Category Archives: civil law

Master Medical Debt Lawsuits in 10 Easy Steps

bk-wage-garnishment

Master Medical Debt Lawsuits in 10 Easy Steps

By Attorney Ginger Kelly, July 19, 2018

Being sued by a debt collector or service provider over medical debt is no picnic. If you can’t afford to pay the initial debt, it is likely that you still can’t pay it. Going to court is also very stressful, time consuming and costs you time off from work and other more important things. These are things we all worry about.

Although you may be tempted to ignore a medical debt law suit you know you can’t pay, it is always best to show up. If you ignore the law suit, the other side wins, automatically by default.  A default Judgment will haunt you and your credit report for twenty years in Massachusetts.

What happens when you show up for court?  Below are 10 steps that you can take if you are facing a medical debt lawsuit.

  1. Find out where the debt comes from

You cannot properly talk about your lawsuit until you fully understand why you are being sued. Past bills should tell you something about the debt.  Find a date of service and, perhaps, an itemized list of what services were given to you that you are being charged for.

  1. Answer the lawsuit

In most medical debt and other consumer debt cases, people don’t have an attorney. Hiring an attorney is a wise move, so seek a free first consultation with a lawyer before you hire them. Sometimes, a lawyer can help you to represent yourself.

Many times, when people meet certain income guidelines, they can apply for free legal aid. Worcester Community Legal Aid services is an example of one of many nonprofit public service centers, helping clients with free and reduced fee legal services for debt collection law suits. Many times, a limited service lawyer will be at the courthouse to help clients. Call and find out when this free service is available.

  1. Prepare for court

The next step to take is to prepare to answer your lawsuit. In Massachusetts a defendant has twenty days from the date of notice to answer a small claims or civil suit. Answering a law suit involves filling out paperwork at the court, which will involve answering every paragraph and including all your legal defenses along with a certificate of service saying that you mailed a copy to the other side. Then, you have to mail the paperwork to the other side who is suing you.  Next, show up at the initial court date. After you answer the suit, the court will set a date for the discovery part of the trial. It is very helpful to find a lawyer who can advise you regarding this process.

It’s important to make this initial court date.  Traditionally, in Massachusetts, this is called a discovery or pre-trial conference where you have time to talk to the other side and see if you can make a deal.  It’s helpful to ask for a payment plan and a reduction of the debt.  At this stage of the game, it is unlikely that the judge will grant you a continuance that would move the court date further out. It’s probably best not to ask unless you live out of the jurisdiction and you would like to get counsel to move the suit to a better place where you can defend.

At the discovery part of your lawsuit, you will have to file more paperwork about your finances and will need to sit and wait to talk to someone. This is not the time to present evidence that you are not liable for the debt. If you are not liable, you can present this evidence at hearing. This means, you will need to show up another time for hearing.

  1. Know about wage garnishment

If at hearing, you are found liable for the debt, or if you failed to answer the lawsuit and the judge rules against you, the court may issue a judgment order and an execution, giving the lender or collection agency the ability to garnish your wages. Social security benefits, disability insurance payments, unemployment, VA benefits and other things, like public assistance and child support are excluded from garnishment.  If you have any of these forms of income, it’s wise to set up a different bank account where those funds are deposited and keep all garnishable wages in another separate account. Do not mix these funds with other things like regular wages.

By federal law, the lender or collection agency can’t take more than 75% of your income. Based on Massachusetts law, which is more protective, creditors can take only 15% before taxes or other deductions, or they can take your disposable income less 50 times the greater of the federal or Massachusetts minimum wage. Effective January 1, 2017, the Massachusetts minimum wage is $11 per hour.  This means that any amount exceeding $550 per week can be garnished from your wages, in Massachusetts.

Also, under Massachusetts law, some medical institutions can take your tax return refund to pay past due bills.  It’s better to take care of them before your tax refund is levied.

  1. Were you served properly?

Sometimes wages are garnished before the plaintiff is even aware that there’s a lawsuit against them. This happens most commonly when you’re improperly served. Examples of using “improperly served” as a legal defense include papers being only mailed to you and not delivered in person, papers being left at an incorrect residence, or papers being mailed to an old address. Being “improperly served” does not mean that the papers were left with a family member or friend at your residence and they forgot to tell you about it. If that happened, you’re still on the hook.

If you have been improperly served, or if you find out that the court mistakenly started garnishing wages because you have the same name as an actual plaintiff, you should contact a lawyer immediately.  Find out what possible resources there may be for you in your situation.

  1. Get low-cost or free help from financial assistance programs

Under the Affordable Care Act, these hospitals must provide some type of financial assistance program to low-income patients. Even if you aren’t from a low-income household, you should apply, as some hospitals extend their programs far beyond the poverty line. Many hospitals also extend this program to insured patients.

  1. Discriminatory pricing

If you are being sued in court and are uninsured, discriminatory pricing can serve as a defense. If you qualify for the hospital’s financial assistance program, the hospital must legally reduce your bill to the amount generally billed to insured patients.

  1. Look out for balance billing

Balance billing happens when your hospital or medical provider bills you instead of or in addition to Medicaid or Medicare. It’s a forbidden practice, and you are not responsible for any amounts due when this happens.

