Virginia Law Firm, Cravens & Noll, Supports Scholastic Read & Rise National Literacy Campaign

As part of our commitment to literacy throughout Richmond, Cravens & Noll PC participates quarterly in the Scholastic Read and Rise Book Fair, volunteering at and providing financial support to elementary schools throughout our community.

In February, our attorneys attended the J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School Read and Rise book fair, volunteering at the book fair and reading to students’ in classes. Our firm donates approximately $2500 to each school at which we volunteer, enabling each child in attendance to purchase a book from the fair to take home and read with his or her family.

What is the Read and Rise Program?

The Scholastic Read and Rise program is a national literacy campaign focused on providing children with the tools to learn to read. Over 35 percent of children begin school lacking the language skills needed to develop literacy; the Read and Rise program addresses this through engaging children, their families and the community in learning to read as well as providing resources to promote reading at a young age.

Our Commitment to Our Richmond Community

As attorneys, as parents, and as Virginians, we understand the importance of building reading skills and the role access to books at school and at home plays in developing those skills in our children. Contributing to take-home resources for children and volunteering in our elementary schools is part of Cravens & Noll’s commitment to our community, the learn-to-read process and ultimately the improvement of childhood literacy throughout Richmond.

Cravens & Noll plans to continue our support of the Read and Rise program and we encourage others to get involved in promoting literacy among young Virginians.

Gun Laws in Virginia 2016 Update

Laws passed by the Virginia General Assembly last February will go into effect on next week, July 1. There are hundreds of new laws on the books and some of them will impact gun owners and those looking to purchase a firearm. 

Virginia will recognize all valid concealed handgun or concealed weapon permits and licenses issued by other states, according to State Police.

That recognition will depend on the following requirements:

1. The holder of such permit or license is at least 21 years of age; and

2. The permit or license holder carries a photo identification issued by a government agency of any state or by the U.S. Department of Defense or U.S. Department of State; and the holder displays the permit or license and such identification upon demand by a law-enforcement officer; and

3. The permit or license holder has not previously had a Virginia concealed handgun permit revoked.

Although the new law requires Virginia to grant recognition to all states that issue permits, other states are not required to recognize or authorize Virginia permit holders to possess a firearm in their state.

Furthermore, starting July 1, people who want to privately buy or transfer firearm(s) at a gun show in Virginia can request a criminal background check on the buyer. State Police will be available at every firearms show in Virginia to conduct those checks.

A background check in a private sale ensures that the gun is transferred only to a person lawfully eligible to possess firearms and provides evidence to the seller of diligence to protect against the illegal transfer of firearms. Participation in these background checks is strictly optional and based upon agreement entered into by the firearms seller and recipient.

Those background checks would cost $2 and takes about three minutes.

Click here for information about what it takes to be eligible to buy a gun in Virginia.

Bankruptcy in Virginia

There are essentially two kinds of individual bankruptcies, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.  Chapter 7 Bankruptcies are a liquidation of all of your debts.  It essentially wipes the sleight clean.  In order to determine whether or not you qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy we evaluate your case in a consultation.  The first thing we examine is whether you qualify under the Means test.

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The means test essentially is the average household income, per household size, per the area you live in as set out by the IRS.  It is adjusted quarterly by the IRS to keep up with changing economic times and inflation.  If you are below the means test threshold then you may qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  If you are above the means it is presumed that the filing of a Chapter 7 would be an abuse of the Bankruptcy system.  There are exceptions to this rule, however I would say in about 95% of all cases this holds true.

The second thing we examine is do you have any equity in any property.  If you have equity in property, let’s say a house, then filing a Chapter 7 would cause the trustee to take this property, sell it and pay off your individual creditors with the proceeds.  The Bankruptcy Code as well as the Code of Virginia provide us with many exemptions to protect your property and in most cases you do not risk loss of any of your property.

The third prong that we examine is what is your income to expense ratio.  If your expenses exceed your income then you may file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, however if your income greatly exceeds your expenses you cannot file a Chapter 13.

It is also important to know the ramifications of filing the Bankruptcy.  The largest of which is the effect it has on your credit.  Most people who are in the position to do a Chapter 7 already don’t have good credit, but filing will plummet your score even further.  A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy will affect your credit on average for about 5-7 years.  It is not that you will not be able to buy anything or that you will not be able to get any loans, you just will get much worse interest rates than the average consumer.

