Fisher-Price Announces Recall of 4.7 Million Infant Sleepers

Mattel building

Fisher-Price Recall – Product Tied to More than 30 Infant Deaths

In April, 2019, retail giant Fisher-Price announced that it is recalling all models of its infant sleeper marketed under the product name “Rock’n Play.” Company officials say that the product, first introduced in 2009, has been linked to more than 30 infant fatalities and more than 700 injuries to children under the age of six months. The company warned consumers to immediately discontinue use of the product and said customers could contact the company for a “refund or voucher.” The American Academy of Pediatrics, a professional organization of nearly 70,000 doctors, has called for the removal of the product from store shelves nationwide.

An earlier warning from the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended that parents cease use of the Rock ‘n Play when the child reaches the age of three months or has shown the ability to roll over. The Rock ‘n Play is similar to a hammock in construction, with a cloth sleeping surface suspended from a metal frame. The sleeper is also designed so that the infant’s head is elevated above the rest of its body. It also vibrates and plays music, replicating the experience the child had in the womb. Industry analysts say it developed a cult following among sleep-deprived parents and earned glowing reviews from many, as it successfully put infants to sleep without the need to be held. Many parents saw the product, which sold for less than $100, to be a highly affordable alternative to many products on the market, which could sell for upwards of $1,300.

Industry watchdogs say the product design is contrary to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends that infants sleep on their backs on a flat, firm surface in a bare crib, play yard or bassinet. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 10 infants have died in the last four years—all had rolled onto their back or side while unrestrained in the sleeper. All of those infants were at least three months old. Of the 32 infants who have died, though, some were younger than three months, but all had the ability to roll over.

Though Fisher-Price has agreed to recall the product, the company issued a statement that it “stands by the safety of the Rock ‘n Play,“contending that it” meets all applicable safety standards.” The company asserts that the product contains warnings, advising parents not to use it once a child has developed the ability to roll over or has reached the age of three months. Fisher-Price contends that the infant deaths are a result of parents not following product warnings.

Product Liability Law – Fisher-Price Recall

Under product liability law, any entity with the chain of distribution may be found liable for certain defects. A party may have responsibility for dangerous or defective design, manufacture or marketing of a product. Negligent marketing of a product includes the failure to provide reasonable notice or warning of any safety risks that the defendant knew or should have known were present.

Within a couple weeks of the notice of recall, a number of lawsuits were filed, with many seeking to establish a class action for parents of infants who suffered injury because of the Rock ‘n Play.

Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys About The Fisher-Price Recall

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For 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.

What Does No Refusal Weekend Mean in Texas?

policesirens

No Refusal Weekend in Texas

Understanding Implied Consent and the Texas “No Refusal” Program

In Texas, often at holidays or times when police know that there will a greater volume of traffic on the roads or more likelihood of people drinking and driving, counties within the state will institute what’s known as a “no refusal” program. You may or may not have heard of such an operation and may wonder what it is. The “No Refusal” program relates to the implied consent laws in Texas, which deal with your rights and obligations related to blood alcohol testing after an arrest for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

No Refusal Weekend – What Is Implied Consent?

In Texas, as in all other states, the law of “implied consent” applies whenever a motorist gets behind the wheel. Under the principle of implied consent, when you decide to operate a motor vehicle in the Lone Star State, you “imply” that you will agree to submit to a blood test if you are pulled over for suspicion of DUI or DWI. If a law enforcement officer asks you to take a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) test and you refuse, you will automatically have your driving privileges suspended for 180 days. Some courts, though, have held that implied consent violates a suspect’s 4th Amendment right to unreasonable search and seizure.

How Does the “No Refusal” Program Change the Consequences of a DUI/DWI Traffic Stop?

