Monday, December 8, 2014

Compensatory and Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case

If you have been in an accident, you may be able to receive compensation for your damages from the person who caused you harm.  There are two types of damages you may be able to collect in a personal injury case: compensatory and punitive.

       Compensatory Damages
             -Damages designed to compensate you for your specific injury and loss.  
                 1.  Economic Damages
                       -Also known as Special Damages in a personal injury case. 
                       -Tangible damages whose dollar amount can be concretely measured.
                       -Medical expenses, damage to motor vehicle, property damage,
                        loss of earnings, etc.

                  2. Non-Economic Damages
                       -Also known as General Damages in a personal injury case. 
                       -Intangible damages that can not be quantified.
                       -Pain and suffering, emotional harm, disfigurement, loss of companionship,
                        loss of consortium, etc.

            Punitive Damages
                -Damages designed to punish the person responsible for your injury and loss.
                -Used to deter future conduct of both the person responsible and others.
                -Usually limited in Hawaii to nine or ten times the amount of actual damages.
You should be aware that references to damages may change depending on the type of lawsuit you have.  For example, compensatory damages in a tort case may have a different definition than in a contract case.  To determine the type and amount of damages that you are entitled to for your accident, seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Access to Jaws Surf Break at Peahi

Every winter the North Pacific ocean brews large storms that create huge swells.  Many of the swells eventually reach Maui's north shore and the underwater topography in certain places along the coast create huge waves.  The biggest waves typically occur near Peahi which is also known as Jaws. 

For decades, Jaws was a place only locals familiar with big wave surfing knew how to access.  However, Peahi's popularity has increased significantly and every year when the wave "fires off," the parking lot is overflowing with dozens of cars and scores of people. 

Despite the number of people, you should be aware that there is no public access to Jaws.  The road through the jungle to the most popular viewing area is privately owned by Alexander and Baldwin.  The company has generally been a very generous neighbor by not making too many attempts to shut off access to the unmaintained dirt road.  The company recently even cooperated with Red Bull and the County of Maui with plans to organize a big-wave surfing contest. 

If you visit Peahi to watch big-wave surfing, please be careful and be considerate.   The drive from the Hana Highway to the viewing area can easily take an hour due to traffic on the one-lane road that is packed with trucks, motorcycles, dogs and tourists.

Remember that, as with many places on Maui, you are a guest on privately owned land.  Car accidents and injuries are not uncommon due to poor driving conditions and large numbers of people.  Also, if you park irresponsibly along the Hana Highway, you should expect a parking ticket.  Maui Police Department does patrol the area.  

Photo of Jaws by Maui Legal Team Investigator

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

University of Hawaii Gift

The University of Hawaii College of Business has received a gift of $69 million from Honolulu businessman Jay Shidler.  Mr. Shidler's gift to the University consists of ownership interests in several pieces of property around the country and will provide long-term stable income to the school.  The gift is the largest private donation in the history of the University and raises Mr. Shidler's total donations to the University of Hawaii to $100 million. 

For more information on the gift, click here.  University of Hawaii Shidler College of Business. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Personal Injury Lawsuit Statute of Limitations

Every personal injury lawsuit must be filed at the courthouse within a specified period of time.  This time limit is called the statute of limitations.  In Hawaii, the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is two years.  HRS §657-7.  The statute of limitations applies to many different types of torts involving physical and mental injuries including negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

If you have been injured it is important to seek medical treatment quickly to limit the physical and mental damage from your injuries.  It is also important to seek legal advice quickly so that you can limit the financial damage from the injuries.  A trusted lawyer can be particularly helpful in the difficult and confusing days immediately after an accident.  A lawyer can protect your financial interests and can negotiate with insurance companies and medical providers to save you money and ensure that you are fully compensated for your loss. 

It is essential not to wait until your statute of limitations is about to expire.  Most personal injury lawsuits are negotiated for months before settlement and most are settled without proceeding to a trial.  Few lawyers will be willing to take your personal injury case if the statute of limitations is about to expire. 

Additionally, severe injuries such as a brain injury may require additional medical evaluation to properly document your claim.  You must leave sufficient time to investigate your claim, negotiate with an insurance provider and seek additional medical care if necessary. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Puntive Damages in Hawaii

The goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to compensate you for the loss you experienced because of another person's negligence.  After a trial or a settlement, you should be reimbursed for your medical expenses, lost wages and other economic costs that you incurred from your injury. 

