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Category Archives: Practical Tips You Can Use

Parents: Providing Alcohol to Minors In Washington State Will Get You Into Trouble

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

In Washington State, it is illegal for an adult to provide alcohol to minors.  It is also illegal for a property owner to provide a place for them to drink.  The statute provides:

(1) It is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years or permit any person under that age to consume liquor on his or her premises or on any premises under his or her control. For the purposes of this subsection, “premises” includes real property, houses, buildings, and other structures, and motor vehicles and watercraft. A violation of this subsection is a gross misdemeanor punishable as provided for in chapter 9A.20 RCW.[1]

Violating the law can put you in jail for up to 364 days, subject you to a $5,000.00 fine, or both.[2]

There is a strange exception to the law:  it is not illegal for parents or guardians of their minor child to furnish alcohol to them as long as it is done under their supervision.[3]  This does not mean it is ok for an adult to supervise anyone else other than their child – so providing a safe place for your child and their friends to drink is illegal.  In addition, you may be liable for civil damages if a child leaves your house and is injured because they are intoxicated.

Research has shown that even supervised minors who drink with adult supervision are more likely to have problems with alcohol than kids who are not allowed to drink until age 21. The study was conducted by Barbara J. McMorris, lead author and a senior research associate at the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota.[4]  She and her colleagues tracked1,945 seventh graders for three years.  Half of the teens were from Victoria, Australia, the other half from Washington state.

The study found that it didn’t matter in which country parents and youth lived, the idea of teaching teens responsible drinking behavior was not working.   The study found that adult-supervised settings for alcohol use resulted in higher levels of harmful alcohol consequences, contrary to predictions prior to the study.   “The study makes it dear that you shouldn’t be drinking with your kids” says McMorris.

So, the next time you’re asked to buy or provide alcohol to a minor or to allow underage drinking in your home, simply tell them: NO.  It’s bad for them and could also expose you to criminal and civil liability.  Be a smart parent and don’t let any person under the age of 21 drink on your property.



[1] RCW 66.44.270.

[2] RCW 9A.20.021.

[3] RCW 66.44.270(3).

Teen Drivers: Stats and Tips

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

There are few things in life more exciting for teenagers, and more unnerving for parents than receiving the license to drive.  This important rite of passage marks the first big step toward adulthood and independence for a teen.  Parents play a vital role in this transition and must be proactive in educating the new driver to be safe and responsible behind the wheel.

According to a Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report, overall traffic fatalities dropped during the first half of 2011.  However, the number of American 16- and 17-year old teenagers killed in motor vehicle collisions rose 11 percent during the same period, from 190 to 211.[1]

More than 20% of teens in the United States never receive driver’s education prior to receiving their driver’s license.  The number of teens who have not received driver’s education is even greater in states which do not require formal training.[2]  Driver’s education usually consists of 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of training behind the wheel.  The original goal of formal driver’s education when it was implemented in the 1950’s was to produce safer teenage drivers, who are four times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle collision than older drivers.

It is not clear, however, that increasing the rate of driver education would result in fewer collisions.  According to Jean Shope, a professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Institute, driver education is effective in teaching teens the rules of the road and how to maneuver a vehicle, but it does not necessarily make them safer drivers.  Supervised practice driving over a period of many months makes a bigger difference in producing safe teen drivers.[3]

The website www.distraction.gov provides from suggestions on how to keeps teens safe while driving:

  • Talk about the consequences of driving distracted with your teen.
  • Establish safety rules, including forbidding talking or texting on the phone while driving.
  • Have everyone in the family sign a pledge form to drive without distraction.
  • Become familiar with your state’s laws about distracted driving, and educate your teen about the legal consequences of distracted driving.
  • Be a good role model by turning your cell phone off while you drive.

Other facts and tips for parents to know in raising safe teen drivers include:[4]

Drive Now. Talk Later: Cell phone use is the most common distractions for drivers.  Dialing a hand-held device increases the risk of a motor vehicle collision by almost 33%.[5]

Pay Attention.  Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the crash.  A high percentage of the crashes reported by teens involved rear-ending a car that had stopped while the teen driver was looking away from the road.

Get Ready at Home – Not in the Car.  Activities such as applying makeup, fixing your hair, and eating while driving increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by almost 3 times.

Drowsy? Pull Over.  Drowsiness is a significant problem that increases a driver’s risk of a crash or near-crash by at least a factor of four.

Limit Teen Passengers.  Teen passengers can distract a beginning driver and lead to greater risk taking.  Fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers are much more likely to occur when other teenagers are in the car. The risk of a fatal crash increases in proportion to the number of teenage passengers.

 



[1] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122014.html

[3] Id.

