If you have been injured in an auto collision, it's a good idea to have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side.

If you have been injured in an auto collision, it's a good idea to have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side. We can help you submit your claim to the at-fault driver's insurance company and negotiate a fair settlement for your personal losses. If we can't settle with the insurance company, we'll bring a lawsuit on your behalf and take your claim to a jury. We have over 20 years' experience representing injured people and their survivors. We have made the commitment to handle personal injury cases on a contingent fee, or "no recovery, no fee" basis.

If we can be of service to you, your family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today.

Small business owners can now file suit in federal court for theft of their trade secrets under the new U.S. Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016.

In 2016, President Obama signed into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act (the “DTSA”). The DTSA expands the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 to include a private cause of action for trade secret misappropriation. Before the DTSA, trade secrets and their subsequent legal ramifications have traditionally been left to the states. Most states have adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (including Washington and Idaho). The DTSA is similar to the Uniform Act, but contains new provisions that have immediate implications for any business with trade secrets.

The heart of the DTSA is the addition of a private cause of action for trade secret misappropriation. Owners of trade secrets can now file suit in federal court for misappropriation of trade secrets related to products or services that are used (or intended to be used) in interstate or foreign commerce. Actions under this section must be brought in federal court, and a 3-year statute of limitations applies.

The DTSA offers remedies that are very similar to the Uniform Act. It allows plaintiffs to seek injunctive relief (i.e., court orders forcing a defendant to do or not do certain things) or money damages (such as actual losses or reasonable royalties). The DTSA also allows for punitive damages up to two times actual damages, and in certain cases prevailing parties can recover attorney fees.

One new remedy not available under the Uniform Act is civil seizure. In extraordinary circumstances, a federal court may order the seizure of property to prevent propagation or dissemination of a trade secret. However, this powerful new remedy is only available in certain narrowly defined circumstances.

In another departure from the Uniform Act, the DTSA contains exceptions from liability for disclosures made to government officials for the purpose of investigating violations of law. Essentially, this exception allows controlled disclosure of trade secrets for whistleblowers, either for reporting violations or defending against retaliation.

The DTSA requires employers to provide notice of this whistleblower exception in employment contracts and contractor agreements created or modified after the law goes into effect that govern the use of trade secrets or confidential information. Failure to provide notice can prevent the employer from recovering punitive damages or attorney fees, depriving them of what is often their biggest weapon. Employers should review their agreements immediately to assess what changes may be needed.

To the extent that the DTSA is similar to the Uniform Act, the DTSA is not a huge change for business with trade secrets. Nevertheless, the ability to sue in federal court will likely provide welcome options for some businesses. All businesses should review their employment contracts and contractor agreements to implement the new notice requirements.

We are always happy to help businesses protect their trade secrets and intellectual property. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to call us at 253.858.5434. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Probate and Testamentary Trusts

When you die, many of your assets will have to go through probate before they can be distributed to your beneficiaries. Probate is the process whereby a representative for your estate gathers your assets, pays your creditors, and distributes your remaining property under the terms of your Will. Whether your Will gives these assets directly to your beneficiaries or places them in a trust, your assets must go through probate.

A testamentary trust is a trust created in a Will, unlike living trusts that are created while you are alive. Living trusts can be revocable, meaning you can cancel the trust and take your property back, or irrevocable, but both allow you to put property into the trust while you are alive. This is often called “funding” the trust. Testamentary trusts, however, are not created until your death, so it is not possible for you to transfer your assets into a testamentary trust during your lifetime. All of the assets used to fund your testamentary trust are placed into that trust after your death.

Since your testamentary trust is created and funded by the language of your Will, a probate court must make a determination that your Will is valid before the trust can be created. Generally, courts do this at the beginning of the probate process. The court next appoints a Personal Representative to manage your estate, typically the person you named to perform that duty in your Will. Since your Will creates the trust, your PR has the responsibility of establishing the trust according to the terms of your Will. Your PR is responsible for distributing your assets once they pay your creditors, but they cannot distribute assets to a trust until they create that trust during probate.

