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Homicide under the Federal Law

The United States Code has several different homicide crimes.  18 U.S.C. §1111 defines the first homicide crime, murder, as the unlawful killing of a human being with “malice aforethought”. Every murder committed by poisoning, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful and premeditated killing, or committed while in the process of committing another felony is murder in the first degree. Any other murder is murder in the second degree.
The term “malice aforethought” is not used to mean hatred of the victim.  Rather it is used to mean that the person who committed the homicide did because he desired the person to die, or was indifferent to whether the person lived or died.  Malice as used in the federal murder statute is when the defendant intends to kill the person he or she is charged with killing, or if he or she intended to cause the victim serious bodily injury but the victim died. It is also when the person does not care whether the victim lives or dies.
18 U.S.C. §1112 defines manslaughter as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.  Manslaughter is divided into two types.  The first type of manslaughter is voluntary manslaughter.  Voluntary manslaughter is defined as manslaughter taking place in a sudden quarrel, or in the heat of passion.  Involuntary manslaughter is defined as in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or in the commission in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection, of a lawful act which might produce death.
Murder in the first degree is punishable by death or life imprisonment in a federal prison.  Murder in the second degree is punishable by up to life imprisonment in a federal prison.  Attempt to commit murder under 18 U.S.C. §1113 is punishable by up to twenty years in federal prison.  Attempt to commit manslaughter is punishable by up to seven years in federal prison.
The homicide crimes are mostly handled in state courts, but in some situations, murder or manslaughter is a federal crime.  It will be a federal crime when a killing is related to drug trafficking, when the incident crosses state borders, or when the killing is considered an attack on the United States government or judicial system.  The murder of a federal judge or federal law enforcement officer is a federal crime, as is the killing of immediate family members of federal law enforcement officials.  A killing committed during a bank robbery is a federal crime, as is a murder related to rape, child molestation, and sexual exploitation of a child is considered a federal crime.
Murder is obviously a very serious criminal charge.  You need a qualified and experienced federal criminal lawyer Arlington TX trusts on your side.  Before you talk to the police, call a federal criminal defense who attorney that can advise you. Having an attorney from the very beginning of your case can help greatly.
BrandyAustinThanks to our friends and contributors from Brandy Austin Law Firm, P.C. for their insight into criminal defense practice.

Can You Sue a Store for Selling Expired Food?

Have you ever bought an expired food item from the supermarket? When you are in a hurry, you might not check the label on a food product. Unfortunately, after consuming expired food, you might experience minor or severe side effects. If this happens, you might wonder about your rights and if you have legal recourse.
Can Stores Sell Expired Food?
  • The federal government does not require expiration labels on food products.
  • With the exception of baby food and baby formula, food products can be sold after the expiration date.
  • State governments can create their own regulations.
  • In the past, states have sued major retailers for selling expired food. The state can file a class action lawsuit against a food manufacturer.
What is the Purpose of a Food Expiration Date?
  • The expiration date is an estimate of the item’s freshness.
  • The expiration label does not determine the safety of the food items.
  • Usually, some food items are safe to eat a few days after the expiration date. If you do not want to take the risk, you may want to avoid expired foods altogether.
How to Deal With Expired Products
  • If you accidentally purchase an expired food item, you should consider returning the item to the store.
  • Do not eat expired food. The store should give you a refund or an exchange if you purchased the food after the expiration date. Contact the store manager and the corporate office if they refuse to reimburse you despite proof of receipt with the date of purchase. You can also contact the manufacturer.
  • Consider filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the FDA and the state attorney general that the store sold expired food, especially if it caused you sickness.
What if the Food Item Makes You Sick?
  • Sometimes, expired food products can make you sick. If the manufacturer or the retailer is responsible for your illness, you might be entitled to financial compensation.
  • Product liability laws hold distributors and manufacturers accountable for their faulty products, including expired food that causes illness.
The Burden of Proof
  • The outcome of a lawsuit will depend on the extent of your injuries.
  • To win your case, you will need to prove that the product caused your illness.
  • You must understand that the expiration date might not be enough to support your product liability lawsuit.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
  • An attorney will need to see your proof of injuries.
  • You might not win your case if your resulting illness is minor. For example, if you consumed spoiled milk which only gave you a stomach ache for a few hours.
  • The illness must have caused major side effects, and as a result negatively impacted your financial health. For instance, if you were admitted to the hospital for a few days, you might have cause for a lawsuit.
A Phoenix personal injury lawyer may be able to help you pursue legal action against the food distributor or the manufacturer. An experienced attorney can help you understand your local food safety laws. In addition, a lawyer can help you recover damages associated with a serious case of food poisoning or illness from expired product.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Lorona Mead LLP for their added insight into personal injury practice.

