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What You Need to Know About Drowsy Driving Accidents

posted Jan 3, 2018, 3:23 PM by Lane Siekman   [ updated Jan 3, 2018, 3:25 PM ]

Drowsy driving has become a major contributor to car crashes across the U.S. According to a study by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving resulted in 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013 alone. These fatality and injury rates are consistent across several major studies. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, for example, estimates an astonishing 328,000 car crashes per year, resulting in over 6,000 deaths attributable to drowsy driving.

Legal Enforcement Proves Difficult

A few states, like Arkansas and New Jersey, have laws on the books that makes causing a vehicular death due to drowsy driving a felony. New York has recently introduced similar legislation to confront the issue. These laws have seen limited success in reducing accidents.

The problem with drowsy driving, however, is that it is difficult to prove in court. No tests exist that can determine whether someone has had enough sleep or whether an accident is directly the cause of an accident. Often, the only way to determine the facts in a drowsy driving case is if the responsible driver admits to it.

Warning Signs for Drowsy Drivers

For now, public awareness campaigns seem to be the best tactic to reduce accidents by fatigued drivers. Warning signs are being incorporated into driver education programs that encourage drivers to be aware of:

  • Frequent yawning and blinking while driving

  • “Zoning out” on the road and not remembering the last few miles

  • Struggling to keep the eyes open or even nodding off

  • Driving erratically, such as lane drifting or hitting rumble strips

Drowsy driving reduces attention and reaction time on the road. If a driver senses difficulty staying awake, they should pull off the road and nap or ask a passenger to take the wheel for a while. Even 15 to 20 minutes of rest can be helpful for a weary driver.

Public Awareness Is Key to Preventing Drowsy Driving

The National Highway Safety Administration has been developing an action plan to address drowsy driving. In particular, they are encouraging police officers in training to identify potential drowsy driving, as well as advising driver and passenger interview questions that can potentially help determine fatigued driving.

When this information is entered into police reports, it becomes critical evidence for a car accident law firm prosecuting drowsy driving cases that resulted in injuries and deaths.

Drivers are also being educated to underlying factors that can lead to drowsy driving. Poor sleeping habits are a major contributor. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that adults sleep at least 7 hours per night and teenagers at least 8 hours. Commercial drivers, people with sleep disorders, night shift workers, and those on medication should be particularly aware of their level of wakefulness.

Driver safety advocates hope that better public awareness, enhanced police training, and new car technologies that warn of erratic driving will reduce the number of accidents due to drowsiness. In the meantime, car crash lawyers should be aware of the facts and statistics they need to gather evidence to hold dangerous drivers responsible.

Article submitted by Rae Steinbach

Tips For Celebrating the Holidays After A Divorce

posted Dec 1, 2017, 7:32 AM by Lane Siekman

Many men and women will celebrate their first holiday season as divorcees this year. This time of the year can be challenging for new divorcees, but there are ways to make is easier. How? Follow these tips for celebrating the holidays after a divorce:

Create A Visitation Schedule For the Holidays

Divorced couples should create a visitation schedule that is specifically designed for the holiday season. As you create this schedule, remember that your kids will most likely want to spend time with both of their parents. Try to give them equal time with each of you even if that means only spending Christmas morning with them before taking them to your ex-spouse’s house for the afternoon. You may not get as much time with your kids as you did when you were married, but it’s important to appreciate the time that you do have together.

Change the Routine

Couples often get in the habit of doing the same thing for the holidays every year, such as going on a ski trip or drinking hot cocoa by the fireplace. If this is your first year alone, change your holiday routine so you are not reminded of married life. This year, create new holiday traditions with the loved ones that are still in your life so you’re not reminded of your past.

Do Not Isolate Yourself

Do not allow yourself to stay home alone during the holidays. Take your mind off of your divorce by making plans with friends or family—even if you don’t normally spend the holidays with them. Focus on creating new memories with your loved ones instead of reminiscing about the past.

Don’t Compete With Gifts.

