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Archive for October, 2008

Advance Directives

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Advance directives are legal documents prepared in order to express the health care wishes of a patient who may be unable to speak directly with health care personnel due to health issues. This document could have a variety of different titles, including Living Will, Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) or even Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney. The latter two documents can simply be used to name the individual who is responsible to make health care decisions for a patient who is unable to communicate, but can also include the patient’s wishes in an end of life scenario.

This advance directive would be put into play in a situation where a patient is unable to make and express their own medical decisions. That the patient is indeed in such a state must be certified by more than one physician. As state laws vary, other requirements may exist and different terminology may be used in the documents. Generally, the medical condition must be certified as “terminal illness” or “permanent unconsciousness” in order for an advance directive to be put into use. Further, should the patient again become able to make their own health care decisions, the agent’s authority under the advance directive would end.

One situation in which an advance directive would not be applicable is in the care of emergency personnel who may be called to the scene of an accident. In such a case, the emergency personnel are obligated to stabilize a patient’s condition and transfer them to the appropriate health care facility for further treatment. At that point, once a patient’s situation has been evaluated by a medical doctor, an advance directive may be put into use.

While advance directives, under a variety of terms, are valid throughout the United States, as stated previously, state laws vary and not all states will acknowledge a directive drafted under another state’s laws. Therefore, anyone who maintains a residence in more than one state, or who may work or travel often to another state, should prepare a directive in each state according to each state’s laws, in order to protect themselves properly.

Only completion of a new advance directive will invalidate the old directive, as these directives do not expire. Nevertheless, advance directive should be reviewed periodically to determine if they still reflect the wishes of the patient. If you wish to make even one change in the directive, it is advisable to prepare a completely new document.

Special Sources To Note:

Understanding Your Living Will (Addicus Books, 2006)  

Mirarchi,Ferdinando Does a Living Will Equal a DNR? Is Patient Safety Compromised?, Journal of Emergency Medicine, Vol. 33, No.3, pp299-305, 2007.

Mirarchi, Ferdinando L “Living Wills & DNR: Is Patient Safety Compromised?”. Human Life Review. . 23 Sep. 2008.


Depositions 101

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

If you’ve been asked to appear at a law office in order to give a deposition, you may not understand exactly what the lawyers or court are asking of you. The law can be a difficult thing to understand, with a great many large words that are difficult to understand and convoluted language that is difficult for even an English major to comprehend. Don’t worry: a deposition is nothing that will be painful and you do not have to have a great deal of legal knowledge in order to be able to give one.

What Is a Deposition?

A deposition is, by legal definition, when you give a testimony about something you have seen or know that pertains to a specific court case. Depositions are always taken away from a court and are used as a way for the lawyers to figure out how to win their case. If, for instance, you saw a co-worker get injured on the job, you may be asked to give a deposition about the scene that you saw. If you have information that the lawyers would like to hear, they will subpoena you and you will be asked to appear in a specific place at a certain time.

The Process

When you arrive at the destination, there should be one or more lawyers as well as a court reporter. The reporter is there in order to make sure that all of the information is recorded accurately so that the lawyers can decide if what you know is something that would help their case. The court reporter may document everything using shorthand on a stenograph, or they may use a video or an audio recording. Before anything begins, you will be asked to repeat the oath that the court reporter will give you, verifying that you are telling only the truth about the situation or knowledge that you are privy to.

Once you have repeated the oath, the lawyer (or lawyers) will then ask you questions. .They may begin by asking simple questions, such as what your name, birth date, and place of employment are. You will be required to answer any questions with a verbal “yes” or “no”. Once you have been asked questions by one lawyer, you may be cross-examined by the lawyer for the opposing side, as they have the legal right to ask you questions about the situation you witnessed.

This sparring back and forth can go on for quite awhile, and depending on what type of things you know or how difficult the case is shaping up to be, you may be interviewed for quite awhile. The point of a deposition is to make sure that all of the information that you have is recorded, as a trial may be months or years away and it is vital that the information is recorded when the experience is still fresh in your mind. As long as you answer the summons to appear for questioning, you will have done your duty in the eyes of the law.


About Identity Theft

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Every year, thousands of people discover out of the blue that they have been the victims of identity theft. With everything being computerized and information much more obtainable than ever before, it’s no wonder more and more people are having problems and having to fight against identity theft. What, however, is identity theft, how do you keep yourself safe from it, and what do you do if you have been involved in it?

