What You Should Know if You’re Accused of Domestic Violence

Reports of cases of domestic violence have surged during the Covid-19 pandemic in New York and throughout the country. Unfortunately, these times of major stress and uncertainty are often accompanied by an increase in domestic disputes. Any accusation of committing a domestic violence crime can cause extreme damage to both your personal and professional worlds. Even without a conviction, it’s possible that you could end up losing your livelihood and/or friends and associates. That’s why it’s crucial to understand what you’re up against if you’ve been accused of domestic violence. Read on to learn about what you need to do if it happens to you.

Understand the Charges

Take a typical scenario. In many cases, a domestic violence incident may occur after an argument between partners or spouses gets physical. When the police arrive after a 911 call, (which sometimes are made in the heat of the moment) an arrest is made even times when the situation has calmed.

First, you need to understand the seriousness of the situation. Even if you’ve been falsely accused of committing domestic violence, you need to realize the trouble that you’re in and should do everything you can to defend yourself. 

Identify the actual charges. Domestic abuse or domestic violence itself is not a criminal charge per se here. However, in New York the charges that are considered under this category are assault, harassment, and stalking. For assault, the range of charges begins with a misdemeanor and goes all the way up to a B felony; the penalties can be probation for the lowest offense and potential jail time from up to 25 years for the high end.  

Seek Legal Representation

After realizing the seriousness of your charges, you should not hesitate to get an attorney experienced in criminal defense to represent you. Even if you’re facing charges based on false allegations or your accuser is flipping the script after abusing you, it’s critical that you hire counsel. You will need help mounting a solid defense and an attorney will also ensure that your rights are protected during this process.

Compile Evidence

After you have obtained a lawyer, they will help you gather and preserve evidence. An investigation can yield important information that can bolster your case. Documenting correspondence like text messages with the accuser can be especially helpful. In some cases, the only evidence comes from the domestic violence complainant who also serves as a witness. However, if there are witnesses, you can compile a list, complete with their names, contact information, and any other information that could be significant. It’s also a good idea to include everyone you can think of even if they end up not being relevant to your case; the attorney can sort out those details.   

Accused of Domestic Violence in New York? Contact an Experienced Lawyer

The importance of obtaining an experienced criminal lawyer can’t be overstated when you’ve been accused of a crime, especially of the domestic violence variety. Our MOWK Law criminal defense attorneys have countless experience and can help you fight your charges and increase your chances of keeping your freedom, livelihood, and reputation. Contact us today. 

What Happens if You Don’t Buy a Homeowner’s Title Policy?

You’ve looked over the options and have made your choice: You’re ready to purchase that cozy condo or that attractive New York brownstone. Whenever you buy residential New York real estate, you aren’t merely paying the asking price. Rather, there are many other fees associated with it including a host of various closing costs. As a purchaser, you want to save money and may want to avoid a survey or an inspection as a way to keep down expenses. While some of these costs (including broker fees) aren’t negotiable, there are things that you can sidestep. 

However, many times mortgage lenders won’t allow buyers to do this. A close analysis of the financial information prior to closing indicates that you have to pay for title insurance not only for yourself but also for the mortgage lender. While there is usually no way to get out of buying a lender’s policy, you can opt out of a buyer’s policy. But is this something that you really want to do? Read on to learn more about making this choice and what’s at stake if you don’t buy a homeowner’s title policy.  

Types of Policies

There are two types of title insurance policies, an owner’s policy and a loan policy. The owner’s policy protects you in case there is a covered title defect in your right of ownership. If you need a mortgage to buy your home, the lender will probably require that you purchase a loan policy or lender’s policy. This policy protects the lender’s interest in the property until the mortgage has been paid in full.  

Title Insurance and Ownership Rights  

In order to get a title insurance policy, you will need to have a company carry out an exhaustive title search looking at the ownership history of the property, including any liens that require payment as part of the transaction. When you acquire a title insurance policy, it will protect you if another party eventually shows up claiming to be an owner or claiming to have the right to some other hold on the property’s title.  

First, the title insurance will pay for a lawyer to represent you in a title dispute in court. Next, if the person claiming title is successful and you lose possession of the property, then the title insurance will reimburse you for the investments that you’ve made in the property. 