Divorced parents may try to compete for their kids’ affection by spending far too much on gifts during the holidays. But, this is not a good idea and sends the wrong message to kids that love can be bought with gifts. To avoid this problem, talk to your ex-spouse before the holidays approach about buying holiday gifts. Parents may want to set spending limits or even go in on a gift for their children together.

By following these tips, new divorcees may be able to find joy in the holiday season as they learn about life after divorce.

Dissolution of Marriage

posted Dec 1, 2017, 6:49 AM by Lane Siekman

Just an update to provide you with some general principles and concepts that relate to dissolution of marriage proceedings in the state of Indiana:

1.  Residency Requirement: In order to file a divorce petition in Indiana, you have to be a resident of the State of Indiana for six (6) months prior to the filing and a resident of the county where you are filing for three (3) months prior to the filing of the petition.  Parties can, by mutual agreement, file in a county where they do not reside.  As long as neither party contests the jurisdiction of the non-resident county, the divorce can proceed in that county.

2.  Divorce Workshop: In Southeast Indiana, when a divorce involves minor children both the mother and father are required to attend a divorce workshop.  Mother and father are not required to attend together.  No mandatory counseling exists in Indiana.

3.  Sixty Day Waiting Period: Once a dissolution petition is filed, you must wait sixty (60) days before the divorce can be finalized.  This is a “cooling off” period required by state statute and cannot be waived. This doesn’t mean your divorce will be finalized on the 61st day, it just means your divorce is eligible to be finalized.

4.  Child Support: The Indiana Supreme Court has issued child support guidelines for the calculation of support to be paid by a non-custodial parent.  These guidelines include child support worksheets.  Various factors can affect the amount of support that a non-custodial parent may have to pay.  The child support guidelines also deal with payment of college expenses.  Worksheets exist in calculating who has what responsibility for college expenses.

5.  Parenting Time:  Parenting Time is the current legal term for visitation. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are presumed to apply in a divorce situation and set out minimum parenting time expectations.  Parenting Time is increased as a child gets older.  The parenting time guidelines also deal with issues of how Mom and Dad should conduct themselves for pick up, drop off and other parenting time matters.

6.  Custody: There are three basic types of custody arrangements.  These include sole custody, joint custody with one parent having primary physical possession and joint legal and physical custody.  Various factors in a divorce situation effect which type of custody arrangement is appropriate.  Even though you may be divorced from your spouse, you will have to deal with them forever because of your kids.  This fact requires that you, at a minimum, maintain a cordial and working relationship with your ex-spouse for the benefit of your kids.

7.  Property and Debt Division: The presumption in the State of Indiana is that all marital debt and property is to be divided on an equal basis between a husband and wife.  The definition of a marital asset includes employment retirement/pension plans and insurance policies with cash value.  The 50/50 presumption can be rebutted if you can meet certain criteria set out by statute.  For example, if you inherit property from your family and can show that this inherited property has been kept separate from other marital assets, you have grounds to rebut the 50/50 presumption.

8.  Finalization of the Divorce: A divorce can basically be finalized in one of two ways.  If the parties are unable to agree on issues, the matter is set for a final hearing , evidence submitted and a judge decides issues for the divorcing couple.  The other way to finalize the divorce is for the parties to reduce their agreement to writing and submit a waiver of final hearing to the court.  With an agreement, the divorce can be finalized without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.

9.  Self Help. The Indiana Supreme Court has some general information and forms to be used in representing yourself in a divorce situation. These forms can be found at www.in.gov/judiciary/selfserve/forms  .  It is possible to represent yourself in a divorce situation.  However, I raise an old adage as a warning:  “A person who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

10.  Mediation:  There is no mandatory mediation for divorce cases in Southeast Indiana.  However, a family mediation may assist to help resolve contested issues in divorce cases through mediation. 

