Should I Represent Myself in Small Claims Court

What should you do if you have been in an accident involving a personal injury and cannot resolve your claim with your insurance company? You might be wondering if it is worth your time and effort to represent yourself by filing a lawsuit in small claims court.

If your claim is under $10,000, representing yourself in small claims court against an insurance company for a personal injury due to a car accident or a different topic such as employment discrimination is strongly recommended. However, you would be prudent to contact a personal injury lawyer before proceeding to make sure your case is in fact not worth substantially more and worth filing in a district court (up to $100,000) or even superior court (over $100,000).

Once you have determined that your case is worth under $10,000 and eligible for small claims court, do not be intimidated. Others will also be defending themselves there as well. Because of this, the evidence and procedure rules for it are more relaxed. Consult the small claims handbook issued by the Alaska Court System before your case and you will find the rules governing it.

If you decide to file your case in small claims court, do not be afraid: you will not be the only one representing yourself. The rules of procedure and evidence are very relaxed and many people represent themselves in small claims court. The Alaska Court System has a small claims handbook you should read before filing your claim. You can access the handbook here by searching for form SC_100: http://courts.alaska.gov/forms.htm.

At about 30 pages, the handbook is relatively easy to read and gives you all the information you will need to know about how the court process works. From starting your case and preparing for your trial to what to expect at the trial and what happens after the trial is over, the handbook gives thorough explanations.

However, you should consult a personal injury lawyer if you feel you do not understand the processes as described in the handbook. Personal injury claims are often worth much more than you might estimate for yourself. A consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer will give you the piece of mind that you are not underestimating the value of your claim.

You can successfully represent yourself in small claims court if you take a few steps to prepare yourself by consulting with a personal injury lawyer and making yourself familiar with the handbook issued by the Alaska Court System.

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Highest Rated Personal Injury Attorney – Your Trustworthy Friend

When people are injured by others, they often hesitate to get involved with the process of pursuing justice by way of an personal injury lawsuit. The reasons for this hesitation are many, but one of them is the unfortunate distrust that people have for the legal world and for Alaska personal injury lawyers in general.

However, there are Alaska injury attorneys who have made it a career emphasis to earn the trust of their clients and as a result have earned that reputation overall. Make no mistake – earning trust in the legal world is no small matter, but below you’ll see how it can be and has been done.

Placing the Client’s Priorities First

People hear this ideal often in regards to business in general, but the way this is shown tangibly by an Alaska personal injury attorney is by refusing the potential for earning a fee early in the process and risking that revenue by pushing forward with a case because accepting a settlement would simply not serve the best interests of the client.

Telling Clients What They Need to Hear

When someone has been badly injured because of the negligence of another, that person is usually experiencing a range of powerful emotions. When this occurs, it can be difficult to make sound, logical decisions. When it comes to working with an injury lawyer, clients may not want to hear certain things including the fact that no result can be guaranteed. While this is not always well received, it is the duty of any trustworthy Alaska personal injury attorney to make sure that clients fully understand what is involved with obtaining justice.

Refusing to Relent

Every Alaska personal injury case is a process – there are ups and downs, and there is no getting around this continuum. Anyone who has worked with an Alaska injury lawyer should be able to explain how he or she handled the ‘down’ periods, as these are what define not only the result of the case but the approach of that Alaska injury attorney.

Overall, trust can only be earned, and never asked for and received. If you or someone you love has been harmed by someone else, you owe it to yourself to seek the help of an attorney who has been earning the trust of clients for years.

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Steps to Be Taken After Auto Accident

Alaska auto accidents occur with alarming frequency, and when someone is injured because of the negligence of another driver, that person has legal rights and options that arise. However, these legal rights and options are not obvious to those who do not possess a legal background, which is one of the many reasons that anyone who has been harmed by someone else in an accident should seek the help of experienced Alaska auto accident lawyers as soon as possible.

Below are just a few examples of how Alaska accident lawyers can help those who have been harmed and who need legal help so that they can concentrate on their recovery and not have to concern themselves with the stress that comes with fighting for their legal rights.

Step1- Communication

When someone is injured in an Alaska auto accident, it often prompts representatives from the other side to contact the injured person. These representatives can include those who work for the other party’s insurance company or even a defense attorney. Most people understand that speaking to those who work for interests other than their own can ultimately be harmful to their position. If that injured person obtains the help of Alaska accident lawyers, he or she will be able to simply refer those representatives to the attorney and not worry about what is said or is not said.

