Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pursuing a Homeowners Insurance Claim

There are insurance policies for almost everything. Californians know that celebrities hold insurance policies to their own body parts even. Automobile insurance is the most familiar, but there is also homeowners insurance, which is also well known. Home-buyers are sometimes required to purchase homeowners insurance before they can move in. 

Homeowners insurance covers a wide variety of different events. Fires, floods, theft, and dog bites are just a few. Both liability (coverage for negligence of the homeowner) and losses (damages that homeowners incur) are covered. There are exclusions and exceptions. Delays, denials, and confusion can be anticipated.

Every policy is different; attorneys can assist in pursuing a first party claim, particularly if the insurance company has issued a denial. A first party claim is when a policyholder pursues a claim pursuant to the policy purchased. For example, a first party claim could be made when a home is burglarized, and there is a provision that covers items stolen.

Since insurance law is based on case law, statutes, and regulations, there are a myriad of ways a policy can be interpreted. It is important, however, to know some basic principles. Here is a non-exhaustive short list:

1) Once a claim is reported, the insurance carrier must provide basic information to the policyholder -- like limits, benefits, coverages, exclusions, and other provisions in the specific policy in place.

2) An insurer must explain why a claim has been denied, and provide a basis for that decision. For example, if a claim was denied because the insurer did not have an opportunity to inspect the premises, it would have to show that a request was made and the request was denied.

3) Before an insurance carrier can ask for a "release," it must explain the legal consequences of having the claimant execute the release, i.e. forever barring the claimant from pursuing the claim further in court, or in arbitration.

4) The insurer must respond within 15 days if a claimant asks for information related to his or her claim. An insurer cannot ignore its own insured.

5) All insurance companies must investigate a claim with diligence, thoroughness, and in good faith. The insurer cannot delay a claim when there is sufficient, reasonable information to conclude the claim.

Pursuing a homeowners insurance claim can be daunting. It is important to know your rights and to be aggressive. It is extremely wise to contact an experienced attorney.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Fighting a Drunk in Public Charge

Hollywood and other Los Angeles cities are home to numerous dance clubs and bars. With drinking establishments, there is always the risk of becoming intoxicated, and making bad decisions. Some choices could lead to legal trouble.

Most people are aware that it is unlawful, dangerous, and unwise to drive after a night out drinking. Some are unaware that it is a crime to be "drunk in public." Similar to a driving under the influence allegation, a drunk in public criminal charge could lead to a criminal record, jail time, and adverse employment consequences.

California Penal Code section 647 prohibits disorderly conduct. One aspect of disorderly conduct is being "drunk in public." Subsection (f) of Pen. Code section 647, prohibits being intoxicated in public to such an extent that you cannot care for the safety of yourself or others, or so drunk that you obstruct a street, sidewalk, or public way. Let's break down the elements:

(1) Intoxicated in a public place; and
(2) Cannot care for the safety of oneself or others, OR obstructing a street, sidewalk, or public way.

An arrest can occur if a drunk person is exhibiting behavior sufficient to meet element 2. One example: Danny the Drunk leaves the bar at 2:00 am, after having consumed ten shots of tequila. Danny the Drunk drank too much, and starts to have trouble walking. He can't go further than five feet, before he falls onto the street. Danny the Drunk is not hurt, but he blocks a group of nuns from walking by. Policeman Peter sees the whole thing and arrests Danny the Drunk for being "drunk in public."

Now, like every other criminal charge, there are ways to challenge a drunk in public allegation. A defendant could challenge the probable cause of the arrest. Like in my blog post about 1538 motions, a case can be dismissed if the arresting officer arrested the defendant without sufficient probable cause. Danny may be not be drunk at all; he could suffer from a medical condition that caused him to fall onto the street.

The prosecutor also has to prove both elements beyond a reasonable doubt. A defendant could challenge the "public" aspect of the crime. If a person was arrested while in a hotel, or store, both private businesses, he or she could argue that he or she was not in a public place.

Another way to challenge a drunk in public charge is if the defendant ingested an intoxicating drug involuntarily. For example, say Alan wants to play a prank on his friend Stu. Alan buys Stu a drink, but drops a Rufilin into the drink. Unbeknownst to Stu, while taking a drink, he is also taking an intoxicating drug. If Stu later cannot care for himself, in a public place, and was arrested, he would be able to successfully beat the "drunk in public" charge.

A lot of cases involve a person who was drunk, but not so drunk that he or she could not care for himself or herself. If you or someone you know is charged with a drunk in public criminal charge, it is wise to retain a criminal defense attorney. The potential penalties are too great.