We Need to Become Legally Literate

We live in a legal world. Every day we hear fancy legal words and fancy Latin expressions. Most of us let these pass right past us with only the vaguest understanding of what those terms mean. We make assumptions about what the terms mean because we don’t want to show the truth: we’re legally illiterate. We don’t know the law, even if the law governs our lives.

In day-to-day life, this is usually fine. We don’t need to know what habeas corpus means if all we do is get up, go to work, come home and watch TV, and go to bed.

But what if we ever needed those fancy words? Hopefully, you’ll never need to know what habeas corpus means (it’s the right not be detained indefinitely without being allowed to have your case heard), but other terms are almost certainly going to be important at some point.

For instance, take the word probate. What is that anyway? You may have heard it a number of times in your life. Perhaps your parents talked about it when one of your grandparents died. Or perhaps it was mentioned in one of those legal shows you love where they throw words around to sound smart (which you don’t understand, but you appreciate that the TV lawyers do). Perhaps they were investigating a potential murder and there were questions about the will. Then probate came up, and you just assumed it was a magic word to get the story to move along.

Well, probate actually has a specific meaning.

According to the Arenson Law Group, PC, probate is the “process of legally legitimizing your will and ensuring its enforcement.” Apparently, every will, no matter it’s a massive, drawn out and detailed account of all your possessions or a scribble on a piece of old paper has to go through probate.

It’s during this process that an “executor” (another term you might have heard before) is selected who has the legal power to distribute assets according to the wishes in the will.

When people “contest” a will, it is also during the probate stage. So, it’s a relatively important part of the will. In fact, some wills are deemed invalid during probate.

This example proves just how little people actually know about the law, even if it is sure to affect you at some point. All of us have loved ones who will someday pass away, as we will ourselves. Probate will come up at some point in your life, and yet, even if you knew what it meant, the majority of people reading this article did not.

We need a massive legal literacy campaign in this country. Really, such terms should be taught in high schools to make sure everyone is aware of what they mean, not just when they’re thrown around on TV, but when they come up in our real lives, as they almost certainly will.

London’s New Tax Aims to Lower Pollution

London is the latest city to decide its skies are still too polluted. After efforts in recent years from fellow European cities (including a carless day in Paris in 2015) helped to raise awareness though little else, London has settled upon a plan to make a serious dent in its air pollution problem.

In recent years, London has raised its commuting rates to extremely high levels, but the city still feels not enough has been done. Now, it will add an incredible 13 dollar charge per day for older cars that don’t meet the most recent emissions standards. The price is surely designed to force owners of old cars to either buy new or else start commuting by public transportation.

The increasing pollution of major cities, even in the West, has lead many to demand greater and more drastic steps like those taken by London.

Though such drastic steps are popular in big cities across the West, including in America, such issues tend to fail on the macro scale of whole countries, in particular, America.

Recent steps from the Trump administration have, if anything, done the opposite of London’s new law, by removing clean air regulations on a number of industries.

At the same time, many industries are still willing to accommodate the demands of cities and are keeping up with regulations even if they are (or soon will be) rescinded by President Trump. Many are using novel new technology in order to bring their factories and other industrial businesses into compliance with recent US standards and those set by the Paris Accord (which President Trump has promised to back out of).

With renewable energy and natural gas producing increasingly larger amounts of America’s energy, some suggest the country may yet meet the Paris Accord demands regardless of White House policy.

None of that will come close to the plans of London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, however. Khan hopes to put London on the path to being a zero-emissions city by 2040. While such ambitious plans may leave many skeptical, a number of London’s big steps are being followed by other cities.

Los Angeles and Seattle (and London) are among the 12 cities that have pledged to only buy zero-emission busses from 2025 onward. Los Angeles, in particular, is eager to improve its air quality, since it is the most polluted city in the US.

While the efforts of London and elsewhere have generally been lauded in principle, London’s new tax is not getting universal praise. The Conservatives have come out against the policy, suggesting it will disproportionately hit small business owners and the city’s shrinking poor population.

On the other side, many environmentalists feel the efforts, while moving in the right direction, are not doing enough to deal with London’s serious pollution issues. They would like to see far more extreme policies implemented.

Chicago ordinance beautifies city

It is common knowledge that greener landscapes lead to a variety of health and economic benefits. A beautiful and lush city can hide unsightly buildings and parking garages, provide a natural habitat for native insects and birds, and can increase the number of people who choose to live and work in the area. Some cities like Chicago have their own landscaping ordinances that mandate landscaping be taken into account when designing and putting up new buildings, but not every building project needs to adhere to this rule.

According to cityofchicago.org, the city’s official website, the landscaping ordinance has been in effect since 1991 for the purpose of beautifying the city, alleviating noise and air pollution, cooling the streets, and increasing the local property values (which would then lead to more property taxes being collected). Not only limited to new buildings, but construction companies must also have a landscaping plan in place for proposed additions to buildings if those additions are larger than 1500 square feet. Interestingly enough, parkway plantings are also required if repairs are being done on a building that is not expanding, as long as the structural repairs exceed 50% of the cost to replace the entire building; this even applies to interior decorating and repairs. Greenery must also be included in parking lots if they are going to be larger than 3000 square feet, and if a parking lot is be expanding beyond 25% of its current size, then planting standards must be met. However, if the proposed parking lot is smaller than 1200 square feet, then the ordinance does not apply to them.

