homeowners

Suspicions of Arson Can Make Homeowners Claims Tricky

Over our lifetimes, most of us will own more than one insurance policy, and we may have multiple lines of coverage in force over the long term—whether for our cars, businesses, health and life needs, homeowners, or more. And while purchasing coverage may be simple for some lines of insurance, along with filing claims that are cleared up quickly, other policies may present complications that are not atypical but can leave policyholders feeling frustrated, unsettled, and even unfairly targeted.

If you have been in an accident or experienced damage to property, even if you were not seriously injured you may have been left feeling extremely shaken. And while insurance adjusters may seem friendly enough at first, do not be misled by an affable demeanor as they work to extract information that could be used against you later; in fact, you may want to consult with an attorney as soon as possible, and especially if the claim you are dealing with was caused by negligence on the part of someone else.

Dealing with a fire in your home is usually a very stressful situation, whether moderate or catastrophic. This could have been caused due to a variety of different reasons, to include a construction defect such as a faulty electrical or mechanical system, issues with lighting, the kitchen, furnace, or more. Arson may be the last thing from your mind—but first on the insurer’s. Accusing someone or even just insinuating they may have been responsible for a fire is a grave matter as it is considered a serious and malicious criminal act; unfortunately, if there was no solid explanation found by the fire department, delaying due to an arson investigation could make it much easier for the insurer to avoid paying out a substantial claim—or at least to hold out as long as possible.

Attempting to deny your claim when there are no grounds to prove arson could be a sign of bad faith. If you have any type of claim that is being delayed for unreasonable or undisclosed reasons, or if you or witnesses are being intimidated, or if there is an outright denial without validity, this is not your fault but more likely an angle being used by the insurer to keep their money in the bank earning interest as long as possible or to try and get out of paying the claim completely.

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!

bad faith

Bad Faith: When All You Hear Are Crickets Regarding That Claim

For the policyholder, insurance, and the option of being able to file a claim, is central to one goal: protection. While mainly this is regarding protection of your finances, insurance can also help guard your health, your home, your business, and your property such as vehicles and valuable possessions. Most of us don’t find shopping for insurance enjoyable or entertaining, and while research should be thorough regarding what you need, that’s some dry reading too! Because of this, we rely on insurance agents to guide us through the process of quotes, applications, approvals, payments, and maintenance of policies.

The insurance agency expects you to comply with everything agreed upon in your policy, which mainly refers to paying on time. There is not much flexibility when it comes to payments, and cancellations may occur before you even realize you forgot to pay. If, however, you have performed all your required duties as a policyholder, you may be confused and very worried about why your insurer is not responding to a claim. In some instances, this may be due to an issue that requires more time for examination due to complexities in the case, but if red flags are popping up and alerting you to a potential problem, consult with experienced attorneys from the Bolender Law Firm as soon as possible.

Signs that you may be at the mercy of an insurer guilty of bad faith include:

  • Complete lack of investigation – this is where hearing only ‘crickets,’ may occur in terms of bad faith, as in most cases, you will begin to hear from adjusters right away
  • Long delays – if long periods of time are passing during communications with the insurer, you may have concern to worry, and especially if excuses seem unreasonable.
  • Intimidation tactics – this could take many different forms, from intimidating witnesses in a case to intimidating you through asking for excessive documentation that insurers know it could be hard for you to get, along with trying to strong-arm you into taking settlements by making you think that is all that will be offered at any point.
  • Lowball offers – this is one of the most common forms of bad faith, and many policyholders fall prey to taking lowball offers simply because they are worried it may be their only chance to receive compensation.
  • Denials – unfounded denials are common in bad faith cases, and you should not attempt to fight the insurer without skilled legal assistance.

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!

Errors and omissions insurance

Errors and Omissions Insurance: Know Who That Protects

Most of us want the protection that insurance offers, but we would like to think about it as little as possible, and this goes for professionals carrying errors and omissions insurance too. With the advent of online services, the purchasing and maintenance of insurance policies has been simplified more than ever; for instance, you may be able to call a car insurance company, get a quote, put all ‘the wheels’ into motion, and have a policy within less than an hour. Online representatives can lead you in the right direction regarding standard requirements and limits, as well as explaining more about additional coverage you may prefer. Cards and your policy are generated quickly, and in most cases, you can sign up for an online account too for checking billing dates and other details. Usually, complexities arise when there is a claim.

