Author: Jeffrey Bolender

When a Business Partner Dies: Dealing with All the Changes

Running a business can be one of the most rewarding yet stressful experiences you will ever enjoy and endure. You may have fulfilled a lifelong dream, and perhaps even had a business model just waiting in your pocket, looking for the right time to strike out on your own. Once there, you were probably surprised to be weighed down with issues like employees and turnover rate, human resources knowledge to be attained and applied, complexities of working with vendors, the challenges in making payroll, dealing with clients (and keeping clients) and so much more.

Partnership issues can be extremely complex too. You may have had a long-term friendship with an individual before starting a business together, and that bond can remain strong. Others may have several partners, some who are more like investors than actual participants—while yet others may be married couples working together. Personalities and how much time you spend together have a lot to do with your success in working and staying together, much like a marriage, and if financial stress or other issues begin to plague your business, there could be serious strain on your partnership.

The strain is usually even worse if one partner dies. You may be in a serious state of bereavement, to begin with (and the grieving period, of course, may stretch on indefinitely), along with having lost a major player and contributor in your business. And just as it so often is with losing a family member, everyone may be wondering ‘what to do now,’ and how to fill the empty space they have left behind in your company. At this point it is time to read over that business partnership contract we very much hope you created during the inception of your business.

It is prudent for everyone involved for you to have a clause stipulating what would happen to the partner’s shares in the event of their death. Would you be given the right to buy out any heirs first? Right of refusal is critical to discuss; otherwise, you could find yourself with your partner’s spouse or nephew taking over part of your company. It might be surprising for them to desire to do so—and especially if the new party is not feeling exactly welcome—but there is a good chance they may want to sell too. In that case, you will again need a good business attorney from a law office like the Bolender Law Firm to handle the transaction.

Do you need legal assistance with a business dispute? If so, contact the Bolender Law Firm.  Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

bad faith

Bad Faith: When the Insurance Company Does Not Fulfill Duties to Policyholders

Most of us would prefer not to have to send any amount of cash to an insurance company—whether it is monthly, quarterly, or annually—but just as dealing with issues like household debt and jobs and a hectic lifestyle are often considered the American way, so is buying insurance, and one can only hope not to run into an issue with bad faith. Without it, you could be left miserable, homeless, and penniless in the event of a catastrophe. The problem is, however, if you have had a serious accident or suffered property damage to your home, you may already be feeling injured and miserable or even homeless and worried about your residence—and worried about finances.

This is where the insurance company is supposed to step in and save the day. Even though you are the one who purchased the policy and have been keeping up with your end of the bargain in paying premiums for countless months, when something does go wrong you are suddenly at the mercy of the insurer. You should not have to wait an excessive amount of time to hear back regarding your claim—especially if you are hurt after an accident—and you should not be held off indefinitely if you have had to move out of your home after a flood or fire. If red flags are waving all over the place, it is time to called a skilled insurance lawyer from a firm like the Bolender Law Firm.

Insurers may be used to throwing their weight around in attempts to avoid paying out claims, and to keep their money mounting in the bank, but they could be in substantial legal trouble over bad faith practices, forced to pay compensatory damages, and fines too. Delays are a common issue in bad faith, but you may also be experiencing other frustrating issues like a complete lack of response and complete lack of investigation of your case. Adjusters may try to intimidate you, and even witnesses, and they may also offer you a low-ball settlement that is so low you can’t believe your ears. They continue to get away with this behavior because often, policyholders are stressed out and intimidated, and may be worried that the one settlement offer they are receiving is the only one they will get. This may be exactly what the adjuster wants you to think too. The key is to reach out for expert legal help so that you receive fair compensation for what you are owed.

If you need help reviewing your insurance policy, or if you suspect your insurance company may be denying your claim in bad faith, contact the attorneys at the Bolender Law Firm.  If a dispute over a claim cannot be easily resolved through a call or written communication, our attorneys will advocate on behalf of policyholders through litigation, arbitration, or non-binding mediation. Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

patent

Does Your Business Need to Apply for a Patent?

