The Naturalization Exam

Immigration LawLegal Permanent Residents, in the United States, are given the opportunity to become U.S. Citizens. This process is labeled as “Naturalization.” Legal Permanent Residents, in order to start the process of Naturalization, must apply by sending in the pertinent forms and supporting evidence. Also, Applicants are interviewed by USCIS Officers, where they will be tested on the four (4) below areas:

  • Civics Test
  • Applicants will be asked up to ten (10) questions by the Interviewer, out of a list of 100 civics questions. Applicants must answer correctly at minimum six (6) of the 10 questions to pass this portion.

  • English Speaking Test
  • The USCIS Officer determines the Applicant’s ability to speak English throughout the duration of the interview.

  • English Reading Test
  • USCIS requires that Applicants be able to read in English. Applicants are required to read aloud to the Officer one of three sentences correctly.

  • English Writing Test
  • Applicants are required to write one out of three sentences, read by the Officer, to prove that they are able to write in the English language.

Naturalization Applicants are also asked questions about their application and their background at the interview. If the Applicant fails the first exam, they need not worry! Applicants are given another opportunity at the test between 60 and 90 days after the initial interview. Also, there are a couple of exemptions for the English language portions of the Naturalization Exam:

  • “50/20”
  • If the Applicant is over the age of 50 and has lived 20 years in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident, he/she is exempted from the English language portion.

  • “55/15”
  • Also, if the Applicant is over the age of 55 and has lived in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident for 15 years, he/she is exempted from the English language portion.

Please note that Applicants are still required to take the Civics portion of the exam. However, those who qualify for the exemption are allowed to have a translator present during the interview and are permitted to take the civics portion in the native language. For those who are over the age of 65 and have been permanent residents for at least 20 years, they are given special consideration for the civics exam.

You “May” Be Covered

Personal Injury

Understanding What Auto Insurance Actually Covers

You have an auto insurance policy to cover all your vehicles and your agent told you it was “full coverage.” That means that, in the event of an accident, everything will be covered, right? If you’ve actually been in an accident, you probably discovered fairly quickly that that’s not quite the case. So what are the different types of insurance coverage and what can you expect to be handled after an accident? Let’s take a look.

The Different Types of Coverage for Injuries to Others

With any motor vehicle insurance policy, there are a number of different components, offering coverage for different contingencies:

  • Liability coverage—This provision helps defray the costs when you are the at-fault driver in a motor vehicle accident. Payments under a liability policy will go to the victims of the crash, but won’t pay for injuries suffered by anyone in your car.
  • Bodily Injury Liability, or BIL—This type of policy pays only medical expenses for anyone who has been hurt in an accident caused by your carelessness or negligence. The BIL will come with limits—your insurer will pay a maximum to any one claimant and a maximum to all claimants. For example, a 30/100 policy will cover up to $30,000 in losses per person, with a maximum payout of $100,000.
  • Property damage provisions-This clause in an insurance contract provides for payment to cover any property loss by another party in an accident that’s your fault.

The Different Types of Auto Insurance Policies to Cover Your Losses

You can purchase insurance to cover the possibility of incurring physical injury or property damage in a motor vehicle accident:

  • A Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, policy will compensate you and any passengers in your vehicle for medical expenses and lost wages after a car crash
  • A collision policy covers the costs of any repairs to your vehicle that need to be made because of an accident
  • An uninsured/underinsured motorists provision provides you with some monetary benefits if the at-fault driver (of another vehicle) is without insurance or has inadequate policy limits
  • A comprehensive policy addresses the contingency that your vehicle is damaged or stolen other than in a motor vehicle accident

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 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.

Is It Domestic Violence?

Domestic Violence

How to Know If Behavior Rises to the Level of Domestic Violence

In any relationship, there will be disagreements. Voices can be raised and threatening words spoken. But what is domestic violence? When does a person’s behavior cross the line and become something for which they can be prosecuted?

Defining Domestic Violence

The term domestic violence is used in reference to a wide range of actions affecting a number of different types of relationships. While it’s customarily thought of as physical violence within a marriage or dating relationship (and most often perceived as violence by husbands against their wives), it actually applies to acts involving anyone cohabitating or in certain types of relationships. That includes parents, children and domestic partners. According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one of every three women and one of every four men will report domestic abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. It’s found in same-sex relationships as well as heterosexual relationships.

