Calculator, Glasses, & Bankruptcy Documents

Bankruptcy: Should You File?

Bankruptcy. The word alone may trigger feelings of uneasiness and stress. There are many misinterpretations about bankruptcy and what it is. To ease your tension, read on below or contact Casale & Bonner P.C. today!

 

Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases can help individuals free themselves of their debt obligations. You can get a new start and live a higher quality life, no longer burdened by the constant weight of debt on your shoulders. There are some differences between the two types of bankruptcy, however. 

 

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most common type of bankruptcy in the United States. Suited for those who have little to no money after paying their basic expenses, this type of bankruptcy is beneficial because you can discharge your unsecured debt. Keep in mind, though, that child support, taxes, and alimony are typically unable to be discharged.

 

Chapter 13

Think of Chapter 13 bankruptcy as a repayment plan. Under this plan, you will be able to keep your property but will have to create a plan to repay your debts, typically within a 3 to 5 year period. The good news is, in some cases, a Chapter 13 can reduce your interest rates and some tax liabilities. This plan is best suited for individuals who can pay their basic expenses and have a steady income. 

 

There are pros and cons to both types of bankruptcy. Give us a call at 570-326-7044 to further discuss the differences and which is the best option for you!

 

Common Bankruptcy Myths

“I’m a failure if I file for bankruptcy.”

Most people file for bankruptcy for reasons out of their control, such as job loss or medical debt. Even if you merely mismanaged your money, filing for bankruptcy is your acknowledgment of the issue and your effort to fix it—that doesn’t make you a failure if you ask us!

 

“I’ll never be able to get credit ever again.”

While most mortgage lenders will make you wait for a couple of years before you apply for credit, many credit lenders will start sending you credit offers in the mail just weeks after going through bankruptcy. Why? Because you just eliminated a lot of your debt obligations! You may pay a higher interest rate right after bankruptcy, but it will be a good way to re-establish a good credit score. 

 

“Bankruptcy is too expensive for me.”

While filing for bankruptcy can cost a few thousand dollars, think about all of the debt you will be eliminating in the process. Treat it as an investment that, when done correctly, can lead to a better financial position. 

 

“I’ll lose all my property!”

Thanks to something called exemptions, you won’t lose all of your assets when filing for bankruptcy. Exemptions are different for each state, but in Pennsylvania, bankruptcy exemptions are some of the most limited in the country.

 

Depending on whether you choose Pennsylvania’s exemptions or the Federal exemptions (you have to choose either or), you can save things such as clothing, retirement savings, and more.

 

“I’m going to just pay off my debt, that’s always the better option.”

If, after speaking with a financial manager or bankruptcy attorney, the two of you create a viable plan to pay off your debt in a reasonable amount of time, absolutely do that. However, sometimes there is so much debt that you may never be able to get under control. Bankruptcy can eliminate most of that debt, and with disciplined financial management, you can build excellent credit in as little as two years. 

 

“ALL of my debts will disappear!”

Like most things in life, there are always exceptions. Yes, most of your credit card debt, personal loan debt, and medical debt will be discharged, but student loans, income taxes, and domestic support obligations will not be discharged, in most cases. 

 

“I make too much money to file for bankruptcy”

You see it all the time; athletes, celebrities, and everyday people that are considered “rich” filing for bankruptcy. Nearly anyone can file for bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you must pass a “means test.” This test merely determines if you have enough money to make a “meaningful dent” in your debt. If not, you will be able to file for bankruptcy. If the means test determines that you CAN make a dent in your debt, you can almost always file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. 

 

“I can’t file for bankruptcy, I’ll get fired if I do!”

While bankruptcy laws that outlaw discrimination exist, employees can get fired for many reasons. It is hard to prove discrimination. That being said, most employers only take bankruptcy into consideration if you’re dealing with money. Again, bankruptcy signifies that you are making a concerted effort to fix your finances, which looks better than a pile of debt that continues to build.