If you are in the middle of marital difficulties, seeking professional or pastoral counseling is an excellent way to address issues that are causing strife.  I’ve seen counseling do a lot of good for a lot of people, but it really only works if both parties want it to work. Remember that the Court can only resolve the legal issues before it and that a lot of emotional trauma occurs in a divorce. Often the emotional issues overshadow the legal matters in a case.  

Every legal situation is different and what is appropriate in one matter may not be appropriate in another setting.  
Because each case is fact sensitive, you need to seek competent legal counsel to assist you. 

Legal Tips for Small Business Debt Collection

posted Sep 9, 2014, 7:07 AM by Lane Siekman

Debt collection can be a major source of frustration for small business owners. These tips are designed to help you understand your options and make the right decisions for your business. If you need assistance collecting a debt, contact your Attorney.

  1. It all starts with good accounting practices. Accurate and detailed records will help you quickly identify and deal with delinquent accounts. Your customers and clients should know exactly where their account stands. Provide itemized invoices that include a specific due date for payment.  If an account is delinquent, include the total amount owed, the number of days past due, the original due date and any late fees or interest owed. 
  2. Do not ignore a past due account. Don’t wait to take action on a debt. You should not let a past due client or customer accrue more debt or continue to receive services. The longer a debt remains unpaid the less likely you are to collect. 
  3. Know the rules for debt collection. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) regulates collection agents, law firms and other third party debt collectors. Original creditors are generally regulated by state law, which may vary greatly. Some states, like California, have laws that are similar to the federal regulations. Violating state or federal regulations could result in legal action. Make sure you are compliant with state law in regard to charging interest or late fees on past due accounts. 
  4. Be professional and courteous in your collection efforts. It is illegal to threaten, harass or intimidate customers who are unable to make payment. Never threaten an action you are not willing or legally allowed to make. Keep in mind, a customer who is behind now may make good on their obligation and become a valuable customer. 
  5. Consider accepting an installment plan. Some customers simply do not have the funds to make a one-time payment. Try working with the customer to determine what they can afford or if installment payments are feasible. Be sure to document any agreement you make in writing and have the customer sign a copy to acknowledge they intend to make payments. Your Attorney can help review your agreement prior to signing.
  6. Take legal action in small claims court. If your initial collection efforts fail you may have no choice but to take legal action against a debtor. Small claims court generally offers a streamlined process for collecting debts under a certain amount. 
  7. Talk to your Attorney. If the amount owed exceeds the maximum allowed in small claims court you may need to consider other legal options. Your attorney can explain the laws where you do business and help you decide on the best course of action. 

6 Legal Tips for Safe Cyber Monday Shopping

posted Nov 19, 2013, 12:42 PM by Lane Siekman

More and more holiday shoppers are choosing to avoid the chaos of malls and department stores by shopping online. Cyber
Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, falls on December 2nd. The following tips will help ensure you are able to focus on holiday fun rather than legal disputes with online retailers. If you need assistance resolving an online dispute contact your provider law firm today.

  1. Beware of pricing that is too good to be true. Scammers often set up dummy websites, auction listings or ads that offer popular items far below market value. These scammers will kick into high gear for Cyber Monday. Trust your instincts and beware of scam sales.
  2. Shop from trusted online retailers. It is important to make sure you are on the correct website by checking the domain name in the browser. Sometimes emails or online ads promising great deals will actually direct you to scam sites designed to look like a trusted retailer. The domain name at the top of your browser should contain https://. 
  3. When using an unknown online retailer, do your homework. Make sure the company has a physical address and a working phone number. Run their name through a search engine to make sure they have a good reputation or check the Better Business Bureau’s website. 
  4. Review marketplace seller rating information and negative feedback from previous buyers. Marketplace websites allow a wide range of individual sellers to offer products to a large audience. Many of these sites allow previous customers to rate their experience with a particular seller. Exercise caution when dealing with sellers who have an excess of poor feedback. Check the specific feedback to see what those who complained had to say.
  5. Read and save a dated copy of the retailer’s return policy. Many online sales disputes stem from misunderstandings over return or refund policies. Make sure you read and understand the website’s policies before making a purchase. Some returns will require costly restocking fees and some sale items may not be eligible for return. Also, find out if you are responsible for shipping costs on a return item, as larger items could be costly to ship.
  6. Keep payment information secure. Never pay for items purchased online with wire transfers, money orders or cash. These types of payment offer no tracking or protection in the event of a scam. When making an online payment for goods use a credit card, Pay Pal, Google Checkout or another secure online payment system. Some payment systems offer additional dispute resolution options.

