Monday, March 19, 2018

Why You Should Hire An Attorney Immediately After A Crash

The other car went through the stop sign and crashed into you, damaging your car and injuring you and your passengers. The insurance companies will all tell you that you do not need the assistance of an attorney to get your claim handled and settled. Enlisting the help of a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident, however, will help the process run more smoothly and get you the settlement you deserve.
The insurance company wants to catch you off guard and ask you numerous questions about the accident. That’s because they are looking for a way to put fault on each of the drivers. They want you to say the wrong thing on a recorded statement or have you admit there was something you could have done to avoid the accident. If you allow them, they will even get in to your medical history. What should you do?

Seek Medical Attention
In some instances, because of the adrenaline and shock of an accident, people are unaware they were injured until the day after the crash. This means medical treatment is often refused at the scene, but by the next day, drivers and passengers may start to feel their injuries. Additionally, you have a year to get your claim settled in Louisiana. Not all injuries are fully healed in a year’s time, so the sooner you begin your treatment, the sooner you can start feeling better again.

Hire an Attorney
An attorney will deal with the injury portion of your claim, speaking directly to the insurance representatives on your behalf and providing them with the information they need. If your medical treatment is ongoing as the one-year mark approaches, an attorney will file suit to extend the statute of limitations and give you more time to receive necessary treatments.
At the Gouner Law Office, we will assist you with the insurance company.  We will get the bills and records needed to accurately evaluate your claim. (Without an attorney, you will be the one collecting this material and providing it to the insurance company.) We will also evaluate your case, keep you in the loop about the “back and forth” in the negotiation, and get you top dollar for your injuries.  Once the settlement is agreed upon and the paperwork signed, you will receive your settlement without the hassle of having to deal with an insurance adjuster, repeatedly calling and asking questions. 

The best part is--we only charge a fee if there is a recovery. Since attorney settlements are usually 40% to 60% higher than those for unrepresented people, there is nothing to lose.

Written by: Katherine Gouner

May we help you with a legal situation? To schedule a private consultation, call the Gouner Law Office at (225) 293-6200 or toll free (800) 404-1921. You can also fill out our contact form.

What Is A DWI PTI?

From time to time, we’re asked how pretrial diversion programs or “pretrial interventions” work in the criminal system.  It is a mixed bag.  The format used in Baton Rouge and around Louisiana creates a loophole that gives some people the chance to buy their way out.

Basically, diversion or PTI gives people charged with so-called minor victimless crimes, who have no criminal record, the option to pay money and go through program. Diversion costs a lot more than the court system, but it offers the possibility of avoiding conviction.  The success rate going through diversion, however, is somewhere below 50%.  That means you can go through the entire process, spend a lot of money, and still be thrown back in the regular criminal system.

It can get worse.  In order to enroll, most district attorneys and court systems require a signed admission of guilt.  This means if you do not successfully complete the program, the admission could be used against you, should your case go to court. 

The results of going through diversion are often worse than going to court.  That’s because participants pay a lot of money and are often admitting to guilt without getting any counseling first to charges that would likely be reduced or thrown out of the regular system.

The courts and prosecutors like diversion, because it creates a lot of money they would not otherwise receive.  It also creates an additional level of bureaucracy and more employees associated with the District Attorney’s Office and courts.  People who could have fought the charges pay instead, in the hope of avoiding court – usually without any legal representation.

Many states have rules and regulation on how these programs are run.  Louisiana, for the most part, leaves it up to the local parish.  That means many people who should not be allowed to participate slip through the cracks. Record keeping also tends to be spotty.  Because of this, the federal system often views diversion the same way as a conviction.  Truck drivers, for instance, usually have points assigned when they complete the PTI program for a traffic ticket. In other words, the regulating agencies treat successfully finishing diversion the same way as a conviction.

There may be a place for diversion.  It exists in one form or another in the federal system, where there are clear rules in place with more oversight.  Often times, however, it is not the best choice. Before you consider taking part in a diversion program for something more serious than a traffic ticket, please call our office or talk to a qualified attorney. 

Written by: Greg Gouner

May we help you with a legal situation? To schedule a private consultation, call the Gouner Law Office at (225) 293-6200 or toll free (800) 404-1921. You can also fill out our contact form.

How To Use Bankruptcy To Save Your Home

It is a myth that filing for bankruptcy usually causes the loss of your home. Most of the time, a bankruptcy has no effect on your home and can sometimes even save your home and stop foreclosure.

There are two types of consumer bankruptcies: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to eliminate unsecured debt (with a few exceptions) allows you to re-route payments from monthly credit card bills or payday loans to the most important asset, your home.  Filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will reorganize your unsecured and secured debts, allowing for a discharge of unsecured debts, in some cases. If a foreclosure proceeding has already begun or a sheriff sale is scheduled, Chapter 13 bankruptcy will also allow you to save your home and pay back the past due amount, interest free.

After the filing of either type of bankruptcy, there are certain protections put into place to save your home. Upon filing, an “automatic stay” is in effect. It prohibits any creditors from taking steps to collect a debt from you, including foreclosure proceedings. While there are different rules for each bankruptcy, both can be useful tools in saving your homestead.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to discharge most or all unsecured debt. Although Chapter 7 bankruptcy is also known as liquidation bankruptcy, you can still retain your residence. As long as your home mortgage is current, the mortgage company will almost always allow you to keep your home. There are even instances where you can save your home, even if you are past due on payments. While in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you do not need to make monthly payments to unsecured creditors. This gives you the time needed to either raise the funds to get back on track or work out a modification agreement with the mortgage company.

If you are past due on your mortgage or your home is in foreclosure, filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you retain your home. If there is a sheriff sale scheduled to sell your property, you can file Chapter 13 bankruptcy up to the day before the sale and save your home.

Once the bankruptcy is filed, the past due amount on your mortgage will be added into the Chapter 13 plan and can be paid back with no interest. The alternative is a modification of your entire mortgage note, which will ultimately result in a much greater amount of money paid, not only through the life of the loan, but also in the form of a higher monthly note. There is no guarantee the mortgage company will approve the modification. Within five years of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, however, the past due amount will be paid back interest free, putting you back on track with your mortgage.

In short--filing bankruptcy does not mean you will lose your home. Let the experienced team at the Gouner Law Office help you with bankruptcy information and assistance to both save your home and get a fresh start.

Written By: Alyssa C. Wineski

May we help you? To schedule a private consultation, call the Gouner Law Office at (225) 293-6200 or toll free (800) 404-1921. You can also fill out our contact form.