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Friday
Feb272015

Head Injuries: Protecting Players in Youth Sports

Personal InjuryConcussion Injury Attorney

 

 

by Andrew L. Shapiro

(818) 907-3230

 

A recent study by the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention revealed this: Coaches who underwent training by USA Football's Heads-Up Football program are better equipped to prevent player injuries.

In fact, youths playing for these trained coaches were 34 percent less likely to sustain concussions during practice and 29 percent less likely during a game. Researchers studied players on 100 teams playing in 10 leagues in several states. Though the youth football study did not factor in the types of helmets worn, independent physicians confirmed whether or not the players sustained concussions.

Youth Sports InjuriesESPN Poll: 87% parents polled concerned about youth sports injuries; 80% with coach behavior.

A more controversial study of 42 retired National Football League players by Boston University found that participants who began playing football before age 12 performed significantly worse in tests measuring verbal IQ, reasoning/planning, and memory loss. (Critics claim the sample size was too small – and that those tested played youth football from the 1960s through the 1980s when rules for safety and equipment were less strict.)

That being said, there's been a lot of talk recently about the effects of injuries, particularly head trauma, in both youth and professional sports. Mostly the discussion centers on football – but soccer, skiing, and other activities can prove equally dangerous when kids aren't supervised well, and when they lack the proper safety equipment.

According to USA Today, emergency rooms most commonly treat young athletes for strains and sprains, followed by bone fractures, and then contusions. Concussions are fourth on the list of common sports injuries for kids, but they can be the most damaging in the long run.

What's being done to minimize the risk of sports injuries for our kids?

Youth Sports: Tackling Safety in California Laws

Sports Injury LawyerAn existing California law covering all scholastic sports is already on the books. Education Code §49475 mandates that student athletes suspected of having a head injury will immediately be removed from athletic activities for the remainder of the day, and not be permitted to return until cleared by a licensed health provider. Students who do have concussions must complete seven day or longer graduated, return-to-play protocols.

Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2127 last July, which amended §49475 and added Education Code §35179.5. The new regulations limit high school and middle school football teams to two, 90 minute, full-contact practices per week, to be held only during the pre-season and regular seasons. The new law specifically prohibits full contact football practice during the off-season.

When Helmets and Sports Laws Fail

The laws above regulate scholastic sports, but other athletic organizations that operate outside of the academic realm are facing serious personal injury litigation.

Here in California, the national Pop Warner league is being sued for teaching players to tackle "head first", which technique the claimants allege have resulted in catastrophic spinal cord injury. The league had rules banning that type of tackle, but claimants allege Pop Warner failed to ensure the coaches complied with the rules. In this case, the tackler was 13 when he sustained his injury in 2011, and is now a quadriplegic.

In another suit filed in Wisconsin, a mother of a 25 year old who committed suicide alleges her son's concussions sustained while playing Pop Warner football led to post-concussion syndrome and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Pop Warner isn't the only organization facing litigation.

A class action lawsuit filed by parents and players against the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA, an international governing body of soccer), U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization was filed in a California district court last summer because of the way these organizations deal with concussions.

The suit does not seek financial damages. It seeks an injunction to force FIFA and the other leagues to change the way they deal with concussions. FIFA has guidelines to prevent and treat concussions, but does not have actual rules, much less any enforcement of such.

Given the rising concern over sports injuries by parents and players over the last few years, hopefully FIFA and other sports organizations will soon take heed.

 

Andrew L. Shapiro is the Chair of our Personal Injury Practice Group. Contact him by phone: (818) 907-3270, or by email: ashapiro@lewitthackman.com

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Tuesday
Feb172015

Family Tax Deductions and Credits: What Do You Qualify For?

Trusts & Estate Planning

by Kira S. Masteller

818.907.3244

 

Late last year, Congress approved nearly $11 billion to fund the Internal Revenue Service for fiscal year 2015 – the lowest allotted amount since 2008, according to CNN Money. As a result, the IRS announced delays in processing refunds, particularly for those who file paper returns – all  the more reason to do your taxes sooner rather than later if you're expecting money back from the government.

Whether anticipating a refund or not, let's take a look at some credits and deductions many taxpayers will benefit from if they have dependents - whether they be children or adults. An IRS defined dependent is either a:

1. Qualifying Child: Your child, a stepchild, foster child, sibling, step-sibling, or child of any of the aforementioned could be a qualifying child under specific circumstances. Adopted children are considered your children. 

2. Qualifying Relative: This person has to be related to qualify as your dependent, but does not have to live with you. The qualifying relative cannot be your child, must have earned less than $3,950 last year, and must have provided less than half of her/his own support in 2014. 

A common example under this scenario would be an aging parent who still lives alone, but with the financial support of a child or children. The parent might then be considered someone's qualifying relative. 

3. Qualifying Non-Relative: You can even claim a non-relative as a dependent if that person lives with you full-time and meets all the other qualifications. Dependents may meet the requirement because they are depending on you to pay for medical expenses. 

A boyfriend/girlfriend living with you full time while you are paying their medical expenses and support may qualify as your dependent.

