We know you have questions. We have your answers.
*These responses cover most but not every scenario. If you have additional questions or want to discuss your individual case, feel free to contact Curry, Pearson & Wooten P.L.C. We are here to help you.
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I’m a 68-year-old retiree with significant debt—can I file for bankruptcy even though I have a decent amount in my retirement accounts?
Today’s seniors and retirees are facing an increasing amount of financial pressure, especially considering the current state of Social Security. For many, the imagined stigma of filing for bankruptcy to escape debt is unbearable, so many continue to chip away at their savings that took a lifetime to build.
A common fear among retirees considering bankruptcy is whether they will be forced to liquidate their retirement savings, leaving them with nothing when their case is over. Fortunately, this fear is mostly unfounded—thanks to bankruptcy law overhauls in 2005, retirement accounts and income are mostly exempt under both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, including:
- Social Security income
- IRA accounts up to $1,245,475
- Profit-sharing plans
Filing for bankruptcy does consider your retirement benefits paid as income, but in general, your retirement assets are protected under bankruptcy law. You cannot be deprived of retirement income that is used for your basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter, but amounts beyond that can be taken to repay your debt in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you choose a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, this income amount will be used to determine your repayment schedule.
As is the case with most bankruptcies, credit takes a significant hit after filing for bankruptcy. For many seniors in financial trouble, however, this is the lesser of two evils. Emerging debt-free (with the exception of federal tax debt and select other debt) from a bankruptcy may be considered preferable to leaving loved ones with leftover debt, and credit can easily be rebuilt over time with careful spending and credit use.
While bankruptcy may not be the right solution to for every retiree in debt, it can also be an extraordinarily helpful financial tool. To learn more about how filing for bankruptcy will affect you, speak to our Phoenix bankruptcy attorneys today.
I am facing DUI charges, and I am the first to admit that I drove drunk. Is it even worth hiring a DUI attorney?
When it comes to DUI arrests, there is no one “type” of person that gets caught driving drunk. From college students to business professionals, making one poor decision can lead to a lifetime of regret, shame, and guilt. Many people want to face the music and admit their mistake in an effort to take responsibility and move forward, and may consider skipping out on a DUI defense attorney altogether.
The problem with this mentality is that in the criminal justice system, there are many influencing factors behind every sentence. In DUI cases, there is usually an incredible amount of evidence that passes through a long chain of custody under the strictest protocol—any mishaps could drastically change the outcome of your case. When it comes to possible jail time and a criminal record, it is important that you are represented by an experienced, aggressive DUI defense attorney that knows how to use the law to protect your rights.
Hiring a defense attorney does not mean that you are trying to “get away with something” or deny your wrongdoing—it simply means that you are taking measures to protect yourself and ensure that your rights are upheld in court. While you made a serious mistake, you still deserve fair representation in front of a judge.
In a state that treats DUI charges very seriously, you are defending more than your record and wallet—you are defending your future. At Curry, Pearson & Wooten, our DUI defense attorneys have successfully represented clients throughout the state, and can help ensure that you are not on the receiving end of an unjust sentence. If you still have questions, contact our firm today to learn what we can do for you.
One of my friends recently fell out of a golf cart in Old Town Scottsdale and suffered minor injuries—who is responsible for her medical bills?
On any given night—and especially on weekends and during big events—you will see pedicabs and golf carts shuttling merrymakers and tourists from place to place. Drivers typically operate for tips only, driving patrons from bar to bar or even home, so these fun substitutes for taxis have become a popular DUI deterrent in places like Old Town Scottsdale, Glendale, and Tempe.
While pedicabs have only recently been regulated throughout the Valley, golf carts for hire have always been held to certain standards in order to be street legal. These regulations include mandated lights, front seat belts, regular MVD inspections, and liability insurance. Golf carts are also prohibited from driving down roads with posted speed limits over 35 mph. Drivers are not able to load the golf cart over capacity, and must comply with all traffic rules.
Of course, while accidents involving these golf carts are rare, they do occur. It is not unusual to see a cart stuffed beyond capacity, with people standing or sitting on other passengers’ laps as they shuttle around town. Many carts may bend the rules of the road a bit to avoid being caught in a tangle of cars and taxis, and while local police are in charge of enforcing the rules governing these carts, it can be difficult to stay on top of every cart that is operating.
When accidents like your friend’s occur, it is most likely that the company or individual that owns the cart will cover medical costs through their own liability insurance. Your friend will submit a claim to the golf cart operator’s insurance company, and with the insurance companies of any other negligent drivers that may have been involved in her accident. For more information, feel free to contact our firm by filling out our online contact form or by calling our downtown Phoenix office.
My wife and I are getting divorced, and I am concerned about a fair custody agreement—do courts usually favor the mother?
