Consumer Questions

  • Why Hire Fred Schwartz?

    In many large firms, the client rarely speaks to their actual attorney, but is directed to the legal assistant for the information and guidance. We understand the frustrations associated with that type of representation and as a result, we would rather practice law in the way you deserve. When you call, you will speak directly with the attorney. Also, the attorney, and not an assistant, will be speaking directly with the insurance company, defendant or its attorney.

    Having previously been in-house counsel for a large insurance company, Frederick Schwartz understands the way the insurance company thinks and operates. He has valuable insight into the mind set and frame of reference of the insurance company’s adjustors and lawyers. This gives clients big advantages in the negotiation, litigation and settlement process

    For over 20 years, the Law Office of Frederick S. Schwartz has worked diligently to insure that our clients receive the best legal representation possible, be treated fairly, and be properly compensated. Please call or email for an honest evaluation of your case.

  • Why Hire an Attorney?

    In these challenging economic times, one might be tempted to handle legal matters on their own trying to avoid paying attorney fees or having to share a percentage of a potential recovery. Do not be penny wise, but a dollar foolish! The law is complex and there are many subtleties that a non-lawyer is likely to be unaware of. Rarely do you find the law to be black or white. It tends to operate in shades of grey. Having practiced law for over two decades, I can tell you first hand even the simplest and most straightforward of cases have unique nuances.

    Recently, a client came to me after unsuccessfully trying to handle his own car accident claim. I explained to him that having previously been in house counsel for a major insurance company, I am well aware that insurance companies have specially trained adjustors to handle the claims of injured persons who decide to represent themselves. Typically, these insurance adjustors do not have your best interests at heart. The average claimant is unaware of how much monetary compensation he or she is entitled for such things as physical injury, pain, anxiety, suffering, loss of earnings and future earnings, loss of use of one’s vehicle, diminution in value of the vehicle, future medical needs, etc. It is highly unlikely that the insurance adjustor is going to educate you or make you aware of these factors. In fact, they often try to get you to settle your claim with no right to reopen it before you even know the full extent of your injuries or damages.

    Due to ongoing tort reform in California, the insurance company for the other party no longer has a duty to treat you fairly or handle your case promptly. Often times, even your own insurance company needs to be reminded that it cannot act in bad faith. These days, filing a lawsuit and going to court seems to becoming more of a necessity in order to get a fair resolution of one’s claim. Once in court, you better have familiarity and a good grasp of not only the law but also the local, state, and federal rules or you may find your case dismissed.

    “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” Use good judgment and hire a competent attorney and let the attorney’s knowledge and experience be your guide.

  • What To Do When You Are In An Accident?

    Typically, the police will not come to the accident scene and make a report, unless one of the persons involved in the accident complains of injury. Regardless, the parties to an accident are required to exchange pertinent accident information. Experience has shown that people forget to obtain the needed information at the accident scene. Here is what you should do:

    • Obtain the necessary Information – Download or contact this office to obtain this customized accident brochure and accident intake form to assist you in gathering the needed information from the other driver and any witness.

     

    • Take photos. Keep a digital or disposable camera in your vehicle in order to take photographs of the accident scene, position of the vehicles, damage to the vehicles; skid marks; debris or any obstructions.

    • Do not discuss fault. Only exchange identification, license, registration and insurance information. Do not talk about the accident with anyone except to provide facts requested by the police or highway patrol.

    • If you are injured, accept medical attention.

    • Contact us immediately for a free case evaluation and consultation. You have the right to recover for your injuries and damages.  Call (800) 994-4442 for a free evaluation and consultation.

    Having previously been in house counsel for a large insurance company, Frederick Schwartz understands the way the insurance company thinks and operates. He has valuable insight into the mind set and frame of reference of the insurance company’s adjustors and lawyers. This gives clients big advantages in the negotiation, litigation and settlement process. Moreover, we understand the priorities of clients when they have been in an accident, and assist in promptly and properly getting the car or vehicle repaired and fairly estimated; assist in obtaining a rental car; assist when needed in finding good medical care; aggressively seek compensation for such things as loss of wages and earnings, medical costs, injury, pain and suffering.