Compensation for your non-economic damages such as the pain you experienced from the injury, the suffering you had to endure and the loss of companionship your spouse suffered while you were injured are more difficult to quantify.  The calculation of how much you are entitled to receive will vary with each individual. 

Economic and non-economic damages are called compensatory damages because they are designed to compensate you for your losses.  It is possible, but not guaranteed, that you will receive punitive damages which are designed to punish a defendant in severe cases. 

If the person who injured you was not just negligent but acted maliciously or oppressively you may be able to receive punitive damages.  A jury can consider the economic ability of the defendant and specifically how they acted when injuring you.  In Hawaii, a jury can award punitive damages to a plaintiff but the award amount can not be unconstitutionally high.  As a general rule, punitive damages should not be more than nine times compensatory damages. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hana Airport Upgrades

Hana is one of the most isolated communities in the state of Hawaii.  Most visitors arrive after driving the scenic 52 mile road along the north shore of Maui.  The current airport in Hana, Maui is rated only for aircraft with nine passengers or less.  In June, the State of Hawaii released $2.1 million dollars to improve the Hana airport and for the upgrade of other necessary facilities.  The project will allow the airport to accommodate aircraft carrying up to 30 passengers.  Department of Transportation Officials have not set a timeline for the improvements.

For more information on the story, click here.  Hana Airport Upgrade

Friday, September 26, 2014

Maui Recreational Injuries

Maui is spectacular and beautiful.  However, beautiful does not necessarily mean safe.  Unfortunately, sometimes visitors to our wonderful island are injured when precautions are not taken and the ocean acts unpredictably.  The landscape can be unforgiving and can easily injure the unsuspecting.

Recently there have been a number of drownings near Black Rock on Kaanapali Beach.  Black Rock is a popular snorkeling area because of the warm water, excellent snorkeling and proximity to Kaanapali Beach which has been called one of the best beaches in the world.  Please use caution when swimming in this area and any place in the ocean while on Maui.  Ocean currents can be strong and unpredictable and can easily tire out swimmers.

Maui is a beautiful paradise but please use caution and common sense while enjoying your stay on the island.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Maui GMO Initiative

Second Circuit Court Judge Rhonda Loo ruled this week that a ballot initiative regarding genetically modified crops may be printed by Maui County.  A citizens group in favor of GMO farming had filed a lawsuit earlier this month to stop the measure from being placed on the November ballot.

The lawsuit requested that the court grant a restraining order that would prevent the County of Maui from printing a ballot containing the initiative.  The ballot initiative was originally brought into play by SHAKA Movement which is a citizens group opposing the use of GMO crops on Maui. 

Read more about the case here

Friday, July 11, 2014

Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Hawaii

Sometimes the negligence of another person can cause the death of a loved one.  This terrible circumstance often brings large medical bills and costs related the death.  Family members are left in the difficult situation of coping with the loss of a loved one and also with paying related costs. 

A wrongful death lawsuit can often be brought by certain family members against the person responsible for the death.  Hawaii law provides for a civil lawsuit to recover the loss you may have experienced from the death of your loved one.  You may be able to recover for medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of income, loss of companionship and pain and suffering the deceased person suffered before dying. 

Every situation is different and the amount recoverable depends on many factors.  Also remember that there is usually a two year time limit within which to file a personal injury wrongful death lawsuit in Hawaii.  Talk to a personal injury lawyer today to evaluate your case. 

Hawaii Revised Statute §663-3 is the statute that allows wrongful death lawsuits. HRS 663-3

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

NFL Brain Injury Settlement

The National Football League has settled a lawsuit filed by thousands of former football players.  A federal judge has approved the settlement which has no limit on the amount of money available to pay retired players with potential neuro-cognitive diseases. 

The settlement is extraordinary as it provides neurological exams and monetary settlements for diagnoses of a number of different chronic brain disorders such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and early dementia.  The original lawsuit was filed by approximately 5,000 players but all former players are eligible and will have two years to register for the settlement. 

