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5 Things You Need to Know About Checking Into a Hospital

When checking into a hospital, legal concerns are often the last things on your mind. But as it turns out, there are quite a few legal questions you should be aware of if you’re checking into a hospital. Here’s what you need to know: Obamacare: Obviously, you’d like to know whether your hospital visit is covered by insurance. the recent Supreme Court decision upheld Obamacare’s subsidies for low-income Americans, so if you don’t already have health insurance through your employer or otherwise, you can purchase coverage at a state or federal health insurance exchange. Patient Rights: All patients have certain legal rights when it comes to their health care, most importantly, informed consent. Informed consent requires physicians and medical providers to inform patients of all the potential benefits, risks, and alternatives regarding their medical treatment, and to obtain written consent before treating a patient. Living Will and or Durable Power of Attorney: A living will sets out your preferences for medical care in case of emergency or if you become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney designates someone else to make those (and other) decisions for you. Both may be essential in determining your medical treatment should you be unable to make your own health care choices. HIPAA: The acronym that sounds like a large animal, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has two main functions: (1) prohibiting employed Americans from being discriminated against in connection to their health insurance coverage, and (2) prohibiting doctors and medical professionals from disclosing patient records without consent. HIPAA protects the confidentiality of your medical records. Medical Malpractice: The last thing you want to think about heading into the hospital is something going wrong while you’re there. Unfortunately, medical malpractice does happen, and you should be aware of your rights and legal recourse should you receive negligent medical treatment. If you’ve been injured, either leading to a hospital stay or during your time there, you may want to consult with an experienced injury attorney about your claim. Related Resources: Have a medical malpractice claim? Get your claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) What is Informed Consent? (FindLaw’s Injured) Do You Have The Right to Refuse Medical Treatment? (FindLaw’s Injured) Who Has Access to Your Medical Records After You Die? (FindLaw’s Injured)
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Is Your Confidentiality Agreement Legal?

Do you know whether your confidentiality agreement is legal? A number of issues can render confidentiality agreements invalid. Common pitfalls in such contractual agreements include overbroad, unreasonable, or unduly burdensome terms. When these terms are not legally sound, they risk making the agreement unenforceable. Here are three questions to ask yourself to figure out if your confidentiality agreement is valid: 1. Is It Supported by Consideration? A binding contract must be supported by consideration. That means the person signing the confidentiality agreement needs to get something in return for his or her promise. Accordingly, confidentiality agreements require consideration to be valid. The requirements for consideration will often depend on timing: whether the contract was signed at the time of hire or during employment. If the contract was executed at the time of hire, the job offer itself can suffice as consideration. But if the contract was executed during employment, your employer needs to offer you something to serve as consideration. 2. Is It Realistic and Reasonable? Just like non-compete clauses and other contractual restrictions, most courts require any confidentiality agreement to be "reasonable." To determine the reasonableness of a confidentiality agreement, courts will balance several factors, including: The employer's legitimate business interests in keeping the information secret, The duration of the obligation, The burden on the employee, and The interests of the public. A legal confidentiality agreement is not unduly burdensome and serves a legitimate purpose. 3. Is Its Scope Reasonable? Confidentiality agreements can be deemed unenforceable when they are overly broad. To prevent this issue, most confidentiality agreements include exceptions to confidentiality agreement, including: Information the employee already knew, Information already generally available to the public, and Information obtained illegally. If you're not sure whether your confidentiality agreement is legal -- or if you want to learn about confidentiality agreements in other legal contexts such as family law or medical malpractice -- you may want to consult an experienced contracts attorney for additional assistance. Related Resources: Tips for Negotiating Your Work Contract (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Laid Off: Should I Sign a Severance Agreement? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Leaving a Job? What Can You Take With You? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Google Employee Who Leaked Email on Raises Fired (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Va. Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down by Fed. Judge

