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Maritime / Admiralty
My accident happened on Lake Erie. What law will apply to my claim – state law or federal maritime law?
Whether you are on the Queen Mary or a jet ski, if you were in U.S. waters, federal maritime law probably applies. As a general rule this law applies to any collision or other accident that occurs on “navigable waters of the United States,” which includes all of the Great Lakes and all of the rivers that run into them. Federal maritime law may also apply to accidents on structures next to navigable waters, such as docks and breakwalls, if the accident resulted from something that started on the water. Federal law usually will NOT apply to accidents on smaller lakes within the state (example: Burr Oak Lake in Ohio) because most of these are not “navigable waters of the United States.”
What rights does a passenger have if he is injured on a cruise ship or if he has complaints about the cruise?
The passenger ticket issued by the cruise line is a contract between the passenger and the cruise line. The ticket contains important information regarding the passenger’s rights and should always be reviewed when the passenger has a complaint. The ticket may limit some of the passenger’s rights against the cruise line.
If the passenger wants to sue the cruise line, where should the lawsuit be brought? Many passenger tickets specify the place where the lawsuit must be filed. Often, the tickets require the passenger to file suit, if at all, in Miami or Dade County, Florida, or in California. These venue clauses have been upheld by the courts.
Personal Injury and Wrongful Death
I have been injured in a small-boat collision – what are my rights?
We can help you determine if there is negligence and liability with respect to such an accident and whether suit should be filed.
I have been in an auto accident and injured – what do I do next?
You want to make out your own police report if one was not taken at the scene. Make sure to notify your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company of any injuries immediately. Call us and we can help you with your claim.
I only have damage to my car as a result of an auto accident. Do I need an attorney?
In most cases, no. So long as you have collision coverage under your insurance policy, you can get your car fixed. If it was the other driver’s fault, you can pursue him and his insurance company for the damage.
What happens if I am in an automobile accident and the other driver has little or no liability insurance coverage?
In recent years, Ray, Robinson, Carle & Davies has handled an increasing number of what is commonly referred to as uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) claims. Several years ago, the Ohio legislature passed legislation requiring automobile insurance agents to offer and explain UM/UIM coverage to their clients and obtain a signed waiver of coverage if the client chose not to take the coverage. As a result, people who previously did not know about or understand that liability insurance coverage for collisions with UM/UIM was available under their own policies began to understand and purchase UM/UIM coverage. If you are in an automobile accident and the other driver is underinsured or uninsured, check with your insurance agent to determine if your policy covers UM/UIM collisions. Even if your policy does not contain UM/UIM coverage, there may be other policies, such as an employer’s policy, that might contain UM/UIM coverage for you. We would be happy to meet with you to consider the particulars of your situation and explain your remedies in greater detail. Whether or not you have been in an accident, we suggest that if your automobile insurance policy does not currently include UM/UIM coverage, you should meet with your insurance agent to discuss UM/UIM coverage and consider purchasing that coverage as part of your liability policy.
I own a company that has been sued for injuring a worker. Can you help me?
Yes, we have defended employers faced with personal injury suits. As you know, workers’ compensation is the remedy with limited exceptions. We can help assess your company’s potential liability and risk.
Estate Planning and Probate
What sort of estate planning should I do?
Everyone should have a will and health care designation. Decisions in this area could save or cost you and your estate substantial sums, to say nothing of causing or avoiding problems for your family and heirs.
Does Ohio offer a transfer-on-death instrument for transferring my real property upon my death?
Yes, the state recognizes a transfer-on-death affidavit to transfer the property, and we can prepare that for you as a part of your estate planning.
I own real estate. How can I avoid having to probate real estate should I die?
There are several ways this can be accomplished. You can have the real estate titled in survivorship form, either by warranty deed (joint and survivor) or by a survivorship deed. It is important to have specific survivorship language in the deed. If you hold property in this form, upon your death it will pass to the survivor outside of probate. An affidavit to transfer property on death to named beneficiaries also is available. This document is recorded with the county recorder but does not pass title. Only upon your death do the named beneficiaries gain title. This transfer-on-death affidavit also enables the property to bypass probate.
What papers are best kept in a safe place but not in a safe deposit box?