 

“Finally, all my financial problems will be gone”

Yes, bankruptcy can eliminate your debt obligations. It won’t, however, change your spending habits, income, financial management, lifestyle, or personal issues. Only you can change those. Bankruptcy is a chance to start over. Adjust your spending habits, determine if your job is paying you enough, and create a strong money management plan.

 

So is Bankruptcy Right For You?

Bankruptcy can be a stressful and confusing process. There is a lot that goes into the decision to file for bankruptcy. It’s imperative that you consult one of our highly skilled attorneys at Casale & Bonner P.C., who can evaluate your situation and help determine whether filing bankruptcy is a good decision for you.

 

Wondering if bankruptcy is right for you? Call Casale & Bonner P.C. at 570-326-7044!

Workers Compensation Form

Workers’ Compensation: What to Know

What Is Workers Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that provides benefits to workers who were injured or became ill on the job to make up for medical costs and lost wages while they were out of work.

What You Need to Know

It is Required In Pennsylvania

Much like other states, workers’ compensation insurance coverage is mandatory for all employers in Pennsylvania with one or more employees. This is the case regardless of the number of hours per week the employee works, the employee’s relation to you (family businesses), or the employee’s status. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, there are a few exceptions:

  • Coverage for sole proprietors, partners, and corporate officers is optional.
  • Licensed real estate salespeople or brokers and licensed insurance agents who work on a commission-only basis are exempt
  • Domestic or casual laborers, outworkers, and farmers with one employee who works less than 30 days a year or earns less than $1,200 a year are exempt.
  • A spouse or child who is employed by a farmer and is under eighteen years of age is exempt.

Read more here!

Fault is Generally Not An Issue

Neither the employee’s own negligence in causing the accident nor your complete lack of fault are factors in deciding whether the worker gets benefits.

Employees Give Up the Right to Sue the Company….With Exceptions

In exchange for the assured benefits, employees give up their right to sue you for any injury covered by workers’ compensation laws. However, employees retain the right to sue negligent third parties if their negligence helped cause the accident.

If, however, your injury was intentionally caused by your employer, you may still be able to sue. For example, if you slip and fall during your job, you won’t be able to sue, but if your employer pushes the ladder while you’re on it, there’s a good chance you can file a lawsuit.

Contact us if you have questions or believe you have a case to sue.

What to Do When You’re Injured

Report the Injury or Illness!

Always report any work injury or illness you may believe is due to your job. Telling your work colleague or friends isn’t enough. Report the injury or illness to the HR department, your supervisor, or the risk-management department when it occurs.

Your employer should have you fill out an incident report and direct you to where to obtain medical treatment. Make sure to keep the lines of communication open and follow up with your supervisor if you do not get any paperwork or documentation.

Visit the Right Medical Provider

Obviously, if your injury is an emergency, you’ll go where the ambulance takes you. However, if your injury or illness is not an emergency, your employer may direct you to find treatment at a particular hospital or clinic.

In Pennsylvania, your employer can have a list of healthcare providers that you are required to go to if you want your bills to be covered by workers’ compensation. If you don’t go to one of the approved treatment facilities, you run the risk of not qualifying for workers’ compensation coverage.

Tell the Doctor or Hospital Employees You Were Injured on the Job

While you need to tell your employer you were injured on the job, you also need to tell your doctor. When you’re filling out the paperwork wherever you are getting treated, check the box that asks if your injury or illness was work-related.

That ensures your medical bills will be sent either to the workers’ compensation insurance company or your employer, not you.

Why Was Your Workers’ Compensation Claim Denied?

There are many reasons as to why your workers’ compensation claim may have been denied. Common reasons include:

  • Not reporting the injury or filing the claim in the required time period
  • Your employer might accuse you of not having been injured on the job
  • Your injury was the result of your doing something on the job that you shouldn’t have been doing
  • If you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the accident

Trust Casale & Bonner P.C.