Step2- Settlement Exploration

If the injured person decides to file an Alaska personal injury lawsuit, one of the first steps that’s commonly taken is to explore the possibility of obtaining a fair and equitable settlement. However, these settlement negotiations can require a high degree of legal knowledge and strategic skill, and understanding when a settlement is possible and when it is not is critical to the ultimate result of the case.

Step3-Preparing for Trial

If a fair settlement is unlikely, Alaska auto accident lawyers will already be ahead of the game by having continued their preparation of the case as if it was going to proceed to trial from the beginning. Those attorneys who have the skill and experience necessary will be able to multitask in this regard, and no steps will be missed as the attorneys fight relentlessly for the rights of their injured clients. Preparing for an Alaska personal injury trial can require hundreds if not thousands of man hours to be properly ready for the plaintiff’s day in court, and this is not an undertaking that should be handled by someone who has not done it before.

As can be seen, there are several reasons why seeking the help of Alaska auto accident lawyers is a wise step to take. Not only will your attorney be able to help you advance your case, but lifting all of these necessary steps from your daily life will allow you to concentrate on your recovery. If you or someone you love has been harmed in a collision, contact the Alaska auto accident lawyers at Barber & Sims immediately to schedule a free initial consultation.

An Expert’s Escapade, a Cautionary Tale

Call it the case of the Renegade Expert. A federal judge’s 78-page order enjoining an expert involved in Zyprexa mass-tort litigation from releasing documents serves as a cautionary tale for any lawyer operating under a judicial gag order.

U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein issued the injunction February 13th after an expert retained by plaintiffs in the litigation against drug manufacturer Eli Lilly & Company leaked documents concerning the anti-psychotic drug to the news media and others.

Despite having agreed in writing to be bound by the protective order, the expert conspired with a lawyer unconnected to the litigation to come up with a scheme for providing the documents to a New York Times reporter and others, Weinstein found.

The expert and the lawyer “deliberately thwarted a federal court’s power to effectively conduct civil litigation under the rule of law,” the judge said, and therefore “should be enjoined to deter further violations of this and other courts’ orders.”

The Alaska Connection

The complex series of events leading up to the order began in October 2006, when the Houston-based Lanier Law Firm, which represents plaintiffs in the litigation, retained Dr. David Egilman to serve as a medical expert.

Earlier, Judge Weinstein, with the consent of the parties, ordered internal Lilly documents sealed in what was designated Case Management Order No. 3, or CMO-3. The order permitted parties to share confidential materials with their expert witnesses, provided the experts agreed in writing to adhere to the order.

At the Lanier firm’s request, Egilman signed the written agreement to adhere to the protective order. Almost immediately, however, he began speaking with New York Times reporter Alex Berenson about how he could provide him with certain protected documents.

At Berenson’s suggestion, Weinstein found, Egilman contacted James Gottstein, a lawyer in Alaska unconnected to the Zyprexa litigation. Agreeing to help Egilman release the documents, Gottstein intervened in an unrelated Alaska case and immediately subpoenaed Egilman to appear for a telephonic deposition and to bring with him all documents in his possession relating to 15 drugs, including Zyprexa.

Egilman notified Lilly of the subpoena but not the Lanier lawyers who retained him. Before Lilly could respond, however, the Alaska lawyer obtained an ex parte order amending the subpoena to direct Egilman to provide the documents in advance of the deposition. Egilman informed neither Lilly nor Lanier of this amended order. (Upon learning of these events, the Lanier firm immediately discharged the expert.)

Plugging the Leak

On December 13th, Egilman began sending the documents to Gottstein electronically. Lilly learned of this two days later, but by then the lawyer had already started to forward them to Berenson and others. Lilly immediately informed the special master overseeing discovery in the Zyprexa litigation. He ordered Gottstein to return the documents. Gottstein replied that he had voluntarily stopped disseminating the documents after having been contacted by Lilly.

On December 17th, a series of articles based on the documents began to appear in the New York Times. Lilly and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee jointly petitioned the court for an injunction. After a preliminary injunction was issued on Dec. 29th, Judge Weinstein initiated a hearing on a permanent injunction.