You may be able to identity balance billing if you receive an “Explanation of Benefits” from your insurer that states the amount they covered and the amount you still owe. If this does not match the bill your medical provider sent you, there is a cause for concern. Additionally, if the bill you receive does not show any payment from your insurance when you are, in fact, on Medicaid or Medicare, it may be a sign that you are a victim of balance billing.

  1. Stop lawsuits before they start

If something about your bill doesn’t look quite right, there are ways to reduce it to its fair amount. Debt collectors, hospitals, and other medical providers don’t want to take you to court. It costs them money, and the odds of them actually getting a full payment at that point are very low. They are almost always willing to work with you before issuing a lawsuit. Negotiate. Apply for financial assistance. Set up a no interest payment plan directly with your health care provider.  Keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to avoid costly litigation and compounded interest and fees.

If you didn’t have insurance at the time of service, a good idea is to contact the doctor or debt collection agency and try to negotiate the bill down to Medicaid/Medicare prices.  This should save you at least one to two thirds the initial cost.  If a provider doesn’t want to negotiated, your attorney can use, “discriminatory pricing: as a legal defense in court.

  1. Weigh bankruptcy

There may come a point in the process to consider bankruptcy as an option.  Filing for bankruptcy may alleviate the medical debt and all your other bills. However, as a cautionary measure, bankruptcy is not a decision to take lightly.  A chapter 7 will remain on your credit reports for up to 8 years and make it difficult to qualify for new credit with a low interest rate.

There are two types of bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.  Chapter 7 is a form of liquidation.  If you qualify, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires you to sell off all of your non-exempt assets to settle what you can of your debt obligations. If you don’t have any non-exempt assets, this part probably doesn’t matter much. What does matter is that most of your debt, if not all, will disappear after you receive your discharge.

A chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a type of reorganization of your debts.  In a Chapter 13, you do not have to sell off any assets, but the debt won’t disappear either.  Instead, you will pay your debt from your disposable income via a 3-5 year payment plan. After the 3 or 5 year plan is over, the rest of any qualifying debt you could not pay out of your payment plan is discharged.

Filing for bankruptcy makes sense if the court has already issued an order to garnish your wages.  However, at any other point in your situation, it makes good sense to try to negotiate and set up a payment plan with the medical service provider or debt collection agency directly.

A debt collection agencies last resort is wage garnishment, but it doesn’t have to come down to this. By knowing your rights and negotiating, effectively, rather than damaging your credit scores, you may have a good chance to work through a win-win situation.

If you are contemplating bankruptcy, and have some questions about wage garnishment or medical debt, Attorney Ginger Kelly is now accepting clients in the Dudley, Webster, Sturbridge, Fiskdale, Southbridge, Saundersdale, Oxford, Charlton, Auburn, Leicester, Spencer, Brookfield, East Brookfield, West Brookfield, Warren, Brimfield, Wales, Palmer and Holland.  We can explore whether or not bankruptcy is the easy way out or not.  Our office is a quiet and comfortable place to talk and a free pot of coffee will be waiting for you when you arrive.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ABOUT ME: Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture. To find out more, visit, http://www.attorneykelly.com or call us at (508) 784-1444.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOTICE: This is an Advertisement. This post is not legal advice. Consult your attorney. Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet. Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other. We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney. Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice. Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2018 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Bankruptcy, Chapter 7, Choosing a lawyer, Civil, civil law, Collection, credit card debt, Debt, Debt Collection, Deficiency, Deficiency Debt, Empowerment, Filing, Financial, Hiring Counsel, Judgements, Law, Lawsuits, Legal, Massachusetts, Massachusetts law, Medical Debt, payment, practical stuff, Rhode Island, Uncategorized, Wage Garnishment

Handle Student Loan Debt like a Boss

Gan Golan

“You snooze, you lose applies in every aspect of eliminating student loan debt.” ~Attorney Kelly

by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq.   Posted: March 9, 2017

We’ve all heard about, read about, or experienced it, crushing student debt.  Student loan debt can be quite paralyzing, overwhelming and downright horrifying.

That’s the bad news. The good news is, with good budgeting and planning, this beast like most others can be tamed. Dealing proactively with student loan debt is a far better plan than dealing with the nasty consequences of doing nothing and facing wage garnishment.  Wage garnishments are not pretty, believe me.

These are absolutely some of the best tips out there if you want to handle your student loan debt like a boss. Follow these, like a road map and find the light at the end of the dark student debt tunnel.

Get Over It, Get Your Paperwork Together and Pick Up the Phone 

The experts say, there is a time to cry, a time to grieve, and then there is a time to pull yourself up by the boot strings and get over it.  Getting over what grieves or worries you involves action. Ignoring this worrisome ‘ginormous’ problem won’t make it go away. Being proactive is what you do. It’s simple. Start by having your last tax return or your last W-2 ready, in hand, just in case. Then, call your student loan service provider or creditor.  Find out your best options. Write them down. If you need time to make a decision, take the time to think things through.   

Be upfront and honest. Transparency is the best policy. Tell your loan servicer or creditor your situation. This will help them explain to you, better, your different options for repayment. There are a lot of legit options to look into, like forbearance, deferment, and, in some special situations, even debt forgiveness.