Since trusts are formal legal structures, they cannot be started without legal paperwork. Even though the trust is developed by your Will, the trust causes additional paperwork, responsibility and expense for your PR and estate. The person in charge of your trust (the Trustee) can be your PR or someone else. Depending on state law, the Trustee may be required to make periodic reports to the court regarding the status of the trust for as long as the trust exists.

If you have a question about using testamentary trusts as part of your estate plan, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

When should you review your estate plan?

Many people review their estate plans at a regular frequency, often when they review their whole financial plan. This can be done annually, semi-annually, or quarterly; for estate planning specifically, we general recommend you review your estate plan every three or four years or when there is a major life event.

In addition to regular reviews, it’s a good idea to review and update your plan at major life events like:
* The birth or adoption of a new child or grandchild
* When a child or grandchild becomes an adult
* When a child or grandchild needs educational funding
* Death or change in circumstances of the guardian named in your Will for minor children
* Changes in your number of dependents, such as the addition of caring for an adult
* Change in your or your spouse's financial or other goals
* Marriage or divorce
* Illness or disability of your spouse
* Change in your life or long-term care insurance coverage
* Purchasing a home or other large asset
* Borrowing a large amount of money or taking on liability for any other reason
* Large increases or decreases in the value of assets, such as investments
* If you or your spouse receives a large inheritance or gift
* Changes in federal or state laws covering taxes and investments
* If any family member passes away, becomes ill, or becomes disabled
* Death or change in circumstance of your Personal Representative or Trustee
* Career changes, such as a new job, promotion, or if you start or close a business

Reviewing your plan at regular intervals in addition to major life events will help ensure that your legacy, both financial and otherwise, is passed on in accordance with your wishes and that your beneficiaries receive their benefits as smoothly as possible. If we can be of service to you, your family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

The American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline

According to the American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence, 23.6% of women and 11.5% of men reported at least one lifetime episode of intimate-partner violence. Research has shown that one of the key components in reducing domestic violence is ensuring that victims have access to civil legal services. The ABA provides training for lawyers providing pro bono legal services to victims of domestic violence, provides resources to legal aid clinics, and lobbies Congress and state legislatures for anti-domestic violence laws, like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). If you need help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

PIP Liens, Subrogation, and Claims for Reimbursement

People who've been injured in auto collisions are often surprised to learn that in certain situations, their PIP insurance carrier, the government, and medical providers can assert a claim against their personal injury settlement. When you have been the victim of a collision and have filed a personal injury claim to recover the cost of medical bills, the people who paid for these medical costs may be able to file a lien against your settlement proceeds. A lien is a demand for repayment that may be placed against your personal injury case.

Your health insurance provider may also issue a lien to recover any money it spends on your personal injury accident treatment. You may be required to pay back these medical expenses. This is a process known as "subrogation," whereby insurance providers can seek repayment from your settlement. The extent and strength of the subrogation claim depends upon the language used in the insurance policy.

In certain states, medical providers are entitled to file a lien for repayment of any monies spent on treating or caring for someone injured in an accident. Some medical providers may ask you to sign a lien letter, stating that you submit to a lien against your settlement to pay for services. Medical provider liens must follow a strict procedure in order to be valid.

If you are injured in a work-related incident, a worker's compensation or L&I lien may be issued if your medical bills or lost wages have been paid through your state's workers' comp fund. Worker's comp laws vary significantly between states; therefore it's important to check if the carrier can assert a workers comp lien on your personal injury settlement.

The general rule is that if the government paid for any portion of your medical care, they have a right to get paid back if you later recover money for your injuries from another party. Depending on the specific type of government program, some government agencies, (Medicare and Medicaid Liens, Veteran's Administration) have different rights when it comes to placing a lien against your settlement. Some have the right to recover a portion of the proceeds from your personal injury lawsuit.

It's entirely possible to get the lien holder to accept less than the amount they paid. Your lawyer may be able to negotiate the claim down. Under the "common fund doctrine," lawyers who create a "common fund" for the benefit of a third-party are entitled for reimbursement from the fund in the form of attorney's fees. Worker's compensation carriers are aware that a lien may be so large that is creates a disincentive to litigate. If the lien exceeds the total amount a plaintiff is likely to receive from a lawsuit, the plaintiff may choose not to sue. The plaintiff's lawyer can negotiate with the carrier in order to resolve the lien for substantially less that the face value of their claim.