What this ordinance neglects is personal dwellings and residential buildings that have fewer than three living units. This is understandable because this ordinance is meant to beautiful the inner city where there are relatively few single family homes. In addition, there would likely be much opposition to legislation that tries to dictate the amount of greenery you must plant in your yard (even though most HOAs do so anyway). However, just because an ordinance of this sort may not apply to you, it is still generally a good idea to undertake personal beautification projects. Many landscaping companies, like Ware Landscaping in the Chicago area, can help you choose the perfect selection of trees and plants to fit your home and raise your property value as well as your standard of living.

All large cities should have an ordinance of this sort to ensure that there is sufficient greenery around to keep residents and visitors healthy and happy. The Chicago ordinance has a few workarounds, however. Construction companies could easily get around the parking lot rule by building separate parking lots that are all under 1200 square feet, for example, and businesses would take care to make sure their repair costs are under half of the replacement cost. Even though this ordinance may not be perfect, it is certainly a step in the right direction to having more beautiful cities.

The Causes of Car Accidents

Around 2.35 million people are injured or disabled due to automobile accidents each year on US roads and many affected Americans may be uncertain what to do following an accident, especially in the face of mounting medical costs. Fortunately, even if you aren’t harmed in an accident, there are many legal options that you might consider if you have any reason to believe that the accident was not your fault. Law firms like Habush Habush & Rottier S.C offer services for car accidents if they result from any of the following:

  • Driver Error
  • Reckless Driving
  • Speeding
  • Drunk Driving
  • Mechanical Defects/Malfunctions
  • Highway Defects

Driver Error is probably the most common cause of automobile accidents. If any of the other drivers involved in the accident were distracted by the radio, failed to check their blind spot, or turned without signaling, they may be wholly or partially liable for any expenses incurred in the accident. If your accident resulted from any of these or similar behaviors, you may be eligible for representation and compensation.

Reckless Driving includes many of the behaviors covered by driver error. If any other drivers involved in your accident were driving irresponsibly or recklessly, you may not be liable for the damages incurred by the accident.

Speeding is driving at speeds that exceed the posted legal limit. If you believe that any other drivers involved in the crash were driving at speeds that exceed the posted limit for the site of the accident, you should contact a lawyer to see if you are eligible for legal representation.

Drunk Driving and alcohol use, unfortunately, result in many car accidents, injuries, and deaths in the United States. The legal limit in all 50 states is BAC .08%. If any of the other drivers involved in your accident were under the influence of alcohol, you may be eligible to receive compensation for any medicals and legal costs.

Mechanical Defects/Malfunctions, just like people, can cause automobile accidents. This category includes things like airbag defects, engine malfunctions, faulty brake design, etc. Car manufacturers have a legal responsibility to the safety of their customers. If you have reason to believe that any structural problems in the design of your vehicle caused or contributed to your accident, it is possible that you may have limited or zero liability in the accident.

Highway Defects can also cause car accidents. Like corporations, the government has a legal obligation to ensure the safety of drivers by safely constructing and maintaining roads. Insufficient signage, potholes, poor road design, and lack of shoulder space are common contributors to automobile accidents. If your accident resulted from any of these highway defects, you might not hold all liability for the accident.

If you have been involved in an automobile accident that resulted from anything described above, you might be eligible for legal representation and financial compensation. Take the time to research the above topics and contact a lawyer to see if you can get help dealing with your car accident.

Long Term Disability Insurance and Social Security Disability Benefits

Injuries or illnesses that result to long-term disability have long-lasting effects that can render any person unable to perform work for at least six months. For those who are employed and enjoy an employer-sponsored comprehensive employee benefits package that includes a long term disability (LTD) insurance policy, the cash benefits their (LTD) insurance policy pays can serve as a financial safety net for the duration of 5 or 10 years, or until the insured employee reaches the age of 65 (duration actually depends on the plan purchased).

Long-term disability insurance (LTD) is a type of insurance policy that is designed to protect an employee from loss of income in the event that he/she becomes incapable of work, due to illness, injury, or accident, for a long period of time.

Though long-term disability insurance ensures that an employee will still receive a percentage of his/her income, typically about 50% – 70%, it will not pay cash benefits to employees who sustain work-related accidents or injuries that are covered by Workers’ Compensation Insurance program.

LTD is usually employer-sponsored. If a company, however, does not offer long term disability insurance, then an employee has the option to purchase an individual long-term disability plan from his/her preferred insurance agent; he/she can also purchase a personal supplemental long term disability insurance policy for additional coverage (unlike an LTD insurance policy, which is subjected to taxes, a supplemental LTD insurance is tax exempt). Some employees actually consider purchasing supplemental long-term disability insurance because an employer-sponsored long term disability insurance is usually insufficient to meet a disabled employee’s needs.

Additional information provided by Fields Disability lawyers regarding LTD says that most long-term disability policies require that any extra income you receive be deducted (off-set) from your payable long-term disability benefits. This requirement is usually put in place to alleviate the long-term disability carriers’ costs in paying out benefits. Thus, to reduce the amount an LTD carrier will be required to pay you, it will have you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, which are considered as “income” and, therefore, can be off-set from the amount a carrier will pay.