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Good Samaritan Day

Lifeguards and Liability: 3 Things Swimmers Should Know

Lifeguards may seem like towering figures with their tall posts and zinced noses, but they can be liable for swimming injuries and deaths when they make mistakes. For this reason, lifeguards are required to be certified and trained to deal with common emergencies that occur in and around pools. Different states' safety standards are not always identical, but they form a general patchwork of legal liability for when lifeguards falter in their duties. For swimmers, here are three things you should know about lifeguard liability: 1. Lifeguard Duties, Certifications Are Regulated by State Law There is no federal standard for how lifeguards need to be trained and certified, but most states have statutes which require Red Cross lifeguard and CPR training (or their equivalents) before an applicant can work as a lifeguard. For example, Texas requires lifeguard, CPR, and community first aid training for all lifeguards on duty, and where lifeguards are provided, no swimmers can be present in the pool unless a lifeguard is on duty. States may also define what a lifeguard can do in terms of their on-job duties. California limits on-duty lifeguards to perform no duties "other than to supervise the safety of participants in water-contact activities." 2. Standards Are Higher for Lifeguards Because of this web of legal requirements woven by state laws, lifeguards are often held to a higher legal standard when a person is injured or dies under their watch. In injury cases involving negligence of an average person, the law asks only if that person acted in giving the same care as a reasonable person might under those circumstances. Injured? Exercise your legal rights. Get in touch with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in your area today. Those who belong to professions which have specific training related to injury, like lifeguards, are held to a different standard of care: How a reasonable lifeguard would have acted under the circumstances. This may lead a court to find a lifeguard negligent in providing aid when a reasonable lay person may have acted the same way. 3. No 'Good Samaritan' Protection Unlike most people, on-duty lifeguards do have a legal duty to rescue and provide emergency aid to those in need -- it's pretty much their main jobs. For this reason, "Good Samaritan" protections do not provide lifeguards legal cover for mistakes or negligence on the job that leads to injury or death. If you feel like you or a loved one has been injured by a lifeguard, contact a personal injury attorney today. Related Resources: 'Delayed drowning' or heart failure: Suit over Liberty High School student death heads toward trial (The Express-Times) FL Lifeguard Fired Over Liability Concerns (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) Lifeguards Fired for 'Gangnam Style' Parody (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Beach Injuries: Who is Responsible? (FindLaw's Injured)
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Are Workers Entitled to Paid Sick Time Off?

Workers everywhere scramble to remember their sick time off policies whenever they catch a cold, but many are not entitled to paid sick leave. Unless you live in specific states or cities with mandatory paid sick leave laws, there are no laws that require your private employer to pay for your time at home with the flu. Why is that? No Federal Law for Paid Sick Leave The Family and Medical Leave Act, signed into law more than 21 years ago, provides workers with unpaid mandatory time off for serious illnesses and family needs. This federal law applies to most private employers with 50 or more employees and all public employers, but it won't entitle you to paid sick leave even if you're eligible. This means that private employers in most states are not required to provide employers with any paid sick time off. There's also no right to paid vacation time off. As far as federal law is concerned, each private company is more or less free to set its own sick time and vacation policies, as long as they're fairly enforced. State. Local Paid Sick Time Laws There are a few states that require employers to provide workers with paid sick time off. San Francisco the first city to provide all employees with paid sick leave in 2007, no matter the size of the business. Connecticut was the first state to approve a mandatory paid sick leave law, which took effect in 2012. According to a recent FindLaw.com survey, 71 percent of Americans support these kind of laws, and only 10 percent actively oppose them. With support like this, it's no wonder that many other cities and states have mandatory paid sick time on their dockets. Chicago is very close to approving its own mandatory paid sick leave law this month. If you live in a state or city which requires your employer to provide you with paid sick leave, you may be entitled to a paid sick day off. However, several states (see Kansas or Louisiana) have explicitly prohibited local lawmakers from enacting mandatory paid sick leave laws, so the fight for sick time off is far from over. Related Resources: 10 Ways the FMLA Can Work for You (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Time Off for Jury Duty: It's the Law (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Do You Get Time Off for Any Religious Holiday? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Browse Employment Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)
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Reminder: Obamacare Deadline Is March 31

The deadline to avoid Obamacare penalties by enrolling in a health plan is March 31, and it is fast approaching. Despite early issues with the HealthCare.gov website, the federal government expects most citizens to be signed up with some form of minimum Obamacare-compliant health coverage or face a tax penalty for 2014. The Washington Post reports that many states are asking the federal government for an extension of that deadline. What should you do to meet the Obamacare deadline? 'Sign Up' Using the Healthcare Insurance Exchange The open enrollment period for healthcare plans began on October 1 and is ending on March 31. Most Americans need to either have some form of minimum health insurance before then, or "sign up" for Obamacare. You sign up for Obamacare through the Health Insurance Exchanges -- either at HealthCare.gov or through your home state's exchange. Some states are still having trouble with their exchange websites. For example, the Post reports that Oregon still doesn't have a fully functioning healthcare enrollment website, and is hoping to get a "month-long extension" from the March 31 deadline. However, there are still many Americans who need not sign up at all for Obamacare, including members of specific religious groups and the extremely poor. But for those who aren't exempt under the Affordable Care Act, you may face a penalty for missing the March 31 deadline. Obamacare Penalty If you do not qualify for an exemption and still don't have health insurance coverage by March 31, you will likely face penalties on your taxes. For those who miss out on this enrollment period in 2014, the penalty applied to your 2014 taxes will be $95 or 1 percent of your household income -- whichever is greater. Since most Americans' household income is more than $9,500, the penalty for not having health insurance by March 31 will likely be much greater than $95. One percent may not seem like a lot, but for middle-class wage earners, the Obamacare penalty may eat away at an already meager tax return. This penalty will increase in 2015 to $325 or 2 percent of your household income (whichever is greater), so not having health insurance will become more and more costly on future tax returns. If you're worried about meeting the March 31 deadline and still have questions about Obamacare, contact an experienced health care attorney. Related Resources: Millions May Avoid Obamacare Penalty as Deadline Looms (Bloomberg) What Is an Obamacare Subsidy? Are You Eligible? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) How Does Obamacare Affect Medicare? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Supreme Ct.: Nuns Can Skip Obamacare Form, Pending Mandate Appeal (FindLaw's Decided)
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How Does a Lawsuit Become a Class Action?