However, if you don’t have a title policy and someone brings a claim against your property, you could lose out on not only the down payment that you made, but also on all of the accrued equity from payments since the closing, and the value of improvements that you’ve made to your home. 

Get Answers from an Experienced New York Real Estate Attorney

Buying a new home is one of the most fulfilling things that you can do. Ensuring that your right to own the property is secure can be equally satisfying. Understanding the aspects of a real estate transaction can assist you with making thoughtful choices prior to your closing. Get help with this by turning to one of our experienced MOWK Law attorneys who can guide you through this process. Contact us today for more information.  

What You Need to Know about Pretrial Settlements

A pretrial settlement is when the parties in a lawsuit meet before trial to figure out payment for losses and injuries. Instead of going through the entire trial process, the parties try to negotiate and resolve payment issues, rather than depending on the judge to determine the damages award. Keep reading for more information about this common dispute resolution approach.

When do pretrial settlements occur?

After receiving notice of the lawsuit, the defendant has the opportunity to work with the claimant/plaintiff outside of court to come to an agreement about liability and how to measure damages. 

The settlements can occur in any personal injury arena, but they are very popular in auto accident claims, which can be complicated due to the presence of other parties like insurance companies. Pretrial settlements are also common where business owners are trying to avoid taking time out for court appearances in cases like slip and falls or other claims that occur in business establishments. 

After the distribution of the facts of the case, the plaintiff can work with an attorney to draft a formal offer of settlement according to the outlined terms and send it to the defendant for consideration. Alternatively, another option is that both parties can have conversations to negotiate the offer together. 

What are the benefits of pretrial settlements?

If you go the settlement route, all parties may be able to save both time and money. Depending on the case, the costs of legal fees, securing and paying expert witnesses, and other costs associated with the lawsuit can really add up, so the settlement can be a way to reduce this.  

Additionally, under some circumstances, if a settlement agreement is reached, it may be a more accurate compared to the court’s calculation of compensation for damages. 

However, settlement isn’t always a possibility when the parties don’t agree on all of the terms. In such cases, a partial settlement can be reached, and then the disputed terms can be litigated in court.

Helpful hints on negotiation for claimants

There are certain things that claimants should consider when negotiating:

  • Envision a settlement range prior to the meeting
  • Don’t rush into the first offer. Insurance adjusters tend to start low because they expect that the other party doesn’t realize what their claim is worth
  • Get the settlement in writing 

How do pretrial settlements payouts work?

Generally, the parties can decide how the settlement payments are paid out. In some cases, a lump sum is paid to the injured party, but the plaintiff may instead choose to receive a structured settlement; many plaintiffs prefer this periodic schedule because they can avoid paying large amounts of taxes on the money that they get.  

Contact an Attorney for Pretrial Settlement Help

You might want to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer if you’re considering settlement as an alternative to litigation. Your attorney can assist you in navigating the settlement process from beginning to end. Get in touch with a skilled MOWK Law attorney right away to find out about your options. 

What You Need to Know about NY’s Power of Attorney Law

No amount of New York estate planning is complete without protecting yourself while you’re still alive. This is why a power of attorney is important. It’s recommended (in conjunction with a health care proxy) for anyone 18 and above. Here’s what you need to know about New York’s recently changed power of attorney (POA). 

What is a Power of Attorney? 

A power of attorney is a legal document that acts as a planning tool that is used during your lifetime. In a general sense, it allows an individual or multiple other people, the power to manage the financial affairs and make important decisions on another individual’s behalf if they can’t.

The Parties of a POA

The “principal” gives specific authority to others who are the “agent/agents.” The agent is the individual who is authorized to make decisions on your behalf and who agrees to follow the instructions that you have set up. In the absence of specific instructions, the agent is required to act in the best interests of the principal.

You probably want to consider choosing more than one agent in case your agent passes away or somehow becomes unavailable. Otherwise, your family will likely have to endure lengthy and costly court proceedings to handle your personal and financial affairs. They would have to replace the previous agent by having a guardian appointed. You can avoid this by appointing a successor agent or by assigning co-agents.  

What Changes were Made to the NY POA?