Under Texas law, when a motorist refuses to submit to a blood alcohol test, law enforcement officers must have a valid search warrant to compel the suspect to provide a blood sample. In most instances, that requires that the police officer appear in court and provide the judge with probable cause to issue the search warrant. Blood must be drawn by a medical professional. Furthermore, the number of people who are available to provide such services is limited during late-night hours, the time when most DUI/DWI arrests are made. As a practical matter, in the time it would take to obtain the search warrant, the suspect would most likely sober up and fail the test.

Under the “No Refusal” program, police officers may submit an electronic request for a search warrant from the scene of the traffic stop. The court may then transmit the electronic warrant to the officer’s dashboard computer or cell phone. Once the electronic warrant has been received, the law enforcement officer is legally authorized to use force to obtain a blood sample.

It’s fairly common for counties or municipalities to set up “No Refusal” weekends or put such programs in place during holidays. During such times, police departments will typically have more judges available to issue warrants, and more nurses available to take blood samples.

Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen

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 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.

Department of Justice Announces $9.1 Million Settlement in Defective Ear Plug Case

American soldiers

3M to Pay $9.1 Million to Settle Defective Ear Plug Claim

Injured Military Personnel May Have Claims Over Defective Earplugs

If you served in the armed forces of the United States between 2003 and 2015, and use the dual-end or reversible “Combat Arms” earplugs, you may be entitled to compensation, provided you can show that you were subsequently diagnosed with tinnitus or any type of combat-related hearing loss. According to lawsuits already filed, the earplugs, designed and manufactured by the Minnesota-based company 3M, did not create a tight seal in the ear, allowing high-decibel sounds to enter the ear canal, unbeknownst to users. 3M boasted that the design would allow users to hear commands from comrades or senior officer, and even approaching enemies, without impairment, but would protect against any hearing loss. Accordingly, users suffered hearing damage while believing they were protected from hearing loss.

In July, 2018, the United States Department of Justice announced that 3M had agreed to settle a federal claim against the company for $9.1 million. That claim, however, was made under the False Claims Act, a federal statute that allows the government to recover compensation from individuals and companies that commit a fraud on the government. Because the 3M contract was with the military, and because there was evidence that 3M employees knew as early as 2000 that the earplugs were defectively designed, the federal claim against 3M was strong.

The evidence in the False Claims Act case also included documents that showed that 3M had conducted testing that showed that the earplugs were ineffective, but misrepresented the test results in certification proceedings, wrongfully alleging that the product met military standards and specifications. According to estimates, the company provided the armed forces with approximately 750,000 pairs of the earplugs every year, from 2006 until 2015, when the product was discontinued. However, the earplugs were never recalled, so have been in continual use since 2015.

A federal lawsuit under the False Claims Act is essentially a whistleblower action. In the 3M case, one of 3M’s competitors, Moldex, brought the defective design to the attention of the federal government. Under the provisions of the False Claims Act, Moldex is entitled to share in the proceeds of any verdict or settlement. Moldex received nearly $2 million of the $9.1 million settlement.

Are you Suffering from a Defective Earplugs Injury?

It’s important to understand that the settlement under the False Claims Act does not have any impact on the rights of individuals who suffered personal injury because of the defective design of the Combat Arms earplugs. That settlement only addresses the fraud perpetrated on the U.S. military and the federal government.

Accordingly, if you or someone you love served in any branch of the armed forces from 2003 until the present, used the 3M Combat Arms earplugs, version 2 (known as CAEv2), you should immediately contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your options. A number of lawsuits have already been filed, many of which include demands for punitive damages, based on 3M’s gross negligence.

Contact Our Personal Injury Lawyers to Fight your Defective Earplugs Claim

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For 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.

Admissions Scandal Rocks Higher Education

Wrongdoing Includes Bribes, Cheating on Entrance Exams and Misrepresentation of Athletic Ability

college students on campusIn March, 2019, federal prosecutors announced a total of 50 indictments in what officials say is the most extensive college admissions fraud ever uncovered in the United States. The FBI investigation, codename “Operation Varsity Blues,” led to charges against coaches and parents, including some celebrities. Among the charges levied were conspiracy, racketeering and wire fraud. The colleges and universities at which the fraudulent acts affected admissions included Stanford, the University of Southern California, Yale, Wake Forest, Georgetown and the University of Texas at Austin.