Not asking about these things means living in fear. Fear, in this context, brings nothing but trouble. It’s easy to ask about the interest, the length of time to repay and things that may impact your budget. Oh yes – always draft a simple updated budget, an easy to create, yet amazing empowerment tool. This will help with your discussions, ideas and planning.

For most folks facing serious trouble, like unemployment, underemployment, long or short term disability, the best piece of advice I can offer is to look into an Income Based Repayment Plan (IBR). Oftentimes, an IBR results in a zero dollar or very small bottom line payment. An IBR is based on your current income and family size. Check this out. Save the deferments and forbearance plans, for real issues like an injury, death or serious problems. Use the IBR when you are facing underemployment or unemployment issues, long term.

Discovering Repayment Options Online is “easy-peasy”

With the number of tools out there to use, there is no better time than now to find out what your repayment amount will be. One helpful online tool that comes to mind is the Department of Education Federal Student Loan Repayment Plan Estimator.  Use it.

Calculate different repayment plans.  Find out what plans include debt forgiveness if you still owe a balance after paying on your loan for 10 to 25 years. It’s easy-peasy and actually, many of my clients, family and friends use this tool.  It’s amazing. You can do this.

Frugal is the New ‘Thing’ 

OK, hundreds of thousands of people understand, the job market is tough.  This is a fact.  Moving right along, there are work-a-rounds to get through this. Try a legit side hustle, part-time gig or freelance work, like Uber, Summer Pizza Delivery, Coaching, Home Sitting, Garden Center or Nursery work. Try selling extra stuff, collectibles or homemade things on eBay, Etsy or at a flea market. Then, (this is the best part) you can usually save money, even big bucks, by decreasing spending.

Decreasing spending gets easier and easier the more you try it and the more you know.  Create, rather than consume. Save, rather than spend. It’s fun and it’s better for our family, environment and our communities. Websites like the Frugal Girl or Minimalist Mom are good tools to help along the way.

My friend Andy Prescot writes a great blog called, The Art of Being Cheap.  We learned how to reduce our mobile phone bill over $100 per month.  We have saved well over $3600 the past three years, based on Andy’s good tips regarding an inexpensive, but excellent, mobile phone service plan and provider.  Andy also has more good tips on fugal things like how buy a refrigerator, start an Uber business part-time or whether or not to take a 401(k) loan.

Many of these websites are excellent. The top 25 frugal bloggers for 2016 can be found, here.

Challenge yourself to do at least 3 new things this month to save money.  My three favorites are find new mobile phone provider and plan, make home-made pizza (rather than go out to eat) and how to service and repair my car.  It’s absolutely a blast and empowering.  However, I’m warning you now, frugal is contagious. You’ll get hooked. Your friends will get hooked. Seriously, frugal is a thing.

Ask your Boss, Like a Boss

A growing trend in the last few years has been for employers to offer student loan repayment assistance to employees as a benefit. Unlike tuition reimbursement (which has been around for years), student loan repayment assistance is a relatively new idea, a concept that’s gaining a lot of traction these days.

Last year alone, according to a recent study, 3% of companies offered some type of assistance program to help employees pay down their student debt and one thing’s for sure, this number is growing and growing strong.

If you are looking for a new job or are a new hire, negotiate. Most workers don’t negotiate, yet employers report that they are willing to pay more. Use this to your advantage. Some employers are now offering student loan repayment as a benefit.

There are tons of articles designed to help with this. Daily Worth, US News and Thrive powered by ADP are all helpful websites. Find out what you need to know about this new perk.  Work it to your advantage.

If a raise or bonus is in your future, ask your current employer or HR department about ways they can help you reduce your current student loan debt. Perhaps they can apply a new raise or bonus to your existing debt repayment plan.     

Find Experienced Help or Seek a Vetted Lawyer, FREE!

There are a few different professionals can help. Financial advisers are available if they are certified and affiliated with a reputable bank.  Oftentimes a certified public accountant (CPA) is full of free and helpful information.  Towns and cities quite often offer free credit and financial counseling services.  Check with your local library.  Go online.  Look into your local town or government website.

The Charlton Town Website, is here. On the clubs and organization page is a list of places you can go to get help. Quite often, places like the Lions Club, Food Banks, Veteran’s groups and Business Associations are networks of helping hands, ready to offer assistance if you ask.

Librarians are a treasure. The Charlton Public Library link is here.  Ask your local librarian when or where there is a class on debt, financial management or student loan debt assistance. If they don’t know, they will find out for you. Quite often sofa.org has classes held at local libraries. Ask your librarian about this. Be persistent.

If your situation involves a little bit more than, “I hate my loan servicer and don’t know what to do about it,” an experienced student loan lawyer or debtor defense lawyer is probably your best bet. Here’s how…

  1. Lawyers can give you guidance regarding your legal rights and options.
  2. Lawyers can represent you in negotiating with your student loan creditor, services or debt collection agency.
  3. They can help you figure out the best way to work out delinquencies and defaults, or to apply for a discharge.
  4. They protect you from unfair debt collection practices or debt collector abuse.
  5. Lawyers manage credit disputes.
  6. Lawyers advocate and go to court for you, managing legal matters like student loan-related issues, collections lawsuits or cases involving schools or agencies for legal violations and causing harm.
  7. In Massachusetts, an experienced Massachusetts lawyer can sometimes get you money awards for violations of things like the FDCPA and Massachusetts law.

