How to Talk to Your Insurance Company After an Accident

insurance company after car accidentAfter a car accident, you may feel it necessary to contact your auto insurance company or carrier and let them know what has happened immediately. While informing your carrier of an accident is an important step in getting the compensation you deserve, there are a few things you should know before you pick up the phone.

Don’t Always Expect the Insurance Company to be on Your Side

As nice as it is to believe that an insurance company is on your side, this might not always be the case. Insurance agencies are running a business, meaning their main concern will almost always be their bottom dollar. Even though you may have paid your monthly premiums, and followed up on your end of the bargain, the insurance company will likely still not be looking after your best interests. That’s why you may want to consider enlisting the help of a personal injury attorney. Their main objective is to help you get the compensation you deserve. In fact, most DC personal injury lawyers won’t see any payment until you do.

Speaking with Your Insurance Company

After an accident, you may want to follow these steps:

  • Call the police
  • Take care of injuries
  • Exchange information with the other driver
  • Document the accident
  • Report the accident to your insurance company

When you contact the insurance company, you will likely need the following information:

  • Policy information
  • Identity Verification
  • Facts about the accident
  • What property was damaged
  • If there were any injuries
  • Police report and its identification number

At this point, insurance companies will likely try and find ways to reject your accident claims or find a way to pay the least amount of money on a claim. Remember, you only have to provide the basic information at this time. Stick to the facts and avoid adding any personal opinions, or conjecture about liability; an insurance company will likely try to spin any non-factual evidence you provide to avoid paying your claim. This is also not a time to accept any offers from the insurance company for a payout. If you already have an attorney, provide the attorney’s contact information to the representative. If you don’t have an attorney, let the representative know you will be getting one. Retaining an attorney shows the insurance company that you are serious and that they cannot take advantage of you.

If you’ve been injured in an accident and are in the process of dealing with your insurance company to get the compensation you deserve, it may be in your best interest to seek the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.

0 COHEN

 

Thanks to our friends and co-contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their added insight into communicating with your insurance agency.

 

Need a Memphis Personal Injury Lawyer?

Call us at (901) 372-5003.  Our experienced Memphis injury lawyers can help you make the most of your insurance claim. Sign up for email notifications of blog posts here.

WISEMAN BRAY PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

(901) 383-6599 Fax

www.WisemanBray.com

Injuries to Trespassing Children

injuries trespassing children, personal injury lawyerIn most states, there are special rules addressing injuries to trespassing children.  In Tennessee, for example, there is the “attractive nuisance doctrine,” recently codified in Tenn. Code. Ann. 29-34-208.

Attractive Nuisance Doctrine

In summary, that doctrine holds that a land owner or possessor is liable for injuries to children who trespass if all of the following elements are present:

(1) The owner maintained a dangerous condition that was not a natural condition and knew or should have known that the condition posed a risk of death or serious bodily harm to trespassing kids;

(2) The owner knew or should have known children were likely to trespass onto the property, either because they would be lured there by the dangerous condition or because children regularly play on the property;

(3) The dangerous condition was not apparent, or children, because of their youth, would be unlikely to discover and comprehend the risk;

(4) The usefulness to the owner of maintaining the dangerous condition and the burden of eliminating the danger were significantly outweighed by the risk of harm to kids who would foreseeably trespass onto the property; and

(5) The owner failed to use reasonable care to eliminate the danger or otherwise protect the children.

This statute does not create or increase liability or affect any immunity from or defense to liability established by other statutes or common law to which a landowner may be entitled.

Even Trespassing Children are Protected by the Law

If your child was injured on someone else’s property by a dangerous condition, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer. Cases like this are very fact-dependent and are handled and settled on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to recover compensation to help you pay for your child’s medical bills and other damages, even if your child was trespassing.

We represent injured children and their families.

The attorneys at Wiseman Bray PLLC not only know how to deal effectively and efficiently with insurance companies, but we are also experienced trial lawyers.  We’d be honored to represent you and your family if your child has been injured. Please call us today for a free consultation at 901-372-5003. Or, if you aren’t a fan of the telephone, please feel free to email our team of injury lawyers.

We serve clients throughout Tennessee and Mississippi, including Bartlett, Cordova, Lakeland, Germantown, Collierville, Munford, Covington, Arlington, Nashville, Brentwood, and the surrounding counties and rural areas.  Sign up to receive our blog posts via email.