Of the 50 indictments, 33 named parents, who prosecutors say paid as much as $6.5 million to ensure that their offspring would be admitted to one of the elite institutions. The alleged brains behind the scam, William Singer, allegedly coordinated bribes to coaches, test proctors and others. Singer purportedly ran a private “counseling” firm and foundation through which the bribe money was funneled.

According to documents obtained by the FBI, Singer boasted that his company “help[s] the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school.” Singer told prospective parents that he offered a “guarantee,” which he could secure because he had created a “side door” to various institutions of higher learning.

Apparently, the side door most often involved the falsification of student athletic profiles, so that the children of the wealthy parents would be admitted based on alleged athletic ability. In wiretaps, FBI agents overheard one parent detailing plans of how he would get his son into the University of Southern California as a football recruit (listing him as a highly sought after kicker/punter), even though the high school the student attended had no football program. The parent talked about taking a picture of the youth and using Photoshop to create a false impression that the student was a talented athlete.

The coaches indicted represented a number of “second-tier” sports, including men’s and women’s tennis, volleyball, soccer, sailing and water polo. One athletic director was also named.

Singer allegedly charged different fees, based on the college to which the parents sought admission. He also coached parents on how to describe the transaction if it came to light, saying he told the IRS that it was money being used to “help underserved kids.”

The indictments also contend that the participants conspired to cheat on college entrance exams. Some of the children of the indicted parents were encouraged by Singer and others to file requests for extra time on ACT and SAT exams, alleging that they had learning disabilities. Test proctors were also bribed to allow someone to take the test in the applicant’s place. There was also evidence that some test proctors either gave student correct answers or reviewed and corrected their answers after the test was completed (for which they received payments).

Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen

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 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.

I’ve Fallen, but I CAN Get Up: Why You Should Immediately Report All Work Injuries

warehouse workerSo you think you may have hurt yourself at work…well, you know you did. You might have the following thoughts: “It’s not that bad. Work through it and see if it gets worse. The weekend is here, so I’ll rest and see how I feel on Monday. I’m seeing my doctor next week, so I’ll just check on it then.” Stop! Report your work injury, no matter how minor you think it is, even if just “for the record.” If you get better on your own, great! I have seen many instances, though, where an injury starts out as minor but never gets better. A problem occurs when you report your work injuries later.

Report Your Work Injuries Immediately!

Your date of injury is very important, since you only have 30 days to report a work-related injury. Failure to report work injuries immediately, and seeking treatment on your own, makes the situation more suspect and gives the insurance carrier more reason to dispute your workers’ comp claim. It is more difficult for an attorney to assist you when an insurance company raises the defense that you failed to give notice of your injury within 30 days. In cases like that, the judge may not believe the injured worker, especially where the employer has multiple witnesses and the worker has none. Granted, we have won a lot of such cases, but don’t make the situation any harder than it needs to be. Focus on getting treatment for your injury and getting back to work. You might be trying to do right by the company and work through your injury on your own, only to find you’re unable to, and that the delay results in denial of your claim.

Don’t Fight Work Injuries Alone

If you have any doubts or concerns, reach out to the Workers’ Compensation department at Bailey & Galyen. We can answer your questions anonymously and give you information on the workers’ comp claim process. Never downplay your injury as ‘no big deal.’ At a minimum, make a record of the incident, even if no injury results from it.

The Dangers of Using Online Forms in Family Court

computer searchEveryone wants to save money where they can; however, trying to handle complex family law litigation without an attorney, utilizing forms found on the internet, is fraught with peril. Every day, judges face courtrooms full of people attempting to divorce, establish custody, or set child support without counsel. Many leave disappointed because their documents are incorrect, and frustrated because, by law, the judge can’t give instructions for how to fix them. Many are turned away multiple times.

