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How Do You Prove Soft Tissue Injury?

This is another in our series on car accident claims. So many of us experience an accident, but do we really know what do to, how to get help, or what our rights are? This series can help. Soft tissue injuries are like feelings — they’re real and they hurt but they can be invisible and not everyone believes in them. For these reasons, proving this kind of injury can be difficult, or more difficult than a more obvious type of harm, like a broken leg. Still, people do recover legal remedies for soft tissue injuries every day, so it is not at all impossible to get compensation for your damages after an accident. Let’s look at proving negligence in the context of this type of claim. Soft Tissue Injury Soft tissue injury refers to damage to soft areas of the body, like ligaments, muscles, and tendons. A hard tissue injury, by contrast, refers to a broken bone or damage to a hard area of the body. While a soft tissue injury can seem less traumatic on the surface — who wouldn’t prefer a strain to a break? — this kind of harm can last a long time and cause discomfort and make everyday duties difficult. Sprains, strains, and contusions in soft tissue do not always manifest immediately after an accident but the pain can last for years, which is why people seek to recover damages for their invisible injuries. Proving Negligence In brief, negligence is proven by showing that a person who owed you a duty of care fell below the standard required and breached that duty. If this breach is the cause of your injury and you suffer compensable damages, then you can recover for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. But how do you prove you are truly sore if your injury is invisible? You will need to show medical records, evidence of having sought treatment and received a diagnosis. You can also support the claim with testimony, or affidavits. You may ask people who know you to speak about your limited mobility since the accident. You may also seek expert testimony to support your claim and explain to jurors the significance of your injury. A medical expert may testify about soft tissue injuries at trial, so that the jury better understands the harm in the way the medical community does. Although proving soft tissue injury may be more difficult than proving a broken leg, these types of claims are very common after car accidents. The force a vehicle exerts during a crash can cause a lot of damage to the human body, some of which may not register immediately. Whiplash The most common soft tissue injury is whiplash, officially known as cervical strain or sprain, or hyper-extension injury. As the official names indicate, whiplash happens when the body is strained or overextended in some way, causing damage. Whiplash is interesting because it illustrates the mysterious nature of soft tissue injury, and how dangerous this damage can be. Sometimes whiplash isn’t felt immediately after the accident but over time can manifest in stiffness, neck pain, back problems, and most alarmingly, cognitive issues. Injured? If you have been in a car accident and experienced an injury of any kind, speak to a lawyer. Many personal injury attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case. Related Resources: Injured in a car accident? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) Types of Brain Injury (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) Can I Get Compensation for Whiplash? (FindLaw’s Injured) Types of Car Accident Injuries (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
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Filing Taxes Late: What Are the Penalties?

Just like not being tardy for the party, taxpayers shouldn't be filing their taxes late because latecomers are subject to penalties. These penalties are monetary and fall under either the "failure to file" or "failure to pay" category, or both, the IRS says. Here's what you need to know about late filing and payment penalties: Failure-to-File Penalties According to the IRS, failure-to-file penalties are usually more than failure-to-pay penalties. The total late-filing penalty is typically 5 percent of the tax owed for each month or part of the month that your return is late. The IRS can charge you this late-filing penalty for up to five months or up to 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. If you're late to file by more than 60 days after the due date (or extended due date), then the minimum penalty is either $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax. Failure-to-Pay Penalties For people who fail to pay the full amount owed by the due date, they're penalized by having to pay 0.5 percent of the tax owed each month or part of a month that the tax remains unpaid. Like the failure-to-file penalty, the maximum is 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. On the other hand, if you request an extension before the filing deadline and have paid at least 90 percent of your actual tax liability before April 15, then you won't be subject to any failure-to-pay penalties -- unless you don't pay the remaining balance by the extended due date. Avoiding Penalties The IRS exercises some leniency and won't make you pay the penalties if you can show that your failure to file or pay on time was based on a reasonable cause and not just plain neglect or laziness. If you foresee trouble paying the full amount due on time, consider negotiating an installment agreement with the IRS to pay off back taxes. To avoid these penalties, be sure to either get an extension to file or estimate the amount of taxes you owe and pay by the deadline. Even if you accidently overpay, the IRS will credit your overpayment. If you need more help, contact an experienced tax attorney in your area to figure out your legal options. Related Resources: What Are The Penalties For Failing To File Your Tax Return On Time? (Forbes) Who Doesn't Have to File Income Taxes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Running Late? Submit an Extension to File Taxes (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) 5 Weird Tax Deductions You May Be Able to Claim (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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Top 5 Legal Tips for Your Bachelorette Party

