Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

July 2013 Archives

Legal How-To: Filing a Workers' Comp Claim

Do you know how to file for workers' compensation? If you're injured on the job, workers' comp can potentially help take care of your medical expenses and wages while you're recovering.

These benefits aren't automatic, however. There is a process for filing a workers' compensation claim; if you fail to follow the steps in a timely manner, you may have to pay for your injury on your own.

That's why it's important to get familiar with the workers' compensation process. Here are the steps you'll generally need to take in order to file a workers' comp claim:

1st Gay Divorce in Colo. Sets Precedent

A gay couple who tied the knot in Massachusetts got their divorce finalized Monday in Colorado -- the first same-sex dissolution under Colorado's civil union law, which took effect in May.

It may seem counterintuitive to the marriage equality movement, but for gay Coloradoans like Juli Yim, the ability to get her out-of-state marriage dissolved while still residing in Colorado was a boon, reports The Coloradoan.

Why does legally ending out-of-state gay unions in Colorado matter so much?

NYC's Sugary Drink Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

New York City's ban on supersized sugary drinks, which barred large sodas from restaurants, fast food joints, and movie theaters, was struck down as unconstitutional by a state appellate court on Tuesday.

The ban on sugary drinks of more than 16 ounces was pressed by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had supported it in an attempt to curb obesity, reports USA Today.

Failure of this regulation may mean a tough road for any future bans on food or drink to promote health.

29% Fear Social Media Will Get Them Fired: Survey

More than 1 in 4 young adults have posted things on social media that they fear may be used against them when it comes to employment, a new FindLaw survey reveals.

Among 18- to 34-year-old social media users, 29 percent say they feared that their photos, comments, or other personal information could come back to bite them -- either by causing a prospective employer to turn them down for a job, or by giving a current employer a reason to fire them.

Because of that fear, many have indeed deleted their posts, and have taken action in other ways as well. Here are some of the main highlights from the FindLaw social media survey:

Will or Living Trust: What's the Difference?

Do you need a will or a living trust? What's the difference, anyway?

Chances are you have some assets, whether they be big ones like houses in your name, or small ones like that $20 bill in your wallet. Either way, most of us would like to have control over our belongings and the ultimate say in who gets them (and perhaps even how they're used) once we're gone.

Living trusts and wills are two very common documents that people will choose to draft when it comes to estate planning. Here's a general overview of how they're different:

Skype Interview? 7 Tips to Be at Your Best

In the brave new world of tech-savvy remote interviews, every job applicant can benefit from a few Skype interview tips.

Even if making a good first -- or fifth -- impression isn't always done in person these days, many of the same golden rules apply.

Here are seven tips to help you get your game-face on for a job interview, Skype-style:

10 Common Divorce Mistakes to Avoid

The split after a marriage is painful enough in itself, but there are some common divorce mistakes that can make matters even worse.

While certain casualties of the split — such as the loss of one’s home, furniture, pets, or other divisible assets — are often unavoidable, disputes over other, more long-term legal issues can be dodged.

So in order to prevent your divorce from being more painful than it needs to be, here are 10 common mistakes you’ll want to avoid:

Justice Dept. Targets Texas Over Voting Rights

The Justice Department has Texas' new election changes in its sights, as it announced this week that it would support federal courts reviewing Texas law in order to preserve voting rights.

Attorney General Eric Holder stated that based on Texas' history of past discrimination and the passage of redistricting and voter ID laws, "Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices," reports The Houston Chronicle.

Many of these state laws were made possible by a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion that significantly relaxed the Voting Rights Act.

5 Legal Tips for Babysitters

From babysitters using babies as decoys to steal booze to driving with babies in truck beds, it's pretty clear babysitters can use a few legal tips.

At the end of the day, the goal should be to keep the child occupied, happy, and above all, safe. At the same time, you'll also want to keep yourself away from any potential legal trouble.

Here are five legal tips for all the babysitters out there:

San Diego Mayor Sued for Sexual Harassment

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is being sued for sexual harassment by a former aide. The lawsuit has inspired two more women to step forward with their own accusations.

Filner believes he will eventually be vindicated, but he also acknowledged, "I need help," and added, "I'm clearly doing something wrong," CNN reports.

