Equifax Faces Questions, Possible Class Actions after Data Breach

Equifax Data BreachIt’s your worst cyber-nightmare… with concerns about the safety of your data, you turn to the trusted source for protection of that personal information, only to learn that the trusted source was the victim of one of the largest data breaches ever. That's exactly what’s happened to millions of people who relied on Equifax to safeguard their personal financial data.

According to industry watchdogs, hackers had access to the company’s data files for two months, from May through July. Company officials acknowledged that the hackers were able to circumvent security systems, giving them the ability to obtain a wide range of information, from driver’s license numbers to Social Security numbers, birthdates, and addresses. Estimates are that as many as 143 million people were exposed. Equifax reported that more than 200,000 consumer credit card numbers were compromised.

Equifax, headquartered in Atlanta, is one of three major credit-reporting agencies in the United States. The company collects and manages financial information on more than 800 million individuals and almost 100 million businesses.

Earlier this month, USA Today reported that Equifax now faces at least 23 class-action lawsuits related to the data breach. Experts anticipate there will be more. A class action lawsuit is a form of legal action that allows parties with similar claims to be represented collectively by a member or members of the group. The class-action process allows all similar claims to be resolved in a single proceeding, rather than through a large number of individual actions.

According to company officials, they learned of the breach in late July, but did not publicly disclose it until earlier this month, as they had hired an independent security company to investigate the breach and make recommendations regarding ways to tighten security.

In the aftermath of the disclosure, the company’s stock also has taken a big hit, losing more than 10% of its value in a week.

Industry experts say that consumers will be mostly on their own when it comes to protecting themselves moving forward. A representative of the Federal Trade Commission recommended that individuals monitor their credit reports on a regular basis, put fraud alerts on credit cards, pay closer attention to bank statements, and file tax returns as early as possible.

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At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas class action attorney, send us an email or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Introducing our New Wills & Probate Attorney Judge Lin C. “Lin” Morrisett

Estate PlanningBailey and Galyen is pleased to announce that Lin C. “Lin” Morrisett has joined the firm, and will be working out of our Fort Worth - Summit office. His practice will focus primarily on Probate, Guardianship, and Estate planning. Lin is also a trained mediator who has settled more than 93% of the cases which he has acted as Mediator.

Lin is a former military brat who, though having lived in over 30 cities in 7 different states, has hung his hat in Texas for some 40 years. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1985, and worked for 8 years as a Systems Engineer, and Systems Analyst, before graduating from Texas Wesleyan School of Law. Lin served as an Associate Judge of Tarrant County Probate Court No. 2 for more than 13 years. In addition to his legal practice, he has served as a briefing attorney for two Justices at the Second Court of Appeals, has spoken extensively on probate issue, and has taught Appellate Brief Writing as an Adjunct Professor at Texas Wesleyan School of Law.

Welcome, Lin!

Beware of Insurance Company Settlement Offers

Personal Injury Law

In the Aftermath of a Personal Injury, Don't Take a Settlement Offer without Talking to an Attorney

When you have been hurt in a motor vehicle accident because of the carelessness or wrongful act of another person, you may not know where to start to get compensation for all your losses, from the costs of medical care to lost income, from loss of companionship to the physical pain and suffering you experience every day. Under those circumstances, it can feel like a relief when your insurance agent or adjuster is proactive about your claim and seems ready and willing to help as much as possible.

BEWARE! Your insurance company has a vested interest in paying as little as possible to settle your claim. They have a much better understanding than you do of the potential consequences of your accident, and their primary goal is to minimize their obligation to you. Here's how they often operate:

  • Your insurance company will offer to pay for all losses related to your vehicle. They'll do this to lead you to believe that they just want to be fair and do the right thing. The reality is that they have no other option. If they admit that you were liable, they must pay for the vehicle.

  • At the same time, or within days, they'll offer you a cash settlement to cover all your medical bills. It may be $1,000 or $1,500, and it will seem like a lot of money, especially if you only have minor aches and pains at the time you settle. But in exchange, they'll ask you to sign a release, which means you can't obtain reimbursement for any other medical expenses.