Have you been injured on the job? Confused about the process of submitting a claim? Has your compensation claim been denied? Maybe we can help. Our lawyers will make sure you receive the compensation you need and deserve so you can focus on a successful recovery!

Want to Learn More?

If you are interested in learning more about workers’ compensation, specifically workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania, browse the following links:

Believe you have a right to workers’ compensation? Call Casale & Bonner P.C. at 570-326-7044 to speak with a lawyer.

estate planning in Williamsport, PA

What Goes Into Planning Your Estate

Plan for the Future

While it can be a difficult thing to think about, planning what happens after you pass away is vitally important, no matter your age, health, or position in life. Planning your estate allows you to ensure that in the event of your passing, your family will be taken care of and your wishes will be carried out. An estate plan gives you peace of mind and will save your family and loved ones from unnecessary stress in the future.

Wills & Trusts

Planning how your property will be distributed after your passing can be a stressful process but is necessary to ensure your loved ones are taken care of when you are gone. You must decide who you want to inherit your assets and name an executor who will have the responsibility of making sure your estate is distributed according to your wishes. In a will, you will also decide a guardian for your children if you and your spouse both pass.

A trust is another option, similar to a will, for distributing your property. The main advantage of holding your assets in a living trust is that property left through the trust doesn’t have to go through probate, a time-consuming and costly process in which a court determines the validity of a will.

Regardless of what you decide to do, it’s always the right time to begin planning for your passing. The sooner, the better!

Powers of Attorney

By creating a durable power of attorney (DPA), you are giving a person you trust the authority and responsibility to handle decisions for you if you ever become incapacitated or unable to handle your own affairs. Your agent will make decisions regarding your finances, health-care, and more. There are four main types of powers of attorney; limited, general, durable, and springing.

Advance Healthcare Directive

It is important to declare and write out your wishes for health care and medical treatment in case there’s ever a time in which you may be unable to make medical decisions for yourself. By signing a “living will” and declaring a health care power of attorney, you will maintain control over the types of medical attention and health care you will receive at all times. A living will states your intentions of what medical care/procedures you do and don’t want. A power of attorney for health care will make sure that your wishes for your medical treatment will be adhered to if you are too sick to speak for yourself. In some states, these documents are combined into one, called an advance health care directive.

Estate Taxes

The fact of the matter is that most people will never have to pay estate taxes. Currently, the estate tax exemption is $11.4 million per individual. That means than an individual can leave $11.4 million to their heirs and pay no federal estate tax while married couples  will be able to leave $22.8 million. In order for a spouse to use their late husband or wife’s unused exemption, they must elect it on the estate tax return of the first spouse to die, even when no tax is due. It is important to note that the $11.4 million estate tax exemption is the federal exemption rate. Some states have lower exemptions, and some states don’t have an estate tax at all. Although there’s a decent chance that you will not need to worry about estate taxes, it is a good thing to know regardless.

Organizing Your Files and Papers

estate planning in Williamsport, PAThe last step of planning your estate, and the easiest if you have been doing it all along, is to organize your estate-planning paperwork and financial records. Store them in a safe place such as a safe, so that your executor (the person you choose to distribute your property after your passing) can access the documents they need to carry out your wishes.

Remember to consistently revisit your estate plan to revise it as needed. As life changes, so should your plan after you’re gone.

It is never too early or too late to begin planning your estate. Call Casale & Bonner P.C. at 570-326-7044 to speak with a lawyer and begin planning for the future.

Divorce

Divorcing? Here’s What You Need to Consider

No one goes into a marriage thinking about divorce, but nevertheless, over 750,000 couples get divorced every year. You have probably heard or read the statistic that 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. While true, this doesn’t diminish how difficult, stressful, and emotional, it can be to go through one. The process can be confusing and emotionally taxing, and Casale & Bonner P.C is here to help guide and support you through it. Here are some things to consider:

Custody

Often the most involved and difficult aspects of divorce are child custody and visitation rights. Every parent wants to have a large part in their child’s life, and this can lead to some intense legal battles. If the parents can come to a resolution outside of court, then they can ultimately decide how custody and visitation will be handled. If not, the court will decide who shall receive custody based a numerous factors such as who the “primary caretaker” is, and the child’s preference if they’re old enough to decide. Ultimately, the court will decide based on the best interests of the child.