What Is Identity Theft

Identity theft is the term used to describe a type of fraud. It occurs when someone gets your private information and, in essence, pretends to be you. They may not dress up and look like you, but they may use the information that they have on you in order to do something illegal. Financial identity theft is when the criminal takes over your identification in order to take money out of your bank accounts or to open up new credit accounts, making the bills due to you. You may also be a victim of criminal identity theft, where your identification becomes a new identification for a criminal who uses it to commit a crime so that they can stay hidden and beneath the radar of the police. This can cause a huge problem if you have a background check run on you and the person running it believes you are responsible for crimes that you know nothing about.

If You Are a Victim

If you are a victim of identity theft, the first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. There are thousands of people who fall pretty to identity thieves all the time. Once you have begun to breathe again, act fast. The faster you act, the less of a chance the thief will have to make more use of your identity. The first thing to do is to contact the credit agency where you first noticed the discrepancy. Most of these lending agencies have steps in place that they can take for someone who has had their identity stolen, preventing the thief from using a credit card in your name again and making sure that you are not responsible for paying the amounts already due on the card. Even banks have procedures set in place to limit the amount of damage. You will then want to speak with the authorities and to open a case so that the police and discover who stole your identity.

If you want to keep your identity safe, make sure you safeguard your social security number and keep track of your credit report, as it is there you will be able to find any discrepancies quickly. Also, shred everything that comes in the mail for you that could be used against you, such as any credit card offers and credit statements. Also, make sure you never give your credit card number of any personal information over the phone or online unless you are sure that it is a secure company you are dealing with.


Con Men and Your Rights

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Confidence Man: a person who makes money by defrauding an individual or a group of people.

A confidence man, also known as a conman, is someone who makes money by swindling others out of their own money. They don’t have a legitimate career other than to defraud other people and to take their money. Unfortunately, tons of people get taken by conmen every day and many do not know what rights they have and how to get their money or property back.

The Many Different Cons
As long as people have been making and using money, there have been conmen. There are a number of different types of tricks that conmen have up their sleeves. The first, and most commonly seen are the get rich quick schemes, which you’ve likely seen before. Any time you have seen the words “make money fast”, or “earn money doing nothing”, you may be dealing with a conman. There are a number of these different types of scams, including pyramid schemes, charms, chain letters, wealth seminars, and many more. These types of scams account for a great many of the scams that are done on a daily basis and can be difficult to defeat.

If, for instance, you signed up for a pyramid scheme (without realizing it was, of course), you probably had to sign a number of documents, binding you into the scheme and making it difficult to bring legal actions against the people who swindled you. If you discover the situation early enough, you may be able to get legal help to extricate yourself from the situation. Another way to protect yourself is to keep copies of every document you see to protect yourself. Also, if you have written any checks, put a stop on them immediately, and keep a close eye on your bank account as well.

Another type of classic scam is the medical scams that go on. Someone who is very ill may decide to look to alternative healers to cure them. Some of these healers are no better than conmen in disguise, trying to make it look like they are helping while doing nothing more than taking your money. The most well-known of these is the psychic surgery, where the con artist uses sleight of hand in order to make it look like they took something “toxic” out of your body when they did not. In order to avoid these types of cons, make sure that you take someone who is skeptical along with you. If you find later that you have been swindled, you should seek legal advice immediately to see what options you have available to you.

Being taken by conmen can be a devastating feeling. It can leave you feeling hurt and angry along with feeling broke. The best thing to do when you have been swindled is to seek legal counsel as soon as you can. The faster you do, the greater chance you will have in getting some of your money back.

Finding a Thief in your Midst

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

You open up a business and hire people to help you. You do background checks and believe that you are hiring people who genuinely care as much about your company as you do. Unfortunately occasionally the worst happens and you discover that you have an imposter in your company. It may be a person who has suddenly started to steal from your company, or it may be someone who has been lying from the start about who they are and what they are capable of doing. You then face a quandary: what do you do with an imposter in your company?

Discovering the Truth
The first thing you need to do is to figure out what the truth is. You may believe one thing, your employees may believe another, and the truth may be somewhere in the middle. If you have any hope of getting the imposter out of your organization with the least amount of damage you need to find out what the truth is. In order to do this, you may want to start at the bottom.