If an entity requests reimbursement, it's important to ascertain what language in the insurance policy or statute or rule gives them the right to demand this. Lien law is extremely complicated and an experienced lawyer may find ways to reduce or even eliminate the lien. If you've been injured in an auto collision or other incident, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment for a free initial consultation.

Representing Restaurants and Bars

We represent several restaurants and bars and their owners. If you're thinking about buying a restaurant or bar, you must ensure that you are properly protecting yourself. There are many factors to consider in such a transaction, such as:

Liquor license transfer – Are you going to apply to transfer over the existing owner’s license or are you applying for a new license?

Lease assignment – How many years are left on the lease? Can you get an extension of the lease and can you change any of the terms in the lease that you are taking over? Will the landlord be asking for a personal guaranty, and will the previous owner's personal guaranty remain on the lease?

Taxes – Has the seller of the business paid all of his sales taxes? Are there any other liabilities that exist for which you could be responsible?

Title to the equipment – Are there any liens on the equipment that you are purchasing? We'll advise and assist you in conducting a full title and lien search before closing.

Indemnification of past liabilities – We'll advise and assist you in conducting a comprehensive due diligence investigation to ensure that you don’t get stuck with any past liabilities of the seller.

Buying or selling a business is an important event in any businessperson’s life. There is a lot of money involved, often your life savings, and there are many moving parts to the process so it is critical that you have a lawyer that understands the bar and restaurant industry representing you and protecting your rights as you move on to your new venture. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 if we can be of service.

Cohabitation agreements are legal documents that protect the rights of unmarried couples while protecting individual assets and financial interests.

Couples can have any reason for living together. In some cases, couples live together as a starting point for getting married later. In other cases, though, couples simply aren’t interested in the legal commitment of marriage. When couples choose cohabitation in lieu of marriage, they give up a number of rights and protections that married couples enjoy under state and U.S. law. You may feel that your partner is part of the family, but the law doesn't necessarily agree. Fortu...nately, a written cohabitation agreement can give unmarried couples some of the same rights that married couples have.

Marriage is a legal contract that formally commits a couple to state laws that govern what happens if a spouse dies or if the couple divorces. Unmarried couples have fewer rights than married couples, as they do not automatically agree to a legal contractual relationship under state law. A couple may enter into joint obligations, however, like a lease or mortgage. The lack of a binding contract also makes it easier for unmarried couples to break up, and significant conflict can result if a couple has purchased property together or owns joint assets.

Cohabitation agreements are legal documents that protect the rights of unmarried couples while protecting individual assets and financial interests. In many ways, cohabitation agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements, because they spell out each person’s responsibilities in the relationship. Both Washington and Idaho law view cohabitation agreements in the same way they view business contracts: If it’s in writing, it’s enforceable.

If you’re living with a partner or considering moving in together, it’s important to have a sound cohabitation agreement in place. A written agreement is critical if a rift develops in the relationship or if one partner dies, leaving the other partner with no protection under the law. A cohabitation agreement also protects you if you are providing financial support to your partner. And if you’re a dependent partner who has agreed to give up your career to take care of a home or children, it’s vital to have an agreement regarding compensation and support spelled out in writing.

In a long-term, committed relationship in which you’re living with a partner, a cohabitation agreement protects your legal interests regarding money and property. To ensure that you are fully protected, contact us at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment to see how we can help.

Estate Planning for People with Out-of-State Real Estate

Whether you own a vacation place, a timeshare, investment property, or a piece of land to build on eventually, many people own real estate outside of the state in which they live. If you plan to leave that property to your children, grandchildren, or other beneficiaries and you simply put it in your Will, the recipients may encounter problems. Not only will your Will have to go through the probate process where you live, but a secondary (or "ancillary") probate will have to b...e opened in each state in which you owned property as well. Probate is a legal process for changing title to the proper heirs of an individual who dies, either with or without a Will. Because state laws vary, unless you have a Will, your principal residence in your home state may be divided one way, while the vacation home, timeshare, or other piece of land may wind up divided differently.