  • When determining the best interests of the child, the court will factor in the following factors:
  • Both the physical and mental health of each parent
  • The need for a stable home environment
  • Who has been most involved in the child’s life thus far
  • The child’s preference if they’re old enough to express it
  • Evidence of parent drug or alcohol abuse or any other run-ins with the law
  • Any special needs the child may have
  • The family dynamic and relationships with others in the household

Support

Child and spousal support is another thing that those going through the divorce process must deal with. It ensures that the non-custodial parent is providing financial support for any children and that the spouse with the higher income is providing financial assistance to the other. There are a couple of factors that go into the amount that one must pay in alimony or child support. Incomes, health insurance plans, relative assets owned, and general need, amongst other factors, all factor into the amount one must pay.

Division of Property

Similar to child custody matters, the division of property can be settled out of court. While it can be difficult to reconcile any disagreements, settling out of court allows for the couple to come to a decision themselves, without the court deciding for them. If agreements can’t be made outside of court, then a family law judge will decide how the assets and property are split.

Some of the factors that play into the decision include but are not limited to:

  • Incomes of each spouse
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Age and health of each spouse
  • Expected future cash flow (pensions, retirement, etc.)
  • Obligations of spousal support in previous marriages
  • The ability of each spouse to provide for themselves
  • Tax consequences of dividing the property

Divorce can be not only stressful and emotional for the spouses, but those connected to them as well. Allow the team (link to about us page) at Casale & Bonner P.C. to walk you through the process from start to finish to make the experience as stress-free and efficient as possible. The compassion, patience, and dedication we show each of our clients is unparalleled.

Call Casale & Bonner P.C. 570-326-7044 to speak with a lawyer. We are here to be your guide through your divorce, protect your rights, and help you obtain any compensation that you deserve.

Head Injuries & Your Right to Compensation

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Brain injuries can range from mild to severe. Regardless of the severity, the physical, sensory, and cognitive symptoms can be very upsetting. If you or someone you know has sustained a traumatic brain injury due to an assault, slip and fall, auto accident, or sports incident, contact an attorney at Casale & Bonner, P.C. by calling 570-326-7044. We can’t cure a brain injury, but we can help ease the difficulty associated with medical bills and other costs.

Mild & Severe TBIs

A concussion is classified as a “mild” traumatic brain injury (TBI) and is often missed initially. This classification is assigned when a force or impact to the head causes loss of consciousness and/or confusion and disorientation lasts fewer than 30 minutes. Medical imaging may be normal, but the victim may experience headache, difficulty thinking, frustration, memory loss, sleep disturbances, mood changes, and other problems that can last a year or more. While called “mild,” the effects can be very difficult to deal with.

A severe traumatic brain injury may initially present as a mild TBI. In the hours or days following the injury, the victim may exhibit dilation of one or both pupils, clear fluid draining from the nose or ears, weakness, lack of coordination, severe confusion, agitation, and other symptoms.

Causes of TBI

Any blow to the head can cause TBI. The extent of the damage is determined by the nature of the injury and force of the impact. The most common causes of TBI are falls, auto accidents, sports injuries, violence (assault), and combat injuries. Shaken Baby Syndrome also causes head trauma.

Schools can help by ensuring that all students have the latest and safest protective equipment when participating in sports and that coaches strictly enforce rules that prohibit students that show signs of concussion from returning to the field. A study by Boston University showed that 110 of 111 former NFL players showed signs of repeated head trauma and brain damage, even with high-quality protective helmets. Football isn’t the only sport with a high incidence of TBI. Cycling, baseball, basketball, scuba diving, soccer, skiing, and hockey also contribute to the high TBI stats.