  • In some situations, insurance adjusters will actually initiate the contact (before you've even filed a claim), saying that want to take swift action to make certain you get the help you need. What they usually want to do is get you to sign a release before your injury becomes too serious.

The unfortunate reality is that many of the most debilitating injuries often take a little bit of time to cause you serious pain, discomfort or problems. Insurance companies know this and hope to get you to accept a quick settlement and sign a waiver before the injury really flairs up. If an insurance adjuster contacts you, don't sign or agree to any settlement and don't make any statement. Tell them where the car is and tell them that you are sore, and then call your attorney.

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At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas personal injury attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

New Texting-and-Driving Law To Take Effect This Week

Criminal LawAfter numerous failed attempts at undertaking such restrictions over the past decade, the Texas Legislature has finally passed a texting-and-driving law which takes effect statewide on September 1, 2017. This legislation, which enacted Texas Transportation Code 545.4251, makes it a violation to "use a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped." This act "must be committed in the presence of or within the view of a peace officer or established by other evidence." It is a defense to the law that you were using your phone to: (1) use your GPS; (2) play music; (3) use a work-related dispatch system that utilizes electronic messages; (4) report a crime; or (5) read a message that you reasonably believed "concerned an emergency." The law does not apply to messages sent or received through a hands-free system. A violation of the law is punishable by a fine of $25 to $99 for a first offense, and $100 to $200 for a subsequent offense. If a violation resulted in injury or death to another, it is punishable by a "fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year." BE SAFE OUT THERE.

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To set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 844-402-2992. For your convenience, we answer our phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will meet with you.

New Texas Statute Allows Individuals to Seal First DWI Conviction

Criminal LawA criminal conviction can stay with you for years and wreak havoc on many areas of your life. You can face challenges getting a good job, finding an apartment, securing money for advanced education or even trying to get a loan. It has long been possible in Texas, under the right circumstances, to have a criminal record sealed, so that it would not be publicly available. However, until recently, DWI convictions were not eligible to be sealed. This law has now been changed.

Sealing a First-Time DWI Conviction

On June 15, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 3016, allowing persons convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors, including driving while intoxicated (DWI) to ask the court to issue an order of nondisclosure of the conviction. An order of nondisclosure means that the criminal record will be "sealed," or unavailable to the general public. Accordingly, it will be permissible for the person whose record is sealed to publicly deny that such a record exists. The record will, though, still be available to be reviewed by law enforcement officers, as well as certain government employers.

Under the new law, which goes into effect on September 1, 2017, anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor punishable only by a fine will be able to immediately petition the court for an order of nondisclosure. If the misdemeanor was punishable by any means other than a fine, the person seeking to have the record sealed must wait until two years after completion of any sentence served for the offense to petition for a nondisclosure order.

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To set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 844-402-2992. For your convenience, we answer our phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will meet with you.


Estate PlanningBack to school, off to college, or into military service? Perhaps you have just entered the work world? Believe it or not, it may be time to consult with a good lawyer. Turning eighteen, moving out of the house, or various other transitions present new challenges to planning for the future and preparing for real life. The military may mandate estate planning, but it’s just as important for the rest of us.

Laws that protect your privacy can also present hurdles to trusted family members or friends who try to help in a crisis. When my children turned 18 and visited the doctor it was difficult to confirm information in order to pay the bill based on their adult status and privacy concerns. In that instance or in case of their disability or incapacity, it would be a huge blessing to have a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare with a prominent HIPPA release. In order to do business for them or to protect their interests in a pinch, whether they were travelling or recovering from an accident or illness, they need to execute a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney for business and financial purposes. A child who lives with certain physical, emotional, or intellectual challenges may not need a Guardianship, but they may need a person designated to serve as an Attorney in Fact to assist them with business, financial, and/or medical decisions. I have helped several clients celebrate their eighteenth birthday by drafting documents to make their transition into adulthood a little more secure.

