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In our nationwide telecommunications practice, we are often contacted by businesses and

individual consumers who have attempted to cancel their telecommunications service contract in

order to change to a different service provider. They were surprised to be told that their contract,

which they thought was for a fixed term, had an automatic renewal provision which automatically

extended the contract for either an additional year, or even longer. These automatic renewal

provisions are enforceable in some states, although there is a trend among certain states to limit the

applicability of these clauses. New York, for example, has a very strong statute which requires a

service provider to notify a customer, in advance and in writing, that their contract contains an

automatic renewal provision, thus providing the customer a “heads up’ that they need to take steps

to cancel the service contract if it is not their desire to continue with that provider.

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If you have encountered this type of situation with your business or home telephone service

provider, or even with your cellular provider, please contact our office. We can look into the specific

facts of your situation and let you know if you have protection in your state. Above all, we

recommend that everyone read all service contracts carefully, make note of any such automatic

renewal provisions, and create a reminder in your calendar or diary system to be sure to cancel a

contract before it automatically renews.

Before buying a used car, we suggest that you review the free consumer information published by the United States Federal Trade Commission. The website can be found here.

In Louisiana, the Louisiana Used Motor Vehicle Commission has a similar fact sheet which can be found here. Both of these publications provide extensive and useful information regarding purchasing a used car, including explanations of different types of warranties and service contracts.

Several of the suggestions by the Louisiana Used Motor Vehicle Commission include:

1) Examine the car yourself using an inspection check list which you can find online.

2) Test drive the car under various road conditions and speeds.

3) Have the car inspected by a mechanic you hire.

 We hear from many consumers who have issues with their cell phone carriers, including issues such as improper billing, term contracts, difficulty moving numbers to another carrier, etc. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to reach a helpful person at your cell phone company who is interested and/or able to be of actual assistance to you.phonecarrier1

These are usually not cases where it is practical for you to hire an attorney, as the amount you might pay in attorney’s fees could easily exceed the amount in dispute with your cell phone carrier. We recommend that any consumer experiencing difficulty resolving an issue with their cellular provider contact thphonecarriere Public Service Commission or Public Utility Commission in your state. While most of the cell phone industry in the United States is governed by the Federal Communications Commission, most states still retain some jurisdiction to handle consumer complaints. Look up the website for the Public Service Commission or Public Utility Commission in your state, and search for the consumer complaint division. Often there are online forms which you can fill out to initiate a complaint.

Whenever you establish service, modify service, or terminate service, always request and keep all paperwork associated with your transaction.

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Doing business with a reputable used car dealership should be a positive experience. You should expect to pay fair value, and receive title to a properly functioning vehicle. Unfortunately, sometimes the experience is not satisfactory and consumers often do not know where to turn for assistance.

The first place to seek assistance in Louisiana is with the Louisiana Used Motor Vehicle Commission. Their website iswww.lumvc.louisiana.gov. Their telephone number is 225-925-3870. They have a very easy to use online complaint process for you to initiate a complaint against a used car dealership.

The most common concern after purchasing a used car has to do with the condition of the vehicle. Most used cars are sold “As-Is,” which means that you have no rights or recourse in the event that there are any defects or problems with the vehicle. Louisiana has a “Lemon Law,” which provides recourse for the purchase of a defective new vehicle, but these laws do not apply to used vehicles.

Even with an “As-Is” clause, you may have rights in the event of vehicle defects under a few circumstances:

1) If there is any remaining factory warranty, a certified dealership or repair facility should be

able to determine that from the vehicle identification number, and provide services pursuant to that

warranty.

2) If the used car dealership offered any type of warranty or service contract, they must honor

same. Your rights may be protected under a federal law known as the “Magnuson Moss Warranty

Act.” Any such warranty should be in writing and obtained at the time of the sale.

3) Finally, if there are hidden defects known to the seller, but not disclosed to you, which are

significant enough that you would not have bought the vehicle had you known, you may have

recourse under general Louisiana law.

The best way to try to minimize any issues with a used car is to perform due diligence before

you buy one. Please check out our blog entitled “What Should I do Before I Buy a Used Car?” for

some useful information.

Eddie Gothard explains the various auto insurance policies required for Louisiana drivers.

Q. What insurance am I required to have on my vehicle in Louisiana?

A. In Louisiana, you are required to maintain minimum liability insurance of $15,000 of bodily injury coverage per person, $30,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident, and $25,000 of property damage coverage. Liability insurance covers damage to other people, or their property, caused by an accident which was your fault. This is technically the only coverage you are required to purchase by law.