In his order following that hearing, Weinstein made the injunction permanent against Egilman and Gottstein. He declined to enjoin any media outlet or Web site.

Weinstein was particularly harsh in his discussion of the expert. “Here, an expert hired by plaintiffs agreed in writing not to distribute documents sealed by court order,” he wrote. “He was given access to those documents so that he could assist plaintiffs – people suffering from serious disabilities, mental and physical – in pressing their civil suit against defendant, a major pharmaceutical company.”

In violation of his legal obligations, Weinstein wrote, the expert “deliberately violated this court’s protective order and published sealed documents, intending that they be widely distributed.” The judge noted that the expert “took particular pains to deny Lilly an opportunity to prevent the breach” by making the documents public before Lilly could act.

“Even if one believes, as apparently did the conspirators, that their ends justified their means, courts may not ignore such illegal conduct without dangerously attenuating their power to conduct necessary litigation effectively on behalf of all the people,” Weinstein wrote. “Such unprincipled revelation of sealed documents seriously compromises the ability of litigants to speak and reveal information candidly to each other; these illegalities impede private and peaceful resolution of disputes.”

This article was originally published in BullsEye, a newsletter distributed by IMS ExpertServices. IMS ExpertServices is the premier expert witness and litigation consultant search firm in the legal industry, focused exclusively on providing custom expert witness searches to attorneys. We are proud to be the choice of 89 of the AmLaw Top 100. To read this and other legal industry BullsEye publications, please visit IMS ExpertServices’ recent articles.

Longshore Act Lawyer: Lawsuits Against Vessel Owners

Longshore Act Lawyer Straight Talk: Lawsuits Against Vessel Owners

The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) is the federal workers compensation system for longshoreman and maritime workers whom do not qualify for seaman status. Generally, a worker that falls under the LHWCA or Longshore Act can not sue their employer if they are injured at work. Instead, they are limited to Longshore Act benefits.

Longshore workers may only bring civil lawsuits for personal injuries suffered at work against vessel owners (whom may also be their employer under some circumstances) or third parties. A third party is any person or entity whom is legally responsible for the LHWCA employee’s injuries other than their employer. This article concerns Longshore Act employees civil lawsuits against vessel owners under Section 905(b) of the LHWCA. These are called “905(b) vessel owner negligence” cases.

Duty and 905(b) Vessel Owner Negligence

The concept of “duty” is one that’s been part of negligence law for centuries. Basically, everyone owes everyone else a duty to not cause them, or put them in position to suffer harm. There are different standards of duty for different people, such as doctors, who owe a higher duty to his or her patients. The federal courts have limited vessel owner duties to LHWCA workers.

Duties Owed to LHWCA Employees By Vessel Owners

The following are the Duties Vessel Owners owe to Longshoreman in the Ninth Circuit*:

1. Turn-over duty of safe condition.

The vessel must exercise ordinary care under the circumstances to have the ship and its equipment in such condition that an expert and experienced stevedore will be able by the exercise of reasonable care to carry on its cargo operations with reasonable safety to persons and property. It relates to the condition of the vessel before it is turned over to the stevedore company.

The vessel must warn the stevedore company of any hazards on the ship or with respect to its equipment that are known to the vessel or should be known to it in the exercise of reasonable care, that would likely be encountered by the stevedore in the course of his cargo operations and that are not known by the stevedore and would not be obvious to or anticipated by him if reasonably competent in the performance of his work.

2. Active Control Duty

The vessel may be liable if it actively involves itself in the cargo operations and negligently injures a longshoreman.

The vessel may be liable if it fails to exercise due care to avoid exposing longshoremen to harm from hazards they may encounter in areas, or from equipment, under the active control of the vessel during the stevedoring operation.

3. Duty to Intervene

A vessel is at times under a duty to intervene in the stevedore’s operations and correct a dangerous condition. This duty arises when:

1) the vessel is aware of the condition,
2) the vessel should realize the condition presents an unreasonable risk of harm to the longshoremen, and
3) the vessel knows that the stevedore, as a result of an obviously improvident judgment, has failed to remedy the situation.

When the vessel should have realized the stevedore company was exposing the Longshoreman to an unreasonable risk of harm there is a duty to intervene. Some courts appear to require the vessel to have played a part in creating the condition or risk of harm.

* The Ninth Circuit applies to LHWCA workers that are injured in the following States: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii.