WISEMAN BRAY PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

(901) 383-6599 Fax

www.WisemanBray.com

Digital Assets: Who can access my online accounts if I die?

digital assets estate planning lawyerChances are, if you are reading this Blog Post, you own Digital Assets and have one or more online accounts.  As Estate Planning Lawyers, we continue to see changes in the law to address our increasingly tech-savvy culture. The use of electronic information has continued to play a larger role in the Estate Planning and Administration we do for our clients.

Have you ever thought about what might happen to your Facebook account if you died?  Who would get your iTunes library and how would they access it?

Tennessee Legislature Passes Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

The Tennessee legislature recently passed the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (the “Act”), which became effective July 1, 2016. The intent of the Act is to aid in a Fiduciary’s ability to access an individual’s Digital Assets.  A Fiduciary is someone either appointed by a person or a Probate Court Court to act on behalf of the person in the event of incapacity or death.  A fiduciary may be appointed by a person in a Power of Attorney or Last Will and Testament, or by a Court in a guardianship, conservatorship, or intestate estate proceeding.  The Act also attempts to protect a person’s privacy, as it also allows the person to restrict a fiduciary’s access to digital assets, and provides additional safeguards by allowing the Custodian of the asset to request certain documentation before providing requested information. A fiduciary granted access to digital assets is held to a fiduciary standard under the Act, requiring the fiduciary to act in the best interests of the person with a duty of care, loyalty and confidentiality.

What are Digital Assets?

The Act defines Digital Assets as “an electronic record in which an individual has a right or interest,” and this “does not include an underlying asset or liability unless the asset or liability is itself an electronic record.”  The Act does not necessarily grant the fiduciary access to a person’s cell phone, computer, tablet, etc., but this class of assets includes a wide variety of items, including:

  • assets from Twitter and Facebook accounts
  • assets such as PayPal accounts
  • iTunes accounts
  • Accumulated frequent flyer miles
  • Online banking or trading accounts.

How is Access Granted?

The Act lays out specific requirements as to how the fiduciary must go about requesting access to the digital assets depending on the nature of the fiduciary representation, the type of document (if any) granting the fiduciary the authority to access digital assets, and the depth of the information needed by the fiduciary.

What Should I do about my digital assets and online accounts?

Granting a fiduciary the authority to access your digital assets (or limiting their access) should be done with specificity.   You can and should address these issues in your Last Will and Testament and Power of Attorney.  You should also make sure that any usernames, passwords, and account numbers for your digital assets and online accounts are in a safe place so that your fiduciary can get this information and provide it if requested by a custodian (such as the bank, Facebook, etc.).

If you are concerned about your appointed fiduciary’s current potential access to your digital assets, you should consult with an attorney experienced in fiduciary matters, who can review the relevant documents and properly advise you about your specific situation.

What if I need access to someone else’s online accounts?

If you are currently in a fiduciary position and you need to obtain access to that person’s digital assets or records or online accounts, please be sure to consult with an estate planning attorney to find out how you should go about obtaining this information/access, because the procedures can differ based on your fiduciary role, the powers you have been granted, and the type of information you are trying to obtain.

Let us help you

Our Estate Planning Attorneys can help develop a digital assets plan to best suit your individual needs.  Visit our website to learn more about our work and call us today at 901-372-5003.

Wiseman Bray PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

Other Resources:

Estate Planning 101: Power of Attorney and Living Will

Joint Property Ownership Pitfalls and Solutions

joint property ownershipOur law firm has worked on a couple of cases lately involving joint property ownership; that is, property owned by a group of several individuals. Owning a piece of land or real estate with a group of individuals or family members can lead to many problems, a few of which we will discuss here.

What Happens to Real Estate When a Person Dies?

In Tennessee, real property typically passes outside of Probate in accordance with the publicly recorded property documents in the County where the property is located.  A person can also plan for the disposition of real property in a Will or Trust.  If you die owning real property in your sole name, though, it can cause significant problems for your Beneficiaries that can be avoided by proper planning.

In both cases I mentioned above, the group of individuals came into joint property ownership because of intestate succession (i.e., dying without a Will).  You may think that you do not need a Will because your property will pass to your heirs regardless.  However, there are many problems and burdens that your heirs will face if property passes to them through intestate succession.  Here’s what can happen if a landowner dies without a Will:

  • Land may pass to heirs who do not wish to be landowners.
  • Land may pass to heirs who do not know that they are now landowners (i.e. lost heirs).
  • Land may pass to heirs who are not prepared for the responsibility of owning real estate (i.e. paying real estate taxes, maintaining insurance, upkeep of the property)
  • If there is a mortgage, payments may be required very soon after the death of the original owner and before any inherited owner has a chance to determine how to address the new ownership – i.e. sell the property, allow it to be foreclosed upon, etc.
  • The title to the property will be unclear and extra effort will be required to determine all legal owners in a joint property ownership situation. It can be very difficult to locate heirs and to determine with certainty who all owns a piece of property, especially if some of the original heirs have died, or if the family isn’t in close contact or is spread across the country. A title search may be required, and title searches can be expensive.