Damage or liability issues may arise when there is an claim due to the negligence of others, whether another motorist ran into you or perhaps you had a homeowner’s claim due to a major construction defect like a faulty electrical or plumbing system. A customer may slip and fall at your business or you may have your own health insurance claim to file due to an unfortunate illness or an accident. In some cases, you may find that there is resistance from the insurer to pay your claim—and while this could be due to a valid yet undisclosed reason, it could also be due to a mistake on your insurance agent’s part. At this point, their errors and omissions insurance kicks in, and that is how the claim is paid; conversely, this could also happen for you if you have professional liability insurance and a client sues you due to negligence.

Errors and omissions insurance (also known as E&O) protects the agent and their company, as well as you from financial loss if a claim is valid and paid out. Insurance agents may produce errors in the application process that could cause a claim to be denied, but in some cases, they may have failed to examine your insurance needs properly, may have overlooked explaining exclusions that could be extremely important, over may have been negligent in attaining your coverage, or completing the filing of a claim for you.

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!

trade secret policy

Understanding Trade Secret Policy

Intellectual property is key for many businesses in the US today, and there are numerous different kinds. Your business may have been founded on different types of intellectual property; for instance, you may have created a logo (to designate what types of products you sell and create familiarity with the public) from the beginning, meaning it could be printed on signs, marketing products for your company, and items like business cards and letterhead.

Logos, symbols, and branding marks are typically protected by trademark, although items like slogans may be designated with a service mark (denoting what services you provide). Copyrights are approved for individuals and businesses who have registered artistic works—and this can span many things, from a screenplay to a cookbook to a work of architecture or software. Patents are granted (usually for a period of only about 20 years) for inventions, meaning that the inventor then has exclusivity regarding manufacturing and sales. A patent owner can also decide who has rights for activities such as distribution, importing, and exporting. All these items are intellectual property, and as a business owner, any of these IP types could be invaluable to your business.

Trade secrets encompass a whole other level of intellectual property, and generally means that employees and contractors should be well-apprised of confidentiality issues as well as who has ownership of such intellectual property if they leave their jobs. You should have a trade secret protection policy for staff to follow, meaning that you have legal recourse later should there be any misappropriation, or improper usage. An employee manual is recommended for a company of any size, although its size may vary depending on the scope of your business and how many people work there.

The United States Trademark and Patent Office (USTPO) defines a trade secret as the following:

  • Formula
  • Pattern
  • Compilation
  • Program
  • Device
  • Method
  • Technique
  • Process

Any of these items can become trade secrets in business when used to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know or use it. Certain policies apply to trade secrets too internationally. The US is part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is also part of the party to the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual-Property Rights (TRIPS). This means they must provide trade secret protection:

“Article 39 paragraph 2 requires member nations to provide a means for protecting information that is secret, commercially valuable because it is secret, and subject to reasonable steps to keep it secret. The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 created federal civil cause of action, strengthening U.S. trade secret protection, with a choice for the parties between localized disputes under state laws or disputes under federal law, heard in federal courts,” states the USPTO. “While state laws differ, there is similarity among the laws because almost all states have adopted some form of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.”

 

As a business owner, you must maintain secrecy over trade secrets in order to have to leverage later to sue someone regarding misappropriating. If secrecy was disclosed due to your actions, there can no longer be any protection over it in terms of being awarded damaged in court.

“Trade secrets do not expire so protection continues until discovery or loss,” states the USPTO.

Intellectual property topics and issues can be complex and often require the assistance of a skilled attorney.

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!

Insurance claims

Insurance Claims: The Adjuster Wants to Speak with You—And Quickly!

Insurance and handling insurance claims is all about risk management—and this goes for both sides. While you want to protect your finances in the case of a catastrophe, the same goes for the insurance company, with their definition of a catastrophe being paying out too much! The insurance industry thrives on premiums and fees, rolling in over a trillion dollars in the US annually. And while you can bet your insurer is worth millions or billions, they did not attain that position by being friends with everyone.

Your insurance agent may be a different story, and in fact they may be a trusted friend, or someone who was referred to you by a colleague or neighbor as you run in the same social circles. Insurance companies are big business, however, to say the least, and while adjusters may seem warm and even charming in some cases, beware. They are trained to extract as much information from you as possible in the beginning—and do not be fooled, they will use it against you if possible.

Car accidents and resulting claims are a good example of what to expect from adjusters, and how to react. If you have been injured or experienced property damage due to the negligence of another party, you may be especially surprised at how quickly they begin calling you regarding what happened and your current state. This is your cue to begin speaking with an car accident or injury attorney and referring all calls to them. Beyond the most basic facts, you should not share anything with an adjuster. Why? Because, again, any information sharing could inadvertently damage your case.

