Welcome Larry Lofgren family law, bankruptcy attorney

Welcome Larry Lofgren

We are proud to welcome Larry Lofgren as our newest Associate, focusing on family law and bankruptcy. GSJones Law Group is also excited to offer family law and bankruptcy clients a new Bainbridge Island location. Larry comes to us from a solo practice on Bainbridge Island. You can schedule appointments with Larry at either our main office in Port Orchard or on Bainbridge Island. With additional experience in estate planning law and real estate, he will also strengthen those teams at GSJones Law Group.

Larry remarks on his roots here, “As someone with deep family roots in Kitsap County, I am excited to join GSJones Law Group. My parents grew up in Bremerton and I was born in Tacoma.”

He looks forward to helping clients navigate the unfamiliar and challenging family court system during emotional times.  “My approach is to get into court quickly, firmly and decisively when appropriate. And yet keep in mind the long-term plans of my clients and the need for healing.”

Though Larry grew up in Illinois, he spent summers with his grandparents in Bremerton. After practicing law in Chicago for over ten years, he moved to Seattle with his family in 2003. He and his teenage son moved to Bainbridge Island in 2013.

Drawn to serving people and the public good, fluent in Spanish

Larry’s first legal job was with a public interest law organization. Upon moving to Kitsap County he quickly became active in the Kitsap Bar Association. He uses his fluent Spanish volunteering regularly with Kitsap Legal Services. He has served as a Guardian ad litem. Currently, he uses that experience to better serve clients in family court.

He and his son are active in their Bainbridge Island community. Larry’s many community activities include the local Rotary Club, the Beacon Food Forest, and Friends of Bainbridge Island Farms (board member). He and his son enjoy biking, traveling, backpacking, skiing and playing clarinet and saxophone.

gender discrimination

Gender Discrimination: Equal time for Dads

 

Dads should have equal time to bond with their new children, according to a $1.1 million settlement in a gender discrimination lawsuit. Estee Lauder’s parental leave policy gave new moms six weeks paid leave. And yet, it awarded dads only two weeks leave. In addition, dads did not have the same flexible schedule benefits after returning to work. Best of all, Estee Lauder agreed to up to 20 weeks of paid leave for all new parents and six weeks flexible schedule.

Parental leave is a separate benefit from medical leave for childbirth. Although there is no federal law that requires parental leave. Yet, when an employer offers it, they must not discriminate based on gender. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued on behalf of 210 new fathers.

Personnel policies need careful legal review

This lawsuit is an example of how expensive personnel policies can be when not carefully thought through.  “This settlement ensures that Estee Lauder will provide equal opportunities for time off to new dads and new moms, which …  makes sense for families,” said Mindy E. Weinstein, acting director of the EEOC’s Washington Field Office. The EEOC trial attorney Thomas Rethage added, “Parental leave policies should not reflect presumptions or stereotypes about gender roles.”

GSJones Law Group helps employers with policies

When you think of gender discrimination, do you think only about discrimination against women? Avoiding lawsuits like this one demands broad experience in employment law. For 22 years our employment law attorney, Chalmers Johnson, has worked with employers to create policies that are lawful. In addition, he creates policies that are fair and create good employee relations. He can review existing policies, employee handbooks, and other personnel materials. Or, he can start from scratch.

Chalmers Johnson cut his legal teeth representing employees

If your employer is not treating you fairly, you want to meet with Chalmers. He can assess the situation and help you decide what will work best. Some options include coaching you in how to deal with your boss; representing you directly with a complaint; and representing you in a lawsuit.

More information on employment law services is here.

personal injury cases

Guide to personal injury cases

First steps in personal injury cases

1: Get as much information as you can as soon after the accident as possible. If you can’t do it yourself, enlist the help of family and friends. Most importantly, get names and contact information of witnesses and those involved. Take photos. Write down what happened as soon as you can so that you can capture details. If this is an on-going issue, keep a daily log.

2: Get medical treatment. If you have been injured, take care of yourself first and foremost. As you do this, you create evidence that will be used to determine the extent of your physical injuries. Don’t stint on this.