The original settlement amount of $870 million was deemed was deemed to be too small to cover the high medical costs for serious concussions and brain injuries suffered by many football players.  Despite the potentially large payout, some players have said that the settlement will still not completely compensate past players for their injuries. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Funding Green Energy in Hawaii

The State of Hawaii recently awarded a contract to develop and manage a finance program for alternative energy projects.  A company called Renewable Funding based in California will provide initial funding for both residences and businesses in Hawaii using low-cost bonds.  The loans will be paid through savings on electric bills. This innovative approach to funding solar projects will bring a large number of projects to fruition that would not have happened otherwise.  For more information click on this link.  Renewable Funding

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Personal Injury News

The news this week contained two interesting cases involving personal injury claims. 

General Motors released a report with the conclusions of an investigation into faulty ignition switches that have caused injuries and deaths.  The report prompted calls for action from members of Congress and consumer advocates and conspiracy theorists.  The auto company fired 15 employees while disputing a claim that the defective ignitions have caused 74 deaths.  GM has now recalled 12.8 million vehicles. 

750 professional football players have sued NFL teams alleging that NFL doctors prescribed painkillers and sleep-aids on game days to mask the pain and the drive the players to perform at a higher level.  Prescriptions for Percodan, Percocet, Toradol and Ambien were among those listed in the lawsuit.  The plaintiff's in the lawsuit are seeking class-action status and have alleged that they have suffered serious long-term health effects such as kidney failure, nerve damage and chronic muscle problems. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

General Motors Expands Vehicle Recall

General Motors almost doubled the number of vehicles subject to recall this week bringing the total to 5 million.  The latest recall is divided into four different actions and involve issues with seat belts, a shifting cable, a fuse box and air bag. 

Although none of latest problems are linked to fatalities, GM could still be subject to possible personal injury lawsuits as product liability claims. 

GM has taken intense criticism because of the manner in which it handled the first recall in 2013.  Federal safety regulators claimed that GM was slow to initiate a recall.  GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reached a settlement last week that provides for a $35 million penalty.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Maui Startup Weekend

Maui continues to establish itself as a center for technology growth.  Here is a great opportunity for technology entrepreneurs to develop their ideas, network and meet other like-minded people.

Startup is a non-profit dedicated to boosting technology startups.  The group organizes events world-wide and has an event scheduled on Maui beginning May 16, 2014 at the Maui Research and Technology Center. 

Click here for more information. Maui Startup Weekend

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

3 Considerations for a Winning Personal Injury Lawsuit

If someone has accidentally or intentionally injured you or a family member you may have a personal injury claim.  You should always have your situation evaluated by a personal injury lawyer.  However, there are three main factors to consider before filing a lawsuit: 

1.  Do you have a valid lawsuit?
Personal injury lawsuits are legally referred to as tort claims.  A tort is a civil wrong that causes you loss or injury.  Injury can occur in a variety of ways and usually involves physical injury to yourself.  In certain circumstances, you may also be able to sue for mental trauma or injury to a family member.  There is rarely a valid claim for loss or injury to a pet or animal companion. 

2. Who is at fault?
Your injury must have been caused by someone else.  If the injury was your fault, you cannot force someone else to pay for your damages.  You may still have a case if it is unclear who caused your injury or if you are responsible for only part of the damages. 

3.  Is your judgment collectible? 
Even if your situation meets all the requirements for a winning lawsuit, you must consider whether you will be able to collect compensation.  Initiating a lawsuit and obtaining a judgment will be of no use if the person who caused the accident does not have any money or assets.  If the defendant has nothing to collect and no insurance, a lawsuit could be a waste of time and effort. 

 Here are some examples of common personal injury lawsuits:

- Injuries incurred from car accidents caused by drunk drivers, distracted drivers texting or talking on cell phones or simply drivers who are negligently not paying attention. 

- Defective product lawsuits such as defective vehicles, tires, appliances or other products.  A product may have been made defectively such as an ignition key that fails to shut the car off or a product that is designed incorrectly such as a swimming pool filtration system that traps a swimmer at the bottom of the pool.  

- Wrongful death lawsuits from airplane crashes, boating accidents or train crashes. 

- Injuries from dog bites.  Pet owners are often liable for injuries caused by their animals. 

- Lawsuits against drug companies who market and sell dangerous pharmaceutical products. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tort Liability for Diabetes Drug Actos

This week a federal jury decided that drug companies Takeda Pharmaceutical and Eli Lilly should pay $9 billion dollars in punitive damages for hiding the significant risk of cancer to patients taking Actos.  Actos is sometimes prescribed to help control diabetes and the jury found that Takeda knew the drug had serious side effects including heart failure and bladder cancer. The drug has been a huge income producer for Takeda with sales of $397 billion. 