Can I Sue Someone Twice If My Personal Injury Turns out to Be More Serious?

Accidents happen at the most inconvenient times and strike without warning. While most accidents are not difficult to resolve, those involving serious injuries can take months or even years to complete. The following is a brief overview of how personal injury law may be able to help you seek monetary compensation for your accident related expenses and if you can sue the at-fault party more than once for your injuries.
Accident Types
Personal injury law covers a variety of accidents that lead to injury and mounting medical bills. The most common types of accidents leading to lawsuit filings in the U.S. are:
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Pedestrian incidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Bicycle crashes
  • Medical malpractice
  • Birth injuries
  • Dog attacks
  • Commercial vehicle incidents
  • Product liability cases
Accident Related Injuries
Accident related injuries can vary greatly, depending on the type of accident that occurred and the force of impact. The most commonly reported injuries in personal injury cases include:
  • Broken bones
  • Closed head injuries
  • Spinal cord fractures
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Paralysis
  • Compound fractures
  • Disfigurement
Proving Liability
The success of any personal injury case depends on the plaintiff’s ability to prove the at-fault party was negligent and caused the accident. Because this can be difficult in some cases, it is best to have an attorney working to protect your interests.
Can You Sue the Same Person Twice?
It is important to be as thorough as possible when you bring a lawsuit against someone who injured you. Be sure to provide a local or Las Vegas personal injury lawyer with your medical records, accident reports and receipts for out of pocket expenses at the time of filing. In most states, an injured person cannot sue the same defendant twice for the same accident so it is critical to get it right the first time.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
If you are considering bringing a lawsuit against someone, it is essential to hire a lawyer. While many people worry that they cannot afford legal counsel, most lawyers who practice personal injury law work on a contingency basis. This means you do not pay your lawyer unless you win a monetary settlement. The majority of lawyers provide the first consultation at no cost, so you have nothing to lose.
What Damages Might I Win?
Every case is different, but some of the most typical damages awarded in personal injury cases are:
  • Lost wages
  • Cost of medical care
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Therapy fees
  • Price of ongoing medical care
If you have been injured in an accident, it is important to speak with a lawyer to discuss your options. This is important even if you feel your injuries are not serious. It is better to be prepared in the event your condition worsens because you only get one chance to obtain a settlement.
Nadia Thanks to our friends and contributors from Nadia von Magdenko & Associates for their insight into personal injury cases.

Who is liable in an Uber accident?

Ride sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft have quickly risen as a staple of transportation in American cities. What was once an idea has now almost eclipsed the taxi industry and is only expected to grow in the coming years. However, Uber and Lyft are not taxi companies and do not have to follow the same regulations. This has begun to create a lot of confusion for customers of these companies, especially regarding what to do when your driver gets into an accident while you are in the car.

Uber and Lyft drivers are covered by insurance provided by the company, but only while they have a ride in progress. As a passenger of one of these cars, this means that the company insurance will be able to cover your injuries and medical expenses up to a certain amount. However, if the medical bills exceed the insurance coverage, things may grow more complicated. This insurance also does not cover the Uber and Lyft drivers while they are driving to pick up a passenger, meaning that the drivers are primarily using their own car insurance. To make things even more complex, most car insurance companies will only cover personal use of a car. So, for the majority of the time that an Uber or Lyft driver is on the road, they are driving in a grey area for insurance law.