Outcomes

People who have sustained traumatic brain injuries may develop seizure disorders, buildup of fluid in the brain that causes brain swelling, infections, damage to blood vessels, ongoing headaches, vertigo, paralysis, altered sense of smell or taste, swallowing problems, hearing loss, inability concentrate, memory loss, outbursts, depression, and more. Research has shown that TBIs can lead to degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.

Statistics

The Pennsylvania Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Board has compiled some statistics pertaining to TBI. In a 2015 summary, the Advisory Board reported that over 245,000 people have brain injury-related disabilities in Pennsylvania. Over 2,200 die from brain injuries annually. Nearly 50,000 people are seen in emergency rooms every year following brain injuries. Almost 36,000 Pennsylvania youths of ages 19 and under have sports-related brain injuries every year. Over 8,500 of the victims of TBI have disabilities that are long-term or last throughout their lives.

Your Legal Representatives

If you or someone you love has sustained a traumatic brain injury due to the action or inaction of another person, the lawyers of Casale & Bonner, P.C. will help you file a lawsuit against them. Monetary compensation cannot take away the pain and heartache of TBI, but it may ease the financial burden associated with ongoing medical care. We hope that by holding the person/people responsible for their action/inaction, they will recognize their wrongdoing. This may provide some comfort to victims, knowing that the parties have been held responsible and will, hopefully, act with more caution in the future. Call Casale & Bonner, P.C. at 570-326-7044 for more information.

Can Your Criminal Record Be Sealed?

Clean Slate Legislation

Recently, Pennsylvania legislators passed a law that allows some criminal records to be sealed, rendering them invisible to some searchers — including prospective employers. While this law may be advantageous to you, you may not be benefitting from it. Find out why, and how to ensure your record is sealed. As always, if you need personal assistance with this or any other legal matter, call Casale & Bonner, P.C. at 570-326-7044.

Are Your Criminal Records Visible?

When you’re applying for a job, an apartment, or school, you will likely be subject to a background check. These checks yield results that include criminal records. Therefore, a criminal record can adversely affect your ability to get a job, become enrolled in classes, or even rent a place to live. Governor Tom Wolf has approved Clean Slate to allow people with records of convictions that are 10 years old — if they have had no more convictions — to have their records sealed.

Who Is Eligible?

While there is a provision in Clean Slate for automatic record sealing after a 10-year period, only certain offenses will be sealed. Misdemeanor records will be automatically sealed after 10 years if the defendant has had no new convictions. Second and third-degree misdemeanors are included in this automatic process. Some first-degree offenses are now eligible to be sealed, excluding violent and sexual offenses, among a few others. In cases where you have more than one first-degree felony or an additional felony, you will not be eligible for the automatic process, and you will have to wait longer than the stated 10-year period. The eligibility guidelines are difficult to understand. Please consult one of our lawyers for assistance in finding out whether or not your case can be sealed.

Your Convictions Are NOT Expunged

Keep in mind that your records have not been expunged. Your criminal record remains in the criminal justice system and is visible to law enforcement, employers who must consider these records per federal law, and any employer that uses FBI background checks. If your records have been sealed, feel free to respond to questions — except those from criminal justice agencies — as if the offense did not occur.

Is Clean Slate an Automatic Process?

Right now, your number-one consideration is to ensure that you have paid any and all court fines and costs. All fees must be paid before you are eligible for Clean Slate. Beginning in January 2021, Clean Slate will be an automated process for those who are eligible and have paid all of the fees associated with their case. Until then, you must petition for your records to be sealed. This is a process best accomplished with legal assistance. We are happy to help you determine your eligibility and file your petition.