3: Find a good attorney with plenty of experience in both settling and trying personal injury cases. We have excellent lawyers with more than 40 years of experience. Nevertheless, consult with more than one attorney about your case to find a good fit.

4: The lawyer begins the investigation. The first step is getting all the information you have, as well as personal, financial, and medical background information. One of the biggest tasks is getting all your medical records and reviewing them.

5: Determination of viability. Once the attorney has reviewed all the information, she will make a determination about whether or not she believes your case is viable.

Moving forward

6: Attempting a settlement. If your attorney determines that the case is strong, she will probably make an attempt to settle it. Two factors determine when she begins settlement talks. The first is whether or not your healing is complete. Until that time, it is difficult to estimate or document the extent of your injuries and losses. Often, however, settlement or a lawsuit must go forward sooner than ideal because financial needs are great.

7: File a lawsuit. If no fair settlement results, your attorney will prepare for filing a lawsuit. He must file within the statute of limitations. In Washington state, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is three years. It will often take as long as two years before the case comes to trial. But, fear not, there are other opportunities for settlement before trial starts.

The final steps

8: Discovery begins. During discovery, your lawyer will demand that the other parties reveal their defense and the evidence they plan to use. She will also demand evidence that you need to prove your case that the other party has. The other party makes the same demands as you. Expect interrogatories, or written questions than demand written answers; demands for documents; and depositions. You will doubtless go to an attorney’s office with your attorney. There, after swearing in you will answer questions put to you by the other party’s attorneys. It will be recorded. Allow about a year for this process.

9: Mediation and Negotiation. Toward the end of discovery, the lawyers may attempt settlement. In fact, between 80% and 95% of personal injury cases are settled before trial. And, settlements can take place even after trial has begun.

10: Trial Begins. Most of these cases are tried before a jury, so the first step in the trial is seating the jury. A trial can take a day, a week or longer, depending on the complexity of the case and the number of parties.

Get a free evaluation of your personal injury case.

Personal injury attorneys Chalmers Johnson and John Groseclose have more than 40 years experience fighting for the injured. They are happy to talk with you about your case.
Personal Injury lawyers

avoid auto accidents

5 Tips to Avoid Auto Accidents This Holiday Weekend

Labor Day weekend demands especially careful driving to avoid auto accidents. While not all car accidents can be avoided, you can reduce your chances of ending up a victim. The National Highway and Transportation Administration says that Labor Day weekend is among the ten most dangerous times to be driving. Even running errands can be more dangerous this weekend. If you can’t stay at home, here are some tips for safe driving.

Tip 1 – Avoid driving between midnight and 3 a.m. and be very cautious on rural roads.

The National Highway and Transportation Administration says that night driving, in general, is more dangerous than daytime driving. The most dangerous hours are those between midnight and 3 a.m. when there is a higher percentage of drivers under the influence. Ironically but logically, the safest time to be on the road is between 4 and 6 a.m.

If you are planning a camping trip or other events that include driving on country roads be particularly careful. It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? We think of freeways with their crowding and high speeds as being more dangerous. Yet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that fatal accidents happen 2.5 times more often on rural roads than highways. They say that drivers tend to drive faster for the conditions on rural roads and a much lower percentage of drivers wear seat belts.

Tips 2 & 3 – Make sure you are driving sober and slow down.

As you know, there will be more drivers under the influence this weekend. Thus, in addition to avoiding the peak hours for drunk drivers, it’s most important to make sure you have no drugs or alcohol in your system when you drive. That will allow you extra moments to react to reckless drivers. Slowing down also accomplishes the same result. It gives you extra time to take evasive action.

Tip 4 – Avoid distractions.

Of course, distracted driving is now illegal in Washington State. And, I know that we are all are constantly tempted. It is especially hard when we are going somewhere new and using our phones to navigate. We are certainly more likely to do that on holiday weekends. If possible, use voice navigation only. When necessary pull off the road to txt or make calls.

Yet, mobile phones aren’t the only source of distraction. Driving with children can be even more distracting. You know the routine. “Mom, make brother stop looking at me.” And then there’s escaping from seat belts and outright fighting. Make it a policy to pull over any time a distraction develops and resolve the situation before you continue traveling.