Because the old format was convoluted and lead to many invalid POAs, the aim of the new law was to simplify the process. Here are important changes:

  • You don’t have to use the “exact wording” anymore and instead it’s “substantial conformity” with the wording of the law 
  • There’s built-in forgiveness for making insignificant spelling or wording errors or for using language/formatting from prior law 
  • The POA must be signed, initialed, and dated
  • The POA form now requires two witnesses, in addition to notarization 
  • POA can now be signed at the direction of the principal, which had previously been a major issue if the person couldn’t sign independently due to illness or physical disability

Presumption of Validity

If a POA was validly executed before the effective date of June 13, 2021, it is enforceable under the new law. For all the POAs that are executed after the effective date, there’s a presumption of validity. A financial institution (or other third party) may agree to take a witnessed/notarized POA and may rely on the presumption that the signature is valid; this presumption prevents these third parties from rejecting the POA without cause. 

Effectiveness 

For the POA to be effective, the principal must have capacity at the time of the signing, and the DOA is durable if it remains in effect even after the Principal becomes incapacitated. The POA is effective when the agent has signed the POA in the presence of the notary. If there are two or more agents who are designated to act together, then the POA takes effect when all agents have signed in the presence of the notary. 

Get More Information about New York Power of Attorney

If you have an old POA, it should still be enforceable it was in compliance with the law at the time. However, you may still want an experienced attorney to go over it to ensure that it meets the legal requirements. If you don’t have a POA, you can get an attorney’s help with setting it up and taking care of all your estate planning needs. Connect with a MOWK Law estate planning attorney who can help you sort out your specific situation.   

Can You Recover Punitive Damages from a Car Accident in NY?

You were involved in a car accident and were seriously injured. You know that you can receive compensation for your medical expenses. You can also recover for pain and suffering damages, but may wonder about punitive damages, which are damages used to punish the party at fault. Find out how you may be able to collect punitive damages after a New York auto wreck.

Establishing Liability: Negligence

New York has various standards for establishing liability in personal injury cases, including vehicle collision cases. Generally, the liability is based on a theory of negligence. This occurs when a party owes a duty to someone and they breach that duty. Here, a driver owes everyone on the road (other drivers and pedestrians) a duty to drive carefully. If they breach that duty by failing to stop at a stop sign or breaking the speed limit, and someone is injured as a result, then they can be held liable for their behavior. 

Strict Liability

Another standard for establishing liability in New York is strict liability. The strict liability standard doesn’t require proof of negligence. Rather, this occurs when the car accident stems from a vehicle defect. As long as a company sells a defective vehicle or part, and the defect leads to the accident or to the accident-related injuries, then the company can be held liable to the accident victim.

Standard for Punitive Damages

If you’re seeking a claim for punitive damages in New York, you must show that the wrongdoer’s actions were “extreme, egregious or immoral conduct” that is worthy of punishment.  

Circumstances that Can Support a Recovery of Punitive Damages

Because “extreme, egregious or immoral conduct” is a term of art, unfamiliar to most, it’s difficult to understand when this criterion is met. Here are examples of the type of conduct that may apply to the awarding of punitive damages:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol: Because driving under the influence of alcohol is a known criminal offense with a proven track record of causing tremendous harm to victims, you can often file a claim for punitive damages in these cases. If a driver is on drugs like marijuana or other controlled substances, it’s treated similarly to alcohol.
  • Street racing or excessive speeding: Driving at high speeds creates a risk of harm to everyone on the road. This is also the case for street racing, a dangerous crime.
  • Knowingly selling defective vehicles or defective parts: When a company sells a product with the knowledge of the defect, juries have awarded punitive damages to the victims in those cases.

Seeking Punitive Damages After your Car Accident

When considering punitive damages, you will file a claim as you normally would, but there are some things to keep in mind like reporting the accident right away and following your doctor’s advice thoroughly. You don’t want to make your claim harder to prove. Even following this, you can’t do it alone: You need the experience of a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. Get in touch with one of our MOW Law New York personal injury attorneys right away to determine where you stand. 