If you have a loan on your vehicle, your lender will require you to maintain additional insurance covering damage to the vehicle. This is called collision and comprehensive coverage. Collision coverage pays for the cost to repair your vehicle, or pays the fair market value if your vehicle is a total loss. The damage must occur in a collision, and it does not matter who was at fault in the accident. Comprehensive coverage pays for the repair, or total loss value, for damage to your vehicle which is not the result of an accident. This would include damage by vandalism, theft, hail, and flood. Both usually have a deductible; the higher the deductible the lower the premium cost to you.

Q. If that is the only insurance I am required to have, why should I pay more money for additional insurance?

A. Liability insurance will only pay someone who is injured in an accident which is your fault. Collision and comprehensive do protect your car, but only to reimburse the actual amount of your damages, up to the fair market value of the vehicle. So we recommend that you consider additional types of coverage which are available to protect you and any occupants in your car. By far the most important insurance of this type is UM coverage. UM stands for both “uninsured motorist” and “underinsured motorist.” This coverage protects you, or your passengers, if you are injured in an accident which was the fault of the other driver. If the other driver has no insurance, or insufficient insurance to cover your damages, your UM coverage will pay the claim, up to the limit of coverage that you select. This is important coverage because it protects you. You may only buy UM limits up to the amount of your liability insurance limits. In other words, if you have $15,000 of liability limits, you may only buy $15,000 of UM. Be careful when discussing UM coverage with your insurance agent. There are several types of UM coverage which provide “economic only” coverage. This only provides coverage for un-reimbursed medical expenses and lost wages. As the largest component of a personal injury claim may be the pain and suffering damages, we do not think it a good investment of your money to buy limited UM coverage.

We also recommend coverage called medical payments, which is available to cover the cost of medical expenses for you, or passengers in your vehicle, who may be injured in a collision, regardless of who is at fault. This coverage is available to cover medical expenses which are not otherwise covered by your health insurance, including deductibles or co-payments which you are obligated to pay. The cost of medical payments coverage is relatively inexpensive.

Additional coverages which you may consider, but we do not feel are as important, are coverage for rental vehicle, emergency road service and mechanical breakdown. You should ask your insurance agent about all coverages available, how much they each cost, and then decide which best suits your needs based upon the cost and your budget.

Q. What is the maximum amount of insurance coverage that I can buy?

A. While some smaller companies specialize in minimum limits policies, most automobile liability insurance carriers sell maximum limits of either $300,000 or $500,000. This would be the top limit of your liability and UM coverage through your primary vehicular coverage. You can, however, buy additional liability insurance, called “umbrella” or “excess” coverage, which most larger automobile carriers sell. Typical limits for this coverage are up to $2,000,000, although some specialized carriers provide larger policies. Excess liability coverage is a good idea if you have significant income or assets. It also provides the opportunity to increase your UM coverage.

Remember that you only collect insurance proceeds if you are in an accident, so the hope is to never be in that situation. This means that you should only buy insurance as necessary given your situation, and to the extent you can afford the coverage. If you have significant assets, such as a high paying job, a house, and savings in the bank, you should consider more liability insurance because you have more to lose if someone makes a claim against you. If you have no substantial assets, and if you have debt like student loans and credit card balances, then you have less to lose, may not need a great deal of insurance, and may not have the budget to purchase additional coverage. Once you decide how much liability insurance is appropriate for you, you should get the maximum UM which you can buy and which you can afford. After that, add on collision, comprehensive, medical payments, and rental coverage based upon your budget.

Note: No attorney-client relationship is created by your reliance upon the information contained in this article. This article contains general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues or problems.

In 1975, the State of Louisiana passed the Medical Malpractice Act which greatly changed the way medical malpractice claims must be brought in Louisiana.  The two most significant changes in the law were a limitation on the rights of recovery of the victims of medical malpractice, and the Medical Review Panel process.

The limitation on recovery, or “cap,” is $500,000.00 for all pain and suffering, disability, loss of support and loss of income. This cap applies to victims of medical malpractice, as well as their surviving family members in the case of wrongful death. Despite a number of legal challenges to this limitation of rights, courts in Louisiana have held this law to be constitutional.