The qualifying child and qualifying relative tests are available by clicking the IRS link above. Special rules apply for people receiving support from two or more people. Read IRS Publication 504.

Dependent Exemptions & Deductions 2014

You, your spouse and your qualifying child, qualifying relative or other  dependent are each entitled to a personal exemption of $3,950 for 2014 (if you are not subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax). In addition to the personal exemptions, consider these deductions for your qualifying child or relative:

1. Medical & Dental Expenses: Cosmetic procedures do not qualify. When it comes to filing taxes, liposuctions are bad, root canals are good.

2. Education Expenses: The maximum deduction is $4,000. 

3. Education Savings Accounts: These allow you to withdraw investment and earnings tax-free if the money is used for secondary education costs.

4. Student Loan Interest: The limit is $2,500, and is phased out for unmarried individuals at $60K, and at $120K for couples filing jointly.

 

Dependent Credits 2014

Now for the ever-important credits to reduce your tax liability:

1. Child Tax Credit: A maximum of $1K for each child under 17.

2. Child and Dependent Care Credit: Usually applies for children under 13, and to costs of child care if you were working, looking for work or enrolled in school. 

However, there are some complications involving nannies and caregivers. If you employ one, you may be required to allocate Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes; and may need to report the wages you paid to the IRS via a W-2. If you hired a caregiver through an outside agency, you might be off the hook for those responsibilities. Talk to your tax attorney or accountant for more information about nannies and caregivers. 

3. Adoption Credit: Limit is $13,190 and phases out as Adjusted Gross Income rises from $197,880.

 

Kira S. Masteller is a Shareholder in our Trusts & Estate Planning Practice Group. Contact her via email: kmasteller@lewitthackman.com, or by phone: 818.907.3244 for more information. 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Cracking Down on Hit and Run Via Social Media

Injury Attorney Los AngelesPersonal Injury Lawyer

 

by David B. Bobrosky

(818) 907-3254

 

About 80 percent of hit and run cases between 2008 and 2012 in the Los Angeles area were never solved, according to the Los Angeles Times. Compare that to the city of Denver, whose police force actually resolves about 78 percent of that city's hit and run crimes. 

The reason for the difference? A program called Medina Alerts, which works like the Amber Alert system. Medina Alerts is named for a 21 year old Denver valet who was killed by a hit and run driver while on the job. The Medina system was implemented in 2012 and Colorado's governor approved it for state-wide use last year – City Hall officials here in Los Angeles unanimously approved launching a similar program here.

The hit and run crackdown will have several components: 

  1. All Los Angeles city departments will help to put out notifications on the city's Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as the Emergency Management Department's NotifyLA texting system.

  2. The Los Angeles Police Department will post notifications on Nixle – a web platform on which government agencies share information with each other and certain subscribers.

  3. DASH bus drivers and licensed taxi drivers will receive notifications via dispatch systems, and other city employees such as sanitation workers may get the notifications in the future. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft may also participate in the future.

  4. Witnesses can receive rewards for coming forward with information leading to a hit and run arrest: $1,000 for property damage, $5,000 for hit and runs leading to minor injuries, $25,000 for those involving serious injuries and $50,000 for hit and run crimes involving fatalities. 

Hit and run alerts will be initiated only when serious bodily injury or fatalities occur, and if witnesses can provide sufficient information regarding the fleeing driver in terms of the driver’s  physical description,  the vehicle's color, partial plate numbers, make or model, etc.

 

Hit and Run: How Will the Law Change?

California Attorney

Los Angeles City Council asked city attorneys to draft a special ordinance regarding the monetary rewards listed above. Members also voted to support California legislation intended to create a state-wide alert system. Councilman Mitchell Englander said, "these are not accidents – these are crimes" at a recent news conference. 

State Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) introduced California Assembly Bill 8 in December – intended to launch a "Yellow Alert" system for hit and run accidents. Governor Brown vetoed a similar legislative effort earlier last year, amid concerns hit and run notifications would overburden the Amber Alert program.

As for why the City of Los Angeles rather than the state seems to be riding point in this endeavor, Englander explained that the city is better able to implement a program immediately. 

Compensation Following a Hit and Run Accident

The large number of unresolved hit and run cases in Los Angeles serves as yet another reminder of the importance of uninsured motorist coverage. Considering the 20,000 or so hit and run accidents occurring in this city each year, it is the most important coverage drivers can buy.

Such coverage, especially for hit and run accidents, can garner compensation from the hit and run victim's own insurance carrier for property damage, medical expenses, loss of earnings and pain and suffering – up to the limits of the uninsured coverage. Uninsured limits should always match liability limits.

When a hit and run driver is caught, the victim may also be entitled to additional compensation by making a claim against the driver’s insurance carrier. This is especially important if the victim does not have uninsured coverage. 

Additionally, the victim may pursue restitution through the criminal court system—which could include attorney fees for pursuing compensation for injuries and punitive damages for the driver fleeing the scene.  All such damages may not always be recoverable depending on the financial viability of the defendant.