If you’re dealing with delinquency or default, considering filing for bankruptcy or applying for a disability discharge, a debtor defense/bankruptcy/student loan lawyer is the best way to fly.

 Why a Lawyer, Why Not DIY?

Since every person is different, and every situation is different, whether or not you should contact a student loan lawyer really depends on your specific circumstances.  In reality, you may or may not need a student loan lawyer.

There are really very few things that inherently require you to hire a lawyer.  Even filing for bankruptcy or defending against a collections lawsuit can be done ‘pro se,’ (pronounced, “pro-say”) meaning without legal representation or Do It Yourself (DIY).

While hiring a student loan or bankruptcy lawyer may not be required, a lawyer may be incredibly useful, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not sure of your legal options, you’ve been sued, or you’re dealing with a complex legal issue.

In other words, debtor defense and student loan lawyers can take a difficult, seemingly hopeless or complex situation and make it easy for you by offering steps and solutions to give you back your life and your ability to move forward.

Some lawyers, like myself, are successful at getting clients extra cha-ching, based on the mistakes and bad behavior of some debt collectors and creditors.

The Final Word

Before hiring a lawyer, talk to your student loan creditor or servicer and exhaust your options.  After using up all your options, get help immediately.  Like I said earlier, yes there is a ray of hope.  You can do this.  Check out lawyer websites in your area.  Pick up the phone.  Call a lawyer. I suggest that you find at least three local lawyers and comparison shop.  Ask each one of them if they offer a free consultation.  Then, schedule appointments on your own time.

For the unemployed or underemployed, quite often legal aid lawyers in your local area offer free or reduced fee services. In Worcester County the legal aid website is called Community Legal Aid.  Free is good. Free is frugal. Frugal is a new thing, remember?

Think of these tips as being your job.  It’s your job to save money and work toward the positive things in life.  In a sense, saving money and working toward the positive is powerful and self-soothing.  Do this. Do it now. Regain control of your new life. Feel liberated and pleased with your own good efforts. Empowerment feels good.  Empower yourself like a boss.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Law Office of Ginger B. Kelly is now accepting new clients.  Call and schedule your first appointment.  We are a small law office offering your first confidential consultation, absolutely free of charge.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit, www.attorneykelly.com, visit us at Ginger B. Kelly on Facebook or feel free to call us at (508) 784-1444.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015, 2016, 2017, by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

1 Comment

Filed under Bankruptcy, business law, Civil, civil law, Debt, Debt Collection, Financial, Hiring Counsel, Law, Legal, Massachusetts, News, practical stuff, Retirement Savings, Rhode Island, Student Loan Debt, Uncategorized

Debt Collection and 7 Deadly Sins

seven-deadly-sins by Drew Fairweather

Every year thousands of consumers get sued by debt collectors.  Beating a debt collection lawsuit is easier than most people realize.  Most of the time, the biggest issues people face are their own shortcomings.  Legal strategies are great, but they serve no good when people are paralyzed by fear, anger, sloth, envy or a number of deadly sins regarding dealing with debt collectors.

 1. Sloth    

The number one mistake defendants make when they are sued for a debt is giving up.  Doing nothing is a form of sloth.

Failing to respond to a summons and complaint, is most certainly the number one reason why most people lose and have default legal Judgments entered against them.  On the other hand, responding to a lawsuit opens the door to many promising things, like stopping collections, wage garnishments or a levy (taking money from your bank account).

Even if you owe the collector money, a two-sentence response simply denying liability to the lawsuit filed in court will tilt the scales in your favor.  Always do your best to consult a lawyer, first.  Even so, filing a response to the lawsuit is called an “Answer,” with the Clerk of Court, is generally the easiest first step to take.   Check your timelines on this.  Some jurisdictions only allow 10 to 20 days to respond after service of process, which also means after the defendant receives a notice and summons.  Keep an Answer simple and to the point.  Never ever make an admission.

Ask your Clerk of Court questions about the forms used to file an Answer or how to file an Answer.   Typically, Clerks are super helpful but keep in mind that they are never allowed to give legal advice.

Give up sloth.  Put one foot in front of the other, seek legal help and file an Answer with the Court and your chances of winning increase exponentially!

2. Pride

Debtors who give up on Collections lawsuits almost always have regrets.   Life after answering the notice and complaint involves a little bit more than simply showing up.  But it’s not that difficult.  One of the things that must be done is to challenge the collector’s ability to sue.  However, a defendant can never challenge anything effectively when pride gets in the way.

Pride steps in and wreaks havoc with our positive energy.  Pride opens door to excuses as to why we can’t or don’t want to move forward.  Pride paves the way for doing nothing.

The term, “Standing” means the legal right to sue.  Some collectors, also known as debt buyers, or junk debt buyers, often buy debt for pennies on the dollar.  They try to file lawsuits (or sue) against debtors to collect money on the debt that they buy.  When asked, collectors must prove that they have the legal right to collect.  Without the legal right to sue, debt collectors lack standing.  Standing is typically shown by a transfer or assignment of the original, signed credit card agreement from the initial creditor to the debt collector or debt buyer.  Many don’t have a signed transfer agreement.  Many don’t have a signed, initial credit card agreement.  When when the collector doesn’t produce a proper assignment or agreement, or the document they produce is inaccurate or not an original, a defendant can ask for the case to be dismissed, because of “lack of standing.”