Family Law Forms to Watch For

Not all forms found on the internet are equal. Some family law forms are designed for a particular state and may not work in your jurisdiction. Some have been prepared by non-attorneys and are simply incorrect. None are recommended for use by parties who have children, real estate, or retirement accounts. Most are difficult to fill out correctly. Many people who finalize their case using online forms later learn that the resulting order has unintended consequences. Worse, they don’t realize they’ve cheated themselves out of money or property to which they’re entitled until it’s too late to fix the problem. Some find that they have inadvertently agreed to allow their ex-spouse to relocate the children to a distant state where visitation is difficult.

Contact Our Family Law Attorneys

If you are dealing with a family law matter, it is imperative that you consult an experienced family law attorney and discuss the specific issues in your case. At Bailey & Galyen, we offer free initial consultations at convenient neighborhood offices. We offer payment plans designed to make legal representation more affordable. You don’t have to put your home or retirement at risk trying to handle complex litigation on your own.

Disengagement – Threats to your Estate Plan

Tax LawAs in parts one and two of this Estate Planning series, I want to credit James E. Brill and his excellent article, “Discouraging Disengagement.” In Part One, we discussed Death, Disability, and Decline. In Part Two, we looked at Disaffection, Disappearance, and Domestication. In Part Three, we take a brief look at additional threats to your estate plan: Death Taxes, Designations, and Distrust.

Under current law, most of us who live in Texas are not concerned with estate taxes. While there has been concern in the past in other jurisdictions, and probably will be in the future, estate taxes currently do not impact the average Texan. The “Death Tax” we confront on a daily basis is the failure to prepare, safeguard, or adequately maintain documents. Death cuts off the opportunity to prepare and ends our ability to provide guidance to those we trust regarding our wishes for what happens after we are gone. Neither the federal nor state government can cost your estate as much as you can, by failing to prepare for your death and/or disability.

Designations must be updated periodically. The passage of time and the vagaries of life will ruin your plans unless you maintain them. Trusted individuals may die, become disabled, move away, or become so busy with their own responsibilities, that they are no longer good choices to serve as fiduciaries. For example, if I told you the Dallas Cowboys had the same backup quarterback that they had 20 years ago, you wouldn’t believe me. There is a shelf-life for quarterbacks and for executors, trustees, and agents under powers of attorney.

Distrust is also a reason to update your plan. It may be that the person you chose as a beneficiary or fiduciary has made some bad choices. Perhaps they are involved with people or habits that cause you concern as to their reliability. It doesn’t have to be sinister to be of concern. A beneficiary who has become disabled could forfeit some forms of assistance without careful planning. Perhaps new relationships and responsibilities have altered a fiduciary’s suitability to serve?

You don’t have to know all the answers for your estate plan, but you do need to prepare. Schedule a consultation with Bailey & Galyen’s Estate Planning attorney, Jay Bailey, who has been helping people for more than 30 years and is available to help you!

Expediting Your Social Security Claim

socialsecurity

Expedite Your Social Security Claim with an Attorney Advisor

The Attorney Advisor Program allows certain staff attorneys at the Social Security Administration (SSA) to conduct prehearing proceedings and issue fully favorable decisions on the record (OTR) when appropriate, without the need for an administrative hearing. This program can be useful for claimants age 50 or older, or those facing life-threatening illness. Attorney advisors can expedite a social security case review and potentially allow the claimant to receive their social security benefits months sooner than a case handled in the traditional manner.

Social Security Claims and the Attorney Advisor Program

The Attorney Advisor Program was originally enacted as a two-year temporary program in 2007 and has been extended ever since. An attorney advisor may issue a fully favorable OTR decision when the severity of a claimant’s impairment meets a prescribed listing level, or when the impairment precludes a claimant 50 years of age or older from doing their regular work and leaves them unable to adjust to work that is less physically demanding. If an attorney advisor issues a fully favorable decision, then the case will be awarded and closed. If a fully favorable decision cannot be reached, the attorney advisor will document the reasons, and the case will proceed to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.