From claims of dangerous pharmaceutical drugs to allegations of falsely advertised products, we often hear about class action lawsuits in the news. A class action lawsuit is one that is brought against a defendant by one individual, or a few individuals, on behalf of a larger class of people who suffered the same or similar injuries from the defendant's product or action. But before a lawsuit becomes a class action, there are legal procedures that must be followed. Here is a general overview: Class Certification You cannot simply "file" a class action lawsuit. A lawsuit becomes a class action through a process called class certification. To obtain certification, the court must find that: It is impractical for the plaintiffs to sue individually; Proposed class members share a common complaint; The named plaintiffs -- called the class representatives -- have the same claims and defenses as the others in the class; and The class action lawyer and representative(s) will fairly represent the class. For efficiency's sake, claims needs to raise common legal and factual issues. For example, a court might deny certification if people have suffered different kinds of side effects from a defective drug. Differences in injuries could potentially require different types of evidence for different class members. Opt In or Out? In most cases, once a lawsuit is certified as a class action, the judge will order notice to be given to all potential class members. Those who are notified will usually have the opportunity to join in the action -- called "opting in" -- which means the outcome of the lawsuit will be binding on them. Those notified may also be given the opportunity not to participate as a member of the class -- that is, to "opt out." You may want to opt out, for example, if you want to bring your own lawsuit. However, in some cases, all victims similarly situated will automatically be deemed class members, and will have no opportunity to opt out. Because each class action is different, and because the decision to opt in or out may have binding consequences, you may want to consult an experienced class action attorney about your legal rights -- especially if you believe you have a lot of money at stake. Related Resources: CA Filipina Nurses File Class Action Suit (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Coca Cola Faces ERISA Class Action Lawsuit (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Red-Light Camera Settlement: $4.2M for N.J. Drivers (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Live Nation Settlement Could Mean Free Tickets, Discounts (FindLaw's Decided)
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For Good Samaritan Day, 5 Legal Tips for Do-Gooders

Today marks Good Samaritan Day, a day that celebrates compassion and kindness. But before you pay it forward, make sure you're in the legal clear. As odd as it may sound, there are certain situations in which lending a helping hand can potentially land you in legal trouble. Here are five legal tips all do-gooders should keep in mind: Good Samaritan laws may give you legal cover. In jurisdictions with Good Samaritan laws, they act as a legal shield for individuals who risk the fray to save lives. Under this doctrine, rescuers can avoid civil liability for injuries arising from aid or rescue efforts, as long as the person's actions are reasonable and not reckless or grossly negligent. Good Samaritan laws have their limits. As stated above, there is a limit to Good Samaritan protection. Even a good faith effort to rescue an injured victim can land a rescuer in court if the acts she took to deliver aid are considered reckless. Generally, a rescuer can face liability for leaving a person worse off than before aid was rendered. Liability can also be found when the rescuer's negligence is what ultimately, and foreseeably, caused injuries to the person being rescued. New Good Samaritan laws cover drug overdose situations. At least 12 states have enacted protections for Good Samaritans in drug overdose cases. In these states, Good Samaritans can call 911 to report drug overdoses without fear of legal consequences for the caller or the drug-overdose victim. However, these laws don't necessarily prevent law enforcement from charging anyone with a crime using evidence that is unrelated to calling for medical aid. Civil liability can also exist if the rescuer acted recklessly. You can potentially get fired for being a Good Samaritan at work. Generally, "at-will" employees can be fired by employers on the spot for almost any reason. Good Samaritan laws do not protect Good Samaritans from being fired. One Michigan employee learned that the hard way when he was fired for leaving his post to help a customer extinguish his car fire. Activity-specific Good Samaritan laws exist. Some states have enacted statutes that protect specific emergency care or assistance. For example, Indiana protects the emergency care of veterinarians; Alabama extends immunity to helpers following the discharge of hazardous materials; some states protect those who assist with oil spill cleanup efforts. Happy Good Samaritan Day! Related Resources: It's Good Samaritan Day: Celebrating compassion & kindness of strangers (San Francisco Examiner) The California Supreme Court Holds that Good Samaritans Providing Nonmedical Aid Can Be Held Liable If They Act Negligently (FindLaw's Writ) Good Samaritan Finds Wallet, Gets Wallet's Owner Arrested (FindLaw's Legal Grounds) Taxi Rescue By MBTA Worker: What Is A Good Samaritan Law? (Boston Personal Injury News)
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