Tip 5 – Make sure your auto is in top shape.

Once again, avoiding accidents depend on quick responses. Make sure your equipment is in great shape. In addition, we’ve just had two weeks of smoke-filled air. Clean your headlights, taillights and signal lights. Also, give even your side windows a good cleaning, so you have an unimpeded view.

As Kitsap County attorneys we know all too well that there are too many ways that we all can be harmed. Please do all you can to be as safe as you can. And, if the worst happens to you, we stand ready to guide you through the legal process to better times.

If you are injured, call or message our personal injury attorneys.

Personal Injury lawyersChalmers Johnson

John Groseclose

co-parenting check-in

Time for a co-parenting check-in

Co-parenting? Midsummer is a great time for a co-parenting check-in.  Even while you and the kids are celebrating all the fun that summer brings, set aside a little time for keeping your co-parenting relationship running smoothly. This review is particularly critical if your child is moving to a new school or there are radical changes to the school schedule. Yet, even if all will remain much the same as last year, it is worth the time to touch base. This can also be an excellent time to review shared rules that evolve as a child grows older. When you talk together, you may find that your co-parent has changed circumstances and s/he may need some adjustments to the parenting plan.

Last minute surprises always put people in a bad mood. So do a little preventive maintenance for your co-parenting relationship.

Gather this information before you talk.

  • School and bus schedules
  • School holidays
  • List of sports and other activities
  • Significant new school events, such as graduations, prom, and other events both parents might want to take part in.
  • Review what worked well the past year and what problems you can prevent for the coming year.
  • Give some thought to rules changes if you have agreed to mutually enforced rules.

And don’t forget your personal schedule constraints.

  • Will there be a change in holiday plans this year such as a trip or visiting relatives that need schedule adjustments?
  • What about your work schedule? Are there times you know you will be out of town? Will it complicate the hand-off or maybe you’d like to offer extra time to the other parent?

What does your child know about the schedule that you don’t?

Your checklist is not complete until you sit down with your child and find out what they anticipate for the year.

  • Are there events not on the official schedule that they are looking forward to?
  • How about major parties?
  • What about activities? Do they want to drop an activity? Add one?

Do you need any help with getting an agreement for changes?

If your relationship with your ex or co-parent requires a more formal approach with an alteration to the parenting plan, David Jones and John Groseclose are happy to help you make those changes. They have a combined total of more than 40 years experience assisting parents to reach amicable agreements that work and going to court when necessary.

Share any other factors that co-parents need to consider before school begins in the comments below.

tax tips

2018 Tax Tips

We’re Halfway Through 2018, Have You Adjusted Your Paycheck Withholding?

by Norman Short, Partner, GSJones Law Group, P.S.

For the majority of us who earn a paycheck, last year’s tax bill made significant changes. If you didn’t take the time to make necessary adjustments in February, now is a great time to adjust your withholding to conform to the 2018 tax regulations.

As you know, it’s best to apply the Goldilocks Principle to your withholding. If the government keeps too much of your money, you can’t invest that extra money throughout the year. On the other hand, not giving the government its due throughout the year could result in a nasty penalty. So, it’s best to withhold the amount from your check that is “just right.”

However, what is just right? To determine the answer ask your employer for both a copy of your old W-4 and a blank copy. Add the same information for your spouse. Then use the calculator created by IRS to determine the amount of over- or underpayment. Once you know that information, fill out a new W-4 with information that will result in a “just right” result at the end of 2018.

There were many changes to the tax code that affect people whose financial situations are more complicated. I’m always happy to do a 30-minute look at your tax situation for just $50. Call for an appointment to see if I can save you some trouble or some money. 360-876-9221.

Norman Short has 25 years experience helping individuals and businesses with your tax planning, pass-through income, back tax representation and other tax issues.

insurance settlement negotiation

How to negotiate an insurance settlement

Should I negotiate my own insurance settlement?

If you have an insurance settlement offer you may be able to successfully negotiate a better settlement for yourself.  Your best chance is if your total damages are relatively small or your claim is with your own insurer. Here are some tips.