In the last century, courts and judges have often given mothers unquestioned full custody and left fathers in the dust when it comes to custodial arrangements. These cases were based on antiquated psychological studies that led to a legal presumption known as the tender years presumption. This legal mindset—backed by science at the time—assumed that children under the age of sixteen would be harmed if they were taken away from their mother’s care.
Of course since then, science has concluded that children benefit most from equal contact and relationships with both parents. Arizona is one of the few states that has custody laws that support that theory, so your odds at being granted equal custody are good if it is in the best interests of your child. While reaching a co-parenting agreement with your ex-spouse can be challenging at first, in the end, everyone benefits—especially your child.
Another antiquated notion that is fortunately being abandoned over time is that a child’s father should bear the brunt of financial support, both spousal and child. Courts now place a higher priority on ensuring that both parents share the financial burdens fairly.
Seeking Joint Custody? Avoid Court and Reach an Agreement With a Mediator
With the shift toward co-parenting, the methods used to reach these agreements has also shifted. Unlike sole custody, both parties are looking to benefit, so going straight to court can automatically put an air of aggression over the proceedings. Discussing a joint custody and co-parenting agreement can often be solved amicably with a mediator outside of court, which can help your custody agreement get started on the right foot.
For help and advice regarding your child custody matters, our Phoenix family law attorneys can help ensure that your role in your child’s life remains equal and active—contact us today for a free consultation.
My daughter has said that she does not want to live with me, but she is very young and has been confused by the divorce process—will I lose all custody of her because of this?
The weight a court places on a child’s custody wishes depends on several factors, but usually, your child’s wishes will not make or break your bid for custody.
When courts consider custody, there are two primary factors that are considered before all the rest. First, the child’s adjustment to their home and school life is examined. For very young children, moving to a new school district may not impact their lives much at all. New friends can be made, and scholastically, younger children have an easier time adjusting to new teachers and activities. Older children may be more established in sports, extracurriculars, and social circles, so a custody arrangement may be carefully designed to accommodate their life.
The other primary factor considered when determining custody is a child’s own needs. Many children require regular doctor visits or other medical appointments, so a custodial agreement will need to be reached that accommodates those needs, including special care for disabilities or other special needs.
Your concern about your daughter’s wishes is valid, but it is not likely to ruin your chances at a fair custody arrangement. Her age and maturity will be considered, and typically, very young children are not able to make informed decisions on such important matters. Some exceptions where a child’s wants are more heavily weighted involve matters of domestic violence and other criminal record issues.
For more information about child custody matters in Arizona, contact our Phoenix family law attorneys today by filling out our online contact form or calling our downtown office.
What can my creditors repossess if I default on my loans?
When you start to fall behind in your loan payments, it is a slippery slope. When finances are tight, it can be very difficult to regain your footing in your payment schedule. Many people fear losing all of their belongings when creditors come to repossess your property to recoup their losses on their loan, but fortunately, there are very strict rules in place for what creditors can and cannot take.
Safe From Creditors: Your Items That Cannot Be Repossessed
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to repossession is that creditors cannot take what has not been expressly named as collateral in your loan agreement. Many people confuse repossession with bankruptcy, assuming that they have to give up anything to settle their debts with creditors.
Fortunately, this is far from the truth. Even if you have multiple loans with the same bank—say you have both of your cars and your home financed through Bank of America—the bank could only repossess the collateral for the specific loan you defaulted on. So, should you default on the loan for your second car, the bank can only repossess that car; your first car and home are immune unless you default on those loans.
Another common misconception is that your credit card company could repossess items that you bought with your credit card. Credit card debt is unsecured, which means it is not attached to collateral.
What Is at Risk for Repossession
You probably sense the trend—anything named as collateral for a loan can be repossessed if you default on that particular loan. These loans commonly involve mortgages, car loans, and car title loans; this means that cars and homes are often repossessed to recover the lender’s losses on the loan.
While defaulting on loans is not a sure-fire sign that you should file for bankruptcy, it is often a red flag for the financial conditions that may lead you into further trouble. Many times, filing for bankruptcy can help alleviate your overwhelming debt. For more information about what bankruptcy could do for you, contact our firm today for a free consultation.
If I am ever involved in an accident on my bicycle, how will the insurance company handle it?
Accidents and near-misses involving bicycles in the Valley are becoming fairly common occurrences as more people turn to two-wheeled transportation to get them from place to place. Especially in cities like Tempe, which is home to tens of thousands of students, there has been a concerted effort to make the streets bike-friendly, which typically means adding bike lanes. While this has made biking more appealing to many, increased numbers of bicycles on the road has also led to more accidents.
After you are injured on a bicycle, the circumstances of your accident will determine how damages will be paid. One of the more common scenarios in a car/bike accident is that the driver of the car will be found primarily at fault. In this situation, just as in a car accident, the driver’s auto insurance should pay your medical bills and other damages.
In the matter of a hit-and-run or uninsured driver, your own auto insurance may cover your damages under its uninsured/underinsured coverage, even though you were not driving a vehicle at the time.