If, for example, you were a Washington resident who also owned investment property in Arizona, your heirs will have to hire an attorney to handle the probate both in Washington and in Arizona because a Washington court obviously doesn't have jurisdiction over Arizona real estate.

Each state also has different rules regarding probate, so you need to talk to a lawyer in the state where your property is located to find out what your heirs will be faced with should you leave them your out-of-state property. Keep in mind, the real estate is distributed based upon the laws of the state in which the property is located.

The three common ways to avoid the hassle, delays, and costs of probate and the additional “ancillary” probate are either to title your property jointly with your spouse or another individual, to use a Transfer on Death Deed (or "TODD") in those states that recognize them, or to place the property into a revocable living trust.

Any of those techniques will keep your out-of-state property from the probate process out of state, saving your heirs time, aggravation, and money, as well as the costs, delays, and hassles of probate and ancillary probate. If you title your property jointly or you use a TODD, the property automatically goes to the survivor or the grantee of the TODD. If you choose to set up a living trust, title to your property is transferred to the beneficiaries named in that trust.

With the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer and some careful planning, you can avoid unnecessary complication for your estate and your heirs. If you have questions about avoiding an ancillary probate for your out-of-state real estate, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.

Representing People with Neck and Back Injuries

Neck and back injuries are the most common types of injuries that happen in auto collisions. For example, in a rear-end collision, the victim’s head is often jerked back and forth rapidly. This sometimes forces the muscles in the neck and back to over stretch and cause severe swelling and pain. Although most strain and sprain injuries can be resolved with physical therapy or chiropractic treatment, a small percentage of these injuries produce chronic neck and/or back pain.

A serious neck or back injury can also involve the disks in your spinal column. The disks in your spine are plate-like structures found between the vertebrae in your back and neck. If one or more of these disks are herniated or ruptured, it can put extreme pressure on the spinal nerve roots and cause significant pain.

Typically, an MRI, CT scan, or other advanced imaging technology is performed to identify any potential disk damage (bulging, herniated or ruptured) or an x-ray to disclose possible fractures. However, connective tissue injuries (sometimes called "soft tissue injuries") to the neck and back often are not disclosed by any form of imaging. As a result, recovering reasonable damages for connective tissue injuries is usually more difficult because of the absence of indisputable test results.
Neck and back injuries are often debilitating, and could require expensive surgery, follow-up medical care and physical therapy.

Do not accept any offer from an insurance company before you speak with a lawyer. Many large insurance companies have adopted settlement policies that encourage their adjusters to offer quick payments to persons involved in a collision. Insurance adjusters will contact you or your family shortly after a wreck to try to gain your confidence. In doing so, insurance adjusters often try to present themselves as the friend of the injured person or the family of the person who was killed in an collision. The goal of such contact is to settle the case on terms as favorable as possible for the insurance company.

Please remember that it is crucial to act swiftly after you’ve been injured. The sooner you involve a lawyer, the better we will be able to preserve evidence, gather essential witnesses, and address any other important factors.

If you've been injured in an auto collision, you deserve reimbursement for your medical expenses, payment for past and future income loss, full compensation for pain and suffering, and peace of mind in knowing your financial interests are being protected. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to make an appointment for a free initial consultation.

Helping Boards of Directors Prepare Corporate Resolutions

We serve as general counsel to numerous small businesses and nonprofit organizations. We are often asked to attend their Board of Directors' meeting and help prepare their corporate resolutions and other documents. A board of directors can decide to write up a resolution for most any reason they choose. Resolutions are often written for the following reasons:

* To document that a new member of the board was voted in
* To record a major decision made or policy adopted at a board meeting
* To document a decision made by the shareholders of a corporation
* When a small business wants to hire new employees
* When a company wishes to sell shares in the corporation
* When a nonprofit organization wants to delegate funds to a certain project
* When an organization wants to enter into a relationship with a bank, the bank will often require a banking resolution for its file to show who's authorized to sign for bank accounts

If your small business or nonprofit organization needs help with preparing its corporate resolutions, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.