[4] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[5] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Winter Weather and Common Questions

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Now that wintery, snowy weather is clearly upon us, this blog will address some of the common questions that may arise due to the weather.

My neighbor’s tree fell on my house – who is responsible for the damage?

This seems to be an all too common problem recently.  If your neighbor has a large tree (or any size tree) that falls on your property, your insurance policy will cover the damage.  Your homeowner’s policy will cover damage to your property, regardless if it was caused by your neighbor’s tree.  The exception is damage caused by melting snow.  Typically, your homeowner’s policy will only cover damage caused by melting snow if you have flood insurance.  It is important to check your policy and update it as necessary.

I have a sidewalk on my property: do I have to clear it?

Well, the answer is “it depends.”  If you are a business owner then yes, you do.  Washington state does not follow the “natural accumulation rule,” so if your property has a  parking lot or sidewalk on it, it is your responsibility to clear it.  The law does not distinguish between natural and artificial conditions, so if you have snow, remove it. The duty to protect people from harm is the same in both situations.  If you are a private homeowner, then the answer, surprisingly, is no.  Absent any local ordinance, there is no duty to clear the sidewalk in front of your house.  However, just about every city, town and county in Washington has an ordinance requiring homeowners to clear their sidewalks in snowy weather.  In addition, you can be fined if you fail to keep your sidewalk cleared as a homeowner. So, be safe and keep that sidewalk clear.

Car accidents:  is it my fault if I skidded on snow or ice?

If you are involved in a collision in snowy or icy conditions, first call 911.  If you are the unfortunate participant in a collision involving snow or ice, there is no “free pass” for snow and ice conditions.  If you crash into someone because of the weather, you are still liable.  In fact, the law imposes a heightened duty, not a lessened duty of ordinary care  in adverse weather.  So, if you know there are snow and ice conditions, slow down, increase your following distance and drive with your lights on.

If you have any questions concerning adverse weather conditions and potential liability arising from those conditions, the attorneys at Adler Giersch, PS are ready and willing to assist.  So, stay warm, keep dry and be safe out there.

Winter Driving Safety Tips

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Winter weather is upon us, whether we like it or not.  While the Northwest often fares better than many parts of the country when it comes to harsh winter weather, there is no denying that winter driving can be both challenging and dangerous for automobile travel.  Drivers should be cautious when driving in adverse weather conditions and be familiar with the rules for safely dealing with winter road emergencies.

Here are some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe during the winter driving season:

  • Avoid driving while you’re fatigued.
  • Be sure your tires are properly inflated, and never mix radial tires with other tire types.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up or running out of gas if     inclement weather causes severe traffic snarls.
  • Avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • Always look and steer where you want to go.
  • Wear your seat belt EVERY time you get into your vehicle.
  • Check local weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips if bad weather is expected. If you must travel, inform others of your travel route, destination, and estimated time of arrival.
  • Pack a basic emergency kit in your vehicle which should include: flashlight and batteries, blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
  • Stay with your vehicle if you become snow-bound. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.  Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress.
  • Keep the dome light on at night, if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to fill the passenger compartment of your car if the engine is running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • DRIVE SLOWLY. Everything takes longer on snow and ice-covered roads; accelerating, stopping, turning, nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement.   Slowly applying the gas is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Allow extra time and distance to slow down for a stop sign or traffic light. Remember: It takes longer to slow     down on snowy or icy roads.  Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • Allow greater following distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you.  The normal dry pavement following distance of 3-4 seconds.  This should be increased to 8-10 seconds to provide an increased margin of safety for emergency stops.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. It is harder to start moving from a full stop on snow or ice that it is if your vehicle is still rolling.
  • Don’t power up hills. Accelerating on snow-covered roads often causes your wheels to spin and lose traction.  Try to get some inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. When crest a hill, reduce your speed and proceed down the hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an     icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

Source: www.aaaexchange.com

Omega-3s: Potential Benefits for Treatment of Pain

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

The benefits of omega-3s seem to be in the news everyday.  This fatty acid, often referred to as fish oil, has been widely studied in recent years and results suggest that it effective for the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of health conditions, including:

•    Better brain function
•    Reduced depression
•    Improvement of ADD/ADHD symptoms in children
•    Improved cardiovascular health and protection from heart disease

Many of these benefits have been widely publicized.  But there are also numerous studies which suggest omega-3s are effective for the treatment of pain.

Patients with chronic pain that is not resolved by treatment of the underlying cause are often faced with the prospect of long-term use of prescription medication as the only option for reducing pain and increasing daily function.  Prescription medication, such as narcotic pain killers, often have unpleasant side effects and are potentially addictive.  The choice to live with pain or bear the risks associated with the use of prescription pain killers often feels like a no-win situation for people with chronic pain.