    Auto Accidents: Each year, there are over 3 million injuries from vehicle and transportation accidents and approximately 40,000 fatalities. Driving error, negligence and alcohol are major causes of accidents. If you are injured in an accident, you may be entitled compensation.

    Truck accidents often result in serious and catastrophic injuries, including traumatic brain injuries and in some cases, death. Because of unrealistic schedules and deadlines, semi-truck and tractors- trailer drivers sometimes tend to be aggressive drivers; fail to properly inspect tires, brakes and lights; work and drive illegally long shifts, suffer from fatigue, boredom, distraction such as cell phone use while driving, use or abuse stimulants and drugs to stay awake, fail to install blind spot mirrors resulting in unsafe lane changes, jackknife, and speed.

    A big rig traveling at 70 mph has twice as much force as one traveling at 50 mph. Cars are not designed to endure the impact of these 72,000 pound trucks. These trucks also often lack rear and side bumpers. Their high front bumpers often crush car compartments, causing major damage and serious and permanent injury.

    SUV rollovers, passenger vans and passenger trucks injure 27,000 people and kill 10,000 people each year. Because of their high center of gravity, when a driver attempts to avoid an emergency with a quick steering movement or when a tire fails, the result is often a total loss of control and a rollover. The roof pillars are not designed to prevent massive crushing resulting in spinal cord injuries traumatic brain injuries and death, even when the driver or passengers are wearing seat belts.

  • What to Do When You Are Seriously Injured?

    Personal injury or “tort law” involves a wrong, harm, injury or damage done to another. It can include his or her physical body, property, rights, civil rights or reputation.  A personal injury can happen as a result of an accident, such as a traffic accident, a slip or trip and fall, dog attacks, boat or watercraft accident, a result of a faulty or defective product or a faulty repair or because of a mistake during medical treatment.   A personal injury can arise at work or as part of one’s employment.  The personal injury can be physical or psychological.

    In the sad and tragic event that a death occurs as a result of someone’s negligence, the victim’s family members may have the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.  Family members, including parents, spouses or children can file the claim.

    Personal injury law causes of action often include negligence actions, bodily injury arising out of an accident, wrongful death, premises liability, product defect, sexual harassment, professional malpractice, lible, slander, and even wrongful termination or discrimination.

    If you think you may have a case for a personal injury, please contact my office.

    More Articles On Personal Injury

  • What To Do When Your Insurance Company is Acting in Bad Faith?

    When you purchase an insurance policy you are entering into a contract between the insurance company and yourself or your company. Both parties are required to follow the insurance policy terms, be truthful, cooperative and act in good faith. In fact, the insurance company cannot put its interests before that of its insureds (i.e you the policyholder) If  you file a valid claim and the insurance company doesn’t cover what it obligated to cover, there may be not only a breach of contract, but a breach of fiduciary duty, ad a breach of good faith and fair dealing. Despite the duties, insurance companies sometimes act in their own interests and try to get out of paying, pay less than they should or unnecessarily delay payment. These are acts of bad faith on the part of the insurance company.

    If you feel insurance company isn’t providing the coverage you think you deserve or is not treating you fairly, you need to hire the right lawyers and take legal action.  Don’t be denied fair and proper compensation.

    Aside from filing a lawsuit you can also contact the department of insurance (or similar agency) in your state.

    California Department of Insurance (Link)

  • What To Do When You Are Treated Unfairly or Improperly At Work?

    Employment Law is a broad area including all areas of the employer/employee relationship. These  employment laws include wage regulations, rights to overtime pay, meal and rest periods, wrongful termination, whistleblower protections, employment discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment, and sexual harassment.

    Protect and assert your rights in the workplace.  You have the right not to be discriminated against, fired, wrongfully terminated, or retaliated against because of your race, national origin, skin color, gender, pregnancy, religious beliefs, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristics, disability, or age.

    You have the right to fair pay; to be paid at least the minimum wage, plus an overtime premium for any hours worked over forty in one week or in California and some other states, over eight hours in one day.  You are entitled to meal and rest period breaks.