Virginia's ban on gay marriage was struck down by a federal judge late Thursday night. But the judge placed her own ruling on hold pending an appeal. U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled that the commonwealth's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violated the 14th Amendment's rights to equal protection and due process, Reuters reports. As another state marriage ban falls to a federal court ruling, how does this new case add to the background of gay marriage law? Virginia Is for All Lovers, State Atty. Gen. Says Judge Allen's ruling is being hailed as a triumph for gay marriage supporters. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who made waves in late January by refusing to defend the gay marriage ban in court and filing an opposition brief against the law's enforcement, called Thursday's decision "the latest step in a journey towards equality for all Virginians." While attorneys general are charged with defending the laws of their state and nation, they also owe a duty to the U.S. Constitution, which Judge Allen ruled was violated by Virginia's gay marriage ban. As you may recall, Virginia was also home to one of the most important cases regarding the fundamental right to marry -- Loving v. Virginia. Decided in 1967 by the U.S. Supreme Court, Loving struck down laws which prevented people of different races from marrying. State Legislatures v. Court Decisions Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to be legally married. Many of those states began with voter-approved marriage bans like Virginia's that were struck down by a federal or state court. California, for example, had its state Supreme Court rule that gay marriage was legal in 2008, only to have voters amend the California Constitution by initiative months later. That initiative was eventually invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. Still other states have affirmed gay marriage by passing new marriage laws in their state legislatures. New York approved gay marriage in 2011 with its Marriage Equality Act; Washington state passed its gay marriage bill by popular vote in 2012, and now one in six marriages there are same-sex. Virginia's gay marriage ban has been stayed until the case can be heard by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Virginia now joins Oklahoma and Utah in waiting on a federal appeal to decide its marriage law's fate. Related Resources: Federal judge declares Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional (The Associated Press) Utah's Gay Marriage Ban Is Unconstitutional: Federal Judge (FindLaw's Decided) Fed. Govt. to Recognize Utah Gay Marriages (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Okla. Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down; Decision Stayed (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Get a Different Name Day: Why and How to Do It

It's Get a Different Name Day! As Juliet famously proclaimed to Romeo, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But what if you feel otherwise and believe names carry special significance? You certainly wouldn't be alone. People change their names for a variety of reasons. And the legal process for doing so may be easier than you think. Here are a few reasons why people change their names and how you can change yours: Why People Change Their Names People change their names for a wide variety of reasons, including: Marriage and divorce. It's common for one spouse to adopt the other spouse's name after marriage. On the flipside, when things go south, ex-spouses change their names back after divorce. It's also not unheard of for custodial parents to change their kids' last names after a divorce, particularly after a contentious one. Personal preference. If your parents bestowed upon you a name that's a little too special for your liking -- like, ahem, North West -- you can change it. But you generally must wait until you're 18 or get emancipated. Publicity. Folks with a flair for eccentricity might change their names as a publicity stunt. For example, cannabis connoisseur Ed Forchion tried to change his name to "NJWeedman.com." Unfortunately for Forchion, your name change may not pan out if it risks creating unnecessary confusion or condoning illegal activity. Notoriety. Some people with notorious last names, including members of the Sandusky and Madoff clans, have sought to change their names to get a fresh start and to distance themselves from negative associations. Personal or political reasons. Sometimes a name change can carry personal, professional, or political significance. For example, San Francisco 49ers' safety Donte Whitner plans to change his name to "Hitner" for his fans (but it's been delayed until he can be present in court, ESPN reports). New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio changed his name twice to honor his mother's side of the family. How People Change Their Names The most important thing to do to legally change your name is to just start using your new name. Use it on forms and with friends, family, employers, and schools. Though most states don't require court proceedings to make name changes official, it can be helpful. Common forms include a petition to legally change your name, an order to show cause for the legal change, and a final decree. Not all name changes will be approved, however. For example, you can't change your name to hide from creditors or police, and you can't take another person's name to create confusion. Courts also won't approve name changes deemed obscene or offensive. Since every state varies on their name change rules, you may want to consult an experienced family law attorney on your state's requirements. Related Resources: Changing Your Name (FindLaw) What's In a Name? How to Legally Change Your Name (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Fla. Man Takes Wife's Last Name, Accused of Driver's License Fraud (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Baby's Name Can't Be 'Messiah,' Tenn. Judge Rules (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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