Asking the Court (Judge or Magistrate) to dismiss a case, based on lack of standing or lack of chain of custody of paperwork is usually pretty straightforward.  Your lawyer will help you.  Chain of custody means that the collector must prove that they are, in fact, the ones who were transferred the initial signed agreement.

On a few occasions, I’ve noticed judges look at the paperwork collectors provide and comment, “you must be joking.”  On the other hand, some judges look at the paperwork and think, “It’s all good.”  It’s not always easy to tell the results, at least in Massachusetts.  Every jurisdiction is a little different.  If challenges aren’t raised, like a challenge to standing, the lawsuit is lost, plain and simple.

In essence, even when the effort is made to attend a debt collection lawsuit, pride can strangle all positive energy and be a reason for making excuses for not demanding the debt collector show you why they have any legal authority to ask you to pay them money.

3. Greed.

I’ll never understand why defendants never challenge the amount owed on a debt. Seriously, greed is more common than most people realize.  Often human beings become so greedy with time and energy, they can’t even ask simple questions.  Challenge the accuracy of the calculations on the debt and combat being paralyzed by greed.

When your lawyer, or you, choose to challenge the accuracy of the debt, the Judge or Magistrate will require the debt collector to show the original signed documents and all the paperwork. This means that the paperwork must prove the balance of the debt, from the first day to the present.  Every defendant has a right to know how an amount allegedly owed is calculated and why.  Be vigilant and ask for accurate figures on the debt.

More often than not, debt collectors miss documents or miscalculate and are not accurate.  Because debts typically change hands multiple times, it is very likely there will be some errors in the figures and documents.  If there are errors in the case, a defendant may ask for the case to be dismissed.

In a 2015 news article, a former employee of a major creditor mentioned that as many as a quarter of the files showed incorrect amounts owed.  If the credit card issuers can’t provide accurate documentation, there’s an excellent chance you will win.

4. Wrath.

 Yes, debt collectors make us mad.  However, many people get so angry that they do nothing.  Anger (like most negative emotions) paralyzes us from doing the right thing.  It’s easy to change this negative emotion by talking to your lawyer and by making solid plans to challenge the lawsuit against you in a timely manner.  Don’t let wrath, or any other negative emotions kill positive energy.

In Massachusetts, in most cases with a few exceptions, creditors have a maximum of six years to collect on most credit card (revolving) debt.  Other states and jurisdictions are different.  Ask your lawyer about the Statute of Limitations in your jurisdiction.

The Statute of Limitations is an awesome defense to have in your legal defense tool box, so to speak.  Sometimes, collectors don’t stop collecting and taking people to court, even after the Statute of Limitations has run out.  The reason is because debt collectors are hoping and assuming people don’t want to be bothered and they won’t show up in Court.  This is true.  But defendants who raise the Statute of Limitations defense will typically win.  With a solid Statute of Limitations defense, the Court will recognize that the debt can no longer be collected upon and, like magic, a Court will dismiss a collections lawsuit.

It is important to know how to legally apply this handy dandy tool.  Also, paying or agreeing to pay on an old debt may start the Statute of Limitations clock ticking all over again.  Never pay on an old debt without first consulting a good lawyer.  If the Statute of Limitations has expired, and it is used properly and timely as a viable defense, a collector stands a good chance of losing.

Tame the wrath by fighting fairly and civilly.  Wrath turned around and channeled into controlled, positive, motivated beneficial action is a very good thing, indeed.

5. Gluttony.

 Plain and simple, most everyone has the right to take action against collectors, but they don’t.  This could simply be a matter of gluttony?  Perhaps.  Retaining paralyzing feelings of grief, powerlessness, becoming overly indulgent in thoughts that are self-critical, are negative negative feelings.  Self indulgence is a form of gluttony.  Gluttony is crippling. The negative energy of gluttony gets in the way of taking positive action.

There are rules and laws, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that may turn the tide in your favor and help you to turn gluttony into positive energy.  If you have consulted a good lawyer, chances are that you may be able to discuss the odds of getting a good money award from a debt collector if they violated any part of the FDCPA.  People who successfully sue for violations of the FDCPA may be entitled to receive from the collector, statutory damages of $1000, plus punitive and economic damages, and even attorney’s fees and costs.  Extra money is always a welcome bonus!  This is also a good reason to hire a good consumer defense and bankruptcy attorney who can help.

Pity and self-gluttony have no place if you want to win a lawsuit.  Snooze and you lose. This is the very thing debt collectors are counting on.

6. Lust.

Lust is a big one.  Have you ever been around someone who loves themselves so much, they think they can do things all by themselves, when they really need help?  It is very important to become a smart consumer and know when to find help.  Smart people tend to kick lust to the curb.  Call a professional to get the best results possible.  In other words, bring out the big guns.

Once a collector is notified that you are represented by an attorney, it’s usually all over.  Most collectors are more than anxious to settle a debt, out of court, rather than fight over it with a lawyer.  Hesitating hiring a lawyer will only serve to reduce your chances of winning, significantly.

