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Wednesday
Feb012012

Train Accident Tragedy: Dangerous Road & Railway Crossing Made Safer by Litigation

Injury AttorneyTrain Accident Lawyer

 

by David B. Bobrosky
(818) 907-3254

Many times dangerous conditions or negligent conduct are not changed until someone is injured and a lawsuit is filed.  

As part of a continuing series of articles on the Lewitt Hackman Personal Injury Blog, Lewitt Hackman attorneys will identify dangerous conditions or conduct from cases they have handled in the past, and how the conditions or conduct was changed as a result of the lawsuit. Below is such a case. 

Train Accident Attorney

A Dangerous Road & Railway Crossing

 

Our client was on the way home from work to have dinner with his wife, as he had done for the past 25 years. He traveled west down an old road that he had driven many times before.

As he traveled, he approached a railroad crossing from the east. When he approached the railroad crossing, another driver approached the crossing from the west. The intersection where the tracks cross the road is an “S” curve, with the railroad tracks in the middle of the “S.”  Unfortunately, there were no edge lines, lane lines, botts dots, or other signs guiding drivers through the intersection to safely follow the curve and stay in their own lane. 

The other driver, based on all accounts, failed to identify and negotiate the “S” curve and his car crossed into our client’s lane and struck his car head on. Our client’s car was stopped on the tracks, and severely damaged. 

Shortly after the collision, the signals started going off and the crossing arms came down – a train was coming. Despite a severely fractured leg, our client exited his vehicle through his window. Tragically, he was not able to completely escape and he was killed when the train plowed into him and his car. He was survived by a wonderful wife, and three great adult children.

When hired by his family, our office immediately investigated the scene of the accident. During that investigation, we determined that the accident was mostly caused by the dangerous condition of the railroad crossing. It was difficult for a driver to discern the curve, causing the driver to cross over into the other lane of traffic. Because this was not a heavily travelled area, there were no reports of other significant accidents. 

You can see a photo of the railroad crossing shot from a plane we hired to fly above and take photographs immediately after the accident in the image above. As you can see there are no lane lines guiding drivers through the crossing. 

A short time after the accident, the City painted lane lines as shown in this follow-up photograph, below right.Los Angeles Accident Injury Lawyers Making a Difference

As can be seen from the photographs, just the painting of the lane lines makes the curve significantly safer – and possibly would have prevented this tragic accident.

As part of our case, we hired traffic engineers to prepare renderings of what a safe crossing should look like, with additional lines and warning signs before and throughout the curve. After our case was settled, the City essentially made all of the changes suggested by our engineers. 

As with every case we handle, we attempt to obtain a fair recovery to compensate our clients for the injuries suffered as the result of another’s negligence. Equally important, is that our efforts result in dangerous conditions or conduct being changed so similar accidents do not happen again. We achieved both goals in this case. 

David B. Bobrosky is a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney experienced in train accidents and dangerous roadway cases. Contact him via e-mail: dbobrosky@lewitthackman.com, or by phone: 818.990.2120.

 

 
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.

 

 

Thursday
Jan262012

Roof Hatch Injury at Popular Mall

Injury AttorneyPersonal Injury Attorney

by David B. Bobrosky

(818) 907-3254

Many times dangerous conditions or negligent conduct could be easily avoided if a defendant did not put profits above safety. /p>

As part of a continuing series of articles on the Lewitt Hackman Personal Injury Blog, Lewitt Hackman attorneys will identify dangerous conditions or conduct from cases we have handled in the past, and how the conditions or conduct could have been avoided. Below is such a case.

 

A Dangerous Roof Hatch – The Problem

 

Our 20 year old client was working for a theatre complex at a popular local mall. One day he was instructed by his boss to escort a security guard to the roof so he could provide access for an air conditioning service worker.

The only way to the roof was to climb a 24 foot steel wall ladder to the top, where he then had to unlock the roof hatch and exit the hatch onto the roof. Our client successfully climbed the ladder and unlocked the hatch.

Next came the difficult part. The ladder stopped at the level of the roof. Typically, a ladder is required to extend approximately three feet above the level of a landing to allow the person climbing the ladder to get his or her whole body above the level of a landing and then safely step off.

This is a photo of the roof hatch depicting this problem:

Because the ladder stopped at the level of the roof, our client had to use his arms to try to pull himself out of the hatch and onto the roof. Unfortunately, our client could not do so and he fell 24 feet straight down. He shattered his leg, and eventually underwent a total of seven surgeries on his knee and ankle.