If You are From California, Utah, or Alaska, You Need to Refinance Your Home Loan Right Now

Are you currently a home owner in California, Utah or Alaska? If you are, then you should refinance your home mortgage right now. That’s because this is the best time for home mortgage refinancing for people with properties in these states, because mortgage rates are still relatively low but they’ll soon be going up. Particularly if your house had been financed years ago, it’s most likely that your mortgage loan interest rate was calculated based on higher rates at that time.

Additionally, refinancing your home can bring many benefits, like lower monthly repayment amounts. Plus, if you have already paid up most of your outstanding equity, then you can easily get some cash out of your home’s equity. With the continuing growth in the housing market in states like Utah, California and Alaska, interest rates are expected to rise with this increasing demand. Hence, now is best time to lock in on these low interest rates.

Probably the best way to evaluate your options for residential refinance mortgage loans would be to search online through the various home mortgage lenders websites. For instance, a search on Utah refinance mortgage loans or Alaska refinance mortgage loans will list you results on various mortgage loan companies offering refinance packages at very competitive rates.

However, it pays to make an informed evaluation on the different loan packages offered by different lenders as well as by mortgage brokers by making comparison in terms of the criteria, interest rates, points, insurance costs, as well as repayment flexibility offered by the different mortgage loan companies.

The first thing you can do is to search through the online Refinance Directory for Utah, California and Alaska, which gives links to various mortgage loan refinancing companies so you can visit the individual mortgage company sites directly from this directory. You should already have your current mortgage loan details at hand, such as your current repayment amount, the outstanding equity to be paid as well as the loan period. With this, you can then utilize the various refinance loan calculation tools to get a rough idea on current rates and new repayment amounts that you will need to make.

For example, once you’ve narrowed down your choices on the possible mortgage lenders that you want to use to refinance your California home mortgage, you can then simply submit your application online through their website, along with your personal details, key information about your current property, your income status as well as your employment information.

After you received your online loan quote, these mortgage lenders usually assign a customer service representative to handle your application. They usually request documentation of your stated information, like your credit report, current loan documentation and home ownership documents. Your service representative will advise you on any additional costs that will be incurred, like insurance costs, lawyer’s fees, points and even penalty costs imposed by your current home mortgage lender.

Sometimes, it may be advisable to refinance your California home mortgage with the same lender who provided you with your initial home mortgage. This way you can request that certain charges such as points, penalty costs or insurance be waived or reduced, which will give you additional cost savings on top of the lower interest rates charged.

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Arbitration – The Best Way to Settle Fee Disputes With a Lawyer

Are you finding it difficult to settle fee disputes with lawyer? Are you not convinced with the billing statements send to you by him/her? If yes, you need not worry as there are several ways to work out all your issues. Most people end up either suing their attorneys or reporting them to the Bar Association. But, these are not the best ways to solve your problems. In fact, suing a lawyer can make the situation even worse as considering a legal malpractice claim against a lawyer is not only costly, but also very difficult to prove. Therefore, it is always better to go for alternative options to resolve the billing issues.

The best alternative to going to court is ‘Arbitration’. It is nothing but a voluntary intercession program offered by state bar associations to help people resolve their billing issues with their attorneys. It involves a neutral third party, called the ‘arbitrator’, who takes into account all the evidence and documents provided by the two parties and issues a written decision on what the ‘appropriate fee’ should be. This written decision issued to the client a few days after the process is over is termed as an ‘award’.

The arbitration program is of 2 types: Binding and Nonbinding. In the first type, the client and the attorney are required to abide by the arbitrator’s final decision. However, in the second type, the client is free to move to the court if he/she is not satisfied with the issued award.

These intercession services are offered in as many as 41 states in the United States. In fact, in some states, namely, Alaska, California, Maine, Wyoming, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota, this program is mandatory for all those who wish to proceed to a court to settle fee disputes. In other states, it is up to you to decide what suits you best, an expensive litigation or a less formal and a cheaper alternative.

Wisconsin Bankruptcy Lawyers

Wisconsin is a great place to live and work. Madison Wisconsin is home to the University of Wisconsin and is a lovely campus town with beautiful scenery. Green Bay is home to the Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field where many classic football games have been played over the years. Milwaukee is the commercial hub of Wisconsin and many Fortune 1000 companies including: Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual, Manpower Inc. Kohl’s, Harley-Davidson and Fiserv.