Many a bride-to-be, celebrating her final days as a single lady, want to let loose at a bachelorette party. Whether it's a low-key dinner with friends, a pub crawl, or something a bit more -- how shall we put it? -- memorable, you want everyone to be having a good time. But before you head out to drink colorful shooters out of test tubes with your bridesmaids, make a vow to remember these five legal tips: Provide a hazard-free environment. If the bachelorette party is being hosted at your house, make sure the area is free of blatant hazards that could injure your guests. Under premises liability laws, property owners are responsible for maintaining a relatively safe environment. For example, if you and your friends decide to take dip in the pool later in the evening, you might want to consider putting rubber mats by the pool to prevent slip-and-fall injuries. You don't want your maid of honor on crutches the day of your wedding, right? The legal drinking age still applies at house parties. Although the bride-to-be should get to call the shots, she certainly shouldn't be serving shots to bridesmaids under the age of 21. If you have bridesmaids who are underage and you decide to serve them some alcohol, you could potentially get arrested: Adults who knowingly furnish alcohol to teens or should have known they were drinking while under their care can get in trouble with the law. What happens at a bachelorette party should stay at a bachelorette party. Yes, bachelorette parties are full of memories and scrapbook-worthy moments, but you should probably keep those photos off of social networks. Publicly posted party fouls could cost people their jobs or even get them arrested. Drunken injuries can result in lawsuits. While you may have immunity from your future spouse to do whatever you want on your girls' night out, bachelorette parties aren't immune to personal injury lawsuits if someone gets injured. For example, one man celebrating his impending marriage ruptured his bladder when a stripper slid down the pole and onto his abdomen. The man sued the strip club for his injuries. Don't forget about your neighbors. One final legal tip for your party is to keep the noise down. Whether it's loud music or voices, you'll want to avoid throwing a party that'll bother the neighbors. Loud bachelorette parties can get you cited by the cops. Bachelorette parties are known to get a little crazy sometimes. If something does go wrong, don't freak out. Instead, contact an experienced local attorney about your legal problem, so your status as a bride-to-be doesn't turn into defendant-to-be. Related Resources: Bachelorette Party Leaves Bride Paralyzed (FindLaw's Injured) Gay Bar Owner Insists Bachelorette Party Ban Not Discriminatory (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Destination Weddings: Legal Issues to Remember (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Getting Married? A FindLaw Legal Checklist (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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9/11 Crash Site Undervalued in Eminent Domain Case