Omega-3s have been shown to be a potentially effective third option.  Several studies have found patients reporting reduced pain after taking omega-3 supplements for several weeks.  These studies have focused on several different types of pain. One study, for example, found that patients with “neuropathic” pain, responded well.  Neuropathic pain is pain that is caused by damage to the nervous system, including nerve endings.  It is commonly experienced as electrical sensation, burning or “pins and needles” sensation.

Though there were only five patients studied, all had long-term neuropathic pain which interfered with each patient’s ability to perform activities.  After several months of taking 2400 to 7200 mg of omega-3, all 5 patients reported a significant decrease in pain and improved ability to function on a daily basis.  These result show promise for chronic pain patients faced with the unenviable choice between living with pain or relying on prescription medication.

No adverse effects were noted by any of the patients studied.  However, before taking high doses of any supplement, patients should consult their medical providers. Some supplements may interact negatively with other medications or supplements.  Omega-3s, for example, tend to thin the blood and can affect blood coagulation and may increase caloric intake, important for patients with conditions such as diabetes.

Change of Job, Change of Coverage: What About Pre-existing Conditions?

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

When it comes to health insurance, pre-existing conditions are a big issue for people facing loss or change of coverage.  Federal and state laws make the issue murky since different rules apply to different types of group plans.

First, what is a pre-existing condition?  Basically, it is any physical condition that existed prior to a certain point in time.  For our purposes, that point in time is the start date of a new health insurance policy or the start date of your waiting period.  For insurance purposes in Washington, a pre-existing condition is a physical condition for which a person received medical care or was advised to receive care within 6 months of the coverage start date.

Second, different plans are dictated by different rules.  Some plans are created and regulated under a federal law known as the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  Other health plans are governed by state law.  You may need to ask your employer to find out which kind of plan you are on.

Here are the basic pre-existing condition exclusion rules for group coverage in Washington currently:

  1. Self-funded employers (ERISA) can exclude pre-existing conditions for 12 months.
  2. State regulated plans with 50 or more eligible employees can exclude pre-existing conditions for 3 months.
  3. State regulated plans for small groups (2 to 50 employees) may require a 9-month exclusion period.

If you have coverage at one job then change to the new insurer at a new job, the new insurance company must give you credit for the coverage you had with Employer 1 as long as you have not had a significant lapse in coverage (defined as 63 or 90 days, depending on the plan).  If, for example, you had continuous coverage for 2 years and the new carrier would impose a 9-month pre-existing exclusion, the new carrier has to give you credit for the prior 2 years of coverage.  In effect, they will not exclude pre-existing conditions as long as you have not had a break in coverage between the policy periods.  If you had coverage for 2 years on one plan then had 4 months with no coverage (lapse in coverage), the new carrier would not have to give you any credit for your prior coverage and could impose the maximum exclusion period.

Talk to your employer or insurer about what type on plan you have and what you can expect regarding pre-existing conditions if you are faced with a change of coverage.

Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor’s Visit

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

Doctors are busy.  It is a simple fact of life.  This can sometimes mean that patients may feel railroaded and not have questions answered.  The doctor may want to spend a leisurely half hour chatting, but there is likely a line a patients waiting for his or her time.  You can respect the situation that the doctor is in, but still get your needs met.  Here are some guidelines to consider to make the most of your time, money and health.

1. Schedule appropriately. If you have more than one issue to discuss, make that clear at the time the appointment is set.  The time scheduled for an exam is often dictated by the complexity of the problem(s) presented.  Make sure to tell the scheduler everything you want to talk about at the appointment.

2. Be prepared. Know what your questions and concerns are before you walk in.  Write them down.  Spending time trying to remember that one more question you knew was important is time you will not have to get the answer.

3. Know thyself. History and other medical issues are important for doctors to know in order to properly advise a patient regarding an acute issue.  Being vague about your own history or current medications leaves the doctor with unanswered questions that could affect treatment decisions.  Be prepared to give a thorough yet concise summary of your medical history, family history and details of any medications you are taking.  Again, it doesn’t hurt to write it out.

4. Be honest. Don’t try to hide embarrassing facts from your doctor.  They have heard it all.  You will not shock them.  It is important to be honest and thorough so that the doctor can make the right recommendations for you.  If you conceal important facts, the treatment recommendation may not be appropriate and you will have wasted your time and the doctors.

5. Be assertive. But not aggressive.  You are the CEO of your health care.  You have the right to competent medical care.  If you feel a doctor has not answered your questions or is not listening, you have the right to tell them. However, as in any relationship, being rude or making personal attacks never gets you far.