The second most significant change in the law involves the Medical Review Panel. A Medical Review Panel is formed each time a plaintiff files a medical malpractice claim, and  is comprised of three healthcare providers. Their job is to review the evidence submitted in a fair and impartial manner, and then render an opinion as to whether the  claims of medical malpractice are supported by the evidence. Although a Medical Review Panel is supposed to be fair, impartial and objective, the panels overwhelmingly rule in favor of the defendant  doctor or hospital. This suggests that the panels are biased in favor of the healthcare providers and against their victims.  Once the panel rules, and regardless of how it rules, a plaintiff may then file their suit in court.

If you are seeking an attorney for potential medical malpractice claims, it is essential that you select an attorney with experience in this complicated area of law. At Nowalsky & Gothard, we have represented the victims of medical malpractice, before Medical Review Panels and at trial, for 30 years.

Nowalsky & Gothard, APLLC

1420 Veterans Memorial Boulevard

Metairie, Louisiana 70005

504-832-1984       egothard@nbglaw.com

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In 1984, following the historic break-up of AT&T as a monopoly providing most of the local and long distance telephone services throughout the United States, long distance theoretically became a competitive industry. In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act to open local exchange to competition through facilities-based entry, sale of unbundled network elements and resale.

Since 1984, the FCC has issued hundreds of rulings, and implemented hundreds of regulations, to facilitate market entry for competitive newcomers trying to carve out a share of business from the incumbent carriers. The FCC set out to change the telecommunications business through a seemingly simple concept – interconnection. New technology was born, new opportunities arose, and new nomenclature evolved – CLEC, ILEC, RLEC, CABs billing, least cost routing, portability, access stimulation, and LEC billing.

In addition to the dramatic regulatory changes, the telecommunications industry witnessed equally dramatic technological changes in the past 30 years with the development of cellular technology, the explosion of the internet, the demand for data services and ever increasing bandwidth, and the provision of voice calling through the internet (VoIP). We have seen the conflation of traditionally separate telephone companies and cable television companies through the bundled offering of telephone, cable television and internet/data on ever more sophisticated broadband networks. The industry saw new income opportunities arise, some of which seem quaint and obsolete now – such as pay phones, collect calling services, and pre-paid calling cards. Entrepreneurs have come and gone with long distance companies, competitive local exchange carriers, broadband network providers, inmate calling services, conference bridges and billing services.

The FCC and Congress have remained busy. They are trying to shift a highly regulated industry toward deregulation, allowing market forces to create competition to formulate pricing. Regulatory hurdles remain formidable, driven by carrier disputes and customer complaints. New compliance requirements pop up periodically, sometimes with little warning but at great consequence for non-compliance. We have witnessed epic legal battles involving interconnection issues and disputes over terminating access charges and allegations of “traffic pumping.”

We saw great diversity and competition initially, followed by a consolidation in both the long distance and local exchange markets. The industry is again dominated by a few national companies who have captured a significant market share of long distance and local customers.

So the Telecommunications Industry has become extraordinarily complex as the combination of an ever shifting regulatory landscape and continuous technological advances.

At Nowalsky & Gothard, we keep current with regulatory requirements and industry trends to assist our clients – typically smaller local, long distance and resale carriers – to operate properly, and profitably, in this endlessly fascinating and complicated industry.

Nowalsky & Gothard, APLLC

1420 Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Metairie, Louisiana  70005

Phone: 504-832-1984    Fax: 504-831-0892

lnowalsky@nbglaw.com         www.nbglaw.com

       The unhelpful answer is, “maybe.” Most homeowner’s insurance policies contain coverage exclusions for damages resulting from subsidence, or damages which occur over time from normal deterioration, wear and tear. It would seem that broken pipes under your slab would be caused by some combination of these events, and would therefore not be covered. However, many policies contain special coverages which over-ride such exclusions, including coverage for damage resulting from the collapse of all or some part of your structure. Therefore, if your home was originally built with hangars –  metal rods which suspended the sewer drain lines to the underside of your slab –  then you may have a covered loss. Repairs to under-slab sewage lines are typically very expensive, and can involve tunneling under your home to access the damage.

       We have successfully represented litigants who were paid the full repair cost for damaged under-slab sewerage lines. In every case , the homeowner’s insurance carrier denied the claim as not covered. If you have experienced such a loss within the past year, and your homeowner’s  carrier has denied your claim, call us to discuss your rights.

Nowalsky & Gothard

1420 Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Metairie, LA  70005  504-832-1984

egothard@nbglaw.com      www.nbglaw.com