Category: Safety

New rules on parity in mental health and substance use disorder take effect January 13, 2014

As part of Affordable Care Act (ACA) changes to health care, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has just issued their new rules regarding mental health and substance use parity in health plans.

The 206 page document is titled: Final Rules under the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA); Technical Amendment to External Review for Multi-State Plan Program.

Without wading too deeply into governmental alphabet soup, the short strokes are that the ACA calls for the same parity in mental health and substance use disorder for non-ERISA health insurance policies as have been in place for ERISA (read, employer provided) policies since 2008.

The new rules take effect January 13, 2014 (See, e.g., 26 CFR § 54.9812.)

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

The Memorial Day weekend – the most dangerous three days to be driving

California is blessed with great weather and many places to enjoy it.  Three days off work jammed roads and driving distracted can be a deadly combination this weekend.

Memorial Day Weekend brings increased traffic and a sad history of a high number of highway tragedies and the needless loss of life.

“When everything comes together just right like on Memorial Day weekend, we hit the road and unfortunately some of us hit each other,” reports Chris Cochran of the state Office of Traffic Safety.

Law enforcement throughout California will be looking for drivers and passengers who don’t buckle up during the “Click-it or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign. They will be on the lookout for drivers and passengers – including passengers in the back seat, day and night.

So when you load up the family in the car this weekend please do so safely.

Buckle up

Eliminate those distractions you can control. (cell phone, texting, eating, grooming, etc.)

Share the road. Watch out for other drivers, riders and pedestrians on the road.

Don’t put your own life at risk, or the life of your family or friends. One needless car wreck can wreck it all.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Some Thoughts on “No Recovery — No Fee”

I was in Fresno County on a case and picked up The Selma Enterprise to read during breakfast. Fine little paper!

Anyhow, a column titled “You and the Law” caught my eye and I thought, “Wow, this is good stuff!”

The columnist is Bakersfield attorney Dennis Beaver (661/323-7911 or Lagombeaver1@gmail.com) who it turns out writes a regular column.

Mr. Beaver graciously gave me permission to reprint his column, so here you go:

____________________________

But the Phone Book Ad Said, ‘No Recovery Fee’!

By David Beaver, Esq.

It is impossible to turn on TV, open the phone book to the attorneys section or surf the Web and not find ads for personal injury lawyers, which generally all sound pretty much the same and stress, “No recovery, no fee.”

Sounds like a great way of hiring a lawyer, doesn’t it? The ads want you to think, “The lawyer who takes my case puts in all the time and gets paid only if we get paid. For me, it’s a no-brainer, a free ride, I can’t lose. Sure, I’ll sign!”

So you phone the “800” number flashed on your screen and wind up hiring the “No recovery, no fee” lawyer, who then loses your case after years of litigation. Are you on the hook for anything?

Well, you could easily get a letter from the attorney which reads, “I am sorry that we lost your case. Now we need to talk about how you are going to pay us for …”

“Pay us? What part of the no-fee stuff means that I have to pay anything at all?” you might be thinking. And, in fact, one of the most frequent complaints to state bar associations from unhappy clients deals precisely with the meaning of the words “no fee” and the resulting confusion. So, what does “no fee” really mean?

No fee does not mean free

Ron Jones specializes in business and real estate law in Hanford and sees the public confusion as a result of two factors.

“When most people think of hiring a lawyer — let’s say, in a divorce or contract dispute — they usually are concerned with the amount that lawyer will bill for time spent on the case. If it is a personal injury matter, fees are often on a percentage basis — for example, one-fourth to sometimes half of the amounts recovered, plus costs.

“There is generally more to most cases than just the lawyer’s time,” Jones points out. “The written retainer agreement lawyer and client sign must set out clearly what out-of-pocket expenses incurred the client will be expected to pay. There is a difference between attorney fees — what a lawyer charges for time, document preparation and advice — and costs, which are other expenses incurred for the client’s benefit.”

Some example of costs

Costs can include any and all of the following, and again, we are not talking attorney time, rather, the out-of-pocket expenses which clients can be responsible for:

• Postage and shipping costs

• Photocopy and binding expense

• Travel expense, including mileage, train and airplane

• Lodging and meal expense

• Deposition and court reporter charges

• Video conferencing/long-distance telephone charges

• Expert witness fees, such as forensic accountants in divorce cases

• Private investigators

• Computerized research if the law firm is charged by the provider

• Possibly secretarial and paralegal time

• Court filing fees.

“Who pays what, under what circumstances and when, should be clearly set out in writing,” Jones observes. He describes three basic types of retainer agreements:

1) The client pays attorney fees and all related costs and expenses, such as hiring a private investigator, an accident reconstruction expert, accountant, etc.

2) The law firm covers everything and the client reimburses the law firm out of the recovery, only if there is one.

3) The client pays no attorney fees unless the case is successful, but does pay the out-of-pocket costs.

“Fee agreements where the lawyer covers all expenses related to the case are typical in personal injury cases where it is likely there is going to be a recovery. You will not normally find this in cases which have a limited chance of success or which have a low dollar value,” he notes.

“It is important for the public to understand that law is a business with a bottom line. Reasonable lawyers try to not accept cases which appear as doubtful or which have a minimal chance for success. With most personal injury cases — where the lawyer is paid a contingent fee — an experienced attorney who is good at selecting cases will only take those which will likely provide a desirable result.”

How not to be surprised

“Always read the retainer (fee agreement) very carefully,” Jones stresses. “If you do not understand the fee agreement, but are inclined to hire the lawyer, it is a good idea to take that retainer to another attorney and pay for a consultation in which it can be clearly explained to you. Also, it’s a good idea to set out in writing, that before your lawyer incurs any costs which might exceed, say, $1,000, that your approval is required.”