Does your Social Security Claim Meet Criteria?

On the record decisions issued by attorney advisors are one component of SSA’s Compassionate and Responsive Service (CARES) backlog-reduction plan. Unfortunately, even though the program has been extended, backlogs prevent most staff attorneys from reviewing potential expedited decisions on their own. However, if your claim meets the criteria, your Bailey & Galyen attorney can prepare and draft the request for your claim to be reviewed by an administrative law judge or an attorney advisor ahead of a scheduled hearing. By calling attention to your claim early, and submitting written legal arguments, your Bailey & Galyen attorney can overcome the staffing shortfalls at Social Security and potentially reduce your wait for a favorable outcome by several months.

The Attorney Advisor Program is only one of the tools an experienced Bailey & Galyen attorney can utilize to shorten the wait for a favorable outcome at Social Security. Of course, not every claim will qualify. A careful analysis of each case must be undertaken to determine if an expedited evaluation is appropriate or possible. If you’re over the age of 50, we encourage you to contact our office to determine whether your social security claim is eligible for expedited processing.

Now more than ever, it is crucial that you have an experienced, knowledgeable attorney working for you when applying for disability benefits. If you are hurt, injured, or incapacitated, and find yourself unable to work, contact Bailey & Galyen for a free case evaluation

Understanding IRS Penalties

Tax LawApril 15 is the deadline to file your 2018 federal income tax returns or request an extension to file. As that date rapidly approaches, you might be asking, “What can the IRS do to me if I do not file my return or request an extension?” Or “What happens if I do file but don’t have the money to pay the tax due?”

Not everyone is required to file a return. Your earnings must exceed a certain amount before a return is required. For example, a single individual under the age of 65 must earn at least $10,400 before a return is required. A single individual 65 or older must earn at least $11,950. There are other statuses, such as “married, filing jointly,” “separately,” or “head of household.” If your earnings exceed the applicable threshold, then you must file a return.

What happens if you don’t file a required return? The willful failure to file a federal income tax return is a criminal offence prosecutable by the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition to the potential criminal penalty, there is a civil penalty assessed each month in the amount of 5% of the unpaid taxes. The penalty begins accruing the day after the return is due and can reach a maximum of 25% of the unpaid taxes.

If a return is filed more than 60 days after it’s due, it is subject to a minimum late filing penalty that is the lesser of 100% of the unpaid tax due on the return or a specific dollar amount adjusted for inflation. If you don’t have the money to pay your taxes when they’re due, file your return anyway in order to avoid these penalties.

If you file a return, but don’t pay the tax due, you will incur a “failure to pay penalty.” This penalty is ½ of 1% (.50%) of the unpaid taxes for each month, or part of a month, the tax remains unpaid after it’s due. The penalty cannot exceed 25% of the unpaid tax due. The IRS will waive this penalty if you can show reasonable cause for not paying the tax timely. Lack of money is not reasonable cause.

“What happens to these penalties if I file an extension?” A standard extension moves the filing deadline from April 15 to October 15. Requesting an extension will allow you to avoid the “failure to file penalty” for the period of the extension, i.e, April 15 to October 15. However, the “failure to pay” penalty will not be avoided unless you pay, or have paid, at least 90% of the actual tax owed by April 15, and you then pay the balance when you file the extended return.

The penalties discussed above are the main penalties applicable to most individual taxpayers. There are other penalties that could apply, but which are not discussed here, such as “the civil fraud penalty,” the “failure to pay proper estimated taxes penalty,” and “the penalty for failure to take required minimum distributions from retirement accounts when you reach age 70 ½.”