Some people would immediately try to speak with the person that the suspicious person is closest to. Instead, try speaking first with people who are further down the food chain but who are still acquainted with the person and the situation. These are often the ones who will notice the most and who can help you to gain understanding about the whole picture. Once you have spoken with those furthest away from the situation, start moving your way closer to those who are close to the suspicious person. It should be done very casually, however, or you risk spooking the suspect.

Gathering Evidence
Before you speak with the person you are concerned with, you should gather as much evidence as possible. If, for instance, the interviews have gotten you any information, keep it in a file. You may want to hire a private investigator for this. Private investigators can run you a hefty fee, but if your company is being taken for hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, it may be a worthwhile sacrifice. A qualified investigator can often get information that you may not be able to get simply because they are an unknown person. Some ask to be “hired” in order to be able to get close to the suspects so that they can learn the truth for themselves.

Once you have discovered that your employee is an imposter, you need to speak with authorities. If you choose to confront the person yourself, chances are high that they will not be brought to justice. Bring all of the information you have to the police and to your lawyer so that you can learn what options you have available to you. Fraud is a crime punishable by sharp fees and court time and is not fair for anyone, so if you suspect that someone in your company is responsible for fraud, it is important that you contact the authorities.

How To Do Due Diligence

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Due diligence is a way for investors, partners, or entrepreneurs to make sure that everything that deals with a company is in order. It is a way to ensure that the company is making the profits that it says it is making and that everything that the management says is occurring actually is occurring. Some people believe that due diligence is devious, while others do not. You may have different roles depending on what part of the process you are involved in.

As the Investigator

If you are an investor or partner, you may want to make sure that everything is going the way it is supposed to be going before you choose to sink your money into a project. This is a good idea. There are a number of companies that are not real and exist only on paper for the sole purpose of stealing money from investors. Instead of believing something that an investor says, check it out for yourself.

The first step is to name someone as the coordinator. This person will be responsible for making sure that everyone is doing what they need to do. They will get together all of the materials and will put everything in order so that you can read it and understand it. It is also important to make sure that you have a team of people working under the coordinator who are qualified. For instance, you may want to have people who are qualified to analyze information, such as financial gurus and managers who have a great deal of experience. You will also need to decide if you want to do everything in the open or quietly. There are pros and cons to both, and it is up to you and your team to decide which is the best option for you.

The Company

If you are the owner of a company who is undergoing due diligence, it is vital that you make your employees comfortable. Explain to them what is going on (if you know) and encourage them to speak openly and honestly with any investigators who ask to speak with them. They are often the ones who will be the most worried about the process and it is important to keep them in the loop as much as possible.

Also, make sure that all of your information is available for anyone who is on the team of investigators. Getting together your financial information can be a great way to see where your company is at and to learn more about your company as well! Make sure you stay calm and that you work with the investigators instead of trying to hide things from them. If you are unaware of any investigation being done formally, even if you simply suspect, continue your day to day routine. As long as you and your staff are cooperative, the process should go smoothly on your end and should help out both sides.


How to Handle a Civil Lawsuit

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

It doesn’t matter if you are involved in a civil lawsuit because you are the defendant or because you are the plaintiff: either side can be a scary side to be on. There are over 40 million civil lawsuits that are filed in the nation every year, which means that there is a very good chance that you may be involved in one. Knowing what to do beforehand can help you to handle a civil lawsuit with much more ease.

The Plaintiff
If you are the plaintiff, it is your responsibility to prove that the person who wronged you is guilty and needs to provide compensation. There are a number of reasons that you would want to sue somebody or a company. If, for instance, you sent one of your belongings, such as a car, in for repair and it came back even more broken than it was before, you may have a lawsuit. Before you decide to take matters into a court of law, however, you may want to speak with the people whom you are considering suing first. If you do not, the judge or jury may feel that you did not try everything you could before bringing the matter to court.

Make sure that you speak with them and try to resolve the matter, but also keep track of what you do. If you speak with them, mark it on a calendar and write a detailed account of what was discussed. If they call, write down that they did and what was discussed. Having all of the information handy can be the difference between winning and losing a lawsuit.

You may also want to hire a lawyer, especially if the monetary amount due to you is rather large. If you are only suing for a small amount, you can likely avoid this step, unless you want to ensure victory.