    You have the right to take leave to care for your own or a family member’s serious health condition, pregnancy or following the birth or adoption of a child., and the right to some privacy in personal matters.

    You have the right to a safe and hostile free workplace.

    You have the right to a work environment free of harassment. One particularly problematic area is sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment includes the discussion of sexual activities, needless touching, indecent gestures, commenting on physical attributes, and crude and offensive language.  Further instances include an employee threatened by the employer with no promotion or pay raise, or termination if they refuse the sexual demand of the superior.  This type of behavior creates a hostile work environment:

    The person doing the sexual harassment can be a supervisor, an employer representative, a supervisor of another area, or a co-worker. The sexual harassment can be directed to either sex and even between the same sex.

    If you believe you have suffered sexual harassment at work, it is advisable that you put it in writing, Notify in writing your supervisor, manager and human resource department.

    Whatever the employment issue is, aside from trying to talk things through with your employer, protect yourself by gathering documentation. Take notes of key conversations and events, including the time, date, and names of others who were present. Gather documents that might support your side of the story, such as company policies, employee handbooks, performance reviews, letters, memoranda, and emails.  However, collect only those documents you have the right to access. Taking or copying confidential documents could get you fired and could hurt and compromise your claims.

    If a coworker saw or heard any of the incidents relating to your problem, such as compliments or criticisms, harassing comments, or an invasion of your privacy or  workspace, ask them to write it down in their own words, and have them date and sign the statement.

    Before you talk to your employer know your rights and be familiar with the company policies and the facts surrounding the issues.  When you talk to your employer, management or human resources , stay calm and try not to be over emotional, stick to the facts, be confident , summarize in writing the next steps to be taken and follow-up.  Document the problem and the agreed to resolution.

    If your employer doesn’t seem to be taking your complaint seriously, or you are demoted or fired, consider whether to take legal action. The law sets deadlines (often called “statutes of limitations”) for filing certain types of claims or lawsuits, ranging from several weeks to several years. If one of these deadlines applies to your case, you will have to think sooner rather than later about whether to go to court. You might want to consult with a lawyer about your problem to figure out how strong your claims are, whether any filing deadlines apply to your dispute, and what you might expect to gain or lose if you file a lawsuit.

    Aside from filing a lawsuit you can also contact the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (or similar agency in your state).  In addition, contact Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

  • What is the Best Course of Action to Protect Yourself in Business?

    The Law Office of Frederick S. Schwartz has over two decades of experience  assisting individual and small business owners with their legal needs.  This experience includes Limited Liability Company (LLC) and Corporation formation; reviewing and drafting agreements such as contracts, non-disclosure agreements, settlement and releases, independent contractor agreements, and other related matters.  Frederick S. Schwartz has substantial litigation, mediation, arbitration, and trial experience representing both Plaintiffs and Defendants in business disputes.

    Prior to becoming an attorney,  Frederick Schwartz lived an worked in South Korea and elsewhere in Asia as a buying agent.  This unique international business experience and the insight it provided, has been a valuable tool and asset to his business clients.  It is the Law Office of Frederick S. Schwartz’s objective to advance its clients’ interests and get the best results while minimizing the cost and burden associated with litigation.

  • What To Do When Your Civil Rights Are Violated?

    Civil litigation involves areas of the law and justice that affect the legal status of individuals, disputes involving torts such as accidents, negligence, and defamation, contract disputes, consumer and commercial law, and other matters that involve private parties, businesses, organizations and governmental agencies. In civil litigation there is the attempt to right a wrong, honor an agreement, or settle a dispute. If there is a victim, they get compensation, and the person who is the cause of the wrong pays or is ordered to take a certain action or stop a certain action.  Typically, it does not involve criminal sanctions.

    Civil Litigation encompasses many different kinds of cases, such as accident cases, premises liability,insurance claims and disputesemployment disputes, breach of contract cases, consumer disputes, discrimination cases, business disputes, malpractice, etc.