From verbal comments to unwanted physical contact and derogatory gestures, sexual harassment is alive and well. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

N.H. Is 19th State to OK Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire became the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana on Tuesday, with a new law which allows those with chronic or terminal illnesses to have access to therapeutic pot.

Gov. Maggie Hassan signed the medical marijuana bill into law, quelling conservative concerns by explaining that "this legislation ensures that we approach this policy in the in the right way with measures to prevent abuse," reports The Huffington Post.

As medicinal marijuana slowly edges toward legalization in many states, what does New Hampshire's law offer its citizens?

Legal How-To: Responding to a DMCA Takedown Notice

If you feel clueless about how to respond to a DMCA takedown notice, don't worry, you're not alone.

If your online content is removed because of a takedown notice you think is without merit, you can fight back with a counter-notice asking that the material be put back up.

Here's how to respond to a DMCA takedown notice and file a counter-notice:

Married Gay Couple Wins Court Ruling in Ohio

An Ohio gay couple will be recognized as legal spouses on a death certificate, after a federal judge's ruling questioned Ohio's laws against recognizing out-of-state gay marriages.

James Obergefell and his ailing partner John Arthur, both 47, of Cincinnati, had pleaded their case against Ohio's marriage law in federal court, asking to list Obergefell as Arthur's spouse on his death certificate so that they can be buried together, reports The Associated Press.

While Ohio's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages remains intact, this ruling may open the door for more out-of-state gay married couples.

N.D.'s 'Fetal Heartbeat' Abortion Ban Blocked

A federal judge has temporarily blocked North Dakota's abortion ban, the most restrictive in the nation, which would prohibit an abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected -- as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

In practice, the law would bar nearly 90 percent of the abortions performed at the Red River Women's Clinic, the state's only abortion clinic, Reuters reports.

When the ban was signed into law by Gov. Jack Dalrymple in March, he asked lawmakers to set aside money to fend off potential litigation. And as expected, the state's ban is being challenged in court.

Divorce Rate Doubles for Couples Over 50

Young married couples aren't the only ones filing for divorce. In fact, divorce among older adults has more than doubled since 1980, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the Center for Family and Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio reviewed U.S. census data collected in 2009 and found that 1 in 4 persons who gets a divorce in the United States is over 50 years old, reports Cleveland's WKRK-FM.

With the rise in "gray divorce," more couples will find value in learning about their options once they split.

'Black Boxes' in Cars Raise Legal Concerns

If you're driving a relatively new car, chances are it's equipped with a "black box" for car crashes, otherwise known as an event data recorder which tracks certain actions.

About 96 percent of new cars sold in the United States have the boxes, according to The New York Times. And if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gets its way, black boxes will come standard in all new cars by September 2014.

But there are growing privacy concerns over the expanding use of "black boxes."

Will a Student Loan Deal Pass This Week?

The U.S. Senate is poised to vote this week on a bill that would stabilize student loan rates by tying them to market rates.

The proposed legislation was announced last week, and in light of the increasing student loans rates facing students in the fall, it is likely to pass with President Obama's support, reports USA Today.

What is included in this new student loan deal, and how will it affect students and their families?

7 Types of Adoption: What You Need to Know

Thinking of becoming an adoptive parent or giving your newborn up for adoption? If so, then you'll want to know exactly what type of adoption you're seeking, and what your rights will be after the process is complete.

Misunderstandings are common in adoptions, as seen in a recent U.S. Supreme Court case involving "Baby Veronica." Her birth father had signed paperwork terminating his parental rights, but later insisted he didn't realize he'd be giving up his daughter for good.

To help avoid a similarly heartbreaking scenario, you may want to become familiar with the different types of adoption and their effects on biological and adoptive parents' rights. Here are seven common categories of adoption:

Detroit's Bankrupt. So What's Next?

Now that Detroit's filing for bankruptcy, what's next?

Many people may be unfamiliar with Chapter 9 bankruptcy, in part because they are filed infrequently. With more than $18 billion in debts, Detroit's recent Chapter 9 filing is the largest in U.S. history.

Here are the next steps in the Motor City's Chapter 9 bankruptcy process:

Texas' 20-Week Abortion Bill Signed Into Law

Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a new abortion bill into law on Thursday. The law bars abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and places restrictions on doctors wishing to perform legal procedures.