The Solution – Installing Safe Ladder Extensions or Rails

 

The builders of the mall could not extend the actual ladder three feet above the roof because the hatch would not be able to close. However, there were several other inexpensive solutions to this problem.

At the time the building was designed, there were several items that could have been attached to the outside of the hatch to act as a ladder extension or hand rail to assist a climber safely onto the roof. One was even aptly sold under the name of “Save a Life Ladder Extension.” Below is a photograph of one of these possible solutions:

At the time the building was constructed, there was a possible conflict between the federal and state regulations in terms of requiring an extension above the landing on the roof. However, through thorough investigation and discovery, our office tracked down all prior versions of the specifications manual. An early version of the manual included just such an extension.

In an apparent attempt to save costs, the extensions were removed from the final design specifications. Essentially our client suffered severe injuries because a company wanted to save a few hundred dollars.

Fortunately for our client, we successfully resolved the case prior to trial.  He received compensation for his past medical expenses and loss of wages, as well as for his future medical care. This was just another example of a company putting profits ahead of safety.

David B. Bobrosky is a Los Angeles Injury Attorney and Shareholder at Our Firm. You may reach him by e-mail: dbobrosky@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.

 

 

Thursday
Jan122012

Funding a Living Trust -- Estate Planning Advice

Trusts & Estate Planning Attorney

by Kira S. Masteller
818.907.3244

The most common reason for establishing a living trust is to avoid probate and take advantage of estate tax exemptions.

If you don’t have a revocable trust, your heirs could spend months or even years waiting for the California court to approve the administration of your assets, the payment of your debts, and the distribution of whatever is left of your money/property to your family, friends, charitable organizations or other heirs.

Properly executed Trusts avoid probate. Wills do not avoid probate.

A revocable trust simply means that your trust can be changed or even revoked whenever you like during your life; while a living trust means it goes into effect while you are still alive, unlike a Will, which is not effective until your death. A revocable living Trust avoids probate and can avoid a Conservatorship proceeding while you are living in the event you are unable to manage your own affairs.

Depending on the value of your estate and what type of assets you have, you will decide with your estate planning attorney whether or not the use of a revocable living trust is for you.

Upon executing your revocable living trust, you will need to “fund” your trust. Establishing the trust without putting your assets into the trust defeats the purpose of having a trust in the first place.

A Properly Funded Revocable Living Trust

 

Estate planning does not end with the execution of the trust document. You actually have to transfer title of your assets into the name of the trust (i.e., John Doe, Trustee of The John Doe Family Trust). If you leave an asset out of your trust, that asset could wind up going through probate.

So which assets should be used for funding a trust? Here are some important ones:

▪ Bank Accounts
▪ Brokerage Accounts
▪ Business Interests, i.e. professional corporations, partnerships, sole  proprietorships, etc.
▪ Certificates of Deposit
▪ Investments
▪ Life Insurance
▪ Real Property, i.e. home, land, commercial buildings, etc.
▪ Recreational and Other Vehicles, i.e. cars, motor homes, boats, planes, motorcyles, etc.
▪ Time Share Ownerships

*Note: Retirement assets, annuities and life insurance do not get transferred into your trust. You will work with your estate planning attorney to determine how to name the beneficiaries of these assets so that they are in alignment with your estate and tax planning objectives.

Let’s say you have a lot of assets, and are not sure where to begin when funding your trust. The first step is to make a complete list of all of your interests, property, and investments. You can check off items on this list as you start funding.

Next, I always recommend that my clients check their mail. Every time you get a monthly statement from your bank or brokerage company, make sure the name on your statement is listed with your name as Trustee of your Trust Name. If it isn’t, call that institution to get that particular asset transferred to your living trust, rather than leaving it in your individual name.

Your estate planning attorney will change the title to your real property by recording a Deed with the County. Your real property in other states should also be titled in the name of your trust so that these assets will not go through probate. You will save your heirs a lot of time, money and headaches by properly funding your trust, not to mention utilize all of the estate tax planning exemptions available.

If you have questions about how a particular asset should be handled, ask the professionals. Talk to your estate planning attorney or accountant.

