Amidst the joy and cheer of the holiday season come some opportunities for misfortune and drama. I’m not trying to be a Scrooge. I’m just being realistic. The increased amount of family time, the iffy weather and all that eggnog can cause legal issues to pop up this time of year. Here are some tips based on the types of calls I tend to get around the holidays.
Child custody and visitation. Even parents with a clear visitation schedule who have had little conflict in the past can find themselves in a tense conversation this time of year. A good custody and visitation plan should address the holidays and where the child or children spend their winter break. However, things come up and situations change, and unfortunately some parenting plans are poorly drafted. If you want to talk about a schedule change, do it early, be reasonable and get ready to compromise. It’s a good idea to your attorney first.
Falling on ice and snow. As winter begins, the number of weather-related injuries goes up. We get a lot of calls from people wondering if they can sue for their injuries. There are a couple of things to consider. First of all, if your injury isn’t serious and you’re going to make a full recovery, it’s probably not worth a lawsuit in the first place. Second, it depends on where you fell and the conditions of the steps, entryway, etc. The general rule is that the property owner or manager is not responsible for snow and ice that naturally accumulates. They don’t have to shovel or put salt down. However, if there’s an issue with the gutter that causes an ice slick, or if they shoveled but created a hazard in the process, they can be held liable.
Parties and DUIs. There’s a lot of fun to be had this month and next – work parties, family parties, friends’ parties. Police are on the look out for intoxicated drivers. If you get pulled over, you do not have to submit to any sobriety tests right then and there. Just be aware that if the officer has reason to believe you’ve had too much to drink, they’ll probably take you in and give you a test at the station. Also, be aware that refusing a roadside sobriety test usually means your license is automatically suspended. So why do defense attorneys often recommend refusing? The reason is because it can be unreliable and they can try to use it as evidence against you. If you are charged with a DUI, find a defense attorney who handles DUIs all the time and who has a solid reputation in the area. The goal should be getting the charges lowered or dismissed because a DUI conviction stays on your record forever.
Year-end bonus at work. Bonuses aren’t as prevalent as they used to be, but if you’re promised one and your boss fails to deliver, what can you do? It depends on whether you had an employment contract that included a bonus and the terms or conditions for the bonus were met. If so, you can fight for it. A bonus that is not guaranteed is, well, not guaranteed. Even if it’s been the norm for the last 10 years that you worked for your employer, you may not be entitled to it. If your employer has promised you a bonus, it will likely come down to the facts of your situation and the conversations that took place. An employment attorney can help you sort it out. It’s a good idea to get any promise of a bonus in writing so you don’t have to rely on an oral agreement.
Burning yourself on a Menorah – That one is probably your fault. You should be more careful.
Hopefully, you and yours will make it through the holiday season free of any legal drama. If you have questions about any of these issues, or others, let us know.
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