Archives for July 2015

What is the Duty if Hazard is Readily Apparent?

No diving signThe Illinois state legislature is hearing debate on a bill that would provide more protection to persons injured on the property of others. In Illinois, as in other states, a landowner generally has a duty to maintain residential or commercial premises so as to minimize the risk of injury to anyone legally on the property. The Illinois statute mandates “reasonable care” on the part of landowners, but a 2003 court case held that conditions that are “open and obvious” do not fall under this duty. The proposed law is an effort to change that.

As the law is currently interpreted in Illinois, a judge or jury can decide that no duty was owed by a landowner if the condition causing injury was “open and obvious.” The statute, if enacted, would limit the application of the “open and obvious” exclusion to a determination of the degree of comparative fault. In other words, the landowner would still owe the duty, but the extent to which the landowner would be liable could be reduced by the degree to which the hazard was “open and obvious.”

The “open and obvious” defense has long been recognized in New Jersey, but has often been ignored or disregarded by the courts. In 2009, however, in the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, the court heard and ruled on the validity of the defense in a case involving the owner of a single family home.

In Donohue v. Polozzo, the injured party fell down the stairs to the basement of a house and sought damages, arguing that the absence of a handrail was the cause of the fall. The homeowner argued at trial that the absence of the handrail was obvious, and that the injured party (who had lived at the residence for 10 months) knew about the condition. Therefore, it was open and obvious, and no duty was owed. The trial court agreed, and the decision was affirmed on appeal.

Contact Taylor & Boguski

At Taylor & Boguski, we bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to injured people throughout New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at 856-200-8989.

What You Can Do If You Can’t Pay Your Support Obligation

Two daughtersMost non-custodial parents want to provide for their children, and understand the importance of meeting their child support obligation. But what happens if you lose your job, or you are self-employed and can’t get a customer to pay you? What can you do to minimize the potential problems?

The Loss of a Job Won’t Affect Your Obligation

A child support obligation is a court order. It will stay in effect until withdrawn, amended or completed. Accordingly, even if you lose your job or can’t get a customer to pay you, you will still be liable for regular child support. You can petition the court to amend your obligation, but you won’t likely get much relief, if any. The court will typically require a permanent and substantial change in your income to make a change to the order. Courts are reluctant to change support orders due to temporary unemployment, as the order will have to be amended again when you go back to work. In most instances, you will simply accrue an arrearage and will have to pay a higher amount when you go back to work to make up the arrearage.

What to Do When You Can’t Pay Support

The first thing to do is contact your child support enforcement office in the state and county where your divorce was finalized. This will typically be the agency that handles your child support, unless you have legally transferred the responsibility. The agency will typically have forms that you can complete to request a change in support, but the court will have to approve any change.

If you agreed in the court order to pay support directly to your ex-spouse, you should immediately contact him or her. You may be able to work out arrangements to make up the arrearage. However, if you pay directly to a child support enforcement agency that then sends payment to your ex, there’s no benefit to contacting your ex other than as a courtesy. The decision to seek enforcement may or may not come from your ex or from the agency, but the enforcement agency may or may not act without request or approval from your ex.

Contact the Law Office of Taylor & Boguski

At Taylor & Boguski, we bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to injured people throughout New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 856-200-8989.

Connecticut Legislature Seeks to Expand Work Comp Coverage for Psychological Injury

Man under stressThe Connecticut legislature is entertaining two separate proposals to increase workers’ compensation benefits for people who experience psychological or emotional distress related to exposure to workplace violence. Efforts to amend the state’s workers’ compensation laws to address this concern have failed in each of the last two legislative sessions.

Connecticut seeks to join New Jersey and some other nearby states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York) in allowing workers to recover compensation for so-called “mental-mental” injuries. Workers’ compensation customarily views psychological injury three ways:

  • Physical-mental injuries, where a physical injury leads to mental disability, i.e., a blow to the head leads to memory loss or brain injury. These types of injuries are almost always compensable.
  • Mental-physical injuries, where stress, depression, anxiety or other mental conditions caused by some work-related activity result in physical problems, such as high blood pressure or heart disease. These types of injuries are frequently compensable.
  • Mental-mental injuries, where some mental experience at work, such as witnessing an accident, causes emotional or psychological impairment. These types of injuries are the most difficult to prove, and getting compensation for them poses significant challenges.

Ironically, Connecticut routinely provided workers’ compensation benefits to people suffering emotional or mental distress, even in the absence of physical symptoms, until 1993. Since the legislature amended the workers’ compensation laws that year, claimants in Connecticut may only recover for mental or emotional injuries if there are also physical injuries.

The bills before the Connecticut legislature specifically address the situation where a worker either witnesses the death or serious injury of a co-worker, is exposed to workplace violence, or witnesses the aftermath of either. The bill is opposed by ambulance workers, who fear that their workers’ compensation premiums will skyrocket if the bill is passed.

Contact Taylor & Boguski

At Taylor & Boguski, we have more than 70 years of combined experience representing injured workers across New Jersey. For a free initial consultation, send us an e-mail or call us at 856-200-8989.