“Finally,” the Hanford lawyer underscores, “when you do not have a working history with that attorney and fees are expected to exceed $1,000, California law requires a written, signed agreement.”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to him at 661-323-7911 or emailed to him at lagombeaver1@hotmail.com.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

Memorial Day Weekend Traffic Deaths Down

CHP statistics showed a declining number of traffic-related deaths this past holiday weekend.  Even though it was predicted that our freeways would have record number of drivers, and some roads were jammed for hours, drivers  appear to have been driving more safely.

May through September has a higher rate of fatal motorcycle crashes than other months, with midsummer generally accounting for twice as many crashes as midwinter simply because more people are riding, according to the CHP safety office. Child bicycle fatalities also go up by as much as 45 percent during the summer.

April was Distracted Driving Awareness Month and May is Motorcycle and Bicycle Safety Awareness month. The consistent message here is to be aware of the distractions that take your mind and eye off the road, even for that nano second.  Drive safe and keep your family and friends safe this summer.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Long-Term Study of Head Injuries Among Athletes Kicks Off With NCAA Grant

Recognizing Traumatic Brain Injury
Recognizing Traumatic Brain Injury

A grant from the NCAA will kick off a groundbreaking, long-term study of concussion and other head injuries among athletes. The National Sport Concussion Outcomes Study Consortium, will be led by experts at University of Michigan, UCLA, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The  Consortium will study the effects of head injuries in contact and noncontact sports in both genders through the course of a college career.

Jeff Kutcher, a clinical associate professor of neurology at Michigan who is one of the study’s lead investigators, believes it could become a watershed moment in the study of concussions. “There has been considerable attention paid to concussion recently, by the media and others, spurred by reports of National Football League players, hockey players — people who have had a long history of contact — having a very particular kind of dementing illness,” says Kutcher.  “But that story is only beginning to be told. We need to do the appropriate research to figure out the scope of the problem.”

It’s Brain Injury Awareness month. Protect your brain, it’s the only one you have.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

U.S. Senators Introduce Elder Abuse Prevention Act‏

Three Senators introduced the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act, a bill to implement a comprehensive network of elder abuse prevention and response measures.

“A spreading epidemic of seniors who are abused or exploited by family or caregivers must be stopped,” said Blumenthal. “Rigorous screening and reporting to detect and deter abuse, physical or financial, is necessary to help remedy seniors who may be too fearful or embarrassed to report it themselves. This measure would require tough national standards for screening and reporting so wrongdoers can be stopped and prosecuted. There is no excuse for one in ten seniors continuing to suffer the physical injury, emotional anguish and anxiety, and financial hardship, costing upwards of $3 billion every year.”

“Our nation’s seniors deserve the peace of mind of knowing that they are protected from physical and emotional abuse and financial exploitation,” said Whitehouse. “I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this bill, which would strengthen and improve State programs to better prevent and address elder abuse.”

Read more about this bill on the Senate website.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

NFL to Refs: Be aware of head injuries

The NFL will instruct game officials to be more alert to concussion symptoms this week in the wake of the head trauma and subsequent seizure suffered by San Diego Chargers guard Kris Dielman on Oct. 23.

“We are taking the step on officials to make them alert to obvious concussion symptoms,” Greg Aiello, the NFL’s vice president of public relations, said. “We’re not trying to train the officials to be doctors, but we’re asking them to treat it like other injuries that may make it necessary to stop the game and get them medical attention, either on the field or by getting them off the field.”

Read more on ESPN.com

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Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

LA Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Train Cameras

As reported by the AP News, a Los Angeles judge has thrown out a lawsuit by Metrolink engineers objecting to onboard video cameras.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen had argued that the commuter rail system infringed on their due process rights and their privacy by installing cameras to monitor engineers. The rail service said the union failed to demonstrate an invasion of privacy. Metrolink spokeswoman Angela M. Starr said in a release that Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin dismissed the case Thursday.

The cameras were installed after a September 2008 crash that killed 25 people and injured 100 others. Investigators found the engineer was texting at the time and had just run a red light.

Generally, there is no right to privacy in a public place. Though the workplace, such as a cubicle or the cab of a locomotive, may provide some privacy to an employee, the courts generally consider the employer’s legitimate business needs and other factors, such as public safety, in deciding how much privacy there is.

The lesson here is, use common sense. Don’t assume you have any privacy in the workplace unless you are clearly in a private area (ie, a restroom, and even then there are limits).

As for allowing cameras in the locomotive cab, I think that’s an excellent idea.

The Metrolink disaster happened in my neighborhood. I remember the flower memorials and tears after the wreck. Safety is everyone’s business.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

LaHood New Tour Bus Safety Measures

Recent fatal accidents involving tour buses spurred a Senate committee to order new safety rules. Secretary LaHood announced new commercial driver’s license standards, federal safety requirements, consumer tools, and stepped up enforcement campaign. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation has put forth several new policy proposals designed to raise the bar for passenger carrier safety.

The best safety regulation is an enforceable requirement that all bus operators maintain sufficient insurance against death and serious injury. The old $1million policy standard is no longer adequate in a modern economy and accident victims should be protected. Plus, insurance companies are a first line of safety defense, since they have an economic incentive to enforce minimum operating standards in order to avoid claims.

If we truly want safer transportation for our seniors and children (the primary users of these buses), then let’s hold operators responsible for the damage they cause. Government can’t do the job and we don’t want to pay for larger bureaucracies anyways. Let the private sector operate in a free market. I’ll trust a for profit insurance carrier to enforce standards over government any day, they don’t want to pay claims after all.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.