The 9/11 crash site of United Flight 93 is actually worth nearly $1 million more than the federal government paid for it, according to a court ruling in an eminent domain case. A federal district judge ruled Wednesday that the site of the downed flight near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, originally valued at $610,000, was actually worth more than $1.5 million, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The federal government scooped up the land from its owner in 2009 under eminent domain, with plans to create a national memorial at the site. But both the original owner and the feds disputed how much it was worth. Flight 93's Final Resting Place On September 11, 2001, United Flight 93 was one of four hijacked aircraft which crashed as part of a terrorist plot. Flight 93 was unique in that it missed its intended target and instead landed in a rural area of Pennsylvania, after a movie-inspiring passenger intervention. The plane's final resting place was in a field originally owned by Michael Svonavec, but the U.S. government took possession of the site in 2009 under the doctrine of eminent domain. Taking land through eminent domain requires that the government take the land for "public use" and compensate the land's owner for its fair market value. Owners have the right to challenge eminent domain actions, and typically the argument boils down to how much the land is actually worth compared to the government's compensation. In Svonavec's case, he believes his land is worth "at least $5.7 million," reports the Tribune-Review. Under this estimation, the federal government would owe Svonavec more than $5 million, but a federal judge decided differently. Commission Made Correct Valuation The "fair market value" of a piece of land with a unique character -- like historical value -- can often be difficult to pinpoint. Typically the government would approximate the land's value based on its size and comparable sales of land in the surrounding area. Perhaps this is how the government came to its original $610,000 figure to compensate Svonavec for the Flight 93 crash site. However, a court-appointed commission in December valued the property at $1,535,000 -- a finding which a federal judge upheld on Wednesday. Part of its valuation included the property's "national significance and intrinsic value," which made it unique from similar parcels of land, reports the Tribune-Review. Svonavec may be upset that he didn't get the $5 million he requested for the 9/11 crash site, but it's more than double what he originally received. Related Resources: Flight 93 memorial site correctly valued at $1.5m, judge rules (Metro) Find an Eminent Domain Lawyer in Your Area (FindLaw) Can I Lose my Property to Eminent Domain? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can Eminent Domain Actually Help My Business? (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
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Facebook Password Lawsuit: School Settles for $70K

A Minnesota school has agreed to fork over $70,000 for demanding a sixth-grader reveal her Facebook password. Riley Stratton, now 15, painfully remembers when Minnewaska school officials cornered her over a Facebook post and threatened her with suspension, reports the Star Tribune. The confrontation ended with Stratton relinquishing her password, but thanks to the ACLU's intervention, its ultimate end was the school cutting a check. What were the legal reasons behind the school's Facebook password settlement? Right to Students' Facebook Passwords? According to an ACLU press release, the American Civil Liberties Union branch in Minnesota filed a lawsuit on Stratton's behalf in 2012 claiming that a number of her civil rights had been violated by the school demanding access to her Facebook account. The suit centered on the treatment of Stratton for conduct via Facebook performed outside of school, some of which was alleged to have been of "a sexual nature," reports the Star Tribune. Employers have been treading a legal line in asking for employees' Facebook passwords, but with the threat of cyberbullying, it seems all the more important in schools. Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt told the Star Tribune that the school just wanted "to make kids aware that their actions outside school can be detrimental." Wallace Hilke, the ACLU attorney for Stratton's case, believes that "[k]ids' use of social media is the family's business" -- not the school's. Stratton's school didn't admit any liability in the settlement, but there will be some changes in its Facebook policies. Settlement Order Promises Change Under the terms of the settlement, the Strattons agreed to drop their claims, as long as the school makes some changes regarding how it handles social media incidents. Minnewaska schools have agreed to: Require students to give up their passwords or account info to school administrators only when there is "reasonable suspicion" they will uncover a violation of school rules; Amend the student handbook to note that students are free to withhold consent to search backpacks or other items, including their Facebook accounts, without the threat of additional discipline; and Train faculty and staff on the policy changes. These changes may be a bit late for Stratton, but they may prevent other students from feeling unduly harassed by school officials about their Facebook passwords. Related Resources: ACLU wins settlement over student's Facebook post (The Associated Press) Can Schools Monitor Students on Social Media? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Asking for Passwords? You May Be Asking for Trouble (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) Daughter's Facebook 'SUCK IT' Post Nixes Dad's $80K Settlement (FindLaw's Decided)
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Top 10 Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