Preparing and Reviewing Contracts for Small Businesses

Starting and running a small business often involves a staggering number of contracts and processes, whether it's a simple invoice for an order (which technically is a contract), a partnership or shareholders' agreement, an employment compensation agreement, or a customer service contract. It's important to get acquainted with the various types of contracts and forms your business may encounter. Remember, contracts are legally enforceable and usually benefit from the skilled eye of a trained legal professional.

We serve as counsel for numerous small businesses and nonprofit organizations. If we can be of service to you and your business, give us a call at 253.858.5434. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Appointing a Guardian for Your Children is a Big Part of Your Estate Plan

Parents usually intend to create a Will and name a guardian in it for their minor children. Unfortunately, we all know someone who has died suddenly and unexpectedly, long before their time. When that happens, and the person who died leaves behind a minor child who does not have a surviving parent, a guardian must be appointed. Even if a guardian is named in a Will, the court must approve that selection.

If the deceased parents of the child did name a guardian in their Will, that person will be given priority to serve as guardian, but is not guaranteed to be appointed. If the minor child is 14 or older, his or her wishes as to who should be their guardian will carry a lot of weight with the judge.

Several documents must be filed with the court in the county in which the child resides in order to begin the process of appointment of a guardian. These include a petition for the appointment of a guardian, a complete listing of the minor child's next of kin with addresses, and a Notice of Hearing to set a date and time for the hearing on the petition. Any interested person can initiate the proceedings.

After the necessary forms are filed, the hearing date is set. The minor's next of kin must be properly served with notice of the hearing. If no one is contesting the appointment of the proposed guardian, Letters of Guardianship will be granted at the close of the hearing. If the appointment is contested, the judge may issue a decision at the hearing or may issue a written opinion later after having heard evidence from the parties.

If you need to pursue or contest a guardianship of a minor whose parents are deceased, give us a call right away. To minimize the risk of a contested guardianship action for your own children, make sure to appoint a willing and able guardian for them in your Will or in your Power of Attorney for Children's Health Care.

Estate Planning for Young Families

A lot of young parents put off estate planning. If asked, they often say they are too young and healthy or it's too expensive. Some have trouble just thinking about what could happen if they should die while their kids are depending on them. But even a healthy, young adult can be taken suddenly by an accident or illness, and those with young families need estate planning precisely because others are depending on them. Of course, you are not expecting to die while your family is young, but planning for the possibility is being a good, responsible parent, and it shows your family how much you care.

A good estate plan for a young family will include naming someone to administer the estate (a Trustee or Personal Representative), naming a guardian to care for minor children, providing instructions for the distribution of your assets, and naming someone to manage the inheritance for the children until they become adults. It will also include reviewing your insurance needs and planning for disability.

Estate planning will require you to think about family relationships and some decisions may be difficult. But we can help you through the process, provide valuable guidance, and make sure your plan will do what you want when it is needed. If finances are tight, as they usually are for young families, start with the most essential legal documents and term life insurance, then update and upgrade your plan as your financial situation improves. The most important thing is to not put this off. Once your plan is in place, you will have peace of mind that your family will be protected if something should happen to you.

We have been providing estate planning legal services to families for over 20 and are licensed to practice law in Washington and Idaho. If we can be of service to you, your family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers, give us call at 253.858.5434 to make an appointment. We are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

The Importance of Medical Records in a Personal Injury Case

Failure to act with reasonable care is considered negligence. When you are injured because of someone's negligence, such as in an auto or motorcycle collision, you may file a personal injury claim asking the negligent party to repay you for the damages you suffer. Damages may include medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering. Deciding on the amount of your damages can be difficult, especially if you'll need treatment in the future. Medical records and examinations can help with that process by revealing the extent of the injury, as well as any ongoing conditions or problems resulting from the injury.

The main source of information regarding your injuries and damages is your medical records. Records from the hospital, doctor's office, physical therapist, chiropractor, and other providers can show what injuries you suffered, how much pain you experienced, what treatment was given, and how the injury affected and will continue to affect your life. Be sure to seek medical help immediately after any injury. Earlier medical records can show your condition before the injury, including previous injuries that might have affected the same part of your body.

Personal injury law is complicated and every case is unique. If you, a family member, friend, neighbor, or co-worker has been in an auto collision and need legal advice, give us a call at 253.858.5434 for a free initial consultation.