The positive of the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is that it will clear your unsecured debt.  Basically the only debts that are not dischargeable are taxes, student loans, support obligations, and court fines fees or costs.  Pretty much all other debt can be discharged through the bankruptcy.  This will clear your debt, stop those pesky debt collectors and allow you a renewed lease on life.

MEDICAL BILL LIENS IN PERSONAL INJURY CASES

What you should know and how we can help

When medical treatment is sought as the result of a motor vehicle accident the medical provider is entitled to payment for services rendered to treat your injuries. The medical provider will first look to the health insurance carrier whether it is a private plan such as Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield or popular government plans, Medicaid and Medicare. When a personal injury case settlement is being negotiated or after a verdict has been rendered it is important to know your rights and responsibilities with respect to any liens.

Private Health Insurance

Chances are if you have private health insurance it is provided by your employer and falls under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act better known as ERISA. An ERISA plan can recover for damages received from third parties. In laymen’s terms, the effect is the plan can seek reimbursement for medical bills they have paid on your behalf which are directly related to injuries sustained as the result of the negligence of a third party.

In the event your health insurance plan does not fall under ERISA the plans contract language will dictate the insurers right to any proceeds arising from a personal injury award.

Medicaid

The Department of Medical Assistance Services administers the Virginia Medicaid program. To be eligible for Medicaid an applicant must assign to the state any rights to payment of medical care from any third party. In the event the injured party fails to pursue the claim, the state has the ability to pursue reimbursement from the third party. Medicaid is required to be reimbursed from the proceeds of a personal injury award for medical expenses related to the injury.

Medicare

Medicare has a federal statutory lien for payments made under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (“MSP”). The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) and the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Contractor (“MSPRC”) enforces the lien against the party receiving a personal injury award. Similar to Medicaid, only medical expenses related to the injury are recoverable by Medicare.

Hospital Liens

Pursuant to Virginia Code § 8.01-66.2 each hospital, nursing home, licensed physician, registered nurse, registered physical therapist, pharmacy, or ambulance service shall have a lien for services rendered on care to any person injured in an accident as a result of the negligence or alleged negligence of any other person. The lien shall be for the amount of a just and reasonable charge for the services rendered, not exceeding $2,500 in the case of a hospital or nursing home, $750 for each physician, nurse, physical therapist, or pharmacy, and $200 for each ambulance service.

How we can help

ERISA, Medicare, Medicaid, and Hospital Liens should be scrutinized and negotiated on the client’s behalf. In some instances the lien holder will agree to reduce their lien in an amount proportional to the amount the client has paid in attorney’s fees and costs. We at Cravens & Noll believe even though the case has settled, our job is not over, and we will continue to advocate on your behalf until the job is done.

Medical Bill Liens in Personal Injury Cases

What you should know and how we can help

When medical treatment is sought as the result of a motor vehicle accident the medical provider is entitled to payment for services rendered to treat your injuries. The medical provider will first look to the health insurance carrier whether it is a private plan such as Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield or popular government plans, Medicaid and Medicare. When a personal injury case settlement is being negotiated or after a verdict has been rendered it is important to know your rights and responsibilities with respect to any liens.

Private Health Insurance

Chances are if you have private health insurance it is provided by your employer and falls under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act better known as ERISA. An ERISA plan can recover for damages received from third parties. In laymen’s terms, the effect is the plan can seek reimbursement for medical bills they have paid on your behalf which are directly related to injuries sustained as the result of the negligence of a third party. In the event your health insurance plan does not fall under ERISA the plans contract language will dictate the insurers right to any proceeds arising from a personal injury award.

Medicaid

The Department of Medical Assistance Services administers the Virginia Medicaid program. To be eligible for Medicaid an applicant must assign to the state any rights to payment of medical care from any third party. In the event the injured party fails to pursue the claim, the state has the ability to pursue reimbursement from the third party. Medicaid is required to be reimbursed from the proceeds of a personal injury award for medical expenses related to the injury.

Medicare

Medicare has a federal statutory lien for payments made under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (“MSP”). The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) and the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Contractor (“MSPRC”) enforces the lien against the party receiving a personal injury award. Similar to Medicaid, only medical expenses related to the injury are recoverable by Medicare.