Increased Costs for Inherited Owners

When a piece of property passes through intestate succession, when ownership is unclear, or when a piece of property is owned by a large group of individuals, there will be extra expense involved when the property is sold. As a general matter, the entire sales process will take longer than usual. Each separate legal owner must be found and consulted with.  Then, each owner must agree to all parts of the sale process (i.e. negotiating the price, negotiating and completing repairs, and signing all required paperwork).  It can be very difficult getting a group of family members or individuals to all cooperate and agree during the course of a real estate transaction.

Inherited owners who want to sell property can expect to have to do some additional work with the buyer’s title company such as filing probate documents, getting releases from TennCare, and dealing with potential creditors of the deceased person.  A title company may require proceeds to be escrowed for up to a year after the deceased person’s death.

Legal Issues of One Owner Can Affect Other Owners

Inherited and multiple owners can also come with their own personal problems.  A judgment lien or a bankruptcy filing of one inherited owner will immediately attach to the inherited property, which could cause delays and problems for any co-owners wishing to sell the property.

Ways to Avoid Common Problems of Joint Property Ownership

If you must own property with a group of individuals or family members, or if you desire to pass property to a group of people, there are ways you can accomplish joint property ownership which lessen the burden and expense involved. Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney or Property Lawyer about the best way to achieve your personal goals. For example, more effective “joint ownership” can be achieved in the following ways:

  1. Own as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship. This type of ownership is common with married couples, but it can also be used with any individuals wishing to create this type of joint tenancy.  Upon the death of one joint tenant, the remaining tenant owns the property outright.  This results in protection from a debtor-tenant’s creditors because liens can only attach to the right of the debtor-tenant, which is nothing more than a “potential survivorship right.”  This protection ends if the non-debtor tenant dies and the debtor- tenant then owns the property outright.  One negative of this type of ownership is that the property will only pass to the other joint tenant, so the Estate of the first to die loses any equity to pass on to other individuals.  In addition, potential gift tax issues may arise since the Grantor is “gifting” rights to the property to the person they are creating a joint tenancy with.
  2. Own the Property in a Limited Liability Corporation.  Ask a business organization attorney about property ownership through an LLC. The rights of the members will depend on the structure of the LLC. Creating an LLC requires maintenance of paperwork to the State to keep the LLC active which will be required if the LLC wants to sell the property.
  3. Put the Property Into a Living Trust.  This is achieved by conveying the property to a Trustee on behalf of a Trust. (A Trust itself can’t own property; rather it must be an individual Trustee on behalf of the Trust.)  The property will then be maintained and distributed in accordance with the Trust Agreement.  A Living Trust allows the Grantor to make changes during his or her lifetime (therefore keeping control and autonomy) but also allows for the streamlining of management and an easy transition of the property upon the death of the original Grantor.  The successor Trustee can sell or manage the property outside of Probate, and depending on the Trust terms, without the input of or disruption to the Beneficiaries.

Beneficiary Deeds

Tennessee does not offer this, but some states allow the use of a Beneficiary Deed to clarify how a property is to pass upon the owner’s death. Essentially, a Beneficiary Deed lets a person name a beneficiary and only takes effect upon the death of the owner. Ask your Estate Planning Attorney about the availability of Beneficiary Deeds if you own property in multiple states.

Right to Partition

If you are tied up in joint property ownership, or if you own a piece of property with a group of individuals or family members and you want to end the relationship and go your separate way, you can. In Tennessee, you have the legal right to what is called “partition.” Speak with a civil litigation attorney about filing a partition lawsuit. In this kind of lawsuit, you ask the judge to partition the property, either “in kind” or “by sale.” To learn more about this kind of lawsuit, read our previous Blog Post about Partition Lawsuits.

Need Help with a Property Ownership Issue?

Have questions about joint property ownership or other real estate issues? Please call us at 901-372-5003 or send Wiseman Bray PLLC an email.