What Type of Actions Constitute Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence can involve a broad range of actions, including:

  • Physical violence—Pushing, slapping, punching, kicking, striking with any object, pulling hair, pinching, throwing objects at. It also includes acts of sexual violence, from fondling and molestation to rape, as well as homicide. Limiting a domestic partner’s mobility through physical violence or threats of violence—i.e., keeping them from leaving the house—can also be a form of domestic violence.
  • Verbal abuse—Threats of violence, belittling, persistent accusations and blaming, name calling and verbal assaults can all qualify as domestic violence
  • Emotional abuse—Intimidation, manipulation, verbal abuse, constant criticism and persistent dissatisfaction are all characteristics of emotional abuse. Psychologists typically include three types of behavior in emotional abuse—aggression, denial and minimization
  • Economic abuse—Controlling a person’s economic resources or access to financial resources can also be considered domestic abuse. Often the intent of such an action is to ensure financial dependence on the abuser and limit the victim’s freedom and access to others.

Texas Domestic Violence Laws—An Overview

Texas law specifically defines domestic violence to include any assault against a family or household member, or against a current or former dating partner. The crime of domestic violence in Texas is one of intent—the party accused must have knowingly engaged in activity that caused bodily injury, threatened imminent bodily injury, or that the perpetrator knew or should have known that the victim would find offensive or provocative. Accordingly, it’s a legitimate defense in Texas that an act of violence was the result of carelessness or negligence, or that it was in self-defense.

Domestic violence in Texas may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, and can potentially result in a prison term of up to 99 years and fines totaling $10,000. Factors that can mitigate a sentence include whether or not there were prior incidents of domestic violence, the victim’s relationship with the perpetrator, and whether or not there was evidence of suffocation or strangulation.

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 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.

Dos and Don’ts Before Filing Bankruptcy

Filing Bankruptcy
You may be contemplating the need to file bankruptcy and if you are, get to an experienced attorney’s office FAST! However, if you are not quite sure you want to take that first big step, please consider the following while you are thinking it over:

DO:
1) Review your total outstanding debt. Take a look at your credit report, gather all your creditor notices, medical bills, any paperwork from a court case or lawsuit you may have received, and put them all together for easy review. Go back a minimum of 10 years if possible.
2) Review all your income and expenses. Make a budget to determine your monthly surplus or shortage. Do not include payments on any debts that are not secured (e.g. house, car, furniture, etc.).
3) Review your assets. Figure out how much equity you have in your home, vehicle, etc. Do you own property other than a homestead property? Do you have any financial accounts like stocks, bonds, or money market accounts? Make a comprehensive list for yourself and your attorney.
4) Review your secured debts. You will have to decide if you can afford to keep the vehicle you currently have or do you need to get into a less expensive note? This is just one example of your options before filing bankruptcy.
5) Gather your financial documents. Paycheck stubs, tax returns, bank statements, etc., all of these will be important if you decide to file bankruptcy.

DON’T:
1) Sell or Transfer any property. If you own any land, financial assets, business interests or other types of valuable property, do not sell or transfer anything to a third party prior to discussing your bankruptcy options with an attorney.
2) Incur additional debt. Do not use your credit cards or incur additional credit if you are on the brink of insolvency. It may likely be considered fraud and not dischargeable in a bankruptcy proceeding.
3) Ignore lawsuits or judgments. These will not disappear and if you wait too long to deal with them, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a notice from your bank that your bank accounts have been frozen pursuant to a court order.
4) Do not take funds from your retirement account. Most of these accounts are protected in bankruptcy from your creditors and the court will allow you to keep them.

These are just a few examples of things to consider if you are contemplating filing for bankruptcy. Come see us today to get the answers to all your questions and keep from taking any missteps that may affect your ability to file that bankruptcy case you and your family may need to file.

JAMES M. BRIDGE JOINS BAILEY & GALYEN AS CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – APRIL 27, 2018 – The law firm of Bailey & Galyen is pleased to announce that James M. Bridge has rejoined the firm as Chief Operating Officer. Mr. Bridge was previously with Bailey & Galyen from 1998 to 2002, and considers his return a welcome homecoming. He comes to Bailey & Galyen from the firm of Loncar Associates, where he managed various offices, most recently in Tarrant County. James brings a wealth of experience in injury cases, both big and small, as well as unprecedented skill in law office management.