For more information check out this story in the Wall Street Journal.  Actos Tort Liability

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

General Motors and Personal Injury Lawsuits

The CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, has been testifying before a House Subcommittee regarding GM's ignition switch recall.  Members of Congress are interested to find out why it took GM so long to initiate a recall of affected vehicles.

The years of the vehicles in question were initially designated as 2005 to 2007.  However, GM later expanded the recall to include a much wider range of vehicles, models and years.  In certain circumstances, including a roll-over accident, the key may turn the vehicle ignition out of the "run" position.  In this instance, the air bags of the car may not deploy causing personal injury or death.  

Although vehicle recalls occur frequently, this particular recall is interesting because of GM's delayed reaction time when identifying the issue and reporting it to the federal government.  Also, GM emerged from bankruptcy in July of 2009.  GM is legally immune to product liability lawsuits before this time. 

GM is now under pressure from Congress to pay for many of the claims it may hold immunity to.  Underlying immunity is also being challenged in a number of personal injury lawsuits.  Also, the Justice Department is investigating whether GM committed bankruptcy fraud by not disclosing the vehicle defects when it went through bankruptcy.

For more information take a look at the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee website.  U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee

Friday, March 21, 2014

How to Buy Foreclosure Property on Maui – Part 3

At a judicial foreclosure auction, you will be required to show the Commissioner at least 10% of your highest bid.  This means that if you intend to bid, you must appear with cash or a cashier’s check.  For example:  if you have calculated that your maximum bid for the property will be $100,000, you must show the Commissioner $10,000 cash or a cashier’s check for the same amount.  Experienced investors will bring several cashier’s checks of different amounts that total 10% of the their highest bid.  This technique ensures that you do not submit more money than necessary to an escrow account. 

If you are the highest bidder for the property, the Commissioner will take 10% of your highest bid, give you a receipt and open an escrow account.  Shortly after the auction, the Commissioner will file a report with the Court detailing the sale of the property and the auction to give the presiding judge enough information to decide whether to confirm the sale. 

A Confirmation Hearing will be scheduled after the auction for the Court to hear any opposition or argument regarding the auction and sale of the property.  It is common practice for the Court to reopen bidding at the Confirmation Hearing.  The Court is not required to reopen bidding so if you are intent on obtaining the property, you should bid at the initial auction. 

If you intend to bid on the property at the Confirmation Hearing and the Court allows additional bidding, you must bid at least 5% higher than the winning bid at the auction.  After the bidding process has concluded, the Court will typically confirm the sale of the property.  The proceeds of the auction will be distributed to the lender of the property who is owed money.  Any remaining funds will be distributed to other lenders with lower priority who have a claim to the property and also the former owner. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Real Estate Short Sales on Maui

A short sale can be attractive for the investor, the lender and the homeowner. Short sales can also be complicated and risky for the ill-advised. 

There are several reasons why a homeowner might consider a short sale.  Typically the owner has encountered financial difficulties and has defaulted on mortgage payments.  An owner may consider a short sale if a buyer is available and if the lender agrees. 

Most mortgages have a due-on-sale clause which allows the lender to "call" the entire amount of the loan due if the owner sells the property.  In a short sale, the lender agrees to let you sell the property to someone else and accept less than the amount of the whole loan. 

Lenders will carefully evaluate if you just want to get out of your loan or if you are truly unable to make your mortgage payments.  To this end, mortgage companies will usually require some evidence of financial hardship before agreeing to a short sale.  If it appears that you are actually going to walk away from your mortgage and give up the house, despite the risks, a lender may agree to accept less than the original amount of the mortgage to recoup at least some of the money it has loaned you.  The foreclosure process can be time consuming and expensive, particularly in Hawaii, and smart lenders will try to avoid foreclosing on a property if possible, even if it means taking a loss on the loan. 

Homeowners should carefully consider the whether a short sale is appropriate.  A short sale will harm your credit rating.  Possibly as much as a foreclosure.  However, a short sale can also allow you to obtain another mortgage sooner than if your house is foreclosed upon.  Seeking legal advice may be wise if you have any questions at all regarding a short sale because unwary homeowners may still be required to pay the remainder of the loan. 