The Texas law was initially blocked in late June by State Sen. Wendy Davis' now-famous filibuster, but Perry called lawmakers back for a special session to vote on the bill. Texas now joins 12 other states that have enacted similar bans on abortion after 20 weeks, reports Reuters.

What does this new law mean for Texas women, and will it hold up in court?

Are You Ever Too Young to Write a Will?

Are you ever too young to write a will? Young people may feel invincible, but accidents and unexpected events can (and do) happen.

Consider, for example, "Glee" actor Cory Monteith's sudden passing at the age of 31, as reported by Reuters. It's a somber reminder that life is unpredictable and you're never too young to write a will.

Here are a few questions for young people to consider when writing a will:

Fat Boy Scouts Barred From Jamboree

The Boy Scout Jamboree is a celebration which promises fun and the great outdoors for young Scouts... unless those Scouts are dangerously overweight.

A new fitness requirement for the 2013 Jamboree demands that attendees must meet specific body mass index (BMI) requirements, reports USA Today. The 10-day gathering kicked off Monday with 30,000 Scouts in attendance; it's not clear how many Scouts failed to make the weight cut.

While these standards may be imposed to encourage fitness and health, many Scouts and their parents feel this requirement is plain discrimination.

Legal How-To: Protecting Your Invention

You've come up with an ingenious new idea for a product. So how do you protect your invention, legally speaking?

If you think you're destined to be the next Billie Mays, there are a number of steps you can take to make sure your brilliant idea remains yours -- and to keep others from making money off of all of your hard work.

Here are a few tips on how to protect your invention:

Top 5 Parenting Tips During Divorce

Divorce is not an easy time for divorcing spouses, and many of us have personal experience as to how it can affect children.

While you may not be able to prevent the emotional fallout that comes with two parents choosing to separate their lives, you may be able to use a few tips to ease the transition for you and your children.

Here are five parenting tips to keep in mind during a divorce:

Filing for Bankruptcy: Do You Need an Attorney?

When filing for bankruptcy, do you need an attorney? A bankruptcy case can be a daunting task to take on by yourself, but it can be done in some cases. Still, you may not want to rule out the idea of hiring a bankruptcy lawyer altogether.

The bankruptcy process is long, time-consuming, and pretty complicated. As a general rule of thumb, the simpler the case, the more feasible it is to go it alone without an attorney.

To help figure out whether you need an attorney when filing for bankruptcy, consider the following:

Nazi-Naming Dad Denied Visits, Vows to Appeal

A neo-Nazi dad who gave his four kids Nazi-inspired names and showed up to court in a Nazi uniform has lost a petition seeking visitation of his youngest son.

A hearing was held last month in Flemington, New Jersey, to determine whether Heath Campbell, 40, could visit with his 2-year-old son Heinrich Hons Campbell.

In a decision issued Thursday, a judge denied the neo-Nazi dad's petition.

Are Laser Pointers Illegal?

You may have an addiction a habit of watching YouTube videos of kittens catching laser pointers. But what you may not realize is that those cat owners may be breaking the law in the most adorable way possible.

Nerds and cat ladies alike should have stopped with their laser pointer keychains and questioned: "Are laser pointers illegal?"

According to a new study, the answer in most cases is yes.

How to Apply for Asylum or Refugee Status

Former U.S. intelligence contractor and current fugitive Edward Snowden says he's seeking temporary asylum in Russia until he can arrange "safe passage" to a permanent new home in South or Central America.

Snowden has been offered asylum by Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, reports Reuters. But it's not clear how he'll make it to one of those destinations.

If people like Edward Snowden can seek asylum from the United States, how can immigrants from foreign nations apply for asylum or refugee status in America?

Is It Legal to Have a Bonfire?

With summer in full swing, everyone's getting their BBQs and bonfires on. But is it actually legal to have a bonfire?

Growing concerns about air quality and smoke blowing into neighborhood homes are causing some lawmakers to place legal restrictions on bonfires. Even in Southern California -- a haven for sun, sand and bonfire pits -- the regional air quality board voted Friday to reduce the number of beach fire pits and move them farther away from homes, reports Los Angeles' KNBC-TV.