Affordable Care Act Facts for Small Business Owners

posted Oct 15, 2013, 8:43 AM by Lane Siekman

Affordable Care Act Facts for Small Business Owners

The following information and links are designed to help small business owners with fewer than 25 employees understand the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirements and their obligations under the law. It is important to note, some requirements may vary from state to state. If you need assistance understanding what your business is required to do under the ACA and state law contact your LegalShield provider law firm.

Requirements - The ACA does not require small businesses to provide health insurance to employees. Fines for employers that choose not to provide coverage or financial assistance for health insurance to full-time employees will only apply to businesses with 50 or more employees and will not begin until 2015. You will need to provide payroll information from each month in 2014 to show that your business had fewer than 50 full time employees.

SHOP - Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) is a special market place designed to help small business owners access better pricing for insurance. Currently there are limited options available through many of the state SHOP exchanges. To find the options available to you and your employees visit the SHOP marketplace online.

Tax Credits - Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees may be eligible for tax credits totaling up to 50% of their contribution to employee insurance premiums. Visit healthcare.gov to find out if your business qualifies. 

Notification - Companies with at least $500,000 in annual business will be required to provide employees with notification on the new health insurance marketplace. These notices were due on October 1st. There is not currently a fine in place for employers who fail to provide the notice. For additional guidelines visit the U.S. Department of Labor website.

Flex Spending - Employee flexible spending account contributions will be limited to $2,500 per year. The limit will be subject to cost of living increases. 

Waiting Period - The waiting period for a new employee to receive employer-sponsored health insurance will be capped at 90 days. 

Premium Refunds - Under the ACA, insurance companies are required to use at least 80% of premiums towards medical costs. Insurers who fail to meet this ratio will be required to issue a refund. To learn more read the IRS Medical Loss Ratio FAQ.

Resources - To learn more visit the U.S. Small Business Administration website. The SBA offers a wide range of resources, including an Affordable Care Act 101 Webinar that you can register to attend on their website.

Is your will up to date?

posted Mar 10, 2013, 9:23 AM by Lane Siekman   [ updated Mar 12, 2013, 2:45 PM ]

A will is the best way to be certain your property is distributed according to your wishes. What many people don’t realize is that keeping your will up to date is as important as having a will. That’s why you should review your will periodically.

Marriage, divorce, and remarriage 
Life events can have a major impact on financial planning documents. For example, if a widow or widower remarries, it is important that the will is updated to show how the children from the previous marriage and the new spouse should be provided for in the will.

A new heir 
Updating a will is especially important when you have a child, because your will allows you to name a guardian to care for your child in the event that something happens to both you and your spouse. If you don’t name a guardian for your child, the courts will appoint one and it may not be whom you would have selected.

Death of someone named in the will
The death of a named executor, guardian, beneficiary, or trustee signals a need to make changes to those provisions in your will.

Substantial increase/decrease of net worth 
If you win the lottery, get a large personal injury settlement, or receive a large inheritance, additional tax planning might be necessary to minimize the tax bill on your estate. On the other hand, a significant decline in your financial assets might dictate altering your specific bequests or making other modifications.

Life relocation to another state 
If you relocate, you should have an attorney in the state of your new residence review your will. This is especially important if you move to or from a community property state. Although all states recognize a will that was properly created in another state, there may be some nuances that need to be addressed.

Tax law changes 
Updating your will allows you to take advantage of recent developments and new techniques in estate planning. With the estate tax exemption scheduled to change a number of times between now and 2011, and the prospect of future changes, it’s more important than ever to review your will on a regular basis.