Those that may be needed very shortly after death, such as a will, armed forces discharge certificate, or funeral instructions. Wherever kept, others such as your family, executor or attorney should be aware of where your valuable papers are kept. Having a will that can’t be found is like having no will at all.
Does Ohio have estate tax?
No. The Ohio legislature passed a law which did away with estate tax for those dying on or after January 1, 2013.
How can I minimize federal estate taxes upon my death?
Depending on your assets and life situation, there are a number of things you can do to minimize death taxes. Many estates are small enough so as not to be impacted by estate taxes. For large estates, the creation of living trusts, charitable bequests and other actions taken during your lifetime can reduce or eliminate estate taxes.
I was just served with a lawsuit. What do I do now?
You may have insurance that will provide a defense for you in the lawsuit. For instance, if the suit involves an automobile accident, your automobile insurance will probably appoint an attorney to represent you in the lawsuit. You should immediately notify your insurance company about the lawsuit and follow its instructions about sending a copy of the lawsuit to the company’s appointed attorney.
How do I know whether I have insurance that will apply to a lawsuit?
Call your insurance agent immediately and describe the lawsuit. You may even want to send a copy of the complaint to your agent. Your agent will be able to tell you whether your insurance applies. Follow your agent’s instructions about what to do next.
I have insurance. Do I have to use the attorney appointed by the insurance company? Can your law firm represent me instead?
We are authorized by many insurance companies to represent their insureds. You can call us and we will discuss your representation with you.
I don’t agree with the decisions about my lawsuit being made by the attorney appointed by my insurance company, so I am ignoring her letters and telephone calls. Is this a problem?
Yes, this is a big problem. You have a duty to cooperate with the attorney appointed by the insurance company. If you do not cooperate, the insurance company might deny coverage.
My company has been sued for $1 million, but only has $500,000 insurance coverage. The insurance company has appointed an attorney, but says I may also want another attorney to represent my company because of the large uninsured amount. Should I hire a second attorney?
You should at least talk with an attorney about the situation. The attorney for the insurance company is only concerned about the $500,000 and will not be looking out for your company’s interests over and above that amount. We have represented companies and individuals in this situation and can help you decide what to do. Often, we simply follow the progress of the lawsuit and become actively involved only if there is a problem.
I’ve been sued and have insurance, but the insurance company says the policy does not cover the subject of the lawsuit. When I bought the insurance, I told the agent I wanted the specific coverage and he said the policy had it. What do I do now?
You need to consult an attorney as soon as possible. You have only a limited time to file an answer in the lawsuit or a default judgment could be entered against you. Your attorney may be able to convince the insurance company that it is wrong, or that it should defend you while the question is being decided. You may have a claim against the agent for failure to procure the proper coverage. We have experience with coverage claims and can advise you on how to proceed.
Corporate and Small Business
Should I incorporate my business?
Not necessarily, and not for the sole reason of avoiding personal liability. Many factors must be considered when making such an important decision, such as the type and size of the business, the age of the business, its income, tax aspects and ownership.
What is the difference between a corporation and a limited liability company (LLC)?
Both entities can shield the owner(s) from personal liability provided the required formalities are maintained. In general, it is easier to form a limited liability company. The owners of a limited liability company are referred to as members, where the owners of a corporation are the shareholders. A limited liability company has an operating agreement instead of a code of regulations/by-laws, which a corporation has. Our office has assisted clients in forming both entities. More recently, we are working with our clients to form far more limited liability companies due to the relative simplicity of formation as compared to a corporation.
Can the partners of a partnership limit their liability?
To some extent they can, if they register with the Ohio Secretary of State as a limited liability partnership (LLP) or a partnership having limited liability (PLL).
I have a dispute that involves a modest amount of money but could affect a lot of people who are in the same situation.
You may have a basis for a class action, which is a lawsuit that is filed on behalf of numerous potential claimants. The class representatives in a class action are the faces of the litigation, who may be called to testify and attend court hearings in exchange for recovery above what is afforded to the other class members. We have been active in class actions for decades. We represented claimants from 9/11 in actions against terrorist-sponsoring organizations and have handled mass tort litigation in thousands of cases for over 28 years. We also partner with national class action firms to prosecute the action to a satisfactory conclusion.