Mr. Bridge is excited to contribute his talents to Bailey & Galyen. He intends to concentrate his efforts on improving efficiencies and exploring opportunities for the firm to grow. He also plans to increase the involvement of the firm and its attorneys in local community activities and other marketing endeavors. Long a rising star in the Texas legal community, Mr. Bridge’s experience and proven track record are a perfect fit for the responsibilities and demands required of the Chief Operating Officer at Bailey & Galyen.

Mr. Bridge is a graduate of Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, and has been practicing personal injury law for two decades. During that time, he has settled cases totaling in excess of $50 million in net fees settled. He is also a certified mediator. He and his wife, Lori, have lived in Fort Worth since 1990.

ABOUT BAILEY & GALYEN
With more than 40 attorneys, Bailey & Galyen is one of the largest consumer law practices in Texas. The firm has neighborhood offices throughout Texas, including Bedford, Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Carrollton, Weatherford, and Houston, as well as an office in San Francisco, California. The firm’s areas of practice include criminal defense, family law, immigration, and personal injury. Further information about Bailey & Galyen can be found at thetexasattorney.com.

Contact:
James Bridge
jbridge@galyen.com

Third Party Workplace Injury Claims

Third Party Workplace Injury ClaimsWhen you’ve been injured in an accident at work in Texas, you have the right to seek benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation program. But that may not be your only recourse. Here’s how it works.

The workers’ compensation laws were set up as part of what’s often referred to as the “great bargain,” designed to provide benefits to both workers and employers. For workers, the workers’ compensation system allows you to recover benefits without a lot of the hassle and expense of filing a lawsuit. You may have to take your claim to a referee or workers’ compensation judge, but the process customarily takes a lot less time. If your claim is initially approved, you can be receiving benefits within a number of weeks. Compare that with a civil suit for damages, where it can take six months or more just to complete discovery and another year or more before you go to trial… and you won’t receive a single penny until the lawsuit has run its course, including appeals.

For employers, there’s also a benefit—you don’t have to worry about a sympathetic jury returning an exorbitant jury award to an injured employee. The workers’ compensation system has fixed benefits, based on the worker’s wages and degree of disability.

Workers’ compensations was designed to be the exclusive remedy for an injured worker for losses caused by the negligence of an employer or co-employee. In most instances, it is the only avenue of recourse. However, if the injuries suffered were caused, in whole or in part, by an unrelated third party, an injured person may seek damages from that third party in a separate lawsuit in civil court, in a proceeding unrelated to the workers’ compensation claim.

Accordingly, if your injuries were the result of negligence by someone other than your employer or a co-worker, you can file a lawsuit. In fact, if your employer or a co-employee was partially liable and a third party also had some liability, you can simultaneously file a workers’ compensation claim and a civil suit.

Examples of injuries for which you could file a third-party claim include:

  • Injuries suffered in a work-related motor vehicle accident, where the at-fault driver was neither your employer nor a co-employee
  • Injuries caused by the negligent design or manufacture of a product, tool, machine or device
  • Injuries caused by workers or conditions on property adjacent to that of your employer

It’s important to understand, though, that when you file a third party lawsuit, there are potential benefits and consequences. You won’t be limited to a fixed amount of damages, but you’ll also have to wait a long time before you see any compensation.

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.

Tips for Reporting a Workplace Injury, No Matter How Minor

Workers’ Compensation InjuryAlways, always report any injury you sustain on the job—no matter how minor! A lot of people think, “Let me see if it will get better.” This is a bad idea. I had a client get scratched on the job, and he thought nothing of it. Weeks later, he was in the hospital with an uncontrollable infection that required amputation of the affected body part!

By law, you have 30 days to report a work-related injury to your employer from the date that you realized you sustained the injury, so the sooner you report your injury the better. If you wait too long, one of the first issues to arise will be, “What took you so long to report it?” If you fail to report your injury to your employer within 30 days of knowing about it, your worker’s comp claim will be barred. At that point, there is nothing an attorney can do to help you.

How do you go about reporting your injury? You must report it to someone who is higher up than you—not a co-worker at your same level. It must be a foreman, boss, supervisor, or HR representative. Keep proof of when, and to whom, you report the injury. If you make your report verbally, you risk having the employer come back later and say, “Nope, you never told me about it.” Then, without proof, it becomes a spitting contest as to who said what to whom.