Wiseman Bray PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

www.WisemanBray.com

 

**Blog Post by:  Erin Shea and Carlisle Dale

erin shea, injury lawyer at wiseman bray memphis  carlisle dale, memphis asset protection

 

 

 

 

**Special thanks to Real Estate Closing Attorney Jennifer Sisson of Sisson and Sisson Law Firm for contributing her wisdom and insight to this Blog Post.

Who Says a Judge Can’t Be Funny?

judge While the underlying crime is by no means funny — i.e. an argument over a dog pooping in a neighbor’s yard that led to a machete fight — Judge Jeff Sutton of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit offers up several good “one-liners” in response to the criminal defendant’s arguments, including the following:

 

“‘There is nothing new under the sun.’ Ecclesiastes 1:9. Maybe so. But this is a first for us — a dispute between next-door neighbors about uncollected dog deposits that degenerated into a near-fatal assault with a machete.”

“Walker’s belief, however honest, was emphatically unreasonable. He had no objective indications that his neighbor was about to attack him with the stick. And even if he did, Walker brought a machete to a stick fight and nearly killed his neighbor in the process — all in a dispute over a canine trespass….”

“Walker’s lawyer attempts to downplay her client’s use of a machete, claiming that it is merely a ‘garden implement.’  That is easy for her to say. The neighbor…presumably sees it differently, for the same reason that the victim of a near-fatal knifing would not characterize the weapon as a ‘kitchen utensil.'”

branch-308013__180Responding to arguments that the defendant was otherwise a “model citizen,” Judge Sutton wrote: “Being a model citizen for 364 days of the year is not of much use if this is what happens on the 365th day.”

knife

The opinion is barely 4 pages long and well worth the quick read. United States v. Jeffery T. Walker, No. 14-6490, 819 F.3d 877 (April 11, 2016).

 

 

Need a Lawyer?

We hope you never need help with a case involving a machete!   However, if you need a lawyer, please call us at 901-372-5003. We represent victims in personal injury cases, apartment crime cases, wrongful death cases, auto accidents, and more.

WISEMAN BRAY PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

www.WisemanBray.com

Wrongful Death of a Child

wrongful death of a child attorneyNo one should have to ever think about the wrongful death of a child. As a mother of two young children, I can’t think of anything more unbearable than the loss of a child. But according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, over 57,000 children under the age of 19 die every year in the United States.

Our law firm represents parents who have lost a child due to the fault of another person or company. The legal term for a death caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing is “wrongful death.”

Who can File Suit for Wrongful Death of a Child?

In Tennessee, only certain people have the right to file a lawsuit to recover damages for the wrongful death of a child. As a general matter, the child’s parents can file suit against the responsible party.  If the parents are divorced, special rules apply. Usually, the parent with “primary custody” has the right to file suit. An administrator can also file the lawsuit. Tenn. Code Ann. Section Tennessee Code Annotated Section 20-5-106 provides that the wrongful death cause of action:

shall pass to . . .the [child’s] natural parents or parent or next of kin if at the time of death [the child] was in the custody of the natural parents or parent and had not been legally surrendered or abandoned by [the parents] pursuant to any court order removing [the child] from the custody of [the parents or parent]; or otherwise to the [child’s] legally adoptive parents or parent, or to the administrator for the use and benefit of the adoptive parents or parent; the funds recovered in either case to be free from the claims of creditors.

Occasionally, due to family circumstances, wrongful death cases involving children can become very complicated. Sometimes disputes arise between divorced parents or among family members as to how the case should be handled. Also, even if you aren’t the person to file the lawsuit, you may still be entitled to recover a portion of the damages awarded. Likewise, the person who files the lawsuit may or may not be entitled to a portion of the money damages awarded. An experienced wrongful death attorney can talk with you, learn about your family situation, and advise you on your potential rights.

What are the Damages in a Wrongful Death Case Involving a Child?

Damages in a case involving the wrongful death of a child are determined on a case by case basis. A jury will look at all of the facts and circumstances and make an award. Legally speaking though, the types of damages recoverable in a wrongful death case are statutory and are set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated Section 20-5-113. The general categories are:

(1)     Injuries Suffered by the Child from Time of Injury Until Death

This classification allows recovery for medical expenses, physical and mental pain and suffering, funeral expenses, and loss of earning capacity during the period from injury to death.