Hospital Liens

Pursuant to Virginia Code § 8.01-66.2 each hospital, nursing home, licensed physician, registered nurse, registered physical therapist, pharmacy, or ambulance service shall have a lien for services rendered on care to any person injured in an accident as a result of the negligence or alleged negligence of any other person. The lien shall be for the amount of a just and reasonable charge for the services rendered, not exceeding $2,500 in the case of a hospital or nursing home, $750 for each physician, nurse, physical therapist, or pharmacy, and $200 for each ambulance service.

How we can help

ERISA, Medicare, Medicaid, and Hospital Liens should be scrutinized and negotiated on the client’s behalf. In some instances the lien holder will agree to reduce their lien in an amount proportional to the amount the client has paid in attorney’s fees and costs. We at Cravens & Noll believe even though the case has settled, our job is not over, and we will continue to advocate on your behalf until the job is done. Article by: Kurt Brickman

Considering a name change post-divorce

If you and your spouse have decided to go your separate ways, you are likely facing a host of decisions about what your future will now look like as a single individual. One of the more intimately personal decisions you may be contemplating is whether or not to change your name after your divorce is finalized. You may be a woman who has taken your husband’s name for many years, or you may be a man who has hyphenated or otherwise altered your last name to include your wife’s. Either way, the choice to keep or change your current last name should be yours alone and should be made with your best interests in mind.

Some people change their names in the wake of divorce in order to begin again symbolically and practically. They may not want their names associated with their former spouses. Or, they may simply find power and self-confidence in the switch. If you ultimately choose to change your name, please contact your attorney so that the correct paperwork can be filed.

On the other hand, some people choose to keep their married names for a variety of reasons. If your children share your spouse’s name, perhaps you will want to keep your last name the same as well. You may also simply identify with your married name or feel that you have invested in what that name has come to mean for you. Names are deeply personal assets and should be changed only when individuals feel that it is important to do so.

Source: Huffington Post, “Should You Keep Your Ex’s Last Name After Divorce?” Oct. 26, 2013

Virginia jury fails to reach verdict in surgical malpractice case

A somewhat high-profile medical malpractice case resulted in a hung jury this week in Virginia. The case involved a Rapidan woman who accused a prominent surgeon of employing a questionable surgical technique, resulting in permanent injuries. Two doctors expressed opposite opinions on the surgical technique during the trial, which may have contributed to the jury’s inability to reach a decision.

The woman underwent carpal tunnel and clavicle surgery in 2011 in Culpepper. During the operation, a surgeon tried to implant a metal plate to stabilize the patient’s clavicle – which had been damaged decades earlier – but was unable to screw in the plate because of the patient’s bone condition. As a result, he used surgical sutures instead to stabilize the plate.

Months later, it was determined that a portion of the woman’s collar bone had been sheared off. The surgeon said this was not due to the sutures, but rather the woman’s osteoporosis. The woman then went to another shoulder surgeon, who removed the metal plate.

To this day, however, she suffers pain due to the permanent injury to her collarbone, and her shoulder remains disfigured. She sued the original orthopedic surgeon for $1 million for the allegedsurgical malpractice.

During the trial, a medical witness for the defense argued that the surgeon’s technique – of suturing the plate into place – was a perfectly suitable option. Another doctor testified for the plaintiff, arguing that the technique was bound to fail, and that the sutures fractured her bones.

The six-member jury deliberated for 11 hours and was unable to reach a verdict.

Medical malpractice is a very complicated area of law in Virginia. Not every negative surgical outcome is caused by medical malpractice, as surgery always involves risks. However, when a surgeon deviates from the accepted standards of care, or when a surgeon shows incompetence or makes errors, this is medical malpractice. Victims of medical malpractice have the right to hold their doctors accountable and obtain compensation for their ongoing medical expenses and pain and suffering.

Victims of surgical or medical malpractice should not be discouraged by this case. It is important to hold negligent medical professionals responsible, and victims should seek legal counsel to learn how to do this.