The bottom line — be sure you either file your tax return by April 15, or file for an extension to move your deadline to October 15. If you cannot pay the tax due, file the return anyway so that you avoid the “failure to file” penalty. If you do not pay the tax shown on the return, you will incur a “failure to pay” penalty; however, as explained in an earlier article, many times you can negotiate an “Installment Agreement” with the IRS after the return is filed.

If you have any questions, or if you are having difficulties dealing with the IRS, please contact Bailey & Galyen.

Legal Rights for Undocumented Immigrants

Immigration LawI often am asked what rights undocumented immigrants have in the United States. Many assume they have no rights; however, all persons living in the United States, regardless of immigration status, have certain protections.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court held that, under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, all people living in the United States, including non-citizens, are entitled to equal protection under the law and cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Wong Wing v. United States, 163 U.S. 228 (1896). Additionally, all persons physically present in the United States, regardless of immigration status, have the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful searches and seizures and the Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination.

So what does this mean for immigrants? It means that, like everyone else, an undocumented immigrant has the right to refuse an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer entry to their home unless the officer has a valid search warrant signed by a judge. Interestingly, ICE officers almost never have a valid search warrant when they approach the home of an undocumented immigrant. They rely on the fact that most undocumented immigrants will not know their rights.

Undocumented individuals who unknowingly allows ICE officers into their home still have the right to remain silent when questioned about their immigration status or country of birth. Why? Because answering such questions would be self-incrimination. It may seem ludicrous that a person does not have to answer questions as to their immigration status, but answering such questions can subject the person to removal (“deportation”) proceedings. Also, many people do not know that ICE has the burden to prove a person lacks lawful immigration status. By remaining silent, an undocumented individual holds ICE to its burden of proof, and ICE must produce evidence showing the person’s unlawful immigration status. As with criminal defendants, an undocumented immigrant is innocent of lacking lawful status until ICE proves otherwise.

This background helps illuminate why Texas’s SB4 “show me your papers” bill has been so controversial. Pending a ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, SB4 has not fully gone into effect, but it is a move by the State to impose stricter rules than those mandated by the federal government, and it infringes on the constitutional rights of all persons in Texas.

What happens if ICE meets its burden and proves an individual is in the country unlawfully? Immigrants do not have the right to enter the United States unlawfully, but, once here, they are entitled to equal protection and due process under the law. This means that an individual facing removal is entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge to determine eligibility for relief from removal. The term “relief” refers to certain remedies available under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for immigrants facing removal. Additionally, all persons in removal proceedings have the right to an attorney (but not at government expense), reasonable notice of the charges against them, notice of the place and time of the hearing, the opportunity to examine the evidence and witnesses presented against them, interpretation for non-English-speaking individuals, and clear-and-convincing proof that the government’s charges are valid.

Why You Want an Experienced Attorney After a Car Accident

Car Accident

Protecting Your Rights When You’ve Been Injured in a Car Accident

Often when you’ve been injured in a car accident, the facts and circumstances can seem pretty clear cut, giving you the false assumption that you can probably handle your claim without the assistance of a lawyer. That’s always a bad strategy, for many reasons.

Most importantly, you can expect that the other motorist will have insurance, and that the insurer will retain legal counsel to protect their interests. Don’t expect any assistance from the judge, should you try to go it alone. Your opponent will have a comprehensive knowledge of the laws and procedures governing personal injury claims. That will put you at a significant disadvantage.

In fact, even if you’re not planning on filing a lawsuit for any losses incurred, it’s a wise move to retain an attorney help ensure you get the benefits to which you are entitled from your insurer. Insurance companies have a vested interest in paying you as little as possible—it’s how they maximize their profits. Without competent legal assistance, you can expect delays, denials or attempts to pay you less than you should receive.