  • Don’t accept the first offer. Insurance companies often make low-ball offers.
  • If they believe the injury has created a financial hardship they may believe you will jump at their first offer.
    • Do what you can to cover your expenses during this time. Consistently maintaining health insurance will go a long way toward easing the financial burden of medical expenses.
    • Also, if your income has stopped or greatly reduced, consider taking advantage of any sliding scale pricing available from your medical providers. Don’t be afraid to ask.
    • Another source of financial help for medical costs are manufacturers of costly drugs. They often have special pricing available for people who can’t afford their drugs.
    • If you were in an auto accident take full advantage of any coverage you may have through your own insurance company. Check out the declarations page for coverages such as PIP (Personal Injury Protection) or underinsured motorist. They both offer coverage for your medical bills and generally are paid promptly.
  • If your claim is with your own insurance company, they will probably name your policy limits and provisions to justify their offer.
    • Make sure you know all of the provisions of your policy and ask questions of your agent if you can. In-house agents who only represent one insurance company may not be very helpful but independent agents will want to keep your business.

What is contributory fault or negligence?

Washington State has a contributory fault or contributory negligence law and the insurance adjuster may have information that leads her to believe that you were partly at fault. So, for instance, let’s say your medical bills and pain and suffering total $25,000 by their calculation. If they believe that you were 20% at fault for your injuries they will offer $20,000. All is not lost, however.

  • Ask them to document the contributory fault. That may be enough to bring the offer up.
  • If not, get your own evidence to counter their evidence. This will usually involve eyewitnesses.
    • If you are not up to the task of tracking witnesses down and questioning them about what they saw, recruit friends and family to do it for you.
    • Make sure you and the witnesses thoroughly understand what they will say to the adjuster once he asks questions. Play devil’s advocate with them.  Ask questions that probe any weaknesses or alternative interpretations of what they say. Their statements may sound great to you but once an experienced adjuster starts asking questions they may not be much help.

Put our personal injury attorneys’ 40 years of experience to work for you.

Often, however, it takes a law firm to effectively advocate for the insurance company to give you the compensation you deserve.  Call or message us for a free case review. We’ll thoroughly review the facts and if we believe we can help you get fair compensation. We stand ready to fight for you.  We know all the insurance companies’ playbook and we know how to counter them.

John Groseclose
John Groseclose, personal injury, family law attorney

Chalmers Johnson

Chalmers Johnson, personal injury attorney, employment law

Litigators won $332,000 jury verdict for small businessman

litigators won

GSJones Litigators turn the tables on a corporate plaintiff suing a small business owner

GSJones Law Group litigators won a $332,000 jury verdict for Kitsap County cabinetmaker Shannon Wagner. Port Orchard Airport, Inc. filed suit against the small businessman after it evicted him from his shop. In addition they seized most of the business’ tools, materials, and unfinished projects. Sara Humphries, who has worked defending tenants in eviction actions for years joined Chalmers Johnson, who usually represents plaintiffs in lawsuits against corporations. Together they formed a winning team.

And together they turned the tables in this case, causing the hunter to become the hunted by filing counterclaims against the Corporation. It was a David vs. Goliath case. The Corporation, which had started as the unrelenting aggressor, suddenly found itself before a jury being pursued as a defendant by Johnson and Humphries. The trial lasted from Monday morning through the end of the day on Thursday. The Jury reached a verdict Friday afternoon. When reached for comment about the case, Chalmers Johnson said: “It was a long and hard-fought trial. The Jury was fantastic. Maybe the most engaged and thoughtful jury I have ever worked with.”

He added, “To the Corporate Goliaths out there, we’re watching you! Chalk one up for the Davids.”

 

Meet Kimberly Hammit, our firm’s newest attorney

Kim Hammit brings experience in business formation, estate planning, real estate law

Kimberly Hammit

“I am passionate about serving each client & love helping them overcome the challenges that bring them to see a lawyer.”

We are proud to welcome Kimberly Hammit to our firm. She comes to us from a solo practice in Port Orchard where she served small businesses and individuals in estate planning, business formation, and real estate law.

In addition, she looks forward to working with our personal injury and employment attorneys to add those foci to her practice.