(2)     Incidental Damages Sustained by Child’s Next of Kin

This classification of damages includes the pecuniary value of the child’s life.  The “pecuniary value” of a deceased child’s life represents the value of the child’s probable future financial accumulations at the time of the child’s death.  To determine the pecuniary value of a decedent’s life, a court considers the following factors: life expectancy and age, condition of health, capacity for earning money through a skill, art, trade, profession, occupation or business, and personal habits regarding sobriety and industry. The amount should then be reduced by deducting the decedent’s probable living expenses had the decedent lived.

In the case of a wrongful death of a child, the analysis is a bit different. Living expenses are the costs associated with child-rearing. In the case of a very young child, estimates of the child’s future earnings and contributions are speculative at best. For this reason, it can be helpful to have expert testimony concerning the valuation of a child’s pecuniary losses.

Loss of Consortium (Filial Consortium Damages)

Pecuniary value also includes the value of human companionship. Parents of a deceased child are entitled to recover for loss of consortium.  However, these claims for loss of consortium cannot exist independently from the claim that a defendant’s negligence caused the child’s death. Thus, parents cannot recover for the sorrow and anguish endured as a result of the child’s death. Rather, the “pecuniary value” of the child’s life includes a value for the parents’ loss of consortium

In determining the amount of consortium damages, courts consider the benefits the child bestowed on the family, such as companionship, comfort, society, attention, cooperation, affection, care and love. Because it is impossible to generalize on the extent to which family members enjoy each other’s companionship and society, the measurement of a particular parent’s loss of a particular child’s consortium is decided on a case by case basis.

Punitive Damages

If the child’s death was caused by reckless or intentional conduct, parents can seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the responsible person and deter similar behavior.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Depending on the facts of the case, parents of a deceased child may be able to assert independent claims for “negligent infliction of emotional distress.” An experienced wrongful death lawyer can advise you further about this and other claims you may have.

Limits on Damages in Tennessee Due to Tort Reform

As a general rule, the most that parents can recover for “loss of consortium” damages for the wrongful death of a child is $750,000. Punitive damages are usually limited to $500,000 or two times the compensatory damages, whichever is greater. One of our Memphis wrongful death attorneys can discuss your case and explain the rules on damages in Tennessee, as well as the various limitations in effect due to Tennessee Tort Reform.

Looking for a Caring and Compassionate Wrongful Death Lawyer?

If you’d like to speak with a caring and compassionate wrongful death lawyer in the Memphis or Nashville area, please call our office at 901-372-5003. We’re not your everyday law firm. We are mothers and fathers just like you and we treat our clients like family. There is never any charge for an initial consultation or meeting.  To get email notifications of our blog posts, please sign up here.

Resources for Families Suffering the Wrongful Death of a Child

Understanding Grief When Your Child Dies

The Death of a Child: The Grief of the Parents: A Lifetime Journey

 

Blog Post by:   Erin Shea

memphis personal injury lawyer and wrongful death attorneyErin practices in the area of civil litigation, including personal injury and wrongful death, premises liability, apartment crime, business and contractual disputes, and insurance claims. Before joining Wiseman Bray PLLC, Erin practiced at Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell PLC, gaining extensive experience in litigation. Her experience at a large insurance defense firm gives her a unique perspective in advancing claims on behalf of the firm’s clients.

Erin has been listed as a Mid-South Super Lawyers Rising Star every year since 2009  and is a Fellow of the Memphis Bar Foundation.

She is married to Martin F. Shea, Jr., and has two very active young children— Elin (Age 4) and Martin (Age 21 months)– and a German Shepherd dog named Iko.  In her spare time, she enjoys reading, movies, good television, and exercise.

 

 

Erin Melton Shea

WISEMAN BRAY PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003

 

Does Health Insurance Cover Injuries from a Car Accident?

insurance personal injury lawyer Almost every state in this country requires a motor vehicle driver to carry insurance, except for New Hampshire and Virginia. Whenever you need to go to the hospital, you expect to utilize the services you pay for to cover your care. But what happens when you seek medical treatment as a result of a car accident? Does your medical insurance still cover this bill, or do you turn to your car insurance for assistance?

Which Insurance Company Covers the Bills?

This question is really quite detailed, and many factors come into play. In most cases, whoever is at fault is responsible for the medical bills. If someone else hits you and is cited for the accident, it is their insurance that is responsible for paying your medical bills. Now, let us suppose that you are hit by someone who did not have insurance coverage.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists

For situations where the at-fault party has little to no coverage, carrying an insurance policy known as uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage can help alleviate the stress of mounting medical bills. This coverage can allow your motor vehicle insurance to cover the medical portion of whatever the at-fault drivers could not. This can be especially important if injuries have lasting or permanent effects.