Last, don’t forget to provide copies of your list to the Trustee, your accountant, and your attorney. Establishing a revocable living trust avoids probate court, but filing your list of assets and keeping good records will make handling your estate a lot easier for your beneficiaries.

Kira S. Masteller is a California Trust and Estate Planning Attorney. Call her at 818.990.2120 if you have questions regarding funding a trust, probate or estate planning for yourself or your business interests.

 

 
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.

 

 

Thursday
Jan052012

Mechanics Liens — Smart Tools of Construction Industry Professionals, and Bane of Property Owners

Business Litigation AttorneyConstruction Litigation

by Paul C. Bauducco

(818) 907-3245

 

In 1791, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison proposed the first mechanics liens legislation in order to promote development in Washington.

The Maryland Assembly (which governed Washington at that time) passed the proposed legislation. Since then, all 50 states have enacted mechanics lien legislation to encourage development and protect those involved in the construction industry, according to John G. Cameron’s “A Practitioner’s Guide to Construction Law.”

Mechanics liens” encourage “mechanics,” which include members of the construction industry as well as those providing materials and labor in construction, to engage in construction projects by giving them a process to secure payment for the labor and materials they provide to a project. This security allows homeowners and smaller companies to hire contractors who might not otherwise be willing to take on smaller projects.

In today’s economy, mechanics liens can be an essential collection tool for contractors and material providers in construction projects, allowing them to look to the property for payment if the general contractor or owner fails to pay for work and materials going into the property. They provide a bit of insurance for contractors and sub-contractors.

Conversely, mechanics’ liens can pose a real problem for property owners who pay their general contractors without receiving proper lien releases. If the general contractor fails to pay subcontractors or material providers sums they are owed out of an owner’s payment, the subcontractors and material providers may lien the owner’s property, forcing him to pay for the labor and materials twice.

Mechanics liens laws are strictly enforced and contractors and material providers must give timely and proper notice of their claims and file their liens and enforcements actions within the time frames specified by the applicable statute. If they fail to do so, they may waive their mechanics lien rights and be left without recourse against the property. Whether you are a property owner, contractor or material provider, there are some important things to know about recording and enforcing mechanics’ liens.

California Real Estate Law Regarding Mechanics Liens –
A Three Step Process

 

Contractors, subcontractors and suppliers must take the following three steps to ensure the proper filing of a mechanics’ lien:

1. Serve a Preliminary 20-Day Notice – Workers and suppliers must serve notice of services rendered or supplies delivered within 20 days after making improvements or delivering materials. The notice should be served to the:

▪ Property Owner
▪ General Contractor
▪ Lender or Financier

Contractors or suppliers who work directly with the property owner do not need to serve notice, since the purpose is to ensure the property owner knows who is working on the improvements or supplying the project if these subcontractors are working through a general contractor.

2. Record the Mechanics’ Lien – Claimants should record their liens within the county or counties in which the property is located within 90 days of:

▪ Completion of Work
▪ Excusal of Work (because of breach of contract by the property owner or the general contractor)
▪ Occupation and use of work of improvement by owner or agent
▪ Communicated acceptance of work of improvement by owner or agent
▪ Cessation of Labor for 60 days
▪ The Filing of a 30 Day Valid Notice of Completion or Cessation by the Property Owner (a general contractor has 60 days).

3. Enforce the Mechanics’ Lien – Here’s another deadline notice. A foreclosure suit must be filed within 90 days of the recordation of the lien, in the county or counties where the property is located. If a foreclosure suit isn’t filed in that time frame, the mechanics’ lien is voided.

Avoiding Construction Litigation Involving Mechanics Liens

 

It would be best for all parties concerned if mechanics’ liens and foreclosure suits aren’t filed at all. To avoid these situations, property owners should hire, and subcontractors should work with, properly qualified and licensed general contractors.

Both sides should keep track of the 20 Day Preliminary Notices served.

Finally, property owners and subcontractors should make sure proper payment procedures are in place which also provide waivers and releases of financial obligations when payments are made.

Paul C. Bauducco is a Los Angeles business litigation lawyer whose practice focus is on real estate and construction litigation. You can reach him via e-mail if you need more information: pbauducco@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.

Thursday
Dec152011

Tax Strategies – 2011 Year End Tax Planning for Businesses & Individuals

Trusts & Estate Planning Attorney

by Kira S. Masteller
818.907.3244

What tax strategies do you have in place for yourself, your family or your business for this year and for the years to come?