Creating a business model is a multi-faceted project, and one that can be ongoing throughout the lifetime of your company. Along with this comes a host of other responsibilities such as creating your brand, establishing partnerships and agreements, hiring, establishing benefits packages, designing marketing campaigns—and oh yes, somewhere in there too: establishing a solid client base! There are many elements to founding and maintaining a healthy business, and while there is much to protect, intellectual property must be at the top of the list.

You may be an inventor yourself, or either full-time employees or independent contractors may be creating innovative products for your company. And although that is another somewhat complex subject, if you do have independent contractors working for you, it is vital that you have airtight agreements to protect what is your property essentially—unless stated otherwise. Before you wonder about patents further though, understand how they are defined. According to the United States Patent and Trade Office, a patent is issued when they grant property rights for an invention to the inventor. It does not expire for 20 years after filing of the application and gives you the right to exclude everyone else from using the invention, making it, and selling it in the US. Everyone else is also excluded from importing it into the US.

“Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO,” states the USPTO. “The patent law specifies the general field of subject matter that can be patented and the conditions under which a patent may be obtained,” continues USPTO information.

“In the language of the statute, any person who ‘invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,’ subject to the conditions and requirements of the law. The word ‘process’ is defined by law as a process, act, or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes. The term ‘machine’ used in the statute needs no explanation. The term ‘manufacture’ refers to articles that are made and includes all manufactured articles. The term ‘composition of matter’ relates to chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds. These classes of subject matter taken together include practically everything that is made by man and the processes for making the products.”

If your business owns rights to an invention that needs this type of protection, then you do need to apply for a patent. Work with an experienced intellectual property attorney from an office like the Bolender Law Firm. There are some pre-application steps that are very important and getting help from a legal professional versed in patents is in your best interest as you determine what type of patent you need, whether there are other similar (or identical) ones in existence already, and more. Understanding patent laws and the application process can be complicated.

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

new business

Starting a New Business: Five Things to Know

Starting a new business could be one of the best things you ever do in life; of course, as you are probably aware, it can be a major risk too. Many businesses don’t make it, but there are usually common denominators as to why. One thing you can count on, however, is that there will be a lot of hours spent in your new business, and for most new business owners there are countless hours logged in sweat equity. And no matter how prepared you are, even if you went to business school, there will be quite an education along the way. Here are five basic things every new business owner should be aware of though:

  1. There will be many long hours and you may be your only support system: Count on being exhausted. And count on everyone else asking why in the world you would want to put yourself through such an experience. Others with a strong career/work drive may understand, but in the beginning, this business is your baby—and it will probably keep you up late and wake you up early too.
  2. Capital is your main priority and will remain so for quite some time. The number one killer for small businesses though is lack of proper capital. You may have enough to get you started (and for many, just coming up with the funds to get into business is a tremendous challenge), but cash flow and backup capital are necessary. Without funding, your business could easily go belly up.
  3. Partners may not be as fun to work with as you originally hoped. This is a big one. Although you may have gone into business with a childhood buddy and all the trust in the world, a business partnership contract is key—and founding your business is the perfect time to do it as everyone is happy with one another and an airtight conflict resolution clause can be included.
  4. Hiring employees, and keeping them, can be extremely challenging. Look for experience in the individuals you bring on board, but more than anything, try to get a feel for whether they have good character—and a personality you would like to be around for years.
  5. Keep the meetings short. Nothing can suck up your time like a morning or afternoon meeting that takes up half the day. Not only are you losing half the day, but so are your employees. And time is money!

Do you need legal assistance with a business dispute? If so, contact the Bolender Law Firm.  Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

intellectual property

How Long Does Intellectual Property Last?

As a business owner, your knowledge will become vast over the years regarding many different subjects. Not only will you be required to understand every nuance about the products and services you are selling, how to fight the competition, and how to manage your finances, but you will also need to understand how to deal with labor law, employees, benefits, partnerships, commercial real estate and insurance, and so much more. But along with all these items, you will also need to protect intangible items, like intellectual property.

