be in a considerable distance with other vehicles, especially because of the no-zones, but other motorists should also be aware that no-zones exist to help truckers even more in preventing traffic accidents.

Uncovering The Causes of Truck Driver Error

Getting involved in a truck accident will almost always end up in a tragic manner. Given their sheer size, truck crashes can lead to serious injuries. It requires a great amount of skill on the part of the driver to be able to operate a large truck. According to the website of Karlin, Fleisher & Falkenberg, LLC, truck accidents can cause great damage and serious injuries to properties and individuals.

In a recent study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), driver error is ten times more likely to contribute to trucking accidents than other factors such as weather, road conditions, and vehicle performance. The study revealed the different factors that can make drivers make errors when operating their truck. The study came up with the following results:

  • 44% of drivers who were involved in accidents took prescription and over-the-counter drugs
  • 23% of drivers were traveling too fast for conditions
  • 18% were caused by driver fatigue

Fatigue is one of the major reasons drivers commit errors. When they are tired, they have the tendency to feel sleepy, lose focus on the road, misjudge gaps, ignore the signs of impending dangers, and others. While fatigue is one of the most common causes of truck accidents, it is also one of the most preventable. Truck companies must strictly follow the “hours of service rule” to ensure that truck drivers get sufficient rest and restorative sleep to safely drive trucks. The maximum allowable time for drivers to drive is 14 hours daily, wherein the driving time is a maximum of 11 hours.

If a driver figured in a truck accident as a result of their company violating the hours of service policy, the driver of the truck may file a lawsuit against their employer. In order to prove such violation, the driver’s log can prove to be a valuable piece of evidence.

Proving Liability In A Slip And Fall Accident

Accidents can happen even in places you thought safety was a priority such as in apartments or other commercial establishments. When these accidents do happen, the result could often be devastating such as an injury or worst death. According to the website of Bruner Law Firm, there are instances when the accident was caused by the property owner themselves. Under the premise liability law, the landlord or building owner could be held liable for the injury or death of the plaintiff.

In a slip and fall accident, it is up to the plaintiff to prove that the defendant was liable for their injuries. To make the defendant liable, they have to prove that they committed any one of the following:

  • The owner of the property was able to recognize a dangerous hazard but did not do anything to remove or repair the dangerous condition. A major question here is whether or not a reasonable person would have deemed the condition as hazardous or whether they had plenty of time to remove the hazard before the accident happened.
  • The property owner was the principal cause for the slip and fall accident by leaving the dangerous obstacle in a walking path when they could foresee that someone could trip and fall because of the obstacle.

In a slip and fall accident claim, proving negligence always comes with the question of reasonable prudence on the part of the defendant. There are certain factors that could have affected the accident such as the time the hazard had been existing for the defendant to have done something to remove the hazard. Another factor to consider is the justification for the potential hazard and its existence when the accident happened. Third, the preventive measures that the property owner implemented to avoid the slip and fall accident.

Another argument in slip and fall accident is the liability of the plaintiff. Such reasoning can be useful in determining comparative negligence and contributory negligence. In the former, the damage that will be awarded to them will be lessened depending on their percentage of liability in the accident. With the latter, on the other hand, the plaintiff will not be able to receive damages if they were responsible for any degree of liability in the accident.

To prove that the plaintiff was liable for the accident, the defense would have to show the activity of the plaintiff which could have barred them from seeing the obstacle. For example, were they texting or talking on a cell phone? Did they ignore any signs posted on the premise which caused the accident?

Johnson & Johnson Recall/FDA warning

Power morcellators were once praised for their ability to break up tissue and other fibroids during a hysterectomy or a myomectomy. According to the Mayo Clinic, a myomectomy is a surgical procedure to remove uterine fibroids — also called leiomyomas (lie-o-my-O-muhs). A morcellator is a drill-like device that worked by dicing up tissue into smaller bits that were then removed.  However, it was soon revealed that the device was responsible for the spread of cancerous tissue that could then lead to dangerous cancer growth.  The cancers caused by these morcellators were potentially deadly in women, such as metastatic leiomyosarcoma, uterine cancer, uterine sarcoma, and endometrial stromal sarcoma. When this risk became more and more prevalent, Johnson & Johnson, the makers of the power morcellators, issued a recall.

Following the recall, the FDA issued an official warning to doctors against use of the devices.  According to the website of Williams Kherkher, the FDA issued a further “black box warning” in November of 2014 due to the extreme risks associated with the device.  Essentially, this warning stated that any benefits of the device were outweighed by the risks.  In fact, 1 in every 350 women who had surgery using the power morcellators suffered from a serious cancer as a result.

Unfortunately, these warnings and recalls came too late for many women who had already developed severe forms of cancer.  Following the public outcry against power morcellators, many individuals filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson to possibly receive financial compensation for their suffering.  Despite these warnings, recalls, and lawsuits, power morcellators have not been officially banned.

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