Whether you need business tax planning, or individual estate tax planning, we have some tips for protecting your financial future.

Of course, you’ll need to put some of these plans in place now, since many of the recommendations below involve year end tax strategies to help your economic outlook in 2012, 2013, and beyond.

 

Business Tax Planning – Windows of Opportunity

 

We hate to impose deadlines on you, but the IRS has no such qualms. If you’re a business owner, you should be aware of these limited windows for tax savings which may end on December 31st, unless Congress decides to extend the following benefits:

Bonus Depreciation – Qualified property acquired between September 8, 2010 and December 31, 2011 may be eligible for 100 percent bonus depreciation, if it is placed in service by the end of the year. Certain other property may be placed in service before 2013 and still qualify. These tend to be longer-lived and transportation properties.

Differential Wage Payments – Employers making differential wage payments to employees called to active military duty may be eligible for tax credits until the end of the year.

Energy Credits – Tax credits for energy-efficient homes, energy-efficient appliance production, and the use of certain alcohol or biodiesel fuels will all expire at the end of the year. 

Expensing for Real Property – If you put certain, qualified, real property into service in 2010 or 2011, you might be able to file expenses under Code Sec. 179 of up to $250K of the cost of the property, until January 1, 2012.

Expensing Under Code Section 179 – The dollar limit for Code Sec. 179 is $500K, and the investment limit is $2M, for tax years 2010 and 2011. However, these limits drop dramatically (by 75 percent) in 2012.

FUTA Surtax – As of July 1, 2011, the Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA) tax rate fell to 6 percent, when the FUTA surtax of 0.2 percent expired. Employers will need to document FUTA paid before July 1, 2011 (or after June 30, 2011) separately. There may be a retroactive reinstatement of the surtax.

 If you increased spending on research or development of new technologies, you may be eligible for credits, set to expire at the end of the year.

Work Opportunity Tax Credits – If you hired individuals from one of the nine groups listed below, you may be eligible for tax credits (dependent on certain circumstances). The groups targeted by the WOTC are:

▪    Long-term Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Recipients

▪    Other TANF Recipients

▪    Veteran, or a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Recipient

▪    18-39 year old SNAP Recipient

▪    18-39 year old Designated Community Resident living in an Empowerment Zone, more commonly called an EZ.

▪    16-17 year old EZ resident employed for the summer

▪    Vocational Rehabilitation Referrals

▪    Ex-felon

▪    Supplemental Security Income benefits recipient

Tax Strategies for Individuals

 

Even if you don’t own your own business, you can still take advantage of certain incentives which end in a couple of weeks:

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) – What are the pros and cons of filing AMT vs. filing for the regular federal tax liability? You’ll have to decide which of your deductions will qualify for AMT and which of your deductions should be applied to 2012 or 2011.

Capital Gains Taxes & Dividends – Decide now whether income from qualified capital gains and dividends should be filed in 2011 or 2012, since reduced tax rates on these will expire after December 2012.

Energy Efficient Incentives – Under Code Section 25C, you could capitalize on some tax benefits by going green by the end of the year. If you’re thinking about making energy efficient improvements to your primary residence, call us to find out if your planned improvements qualify for the incentives.

Gifting – Consider making gifts as a year end tax strategy. Currently, you can gift up to $13,000 per recipient without gift tax, or $26,000 as a married couple. You should also consider a Lifetime Gift Tax Exclusion for larger gifts.

Major Purchases – If saving to buy a big ticket item in 2012, consider making the purchase this year instead, to save on state and local sales taxes. The deductions for state and local sales taxes expire this month.

Shifting Deductions & Income – If you’re used to shifting deductions or income to the following year, you might want to rethink this particular tax strategy. Individual income tax rates will rise in 2012, so it may be worth it to keep your 2011 income in your 2011 filings.

Business and Estate Tax Planning

 

Whether you own a business or not, your individual tax situation is unique. Be sure to contact your accountant or attorney to address your questions and concerns regarding year end tax strategies. If you have any questions about the tax credits and deadlines listed above, please call me at the number below.

Kira S. Masteller is a Tax and Estate Planning Attorney at our Firm. You may reach her at 818.990.2120.

 

 
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.

 

 

LEWITT HACKMAN | 16633 Ventura Boulevard, Eleventh Floor, Encino, California 91436-1865 | 818.990.2120