Arbitration and Mediation: Faster, Cheaper and more Peaceful Alternative Divorce Procedures

Many individuals who reach a point in their marriage at which they can no longer envision a future with their partner, decide that divorce is their only option. Divorce, however, is never easy. It is not only time consuming and financially straining; it can also be one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. For, besides having to deal with the emotional impact that their marriage is ending, there are also a wide range of concerns that must be addressed, often in combative ways. These concerns include child custody, property division, and financial matters, among others. Thus, to simplify their separation many spouses seek alternative ways, ways that will save them time and money, and from the unnecessary emotional strain.

Unlike in the past when the only way to settle a divorce case, as well as issues related to it, was in court, there are now alternative processes that allow spouses to work together towards a settlement. Two or these processes are arbitration and mediation which allow spouses to work through their separation on their own, not leaving important decisions in the hands of a divorce court judge.

As different from a court-litigated divorce or contested divorce, which is adversarial in nature, open to the public, decided by a judge and which can drag on for months or years depending on the number of divorce-related issues that need to be settled, arbitration and mediation are private legal procedures.

Arbitration, specifically, is the process wherein an arbitrator or a third party individual (can be a lawyer or a retired judge) chosen and hired by the spouses, acts as a private judge. In this procedure, the spouses prepare their arguments and evidences which will be presented to the arbitrator by their respective lawyers. The arbitrator will decide on the case based on arguments and evidences presented. The divorce issues that can be settled in arbitration include child custody, visitation rights and schedule, child and/or spousal support, division of property and assets, and modifications to a former divorce decree. The issue of a final divorce order, however, cannot be arbitrated since arbitrators are not authorized to grant a divorce, annul a marriage, or change official family status.

All decisions made by an arbitrator are binding, even if both spouses find these contrary to their interests. These cannot be appealed to a higher court either, making both spouses stuck with whatever is decided by an arbitrator. Though arbitration has been used as an alternative dispute resolution for many years, not all states recognize it.

Divorce mediation, on the other hand, is done through the help of an objective and neutral third-party individual, called a mediator, who is usually chosen by the spouses themselves. Though the mediator can share his/her opinion to give light to the issue that need to be settled, he/she can never decide or impose anything on the couple.

Divorce mediation offers the following benefits:

  • Allows spouses to arrive at the most agreeable and workable solutions;
  • Gives the spouses total control of the proceeding and its outcome;
  • Promotes openness between the spouses;
  • Much cheaper compared to a court-litigated divorce and can take much lesser time; and,
  • Ensures privacy as the procedure involves only the spouses (with their respective lawyers, if they have one).

Despite the possibility of divorce putting order back in one’s life, the Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq. strongly suggests that spouses, especially the one filing the divorce petition, consider a number of different factors before going through with a divorce in order to make the outcome as beneficial as possible and to avoid any errors which may arise. These factors include:

  • Knowing your family’s financial situation;
  • Determining your living arrangements following the separation;
  • Considering what type of child custody and support
  • arrangement you may want;
  • Being aware that your behavior will be under close scrutiny throughout the divorce process; and,
  • Consulting with an attorney before proceeding.
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Seat Belt can Save Lives; However, These can also Cause Deaths

There are occasions when a vehicle has to be recalled, either by the manufacturer or by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) through a court order due to the following reasons:

  1. The same type of problem or defect has been identified in a group of vehicles of the same design and same year model;
  2. The defect poses a risk to the safety of the driver, passengers or anyone else on the road; and,
  3. The vehicle itself or any of its parts do not comply with the minimum performance requirement standards set by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). These standards make sure that a vehicle can be operated safely and that the driver and passengers would have enough protection from serious injury or death in the event of a crash. The FMVSS has actually set standards for tires, brakes, lighting, child restraints, air bags and safety belts, among others.

Vehicle recalls usually happen due to complaints consumers make to the vehicle manufacturer or to the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI), a department of the NHTSA. In October of 2014, for instance, Chrysler had to recall about 184,215 of its SUVs worldwide due to defective airbags and seat belts; this was besides the more than 850,000 vehicles that Ford already recalled in September of the same year (due to the same problem).

Seat belts keep drivers and passengers from hitting with great force any of a car’s interior parts (such as a door window, dashboard, or windshield) during an accident, thus, providing them with the best protection against serious injuries. Sadly, however, seat belts are not only known as life-saving devices. In some instances, instead of saving lives, these have caused injuries or death – due to defects.

A defective or malfunctioning seat belt may be because of poor manufacturing or poor design. Every year, at least 10,000 (of the more than 30,000) individuals who die in car crashes are said to have died due to faulty seat belts.

“Despite all the government testing and consumer warnings,” according to New Jersey car accident lawyers, “ innocent people are still being injured and killed daily by dangerous products. Whether the harm was caused by a manufacturing defect or a failure to warn of possible side effects, a product liability lawyer can fight to get compensation for your pain and suffering.” This it is important that you contact a car accident or a personal injury lawyer immediately after an accident.