Initial Medical Costs Are Not Always Final

When it comes to a car accident and medical costs, the initial costs of treatment may not be the final total on care. Oftentimes, people do not realize how severely injured they are until days or even weeks after the incident.

Furthermore, if you have had to take time off of work due to your injuries, or have a possibly disabling condition; you may be entitled to further compensation for those damages as well. A DC car accident lawyer can stand beside you and fight for a compensation package that may be able to better recuperate damages you’ve suffered.

Why You May Need an Attorney

An insurance company wants to settle the claim as quickly and as quietly as possible. They do not want to go to court, and do not want to pay a dime more than they have to. Your best interest is not their priority; their main focus is to protect their bottom line. An attorney may be able to help combat attempts to settle your claim with a low-ball offer, expedite the settlement award process, and offer peace of mind by professionally managing all of the complexities of your case.

A top attorney should be able to examine your potential case and determine the path to compensation. They may also be able to assist in determining who is responsible for the medical bills based on your unique situation. There are always loopholes and all sorts of red tape when it comes to an auto accident; which is why having a legal adviser can be so beneficial.

Do you need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Please call Wiseman Bray PLLC for a free consultation at 901-372-5003. We are personal injury lawyers in Memphis and Nashville and have extensive experience handling car accident cases. Tell us about your car accident case and let us help you. Sign up for email notifications of our blog post!

0 COHEN

Thanks to our friends and contributors at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their additional insight into car accident and personal injury practice.

Don’t be like Prince: Get a Will.

prince died without a will, memphis estate probate lawyer

It’s been widely reported that Prince probably died without a Will. This has left many people wondering:

How could someone rich and famous like Prince die without a Will?

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people, even the super-wealthy, to to die without even the simplest form of an Estate Plan. While at least one source reports that Prince’s Estate may be worth less than what people think, this surprising omission of someone of Prince’s celebrity status should give us all cause to stop and think about what might happen to our own families and hard-earned assets in the event of an untimely death.

2 Simple Reasons to Have a Will or Estate Plan

When we meet with potential clients and give basic estate planning seminars, we stress the importance of having, at the very least, a basic estate plan in place. This is important because:

1. Your wishes will be known. Have you ever tried to guess what another person wants? This is why many of us find Christmas shopping very stressful. The only way you can be sure to “get what you want” is to properly (and legally) communicate your wishes and desires. Just telling someone won’t cut it. After all, neither a judge nor your family will be able to ask you after your death.

2. You can help prevent family feuds and division. You may think your family is so tightknit that they would never quarrel over your assets after you die. You may be right, but you may also be wrong. Why take the chance? Make your wishes so clear that your family members have nothing to fight about amongst themselves after your death.

An Estate Plan is important regardless of your financial status. You do not have to be “rich” to need a Will. Even if you think you don’t have enough assets to justify planning ahead, it is likely that your possessions have real meaning to family members or friends. It is also likely that you have a larger Estate than you may realize.

2 Simple Reasons People Don’t Have a Will or Estate Plan

1. Fear of Losing or Giving up Control. Like Prince, many people like to retain complete control over their assets and business affairs. There’s not a thing in the world wrong with this. However, having an Estate Plan does not mean that you lose control! In fact, Estate Planning is a way to extend the control over your affairs “beyond the grave.”

2. Death is an Unpleasant and Uncertain Event. People often put off any planning or do not want to think about their passing. It is easy to procrastinate and it always seems like planning can be left for another today. However, death is an unfortunate reality for us all. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

What happens without a Will?

If you don’t have an Estate Plan or Will, in Memphis and Nashville Tennessee, your Estate, like Prince’s, may become subject to state law and Probate Court orders. This is likely to lead to familial dissension and excessive fees and costs for the Estate, which in the end reduces the amount of assets remaining for your Beneficiaries. Your money may also wind up going to the Government! For example, in Prince’s case, the Probate Court has appointed a Corporate Executor for his Estate, and many attorneys will be involved because of the number of potential Beneficiaries. There will be many questions as to how the royalties and future earnings from Prince’s music will be handled. Estate taxes will have to be paid. All of these factors will lead to a lot of money being spent (and some might even say “wasted”). All of the headaches and money spent, as well as the publicity involved, could have been avoided, or at least minimized, if Prince had planned ahead by having a Will or Estate Plan.

Moral of the Story:  Don’t be like Prince.