Homeowners also face the challenge of finding a buyer willing to purchase their property.  The short sale buyer is typically an investor who is willing to negotiate with a mortgage company and has the experience and funds necessary to make a complicated real estate transaction occur smoothly and quickly.  Attorneys who are experienced in foreclosures, short sales and other real estate transactions are often in contact with investors who may be willing to purchase a short sale property. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Haleakala National Park's Economic Impact on Maui

The National Park Service has released a report detailing the economic impact Haleakala National Park has on Maui.  Almost 1.1 million people visited Haleakala in 2012 bringing in over 64 million dollars.  Visitors and residents alike know that the Park is an extraordinary place and is one of many natural resources on our island that generate tourism revenue. 

For more information on the National Park's impact on Maui click on these links. 

Maui Now Article on Haleakala's Visitors

National Park Service Information on Visitor Economic Impact

Friday, February 28, 2014

Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury claims in Hawaii encompass a tremendous variety of incidents including boating and pool accidents, slip and fall injuries, negligence involving dog attacks and car accidents. 

Even though injuries vary widely, methods to preserve your personal injury claim are similar no matter how your accident occurred.  The following steps will help ensure that you are compensated for your losses and medical expenses.

The first step, and your highest priority after an accident, is to obtain medical treatment.  See a doctor if you have not already and thoroughly explain your injury.  Follow through with treatment and be sure you medically stable before you proceed with step two. 

Gathering information is the second step.  Take pictures, collect contact information from witnesses and talk to other people involved in the accident including rescuers and onlookers.  Save all medical information as well, including bills and copies of prescriptions.  Keep a journal through your treatment to make sure you remember everything. 

The third step is to make an appointment with a personal injury lawyer in your area to preserve your legal rights.  With every personal injury claim there is a time limit to file a lawsuit.  Do not wait until the time limit has almost expired. See an attorney as soon as possible to help investigate your case, evaluate how much your case is worth and to write a demand letter to the person or company responsible. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Whiplash Injuries in Car Accidents - Personal Injury

The modern term for a whiplash injury is cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD).  It may also be described as a cervical strain or hyperextension injury.  This type of injury is typically seen as the result of a rear collision and is the most commonly diagnosed injury after a car accident. 

A CAD results from the sudden acceleration and deceleration of the head and neck immediately after impact.  The injury may occur to both the soft tissue of the neck and also the spine.  CAD injuries are common but are sometimes overlooked or mistreated because of a misunderstanding of the injury. 

Common symptoms of a CAD injury include headache, dizziness, jaw pain, arm pain, ringing ears, back pain, shoulder pain and fatigue.  It is important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible after an accident to ensure that you receive a proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Describe your symptoms and give your doctor a detailed account of your accident including the motion of your head and neck. A doctor may take x-rays of your neck and prescribe a cervical collar to prevent further injury.  You may also receive physical therapy and instructions for gentle motion exercises to support the healing process. 

If you have been injured in a car accident and believe you have a CAD injury, see your doctor today.  Call a personal injury lawyer soon after to make sure that you are compensated for your injuries. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Personal Injury - Traffic Accidents on Maui

Historically, national statistics on traffic accidents have shown a decline in fatalities over the last several years.  The national rate averages to 12.07 fatalities per 100,000 people according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  National Traffic Statistics

Maui County's traffic fatality rate is slightly higher than the national average at 12.9 according to NHTSA records.  Maui County Traffic Statistics

Available traffic fatality statistics for Maui include many categories.  The following chart visually demonstrates one category: single vehicle crash fatalities in Maui County.  The five years shown on the chart average to 12.8 fatalities per 100,000 people.  Complete information for 2013 is not yet available but preliminary data indicate that traffic fatalities may have declined in 2013. 
If you or your family have experienced a loss due to a traffic accident, call our office today for a free consultation to see if we can help you recover compensation. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Is it Legal to Drink Alcohol on a Beach in Hawaii?

Visitors to Maui and kama'aina alike often wonder whether it is legal to consume liquor on the beach.  The confusion is understandable because it is not uncommon to see responsible adults enjoying a wide variety of beverages while relaxing on the beach. 

Liquor consumption laws on Maui's beaches are often unenforced.  Our culture of personal responsibility, respect for the community and consideration for others mean that alcohol consumption is typically moderate and is rarely the cause of problems.  However, that does not mean it is legal.  To the contrary, consuming liquor on the beach is often illegal.  There are so many restrictions on the public consumption of liquor that you may be breaking one or more laws by drinking on a beach. 

