April Showers Bring More than Flowers—Often Bring a Spike in Auto Accidents

Rain Increases Auto AccidentsSpring is here…the colors are splashed all across the state of Texas. With the warm temperatures, though, come the warm spring rains, necessary to give all the budding life a good start. But those showers can also wreak havoc for motorists, in many ways. Whether it’s a deluge that brings your visibility down to next to nothing, or water on the road, or the fog that often accompanies a change in weather, conditions can be tricky…estimates are that the risk of being in a motor vehicle accident can double or triple when roadways become wet.

It’s important to understand, too, that it’s not just on the freeways and superhighways where the danger lies. Most safety experts will tell you that you can start to hydroplane even at relatively slow speeds. And when there’s precipitation on the ground, it’s not enough to avoid going over the posted speed limit. If the signs say you shouldn’t exceed 30 miles per hour, you may want to bring it down to 20 or even slower.

Ways to Stay Safe in Rainy Weather


When other motorists fail to adjust their driving to inclement conditions, you can be at risk, regardless of how defensively you drive. Nonetheless, there are certain measures you can employ to minimize your risk of being involved in a weather-related motor vehicle accident:

  • Don’t drive through puddles—If at all possible, go around any puddles or pooled water on the roads. That’s where you’ll be at the greatest risk of hydroplaning, where the water actually creates a membrane between your car and the road. If, however, you start to hydroplane, take your foot off the accelerator until you start to get traction. You may even need to tap the brake, but don't slam on the brakes. There’s another good reason, though, to avoid puddles—when you drive through them, you can splash water on your car and on other motorists, making it difficult for you or them to see the road.

  • Turn your headlights on—This is the best chance you have of being seen by other motorists—one of the common complaints after many car accidents is that one of the motorists could not be seen by the other. In most states, the law requires you to turn your lights on during a rainstorm.

  • Be willing to arrive a little late to be safe—If it’s raining, reduce your speed by about 20%. You may still hydroplane, but you’ll have more time to react.

  • Feather or tap the brakes—Be prepared to just touch the brakes, but to do it a number of times. This is an effective way to slow down in rain or on icy or snowy roads.



  • Contact Us


    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.

Equifax Updates – Drivers’ License Numbers Stolen

Automatic US Citizenship by BloodIn 2017, Equifax, Inc., a credit-reporting firm, suffered a cyber-attack that resulted in a data breach that affected millions of customers. After the company disclosed that the identities of roughly 148 million individuals were compromised, the company continuously struggles to regain the trust of customers. In early 2018, after completing a forensic examination of the breach, Equifax disclosed that an additional 2.4 million people were impacted by the 2017 cyber-attack. The company explained that these additional individuals were not identified in the first investigation because the search only focused on individuals who had their Social Security numbers compromised. The additional names were revealed after cross referencing partial drivers’ license numbers that were stolen with internal and external sources. The newly impacted individuals will receive the same credit-monitoring and identity theft protection services paid for by Equifax, as those initially identified.

To make matters even worse, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged an executive of Equifax with insider trading in March 2018. Jun Ying, an executive who was next in line to be named the company’s Chief Information Officer, exercised his stock options when he learned of the breach and sold the shares after learning of the breach. The SEC alleges that Ying sold his stock options before the company disclosed the data breach to the public, avoiding over $117,000 in losses. After learning of Ying’s violation of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws, Equifax dismissed him. Both the SEC and the United States Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia are pressing criminal charges against Ying.

Automatic U.S. Citizenship by Blood

Automatic US Citizenship by BloodClients often ask about the path to citizenship. Most are eligible for the long and time consuming path to citizenship through visas, petitions, and Adjustment of Status. However, some are eligible for direct citizenship by blood via the N-600 application. Note that no actual blood is shed for this application.

A child may have citizenship bestowed upon them in two situations: (1) being physically born in the United States and its territories (Jus Soli), or (2) being born to U.S. citizen parents. The latter is often referred to as “Jus Sanguinis,” and may be proven through the N-600 Immigration Application. While the concept of Jus Sanguinis appears to be simple and straightforward, it is often complex and requires extensive legal analysis. The amount and type of evidence that is required for Jus Sanguinis depends on the various factors and the particular situation of the birth. The following are several factors, amongst others, that I look to consider whether someone is automatically a U.S. citizen.

One factor to consider is whether the child, born outside of the United States, was born in wedlock or not. Immigration laws require different standards of children born within the marriage and those born outside wedlock. Also, as immigration laws change over the years, a child’s birth date determines which period of law applies to that situation.

Another factor to consider is the citizenship of the parents at the time of the birth. It makes a difference whether both parents were U.S. citizens at the time of child’s birth. For example, in a situation where the child was born, in wedlock, after Nov. 11, 1986, to two U.S. citizen parents, the child must prove that the at least one U.S. citizen parent resided in the United States. In a situation where there is only one U.S. citizen parent, the child must further prove that the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. for five years, two of which must be after the age of 14.