6. Set the tone. Let your doctor know how involved you want to be in treatment decisions and if you have particular opinions or beliefs that would affect decision-making.  Some patients just want to be told what to do with absolute faith in the doctor’s recommendation.  Other patients need a lot of information to feel part of the decision-making process and control of health care.  Doctors don’t know which you are unless you tell them.

7. Take the reins. If you feel you are consistently not getting what you need from a doctor, change doctors!  Even if your health insurer has constraints on who you can see, there are usually several doctors within a single clinic to whom you can transfer care.

    Preparation and self-advocacy are the keys to getting the most out of your time with your doctor.  Trust that confidentiality laws protect your privacy and are taken seriously.  Respect the doctor’s time and expect the same in return.  Making the most of this time will help you make the most of your health.

    Pedestrian Injuries and Deaths: Some statistics and safety tips

    Categories: Auto Accidents, Practical Tips You Can Use

    By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

    Walking.  It’s a great way to get and stay in shape.  It helps ease traffic woes by reducing the number of vehicles on the road.  And with today’s gas prices, walking can help stretch those dollars at the pump a little further.  Now that summer and good weather are finally here, you can expect to see more people out and about for a leisurely stroll, running errands, or working off those extra winter pounds.

    The problem is, pedestrians are extremely vulnerable.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 300 people nationwide will be injured and receive emergency room care as a result of pedestrian-related injuries in an average 24 hour period.  On average, one person will die from traffic-related trauma in the next two hours. In 2007, more than 4,800 pedestrians were killed and over 118,000 were injured by motor vehicles.

    A survey of pedestrian-related injuries and deaths in 2009 by the Department of Transportation  revealed the following statistics:

    • Males are more likely to be injured or killed than females.
    • Pedestrians aged 65 years and older have a higher fatality rate than all other age groups.
    • Almost 20% of traffic-related deaths of children under 14 are pedestrian fatalities.
    • Approximately 40% of all pedestrian fatalities involving children 16 and under occur between 3:00 and 7:00 PM.
    • 48% of all pedestrian traffic fatalities occur on the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
    • An overwhelming majority (77%) of all pedestrian deaths occur between 4:00 PM and 4:00 AM.
    • Alcohol was involved, in either the driver or pedestrian, in 48% of all pedestrian fatalities.
    • Urban pedestrians are more likely (72%) to be killed than their rural counterparts.
    • Three quarters of pedestrian fatalities occur at non-intersection locations.
    • A whopping 89% of collision-related pedestrian fatalities occurred during normal weather!

    In light of these numbers, it is important to keep these simple things in mind to avoid the risk of injury or death when walking near roadways:

    • Always cross the street at intersections and use designated crosswalks whenever possible.
    • Even though crossing the street at intersections is vastly safer than elsewhere, pedestrians should be wary of drivers who fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians when turning onto another street.
    • Pedestrians should increase their visibility at night by carrying a flashlight and wearing light-reflective clothing.
    • Walk on the sidewalk whenever possible.  If a sidewalk is not present, walk on the outside of the lane facing oncoming traffic.
    • Don’t drink and walk on or near roadways!
    • When driving, remember to always yield the right of way to pedestrians at all times.

    In addition to the tips above, additional resources for increasing safety for children pedestrians are provided below.

    • International Walk to School in the USA: http://www.iwalktoschool.org/
    • Safe Kids USA:  http://www.safekids.org/
    • National Center for Safe Routes to School:  http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/

    Your Right to Know: Access to Governmental Information

    Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

    By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

    There is a lot of talk about government “transparency” and the rights of the people to know what their government is doing.  But what does this mean beyond what you see on the news or flipping the remote to the government channels?

    In Washington, there is a powerful but often ignored law known as the Public Records Act (PRA).   It is similar to the Freedom of Information Act which applies to federal agencies. The PRA applies to all governmental agencies within the state and requires that every agency (state, county or city), follow specific rules when a person requests information about government actions.  Every agency must designate a Public Records Officer who is the point of contact for requests and oversees agency compliance with the law.

    A public record is any paper or electronic item of any kind that the agency might have.  The agency must disclose the information requested, except for certain very specific exceptions.  These exceptions include information that would invade an individual’s privacy, some law enforcement investigative information and research data, among others.  Other laws restrict access to certain other information such as a person’s medical records.

    To request public records, a member of the public need only make a request to the agency for the information.  Instructions for making a request are usually on the agency’s Web site. No explanation for the need of the information is required.  The agency has five business days to produce the record, provide an internet link to the information, deny the request (with an explanation of which exemption applies), or provide a reasonable estimate of the additional time it will need to respond.  The agency may provide copies, for which they can charge, or make the information available for copying.

    You can find additional information about the Public Records Act by checking out RCW 42.56 on the Washington state Web site: www.access.wa.gov.