LegalMatch March Newsletter
03/06/2018 10:47 AM

Traveling for Spring Break 101

Calling all Spring Breakers!! Whether you are heading to South Padre Island, Miami Beach, or you’re going south of the border, listen up. Before you put on your beer goggles and wind up on the next episode of Locked Up Abroad, there are a few considerations that are worth some thought. If you are going to be traveling domestically or abroad for spring break, here are a few suggestions to help make your vacation from the books safe and free from legal trouble:

  1. Travel Insurance: Once you leave the U.S. it’s unlikely that your student health policy will cover you when you need it most. Check into a travel insurance policy that covers injury, illness, and emergency evacuation. From rip tides and Montezuma’s Revenge to falling off a moped, spring break never disappoints, and you should be prepared if an unfortunate event comes your way.

  2. Bring a Copy of Your Passport: Always have a copy of your passport when you travel, and keep it separately from the passport itself.

  3. Don’t Trash the Hotel: If you break it, you buy it. Whether the hotel is on your credit card, your friend’s card, or the parents’ plastic, if hotel property is damaged, you can bet that you will be liable (and it won’t be cheap). Not only will you have to pay for it, but it is highly likely that the police will get involved. If you are abroad, you will soon discover that foreign jail is a far cry from Camp Cupcake.

  4. Different Countries/States Means Different Laws: Always know the laws of where you are going. Just because it is legal to walk around with a margarita in Key West, doesn’t mean you can do so elsewhere. Now that marijuana is legal in many states, don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s legal everywhere. Also don’t make the mistake of thinking the police of other countries function the same way they do in the States. Be respectful to your environment and to the people who live there.

  5. Be Smart: First and foremost, drink responsibly and keep your wits about you. Always wear sunscreen; far too many vacations have been utterly ruined on the first day from sun poisoning. Remember that there is safety in numbers, and those who stray from the pack may wake up in a strange bathtub with one kidney.

In all seriousness, don’t become a tragedy. Natalee Holloway, nor the people who have died from tainted booze in Mexico never thought their spring break would also be their last vacation. Be safe, be smart, and enjoy yourself responsibly.



How to Have a Safe St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t always known as a drinking holiday. To the surprise of no one, Americans wearing “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” t-shirts turned March 17th into a green beer guzzle fest, while running around pinching people who failed to don green clothing. St. Paddy’s Day is a festive one, but it’s also infamous in police departments and emergency rooms nationwide.


Though dying rivers green, pub crawling, and parading down streets with costumed leprechauns is a good time, it is also a day to take some precautions. St. Patrick’s Day is one of the deadliest days of the year on our roads. If you get behind the wheel after downing one too many pints of Guinness, you run the risk of killing someone and/or getting arrested for driving under the influence. Just don’t do it. Call a cab, or a sober friend, and get wherever you’re going in one piece.


Now that we’ve established that there will be no driving, try to mind your p’s and q’s in public. You certainly don’t want to be on the losing end of a public drunkenness ticket, nor do you want to spend the night in the drunk tank. Eat before you go out and pace yourself. Doing so will lessen the likelihood of engaging in destructive behavior like destroying someone’s property and becoming a defendant in a civil case. 

A few years ago, the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s annual “Blarney Blowout” party turned into drunken debauchery with 73 arrests for property damage, sexual assault, and other serious crimes. A scene like this is one you do not want a rap sheet for, nor do you want to be wrongly accused because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You may also want to keep your fingers to yourself. An employer in Lenawee County Michigan pinched his employee’s backside as she leaned over to grab a file. His excuse was that she wasn’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. Needless to say, she won her civil suit. 

Since the holiday falls on a Saturday this year, you may be away from predatory pinches at work, and are hosting a kegs ’n eggs party at your house. If so, remember that as a social host, you may be held liable for injuries or other unforeseen events that happen with your guests. Keep yourself and guests safe by not over-serving, and whatever you do, don’t serve alcohol to minors. Enjoy yourself this St. Patrick’s Day, and may the luck of the Irish be always with you. Sláinte.



Spring Awakens: Liability for Slushy Snow

Accidents happen. No one likes getting bits of gravel and icy slush in their hands or knees from unexpectedly falling on a slushy sidewalk. Certainly, no one likes getting sued for said slush, either. Spring brings warmer temperatures by day, yet cold temperatures linger at night. This temperature tug-of-war creates dangerous conditions for pedestrians, and expensive consequences for negligent property owners.

As a business owner or a homeowner, it is your responsibility to take measures that prevent harm to others. Generally, property owners are given a “reasonable amount of time” to clear snow or ice that accumulates on their property following a storm. This means removing snow and ice from sidewalks, parking lots, and any other walkways that customers or guests may use. Business owners should also take care to mop-up moisture tracked in from the storm so as to prevent indoor slip and fall liability claims.

Property maintenance is an often overlooked, but important concern for business owners. For instance, a leaking gutter could pose a danger the following day for pedestrians as nighttime temperatures drop to freezing. Trees and shrubs also need to be maintained as the weight from snow and ice may cause them to snap and fall on unsuspecting pedestrians, cars, or any other unforeseen variable. In places where ice, snow, and slush have been removed, it is a good idea to mark the area with signs advising people to walk with caution.

If an accident does occur, be sure to make every effort to help the person, and call for assistance if necessary. You will also want to contact an attorney as soon as possible. It never hurts to cover your bases, especially when liability comes into play. If possible, document the scene with photographs, witness statements, and video. Accidents happen, but with preparation and taking all necessary precautions, the likelihood of being sued will lessen and you won’t have to worry about wintry conditions until next fall.


Understanding the Danger of Driving and Daylight Savings

Love it or hate it, daylight savings time is upon us. Longer days translate into more sunlight, and though many of us love the extended summer hours, the early morning hours of March 11, 2018, may start off a little rough. After the clock springs forward an hour and Monday morning rolls around, getting to work on time can be a struggle. Afterall, we’ve lost the equivalent to a time zone, and are immediately thrown into a state similar to jet lag. 

Statistics have shown that car accidents spike on the Monday following daylight savings time, and continue to be elevated for six days. The Fatal Accident Reporting System recorded a 17 percent increase in deadly car accidents on this particular Monday—enough to give pause and think about prevention. We all know that driving while tired can be extremely dangerous. In fact, drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 100,000 accidents are due to drowsy driving each year. With any car accident comes liability, and for drivers who fall asleep at the wheel, charges of reckless driving or even involuntary manslaughter could ensue. Not only are criminal charges possible, but a civil lawsuit against someone who seriously injured or killed another driver is quite probable.  

In November of 2017, a Manhattan Supreme Court jury awarded a woman $71 million in damages after the driver of the car in which she was a passenger, fell asleep and crashed into another car. The plaintiff suffered severe spinal trauma that forced her to withdraw from an Ivy League school, left her with mobility issues, and a worsening condition that will leave her wheelchair-bound. A lack of sleep can be life-changing for not only for the tired driver, but for everyone else on the road.

In the days leading up to daylight savings time this year, try going to bed earlier each night to adjust to the time change. If you find yourself feeling drowsy, pull over and take a short 20 minute nap, and don’t forget to pour yourself a cup of Joe before hitting the road. Driving drowsy can be deadly; keep yourself and everyone else safe by staying alert and well-rested.

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