For children born outside the marriage and outside the U.S., the evidentiary requirement and standards are different for those born to U.S. citizen mothers or to U.S. citizen fathers. In the case of those born to U.S. citizen fathers, it is also important to note whether they were legitimated or acknowledged by the father in question.

As a side note, a child may inherit U.S. citizenship from the parent(s) if the child was under a certain age and the child was lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

A client could skip the long and expensive immigration process to legal permanent resident status if they qualify for Jus Sanguinis through the N-600 Application. However, due to the level of extensive legal analysis required and substantial evidentiary requirements, it highly recommended that one hires an experienced immigration attorney to guide them through this application.

The Legal Process for Early Termination of Probation

Early Termination of ProbationIf you’ve been convicted of a crime or have pleaded guilty, there’s a good chance that a part of your sentence will involve a period of probation, where you’ll have some restrictions set on your activities and where you’ll have to report to a probation officer on a regular basis. Probation can become a real burden after a while, and if you’ve honored all your commitments and learned your lesson, you may want to see if the court will allow you to terminate the probation before the designated date. It can be done, but there’s a specific process you must follow.

Initiating the Process for Early Termination of Probation


In most states, to apply for early termination of court-ordered probation, you must contact your probation officer or a criminal defense attorney and must file a motion in the court where you were convicted. The motion must specifically request early termination of probation and must usually include the reasons why you believe early termination is warranted. Typically, if your probation officer agrees with the request and puts that in writing, the court will be inclined to grant your request.

The Factors the Court May Consider When Evaluating Your Request for Early Termination of Probation


If your probation officer has not weighed in on your request, the court may still grant your motion, but will customarily look at a number of issues first:

  • Have you paid all fines assessed as part of your conviction and have you made restitution to any victims?

  • Did you undergo counseling or treatment as ordered by the court and did you successfully complete those programs?

  • Have you complied with all terms established as part of your sentencing and probation?

  • Did you seek to better yourself while on probation? Did you look for employment or engage in training to help you develop marketable skills? Did you do volunteer or community service work while on probation?



The court can also factor in any real or potential hardships that continued probation may have, such as:

  • The inability to get or hold a job in your chosen field because of the probation requirement

  • The inability to see family because of any travel restriction imposed by the probation

  • The loss of any benefits because of probation



As a general rule, courts typically don’t allow for the early termination of probation until at least one half of the probationary period has elapsed.

Contact Us


At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced Texas criminal defense 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.

Study Reveals Positive Effect of Professional Representation at Social Security Hearings

Social Security HearingsA Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of hearings-level award rates for disability claims revealed that “claimants who had representation at their hearings, were allowed benefits at a rate nearly 3 times higher than those without representatives.” The report also quotes SSA officials stating “that a representative can help the claimant by ensuring that the medical evidence and other records are fully developed and help the claimant present their case at a hearing.” At Bailey & Galyen we have always believed in the value of personal quality representation, but it is useful to have validation from an official source. The report, entitled “Additional Measures and Evaluation Needed to Enhance Accuracy and Consistency of Hearings Decisions,” was released in January 2018. It studied Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decisions made on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims between Fiscal Years 2007 and 2015, a period where requests for hearings increased, peaked, and then declined. During this period, 77% of claimants at ALJ hearings had attorney representatives and 12% had non-attorney representatives.

During the studied period, the variation in award rates between ALJs shrank slightly, but the overall allowance rates decreased significantly. ALJs who joined the Social Security Administration (SSA) between 1995 and 1999, and were still at the agency between 2007 and 2015, had higher award rates than newer ALJs. Several factors correlated with allowance rate: older claimants were more likely to be awarded benefits than younger adults and having a critical case, a college education, and a claim for SSDI rather than SSI also increased the chance of an award. Hearings that included testimony from a medical expert were more likely than the average claim to result in an award of benefits, while vocational expert testimony decreased the chance of an award.

These numbers further prove that a finding of disability is getting harder to obtain. Now more than ever, it is imperative that you have an experienced, qualified, and hardworking representative on your side when applying for disability. If you are hurt, injured, or otherwise impaired, and unable to work please contact us at Bailey and Galyen for a free case evaluation.

HANDLE WITH CARE

Wills and ProbatePerhaps you have seen “HANDLE WITH CARE” stenciled on the outside of a container or crate. If you’re like me you may have tried to child-proof a room or dealt with the consequences of placing an item in harms’ way. As we get older we accumulate more stuff and take on more responsibility for securing things of value. Let me suggest three basic questions to ask when safeguarding what you value:

1. WHAT ARE MY PRIORITIES?



Really think about what you value and how you want to use it. It may be a collection or collectible. It may be the education of loved ones or gifting to my favorite school. It may be travel, digging water wells, helping to eradicate hunger or disease. For many of us it is having enough to keep from being a burden to our children. Note that priorities change over the years and that your plan should change with them. WHO DO I TRUST?