Attorneys who regularly take these types of cases will typically offer a free consultation.  On some occasions, they may represent you for free if they think the collector has broken the law.  This is because the attorney will expect to collect their fees from the collector.  Most people don’t know this.

Lust has no place for winners.  Fighting a legal battle with expert help makes sense.

7. Envy  

Most people think Bankruptcy is for “those” people.  If you really believe that Bankruptcy is for those pitiful people who have no common sense or self control, or for people who want to take advantage of the system, guess again.  Bankruptcy laws are designed so that fraudulent claims are virtually non-existent.  Furthermore, some of the most successful people in our country legitimately and legally have filed successful Bankruptcy Petitions, for very good reasons.

Everyone makes mistakes and goes through struggles in life.  How people overcome and manage those struggles makes all the difference.  In the US today, we are lucky enough to have Bankruptcy law.  Think of Bankruptcy as a beneficial tool, a way to move forward, unlike envy that will hold most of us back.

Bankruptcy often is the best solution because it will not only give a person a fresh start, Bankruptcy will also stop all collections.  The day a Bankruptcy Petition is filed with the Court, a person will be protected from all collection efforts by something called an “automatic stay.”

See if Bankruptcy is an option suitable for you.  A good lawyer will be happy to guide you to make the very best decisions for you.

Tip:  Monitor your credit scores and credit reports from time to time to see where you stand.  You are entitled to one free annual credit report from all three major credit reporting agencies, each year.  Search on the Internet or ask your lawyer or certified public accountant (CPA) how to obtain a free credit report and do this, annually.

Being paralyzed by any of these deadly sins happens to the best of us.   Indulging in any one of these things will greatly reduce the odds in your favor.  Vigilance, by taking action now, is your best path to success.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit, www.attorneykelly.squarespace.com or www.attorneykelly.wordpress.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOTICE:  This is an Advertisement.  This post is not legal advice.  Consult your attorney.  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2016 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

4 Comments

Filed under Bankruptcy, Civil, civil law, Debt, Debt Collection, Law, Lawsuits, Legal, Massachusetts, practical stuff, Trial

Gone to the Dogs in Massachusetts

Herbie, Acrilic Portrait by Artist Annie Salness http://www.anniesalness.com/herbie.html

Herbie, Acrilic Portrait by Artist Annie Salness http://www.anniesalness.com/herbie.html

Gone to the Dogs: Service Animal Law and Leash Law in Massachusetts

Sometime last year, in the small town of Oxford Massachusetts, a Veteran with a service dog entered a restaurant. The restaurant was very small and very local. The restaurant owner was also a local business man. The restaurant owner didn’t know the Veteran and visa versa. Neither did the restaurant owner know why the dog came into the restaurant with the Veteran, a very average looking man. The Veteran wasn’t blind.  He didn’t appear physically disabled.  The Veteran had no physical impairments, visible to most people.  Unfortunately, this is where the trouble started.

Apparently, the service dog was not appreciated inside the restaurant owners place of business.  People were eating there.  Food was prepared there.  The restaurant owner was so concerned, that he asked the Veteran to remove his dog.  The Veteran protested.  The Veteran tried to explain his situation and the circumstances.  The restaurant owner didn’t believe him.  Others chimed in. It all turned into one big mess. According to local news stories, the restaurant owner did not understand why the service dog was required by the Veteran or what the Veteran’s motivation for having the dog inside was.

Even so, this one simple transaction turned into a situation. It wasn’t pretty. The restaurant owner and the Veteran exchanged words. People were angry. The Veteran was asked to leave. Then, the police were called in. The Restaurant owner was upset, very upset. Patrons left the restaurant.

The next day, all the nasty details were reported in the local news paper. The news sparked even more interest. Dog owners, people with disabilities and Veterans from far and wide formed groups to protest the tiny restaurant in Oxford. Dogs dogs and more dogs, come with dog owners to voice their opinion. A few people sided with the restaurant owner. Even so, bad publicity is never a good thing. The restaurant owner lost customers. The bad publicity was not good for business and embarrassing to say the least.

In this instance, the service dog was used as not only a companion for the Vet but a tool to help him manage his disability, post traumatic stress disorder. The Veteran’s PSTD was a medical condition, directly related to his service. The restaurant owner never heard of this before. The restaurant owner made an incorrect assumption that the Veteran was not disabled.

Eventually, after a few very emotionally charged discussions, the restaurant owner apologized.  His apology was made public.  The public apology was a newsworthy story of success and communications, based on the efforts of the Veteran and the restaurant owner.  The Veteran accepted the apology.  They both shook hands. The Veteran and his service dog were welcomed back into the restaurant. The two became friends.

Eventually, life went back to normal in this sleepy little Massachusetts town in Southern Worcester County. People stopped protesting. Newspapers stopped reporting. Oxford returned to its regular state of normalcy.

This story sheds a little light into various legal reasons why someone would need to have a dog in a public place. It also sheds light as to a few things a dog owners must consider, before they bring their dogs into public places. Every town or jurisdiction in Massachusetts has important local rules or regulations pertaining to health, housing, service dogs and pets.

Other important laws regarding dogs or “service animals” can be found in the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) the Fair Housing Amendments Act (“FHAA”) and the Air Carrier Access Act (“ACAA”). It’s important to have a good understanding about these laws, especially if you are a dog owner and a business owner.