    A Summons and Complaint is drafted, filed and served to initiate the action.  The Plaintiff or Petitioner can be identified as the person or entity that starts the action. The Plaintiff or Petitioner is the party alleging that it has been injured, harmed or wronged. The Defendant or Respondent is the person or entity that defends or responds to the action and is being accuded of causing the injury, harm or wrong.

    If you are a named Defendant or Respondent, you need to quickly determine what you are being sued for, and when your answer to the complaint is due. The best way to understand your rights and the ramifications to you is to contact an attorney. If you are being accused of causing personal injuries as a result of a car accident, and if you have automobile liability insurance, or if you own a home and someone is attacked by your dog or falls on your property and if you have homeowners or renters insurance, you should contact your insurance company right away. If you are being sued for an action for which you are most likely not insured, such as breach of contract or a consumer protection violations, an attorney will be able to advise you of your rights and obligations with regard to the lawsuit. Bear in mind that different courts have jurisdiction over different kinds of cases.

    With regard to the filing of an action, there are time limits called “Statutes of Limitation” which determine the time frame within which certain actions must be filed. A Statute of Limitations is a bar to a suit in the event that the Statute is missed. Different actions are governed by different Statutes of Limitation. The most prudent thing to do is contact an attorney to make sure that you haven’t missed the statute.

     

    You have the right to represent yourself (unless you are being sued as a corporation) and there is no requirement that you have an attorney at anytime during a civil suit.  However, no one other than a lawyer may represent you in a court of law. However, there are many laws, rules and/or procedural requirements that you may not be aware of or understand and the old adage that “The man that represents himself has a fool for a client” often applies.

    The Law Office of Frederick S. Schwartz has experience in most areas of civil litigation, including but not limited to car and motorcycle accidentspedestrian injuriesbus & truck accidents, dog-bites, animal attacks, toxic exposure and serious slip-and-fall accidentstraumatic brain injury, andwrongful death claims among many others personal injury matters; product defects, consumer rights& fraud, breach of contract, bad faith insurance practices, defamation, discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, etc.

    It is our objective to advance the clients’ interests and get the best results while minimizing the cost and burden associated with litigation.

  • What To Do When Your Consumer Rights Are Violated?

    Consumer Rights Questionnaire
    Answer Yes to any of these questions and the company that contacted you may have violated the law.

    Common current consumer issues include defective products, predatory lending, debt collection, credit reports, lemon lawsbankruptcy, foreclosure, payday loans, predatory mortgage loans, credit card debt, telemarketing fraud, refinancing, and other issues.  Aside from hiring a lawyer and filing a lawsuit you can contact local consumer agencies in your state, know the below facts and take the following steps:

     

    A debt collector working on behalf of a creditor can demand payment.  If the creditor has not taken the client’s house, car, or other property as collateral on a loan, then legally the creditor can only stop doing business with the consumer, report a default to a credit bureau, and sue the consumer.  Typically, there are defenses to paying these debts or parts of them.  Further, the creditor must not only obtain a judgment from the court, he must take the difficult steps of collecting the debt, such as seizing money from a bank account, or garnishing part of the debtor’s wages or property.

    Federal and state law prohibit harassment by collection agencies.  Consumers should try to stop the harassment before it starts by trying to deal with the creditor before the creditor refers the debt to a collection agency.  Consumers can call or contact the creditor to explain their situation.  Try to negotiate with the creditor before it is handed over to collection.  You can also try to negotiate with the collection agency once the debt is handed over to them. Only promise what you can deliver or pay.  Point out any billing errors. Explain your defenses.   You may wish to hire a lawyer to assist you in negotiating down the debt.

    By law, collection agencies must inform consumers the first time they communicate with the consumer or within five days after the first communication of the consumers right to dispute the debt.  If the consumer then disputes the debt in writing within the next thirty days, the collection agency must stop collection efforts while it investigates.   If the dispute involves a credit card, a line of credit, or an electronic transfer of money, the consumer also has the legal right to require the creditor to investigate the bill.

