No Lawyer Required – Small Claims Court

Your best friend, or someone you thought of as a friend, asked you for a loan of $2,500.00. You had the money, and you liked the guy, so you said okay. Two months have passed, and he bought a new house. You know he’s not hurting. You called him after you heard about the house and asked when he was going to pay you back. He said he had huge expenses now because of the new house. He said soon. Two weeks later you called again. Again he said soon. You just put the phone down. You’re tired of calling. He said soon again. What to do next?

This situation sounds like a case for small claims court. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Letter

Write your friend a letter. Tell him that he has two weeks to pay you back. Tell him you want to resolve his payment to you in a friendly manner, but if you do not receive a check within two weeks, you will see him in small claims court.

We’re hoping that the letter resolves the non-payment problem. If it does not, you’ll have to continue to step two.

2. File a claim

Go to your local small claims court and complete the forms. You can probably download the forms from your county’s small claims website. Submit the forms to the small claims court. The court will schedule a hearing.

3. Service of process

Your friend has become the defendant. He must be served at least 15 days before the hearing date if the defendant lives in San Francisco county. If the defendant does not live in the county, s/he must be served at least 20 days before the hearing date. A capable adult must serve a true copy of the claim. You cannot serve the defendant.

4. Evidence

You next gather all evidence to submit at the hearing. Evidence would include a copy of the cancelled check that you gave your friend and dates and notes of all phone calls that you made to him. You may want to take a photo of his new house.

5. At the hearing

Small claims courts are generally much more informal that other courts. The judge will ask you questions, and then s/he’ll ask your friend, the defendant, questions.

If you have presented the situation with evidence, the judge will probably rule in your favor.

You’ve won your case, and your friend is now going to pay you back, but suppose he doesn’t. Suppose he is a real jerk and has decided that he wants you to have to work just a little harder to get your money back.

6. Collecting a judgment

You have to collect the judgment. The defendant may pay the amount directly to the court. If the defendant does not have the money, the defendant may have to pay installments.

If your friend refuses to pay, you can complete an Application and Order for Appearance and Examination which would require your friend to appear in small claims court to have his income and resources examined.

You could also consider wage garnishment by completing a Writ of Execution. This writ could also levy your friend’s checking or other bank account.

If your friend has a business with a cash register, a sheriff can go to the business for a till tap. The sheriff can take enough money from the cash register to pay the judgment debt. The typical sheriff’s fee for a till tap is $85.00. We hope your friend doesn’t put you in this situation, but if you are ever in this situation, the purpose of small claims courts is to resolve small problems without the expense of an attorney. This is the do it yourself legal remedy.

Disclaimer: This article is not to be considered legal advice. If you need legal advice, seek out a licensed attorney. Remember that small claims courts do not require an attorney. If, however, the losing defendant appeals the small claims court’s decision, the new venue is a superior court. In a superior court, you will need an attorney.

Stress, Anxiety, and Substance Abuse as a Cause of Impairment in Lawyers

“One of every four lawyers suffers from stress, and out of 105 occupations, lawyers rank first in depression. In addition, a disproportionate number of lawyers commit suicide. These are some of the troubling conclusions that can be found in various studies of addiction and depression.” Reports Robert Stein, ABA Executive Director, in the June 2005 issue of the ABA Journal.

The costs of stress, alcoholism, and drug abuse is very high for the legal profession. The American Bar Association and all state bar associations have provided “lawyer assistance programs” that can help to treat “impaired” lawyers. Most of these programs also address the issues of clinical depression and disorders related to gambling, sex, and eating.

If you do not realize the significance of this troubling situation, consider being represented in your important legal matters by an impaired attorney. It could cost you thousands of dollars or even your freedom if you or your interests are not protected by competent legal professionals. In the state of California, there is a requirement for Continuing Legal Education (CLE’s) which includes a minimum of 1 hour every 3 years on stress management or substance abuse for all licensed, practicing lawyers to maintain their license to practice law.