The Defendant
People tend to panic when they get sued, but you should not. The key to successfully proving your defense is to stay calm and to get organized. To begin with, find out what you are getting sued over. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to try to contact the person who is suing you to ask for clarification. If they refuse to give it to you, make sure you make note of that fact. As with the plaintiff, it is vital that you keep a record of everything so that you can prove your innocence. You may want to hire a lawyer, especially if you are confused or if the amount you are being sued over is a great deal, as they can help you to know what to do and what not to do in specific situations over the course of the suit.

A lawsuit can be a bit intimidating, but as long as you remain cool and collected and have the information that you need handy, you can make your case and win your side.

Living Wills & DNR: Is Patient Safety Compromised?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

More and more people are preparing living wills and DNR (do not resuscitate) orders, both of which are created to assist patients in the event of a medical emergency if they are unable to speak for themselves. You should be aware that laws and rules regarding preparation of these and other documents pertaining to health care issues vary from state to state, so it is wise to consult an attorney and your health care provider prior to preparing and/or signing anything.

A living will is a document that you can prepare on your own or with the assistance of an attorney or health care professional. This document lists the medical treatment you wish in the event that you are in terminally ill or are in a permanently unconscious state and cannot communicate with your health care provider, and can also name an individual to act in your stead to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

A DNR order is actually prepared by a physician based upon the patient’s current health situation, the physician’s advice and information provided regarding the patient’s wishes. The DNR order tells health care providers whether they should attempt to resuscitate a patient if it should be necessary during a medical procedure or as a result of a terminal illness.

Dr. Ferdinando L Mirarchi has suggested that one problem with a living will is a lack of individualization, as these documents are generally prepared from a standard template, when an individual is also preparing other legal documents, such as their Last Will and Testament or Power of Attorney. Because the living will is more often prepared only on the advice of an attorney, it may not contain language that is conducive to assisting health care providers in determining a patient’s exact wishes. This is because they are prepared without informed consent, meaning the patient has not consulted with a physician regarding specific issues connected with their medical treatment and they may not understand all the risk and/or benefits involved with their treatment. Also, a living will can be prepared years prior to being used and, therefore, may no longer be relevant when needed.

Additionally, a patient entering the hospital without a living will, often prepares and signs a generic document, at the direction of hospital personnel, but once again, this is without informed consent and may not meet the needs of the patient and their care. Add to that the fact that most patients aren’t even really sure what they are signing, and you can see that these documents can often be misinterpreted or not adhere to the patient’s wishes.

Another issue that can arise is that many health care professionals may interpret certain terms to mean different things, especially since the language in the documents can be ambiguous. Finally, in some cases, having a living will can be interpreted as having a DNR order, when the two documents do not necessarily cover the same issues. Beyond that, some medical professionals may interpret the phrase “do not resuscitate” to mean “do not treat” when the patient may not mean that at all. A patient may not wish to be resuscitated if they are nearing death and their heart and/or breathing has stopped. However, a desire by a patient to not be kept alive in a vegetative state, is not necessarily the same thing as not wishing to have treatment that can save their life.

Special Sources To Note:

Understanding Your Living Will (Addicus Books, 2006)

Mirarchi,Ferdinando Does a Living Will Equal a DNR? Is Patient Safety Compromised?, Journal of Emergency Medicine, Vol. 33, No.3, pp299-305, 2007.

Mirarchi, Ferdinando L “Living Wills & DNR: Is Patient Safety Compromised?”. Human Life Review. . 23 Sep. 2008.

The Realistic Interpretation of Advanced Directives

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Although more and more, people are preparing Living Wills or other advance health care directives, these documents may not live up to what we expect of them. Differences in state laws and miscommunication between attorneys, patients and their health care providers can cause the documents to have little or no meaning when an end of life situation occurs.

Also, physicians may ignore an advanced directive, simply because they do not believe it adequately reflects the patient’s wishes or because they do not understand what is desired by the patient. Misinterpretation of the directive could be due to the use of legalese rather than actual medical codes, which codes would make more sense to health care personnel in a medical situation. Some physicians may mistakenly believe living will or other advance directive is the same as a DNR (do not resuscitate) code order.

