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Am I Liable If Someone Is Injured on My Property? And More Free Legal Advice – Free Joe 6/19/12

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On Tuesdays and Fridays, attorney Joe Escalante answers legal questions for free on the LegalZoom Facebook Page. Did you miss the last Free Joe? Don’t worry. We’ve got it all right here.

Nestor: Under what circumstances are you NOT liable for someone injuring themselves on your property?

Joe Escalante: This differs all over the country. If the injured party was being negligent that would reduce the home owners liability. If the injured party was grossly negligent, even less liability for the home owner. Trespassing sometimes lets the home owner off the hook but not always.
Of course we’ve all heard the stories about the burglar who sues the homeowner when he trips and falls on the victim’s property, but that’s more of a legend, although it probably has happened a few times.
Here’s another circumstance: when your guests sign a release before they enter your house. That’s a great way to entertain and be popular.

Tarik: How can a non lawyer market for lawyer and participate in compensation?

Joe Escalante: When a non-lawyer solicits work for a lawyer, and participates in the compensation, that’s called being a “capper.” It’s great, but illegal, so I guess it’s the opposite of great. People do it, but it’s super shady. Only another lawyer can participate through referrals.

Tarik: I’m not sure I understand, so only lawyers can market for other lawyers?

Joe Escalante: A lawyer can hire a marketing firm, but they just can’t pay them commissions on business that the campaign brings in. They could pay them a flat fee.

LaTisha: Can an attorney make their retainer fee non refundable, even if your statement shows you have unused funds left over after your case. Should you get that money back?

Joe Escalante: This varies by state, but in general legal fees must be “reasonable.” Courts have held that many situations might allow for non-refundable legal fees if it is “reasonable” in that situation.
It would also depend on the wording in your “fee agreement.”

Tracy: hi, how often do married couples need to change just a simple will? thanks

Joe Escalante: Never, if circumstances do not change. They don’t expire. People make new wills often when they acquire new big ticket items that they want to be left to specific kin, or if they get new kin, that they like better than the old kin.

Mica: The hospital sends me home with a appendisitice two days later it ruptured and I had to have emergency surgery I almost died cause the poision went through my body. Do I have a lawsuit

Joe Escalante: If this happened as a result of negligence it could be medical malpractice. It’s worth a consultation with a med-mal attorney. Click the link below to help find a good one in your hood.

LegalZoom: Here you go, Mica:

Jonathan: How does one go about getting a copyright for a phone app?

Joe Escalante: You can copyright the source code with the U.S. copyright office, Legalzoom can help you do that without all the costly errors that most people go through when they do it for the first time.

MaryJo: If an artist (a sculptor, for example) creates three-dimensional, artistic-rendition sculptures (fan art) based on a two-dimensional, copyrighted characters (from a video game, for example) can the artistic renditions be sold without infringing upon the copyright owner’s rights? Or, rather, does fan art violate copyright law if sold?

Joe Escalante: Yes, these would be called derivative works and the original copyright owner would control whether they could be exploited. You can keep them in your dungeons and dragons parlor in your basement all you want, but if you try to sell them, you will be infringing on their copyright.

Leslee: I was a passenger in a car wreck that was found to be the other party’s 100% fault my medical bills are around $7000 should I send the at fault’s company a demand letter or just send them copies of my bills? Also do they need acess to my complete or any medical records?

Joe Escalante: I would send the at fault’s insurance company a demand letter with copies of the bills attached. Usually though, they would already be in contact with you trying to kiss your butt so you don’t go nuclear on them, so it’s strange if they’re not talking to you already.

Yvonne: hi Joe, if i have an idea what would be the first step in protecting the idea. I did some light research and did not see anything like it. I have checked out the options on Legal Zoom. But I need to understand exactly what should be done first. Help unclear. yvonne

Joe Escalante: If you’re talking copyright, idea’s are not protectable, like an “idea for a sitcom.”
However, if it is an idea for a new kind of machine that makes everyone’s life better, that would be a patent, and there is some protection available for certain ideas. You can start with a provisional patent which is cheap and establishes some initial protection before you decide whether it’s worth it to get a full patent.