Maui County Code 13.04.040(B) prohibits consuming alcohol in a park or recreational facility if the park is within 1500 feet of a school between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.  The same code section also prohibits consuming alcohol at any time in a public restroom.  It also prohibits consuming between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. in any park or recreational facility. 

Hawaii Administrative Code 13-146-25 prohibits the use or possession of alcoholic beverages in a state park.  This applies to Makena State Park and others. 

It is unlawful to consume alcohol at all times in Keopuolani Park near the Kahului Harbor or Kamehameha Iki Park in Lahaina. 

If your beach is at or near a public lookout, consuming alcohol there is prohibited.  Hawaii Revised Statute §291-3.3(b)  HRS 291-3.3

If you happen to be walking on a public highway or sidewalk to your beach, consuming liquor is illegal. 
Hawaii Revised Statute §281-78 HRS 281-78

It is also unlawful to consume liquor or possess an open container of liquor within any municipal parking lot.  Maui County Code 8.21.010

If you choose to drink alcohol on or near a beach, be aware there are many restrictions and you may be unknowingly breaking the law.  In addition, there is also increased risk of personal injury by consuming alcohol and recreating on the beach, a boat or in the ocean.  It is simply wise to save your mai tai for the evening after you are off the road and at home. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Negotiating a Personal Injury Case

Negotiating a settlement in a personal injury lawsuit can be extremely complex.  Just as you would not try to perform complex surgery on yourself, you should also not try to negotiate your own personal injury case.  Always consult an experienced personal injury attorney to make sure you have considered all of your legal options. 

The following factors are just a few of the many considerations when negotiating a personal injury settlement. 

1. Case Evaluation
How much is your case worth?  A good case evaluation will take into consideration your medical expenses, any permanent injury, your age, ongoing medical treatment and property damage.  You must determine a range of value for your case before you begin negotiating.  If you have not decided on a value, an insurance company will be happy to tell you how much your case is worth.  This value is likely to be much less than what you should actually receive.

2. Timing
Settling a personal injury claim too quickly can result in lost damages.  Your attorney must adequately investigate the possibility of lost earnings and employment, properly evaluate any injury to determine if it is permanent or temporary and make sure you are "medically stationary" before sending a demand letter to an insurance company.  A proper investigation must be completed before settling your case.

3. Statute of Limitations
Every personal injury claim has a statute of limitations.  This is the period of time after an injury occurs within which you must file a lawsuit or you will be prohibited from recovery.  Contact an attorney soon after you have been injured to begin an investigation, make sure you are receiving proper medical care and to preserve your rights. 

4. Demand Letter
Drafting an demand letter is an art.  An effective letter will include relevant facts regarding the extent of your injuries, specific reasons why the insurance company should pay you and it will convey the fact that you are serious about your claim. 

5. The most important factor is whether you should even accept a settlement.  Your case may be worth more than the insurance company is offering in settlement.  An experienced litigation attorney can explain all of your legal options, including your chances at trial.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Energy Conference on Maui

The Hawaii Electric Companies (HECO) is one of the lead sponsors of an energy conference to be held on Maui in March, 2014.  The conference will be a gathering of power and utility experts from around the United States to discuss and compare energy usage and planning.

Maui's high energy costs are reflected in monthly utility bills of residents and there is a growing impetus to utilize alternative energy to reduce our reliance on high-cost fossil fuels.  Our community has recently implemented a variety of projects including wind power, photovoltaic production, and a Smart Grid under the leadership of Doug McLeod, the current Maui County Energy Commissioner.  For more information on alternative energy projects in Maui County, click here.  Renewable Energy Maui County

Maui is a logical choice to host the energy conference because it is on the cutting edge of alternative energy production and usage.  The conference will be held March 26 and 27, 2014 at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center.  For more information click on this link.  Maui Energy Conference

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Maui Unemployment Rate

Recent statistics show that Maui's unemployment rate continues to drop as the economy improves.  In December of 2013, unemployment dropped to 4.6%.  Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa states that the rate is the lowest since 2008.

For more information click on this link.  Drop in Unemployment Rate

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Writing a Holographic Will in Hawaii

A holographic will is a handwritten document that functions as a valid will and directs where your assets will go when you die. 

A holographic will is valid and legal in Hawaii.  Hawaii Revised Statute 560: 2-502 provides that a will may be valid even it is not witnessed and even if it is not completely in your handwriting.  The holographic will simply needs to have your original signature and the material portions of the document in your handwriting. 