    To stop collection harassment, write the collector a cease letter. Consumer rights vary depending on whether the collector is a creditor or a collection agency.      Federal law requires collection agencies to stop collection efforts (“dunning”) after they receive a written request to stop. The federal law does not apply to creditors collecting their own debts, but creditors often respect such requests.  As proof that you sent the cease letter, send it certified mail and keep a written copy of the letter. If you feel your letter needs to be taken seriously, you may consider hiring a lawyer to write and send this letter and cite the federal law that prohibits debt collection harassment.

    When a collection letter contains a mistake, consumers can write to request a correction and report the mistake or wrongdoing to the appropriate government agency such as the Federal Trade Commission or the consumer protection division of the state attorney general’s office.  A letter of complaint can be sent to the Consumer Response Center at Federal Trade Commission, CRC-240, Washington, D.C. 20580 (tel. 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357) or file a complaint on-line atwww.ftc.gov.   You can also file a complaint with the local better business bureau (www.bbb.org),  or the office of consumer affairs (www.dca.ca.gov)

    Filing personal bankruptcy triggers an “automatic stay” and stops all collection activity from collectors, creditors, or even government officials, but should be used only where the consumer has serious financial problems.  Debt collection harassment can usually be stopped without having to resort to bankruptcy.  A bankruptcy attorney should be consulted before taking such a drastic step.

    Debt Collectors can be sued for their illegal conduct.   Federal and state fair debt laws provide consumers with strong protections from debt collection harassment.  Debt collectors often break these rules because they know that in most cases they can get away with it.  However, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (15 U.S.C. §1692 et seq.) prohibits collectors from engaging in abusive and harassing conduct.  Debt collectors and attorney debt collectors  that regularly attempt to collect debts are covered.  Original creditors and their employees are excluded from the federal law.

    The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits collectors from communicating with third parties (spouses, parents , if the consumer is a minor, guardian, executor or administrator are not considered to be third parties).   There can be no communication at any unusual time or place (the law assumes that after 8:00 a.m. and before 9:00 p.m. is the only convenient time). There can be no communication with consumer if the collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney.  Communication must then be with the lawyer.  There can be no communication at consumer’s place of employment if the collector knows or has reason to know that the employer prohibits such communication.  If the consumer notifies the collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay the debt or wishes the collector to cease communication, the collector must cease communication with the limited exception to advise the consumer that the collector’s further efforts are being terminated; to notify consumer that the collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies; and where applicable, to notify the consumer that the collector intends to pursue specified remedy.  The collector can still sue on the debt.

    The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (15 U.S.C. §1692 et seq.) includes a list of harassing tactics, including but not limited to, prohibitions on threats of violence; obscene language; causing a telephone to ring repeatedly; and placing calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.  Further, collectors may not make false representations of the character, amount, or legal status of any debt.  They cannot threaten to take any action that cannot legally be taken.

    In addition, the collector must disclose in the initial oral or written communication with the consumer that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose, and must disclose in subsequent communications that the communication is from a debt collector.

    Collectors cannot collect any amount unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law; accept a check or other payment postdated by more than five days unless certain conditions are met; solicit a postdated payment for the purpose of threatening or instituting criminal prosecution; communicate by post cards; use language or symbols other than the debt collector’s address on any envelope.  A business name is allowed only if the name does not indicate the collector is in the debt collection business.

    Again, within five days after the initial communication, debt collectors must provide information about the consumer’s right to validate the debt.  Consumers have thirty days to dispute validity.  The collector must cease collection if validation is requested until the collector obtains verification of the debts.

    Aside from bringing an individual lawsuit against a Debt Collector for improper practices, class actions lawsuits are also utilized where small recoveries do not provide the incentive for any individual to bring a solo action prosecuting his or her rights.  Class action lawsuits gives the common man the ability to take on the largest corporate or private entities.  Class action lawsuits are typically done at no cost to the class representative.  Attorney fees are determined by the court and often times the court will award incentive fees to the person who acted as the class representative.

    The Law Office of Frederick S. Schwartz has been involved in and represented both individuals and class action members in consumer claims and lawsuits involving improper debt collection, improper credit reporting and debt defamation, consumer fraud and false advertising, pharmaceutical product defects, securities fraud and violations, mortuary improprieties, and other violations.