Daniel: Does a contract with a contractor to do a kitchen remodel have to have a completion date in it to cancel or terminate contract because its taking months too long? Contractor is trying to charge more money and changing counter-top type and color< among other things. supposed to be done in April and its now June and wont be done for months. How can we get out of the contract?

Joe Escalante: Rules for contractors agreements are governed by the licensing authority in your state. My gut tells me that end dates are required. However, in general if he’s charging more than is stated in the written contract he breaching the contract in any scenario. Contact the licensing agency and tell them the details.

Karl: Id like to know what can i do to get my kids back from the state of California. My ex wife kid napped them in march of 2010. She took them from the state of kansas & they said its kidnapping but yet i cant afford a high priced lawyer to have her charged. I cant go see my kids either due to her lying to get welfare & lying on me so it has stopped me from any contact wth my kids. I need some way to get my kids back. I have contacted a few organizations but still nothing. Please help

Joe Escalante: If it is a true kidnapping, it’s a federal crime governed by the F.B.I. and they’re free. If it is more of a messy violation of a vaguely written court custody order, then yes, it will take money.

Yaelle: So I can post this here? They said wall so….
I am a 36 year old (female) disabled vet. My ex husband ran out on me when I was in the hospital having brain surgery. Over the years he’s gotten into my finances & taken a lot of my money as well as “borrowed” my car & totalled it. I want to sue him to at least attempt to undo some of the major damage he caused me. This doesnt even begin to touch on the whole custody issue thing….but I have not been able to focus on regaining some of the money he cost me.

Joe Escalante: To answer your question, yes you may post this here. And yes, you can sue him for all damages caused by him.

Elaine: When you make a will out..Do you need more than one copy..& Does it have to be filed in the court House?

Joe Escalante: You need only one original, and save some copies in a separate place to be extra safe. And no, you don’t file it in the court house. When you die, someone files it with the courthouse at that time. That’s the executor or “representative.”

Andrea: How can i change my living trust myself

Joe Escalante: You can ad “amendments” to your trust If the changes are clearly stated, it will be valid. Or you can do a “restatement” that basically re writes the entire thing. If you did your trust with legalzoom it’s easier to change than if you did it some other way, willy nilly.

Dennis: how do i legally transfer an LLC from my ex wifes name to mine? we already signed the certificate in the packet we got from legalzoom

Joe Escalante: You gotta get on the phone with the customer service people here because they’ll walk you through that.

Shay: If you have a confidential informent in ya discovery can u make them appear at trial so u can see face 2face?

Joe Escalante: If this is a criminal case, it would be a violation of your right to confront your accuser if they used this kind of evidence against you, assuming a hearsay exception doesn’t apply.

Theresa: How can you get an attorney to represent you in misdemeanors in the state of Colorado without your being there? The people who brought the accusations resulting in the misdemeanors have recanted, written a letter stating that they lied, nothing was ever proven, now he lives long ways away but found out the misdemeanor charges were never dropped. Thanks for answering this…desperate to know what to do!

Joe Escalante: Sounds like you might need Attorney from legalzoom’s nationwide “attorney connect” service. It should be very easy for an attorney to appear there without you being present.

LegalZoom: Here’s the link for Attorney Connect, Theresa:

Martinez: In a legal seperation/devorce how long dose the devorced party have in years to finalize a converted seperation to devorce . re-adjusting child supervision and spousal/child support?

Joe Escalante: If both parties still agree with the terms, the time is not going to matter much. However, if so much time has passed that circumstances are different, and one party has changed their mind, or has new evidence to introduce, then you will have a problem. Is there a hard fast number? I don’t know. That would vary by state and jurisdiction.

LegalZoom: That’s a wrap for Free Joe Friday. Come join us next week for more free legal advice ( and have a great weekend!

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June 21st, 2012 at 5:40 am