Ride sharing companies argue that they merely provide the service of connecting willing drivers to customers in need or a ride. This is how they get around the established laws and regulations for cab companies. As Uber and Lyft are arguing that their drivers are independent contractors rather than employees, it can be very difficult to win a lawsuit against the company due to negligent driving on the part of a driver.

As the very existence of these companies is a relatively new phenomenon, there are not yet any clear answers as to who is liable when an Uber or Lyft driver gets into an accident and causes injuries or property damages. As the law is quickly growing to fill the confusing void that ride sharing has created, new regulations and rulings are bound to come. If you have been in an accident caused by an Uber or Lyft driver, the best thing to do will be contact an experienced and skilled personal injury attorney Atlanta GA relies on. Your attorney will know what the latest laws are, and will help you build the best case you can to make sure that your injuries are paid for, and you are taken care of.

logo.fw_Thanks to our friends and contributors from Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into uber accidents.

Independent Contractor Versus Employee: Personal Injury Law

The distinction between who is an employee and who is an independent contractor can be an important factor in a personal injury case. If you are injured by a person who was “on duty” or who was working for someone else at the time you were injured, you may have an additional cause of action against that person’s employer. As a personal injury lawyer Memphis, TN respects in the legal community, we can tell you that’s important because it represents another potential source of recovery for you.  Make sure you tell your lawyer if you think the person who injured you may have been “on the job” or working for someone else at the time of your accident.

The General Rule 

As a general matter, an employer is liable for the acts of his or her employees committed during the course and scope of their employment. On the other hand, while there are exceptions, a person employing an independent contractor to perform a job is usually not liable for the independent contractor’s negligent actions.

Factors Courts Consider 

Courts consider the following factors when deciding whether a work relationship is that of employer-employee or independent contractor:

(1) the right to control the conduct of the work,

(2) the right of termination,

(3) the method of payment,

(4) the freedom to select and hire helpers,

(5) the furnishing of tools and equipment,

(6) the self-scheduling of work hours, and

(7) the freedom to render services to other entities.

Independent Contractor Agreements

The existence of an “Independent Contractor Agreement” does not, in and of itself, mean that a Court will find that the relationship was that of an independent contractor as opposed to an employee/employer relationship.  Regardless of any agreement, the Court will look at all of the surrounding facts and the elements listed above before reaching its decision.

If you need help with your personal injury case, contact a top personal injury lawyer today.

WBThanks to our friends and contributors at Wiseman Bray PLLC who have significant experience fighting for injury victims in Tennessee.

Is the value of your case diminished if you weren’t wearing your seatbelt?

What happens if you were not wearing your seatbelt at the time of the crash?  Even if it was clearly not your fault, are you still allowed to recover the full amount of damages?

The answer is that it depends upon the state.  States vary widely on this issue, from the “seatbelt defense,” which allows Plaintiffs to recover the amount of money they would be able to recover if they were wearing their seatbelt, to the other end of the spectrum, where there is no reduction at all.  Steve Harrelson of the Harrelson Law Firm, provides an overview of this issue for the states in which he actively practices: Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas.

Damages for injured parties not wearing their seatbelt in Louisiana

Louisiana does require both the driver and all passengers to use seatbelts, and those who fail to do so can be fined. However, for anyone asserting a claim for injuries, medical expenses, or other damages arising out of a motor vehicle accident, the fact that the injured person may not have been using a seatbelt is usually not admissible in evidence in a civil suit in Louisiana. Louisiana actually has a statute directly on point, and Louisiana Revised Statute 32:295.1E provides as follows:

“In any action to recover damages arising out of the ownership, common maintenance, or operation of a motor vehicle, failure to wear a seatbelt in violation of this Section shall not be considered evidence of comparative negligence. Failure to wear a seatbelt in violation of this Section shall not be admitted to mitigate damages.”

