Sunday, August 2, 2015

I Told you 5 Million Times not to Exaggerate!

Exaggeration serves a purpose when you are writing a story, entertaining people, or trying to be creative. There are even times when you may exaggerate the risk of a problem to get someone's attention and for their own good. In sales exaggeration is called "puffing" and a certain amount of it is expected. However exaggerating when you have a legal case going can be a mistake and can cost you money.

Always be honest with your lawyer about the damages you have suffered for the amount of money or property that is it risk in your case. If you don't know for sure, or there is a wide range, say so. 

If you have to answer written discovery, or give a deposition, exaggeration is not a good idea. It will come back to bite you later when you are on the stand in the courtroom. 

Do a reality check with yourself and make sure that you are being realistic about the damages and facts in your case and also about your expectations. This will save you embarrassment as well as money.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

The 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA").   This was the first comprehensive law to protect the civil rights of Americans with Disabilities.

We are now used to seeing wheelchair ramps, handicapped parking spaces and telephone or ATM options for people with disabilities.  But, 25 years ago, these everyday items were not common.  

The ADA has made much progress, but like any change in civil rights law, it was met with some resistance, as well as some confusion.  Decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, other state and federal courts, and administrative agencies, have helped shape the law into what it is today. Congress also acted to amend and clarify the law and those changes and clarifications went into effect in 2009. 

Here are some agencies and groups relating to the rights of people with disabilities:

In Texas:
Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
Disability Rights Texas
Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services

And here is a Federal resource page for disability rights and laws: Disability Resources from the U.S. Department of Labor

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Living in an Abusive Situation- Making a Personal Safety Plan

If you (or someone that you know) is living in an explosive, abusive situation, a plan for personal safety is important.

The Montgomery County Texas Sheriff Department has an excellent checklist that applies to various stages of the situation.

First of all, it is important to know what to do if violence erupts.  For instance, know how to get out of the way of anything that could be used as a weapon, where the safest places in the house are located, who you could call and where to go if you had to leave suddenly, and devise a code word to use with family, friends and children to indicate an emergency or need to contact police.

Secondly, have emergency plans in place. Know where your important papers and financial information is located (or have copies of important documents stored in a safe place off premises), know about domestic abuse shelters that are available.  And don't forget to have an alternate plan for your pets to insure that they are fed and safe. (Domestic abuse shelters can  often help with this).

Third, there is a reminder that leaving the abuser is the most dangerous time. He or she will feel control slipping away and can become desperate.   Therefore, you may need to get an immediate protective order. Carry it with you at all times and decide in advance that you will call police if necessary, no  hesitation.

Fourth, make sure you are safe in your own residence.  Lock doors, use lighting, watch your back when coming and going. Don't give your abuser information about you, your premises, or your schedule.

Fifth, know how to stay safe on the job, what to tell your employers and co-workers. Make sure you inform your child's school, day care, and those in charge of after-school activities of your situation.

The Montgomery County Sheriff list is good advice for those in an abusive situation no matter what the location.  If you live outside the Montgomery County Texas area, be aware that other resources are also available online for your county.

(Photo is of Safe Haven of Tarrant County, Fort Worth)

 Kalish Law Office - Family Law - The Woodlands, Texas 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, July 6, 2015

Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect in Texas

There are two ways to report child abuse or neglect in Texas.   The Texas Abuse Hotline is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, nationwide.  The phone number is 800-252-5400.  This line can be used for emergency as well as non-emergency reports.

There is also a Internet Reporting Website . The internet report should not be used for an emergency situation, as these internet reports can take 24 hours to process. An emergency should be reported to the toll free number.  (An emergency is "an immediate risk of abuse or neglect that could result in death or serious harm.").

If you wish to remain anonymous and do not wish an email confirmation of your report, call the toll free hotline.

Texas law says that anyone who suspects abuse, neglect or exploitation of a child must report it to DFPS (Department of Family & Protective Services, commonly referred to as "CPS" for "Child Protective Services"). Also, the Texas Family Code requires that professionals who suspect child abuse, neglect or exploitation make a report within 48 hours.

And don't forget-- if the situation is an emergency, call 911. You do not need to wait to talk to DFPS.

People are understandably fearful of getting involved with a situation they don't understand. However, someone who cares enough to make a report may be a child's best or only hope of rescue from a dangerous situation.

It is never legally or morally acceptable to make a report to retaliate against someone.  Making a false report is a felony and can also carry civil penalties.  (Texas Family Code Section 261).

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Monday, June 29, 2015

How to Report Abuse of the Elderly or Disabled in Texas

In Texas, abuse of an elderly person or disabled person should be reported to Adult Protective Services which is a part of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Adult Protective Services investigates allegations of abuse against elderly and disabled persons whether they occur in home or in a facility. If a person is found to be a victim of abuse they may be eligible for short-term help with medical care, transportation, food, shelter, home repairs, managing money, home healthcare services, or mental health services.

For fiscal year 2014, APS intake totaled 18,701 complaints for the Houston area.  Abuse of elderly and disabled persons has gained more widespread awareness in the past few years. 

Elderly or disabled persons may be abused or exploited in a variety of ways whether physical, sexual, financial, or they may be neglected. Unable to speak for themselves, the elderly and disabled are vulnerable and may suffer verbal abuse, broken bones, cuts, bruises, bedsores, or malnutrition.

A person may also be neglected and living an unsafe or unsanitary conditions. Financial exploitation can result in funds or assets being stolen by a third party.

In addition to reporting suspected abuse, there are other ways that you can help. The Department of family and protective services maintains resource rooms that contain medical supplies and other supplies necessary for daily life in order to help elderly and disabled persons. There are also volunteer opportunities. To learn more about this click here.

If you live outside Texas, your area will have similar methods of reporting.  Check the internet, or call Protective Services or local law enforcement in your area. 

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Involuntary Mental Health Commitment in Texas

If someone is considering suicide, may harm him/herself or others, is unable to make a rational decision about care, is suffering severe distress, or is deteriorating significantly, an involuntary mental health commitment may take place.

The first responders to such a situation may be local law enforcement, a crisis intervention team (in counties where these teams are available), or a responder from Adult Protective Services.  Health care professionals may play a role in initiating the investigation into the person's circumstances. Friends, family or neighbors may also initiate a check into the circumstances or welfare of the person involved. Any adult may apply for emergency detention of a person who needs help.

In some cases, the person who needs help may be found to be living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions because they are mentally unable to make rational decisions or follow through with self-care. 

The goal of the involuntary mental health commitment is to see that the person does not harm him/herself, is properly evaluated, and has access to needed medications.

Within 72 hours of being detained, the patient has the right to a probable cause hearing.  At that hearing, the evidence will be considered by a judge, magistrate, or justice of the peace.  A medical certificate will be sworn to by a physician and other evidence will be considered. An attorney ad litem will be appointed to represent the patient and guard his/her rights. 

A final hearing will occur within 30 days of the initial commitment.  A determination will be made as to whether temporary (90 days) mental health services are warranted. 

This information pertains to initial involuntary civil commitment (versus criminal competency hearings) in the State of Texas.  Title 7, Subtitle C of the Texas Health & Safety Code contains the law relating to involuntary commitment.

If you are concerned about someone who is in a crisis situation and want to know more about Texas laws and procedures or you want to help make a difference, check out Treatment Advocacy Center.

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