 

David B. Bobrosky is a Personal Injury Attorney and Shareholder at our firm. Contact him via email: dbobrosky@lewitthackman.com, or by phone: 818.907.3254. 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Tuesday
Feb102015

Employers: CA Court of Appeal Rules On-Duty Rest Breaks Permitted

Lawyer for EmployerClass Action Defense Attorney

 

by Nicole Kamm

818.907.3235

 

 

 

In late January, a California Court of Appeal issued a ruling in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., overturning a $90 million award against the company because ABM required its security guards to keep their radios and pagers on during rest breaks, remain vigilant, and respond as needed.

Wage and Hour Law California

The ruling came nearly three years after a trial court certified a class of thousands of current and former security guards, and awarded summary judgment to the plaintiffs following a lengthy legal battle. The lower court held California law requires employers to relieve workers of all duty during rest breaks.

The facts of the case were not in dispute: ABM provided – and security guards took – regular rest breaks. 

Plaintiffs alleged, however, the breaks were not compliant with California law because the guards were required to remain “on-call” during rest breaks.  They contended California law requires employees be relieved of all duties during such breaks.

Rest Breaks Distinguished From Meal Breaks

On appeal, the Court held California law only requires employees be relieved of working during rest breaks.  Contrary to meal breaks – which are unpaid time – the law does not require employees be relieved of being on duty or all employer control during paid rest breaks. 

The Court considered the nature of a rest break, and whether being on-call means performing work, and found that it did not. The Court noted ABM security guards engaged in various activities while taking breaks, including surfing the net, making personal phone calls, etc.  "Admittedly, an on-call guard must return to duty if called to do so, but remaining available to work is not the same as actually working.”

As noted above, the Court distinguished the law regarding California’s meal break requirement and that relating to rest breaks.  While meal breaks specifically require employees be “relieved of all duty,” there is no similar language for the provision of rest breaks.

The Appellate Court reiterated that being on-call does not necessarily mean that employee is performing work, and remaining available to work is not the same as actually working

Employer Takeaway

Prior rulings and Department of Labor Standards Enforcement opinions were contradictory as to the extent of control employers could impose on employees during rest breaks. 

This case provides helpful guidance for employers regarding obligations pursuant to California’s rest break requirements.  Pursuant to this case, employers may not require employees to work, but are not required to relieve employees of all duty, during rest breaks.

 

 

Nicole Kamm is an Employer Defense Attorney experienced in wage and hour and other employee class action law suits. Contact her via email: nkamm@lewitthackman.com or by phone: 818.907.3235 for more information.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Friday
Jan302015

Hitting the Wall: Facebook and Divorce

Divorce LawyerChild Custody and Support Attorney

by Vanessa Soto Nellis
818.907.3274

 

A new survey sponsored by a group in the UK links Facebook to 33 percent of all divorces, up from a 2009 study that cites the social media site in 20 percent of divorce filings.

Facebook and DivorceFacebook can serve as a conduit for people reuniting with old flames or meeting new partners. Spouses get concerned when they realize their significant others are spending more time online, getting texts in the middle of the night, or are suddenly very possessive of their phones, tablets and computers.

But whether or not Facebook is actually a cause of divorce remains to be seen – it could be that people who are unhappy in their relationships log in to social media sites more often as a means of escape, or to seek advice or emotional support.

Social Media & Grounds For Divorce

Since California is a no fault divorce state, spending more time online or engaging in virtual or actual affairs is not necessarily relevant in the eyes of a Family Law Court.

What many divorce lawyers can use however, is evidence from Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms that show a soon-to-be ex-spouse is not fully disclosing financial assets, which could affect the equitable distribution of property or financial liability.

Social media posts can also show when someone is engaging in behavior that could affect custody proceedings. Photos can help prove a case for bad parenting, or instability at home.  They can also show when an individual is being dishonest about a need to change visitation schedules, i.e. if a parent claims a need to work late when s/he is really out at a concert, or checking in to a club or restaurant.

"Unfriending" or blocking an ex doesn't necessarily give a Facebook user more privacy, as married couples tend to have many mutual friends online and offline. In most breakups, some of those friends will choose sides when a couple divorces – and are perfectly willing to provide information regarding the activities and posts to one party or the other.

Additionally, they may put photos and relate activities on their own walls and feeds, unwittingly providing a wealth of information for the opposing party and their attorneys.

These are examples of the information that can be found online by just about anyone. But what about data that seems to be hidden, or deleted?

Digital Discovery through Cyber Forensics

Divorce Cyber Forensics

Every now and then a spouse makes a more serious attempt to hide information critical to divorce proceedings and settlements. In that case, divorce attorneys may hire a digital forensics expert.

Through forensics, digital discovery can reveal time stamps of activity and: 

  • Call logs and SIM card data

  • Text messages and emails

  • Calendar entries

  • Photos and videos

  • Visits to pornography sites

  • Usernames and passwords

  • Financial transfers, purchases and other monetary transactions

  • Encrypted,  damaged or temporary file information

Remember that even if someone tries to destroy their electronic devices, some data can still be retrieved through cyber forensics. Moreover, an attempt to destroy evidence can be used to bolster the opposing party's case.

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Certified Specialist in Family Law, designated by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. Contact her via email: vnellis@lewitthackman.com or by phone: 818.907.3274. 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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