A divorce or separation can be tough on kids, but a good co-parenting plan can help you and your children maintain a sense of normalcy. That's probably one reason why actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband, singer Chris Martin, announced they plan to "consciously uncouple and co-parent" as they work through their separation, Reuters reports. If you're also considering a co-parenting arrangement, here are 10 tips to make it work for everyone: Always put your children first. No matter how ugly or costly your divorce or separation proceedings get, always make your children's best interests the top priority. Get a court order. Although it's not required, parenting plans can become "official" with a court order. Depending on your state's laws, violating a legally enforceable parenting plan can result in criminal and/or civil penalties. Live near the other parent. While not always feasible, it may be best for a child if the parents live relatively close to each other so that the child can have regular visits with both parents. Respect each other's parenting style. Parents should accept that the other's parenting style will differ, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. So respect and honor the other person's parenting techniques unless it's clearly endangering your child. Communicate. Communicating openly and frequently with the other parent helps both of you stay on top of what's going on in your child's life. Plus, it'll help avoid misunderstandings that could result in a larger conflict. Create smooth transitions between households. On the days when your kids are spending time at the other parent's home, it may be best to drop them off rather than have the other parent pick them up. Experts say this can help reduce a child's feeling that he's being "taken away" from the other parent. Be involved in your child's activities. Another tip for successful co-parenting is to make sure both parents are involved in the child's activities. Even if you can't stand the other parent, try to maintain civility when attending your kid's school and extracurricular activities. Establish a shared document that both parents can access. Developing a shared account, like a Google Doc or other cloud-based document, that both parents can access can help you quickly share information about your children. This can work for emergency contact numbers and extracurricular schedules, for example. Be flexible. Even if you have a co-parenting court order in place, cut the other parent some slack if an unexpected change occurs and he or she has to change your agreed-upon schedule. (If the other parent routinely does this, however, then it may be time to modify your co-parenting plan.) Hire an attorney. Consulting an experienced family law attorney in your area can be helpful for figuring out and drafting a co-parenting plan, especially if issues like child support or custody are involved. While it may be tough to be around your ex, a successful co-parenting plan will set the ground rules and can help your kids better deal with your divorce or separation. Related Resources: Co-Parenting After Divorce (Psychology Today) Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin Separate: Will Co-Parenting Work? (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Hi-Tech Help for Co-Parenting After Divorce (FindLaw's KnowledgeBase) Moving & Child Custody: 3 Important Questions (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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How to Get an Obamacare Deadline Extension

An Obamacare deadline extension is coming to the rescue of Americans who say they won't be able to enroll in health plans via the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline. The extension, announced Tuesday, is an attempt to prepare for a last-minute surge of people trying to sign up before the deadline. That sudden spike could leave some people unable to get through the system. Here's what you need to know about who's eligible for an Obamacare deadline extension and how to claim it: Who's Eligible for an Extension? All consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension, The Washington Post reports. (The official cut-off date for extensions has not yet been announced.) The extension is based on an honor system: No one will be asked why they need an extension. The following groups of people will especially benefit from the extension: People who already have a place "in line" by the deadline to complete enrollment, either online or over the phone; People whose applications have been held up because of the website's technical problems; and People who haven't been able to get through the system to calculate subsidies to help them pay for coverage. Claiming an Extension Consumers will be able to claim an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. But since it's an honor system, Big Brother won't be trying to find out whether the person is telling the truth, the Post reports. Starting about mid-April, people will no longer be able to get extensions through HealthCare.gov. Instead, consumers will need to request them through one of the federally sponsored call centers nationwide. However, the grounds for an extension during that period will be narrower, such as having a new baby, getting a divorce, losing a job with health insurance, or experiencing technical difficulties while signing up through HealthCare.gov. Through a method called "self-attestation," people will be trusted to tell the truth about why they need more time to enroll. If you've been procrastinating on enrollment, now would be a good time to start the sign-up process -- if only to be able to get an extension. Related Resources: U.S. to extend some Obamacare enrollment past March 31 deadline: report (Reuters) Heath Care: What is the Individual Mandate? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Is Obamacare's Penalty for No Health Insurance? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Who Is Exempt From Obamacare's Mandate? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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IRS: Bitcoin Is Property for Tax Purposes