Don’t be like Prince. Plan ahead now! Having an Estate Plan is easy, and every person can and should have one in place. A basic plan can be relatively inexpensive, even if drafted by a licensed Tennessee estate planning attorney, like the ones at Wiseman Bray PLLC.  We have offices in Memphis and Nashville. In Tennessee, and some other states, it is also possible, although often not recommended, for a handwritten Will to be valid. To read our blog post about handwritten wills, CLICK HERE.

Need a Tennessee Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call Wiseman Bray PLLC if you’re in the Memphis or Nashville area at 901-372-5003 or email us here.

You can sign up for email notifications of our blog posts here.

Neck Injuries from Slip and Fall Accidents

memphis personal injury lawyer neck injuriesMost of us in our life have at some time slipped and fallen down with no long lasting effects, but a slip and fall accident can potentially result in a serious neck injury. When it can be proven that the cause of a slip and fall accident was due to someone’s negligence, that person or their company can be held liable. This includes the victim’s company if it can be determined that the slip and fall accident was caused by unsafe work conditions. Neck injuries can be serious.

The Costs of Slip and Fall Accidents

A “simple” slip and fall accident may not have simple consequences. Serious neck injuries can result and wreak havoc on the victim’s long term health and well-being. The associated damages can be high as a result of:

  1. Ambulance transportation from the accident scene to the emergency room.
  2. Examination and x-ray fees plus any additional diagnostic tests.
  3. Medical costs associated with immediate, short and long term treatments.
  4. Physical rehabilitation.
  5. Surgery
  6. Lost wages from the present into the future.
  7. Lost benefits as a result of not being able to work.

Symptoms of a Neck Injury

Immediately after experiencing a slip and fall accident, seek medical attention. There’s no substitute for qualified medical expertise to diagnose the extent of your injury. If you suspect you may have sustained a neck injury, any of the following symptoms may be present but their absence does not mean your neck isn’t injured:

  • A dull aching in the neck
  • Pain when turning your head or moving it in any direction
  • Shooting pains, tenderness, numbness, or tingling in the neck area
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Headache
  • Facial pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the arm

Types of Neck Injuries

A neck injury may affect the nervous system as well as the spinal cord. In the worst case scenarios, neck injuries can cause paralysis or death.

  • Whiplash can be caused by the head forcibly and suddenly moving in one direction and then snapping backward.
  • Neck fracture. A slip and fall accident can result in a break of the cervical bone, resulting in a neck fracture. The elderly and those suffering from osteoporosis are at greater risk of this injury due to the brittleness of their bones.

Who can be held accountable for a slip and fall accident?

This will largely depend on where the accident occurred, the circumstances of the accident, and who owns the property on which the slip and fall occurred. Negligence must also be proven. The following are only general guidelines and are in no way a substitute for legal advice:

  • If on private property, was the owner aware of the dangerous conditions but did nothing to address them?
  • If at your workplace, did your employers ignore unsafe working conditions?
  • If on public property, were those responsible for its maintenance knowingly ignore dangerous conditions that led to your slip and fall injury?

Statute of Limitations

Most slip and fall accidents will fall under the statute of limitations which limits how long you can wait before you seek legal recourse. If the at-fault party is a government entity, the statute of limitations period may be even shorter. It’s important that if you have had a slip and fall accident and suffered a neck injury as a result that you immediately consider contacting a Washington DC slip and fall lawyer.

Need a Memphis Personal Injury Lawyer?

Call Wiseman Bray PLLC at 901-372-5003 or email us here.

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Thanks to our friends and contributors at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their additional insight into neck injuries as a result of a slip and fall accident.

Could an Independent Presidential Candidate Throw the Election to the House of Representatives?

could an independent presidential candidate win the White HouseBy: Lang Wiseman

Let’s talk potential Independent Presidential Candidate, Electoral College, and throwing the election into the House of Representatives.

The short answer?  Even assuming the election gets thrown into the House, only persons who actually receive a vote in the Electoral College would be eligible for consideration by the House.

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An Independent Candidate?

Many voters and commentators dislike both Clinton and Trump, and are actively seeking an independent candidate or candidates.  For example, last week a leading member of the #NeverTrump movement (Bill Kristol) suggested that David French, a good friend of mine from law school, would be his choice to run as an independent candidate. David is a great guy – smart, principled, patriotic, and down to earth.  And while you wouldn’t necessarily know it from looking at him or reading his work, he loves basketball and actually had a pretty good jumpshot back in law school.  Ultimately, though, David decided not to run.