What You Should Know About Drug Charges in New York

When people have substance abuse issues, it can bring problems into their professional lives, as well as damage their personal relationships. However, those that take drugs aren’t the only individuals impacted by drug-related offenses. If you manufacture, possess, sell, or transport illegal substances, the consequences of being convicted of a New York drug crime can seriously affect your livelihood and freedom and the aftermath can have a lasting impact for your entire life. Whenever you are accused of any crime, you need to know how the legal system will evaluate your charges. This is no different when it comes to drug-related crimes. 

Penalties for Drug-Related Crimes

Jail time is customary for many offenses associated with illegal substances and many incarcerated individuals are indeed sentenced due to some type of drug involvement. Besides serving time in jail, an offender may also face costly fines, probation, community service, or house arrest. As soon as your criminal history involves a drug-related crime, it can prevent you from gaining employment, entering the military, owning a weapon, receiving a loan, or registering to vote. 

How Drug Penalties are Determined

Not every penalty is available for every crime; it will depend on various factors. The court will consider the following when determining punishment:

  • The type and the amount of the substance that the individual has in their possession 
  • The activity that the individual was engaged in at the time of the arrest
  • The frequency that the individual has encountered law enforcement (if you have a criminal record, your sentence will generally be harsher)

New York Schedule of Drugs

It’s illegal to possess a controlled dangerous substances (CDS) without a valid medical prescription. New York divides CDS into five different categories called “schedules.” The grouping is based on the level of danger, how likely people can become addicted, and the medical uses for the drug. Schedule I is considered the most dangerous of the drugs (it includes heroin, LSD, and ecstasy) and has a high risk of addiction and abuse, with no medical benefits. Schedule II, III, IV, and V increase in recognized medical benefits and decrease in risk for abuse and dangerousness. Schedule II drugs have some medical benefits, but also a high risk of abuse, including meth and cocaine. Schedule III includes medications, like steroids and ketamine, that have a lower risk of dependency. Schedule IV consists of low risk medications, including Tramadol and Xanax. The final classification, Schedule V has the lowest risk and least dangerous drugs, like couch medicine. 

Types of Drug Offenses

Because the penalty will depend on the specific activity at the time of the arrest, there are very different penalties, depending on the specific drug charges. For instance, selling drugs and trafficking them are considered much more serious offenses than simple possession and can result in more strict punishments.  

Talk to a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney about Drug Charges

Drug convictions are accompanied by long stretches of incarceration and harsh fines. If you’ve been accused of a drug-related crime, you should act in your best interests and talk to a New York lawyer who is familiar with this complex subject area. You can talk with an experienced New York criminal defense MOWK Law attorney who can mount a diligent defense on your behalf. Contact us immediately for more information. 

How to Pick a Good Trademark

Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” Well, to a business owner trying to select a trademark, it means a lot. It’s a very important decision because the chosen word, design, symbol, or phrase (that identifies the source of a company’s products or services) can be one of the most valuable assets that your company will own. Choosing wisely can help you distinguish yourselves from the competition; making a poor choice can trigger costly legal disputes. Find out what you need to know about how to pick a good trademark.

Pick a Trademark That can be Registered

If you can’t register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, you really shouldn’t bother with it because there’s no point. There are many benefits to registration, including protection and reassurances of ownership and ability to enforce your rights against other companies.

Typically, the stronger or more distinctive the mark, the more likely it is to register it and protect it from use from others. The following categories will help determine the ease of registering your mark.

·       Generic: These are words that are already accepted and recognized descriptions of a certain type of services or goods. These aren’t eligible for trademark protection. Example: “Ivory” used to describe a product made with elephant tusks. 

·       Descriptive: This mark describes goods, or some quality tied to the goods.  However, these words aren’t eligible for trademarks, unless they achieve a secondary meaning, which means that the word becomes exclusively associated with a specific company. Example: “Holiday Inn.”

·       Suggestive: This includes words that suggest a meaning or connection to the product but doesn’t describe it; they are automatically eligible for trademark protection. Example: “Chicken of the Sea” for tuna and “Coppertone” for sunscreen.

·       Arbitrary: This includes words that offer no meaning or clue to the product or service. A common word applied in an unfamiliar way. Example: “Urban Decay” for cosmetics.

·       Fanciful:  These are made up words that aren’t related to the product or service. Example: “Klorax.”