While it may seem complex—and indeed it is—registering for and maintaining your intellectual property is a must, along with ensuring that you have proper agreements signed with employees and independent contractors regarding non-disclosure and confidentiality. Whether you have copyrights, trademarks, service marks, or patents, knowing how long each license lasts can be vital, so that you know when to reapply. The power is left to you to make sure these protections are enforced in most cases, along with seeing that the licenses are kept up to date.

Most intellectual property lasts as follows:

  • Copyrights – these usually last for the lifetime of the ‘author,’ as well as 70 years past that. Copyrights refer to artistic expressions of work, but for your business purposes could also be software, architectural structures, and more.
  • Trademarks/Service marks – this type of intellectual property is good in ten-year increments that can be renewed indefinitely. Both trademarks and service marks (which serve as a subset of trademarks) apply to branding mechanisms, helping customers identify with the products and services you offer. Your trademark typically may be a logo or a symbol, and your service mark may be a word, slogan, or catch phrase created for marketing purposes.
  • Patents – from the time of application, these are good for around 20 years. Patents apply to inventions and are vital to keep others from stealing the right to use, make, sell, or import them.
  • Trade secrets – these are protected ‘without procedure or formality,’ and indefinitely so, but they must be something unknown to others, have commercial value, and you must be working to maintain the secrecy of such intellectual property.

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

 

Does Your Business Need to Apply for a Patent?

Creating a business model is a multi-faceted project, and one that can be ongoing throughout the lifetime of your company. Along with this comes a host of other responsibilities such as creating your brand, establishing partnerships and agreements, hiring, establishing benefits packages, designing marketing campaigns—and oh yes, somewhere in there too: establishing a solid client base! There are many elements to founding and maintaining a healthy business, and while there is much to protect, intellectual property must be at the top of the list.

You may be an inventor yourself, or either full-time employees or independent contractors may be creating innovative products for your company. And although that is another somewhat complex subject, if you do have independent contractors working for you, it is vital that you have airtight agreements to protect what is your property essentially—unless stated otherwise. Before you wonder about patents further though, understand how they are defined. According to the United States Patent and Trade Office, a patent is issued when they grant property rights for an invention to the inventor. It does not expire for 20 years after filing of the application and gives you the right to exclude everyone else from using the invention, making it, and selling it in the US. Everyone else is also excluded from importing it into the US.

“Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO,” states the USPTO.

“The patent law specifies the general field of subject matter that can be patented and the conditions under which a patent may be obtained,” continues USPTO information.

 “In the language of the statute, any person who ‘invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,’ subject to the conditions and requirements of the law. The word ‘process’ is defined by law as a process, act, or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes. The term ‘machine’ used in the statute needs no explanation. The term ‘manufacture’ refers to articles that are made and includes all manufactured articles. The term ‘composition of matter’ relates to chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds. These classes of subject matter taken together include practically everything that is made by man and the processes for making the products.”

 If your business owns rights to an invention that needs this type of protection, then you do need to apply for a patent. Work with an experienced intellectual property attorney from an office like the Bolender Law Firm. There are some pre-application steps that are very important and getting help from a legal professional versed in patents is in your best interest as you determine what type of patent you need, whether there are other similar (or identical) ones in existence already, and more. Understanding patent laws and the application process can be complicated.

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

Bad Faith: You May Be Due Compensatory & Punitive Damages

The insurance industry is built around protecting risk. You probably don’t want to pay out thousands of dollars each year, writing checks that usually just seem to sail into thin air for lots of nothing, but it is worth it to protect your car(s), that home you just built or the wonderful apartment you are renting that holds all of your furniture and valuables, your business, your health and your life (estate planning), and so much more. And while sometimes it may seem like we buy ‘things,’ just to have to pay more money to make sure we can keep them, it is the way of life in the US currently.