The Federal Code of Regulations (“CFR”) provides an understand of terms like, public accommodations and service animals. According to Title 28 CFR Section 36.302, business owners must make public accommodations to serve people with disabilities and those with limited capacity to access services. Subsection (c) talks about Service Animals. Service “animals” includes service dogs. The Veteran’s dog, who entered the Oxford restaurant with the Veteran, was a licensed service dog. Generally, people with disabilities have documentation that shows a dog is a service dog. If need be, service dog handlers should be able to present service dog identification to public business owners.

Generally, a public accommodation is the modification of policies, practices or procedures that allows people with disabilities to use their service animal on the premises. Under the CFR, a store or business owner should do whatever is reasonable to permit service animals onto their business premises so that the service animal can help the disabled person shop and conduct business as best they can. This is the right thing to do.

There are only a few exceptions as to why a business owner may exclude a service animal, under CFR law.  First, a service animal can be excluded if the service animal is out of control. If the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control the animal, the business owner may ask the service animal and the handler or owner, to remove the animal. In this situation, the business owner is not required to make a public accommodation for the service animal.

Next, if a service animal is not housebroken, for example a dog urinates or defecates in unacceptable areas, the store owner is not required to accommodate that service animal. This makes sense. Another exception is that a business or store owner is not required to accommodate the disabled person in caring for or supervising the service animal. In other words, the owner/handler is responsible for supervision of their own service animal if they want to take the service animal in public places.

Another key aspect of service animal law is that a service animal under must be on leash, harness, or other tether. If the handler is unable to put the animal on a leash or harness or tether, because it is not safe for the service animal, then the service animal must be under the handlers control by some other means. Again, in another sense, this means that if the owner/handler can not control the service animal, the animal may be excluded from the business premises. Examples of this sort of legal control are voice, hand signals or some other effective means of control. There is lots of guidance and case law on means of control.

For dog owners in general, it is important to note that federal law does not always trump local leash laws or ordinances. Many Massachusetts town ordinances and state laws regarding leash laws differ and are dependent upon each situation. This means that each fact pattern, or individual situation, can be different and may involve alternative duties, responsibilities and liabilities. If you are unsure about the leash laws and dog ordinances in your particular jurisdiction and situation, ask an attorney. Your attorney should be more than happy to research the laws for you and help you to understand how to obey your local laws in your area.  Taking to your attorney is a good way to become a more informed and responsible dog owner.

When I was growing up, I had the opportunity to watch service dogs being trained in the streets and on the sidewalks in Morristown, NJ. A school for service dogs for the blind was nearby.  Watching service dogs being trained was a beautiful sight. The dogs were harnessed and steady. They peered into the eyes of their handlers. The dogs were lively, yet always sat when asked and at the appropriate times.  The dogs walked quietly. They always stayed close to their handler. Unlike most dogs I’ve ever seen, these dogs didn’t randomly sniff at people and bark at things. The service dogs did not jump. There was no dog feces or urine in any public places. Never did these dogs intimidate or scare people or children. They didn’t even bark at other dogs.

Service dogs at work ignore all sources of stimulation, like other dogs, children and food. Service dogs are attentive, only to their handlers and the work they do in each moment.  Watching service dogs and their handlers is a treat.

I remember once walking up to a service dog, wanting to pet the dog.  I was about 10 years old at the time.  My mother told me, no.  I was a bit crushed, because I really love dogs, so I asked my mother why?  My mother explained to me that often handlers of service dogs ask visitors not to touch or pet the service dog. I understood and listened to my mother. I also wanted to encourage the dogs to be good. From that point on, I never touch a service dog unless I first get permission from the dog’s handler or owner.  I do this for all dogs now, hoping to help all dogs mind their manners.

Because I am an adult now, and an attorney, I understand most laws and policies of service dog handlers.  When service dogs are “at work,” they must be allowed to remain quiet and attentive to their handler. Petting the dog is a big distraction. This is important to know, for both dog owners and non dog owners.

The CFR discusses what to do when a store owner or business owner, for good reason, is unable to make a reasonable accommodation for the disabled person’s service animal. According to the Code, if a public accommodation properly excludes a service animal under 28 CFR Section 36.302(c)(2), the business shall give the individual with a disability the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations without having the service animal on the premises. This means that the store owner has a legal duty to assist and accommodate the disabled person, reasonably, even if store owner or handler must keep the service animal off the premises for whatever reason.

Appropriate, respectful and lawful exclusion or inclusion of dogs in and out of business is the right thing to do. This does not mean all dogs must be legally accommodated in all places. Each situation is different, under the law. It is not always appropriate, lawful or prudent to take your dog shopping in most public places. Massachusetts state and local health and housing regulations may prohibit pets, animals and dogs from many public places. Likewise, not all dogs can be excluded from public places and businesses, with only a few exceptions.

In Massachusetts, civil laws may impose strict liability onto dog owners for any and all harm to others or property, caused by the dog they own. This means that if a dog causes harm or damage to people or property in Massachusetts, the owner of the dog will be held liable for any damages. Dog owners also have a legal duty to prevent their dogs from harassing or frightening others. This includes not permitting your dog to frighten children with sensitivities and people with disabilities. It is also important for dog owners to know, property owners are not legally obligated to accommodate dogs, unless they are service animals.  Then, there are local leash laws.