Kim is a bit of a maverick. Instead of law school, she chose to study through the WSBA (Washington State Bar Association) APR 6 Law Clerk program. It is based on the venerable practice of reading for the law which predates law schools by centuries. She combined working as a law clerk and intern with studying on her own and with a tutor the same courses offered in law schools. The requirements included reading 12,000 pages of casebooks and 48 monthly exams, all overseen by the state bar association. She took the same bar exam as law school graduates.

She was admitted to the Washington State Bar in 2013.  Using the skills she gained as a law clerk, she opened her own law firm that same year.

Kim loves challenges, maintaining high integrity and a sustainable lifestyle

Kim Hammit, Legal challenges“I decided to join forces with GSJones,” Kim said, “in order to devote more time to practicing law as opposed to managing a law firm and to further develop my skills with a highly-regarded and well-rounded practice.”

Kim, her husband, and three children enjoy the Peninsula outdoor lifestyle—camping, boating and gardening. Avid DIYers, Kim and her husband enjoy teaching sustainable living skills to their three children. The family raises livestock, gardens, hunts and fishes together. And most exciting of all, they are restoring a 1965 Chevy Bel Air. They love to tackle anything they can with their own hands, no matter how great the challenge.

 

 

Attorney-client privilege: Is everything I tell my lawyer secret?

With the FBI raid on a high profile attorney in the news, you may wonder about your own attorney-client privilege.

attorney-client privilegeIs everything you share with your lawyer secret? Could she tell your family something she thinks they need to know about you? Could he be forced to testify against you or turn over your records to the authorities?

Almost always the answer is no. Laws and ethical rules protect the secrecy of your dealings with your lawyer. And, it’s very important to take advantage of those attorney-client protections to tell your attorney everything they need to know to represent you. There is nothing that will hurt your case more than allowing your attorney to be blindsided in court or negotiations by something you were too embarrassed to tell him.

And yet, sometimes the answer is yes. There are exceptions to the rule that your attorney cannot be forced to give testimony against you or cooperate with authorities.

Crime-fraud exception

You cannot expect secrecy when you consult an attorney with the intention of committing or covering up a crime or a fraud. For instance, sharing plans to take your children in contravention of a court order would lose the protection of secrecy.

Other exceptions

There are a few other situations that keep your conversation and documents from being protected. As an example, you aren’t protected if you walk up to a lawyer at a party and tell her about your case. First, talking with a lawyer with others present takes away the right to secrecy. Secondly, casual conversations are not legal consultations. Both the client and the lawyer must agree that they are in relationship.

Another example of communications that are not privileged would occur if you were consulting Norm Short about starting a new business. The discussion of the various options for business structures is privileged. The privilege ends, however, at the point where you start discussing practical tips that he’s learned over his more than two decades working with businesses. You are no longer discussing the law and its application to your business.

Ask your lawyer, if you have any question about whether a topic is privileged.

What about free consultations?

Movies often depict a lawyer who is taking on a client pro bono (at no charge) asking for a dollar to seal the deal. The implication is that money has to change hands before attorney-client privilege applies. That is not true. Feel free to discuss your case in detail during a free consultation. That is the only way that the lawyer can give you the best advice.

Violating confidentiality

The attorney-client privilege applies mainly to dealings with police, prosecutors, and courts. None of these institutions can compel your lawyer to tell them anything privileged. Yet, there are plenty of other situations in which you want your lawyer to keep your business secret. In general, your lawyer must keep your dealings confidential. The ethics rules governing this are complex, but here are some exceptions.

  • Unless you specifically forbid it, your lawyer may discuss your case with other lawyers in the firm. In law firms like ours with several lawyers with a variety of legal experience, you benefit from collaboration among our lawyers.
  • Your lawyer may reveal protected information to save you or others from death or great harm.
  • Likewise, your lawyer must reveal the fact that you are in the process of committing or about to commit a crime or fraud that will result in severe financial harm.
  • Your lawyer may consult a lawyer experienced in the rules of ethics about your case, if necessary. The consulting lawyer must also keep your information secret.
  • If your lawyer is charged with misconduct in representing you, she may reveal as much as is needed to defend herself.

Finally, if you have any concerns about confidentiality, talk frankly with your lawyer about them.