You may be surprised to learn that the average consumer is spending twelve percent of their yearly income on insurance. Costs may rise in your area too, depending on changes in infrastructure, areas where traffic incidents or crime have escalated, or pockets of activity with storms and serious natural disasters. Purchasing insurance can be a serious endeavor, but once you have it, you expect to enjoy peace of mind in knowing that you are protected by your insurer in the case of an accident or other major issue covered y your policy. If that turns out not to be the case later, you may be devastated in dealing with injuries or damages to your home or business. Finding out the insurance company is going to give you a hard time can be extremely frustrating.

Evidence of bad faith on the part of the insurer includes massive delays (and this is where massive frustration usually sets in for you initially) and in some cases, there may be not even be any sign of an investigation at all, which is usually confusing and disturbing. The insurer may ask for massive amounts of documentation, to include items like tax returns even—usually if they are gearing up to cause delays and even to insinuate that your claim is fraudulent. You may receive a low-ball offer from the insurer, with the underlying tone being that if you don’t take it you will probably get nothing. Once these red flags set in, you need serious legal help from the Bolender Law Firm.

While punitive damages may not be possible in many other types of contract lawsuits, that is not usually the case when the insurer is found to be acting in bad faith. Let us review your case and discuss your options with you, considering whether you may be due both compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages will cover the expenses you were originally supposed to be paid plus damages and compensation for injury; punitive damages are much more serious and often more challenging to get as they ‘punish’ the other party. In this case, the insurance company would be punished, and in forcing them to pay punitive damages it is hoped that they ‘learn a lesson’ about doing it again, as well as serving as an example to other corporations that might be thinking about acting the same way toward customers.

If you need help reviewing your insurance policy, or if you suspect your insurance company may be denying your claim in bad faith, contact the attorneys at the Bolender Law Firm.  If a dispute over a claim cannot be easily resolved through a call or written communication, our attorneys will advocate on behalf of policyholders through litigation, arbitration, or non-binding mediation. Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

adjusters

Be Very Careful What You Say to Adjusters in Confidence

If you have had to file a claim, dealing with insurance adjusters is probably just exacerbating all the ills you may feel after being hit by another car, or a truck, or in having to find a way to have major home repairs made as quickly as possible. Those are only a couple of examples, obviously, as there are so many different types of insurance to be purchased—to include business liability insurance, health and life insurance, professional insurance policies, and the list goes on.

After being injured due to the negligence of another party, you may be shocked to hear how fast that phone starts ringing regarding your case. The adjuster for the other side will probably want to get down to brass tacks fast, and this means getting as many facts about the accident out of you as possible. While you may give them some basic information, remember that in no way are these people your friends. They may seem incredibly friendly, charming even, but it is their job to be smooth about many things—from extracting information from you to trying to get you to agree to a low-ball offer as quickly as possible.

You may also be told that anything you tell them is completely confidential. This can get tricky, however, and especially if you are roped into giving them a statement, or if you admit that anything was your fault. Keep in mind too that even if you think you are offering a description of the full scope of your injuries, there may be more than you know about if you have not had X-rays or a complete medical workup yet. The best rule is to consult with an injury attorney and upon working with them, let them do what they do best, which is communicating with the insurance companies. If bad faith is suspected, please contact our office as soon as possible. Do not go it alone!

If you need help reviewing your insurance policy, or if you suspect your insurance company may be denying your claim in bad faith, contact the attorneys at the Bolender Law Firm.  If a dispute over a claim cannot be easily resolved through a call or written communication, our attorneys will advocate on behalf of policyholders through litigation, arbitration, or non-binding mediation. Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

rule of thumb

How Did ‘Rule of Thumb’ Become a Saying?

There are many terms you probably hear so much—or say so much—that you rarely stop to think about how funny they sound or wonder how they originated; for instance, how many times have you found yourself uttering a saying like, “well rule of thumb says…” meaning this is how something supposedly should be done, and often is thought of as a general principal based on practice, often approximated. And obviously, you probably aren’t using your thumb for a ruler, although hundreds of years ago, that may have been the idea as a thumb was supposed to be a good measurement for an inch. Check out your thumb though, and you can see that probably wasn’t very accurate at all for anyone!