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Sustaining Spine Injuries in the Workplace

Regardless of the type of work environment employees operate, there is always risk of an accident which can result to injuries. Risk of an accident, however, is always higher in and around construction zones where dangerous tools and heavy machinery are abundant; add to these the frequent unstable conditions within the area. These and many other factors, the most dangerous of which is negligence either of the employer or of the workers themselves, can be causes of catastrophic, even fatal, injuries.

Worker fatalities in construction sites was 899 in 2014, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). For decades now, OSHA has also identified falls, electrocution, getting struck-by-object, and getting caught-in-between, as the four top causes of injuries and deaths in construction sites.

With routine maintenance, due care, and strict observance of OSHA-mandated safety precautions, many injuries could be prevented. One type of serious injury which thousands of workers sustain is spinal cord injury. Every year from 2003 through 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics received reports of over a quarter of a million claims due to back and spinal cord injuries. Besides causing workers too much pain and discomfort, these injuries also limit their ability to walk, work, and live the full and independent life they are accustomed to.

How severe a spinal cord injury is depends on which part of the spinal cord is affected; one sure thing, though, is that the higher in the spinal column the injury occurs, the worse will be the outcome. Cervical spine injury (neck area) affects the neck, arms and hands; Thoracic spine injury (chest area) affects the torso and parts of the arms; spine injury at the lumbar or low back area affects the hips and legs; and, injury at the sacral or pelvis area affects the groin, toes and parts of the leg.

A spinal cord injury could be complete or incomplete. Complete spinal cord injury affects both sides of the body; it also renders all body parts (below the affected area) without sensation and function. Incomplete spinal cord injury, on the other hand, means some functioning below the affected area. Those with this type of injury may still be able to feel parts of their body which they cannot move, may have one side to their body functioning more than the other, or may be able to move one of their limbs more than the other.

Aside from causing physical, psychological and emotional pains and suffering, a spinal cord injury can also result to a lifetime of medical costs. Due to this, spine injury lawyers from the Scudder & Hedrick, PLLC, law firm advises injured workers to find out and know about their legal rights and options to seeking the compensation that will save them from crippling financial situations. A highly-skilled lawyer may be able to provide them the legal assistance they may need regarding this matter.

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Dangers of Explosions

For most people, explosions are something they only see in TV shows or movies. They feel distanced from ever being near an actual threatening explosion. The frightening reality is that explosions do occur in the real world and often result in severe injury and/or death. If the victim is able to come out alive after the accident, they often face life-altering injuries with impairments that change the course of the rest of their lives.

Not all explosions are preventable. Accidents sometimes occur in certain industrial settings. According to Russo, Russo & Slania, P.C., many explosions can be prevented when all involved parties act safely and fulfill their responsibilities as expected. Unfortunately, protocol isn’t always followed and results in unsuspecting victims suffering due to the negligence of others.

An explosion could occur anywhere. By the same token, there are certain places where an explosion is way more likely to occur. These include industrial factories, nuclear or chemical plants, oil rigs, and manufacturing facilities. These places are at high risk for many types of accidents, but explosions are one of the more serious problems that could occur. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 138 deaths related to explosions in 2013.

Even if an explosion occurs at a less likely location, you can still take legal action against the responsible party. A few examples of less severe explosion accidents include failure to store chemicals properly, failure to train staff to properly handle flammable materials, and defective gas-powered appliances such as stoves, ovens, or water heaters.


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What You Should Know About The Volkswagen Scandal

German automaker giant Volkswagen is under pressure to refit its newer cars after the discovery of an intricately designed software device intended to defeat emissions tests. The controversy has caused the car company to lose $28 billion worth of market value in just one week. Apart from this decline, the refitting itself would cost the company more than $6.5 billion. The international scandal impacted the car market so hard that Martin Winterkorn decided to step down just days after the revelation.

According to the website of The Driscoll Firm, the “defeat device” enables the car to sense that it is under an emissions test, allowing it to make certain adjustments to meet emissions standards. But how is it possible? The software analyzes factors that would tell whether the car is driving in road condition or it is being tested. These factors include the position of the steering wheel, the duration of the engine operation, the barometric pressure, and the speed.

The trick begins once the car senses that it is being tested. During an emissions test, the car will switch to “dyno calibration,” where it will use a rich mixture for combustion. You might think that a rich mixture produces more unburned fuel and pollutants, which will definitely fail any emissions test. But because Volkswagen cars are equipped with NOx adsorbers (also called NOx trap or LNT), whose trapping capacity is enhanced with unburned fuel, a rich mixture fuel is what they need to pass the test.

On the other hand, during normal conditions, the affected Volkswagen cars will drive using a leaner mixture. Now, a study proposed by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that during regular operations, the car emits up to 40 times above the emissions standards. This is because leaner mixtures now only pass through the exhaust’s NOx adsorber (i.e. not trap it), allowing high levels of NOx gases to be released freely in the air.

If you’re a Volkswagen owner, this software trickery could significantly affect you. Apart from being deceived that you had bought a clean diesel car, future recalls to reprogram the software might require a visit to your local dealership, which could mean precious time wasted.

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