For more information, click on this link to the statute that addresses holographic wills.
HRS 560: 2-502

Even though writing a holographic will is legal does not mean that it is advisable.  There are several reasons why you should not risk distributing your assets with holographic will. 

1.  Your signature may have to proven by extrinsic evidence.  
The probate court is not familiar with your signature or handwriting.  The person who distributes your assets will likely have to go to considerable trouble and expense to prove that your holographic will is actually yours.  Your personal representative may have to compare other documents with your signature or possibly hire a handwriting expert to prove that your signature is valid.  

2.  Nobody will know what you really meant. 
There can be many interpretations of a document and it is easy to challenge a holographic will in court.  Perhaps your handwriting is not clear or you forgot to include an asset in your will.  The probate court will not know if you intended to write your will that way or if you merely made a mistake. 

Even if you believe you are explicit in your will by saying "I leave everything to Dad," the court will not know if you meant your biological father or your distant second cousin who you met once and jokingly referred to as "Dad." 

3.  Your assets will have to go through the probate process.
A will gives instructions as to where your assets should go.  The probate process is the actual distribution of your property.  If you write a holographic will, your assets will likely be probated.  The probate process can be time-consuming and is open to the public.  Anyone who would like to see what assets you had and where they are going is able to do so.  Proper estate planning can circumvent the probate process with a trust. 

4.  Omissions. 
A holographic will may not include all of your assets.  If you do not specifically address the new truck you bought after you wrote your will, the court may not know where it should go.  With property legal advice, you may also forget to appoint a guardian for children, name an executor, provide for pets or name alternative beneficiaries.  A holographic will also typically fails to address end-of-life health care choices and financial decisions. 

A holographic will is not a wise choice for distributing your assets.  There are numerous potential pitfalls when writing a holographic will.  Obtaining competent estate planning advice with an estate planning attorney can save your heirs time and money.  Plan today. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Maui Technology Venture Capital Fund

Economic growth on Maui continues to improve in early 2014.  New construction starts have increased, tourism numbers are healthy and real estate sales are so strong that many willing buyers are being priced out of the market.

The business community here has always been strong and Maui is often cited for its innovative approach to new opportunities.  Technology is no exception and a small but persistent technology community has been active the last few years on our island.

Recently two entrepreneurs helped make Maui even more tech friendly.  Arben Kryeziu and Nick Bicanic have opened a venture capital firm in Kahului to provide funding, business advice and development assistance to technology start ups.

Go to their website for more information.  mbloom Ventures LLC

Also, here is an article in the Pacific Business News that explains more.  mbloom article

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Advance Health Care Directive or Living Will

A comprehensive estate plan contains several documents.  Each document accomplishes a different goal and every one works with the others to form a cohesive layer of protection for your assets and your intended beneficiaries.  An well-built estate plan applies your assets to their highest and most efficient use. 

In addition to a Trust and a Pourover Will, an Advance Health Care Directive is one of the key documents in your estate plan.

An Advance Health Care Directive appoints a person to make your health care decisions when you are unable to do so.  The person you appoint must be able to accomplish your medical goals pertaining to life support, organ donation and other personal preferences.  Additionally, your appointee must be able to manage your medical affairs to preserve your assets.  If not managed properly, medical bills can rapidly deplete your bank accounts, real estate and personal property.  Your appointee should have the fortitude to make speak with medical professionals, make difficult medical decisions and balance your personal preferences. 

A Living Will is an earlier and more specific version of an Advance Health Care Directive.  The Directive is the preferred and most modern estate plan tool used by most skilled legal practitioners. 

An estate plan must be dynamic and change with your lifestyle and preferences.  Review your plan today, including who will make your medical decisions and evaluate if it reflects your current goals. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Happy New Year!

The beginning of the new year is an excellent time to review your estate plan and make sure it is current.  Look at your documents and review your will, trust and Advance Health Care Directive carefully.  Ask yourself if the documents accurately reflect your preferred goals for your children and assets? 

If you currently have a trust, be sure that you have properly transferred all the appropriate assets to the trust to take make full use of the tax and probate advantages.  If you do not currently have an Advance Health Care Directive, consider who you would like to make your important health care decisions if you are unable to do so. 

Occasional maintenance on your estate plan can save you and your family time and money.