Based on this list, you will want to avoid generic words (because they can’t be protected) and descriptive (because they have to be accompanied with secondary meaning to be protected). Instead, you want to choose fanciful, arbitrary, or suggestive words for your trademark.  

Conduct a Trademark Search

A complete trademark search will help to ensure that you don’t pick something that can be confused with an already registered trademark. You want to avoid this because it creates a “likelihood of confusion.” If you pick a mark too similar to one already in existence, then your mark can’t be registered.  

Speak with a Lawyer about Trademarks

Picking your trademark and registering it seems like an easy task. However, it’s not always so simple. An experienced attorney can help you evaluate the strength of your mark and can identify any potential problems. You can talk to a skilled Mowk Law attorney who can provide insight into all intellectual property matters. Contact us today for assistance. 

Things You Should Know about Making an Online Will

Writing a will helps you to control how your possessions are distributed after your death. While many will put off this important task, one way that isn’t as time-consuming is to complete the process online. Although one of the best things about creating your will online is that it’s convenient, it is more than just plugging in information into the site. You obviously have to take some time to think about what you want to do and to make sure that the document will ensure that your wishes are carried out. Read on for information about creating your will online.  

Inventory of your Assets

An individual’s assets can determine their estate planning strategy; you don’t want to overlook any of your possessions so that you make a mistake concerning distribution. Before you start, you need to take stock of your assets.  Although many people mistakenly believe that the will covers all your assets, it only covers assets that aren’t passed by operation of law, through a trust, or have a beneficiary designation listed, such as a life insurance policy where the named recipient gets the assets after your death. This is relevant information that you should know before starting an online will so that your intentions will be reflected in your will.   

Leaving Money to Minors/ People with Disabilities

Online wills simplify the process of passing down your assets to children. It usually allows you to leave money to children outright. However, this presents myriad problems if a child is a minor or has a disability. Leaving money to a minor child can cause issues in probate and a guardian will need to be appointed, which can lead to excessive administrative fees and other complications. With disabled children, you often want to leave their part of the inheritance in a supplemental needs trust, so that they can maintain eligibility for government benefits. These are very significant details that aren’t always contemplated when using online software.  

When You Don’t Have a Spouse or Children

There can be issues when it comes to online wills if you don’t have a spouse or children. Online will sites often default to requiring information about a spouse and children. If this is the situation, the probate process is more complex and the closest relatives of the deceased need to be identified. Any New York estate planning attorney would have their client fill out an extensive family tree, but the online site may not necessarily provide for this.

Additionally, in situations where an individual doesn’t have a spouse or children, a revocable trust is generally advisable. However, when you create your will online, it won’t necessarily provide you this information that might help you accomplish your goals more successfully.

Need Help Preparing Your Will? Talk to an Experienced Attorney

Although you can create a valid online will as long as it’s executed properly, the details of your case might be such that a generic site isn’t as helpful to you. You can get valuable insight from an experienced MOWk law New York estate planning attorney. Contact us today to follow up with more information.      

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in New York

It’s always a challenge to lose someone that you love. It feels even more tragic when your loved one dies because of another person’s negligent or reckless behavior. When this occurs, New York law provides a way for surviving family members to be compensated for their losses by filing a type of New York personal injury claim known as a wrongful death lawsuit.  

Negligence in Wrongful Death Cases

Obviously, the first step is to assess whether or not you can even file a claim. If your family member died due to another person’s negligence, then it’s a possibility. Negligence is the failure to act with a reasonable amount of care. For example, every driver on the road has a duty to pedestrians and the other drivers to follow the traffic laws and regulations. If the motorist drives while intoxicated and hits a pedestrian in the crosswalk, the pedestrian’s spouse can file a wrongful death action against them.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Only immediate family members are allowed to make a wrongful death claim– this means parents, spouses, or children of the deceased person. New York law differs from other states because it mandates that the person filing a wrongful death claim must be the “personal representative” of the deceased person’s estate. It can’t just be a relative unless that person is also the personal representative. New York doesn’t recognize wrongful death claims from parents when a fetus dies before birth, even if the death was caused by another person’s wrongful act.