Code orders have specific meaning for health care personnel, and although they can be interpreted differently, they can also help to clarify the patient’s wishes, when discussed with their doctor. There are several codes: full code, which means that the medical personnel should do everything necessary to keep a patient alive; hospice care/comfort care, indicates that nature should be allowed to take its course, and while medical personnel should make the patient comfortable and relieve pain, the patient should be allowed to die naturally; slow code, applies when a patient will not benefit from further medical care, and once again medical personnel will provide comfort, until the patient dies; no code/DNR, are similar, although there can be confusion in a no code situation, but they are generally meant to imply that health care personnel are not to attempt to resuscitate a patient who is near death and whose heart or breathing have stopped; chemical code, this implies that the patient wishes only to have medication administered, but to have no invasive procedures performed; and DNI, which stands for do not intubate.

As can be seen, there can still be some confusion among these codes. Therefore, prior to the completion of a living will, it is wise for the patient to discuss all these options with their physician. The patient should fully understand what the choices they have made mean, and also when these choices may be used in a health care situation. The document itself should outline the parameters for its enactment in the case of medical emergency.

Once a patient has provided their physician with an advance directive, they may also prepare a POLST (Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment). This document should be used in conjunction with an advance directive. Again, this should be fully discussed with the physician, and its effectiveness can depend upon the understanding of all the health care personnel who are treating the patient.

Ideally, the advance directive, in order to be as effective as possible, should include all of the following: primary information, pertinent medical information, a resuscitation choice, a do not transfer order, and a hold harmless statement. Further, the document should be portable, follow all state laws, and require the confirmation of a second physician in a case of a terminal condition or persistent vegetative state. It is also wise for the patient to choose “safe” codes, such as full code or hospice/comfort care, rather than other codes which can be misinterpreted.

Obviously, as these documents are so open to confusion, it is best to make sure that the patient’s wishes are effectively communicated to the physician, other health care personnel and any proxy appointed by the patient, prior to the document’s enactment.

Special Sources To Note:

Understanding Your Living Will (Addicus Books, 2006)

Mirarchi,Ferdinando Does a Living Will Equal a DNR? Is Patient Safety Compromised?, Journal of Emergency Medicine, Vol. 33, No.3, pp299-305, 2007.

Mirarchi, Ferdinando L “Living Wills & DNR: Is Patient Safety Compromised?”. Human Life Review. . 23 Sep. 2008.

Understanding a Civil Lawsuit

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

You know what a criminal court case is, but what is a civil lawsuit? Each year hundreds of thousands of people in the nation are involved in a civil lawsuit in one fashion or another, and many of them have no idea before their involvement what a civil lawsuit is or how it works. They may even be confused as to why they are involved in one! If you’re involved in a civil lawsuit or are about to be, here is some basic information to help you understand why you may be involved.

You are the Sue-r
In the legal world, the person who is bringing a lawsuit on to someone or something else is called the plaintiff. The plaintiff is the person who feels that they were wronged and who is asking for compensation from the court. The compensation usually comes in the form of money but may include the defendant having to do something as well, such as cleaning up an area or something of the like. It is your responsibility to prove that the person you are suing wronged you.

The Sue-ee
If you are being sued, you are the defendant. It is your responsibility to prove that you didn’t do what the plaintiff said that you did, or that you should not be responsible for providing the compensation they are looking for. Depending on what you are getting sued for, you may, or may not, want to get a lawyer to represent you and your interests. If you choose to not hire a lawyer, make sure you do your research in order to give you the best chance of winning.

The Witness
If you were a witness to something that occurred, you may be required to speak about what you know. If, for instance, you were witness to a co-worker getting harmed on the job, and that co-worker later decides to sue the company you both work for, you may be asked by the defense or by the plaintiff to testify on what you saw. If you are concerned that you will get in trouble based on what you know, you can hire a lawyer to help represent your interests.

The Jury
The final way you can be involved in a civil lawsuit (unless you are part of the legal team) is to be a juror. Many civil lawsuits never need a jury, but some larger ones require that twelve people make the decision for the entire case. If you are a juror it will be your responsibility to listen to all of the information that is presented to you so that you can make a decision about what action, if any, you believe should be taken.

Being a part of a civil lawsuit can be a bit intimidating, especially if you are the one being sued. If you are, you may want to seek legal representation from a qualified defense attorney, as the average citizen does not have enough training to be able to adequately defend themselves when they are involved in a civil suit.