Here are some ways to report your workplace injury, no matter how minor:
– Notify your employer in writing, in a way that provides you with proof of notification, such as fax, email, or any kind of mail service with delivery confirmation.
– Notify your employer in person, but make sure other people are present to “witness” it.
– If your injury requires a doctor’s visit, bring the doctor’s note to your employer, using one of the above methods to ensure you have proof of delivery and notification.

When you provide notice of your injury, you must clearly indicate that it was sustained on the job. It’s not sufficient to state, “My back hurt this morning, so I am going to see the doctor,” or call in sick the next day. Your notice must specifically state what happened, and when, where, and how it happened. Never assume your employer will or should know what you mean. You must spell everything out.

These are just a few things to follow to be sure you effectively notify your employer of any workplace injury. If you have questions, keep us in mind, as we are always here to help!

Immigration and Public Benefits: Facts, Fiction, and Current Proposals

Immigration LawA leaked draft executive order dramatically changes policies and practices long held by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State relating to admission of immigrants into the United States, grants of lawful permanent resident status to foreign nationals, and removal of out-of-status immigrants and persons in the country unlawfully. The draft order permits officers to scrutinize more closely any taxpayer-funded public benefits received by an intending immigrant—as well as those received by the immigrant’s U.S.-citizen children—when determining eligibility for immigration benefits or deciding whether to initiate removal proceedings.

Undocumented immigrants have never been eligible for public benefits. However, until 1996, lawful permanent residents were eligible for public benefits on the same terms as U.S. citizens. In 1996, the Clinton administration barred lawful permanent residents who have been in the U.S. fewer than five years from means-tested benefit programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). The 1996 law also created the “public charge” ground as a basis to deny admission to the U.S. or lawful permanent resident status for those considered to be primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) also contains a provision allowing for removal of any lawful permanent resident who becomes a public charge within the first five years of obtaining permanent resident status. Under the INA, a “public charge” is limited to those who receive cash welfare benefits or long-term, government-funded institutional care. The INA further requires each person petitioning for permanent resident status to have a sponsor sign an Affidavit of Support. The Affidavit serves as proof of the sponsor’s ability to financially support the petitioner so that he or she will not use public benefits. If the immigrant ever does receive public benefits, the government may seek reimbursement from the sponsor; however, actually obtaining reimbursement from the sponsor is rare due to the cost of enforcement.

The current guidelines regarding public charges specifically bar officers from taking into consideration an intending immigrant’s receipt of non-cash benefits when determining whether to admit an immigrant to the U.S., grant lawful permanent resident status, or initiate removal proceedings. The draft executive order reflects a huge departure by allowing officers to look at an immigrant’s receipt of any public benefit, including benefits received by the immigrant’s children, such as government-funded Head Start. The draft order also limits intending immigrants’ ability to file for child tax credits, even if the immigrant has a valid social security number and pays taxes. Though only in draft form now, the order has scared many intending immigrants, and advocates predict that many will take their children out of school programs and health and nutritional programs, thereby creating public health risks.

The Department of State has already revised its instructions to allow officials abroad to consider non-cash benefits received by an intending immigrant, his or her family members, or even his or her sponsor, when determining whether or not to admit the immigrant into the U.S.

It is important to note that under federal law, certain immigrants are not subject to the public charge determination, and this cannot be changed by regulation or executive order. Those not subject include immigrants granted asylum; those granted protection as victims of trafficking, domestic violence, or other crimes perpetrated in the United States; and those granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Also, lawful permanent residents applying to become U.S. citizens cannot be denied citizenship based on public-charge grounds.

There may be hope for certain immigrants subject to the public charge determination. The intending immigrant may use positive factors to tip the decision in his or her favor and prove that he or she will not use public benefits in the future. Factors that may be considered are current income, age, health, family members’ incomes, education, and employment opportunities.

First Offender Programs in Texas

First Offender Programs in TexasWe all make mistakes—unfortunately, for some of us, those mistakes can have legal consequences. While the aftermath of a criminal arrest can be traumatic, the existence of a number of first offender programs in Texas can give you the opportunity for a second chance.

The Function and Purpose of a First Offender Program

A first-time offender program is one that includes a rehabilitative component, allowing the defendant to escape the full penalty or consequences of a conviction or plea. As a general rule, a first-time offender program includes mandatory participation in certain types of counseling or training. Depending on the nature of the offense, the defendant may be required to submit to certain types of treatment and may have a mandatory period of probation. It’s also customary not to enter the probation into the official record, provided the defendant meets all the terms.