The New York Definition of “Wrongful Death” 

If you are going to file a wrongful death claim, there are four elements needed to establish it:

  • The defendant was negligent
  • The defendant’s negligence caused the victim’s death
  • There are surviving family members 
  • The surviving family members have suffered damages as a result of the victim’s death

Wrongful Death Damages

When the personal representative files the claim, they may seek damages for losses that were suffered by the deceased’s heirs, beneficiaries, or devisees. This is in addition to the damages for any losses suffered by the estate. The damages will depend on the specific details of the case. However, they can include the following:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical, nursing, and other health care expenses related to the deceased person’s final injury/illness
  • Lost wages and benefits for time between the deceased person’s final injury/illness and their death
  • The value of support and services the victim provided to family members
  • The value of parental nurturing, care, and guidance to surviving children
  • Lost inheritance suffered by surviving children
  • The victim’s pain and suffering they experienced due to the final injury/illness

New York Statute of Limitations

A wrongful death claim in New York must be filed within two years of the date of the deceased person’s death. The state will not stop the statute of limitations from running if the personal representative is a child; the child’s guardian can file the claim in these situations. 

Speak with an Experienced New York Wrongful Death Attorney

When your loved one dies because of someone’s negligence, it can be devastating. In addition to the grief you’re experiencing, you probably have a lot of questions about how to hold the wrongdoer accountable. An experienced MOWK Law attorney can help you with answers and will treat you with the care that you deserve during this challenging time. Contact us today to explore courses of action.  

What You Should Know about Selling a House “As Is” in New York

Usually when you’re selling your home, you make repairs and improvements so that it is in the best condition to fetch the highest price possible. However, when you sell your house “as is,” you forgo those repairs and put your home on the market in its current condition, without negotiations with the buyer for any credits to fund any upgrades. Whether you’re in a hurry to unload your property or you simply don’t have the additional funds for renovations, there are various reasons for wanting to go this route. Read on for information about what you should know about selling an “as is” home in New York.

1. The role of real estate agents and real estate lawyers:

Although it isn’t a requirement to have a real estate agent for your home sale, it’s a very good idea because they can offer a lot of support and knowledge, especially with an as-is sale. The agent can help you navigate through home selling procedures and advise you on setting a price. New York requires the participation of a lawyer in all home sales and their duties include drafting a purchase contract, analyzing the title report, and assisting with documentation at closing. 

2. As-is sellers offer significant discounts:

Many buyers are hesitant to purchase because the homes are is disrepair and will require a lot of effort to fix. Thus, the offer will be well below a normal listing. It’s a trade-off: The buyer gets a lower price in exchange for the efficiency of a quick sale. The price that you set is significant because it will determine the final sales price and how soon you get an offer; it needs to be competitive, yet fair to reflect the as-is status.

3. Cash buyers can be good sources

If a quick sale is a priority, consider selling to a cash buyer. This means that the buyer pays with cash and you don’t have to wait for them to secure financing, which slows down the home sales process. You can even list the house as “cash offers only.” The drawback is that the offer will likely be a lot lower than fair market value. 

4. Requirements for an as-is sale: 

New York law mandates that all as-is sellers disclose any known issues. If not, the seller must pay a credit to the buyer. If you don’t want to make such disclosures, then you can just pay a credit without the disclosure. The fee will protect you from liability in most cases. However, this liability protection doesn’t always apply; for instance, if the buyer is in a special relationship of trust with the seller, it will not protect the seller. An attorney can provide clarity on these issues. Sellers aren’t required to obtain a pre-listing inspection or make any attempts to discover any problems that they weren’t already aware of. However, an inspection might be helpful because it could potentially protect you from some liabilities later on. If you’re working with a real estate agent, they can help you gauge whether it’s worth pursuing. You might also consider making some low-cost repairs because they can have a significant effect on your home’s final sales price. 

5. Closing costs associated with as-is sales

As a seller of an as-is home, you will have to pay for a title search, mortgage prepayment fees, real estate transfer tax, attorney fees, and realtor commission fees. This will probably be at least 1-3 percent of the home’s final sales price. 

Get Help with an As-is Home Sale 

Before you sell your home as is, you will want to make sure that you understand how it differs from a normal listing. An experienced real estate attorney can guide you through the process. You can consult with the skilled MOWK Law real estate attorneys to get answers to your real estate questions. Contact us now to get started.