All drivers and their passengers should wear seatbelts at any time they are in a vehicle. However, if you are injured in an accident in Louisiana and you were not using your seatbelt when the accident happened, your claim against the at-fault (negligent) driver and his or her insurance company will not be reduced in value

Damages for injured parties not wearing their seatbelt in Texas

Evidence that you were not wearing a seatbelt in Texas is admissible in court as an issue to reduce the value of the case by the issue of comparative fault.  This means that the jury can assess a percentage of fault to the Plaintiff if they believe that the Plaintiff’s lack of a seatbelt contributed to his or her own injuries.  Texas follows the 51% bar rule, which means that if the jury finds that the Plaintiff is 51% at fault for his or her own injuries, the Plaintiff takes nothing, even if he or she incurred $1 Million in medical bills as a result of the accident.

Damages for injured parties not wearing their seatbelt in Arkansas

Likewise in Arkansas, evidence of not wearing a seatbelt can be a factor utilized by the jury to assess the percentage of fault for the injured party contributing to their own injuries.

For these reasons, it is imperative to hire a veteran litigator and experienced Texarkana car accident attorney who has been involved in presenting car crash cases to juries for years.

SHThanks to Steve Harrelson from the Harrelson Law Firm, P.A. for his added insight into the connection of not wearing a seatbelt and the value of personal injury claims.

What If I am Partially at Fault?

All personal injury claims are evaluated to determine who contributed to the act that caused the injury in question, including the injured claimant. In fact, this is one of the first components of a claim in many states. In legal terminology, this is called comparative negligence. Each involved party is assigned a percentage after all material case facts are evaluated. This is especially important when claiming injuries due to an automobile accident, but personal assumption of risk may be applied in premises liability claims and other personal injury cases. All states use a particular form of comparative negligence doctrine, with four states and the District of Columbia using a pure contributory negligence standard, which bars any claimant from receiving damage recovery if they contribute to the cause of the injury in any manner. Generally, there are two types of comparative negligence.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Modified comparative negligence is based on the notion that accidents are often caused by several factors, including the actions of the injured party. Individuals who contribute over half of the causation of a personal injury are barred from eligibility to claim any personal injury damages in modified comparative negligence states. Some states set the percentage at 50%, while other states use 51 percent. The one percent difference can be important when two drivers are injured in an accident, and the court rules they equally shared 50% fault.

Pure Comparative Negligence

Some states have opted to use pure comparative negligence and no fault insurance law in an effort to both limit claims and better protect injured motorists. In no fault states, fault is not as much of an issue, because the injured party files first with their own insurance company. The injured claimant’s insurance company is responsible for paying medical bills, lost wages, and any pain and suffering damages that may apply. The value of a claim often rests on the seriousness of the injury in these states, and there are limitations on when a negligent driver can be sued. Some states use pure comparative negligence law, and maintain the principles of fault as a major controlling issue in any injury claim. However, in pure comparative negligence states, all injured drivers are allowed to recover damages discounted by the percentage of fault they are assigned in the accident. Only those who are totally at fault for an injury cannot receive any personal injury damages.

Who Decides Percentages

This determination is by no means a scientific process. Insurance companies often focus on comparative fault in injury claims, because it can potentially reduce their total payout. The negotiation of a settlement will often be based on an agreeable fault percentage by both parties. However, when a case goes to trial, the issue changes. The jury will be the decision-maker concerning fault, as well potential punitive damages, depending on material case factors. This usually happens when a plaintiff’s legal counsel thinks that they can prove gross negligence on the part of the respondent, and could request punitive damages from the jury. These are usually complete fault cases for the defendant, meaning that the fault assignment of the injured party could be zero.

All personal injury claims will include a consideration of fault among all parties. These percentages could all be under the 50% rule, which can also complicate a personal injury claim as well. It may be vital to have an experienced Phoenix AZ personal injury attorney handling any injury claim, because the defendants will always have an insurance company legal team working to lower the value of a claim. Your attorney is your personal negotiator who can ensure that all rights to recovery are enforced.

ASThanks to our friends and co-contributors from Alex & Saavedra, P.C. for their added insight into real estate law.