There are other clear advantages to hiring experienced legal counsel to handle your car accident claim:

  • An attorney will make certain you file your complaint in a timely manner — The statute of limitations establishes how much time you have to file a personal injury claim. If you fail to bring legal action within the prescribed time period, you can lose your right to recover compensation. An experienced car accident attorney will know the appropriate statute of limitations and will ensure that you meet the deadline.
  • A skilled lawyer will help you recover compensation for all your losses — In the aftermath of a car accident, you may have the right to compensation for a wide range of losses, including wages and income, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium or companionship, pain and suffering, and unreimbursed medical expenses. Unless you have legal training, you may not know that you can recover for all these losses.
  • An experienced attorney will help you effectively prove the elements of negligence — Successfully bringing a personal injury claim requires more than showing that there was an accident and that you were hurt. To prove negligence, you must show that the defendant failed to act reasonably, that the failure to act reasonably caused an accident, and that you suffered actual losses in the accident. To complicate things even more, you must show two different types of cause—actual cause and proximate cause.

Contact Our Car Accident Attorneys

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For 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.

The 2018 Federal Tax Law Changes You Need to Know

couple calculating taxes

Last year, President Trump signed a new tax-reform bill into law. This new law can have a substantial impact on individual taxpayers starting with the tax year 2018, for which returns are due to be filed by April 15, 2019. Some of the provisions that impact individuals are the following:

  1. The 2018 tax brackets, for the most part, reduce tax rates. For example, the tax rate for a married couple in 2018 will range from 10% on income of $0 to $1,950 to 37% on income over $600,000. This is a reduction from 2017, when the tax rate ranged from 10% for married couples earning $0 to $19,050 to 39.6% on income over $480,050.
  2. The standard deduction is almost doubled for all taxpayers. For example, the standard deduction for a single individual, or a married individual filing separately, has gone from $6,500 for tax year 2017 to $12,000 for tax year 2018. For a married couple filing jointly, the deduction has gone from $13,000 in 2017 to $24,000 in 2018.
  3. Although the standard deduction has increased dramatically, the personal exemption has been eliminated.
  4. The capital gains tax, which generally applies to sales of stocks and other appreciated assets, has not changed.
  5. The mortgage interest deduction now applies only to mortgage debt of up to $750,000. This is down from the $1,000,000 figure previously allowed. NOTE: This reduction only applies to mortgages taken after December 15, 2017. Mortgages that existed prior to that date are not affected.
  6. Charitable contributions changes are as follows:
    • Taxpayers can deduct donations up to 60% of their income. Under prior law, they could deduct only up to 50% of their income.
    • Donations to colleges in exchange for the right to purchase athletic tickets are no longer deductible.
  7. The medical expense deduction has been reduced from 10% of adjusted gross income to 7.5% of adjusted gross income. This change is retroactive to the 2017 tax year, which may require eligible taxpayers to file amended returns for 2017.
  8. Under the new law, state and local tax deductions, which include income, sales and property taxes, are limited to $10,000. This provision is controversial for its effects in high-tax states such as California and New York.
  9. Affordable Care Act penalties are repealed. Thus, individuals who don’t buy health insurance will no longer pay a tax penalty.
  10. There are big changes in the treatment of pass-through deductions. Under the new law, pass-through businesses such as partnerships, sole-proprietorships, and S corporations can deduct 20% of their pass-through income before ordinary income tax rates are applied. Certain limits apply to “professional services businesses” such as lawyers, doctors, consultants, and business owners who file joint returns.
  11. The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) provision has been changed in two ways:
    • The new law permanently adjusts the AMT exemption amount for
      inflation. For example, the AMT exemption amount for a married couple filing jointly in 2017 was $84,500. Under the new law, the amount for 2018 is $109,400.
    • The income threshold amount at which the exemption begins to phase out has significantly increased from $160,000 for joint filers and $120,700 for individuals, to $1,000,000 and $500,000, respectively.
  12. The new law doubles the estate tax exemption from $5.59 million per individual to $11.18 million. For married couples, the exemption has gone from $11.18 million to $22.4 million.
  13. Several deductions are eliminated under the new law:
    • Casualty and theft losses (except those from federally-declared disasters)
    • Unreimbursed employee expenses
    • Tax preparation expenses
    • Other deductions previously subject to the 20% Adjusted Gross Income cap
    • Moving expenses
    • Employer’s subsidized parking and transportation reimbursement.