The Texas First Offender Programs

Texas offers a number of first-time offender, or diversionary, programs:

  • There are first offender drug programs, usually available to first-time drug offenders who have no other pending prosecutions.
  • Some counties offer mental health diversionary programs—These options, such as the Denton Mental Health Treatment Court, give offenders with mental illness the opportunity to remove charges and convictions from their records
  • There are also general first-time pre-trial diversion programs

Though it’s not specifically a “program,” HB 3016, recently enacted by the Texas Senate, gives convicted persons in Texas the right not to disclose a conviction when applying for a job. Basically a “second chance” act, it applies only to individuals convicted of low-level, non-violent offenses.

Expunging a Conviction under HB 3016

If you are looking for a second chance under the new Texas law, you’ll need to file a petition for expunction with one of the Texas civil courts. The process can be complicated, so it’s important that you have an experienced attorney to protect your rights. You can also anticipate that the prosecutor may show up at your expunction hearing and may bring law enforcement officers, in an attempt to refute your request.

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.

If You Think It Is Expensive to Hire a Professional to Do a Job, Wait Until You Hire an Amateur

Family LawLike everyone else, I have to be careful with my money, and, whenever possible, I try to do a job myself rather than hire a professional. There are plenty of outlets to help you do it yourself in order to save a buck, including TurboTax, Home Depot, and various YouTube channels. This now applies even to legal matters. Plenty of people download forms from Intuit and other sites in order to make a will or lease property.

A few years ago, the Texas Supreme Court decided to provide forms that would allow people to handle their own divorce. The goal was laudable. Many people don’t have discretionary income to spend on a lawyer but make too much to qualify for legal aid. The forms provided are intended to be used by couples who don’t have a marital estate, property, or minor children. However, the implementation of this program has been nothing short of nightmarish. I don’t believe anyone other than a trained legal professional is capable of using these forms correctly. Even for legal professionals, the forms are confusing. Moreover, numerous people with minor children, or a marital estate, or other property try to use the forms.

Ask any attorney who practices family law, and they are likely to have plenty of horror stories about people who used the forms incorrectly, with devastating results. One woman came to me because she was trying to get her share of her ex-husband’s retirement account, and the retirement administrator told her she would need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). She had done the divorce herself using the forms published by the Texas Supreme Court. Their children were all grown. They didn’t have any property other than personal items (or so she thought). So why not use the forms? It turns out she did not award the retirement account to herself in the divorce decree. Thus, a QDRO was not possible. Yes, she probably saved a few thousand dollars on the divorce, but she lost several thousand dollars and a lifetime of income by doing it incorrectly.

In another instance, a woman had a sexual encounter with someone other than her husband during the course of her marriage and wound up pregnant as a result. Genetics being what they are, in time it became apparent that the child was not “of the marriage,” and the couple divorced. Once again, in order to save money, the couple handled her own divorce. Neither she, nor her husband, hired an attorney. They completed the forms incorrectly, and now, because of that, the husband is the legal father of the child. Eventually, the Office of the Attorney General, Child Support Division, intervened because the woman could not afford insurance for the child and applied for Medicaid. Following standard procedure in such cases, the Attorney General filed suit against the former husband to have him pay child support and provide medical coverage for the child. The ex-husband protested that he wasn’t the father of the child; nevertheless, the court ordered him to pay child support for several years. The couple attempted to have the biological father named as the child’s legal father, but the time allowed for doing so had run out. The entire mess resulted from the fact that the couple used free forms to get divorced so they could save a little money.

These are only two examples among many. If you think it is expensive to hire a professional to do a job, wait until you hire an amateur. If you find yourself in need of a divorce, child support, or a will, call one of the professionals at Bailey & Galyen.

OWNERSHIP?

FOCUS ON OWNERSHIP: You can’t give away or sell what you don’t own!

Estate PlanningProperty rights are important under the law. Often, clients fail to consider the important question, “Who owns the property?” Ownership is not the same thing as possession. You can occupy a seat at a ballgame or concert as a licensee for the period of that event, but you don’t own the seat. You might rent a room or a house or 1,000 acres, but that does not mean that you own it.