3 Key Questions to Ask in a Trucking Accident Case Deposition

Trucking accidents can be some of the worst crashes on the U.S. highway system, often resulting in seriously injured victims and even fatalities in far too many instances. Experienced trucking accident attorneys, like Wayne Cohen, usually inspect the involved vehicles as soon as possible for evidence they can use in the discovery process of an accident claim. This can help establish negligence on the part of the operators, as all attorneys understand that evidence can get lost or erode quickly following an accident. That is why it is so important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The official accident report can also provide some solid evidence that could be very helpful in establishing negligence as well, but probably the most important part of the evidence compilation is the actual deposition by the truck driver. There are some standard questions that are used to identify the age and experience of the truck driver, but there also are three vital questions that can shed a more detailed light on the actual level of negligence exhibited by the truck driver.

  1. What did you eat and drink in the 48-hour period immediately preceding the accident?

This may seem like a question that will reveal immaterial case information, but the trucker may not realize that the rig has been inspected by the deposing attorney. Many times a truck inspection can result in the collection of food wrappers and beverage cans that indicate what may or may not have been consumed in the time period prior to the accident, but if those beverage containers are for alcoholic products there may be problems for the driver. While it may be too late to secure blood testing results, even the perception that the driver may have been drinking can impact a sympathetic jury that is charged with arriving at a comparative negligence percentage for the driver. And, many times drivers will not stop the rig when they are eating, which means it is possible they either did not eat or did not take a break according to the Department of Transportation work rules.

  1. When was the truck last inspected for maintenance problems?

Many drivers do not know when a vehicle was last inspected in between cargo runs, but will only be able to answer when they did a personal physical quick inspection of certain truck components. Internal problems with braking or acceleration pedals are usually repaired by the shipping company mechanic if they own the rig, but owner-operators should be well aware of the latest repairs to the vehicle. In addition, any problems that have been cited by authorities can serve as documentation that the company or truck owner have failed to keep the rig up to acceptable running condition. Big rigs are the biggest vehicles on the road and failure to maintain a truck will eventually result in an accident when mechanical problems arise.

  1. How long had you been driving when the accident occurred?

Truck drivers are usually prepared for this question because they know fatigued driving is a major contributor to many accidents. One of the most common federal regulation violations is actually driving beyond the number of allowable hours in a 24-hour period or failure for a shipping company to keep accurate vehicle location monitor records. The National Transportation Highway Safety Board has stated that fatigued driving is actually as serious of a safety concern as drunk driving, and drivers who violate the operational hours law are often under certain medications that may contribute to the ability to drive beyond this limit. While many drivers will not attest to using amphetamines to stay awake, other prescribed medications could reveal health problems for the driver that may not necessarily be revealed without direct questioning.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their insight into workers compensation practice.

6 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid in Injury Cases

If you have been injured in an accident of some sort in, there are certain this you need to do to protect your rights and interests. In addition, you should be aware of these six mistakes to avoid in injury cases.

Failing to Proactively Retain Legal Counsel

Failing to proactively retain legal counsel in a personal injury case could be a grave mistake. A great deal is at stake when a person needs to file a claim with an insurance company. Many people fail to engage legal counsel at that point in time. If you realize that you need representation later on in your case, it may be too late for an attorney to become involved.

Often, victims without legal representation do not obtain the compensation to which they are entitled through the insurance claims settlement process. More significantly, people without attorneys can make mistakes in the claims process, and end up being prevented from obtaining any compensation whatsoever. Although filing a personal injury claim may seem straightforward, it can be a confusing process for an inexperienced person.

Giving a Recorded Statement to an Insurance Company

Another common mistake to avoid is giving a recorded statement to an insurance company during the claims process. There is a misconception that insurance companies are always interested in settling claims in a fair manner. In fact, the primary goal of an insurance company is to make a profit. A recorded statement made without an experienced Phoenix personal injury lawyer’s advisement could be used against you and damage your claim.

An insurance company adds to its profit margins by reducing the amount of money paid out in settlements. Therefore, a claims adjuster may be intent on finding holes in your claim, even if your claim is entirely valid.