Changes to your intentions 
Changing your mind about something in your will should be handled as soon as you’ve decided. From adding a new beneficiary or charitable donation to second thoughts about your executor or the guardian of your children, be sure to make these changes on a timely basis. If your revised intentions do not make it into print, they will have no legal effect.

How to change your will 
You can’t just make changes on your old will. While every change doesn't necessitate redrafting, marking your will up invalidates it. In the past, changes were made by creating an amendment called a “codicil,” which to be valid, has to be signed and witnessed like a will. Today, in the age of computers and word processing, it is much better to redraft, sign and witness a new will.

Once you have signed your will, keep it in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box, and be sure that your family members know where to find it. You should keep a duplicate unsigned copy handy and review it periodically to see if any changes are needed.

Reviewing your will 
Reviewing your will is an important part of the estate planning process. Working with your CPA and attorney will help to ensure that your will is in alignment with your financial and estate planning objectives.

Lane Siekman
Attorney at Law


posted Oct 9, 2012, 2:59 PM by Lane Siekman

A good education is the next best thing to a pushy mother.  -Charles Schlutz, Cartoonist

     It’s that time of year again. Back to school! Teachers, parents and children look forward to a successful year. But for parents of children with identified or unidentified special needs, this is a time of possible frustration and failure.
    Over the next several months I will be giving basic tips to assist parents to help children get the services they need and are entitled to, such as:
  • How to work with the school.
  • How to develop a long range plan for your student.
  • How to stay organized and sane throughout the school years.
  • How to successfully transition your student to adulthood.
    All children from birth to age twenty-two (22) may be eligible for special education services. A child is considered eligible if she/he is having trouble learning because of mental, physical, or emotional disabilities. There are currently thirteen (13) disability categories, including the Autism spectrum. A child may be identified as eligible in one or more categories.

    Basic steps to obtain special education for a child:
  • Identify the child through Child Find or a parental request.
  • Evaluate the child to see if the child is eligible for services.
  • Schedule a case conference to discuss testing results and the Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan.
  • Begin services.
  • Measure the progress and re-evaluate the child and/or the IEP as necessary.

   The Parent should:
  • Develop a Master Plan for the child’s education and postgraduate needs.
  • Create and organize the child’s personal, medical, and school file.
  • Work effectively with schools, consultants, and evaluators.
  • Be aware of current laws and deadlines.
  • Take care of your own needs by joining parent groups, consulting with an attorney, and creating time for yourself.
Angel Marks is an attorney in Rising Sun with experience in Special Education Law, as well as running a general practice. She will be giving a free parent seminar August 21st at 6pm. Call for reservations. She may be reached at 812-438-4072 at the Siekman Law Office. The above article is not legal advice and does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.

Angel Marks accredited by VA

posted Oct 9, 2012, 10:53 AM by Lane Siekman

Angel Marks is now an accredited attorney for the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims for Veterans benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

What is Agritourism?

posted Oct 8, 2012, 1:13 PM by Lane Siekman

What is Agritourism?

Agritourism is a business related to agricultural, horticultural, or agribusiness such as:

Historic and cultural activities
Self-pick farms and cultural agricultural activities
Farm tours, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, Christmas tree farms
Farmers markets
Animal exhibition at an agricultural fair

Trail Riding

If you are inviting people on to your land for these activities in exchange for money, you may have limited liability under the Indiana Code due to inherent risks of the activities. However, this is not complete protection.  The combination of a legal contract and an insurance policy is the best way to protect yourself against any claims of injury occurring on your property. Uninvited guests (trespassers) are also owed a “duty of care”. Again, consultation with an attorney and/or your insurance agent is the best way to protect yourself and your property from liability claims. 

Ms. Marks practices law in Downtown Rising Sun. She may be contacted at 215 Main Street, Suite 6 or 812-438-4072. There will be a free seminar held on September 20, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. at the Rising Sun Library located at 503 Second Street, Rising Sun, IN 47040.

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