So how do you know if bonfires are allowed where you live?

FDA to Set New Limit on Arsenic in Apple Juice

If you, like Dr. Oz, feel there's too much arsenic in apple juice, you can relax a bit. The FDA wants to set a new limit on the level of arsenic allowed in apple juice, after more than a year of public pressure from consumer groups worried about the contaminant's potential effects on children.

If you have an opinion on the matter, the FDA would like to hear from you.

Pa. Atty. General Won't Fight Gay Marriage Suit

Pennsylvania's attorney general is declining to fight an ACLU lawsuit that seeks to strike down the state's gay marriage ban.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced Thursday that she "cannot ethically defend Pennsylvania's version of DOMA," referring to the federal Defense of Marriage Act that had defined marriage as between a man and a woman, Reuters reports. That part of DOMA was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

With the state attorney general refusing to defend Pennsylvania's gay marriage ban, how will the law fare?

N.Y. Using 'Special' SUVs to Spot Texting Drivers

Texting drivers in New York will soon feel the gaze of law enforcement more intensely. Or at least from a higher angle, anyway. Officers are using undercover state police cars that are designed to sit higher than normal SUVs, so they can catch you fiddling with your phone.

In stealth mode via unmarked cars, officers creep up on unsuspecting texting drivers and then pounce on them to bring their distracted driving to a screeching halt.

But is this use of "special" unmarked police cars legal?

Illinois Is Last State to OK Concealed Carry

Concealed carry laws are already in place in 49 states, and now Illinois is joining their ranks. Illinois lawmakers on Tuesday adopted a law that will allow residents to carry concealed guns.

The legislature actually passed the concealed carry law more than a month ago, but Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed it and suggested particular changes. However, both chambers of the state legislature voted to override the governor's veto.

With the law now on the books, Illinois is the last state in the nation to permit some form of public gun possession, USA Today reports.

Who Pays Funeral Costs After a Relative's Death?

When a loved one passes, one of the practical questions that comes up is who pays for the funeral. The process can be daunting, but there are ways to figure out who should be covering the costs.

First, note that there aren't any laws that specifically state who's supposed to pay for a funeral. Instead, to determine who is responsible for paying funeral costs, look to the following:

Can Supreme Court Stop NSA Surveillance?

The U.S. Supreme Court has seen fit to stop a number of socially abhorrent institutions in the last century, but it doesn't seem likely to put a stop to NSA surveillance.

Still, lawyers for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) are hoping that they can succeed in dismantling the National Security Agency's system of monitoring phone records, particularly through Verizon, by appealing directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, reports CNN.

Despite EPIC's desire for electronic privacy for U.S. citizens, general appeals of this nature aren't very successful.

Legal How-To: Fighting a Parking Ticket

A parking ticket may be a strict liability offense where you live, but you're still allowed to fight it. In fact, there are a variety of potential ways to fight a parking ticket.

Here are a few strategies for fighting a parking ticket that you may want to consider:

Top 10 Cities for Abandoned Homes

In the wake of a housing market that left many homeowners with a foreclosed home, a potential home buyer may expect to find abandoned homes -- especially in some of the nation's hardest-hit real estate markets.

So is making an offer on an abandoned home the right move for you?

Before you take that step, there are a few issues you'll want to consider. First, take a look at the 10 cities with the highest percentage of abandoned homes in the nation. According to 24/7 Wall St., they are:

At School, Social Media Policies Are Trending

In this day and age, it only makes sense that many schools are considering social media policies. While the use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can't be regulated by schools at all times, what about in the classroom? And what about school-related posts?

A private boarding school in New Hampshire, which provides a tablet to every teacher and student, may be setting an example for others. The New Hampton School has implemented three levels of social media policies.

It's only one school out of many that have social media policies in place. What are some different types of policies that schools are using when it comes to social media? Here are a few examples:

NSA's Reply to Man's FOIA Request: No Comment

If you want to know whether the NSA is spying on you, making a FOIA request sounds like a smart idea. But it doesn't mean the super-secret agency has to give you a definitive answer.