Settling Prematurely with an Insurance Company

Generally, in personal injury cases, once you settle with an insurance company you cannot seek more money. It may seem desirable initially, but a quick settlement typically will not be in your favor.

Many insurance companies try to pressure an injured person to agree to a settlement that is well below what is warranted or necessary. Early on in your claim, it may be impossible to tell what your medical expenses will be. By settling too early, you could lose out on having your expenses fully covered.

Fail to Properly Document an Accident

Failing to properly document an accident is another mistake to avoid. This can be done by contacting local police, and taking photographs of the scene and damages to your vehicle. Even if the accident is minor, the police can make a report that verifies the date, time, location, and events. A police officer may even determine who is at fault. Pictures may be referred to later on to confirm how the accident happened, based on the damage.

It may be wise to speak to any witnesses at the accident scene. All essential contact information should be collected so that they can be contacted later. Witness statements can be invaluable if the facts of the accident are disputed by the at-fault driver or the insurance companies.

Failing to Take a Case Seriously

Many people fail to take a personal injury case seriously. Injuries may not seem that bad at first, or they simply assume that everything will work out through the claims process. Injuries can worsen over time, or complications may arise.

Fail to Follow Doctor’s Orders

One major mistake people can make in a personal injury case is failing to follow doctor’s orders. Not only does a person jeopardize his or her health by failing to treat properly, but it can also impair a claim for compensation or a personal injury lawsuit.

In a personal injury case, an injured person has a legal obligation to mitigate damages. Failing to follow a doctor’s order is a failure to mitigate damages and injuries sustained in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. In addition, an insurance company may argue that the victim’s injuries are not serious or deserving of compensation if the person does not seek or follow up on medical treatment.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Alex & Saavedra, P.C. for their insight into personal injury cases.

What if I’m Partially at Fault

Being involved in a motor vehicle accident leaves a party wondering “what if I’m partially at fault?”  The answer to this determines the financial obligation of each party involved in the collision.  Many times when a motor vehicle collision occurs the report involves identifying all parts of the incident, this ultimately results in placing fault or blame on one party or both.  Identifying who is at fault is the most crucial part of the claim.  If one party was entirely at fault for the collision then liability is clear.  When liability is clear the only question to be addressed then is, what are the damages?

Many times if fault is not clear and it appears both drivers contributed to the collision then the question becomes what is that driver’s degree of fault in this collision.  This will determine the contribution of damages to the overall claim.  Answering the question of: what if I’m partially at fault has huge economic implication.  The degree of fault is usually the sticking point with many insurance companies.  If they can offset any fault from their insured onto the other driver then their cost of the claim is reduced by a percentage of the fault assigned to the other side.

In order to ascertain blame, many times the adjuster will look to see who was ticketed for the incident.  If only one party was ticketed, then arguably the blame is with that person.  However, insurance adjusters are quick to point out any degrees of fault from the other party in an effort to reduce any potential claim or payout.  The degrees of fault are determined by reading the narrative of the police report and citations.  Offering an apology at the scene of the accident could imply you were the one at fault.  Even if you are partially at fault, you should not offer any kind of apologies at the scene.

The police report will usually not weigh in on degrees of fault.  It will merely provide a summary of the incident as provided by the drivers and witnesses to the incident.  The fault then will be argued by the attorney and the insurance adjuster.  If you are partially at fault, you may not have received a ticket but the insurance company may attempt to make you pay for whatever  your contribution to the accident.

If you are partially at fault it can reduce the amount of potential settlement proceeds by the degree of fault that has been assigned to you.  For example if your settlement amount was initially $3,000.00 and you were found to be 30% at fault then the final payout amount would be reduced by $900.00 or your percentage of fault.  This percentage is usually an arbitrary number and can be argued.

In some states if you are partially at fault the degree of negligence assigned to you can prevent you from recovering from the other party.  It is important to speak with a Little Rock AR personal injury attorney before you speak to the insurance company or give a recorded statement to determine if you are partially at fault.  The laws of your state will determine what this means for you money wise.

Thanks to our friend and contributor from the Law Offices of Lisa Douglas, Inc. for their insight