When Dad dies, clients typically assume that Mom owns their property once Dad’s name is removed from the statements of the appraisal district, insurance company, and mortgage company. Mom may discover that assumption to be wrong when she tries to sell the property, borrow money for home improvements, or get a reverse mortgage. She also might be contacted by Dad’s children from a previous marriage about their ownership interest in the property. Sometimes, Mom dies without ever learning that half her property is titled in the name of Dad’s long-dead ex-wife. This is an unpleasant surprise for the next generation and adds time and expense to clearing title and wrapping up the estate.

The law also provides for many and varied interests in property that do not involve outright ownership. For example, a surviving husband might know his deceased wife held oil and gas interests. After researching the matter, though, he might discover his wife did not own those interests entirely but instead held a life estate in them. In such a case, upon the wife’s death, the oil and gas interests pass to the person holding the remainder of the estate, regardless of the wife’s wishes or her family’s understanding of her ownership of those interests.

If you need estate planning, or advice about probate, give us a call.

Does lighting strike twice? – Timelines for filing a new bankruptcy case.

Bankruptcy LawIf you have filed bankruptcy in the past and you find yourself in a position where you need to file again, you need expert legal advice to make sure you get it right. Job loss, divorce, medical emergencies, business closing, or other unexpected situations can all come together in a perfect storm to necessitate a new bankruptcy filing. Are you able to file bankruptcy again? The answer is usually “Yes” but you have to be careful to get the timing of your case right if your goal is to receive a new discharge on your outstanding debt. Below is a brief outline of the filing time periods between cases filed to receive a discharge in the subsequent bankruptcy filing:

PREVIOUS CASE DISCHARGE* NEW CASE REQUIREMENTS
Chapter 7 Discharge Chapter 7 8 Years
Chapter 7 Discharge Chapter 13 4 Years
Chapter 13 Discharge Chapter 13 2 Years
Chapter 13 Discharge Chapter 7 6 Years – Unless you paid all your unsecured creditors in full in the Ch. 13 or you paid at least 70% of the claims filed in your case and you proposed your case in good faith and it was your best effort

*If your case has been dismissed and not discharged, then the filing time requirements do not apply; However, you may still be subject to additional filing requirements.

Even if you filed a previous case and received a discharge, either a Chapter 7 or a 13, you may still want to file a new Chapter 13 to protect you from foreclosure, vehicle repossession or tax garnishment if you find yourself in any of these circumstances. You may not receive a discharge but you can protect your property and pay back these debts on your own terms. Remember, your choice in attorney matters and you need an experienced bankruptcy attorney to review your case. Contact our office today for a free consultation to see if a new case is right for you.

Hearing Wait Time Decreases, but Overall Processing Time Continues to Rise at the Social Security Administration

Social Security Hearing TimesAs is often the case with Social Security, good news usually is followed by bad news. First, the good news: the number of cases awaiting Social Security hearings continues to drop. The bad news: the average time it takes for a claimant to receive a decision on a disability application continues to grow. As of March, the backlog of claims awaiting a hearing dropped below 1 million. The last time there were fewer than a million claims pending was November 2014.

The backlog decrease is largely due to declining numbers of hearing requests. So far in Fiscal Year 2018, there have been an average of 2,343 Social Security hearing requests each business day. That’s 141 fewer requests per day than 2017. The total number of hearing requests so far this year is 9.6% lower than at the same time last year.

The productivity of administrative law judges also has increased slightly, from 1.92 decisions per ALJ per work day in Fiscal Year 2017 to 1.97 decisions so far this year. In addition, Social Security has added 42 additional judges since the beginning of the year. Each judge receives 1.59 hearing requests per day and renders 1.97 decisions per day, resulting in a net reduction in the number of people waiting for a Social Security decision. However, as of February 2018, the average claim-processing time, from initial application to final decision, remains high at 607 days.

The increased processing time is primarily caused by a continued staffing deficit in decision-writing positions at Social Security. Social Security has tried pulling workers from other roles into decision writing, but that has caused slowdowns in other areas. The Social Security Administration continues to pay staff overtime in an effort to bring down the backlog, but overtime hours for the first five months of 2018 were down approximately 27.3% compared to last year. The $100 million in funds that Congress recently designated for backlog reduction may allow for increased overtime hours, but Social Security has not yet finalized its plan for spending the money.

Now more than ever, it is crucial that you have an attorney on your side when applying for disability. A hardworking, experienced attorney can help you avoid costly delays and even expedite your application if you meet certain criteria. If you are hurt, injured, or otherwise impaired, and you find yourself unable to work, contact Bailey & Galyen for a free case evaluation.

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.

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