The term is said to have come about in the 1600’s and may have actually been connected to marital law in England. The law may have said something closely related to the idea that a husband could beat his wife with a stick, as long as it was no thicker than his thumb, although many think this could be a myth too (the Idioms). Typical examples of using this idiom in context might be that as a rule of thumb, you add pasta to a pot once the water starts boiling, or as a rule of thumb, you never work past 4 p.m.

There are also many other very amusing rules of thumb you may never have heard, offering tips for etiquette (even that of cell phones), how to dress (if your shirttails hang below the palms of your hands, tuck them in), when to take your car in for repairs (never on the weekends), where to sit on an airplane (that depends), and more.

In the legal world, the way words are construed can make a huge difference in a case—and as we deal with insurance policies and insurers acting in bad faith far too often, it is important to delve into the truth of words, as well as dissecting exactly what is meant in something like an insurance policy. This can be extremely difficult in some cases if you are not a legal professional, and if you are going through an issue that feels exasperating (and frightening) to handle on your own, call us for help as soon as possible.

If you need help reviewing your insurance policy, or if you suspect your insurance company may be denying your claim in bad faith, contact the attorneys at the Bolender Law Firm.  If a dispute over a claim cannot be easily resolved through a call or written communication, our attorneys will advocate on behalf of policyholders through litigation, arbitration, or non-binding mediation. Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

Why an Insurer May Ask for Tax Returns During an Investigation

No matter what type of insurance you must buy, it is never as easy as it sounds—and filing a claim with an insurer is often the same way, unfortunately, even sometimes spurring on an investigation. Today, insurance companies bring in billions of dollars in profits, and some of that money is in thanks to you, paying premiums. Consumers in the US have much to protect, from their health to their estates, to cars, homes, businesses and professional liability, and more.

The transaction is supposed to be simple enough really, overall. You find an insurance agent you can trust and discuss all the details of what you are trying to insure. They sell you coverage that should offer you comprehensive risk protection according to what you need, money and policies and handshakes are exchanged, and everyone goes on their way. If you pay your premiums, you probably won’t hear from the insurer very much, unless there are changes or additions to your policy—and those are all details which you should be apprised of clearly.

On filing a claim, you may be expecting the same straightforward behavior you received before you were asking anything of the insurer. For many policyholders, this is a rude awakening. Suddenly, with the prospects of a substantial payout looming for your claim, the adjusters may not be as quick to complete an investigation—or worse, there may not be one at all. Delays upon delays may occur, and while for some this may not be a dire situation, but for example, if you have lost your home due to a disaster or if it has become uninhabitable due to a construction defect, there is probably a great sense of urgency to make repairs and get life back to normal. If your insurer begins acting in bad faith, it may seem like the world is turning upside down.

Outright denials, low-ball offers, and sudden differences in translation of how your policy works are all good examples of bad faith, but there may be other subtle ways that the insurer will try to intimidate you. Asking for excessive amounts of documentation, for instance, is not okay. Although the insurer may make it sound like asking for large amounts of paperwork is just routine—thus snowing you under with completing tasks—it is usually a tactic used to ‘encourage’ the policyholder to back down.

They may even require documents like your tax returns. This could be part of intimidating tactics asking for you to run around and find paper to supply them with, but a request for tax returns could also be their way of inspecting your finances to see if you would be motivated to file a fraudulent claim—or their backup for asserting so. Accusing or insinuating fraud is not only another common tactic, but a way to delay making a payout for a long period of time.

If you need help reviewing your insurance policy, or if you suspect your insurance company may be denying your claim in bad faith, contact the attorneys at the Bolender Law Firm.  If a dispute over a claim cannot be easily resolved through a call or written communication, our attorneys will advocate on behalf of policyholders through litigation, arbitration, or non-binding mediation. Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!