Adjusters may ask about your injuries—but you may not even know the full scope of what harm what done to you (or to your car!) during a crash. Along with requesting a full account of what happened, they may also request police reports, medical documentation, and may also ask to tape record your conversation. Again, refer them to your attorney.

In the case that you do not hear much from the other side, you may begin to worry that the other insurer is acting in bad faith, evidenced by a lack of investigation, unreasonable delays, requests for outlandish amounts of documentation, or even an outright denial that seems to have no validity.

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!

insurance company

Five Reasons You May Need to Sue Your Insurance Company for Bad Faith

Due to the intangibility and general nature of insurance, you may not discover how unhappy you are with a ‘product line’ or insurance company until long after your grace period has expired (and in that case, you will probably still not get all your money back). In most cases, this is not like a retail item that you discover is a poor fit and decide to return for a refund at a customer service counter with few questions asked. Most of us purchase insurance because it is either required by the state we live in or it is highly recommended, meaning that if you don’t have it you could find yourself in a state of utter ruin.

The process of buying and owning insurance may be completely pleasant, and this could continue for years while you enjoy the basic give and take of paying premiums and dealing with customer service representatives; however, this positive perception of the insurer may come to a screeching halt once you file a claim, and this could be due to adjusters giving you a hard time, or even worse, paying you no attention at all. The term ‘bad faith’ may not be something you were even familiar with until being forced to recognize it via the reluctance of an insurer to pay a claim.

Here are five signs that you may need to sue due to bad faith:

  1. No action at all on the claim – while delays and denials can be disturbing, a complete lack of investigation can be most unsettling of all, especially in comparison to how quickly adjusters set to work when they are motivated to settle a case.
  2. Delays, delays, delays – the insurer may give you a variety of different excuses for delays, some of which seem unreasonable, and perhaps even insinuating that they are investigating you for fraud. This is one of the biggest red flags in bad faith insurance claim issues.
  3. Low-ball offers – this is extremely common as so many policyholders try to deal with the insurer on their own, without the help of an experienced attorney, and find themselves worrying if they don’t take the first offer extended, they may not receive anything at all.
  4. Excessive requests for documentation – this can actually be a form of intimidation by the insurer as they ask you to run around collecting so much paperwork (much of it which may be difficult and time-consuming to put your hands on) that you just give up on the case completely, without receiving any settlement, or by accepting a very low one.
  5. Unreasonable denials – at this point, you need legal help to defend your claim! The insurance company may choose any host of reasons to deny your claim, including misrepresenting the wording in your policy, asserting that there were changes which make the claim valid, and more.

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!

corporate veil

Business Topics: Piercing the Corporate Veil

No matter how long you have been in business, you are probably very aware of issues regarding mixing your personal and business life, as well as co-mingling funds. Financial accounts must be independent of one another, insurance is different, and while some may work from home, the office is usually separate too. Like many entrepreneurs, your business probably started out as a dream, developed into a concept, and then you were driven to do the hard work it took to make it into a reality. And while a positive attitude is key to success in business, there is no turning a blind eye to the fact that many endeavors do fail, and you must protect your personal finances.

While ‘piercing the corporate veil’ may sound like a dramatic and mysterious term, what it really means is that the court has lifted any corporate protection (the veil, previously) and is holding the shareholders of a business personally liable. As a business owner, you may wonder what the point is in separating business from personal if you can be held liable for a commercial downfall and potentially be sent down by the courts on a sinking ship—putting your family in financial peril too. Consult with a skilled business litigation lawyer from Bolender Law Firm to examine your options.

This type of legal action is not taken lightly whatsoever, and there must be evidence of piercing the corporate veil. If some required duties are neglected, this could be what causes the court to hold you and any shareholders responsible for business debts. This may occur during a bankruptcy or when creditors/plaintiffs are attempting to collect from a business that may have been founded for the sole purpose of escaping financial or other responsibility. Irresponsibility on the part of the business could be brought into question regarding issues such as not taking care of corporate administrative duties (even such tasks as not taking minutes), lack of capital contributed to sustain a corporation or negligence in issuing stock, the creation of a corporation for illegal activities, or other fraudulent reasons.

Debt collections are commonly at stake in such issues, with judges examining whether creditors truly need to see the veil pierced for fair treatment.

Do you have questions about a business issue, or do you need legal assistance regarding 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!

Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners Insurance & Typical Exclusions

Insurance is a vast industry, taking in trillions in premiums every year and churning out massive profits. Much of it is controversial in nature too in realms such as health, as millions struggle under plans that are still costly and inferior. Car insurance accidents may leave policyholders tied up in court and settlement discussions for long periods of time, and commercial liability cases may be extremely complex to resolve. And although it may be the most important insurance you ever purchase for yourself and your family, your homeowner’s policy could be surprisingly complex. Be aware of what you are buying!

Most of us assume our homeowner’s insurance will cover disasters that could potentially render us homeless; however, this is not the case in many instances. If you live in California, it is vital to understand what your policy will cover in terms of an earthquake or landslide, for instance. This usually requires coverage beyond the basic policy. For those living in coastal areas, you may have to purchase flood insurance through another entity, while wind and hail could possibly be covered in an initial policy. Your insurance agent will be able to guide you through what is and what is not available as you navigate the process of getting quotes and applying for a policy but be certain that you know all the right questions to ask.

Something as simple as owning a breed of dog (especially those ‘considered’ to be aggressive like Rottweilers or pit bulls) or purchasing one during the interim while your policy is going into effect could cause problems with the insurer, along with the potential for being turned away for insurance or facing a cancellation later when they find out. This type of exclusion pertains to liabilities that are not covered, and there may be others as well, including issues like injuries due to slipping and falling.

Understand what could be excluded due to lack of coverage regarding maintenance issues or damage caused by environmental hazards. Construction defects are often not covered, and this is extremely important to be aware of if you are purchasing a newer or older home. That leaking roof could destroy much more than just the attic flooring, but has the potential to wreck HVAC units, walls, ceilings, and more. Structural or foundation defects could lead to safety concerns for you and your family, along with enormous expense. Think about the long term when purchasing any type of insurance, but especially that of your home.

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

What Does it Mean to Have a Patent?

Intellectual property can be extremely valuable to your business, especially if your specialty is innovation. Because understanding what type of intellectual property protection may be best for you, it is important to get educated on the range of applications and licenses available. But first, be aware that as soon as you create intellectual property it is yours. The significance of applying for a patent or trademark or service mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office or a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office is that you have confirmation of the product, therefore leading to stronger legal rights should you have to sue over infringement.

While copyrights refer to artistic expressions of work (such as literature, music, architecture, software, and more), and trademarks and service marks refer to branding, logos, and slogans, patents are relevant to inventions, and give you usually around 20 years of exclusivity to make and sell whatever it is you have created.

The application process for a patent can be complicated and it is recommended that you speak with an intellectual property attorney from a firm like the Bolender Law Firm first. With expert legal help, you will be able to start by searching the USPTO Full-Text and Image Database for similar patents that may already be registered—and although this doesn’t count you out in terms of being approved, you may need to consider what is already out there and what the ramifications are. Upon applying, there may be a waiting period of around two years—but it could last beyond that. What this means is that you should be very serious about what you are registering, have foresight about beginning the process, and then be ready to wait.

Once granted, having a patent means the following, according to the USPTO:

“The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention. Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO.”

Patents are divided into several categories—utility, design, and plants. Patents must be considered useful and are not viable in the form of just an idea or concept. 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!

 

managing partners

Business Owners & Managing Partners—Keep those Minutes Updated

There may have been a lightbulb moment when you—and perhaps with a partner or two also—came up with a breathtaking idea, an invention that you knew would be in great demand later if you could just turn it into reality and become business owners or managing partners. Along with the latitude to work on and build your own business model, being your own boss means setting your own hours, making your own decisions, and being in much greater control of your life and its direction. Hopefully, there is the potential for making a good living, as well as the possibility for helping other people in your community or maybe even around the world.

There are numerous downsides to owning a company too, from typical daily stressors like managing a team to figuring out how to keep cash flow running properly. There are a variety of different little headaches in between also, and many of them relate to corporate administrative tasks. While they may seem like the easiest to procrastinate on, they can multiply out of control before you realize it. If you do not have someone handling these tasks for you, or if they need to be delegated, do so as quickly as possible. Scheduling corporate meetings, keeping up with all the records, and tending to the minutes is a perfect example. Keeping of the minutes is required for tax purposes and by federal law, and in most cases if you are the head of a traditional corporation or are the managing partner of another type of formal business entity (depending on state law), notes must be taken during at least one meeting per year.

Keeping the minutes for your company may be as simple or as complicated as you deem necessary, with notes usually expected too from meetings between shareholders, activities such as hiring new employees and giving them raises, bringing in new officers, and financial events like taking out loans or opening new accounts.  All in attendance during such meetings or events should be noted, with the minutes kept in a secure location with the rest of your corporation’s important paperwork.

Do you have questions about a business issue, or do you need legal assistance regarding 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!