Most of the tax changes listed above are temporary and under current law, are set to expire after the tax year 2025.

If you have questions, or if you are having difficulties dealing with the IRS, please contact the tax law attorneys at Bailey & Galyen.

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CONDITIONAL PERMANENT RESIDENT vs PERMANENT RESIDENT

Family LawPermanent residency can be obtained by immigrants who marry U.S. Citizens. This is a green card renewable every 10 years. There are also cases in which the foreign spouse is given what is called “Conditional Permanent Residency” status. In short, this is only a temporary 2-year residency card that cannot be renewed.

If you are given the conditional permanent residency, how do you become a permanent resident? Well it is important to understand what must be done prior to the expiration of the conditional permanent residency. There is an application that must be submitted to USCIS in order to remove those conditions and become a permanent legal resident.

What if your family situation has changed since your conditional permanent residency was granted? There are many family circumstances that may alter or affect the application process of removing conditions. Such changes include a divorce, abuse or battery, or death of a spouse. It is important to review these changes with an attorney before your deadline approaches to ensure you are filing for removal of conditions properly or you may risk losing your residency all together. Speak with an immigration attorney today to discuss the next steps in your immigration process.

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The Difference between a Felony and a Misdemeanor Traffic Offense

Man pulled over in car worried about police

Understanding the Different Types of Traffic Violations

In Texas, as in all other states, the criminal laws make a distinction between those that are considered misdemeanors and those that rise to the level of a felony. Many states also have lesser offense, labeled as an “infraction” or “petty offense.” There can be a significant difference in the way a case is prosecuted, in your options, and in the potential penalties for conviction. Let’s take a look at what distinguishes a misdemeanor from a felony, and then identify how that applies to traffic citations or violations.

What is a Misdemeanor?

As a rule, a misdemeanor is typically considered to be a less serious offense. There are certain types of crimes that are only prosecuted as misdemeanors, but there are also crimes that may be categorized as either, based on the specific facts of the offense. For example, some drug crimes may be charged as misdemeanors, including most types of possession, but others may be prosecuted as felonies, including trafficking or possession with intent to sell.

As a general rule, a misdemeanor results in a shorter period of incarceration, typically less than a year. In addition, a sentence for a misdemeanor it customarily served in a city or county jail, rather than a prison. You can be charged with multiple misdemeanors in the same legal proceeding and may be sentenced to serve time concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (one sentence after the other).

You have the same constitutional rights with a misdemeanor that you have when charged with a felony. You have the right to representation by legal counsel—an option you should always take. Jury trials may or may not be available, depending on the jurisdiction and the offense. Typically, the jury for a misdemeanor is smaller than for a felony.

What is a Felony?

Felonies are considered much more serious. As a result, the penalties are more severe and certain basic rights, such as the right to vote or own/possess firearms, may be lost upon conviction. Many violent crimes are prosecuted only as felonies, including most forms of homicide and many sex crimes. Other offenses, such as theft, may be charged as petty theft (a misdemeanor) or grand theft (a felony), based on the value of the goods stolen.

As a general rule, conviction for a felony will result in incarceration in a state or federal prison for a minimum of one year. Felony convictions can also lead to substantial fines, payable to the state.

Traffic Offenses

In most instances, a traffic violation will be charged either as an infraction/petty offense or as a misdemeanor. In fact, most traffic citations don’t even rise to the level of a misdemeanor, unless there was damage to property, someone suffered a personal injury, or there was a legitimate threat of personal injury/property damage. A traffic offense will seldom constitute a felony, unless the defendant is a repeat offender or there’s death, great bodily injury or substantial property damage.

Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen

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 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.

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