In an accident on your bicycle that was your own fault, your own injuries will need to be covered by your own health insurance. As far as damage to the other driver’s car, you will need to check your homeowner or renter’s insurance along with your auto insurance to see if there is coverage included for accidents you cause with your own property.
Bicycle accidents can be tricky as far as insurance goes, but unless you have waived your policy down to the bare minimum, there is likely a small amount set aside—albeit with a decent-sized deductible—to cover damages incurred in bicycle accidents in which you are at fault.
If you have been seriously hurt in an accident on your bicycle and another driver was to blame, you deserve compensation for your injuries. To ensure that you receive maximum compensation for your claim, contact the Phoenix personal injury attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten today.
Should I talk to the other driver’s insurance company after an accident?
As personal injury attorneys, we often find ourselves advising potential clients to be very wary of insurance companies. The truth is, most insurance companies are not “bad guys,” per se, but their job is to ensure that they do not overpay you for your claim. This means that they will be doing their research on your case, and if you hand over the wrong information, it could spell the end for your case.
The first thing the other insurance company will do is try to get you to make a recorded statement for their records. While this is fairly standard practice, if your accident involved an injury or significant property damages, it may be best to consult with an attorney beforehand. Many people will often reflexively admit that they were driving a few miles over the speed limit or were momentarily distracted, which the insurance company can then use to increase your liability in the case.
Another common thing for insurance adjusters to request is that you either send copies of your medical records. While you will eventually need to show the records associated with your accident, many times they may have you sign a medical release form that will give them access to your entire medical history—which could allow them to find preexisting conditions or previous injuries that they could link to your current injuries.
These two examples are not anything sneaky or underhanded that insurance companies try to trick you with—they are simply standard requests that can often damage your case. If your accident resulted in injuries, hiring a personal injury attorney can help ensure that you do not hurt your ability to collect full damages. For more information, contact the Phoenix personal injury attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten today.
How do the insurance companies assign a value to my injuries?
If you have ever been in an accident, you know how frustrating it can be to go back and forth with the insurance companies and their adjusters over your damages. In minor accidents that only involve property damage, the process typically involves your repair bills being forwarded to the insurance company. The auto body shop charges for labor and parts, and that is what is covered. You may have a slight out-of-pocket expense, but these cases are usually straightforward.
When injuries are factored into an accident, the claims process becomes much more complicated. With injuries to people, the process is not as simple as a damaged car—there is no set market price for repairing a broken femur. Remember, with a personal injury claim, the following damages are considered:
- Medical expenses
- Property Damage
- Lost income related to injuries
- Temporary or permanent disability
- Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering
Of that list, property damages and medical expenses are the only damages that may have clear monetary value. For other damages, the insurance company has specific equations to get a “ball park” of what a reasonable settlement should be. Typically, the adjust will add up all medical expenses, and depending on the severity of the injuries, multiply that figure as much as 10 times. This is how “pain and suffering” and other non-economic damages can be estimated.
After reaching a figure, lost wages and future potential earnings are also calculated and added to the amount. After a final amount is determined, adjustments will be made to accommodate for any comparative negligence on your behalf. Arizona practices pure comparative negligence, meaning that if you were 25% at fault for your accident, you will only receive 75% of the amount the insurance company agrees on.
In order to ensure that you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries, it always helps to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side—contact us today for a free consultation to learn how we can strengthen your case.
Can I still receive compensation for my injuries after an accident if I was partially at fault?
While personal injury law typically talks about accidents being someone else’s fault entirely, in reality, many accidents are caused by a number of factors. Maybe one driver was going a bit too fast, and another driver turned left when they should have stayed put—crash! While the accident was mostly the fault of the left turner, the speed racer would have either lessened the impact or avoided it altogether if he or she was going the speed limit.
In this situation, how would damages pay out? Both drivers played a part in the accident, so it hardly makes sense to award the full amount to either one.
Arizona’s Pure Comparative Negligence Laws Say YES, You Can Receive Compensation
Arizona is one of the few states in the country that follows the pure comparative negligence system. This means that a judge will assign a percentage of the fault to each party involved in an accident, and the damages will be awarded according to the percentage of fault. In the above situation, let’s say that it was determined that the speeder was 30% responsible for the accident, while the left turner was 70%. A judge rules that the damages total $100,000, so the speeder will receive $70,000 in damages.
Most states follow modified comparative negligence laws have rules that say if you contributed more than 49% or 50% to your accident (12 states have a 50% cap and 21 states follow a 51% cap) you cannot collect damages, otherwise damages are awarded similarly. Only a small handful of states practice what is called contributory negligence law, which does not allow an injured party to collect damages if they contributed to the accident in any way.
If you were injured in an accident and were partially at fault, a personal injury attorney can help ensure that you are awarded a fair amount. For more information, feel free to contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an attorney.