Clean Your Slate

Remember, Clean Slate does NOT expunge your record. You may continue to seek expungement even if your record is sealed. Review the Clean Slate legislation for details, and give one of our legal experts a call at 570-326-7044 for assistance.
Personal Injury Law

The Reality of Abuse

The Case

Sexual abuse cases can be difficult for a variety of reasons. Many are particularly difficult because all too often a child is victimized. High profile cases are even more difficult; we have represented cases involving both. At Casale & Bonner, P.C. we don’t shy away from cases that are tough. We step in to help our clients seek justice and the compensation they deserve.

Our firm represented a child who had been abused during early adolescence by a trusted authority figure. It was a high-profile figure, with a reputation for being altruistic and admirable. These cases often occur in settings that are supposed to be supportive and safe, but instead, are often the location where children became easy prey for otherwise trusted, known, and respected adults.

We file claims in the best possible venue for our clients. We consider all possible defendants to include in the case to maximize the compensation for the victims, our clients.

We coordinate our efforts with other law firms who are often representing other victims; hire experts and validate claims to determine their validity and severity.

While we fervently wish we could have protected our client and other victims from these heinous abuses, we are satisfied to have obtained closure and settlement, often in the seven-figure range; helping our client to begin the healing process.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Darkness to Light, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. In 90% of child abuse cases, the victims know their abuser. Children aged 12-17 are victimized at a higher rate than adults. In 2000, children were sexually assaulted at a rate 2.3 times higher than adults.

Emotional and mental health issues are often the first sign of abuse. Abuse survivors are 30% more likely to develop serious medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and stroke. Many have non-life threatening medical problems like fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, and more. Academic problems and absenteeism are both common symptoms of sexual abuse. To build our client’s case, our staff obtained and studied voluminous records detailing our client’s medical and psychological treatment, along with his school records. All of his records were consistent with the expected results of a victim of sexual abuse.

We Represent You

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, urge them to seek help from a medical and psychological professional. When they’re ready, we’re here to represent their rights. Our team’s diligence, expertise, knowledge, and aggressive representation will go to work for you. Call 570.326.7044. Casale & Bonner will take on the toughest cases — our clients deserve the best.

Don’t Drive Under the Influence

In Pennsylvania, along with the rest of the US, DUI is a very serious crime. The penalties are stiff and the charges will negatively impact your entire life. At Casale & Bonner P.C., we don’t want you to suffer through the consequences if you don’t have to. Step one in staying away from a DUI charge is education.

What is DUI?

DUI, or driving under the influence, is the charge brought against a driver who is impaired by alcohol or drugs — even prescription drugs.

Anatomy of an Arrest

If a police officer sees any behaviors that lead them to believe you may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they will pull you over. The first thing they will do is make observations: check if your eyes are bloodshot; listen for slurred speech; smell for alcohol in the care; etc. Typically, they will then ask the driver to exit the vehicle.

Roadside testing may include standing on one leg, walking and turning, and a breath test for alcohol intoxication. If the results of any of these tests give the officer probable cause to believe you are impaired, they will arrest you for DUI. You will be handcuffed and placed in the police vehicle for transportation to the closest place for blood testing. You may receive your Miranda rights at this time.

When you arrive at the local hospital or other blood collection station, you will be asked to submit to a blood alcohol test (BAC). You do not have to give consent, but be aware that in Pennsylvania, you do not have the right to refuse. If you do refuse, there will be consequences including suspension of your driver’s license for at least a year. This year is the result of your refusal, not the DUI charge. If you are found guilty of DUI and receive drivers license suspension time, this will be added to the refusal to take the BAC time. Please be aware that during this time, you do not have a right to a lawyer. You must make this decision on your own, knowing the consequences.

After the test, you will likely be detained and have a right to call Casale & Bonner at 570-326-7044 for legal advice and representation.

Avoiding DUI

The best idea is to avoid driving under the influence altogether. If you are drinking or imbibing in any kind of substance that impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, don’t get behind the wheel. Ask a friend who has not been drinking to give you a ride. Call a taxi or Uber. Find a way to stay off the road. The best defense is a good offense. Don’t get behind the wheel of a car and you can’t be pulled over.

Contact us with any questions or to retain our services.