The IRS has news for Bitcoin holders: The virtual currency isn't considered currency for tax purposes -- it's property. The Internal Revenue Service announced Tuesday that since Bitcoins and other virtual currencies have no legal tender status in any jurisdiction, they cannot be classified as "currency," reports Reuters. Instead, the IRS explained that Bitcoins can be treated like taxable property. With Tax Day looming, how will Bitcoin holders need to report their virtual riches? Bitcoin Like Other Investments By considering Bitcoin as "property" for federal tax purposes, in many ways, Bitcoins will be treated like other investments. In a press release Tuesday, the IRS noted that paying for work in Bitcoins is taxable: Wages paid to employees in Bitcoins are taxable to the employee and must be included in the employee's W-2 Form. Payments to independent contractors in Bitcoins are taxable and typically must be accounted for in Form 1099. When calculating gross income, taxpayers well need to determine the fair market value of their Bitcoins in U.S. dollars at the time when they received them. However, like stocks and bonds, if you use Bitcoins to buy something or sell Bitcoins to receive U.S. dollars, you may have to pay capital gains tax if you made money in the deal. Then again, if you lost money in a Bitcoin transaction, then you may qualify for a capital loss deduction. Bad News for Bitcoin 'Miners' New Bitcoins are "created" when Bitcoin "miners" run special software designed to help Bitcoin users process transactions faster. Some individuals have decided to make "mining" a business, much like stock traders, but the IRS requires Bitcoin miners to report every "mined" Bitcoin as income. A lawyer for one virtual currency startup company told Reuters that this is going to make life difficult for miners. Because income in Bitcoins is determined based on the date you received the virtual currency, miners will have to "include in income the fair market value of the virtual currency on the date they mined it," the lawyer said. As an experienced tax lawyer would likely explain, any increase in value in Bitcoins gathered by miners would be seen as capital gains, and should be subject to capital gains tax. With these new limits on miners and Bitcoin investment, this new IRS guidance may spell the end of the Gold Rush era of Bitcoins. Related Resources: I.R.S. Takes a Position on Bitcoin: It's Property (The New York Times) Should Your Business Accept Bitcoin? (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) It's Official, Bitcoin is Money, Honey (FindLaw's Technologist) Bitcoin Phishing Email Alert: 3 Red Flags It's a Scam (FindLaw's Common Law)
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Legal How-To: Getting a Tax Filing Extension

For most individuals filing taxes, April 15 is the deadline. However, if you're a procrastinor -- or if you were unable to file your taxes by the deadline for other reasons -- the IRS may give you an extension. If you're running late, here's how to get a tax filing extension, along with a few words of caution: File Form 4868 To receive an extension on filing your federal income tax, you must fill out and file Form 4868 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) by April 15. By filing the form, you'll get an automatic six-month extension to file your taxes. However, the form gives you an extension on filing, not an extension on paying owed taxes. So you must pay any taxes you owe by the April 15 deadline even if you don't file your taxes by that date. Taxpayers Living Outside of the United States U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad can get an automatic two-month extension to file their tax returns. To get that extension, you must attach a statement to your return that explains why you qualify for the extended time. In general, those who qualify are: Individuals living outside of the states and Puerto Rico because their main place of business or post of duty is outside of the country; Active duty naval and military personnel outside of the states and Puerto Rico. Taxpayers living abroad can also get a six-month extension to file their returns by filling out Form 4868 (discussed above). Individuals Serving in a Combat Zone Special extensions and allowances apply to individuals serving in a combat zone. For those individuals, the deadline for filing and paying owed taxes is automatically extended for at least 180 days from the last day they're in a combat zone, or the last day they were hospitalized for an injury from service in the combat zone. A Final Reminder... With the exception of those serving in a combat zone, individuals who receive a tax filing extension still must pay their owed taxes by April 15. The IRS will charge you interest on any amounts of underpayment or non-payment owed by the due date. So estimate how much you owe before the deadline. If you overpay, the IRS will credit you. If you run into trouble, never fear -- an experienced tax lawyer is just a click or phone call away. Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo. Related Resources: Seven Things about Getting More Time to File your Tax Return (IRS) 3 Tricks Identity Thieves Use During Tax Season (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Who Doesn't Have to File Income Taxes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Sign Up for Our Free Legal Planning Newsletter (FindLaw's Legal Heads-Up)
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