Wisconsin has natural geographic boundaries of the Montreal River, Lake Superior and Michigan to the north and Lake Michigan to the east. The mighty Mississippi river helps form the state boundary in the west. Over 45% of Wisconsin is covered in forest, there are plenty of lakes – only Alaska, Michigan and Florida have more lakes.

If you need a bankruptcy attorney in Wisconsin there are many options. If you live near Milwaukee, you can grab a business directory and see who’s listed. Even easier, use Google and search for bankruptcy lawyers near your city. There are online directories that contain reviews and research about Wisconsin lawyers that are useful for your search. If you find a couple that you like, call the Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been any complaints against that lawyer in the last few years.

If you can get a recommendation from a friend or co-worker, use that to help guide your search. Don’t forget to ask about a free consultation, you shouldn’t have to pay a lot of money to find out if bankruptcy is the right option for you.

Anchorage DWI Lawyers

Being cited for DWI can be very humiliating. It can also be a bit scary. It is definitely not something you would want on your record. If you are in Anchorage, you would be pleased to know that there are many Anchorage DWI lawyers who are only too willing to help you out – and yes, even get you out of jail!

Why Do You Need a DWI Lawyer?

Under the Alaska law, DWI is a serious offense with serious consequences. You can lose all your driving privileges and you can end up paying huge amount of money for your fines. You need to know what you will be facing and you need the assistance of a lawyer to figure things out.

The law provides that once you are cited for violating the state’s DWI statute, you will end up facing two simultaneous but separate legal actions, that is, a criminal action and an administrative action. The former is in response to your citation. The latter is brought against your license. You could end up with a suspended driving license or you could lose your driving privileges. This would depend on the circumstances of the case. Fortunately, there are many Anchorage DWI lawyers, so you can definitely find one who can represent you properly.

What Will You Be Facing as a First Time Offender?

First time offenders rarely escape unscathed. In fact, a mandatory imprisonment of 72 hours is prescribed by law to first-time DUI offenders. They also need to pay the minimum fine of $1,500.00. They will also have to forgo driving for at least three months. That’s bad news especially if they have to report for community service as well. These are just a few of the things that first-time DWI offenders in Anchorage will have to face if cited for violation of the statute.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you really should consider checking out various Anchorage DWI lawyers before you make your choice. You really need someone who knows what he or she is doing. You need someone who can help you face the charges properly.

If you are looking for a trustworthy, reliable and competent Anchorage DWI lawyer near you, you do not have to bother with your local telephone directory. You do not have to go around Anchorage either. The Anchorage DWI Lawyers [http://www.anchoragedwilawyers.com/] Directory will help you find the best attorney in the area. So no matter what legal quagmire you are in, you can definitely find the best lawyer to help you out!

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Message to Lawyers – Pay Your Bar Association Dues

Paying state bar association dues may seem like a no-brainer, but failure to pay those dues could lead to suspension as it did for several RI lawyers in 2010.

The purpose of bar association dues vary from association to association, but payments of these dues is mandatory in many states in order to practice. It’s pay or stop practicing, something 23 Rhode Island lawyers discovered the hard way. A supreme court judge suspended their licenses for their failure to pay bar association dues, which were nearly one year overdue. Most associations require attorneys to pay their dues by July 1.

In the Rhode Island case, the attorneys were notified three times of their lapse, and the vast majority paid up immediately. However, the 23 that did not were suspended. Dues are different amounts, depending on where the attorney is practicing. For example, in Rhode Island, lawyers pay $200 per year for lawyers who have been licensed for more than five years and $115 per year for less senior lawyers.

Bar associations take these due seriously. In Georgia, for example, if a lawyer in any state fails to pay their dues during a two-year period, their membership is suspended for five years. A lawyer can be recertified through Georgia’s Fitness process with Bar Admissions, and must also complete administrative requirements and paying additional penalty fees, dues and late fees. After the five-year period, lawyer there have to retake the Bar Exam.

States that require bar association membership include including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana,, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming and the District of Columbia.

Typically, the dues are below $200, a fee that most lawyers manage to pay to keep their practices in good standing, and the longer an attorney is in practice, the lower the dues.

Why let something this small create such a big problem? For some attorneys, it’s simple oversight and others are aware of this lapse and the consequences.