Lastly, although the thought is too terrible for any parent to ponder, young adults sometimes die. The call from the parent or older sibling explaining that their loved one has passed away is a horrible and sacred conversation. Who would have thought a young person would need a will? Who would have thought that access to the accident report, hospital records, dorm room or apartment would be necessary, or that estate planning could have eased the pain a little, or at least not added to it.

May you find joy in your transitions and remember to look out for our little ones and not so little ones as we go back to school!

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To set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 844-402-2992. For your convenience, we answer our phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will meet with you.

Informal (common-law) marriage in Texas

Informal (common-law) marriage in TexasUnder the common law marriage doctrine, if certain conditions are met, a couple is considered to be legally married, despite not having a marriage license, a ceremony, or a marriage certificate. Texas recognizes common law marriage. But, we are unique in that Texas is the only state in the country that recognizes common law marriage -- and also assumes that the property acquired by the common law married couple is community property until the date of divorce. This means that a couple who meet the conditions for common-law marriage could find themselves in divorce court dividing their assets and debts without ever having been to the altar or having been issued a marriage certificate.

So, what exactly is a common-law marriage, and how do you know if you’re in one? A common law marriage provides the same benefits and legal status to the couple as a traditional, formal marriage. Under the current Texas Family Code, a man and a woman** are considered to be legally married if the following conditions are present. First, there must be agreement to be married. In other words, the parties must intend to have a present, immediate and permanent marital relationship between them. An agreement to be married in the future is simply not enough. Second, the couple must live in Texas as husband and wife.** This is often referred to as cohabitation, and is not be confused with consummation of the marriage. Cohabitation means more than just having sexual relations under a common roof. Essentially, the couple must live together as spouses and maintain a household together.

The third element necessary to prove a common-law marriage exists is whether or not the parties hold themselves out to others as husband and wife.** In other words, they must represent to others in Texas that they have a marriage together. This must be open and transparent to the community and not just to their close friends and family. Moreover, the representations must be made by both parties.

** Does common law marriage apply to same-sex couples? Currently, the answer is unclear, but probably “yes.” The problem is that our family code specifically refers to “husband and wife” in the context of a common law marriage, and this language does not conform with the most recent United State Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S.Ct. 2071 (2015) which made same-sex marriages legal throughout the country. It is presumed by many family law attorneys in Texas that the state legislature will amend the family code regarding common law marriage to cover same-sex couples. If this occurs, a same-sex common law divorce should follow the same factors described earlier in this article to establish the informal marriage.

If you are contemplating a separation or divorce from a common-law spouse, I encourage you to seek out the advice of a family law attorney to discuss your options and strategy moving forward.

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To set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 844-402-2992. For your convenience, we answer our phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request.

Trump Administration to Allow 15,000 More Workers into Country

ImmigrationContrary to campaign promises that American workers would be given priority for American jobs, the Trump administration has indicated that it will make 15,000 more H-2B visas available for the rest of the fiscal year. Sources say the visas will be primarily for low-wage, seasonal workers, including employees in the hotel, restaurant and resort business. It has been reported that the Trump Organization, which employs low-paid foreign workers in its Mar-a-Lago resort, among other places, has used the H-2B visas frequently in the past.

Under normal circumstances, the United States issues approximately 65,000 visas per year, with visas granted every six months.

Just four months ago, the president demanded that immigration officials reform the H-1B visa program, saying that it was being used by multinational corporations to boost profits by importing cheap foreign labor, instead of paying the wages to American workers. Many in business challenged that assertion, saying that it was more often used to bring in highly educated foreign workers for technology positions that Americans could not fill.

Though a few advocates of restrictive immigration policies saw the announcement as reneging on a campaign promise, officials at the Department of Homeland Security say the decision to increase the number of H-2B visas is absolutely essential, as some American businesses may go out of business if they can't find qualified foreign workers. That message was echoed by Senator Thom Tillis, R-NC, who noted that "the H2-B program is vital for businesses that desperately need some temporary help to keep their doors open and keep their American workforce employed."

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At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we provide an initial consultation. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas immigration law attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.