Source: Star Exponent, “$1M medical malpractice case ends in hung jury,” Rhonda Simmons, Oct. 3, 2013

Suspect lineups in Virginia remain vulnerable to misidentification

Two years ago, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services took steps to ensure that fewer Virginians will be misidentified as criminal suspects in eyewitness lineups. The agency acted to limit misidentification primarily because the people of Virginia can only truly have faith in the criminal justice system if it prosecutes individuals fairly and if prosecutions are informed by accurate information. When an individual’s criminal defense is unjustly influenced by eyewitness misidentification, no one benefits.

Unacceptably, only a few police departments in the whole of Virginia have adopted the agency’s model since it was released two years ago. Out of 144 police departments and law enforcement agencies throughout the state which have written policies on suspect identification, only nine have adopted the low-cost misidentification prevention model. Over 100 more have failed to even write up policies on the issue, even though all law enforcement agencies were instructed to create them by the Virginia General Assembly eight years ago.

Suspect misidentification by eyewitnesses to criminal acts is a serious problem in Virginia. Of the 16 wrongfully convicted men set free by the state in recent years due to DNA evidence that proved their innocence, 13 were misidentified by witnesses in either lineups or photographs prior to their wrongful convictions.

At this point, the model is voluntary. But if police departments continue to fail to implement the model, lawmakers may become compelled to make the model mandatory procedure. Understanding the potential consequences of inaction and yet failing to act on this critical issue is simply unacceptable at this point in time.

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Many suspect lineups remain flawed across VA,” Frank Green, Aug. 26, 2013

The pros and cons of using social media during divorce

It now seems like Americans fall into two categories in respect to social media. One set believes that social media affects their communication in such negative ways that they simply choose not to engage in its use. The other camp seems to use social media with great regularity. Both approaches are understandable, as there are both significant benefits and significant pitfalls associated with the use of social media.

When individuals are navigating divorce proceedings, social media can be similarly beneficial or harmful, depending on how each person chooses to use these communication tools. On the one hand, social media use can be tracked by opposing legal counsel and used against a person in court. This phenomenon has led many family law attorneys to counsel their clients to shut down their social media accounts for the remainder of the process.

However, if individuals use social media responsibly, it can be a tool for healing during divorce. A recent study published by experts at UCSC and Lancaster University indicates that much of Americans’ lives are captured on the social media accounts of individuals who access them regularly. Choosing to either keep reminders of a former spouse on social media accounts or to delete all memories can be a tough emotional choice to make. However, once that choice is made, it can be cathartic to either delete photos and other reminders or make peace with their continued presence.

No matter what route you choose, if you are navigating a divorce you must either shut down your social media accounts or use them responsibly as you move forward. Whatever choices you make can either hurt you or truly help you in your legal and emotional processes.

Source: Huffington Post, “In Your Facebook! The Role of Social Media in Making Breaking Up Both Harder and Easier,” Susan Pease Gadoua, July 29, 2013

ONC plan aims to protect patients through EHR data analysis alone

In a move that has disappointed many safety-minded experts and organizations, the federal government has declined to establish a new agency designed to investigate certain technology-related patient deaths at this time. Rather, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is putting in place a collaborative plan to prevent these particular kinds of patient deaths.

Currently, more and more healthcare providers and hospital facilities are shifting towards electronic health records (EHR) instead of paper-based charts. These electronic records are meant to reduce rates of communication-related errors and misdiagnosis. However, the technology itself has the potential to create new kinds of errors resulting from software glitches, implementation challenges and data input problems.

The Institute of Medicine has recommended that the government create a new agency tasked specifically investigating patient deaths tied to EHR-related errors and other technology-based problems. The government is declining to act on this recommendation at this time. Instead, the ONC will work with public and private organizations to attempt to prevent these deaths in the first place.

Prevention of patient deaths through trend-related data analysis is absolutely a goal worthy of pursuit. However, such initiatives fail to address those deaths which have already occurred and continue to occur in a focused way. It seems that both prevention and investigation of tragedy are necessary in order to both foster patient safety in the future and bring justice to the victims of technology-related medical errors.

The ONC is making important progress by embracing its new prevention-related mission. However, targeted investigations into deaths that do occur are necessary for patient safety and justice as well.

Source: Forbes, “Government Asks Health IT Industry To Police Itself On Patient Safety,” Zina Moukheiber, July 5, 2013