ProPublica's Jeff Larson submitted a request for any data the National Security Agency had on him, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). But he received a decidedly vague letter in response, claiming that telling him one way or another would aid "our adversaries."

The NSA may send you a similar response if you ask them about what information they have on you.

USPS Logs Mail for FBI, and It's Legal

Although it may surprise you, the U.S. Postal Service is logging your mail and sharing it with federal law enforcement. And the practice is completely legal.

Surprise might be an understatement for what New Yorker Leslie Pickering was feeling last September, when he opened his mail to find a handwritten card instructing postal workers to copy the exterior of his mail before it reached him, reports The New York Times.

The post office could be doing the same with your mail, and the law is on their side.

Are Electronic Wills Valid? Ohio Judge Says Yes

Are electronic wills valid? After all, even technophiles face the two certainties in life: birth and death.

According to a judge in Ohio, yes, electronic wills are valid. But that's not necessarily the case in all jurisdictions nationwide.

A probate court in Ohio recently tackled this novel issue of law and ruled that a will, drafted on a Samsung Galaxy tablet, was valid under state law.

July 4th: Why So Dangerous for Teen Drivers?

July Fourth is the most dangerous holiday for drivers, and teens should be especially careful, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But why?

An average of 134 people die on the Fourth of July each year, including eight to 13 teenagers, reports Allstate Insurance, which analyzed IIHS data. That may not seem like a huge number, but as teen drivers crash at a rate four times higher than any other age group, they need to be especially careful on Independence Day, Allstate suggests.

Here are a few risky driving habits that make the Fourth of July so dangerous for all drivers, and especially teens:

How to Display the Flag: 5 Rules to Follow

What does the law say about how to display the flag on the Fourth of July, or on any other federal holiday?

The American flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing, according to a Congressional report. That's why there are a number of rules about how to properly display the flag.

The Flag Code doesn't prescribe any penalties, but it does give instructions on the time and occasions for display, the position and manner of display, and on how to show respect for the flag. Here are five rules to follow:

Social Media Safety Tips for Teenagers

Social media safety for teenagers is a serious concern, and a girl's homicide in Maine shows us why. Nichole Cable, 15, was killed in an alleged fake kidnapping plot that went terribly wrong.

Cable's alleged killer, who used a fake Facebook profile, convinced her to meet him at the end of a street to score some marijuana, according to state police. But instead, the man duct-taped her and threw her in the back of a truck.

The man told others that he intended to stage Cable's kidnapping, and then "rescue" her in hopes of becoming a hero, The Associated Press reports. But when he went back to check on Cable, she was dead.

Legal How-To: Getting Married Abroad

Are you and your partner finally ready to tie the knot? If so, you may be wondering how to get married abroad.

Destination weddings are often the ideal route for many soon-to-be-married couples. They're exciting, fun, and allow for you and your closest relatives and friends to combine a vacation with a celebratory ceremony.

But before you buy those plane tickets and pack something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue, here's what you'll want to do first:

School's Yoga Program Fit for Kids, Judge Rules

The school yoga lawsuit is over and the bohemian bourgeois -- or "Bobos" -- may rejoice. A judge is allowing a California school district to teach yoga, rejecting the claims of disgruntled parents who called it an effort to promote Eastern religion.

In his ruling, San Diego Superior Court Judge John S. Meyer said yoga is a religious practice, but not the way that it is taught by the Encinitas Union School District at its nine campuses, reports The Associated Press.

1st Green Card for Gay Spouse Approved

A Bulgarian immigrant in Florida has become the first gay spouse to be approved for a green card. It's an immigration milestone that comes after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that limited marriage rights to opposite-sex couples.

The notice of approval of a permanent resident visa, known as a green card, was issued by e-mail late Friday to Traian Popov, 41, who lives with his American spouse, Julian Marsh, 55, in Fort Lauderdale, reports The New York Times.

Speeding Camera Ticket? Not So Fast

No one likes a speeding ticket, but what about getting one without ever being pulled over by an officer?

Across the nation, cities have taken advantage of speeding cameras -- automated devices that record the speed of passing cars and snap photos of the ones that exceed the posted speed limit in that area.

Local jurisdictions may be happy to collect the revenue. But drivers, and even legislators and some judges, are not smiling at all for these camera tickets.