The practice of law is inherently stressful. Much of the time lawyers find themselves battling with other legal professionals for their clients best interests. Trail lawyers must think quickly and communicate with precision and skill in the courtroom. Corporate lawyers must be concerned with legal details that require focused attention and great care. The competition to be successful as an attorney can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

People preparing to become attorneys often struggle with stress in law school and in the multi-day testing that is required to “pass the bar.” The stressful issues that can begin in law school can set up future practicing attorneys for bad habits in coping with the stress and anxiety of the profession. Some law schools offer coursework for life skill management to better prepare their students to be able to perform at the highest level for their clients and for their quality of life.

Because lawyers are trained to be precise and use their cerebral abilities for day to day work, they are often in denial regarding the needs for stress and anxiety management until bad habits are established or symptoms cause significant challenges. Even managing general partners in major law firms have great professional and personal concerns regarding “impairment” within their organizations. An accidental mistake or oversight can open a law firm to their own costly law suits for malpractice. Many concerned managing partners are requiring that their attorneys practice preventive measures to control stress, anxiety, and depression. This can be found in group trainings, EAP’s or individual coaching. Coaching can also offer enhancements to time management, improved communication skills, and long term career planning. An interesting and unexpected benefit to this training and coaching is that this preventive work can actually save lawyers time and energy by helping to minimize the impact of distractions due to stress. This improves performance and can help to increase profitability. Key personnel are important assests and professional coaching or mentoring programs have huge cost benefits.

Everyone, even lawyers, require professional assistance to get through the difficult periods. Lawyers just seem to require more attention as they work to survive, at the highest functioning levels, in the “meat grinder” of their professional life. Most people who know practicing attorneys know that their attorney family members or friends can benefit from a sense of humor and better stress management. In increasing frequency, law firms are using retreats to help de-compress and then get down to business planning.

More information can be found in the article by Robert Stein at
http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/colap/ABAJournal200506_Help.html

Is a Lawyer Required for Every Workers Comp Claim?

The overall purpose of the workers compensation laws in Pennsylvania is to provide a means to ensure workers are fairly compensated for the expenses associated with workplace injury, without identifying blame for an accident. As such, many workers can obtain immediate medical attention after an injury at work as soon as the employer is notified of the accident. It is common for a worker who requires basic medical attention for relatively minor injuries to receive full care without ever completing a claim form or paying a bill.

Unfortunately, not all workplace injuries are straightforward. Many involve serious injuries that require extensive time away from work. When injuries are significant to severe-or in cases where claims are not considered valid-injury victims need the help of a Pennsylvania workers comp lawyer.

When a lawyer may be needed

The following are just a few examples of cases when an injured worker may need experienced legal assistance to help with a claim:

Denied claims. Your employer or the insurance company may deny your claim if they believe it to be invalid. In fact, state law does define claims to be invalid under certain situations-such as if they believe your injury was intentionally self-inflicted, or you were engaged in illegal activities (use of illegal drugs is a common allegation). Although the burden of proof is on the parties making these allegations, you need an experienced workers comp attorney to ensure your rights are protected.

Reduced claims. While the fact of your accident may not be denied, your employer or the insurance company may only approve a portion of the expenses cited in your claim. Skilled workers comp lawyers can help you collect the evidence required to prove the full value of your claim and either negotiate a fair settlement or appeal the decision.

Occupational injuries and illnesses. Not all workplace injuries are the result of a specific accident. Many employees-from office workers with repetitive stress injuries to laboratory workers exposed to toxic chemicals-develop their conditions over time. State workers comp law provides a complex set of schedules that identify covered conditions. You typically need a skilled attorney to navigate the rules and develop a case that proves your claims to be valid under the law.

The bottom line is that anyone experiencing problems with a claim or uncertain of how to proceed should seek advice from an attorney specifically experienced in Pennsylvania state law. In many cases, an initial consultation is free, after which many attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis. You pay no legal fees unless you receive compensation for your case.