The town of Charlton Massachusetts is the town my law office is located.  In Charlton, dogs are not permitted to be outside without a leash or a harness.  Dogs must be on a leash, even when the handler or owner is not the property owner. Property owners have a duty to keep all dogs visiting their property on leash, even when property owners don’t own any dogs. Property owners failing to keep all dogs on-leash, visiting or otherwise, may face legal consequences. Although it may seem different or strange, obeying leash laws in Charlton is the responsibility of property owners in Charlton. The same type of leash law ordinance applies to West Brookfield, Oxford and Dudley, Massachusetts and other cities and towns.

Leash laws are one reason why it’s a good idea for dog owners to talk to the host or property owner when visiting, before bringing dogs on the premises. Before allowing your dog off-leash in any area, communicate with host or check the policy of the property owner. Good dog owners not only genuinely care for their dogs, they care about people. Responsible dog owners learn what to do in each situation, before bringing their dog.

Personally, one of my favorite past-times is walking near the Buffamville Dam in Oxford. This is a good spot for me to get my doggie fix.  Almost always, someone is walking their dog.  I ask if I can pet most all dogs on leash.  This is fun, to me.  It’s also fun for families and children to play at the park and at skateboard parks in Charlton and Oxford. Wherever permitted, dogs are found on-leash.  Attending local football games or taking a child to the YMCA playground in Southbridge is an awesome experience.  Keep in mind, however, it’s not always wise or permissible to bring a dog.

If it isn’t permissible, reasonable, healthy or legal to take your dog to a public place, think twice. Summer is upon us. I’ts time to enjoy the outdoors.  Bring your dog to outdoor places only when it makes sense.  Show respect for others.  Showing respect is not only good for you, it’s best for your dog.

If you are a business owner or a pet owner, and you do not fully understand your legal rights, the health regulations, the story of the Oxford restaurant owner and the Veteran is a very good lesson. Local leash laws and dog ordinances, and laws about service dog accommodations are important to know. Please, talk to your attorney if you need help in any of these areas of the law. Being concerned about others is good for business. Knowing the law and our responsibilities under the law is our duty and a good way to gain trust and respect from others. Trusted and respected business owners in Massachusetts are such a great benefit.

If you are a pet owner or dog owner or have been harmed in some way because of an out-of-control animal or a dog, please call your attorney right away. Consider the statute of limitations law in your jurisdiction. Plan to contact your attorney before the time to take legal action runs out.

If you need an attorney, and need experienced and approachable help, feel free to call our office. We are here for you. All consultations are confidential. First consultations are free.

Enjoy your spring.  Enjoy your summer.  Enjoy your dog and the great outdoors!

About Artist Annie Saliness 

The artist who painted the featured illustration “Herbie” is Annie Saliness.  Annie is an Artist full of hope, grit and true artistic talent. During her career, Annie had a stroke which took away her ability to use her right hand and more.  Annies’ struggles, triumphs and victories over her disability and other things, is a wonderful story. Annies story is as beautiful as her art. To read more about Annie, her triumph over adversity and more, follow this link > http://www.oregonlive.com/north-of-26/index.ssf/2012/10/cedar_mill_artist_annie_salnes.html

More of Annie’s artwork can be found on Annie’s website at http://www.anniesalness.com.  Take a look at Annie’s art and things. You’ll be glad you did.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Her law practice is focused on consumer finance and bankruptcy.  However, Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work.  On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.  To find out more visit, www.attorneykelly.squarespace.com or http://www.attorneykelly.wordpress.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under animal law, business law, civil law, Massachusetts law, Massachusetts town ordinance law

Slip and Fall, an Icy Tail in Massachusetts

February 19, 2015, (republished February 13, 2017)

It’s official, Worcester County, Massachusetts is the snowiest place in the US.  It’s only February 19th and so far this year we’ve had over 107 inches of snow!  This means that people who live in Massachusetts, particularly in Worcester County, are on double duty to prevent injuries from slip and fall accidents.  Here’s the “scoop” on clearing the snow.

John Cole Northeast American Gothic

In the past, Massachusetts law regarding snow and ice injuries exempted property owners from liability if someone was injured as a result of snow that naturally accumulated and had not been cleared.

However, in 2010 things changed.  Pursuant to Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation, SJC-10529 (July 26, 2010), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court changed this nearly 100-year old rule. Now, Massachusetts property owners must remove snow and ice to protect others and to protect themselves from slip and fall liability.

What does this mean to you?  Homeowners in Massachusetts have a responsibility to clear the snow and ice from their driveways, walkways and other areas of their property. It is important to make sure your family and others, such as friends, postal carriers and delivery workers, can safely visit your property without slipping and falling.  If someone slips and falls on the ice or snow, on your property, you could be held liable for damages even if that person was not invited onto your property.

If you have issues, regarding a slip and fall injury, or snow and ice buildup, ice dams or something under contract, it’s always best to contact your attorney.  If you need an attorney, give me a call.  I always enjoy listening, answering questions and speaking with others.  Your first consultation is free and our driveway and walkway is free and clear of snow and ice. Just sayin’ 😉

ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit www.attorneykelly.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015, 2016, 2017 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

1 Comment

February 20, 2015 · 3:33 am