What family members or friends do I trust to execute my plan? Who does the right thing without supervision, when no one is looking? What is the experience level of the professionals that I retain to draft my plan? Is my plan flexible? Am I being upsold based on concerns that don’t really apply to me? Look at the track record of those you need to trust for advice and counsel before you execute your plan.

2. WHERE DID I PUT THAT?



I tell people that the difference between an original document and a copy is like the difference between you and a picture of you. Misplacing documents can be anything from inconvenient to disastrous. For example; a parent has carefully planned to place assets into a testamentary trust for a child who struggles with addiction or will be disqualified from receiving assistance if they receive an inheritance in a lump sum. Upon their death the will cannot be found and a copy is produced. In order to probate the will not produced in court and execute the parent’s wishes it will be necessary to get the consent of all the heirs. The very child that was so carefully planned for either cannot or will not consent and the entire plan fails.

What are your priorities? Who do you trust? How are you safeguarding your important documents?

If you need good advice and wise counsel we look forward to being someone you trust to do just that.



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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.

No Man’s Life, Liberty, or Property are Safe while the Legislature is in Session

No Man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session. ~ Gideon Tucker

Alimony TaxesFor as long as anyone can remember, alimony has been tax deductible. In Texas, we do not call it alimony instead, it is referred to as Post Divorce Maintenance (Chapter 8 Texas Family Code). Post Divorce Maintenance meets the requirements of Alimony under the Tax Code for IRS purposes. Alimony is the more common term, so I will use it here.

Alimony is money paid by one spouse to the other after the dissolution of the marriage. There can be many reasons for a court to award it. For instance, sometimes one spouse makes significantly more money than the other. Part of the reason for this is because that spouse attended a professional school (such as law school, medical school, or dental school) while the other spouse worked to put them through school and took care of the house and children. Most states do not allow the non-moneyed spouse to have an ownership interest in a professional practice. So, upon the dissolution of a marriage, to make the property and marriage more equitable, the court may award alimony.

Alimony has always been tax deductible to the payor and treated as taxable income received by the person receiving it, because they no longer have the money available to them. This worked favorably for both parties, because it allowed the professional practice to remain intact, without taking on a large amount of debt to pay the other spouse. It also had favorable tax implications because it reduced the marginal tax bracket of the payor, taxing at the lower bracket of the person receiving the alimony.

In 2016, President Trump ran a campaign based on, among other things, reforming the Tax Code. In 2017, the Legislature obliged him by passing one of the most significant tax overhauls in years. Each term among the items introduced functions to remove the home mortgage interest deduction. Most years it gets nowhere, but this year it got closer. However, one of the items passed was the elimination of the deduction for alimony, which no one saw coming.

Starting in 2019, alimony will no longer be tax deductible for the person paying. This completely changes the landscape for persons divorcing. This last summer, at the Advanced Family Law Seminar, I spent one-half of my time attending seminars on the changes. I almost always involve accountants and financial planners in divorces that involve financial assets, as I believe any good lawyer would. However, with these changes to the Tax Code, I believe their help will be more important than ever in an effort to make divorce less taxing.

If you find yourself considering a divorce, make sure to interview multiple attorneys and make sure they work with other professionals to minimize the disruption to your life.

BUDGETING 101

Budgeting 101 Bankruptcy LawAfter 18 years practicing bankruptcy law, I am still amazed that clients often do not understand the importance of monthly budgeting. For individuals facing bankruptcy, a solid, realistic monthly budget will usually be the difference between success and failure. The purpose of budgeting allows you as an individual, or family, to prioritize and control spending. This allows you to focus on the expenses that matter most: housing, transportation, food, clothing, insurance, taxes, etc. Below are some helpful tips to get you started even if you are not facing bankruptcy!

Write it down:


This point simply cannot be emphasized enough. If you are not writing it down (or using an app or spreadsheet, stone tablet, whatever), you are not holding yourself accountable.

Example:

  • Rent $1,250

  • Car Payment $475

  • Food $400

  • Gas $125

  • Tolls $25

  • Insurance $85


Track your spending:


You do not have to list or write down every penny you spend. In fact, trying to accomplish this goal usually ends in frustration and giving up (I speak from personal experience!). Instead of tracking spending, try putting aside a certain amount of funds for other items that are not a fixed cost. For example, $100 a month for “Shopping.” Try the cash envelope method and put aside $100 cash marked “Shopping,” when that cash is gone, so is spending for shopping.

Prioritize:


Try the 50/30/20 Plan as recommended by Senator Elizabeth Warren* where 50% of your income goes to necessities; 30% lifestyle choices, and 20% to savings. Although this may seem like a daunting task, it is doable.

If you find yourself unable to meet all your financial requirements despite setting up a budget and adhering to it, maybe filing bankruptcy is necessary. In a Chapter 13, you will be required to pay certain creditors but how much depends on your income, type of creditor, and amounts owed. Let us work for you to review your budget, evaluate if a bankruptcy is what you need and get you back on track to financial stability.


*Rob Berger, 7 Tips for Effective and Stress-Free Budgeting Forbes Online