The path to victory for an independent candidate would be extremely narrow, and shrinking every day, if not already closed as a practical matter.  The various windows for submitting petitions to qualify to appear on state ballots are closing rapidly, leading most of the Anti-Clinton/Trump forces to freely acknowledge that an independent presidential candidate would have little chance to win an election outright.

So what, then, could possibly be the goal?  At least one stated aim is to try to prevent either candidate from securing a majority of Electoral College votes, thus throwing the election into the House of Representatives where a “white knight” candidate could be selected for President.

But is it realistic to think Clinton and Trump could both be prevented from getting a majority of votes in the Electoral College? 

There are 538 total electoral votes, and 270 constitutes a majority.  While it is theoretically possible to have a 269-269 tie – indeed, there are 32 different tie scenarios if you assume 11 battleground states – it is highly unlikely.  Realistically, then, an independent presidential candidate would need to win at least one state in order to prevent both Clinton and Trump from getting to a 270 vote majority in the Electoral College.  However, that is more difficult than you might think.  In 1992, for example, Ross Perot garnered 19% of the vote nationally, but didn’t secure a single Electoral College vote because he failed to actually win a state.  Thus, without major funding or campaign infrastructure, an  independent candidate would likely need to focus almost exclusively on a small handful of states, and then hope for the best in the House of Representatives.

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But let’s assume that happens.  What’s next in the House?

The Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution spells out the process, and it actually works quite a bit differently than many voters and commentators apparently believe it does.  This has occurred only twice in history – the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and Andrew Jackson in 1824.

First, the House doesn’t vote in a normal fashion where every representative gets to cast his/her separate vote.  The voting takes place by state, with each state getting one vote.  So a state with a majority of Democrat representatives would presumably vote one way, whereas a state with a majority of Republican representatives would presumably vote another way.  This possibly dilutes a Party’s voting strength.  Assume, for example, 3 states that each have 20 representatives.  States 1 and 2 each have 11 Democrats vs. 9 Republicans, compared to State 3 which has 20 Republicans and 0 Democrats.  If you totaled all those votes separately, then the vote of the Republican representatives would win easily: 38-22.  However, in state-by-state voting, the Democrats would lead 2-1.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, the Twelfth Amendment specifically prohibits a true “white knight” outsider scenario, because the House can only vote for a candidate who finishes in the top 3 in the Electoral College votes.  The pertinent part of the Twelfth Amendment states as follows:

“If no person have a majority [in the Electoral College], then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for president, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the president.”

Thus, a “white knight” candidate must have received at least 1 electoral vote in order to be eligible for consideration by the House.  That presumably means no Paul Ryan, no Bernie Sanders, no Mitt Romney, nor any other outsider who failed to participate in the general election process and win at least one state (or portion thereof, since 2 states — Nebraska and Maine — are technically not winner-take-all when it comes to their 3 electoral votes each).

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The Faithless Elector — the Last Possible Hail Mary?

The Electoral College technically meets and votes in December following the November election.  Based on the Twelfth Amendment, the only other way to trigger a “white knight” scenario would be for one or more of the electors to disregard the popular vote in his/her particular state and become what is referred to as a “Faithless elector” by casting his/her ballot for an outsider.   Twenty-nine states have laws or political party restrictions that technically require an Elector to conform his/her vote to the popular vote in the state; however, no one has ever actually been prosecuted for becoming a Faithless Elector.  Twenty-one states have no laws at all to require Electors to vote for a pledged candidate.

Barring a situation where an independent candidate actually won an electoral vote, the Anti-Clinton/Trump forces would be hoping for an election night that produced a tie in the Electoral College vote.  They would then hope to peel off one or more Faithless electors to cast votes for a “white knight” candidate in December, thus making him/her eligible for a miracle in the House of Representatives.

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About Lang Wiseman: Lang is the former Chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party and attended the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Lang has substantial experience in the areas of business and commercial litigation; bank litigation and workouts; advising small and closely held businesses; insurance coverage disputes; personal injury; professional, medical and legal malpractice; wrongful death; construction litigation and lien disputes; election law; and government relations/public policy. Lang is also a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 Listed Civil Mediator.

Prior to founding Wiseman Bray PLLC, Lang served as Counsel to the United  States  Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. He previously served as Law Clerk to Judge Harry Wellford of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Lang graduated with honors from the Harvard Law School after attending the University of Tennessee on a basketball scholarship, where he finished as the 24th leading scorer in UT history (1,156 points). He also graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA and was the Top Graduate in the College of Business.