Tag Archives: East Brookfield

Barefoot Drivers in Massachusetts

Barefoot drivers in Massachusetts

By Ginger B. Kelly, August 1, 2018

As most of you know already, I am a Facebook user. Click Here to see my Facebook page.  I also post on Twitter, Instagram and other things like, Linkedin and AVVO.com.  Because of my strong Social Media presence, it’s not unusual for people ask me interesting legal questions.

One of my dearest friends posed a very general question on Facebook regarding driving barefooted in Massachusetts.  He wanted to know whether or not it was legal to drive with no shoes or footwear, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Although I am primarily a bankruptcy and consumer defense attorney, I sometimes handle a few criminal and civil cases, including traffic citations.  I told my friend that I would do a little quick research on this interesting general topic.

This is what I found…

I started with the Massachusetts laws, or statutes, regarding driving while impaired.  As most of you already know, driving while impaired means a lot of things, but it doesn’t mean driving without shoes.  Impaired driving has to do with defendants who ingest, smoke or take substances that “impair” their ability to drive.  In other words, don’t drink and drive or don’t drive while intoxicated or when taking drugs or substances, whether or not those substances are legally permissible.  If they cause you to drive unsafely, it’s illegal.  Although driving barefooted may be fun, it’s probably not exactly intoxicating.  Thereby, barefooted driving would not qualify as an offense or apply to the law, under the impaired driving statutes in Massachusetts.  Arguably, if driving without shoes induces an impaired driving intoxication, then for the sake of argument, there may be some remote chance there is a legal situation or offense.  I said remote.  If this happened, such a strange situation would be handled by a judge on a case by case basis.

Moving right along…

There are a similar set of statues in Massachusetts called the distracted driving statutes.  Distracting driving is similar to driving while impaired in that a driver can not allow certain things to interfere with safe driving, but these are different because they don’t involve substances that impair driving.  Under the distracted driving statutes, all drivers who drive in Massachusetts are prohibited from doing things that prevent them from keeping their “eyes on the road,” such as text messaging and cell phone use, using technology and other devices. One part of this law, for example, is that all drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from all cell phone use.  These kinds of things are considered “distracted” driving but there is no mention of barefoot driving or driving without footwear.

For the sake of argument, if driving with no shoes is distracting to you and you can’t keep your eyes on the road, or perhaps the shoes or flip flops you just kicked off your feet are getting under your foot pedals, causing you to drive in an unsafe manner, this would be a matter that could be considered distracted driving.  However, this sort of barefoot driving case would be a matter that should be settled by a judge or jury at court.  I don’t suggest doing this.  But for sake of this research, there is nothing per se, in Massachusetts, that would prohibit one from driving without shoes, according to the impaired or distracted driving statutory laws. But there are other laws pertaining to driving.  Let’s take a look.

Taking a look at the new Safe Driving laws of Massachusetts, one can see that there are a lot of restrictions regarding mobile phones, devices and driving over the age of 75 and older.  However, I found nothing in the safe driving laws of Massachusetts regarding barefoot driving.  So there you have it!  Let’s move on to regulatory law.

I began my quick regulatory law research by taking a look at the Massachusetts Driver’s manual.  The Massachusetts Driver’s Manuel states, “In your vehicle, nothing should get in the way of your ability to see, react, or drive.”  In other words, you can not have distracting objects in your vehicle, like wearing both head phones, a television visible to the driver or anything that could get in the way of your feet, and use of the vehicle pedals, while driving.  Again, this sort of thing implies that it’s not permissible to simply kick off your shoes and let the shoes interfere with safe driving.  However, the RMV manual mentions nothing about driving without shoes.  So, RMV regulatory law isn’t a big help here, other than giving us a better idea of what it means to drive safely, not distracted and not intoxicated or under the influence of substances. Never the less, we still don’t really know whether or not there is anything in Massachusetts law that says it is not permissible to drive without shoes.

I ran a search on Mass.gov to see if I could find anything further in the regulations regarding driving barefoot.  I found something interesting regarding footwear guidelines in the UK, but I found nothing for  driving while barefoot in Massachusetts.

I also ran a case law search on my legal search engine.  I found nothing regarding case law in Massachusetts.  Since I could not find any recent case law regarding barefoot drivers in Massachusetts, it is safe to assume there is no law or precedent regarding barefoot driving in Massachusetts.  Therefore, it is highly probable that it is legal to drive without shoes, with only socks or barefoot in Massachusetts, provided that driving without shoes is safe and does not distract one’s driving ability to drive safely.

Drive safely with naked tootsies or just socks in Massachusetts. Just be careful and be sure that your naked foot driving is free from intoxication, distraction and that kicking off your shoes never gets in the way of driving safe.  Good luck!

If you have any comments or questions on this topic, or law in general, I invite you to post your comments, below.  It’s interesting to see what others have to say.

If you have other legal questions, especially if you are contemplating bankruptcy or dealing with collections or debt collection law suits, Attorney Ginger Kelly is now accepting clients in the Dudley, Webster, Sturbridge, Fiskdale, Southbridge, Saundersdale, Oxford, North Oxford, Charlton, Charlton Depot, Auburn, Leicester, Rochdale, Spencer, Brookfield, East Brookfield, West Brookfield, North Brookfield, Warren, Brimfield, Wales, Palmer and Holland.  We can explore whether or not bankruptcy is the easy way out for you.  Our office is a quiet and comfortable place to talk, and a free pot of coffee will be waiting for you when you arrive.

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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 our website, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

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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

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Filed under Empowerment, Law, Lawsuits, Legal, Legal Rights, Massachusetts, Massachusetts law, Minimalism, practical stuff, Trending, Uncategorized

Master Medical Debt Lawsuits in 10 Easy Steps

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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