Snider, Horner & New Attrneys at Law
Frequesntly Asked Questions














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If you have a question that is not addressed below, please send an e-mail to our office. We will review your question and respond back to you.

Do you need a lawyer?
What questions do you ask a lawyer?
Adoption
Automobile Accidents
Bankruptcy
Business Incorporation
Child Custody
Civil Rights
Collections
Consumer Disputes
Consumer Law
Consumer Protection
Contract Drafting
Criminal Matters
Divorce and Domestic Issues
Driving Under the Influence
Family Law
Insurance Disputes
Juvenile Proceedings
Landlord and Tenant Disputes
Personal Injury

Probate of Estates
Product Liability
Property Damage
Sexual Harassment
Traffic Tickets
Unemployment Benefit Hearings
Wills and Trusts

Do you need a lawyer?
You should ALWAYS talk with a lawyer AS SOON AS POSSIBLE if you are sued, before admitting or denying guilt for a crime, before you make a statement to the police, or if you have been in a serious accident which injured someone or damaged property.

You should ALWAYS talk with a lawyer EARLY ON if you are considering a lawsuit or think you have a claim, if you are considering divorce, if someone in your family dies, if you want a will or need estate planning, if you are considering bankruptcy, or if you are organizing or dissolving a business. If you have any doubt whether or not your situation requires a lawyer's help please contact our office to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys. Our attorneys will gladly answer you legal questions and give you the expert guidance that you need.

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What questions do you ask a lawyer?
Ask the lawyer what educational background and training he or she has. Ask the lawyer if he or she has ever been disciplined by the state disciplinary board and the circumstances surrounding such disciplinary action, if any. Ask the lawyer who will be directly handling your case. In short, will he or she be handling the majority of the work or will an associate or paralegal be completing it. Ask the lawyer if he or she has handled similar situations or matters in the past and what the outcomes were. Ask what you will be charged for the services provided to you. Make sure you fully understand the attorney fee agreement and your responsibility, if any, for the court costs and other litigation expenses and charges.

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Adoption
Adoption is the legal process of permanently transferring parental rights and responsibilities with respect to a child from the child's biological family to the adoptive family. This transfer of rights results in the adoptive parent(s) and the child having all the legal rights and incidents as if the child had been born to the adoptive parent(s). In Tennessee, a petitioner for adoption must be at least 18 years of age. Adoptions in Tennessee may be granted to step-parents, relatives or non-related third parties. There are numerous requirements that must be met, and therefore, retaining an attorney to discuss the requirements as well as your legal rights during and after an adoption is highly recommended.

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Automobile Accidents
When you are involved in an automobile accident, never make an immediate payment and do not promise to make any future payment to the opposing party without first talking to an attorney and being informed of your rights. As you may be aware, insurance companies are not in the business of giving money away, they require an abundance of information. Don't be bullied or rushed into a quick settlement of your claim. When you are involved in an accident and sustain injuries or property damage, an attorney is trained to assist you in recovering your losses. Even though the other driver might be at fault, street and weather conditions, the other driver's behavior and conduct, your own conduct, and various other factors, can increase or reduce the amount you may collect from the faulty driver.

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Bankruptcy
At Snider & Horner, PLLC, we only handle chapter seven bankruptcies for individuals. A chapter seven bankruptcy, also known as liquidation or straight bankruptcy, allows the debtor a fresh start by discharging his or her debts, subject to certain exceptions, through a liquidation of his or her assets. After the debtor files a chapter seven bankruptcy, most creditors will be prohibited from taking his or her wages to pay the debts. A debtor is allowed limited exemptions in an effort to protect their property.

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Business Incorporation
Each year hundreds of enthusiastic, new business owners enter the marketplace, and fail. Given the low rate of success among new businesses, it is vital that potential entrepreneurs give careful consideration to an array of variables that may prove to be the difference between the business'?success or failure. One such variable is the choice of business form.

This choice may not only promote success in the market, but may also provide protection in the event of business failure. The respective advantages associated with forming a corporation, a partnership or a sole proprietorship may prove to be the difference between the success or failure of a new business entity, and may also shield business owners from personal liability in the event of business failure.

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Child Custody
Child custody involves the care, control, and maintenance of a child, which a court may award to one of the parents following a divorce or separation proceeding. In most circumstances, the Tennessee laws provide that biological parents make all the decisions involved in rearing their child---such as residence, education, health care, religious upbringing, and so forth. However, if there is disagreement about who has the right to make these decisions, or if government officials believe that a parent is unfit to make the decisions, then family courts or juvenile courts determine custody. In general, the courts determine what is in the "best interests of the child" in deciding to whom to award the custody of a minor child.

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Civil Rights
The most common legal application of the term civil rights involves the rights guaranteed to US citizens and residents by legislation and by the Constitution. Civil rights protected by the Constitution include freedom of speech and press and freedom from certain types of discrimination. Not all types of discrimination are unlawful and most of an individual's personal choices are protected by the freedom to choose personal associates, to express herself or himself, and to preserve personal privacy. Civil rights legislation comes into play when the practice of personal preferences and prejudices of an individual, a business entity, or a government interferes with the protected rights of others. The various civil rights laws have made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. Discrimination that interferes with voting rights and equality of opportunity in education, employment, and housing is unlawful.

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Collections
Generally, all debt collections by outside or independent debt collectors are governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies to debts contracted by consumers for personal, family, or household purposes; accordingly, it has no application to the collection of commercial accounts. It applies to debts whether or not they have been reduced to judgment, and to debts which never existed or have been paid as well as to those which are valid and due.

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Consumer Disputes, Consumer Law, and Consumer Protection
Consumer protection laws are federal and state statutes governing sales and credit practices involving consumer goods. Such statutes prohibit and regulate deceptive or unconscionable advertising and sales practices, product quality, credit financing and reporting, debt collection, leases, and other aspects of consumer transactions. The goal of consumer protection laws is to place consumers, who are average citizens engaging in business deals such as buying goods or borrowing money, on an even par with companies or citizens who regularly engage in business. Tennessee law specifically provides protection to consumers, tenants, purchasers of new automobiles, and individuals from various illegal, unethical, and fraudulent practices. Consumers are protected under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. This Act has provisions which allow a court to award compensatory damages, treble damages, and/or attorney fees to consumers who have been victimized by businesses who engage in "unfair and deceptive trade practices." Tenants are protected under the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. This act has provisions which allow a court to award compensatory damages, punitive damages, and/or attorney fees to tenants who have been victimized by landlords. Purchasers of new automobiles are protected under the Tennessee Lemon Law. This Law has provisions which allow a court to force an automobile manufacturer to repurchase an automobile or replace the vehicle with one of a like kind and character and/or award damages and attorney fees.

All individuals are protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Federal Truth in Lending Act, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These Acts protect individuals from illegal debt collection tactics, fraudulent lending practices, and erroneous credit reporting activities.

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Contract Drafting
The drafting of a contract can be one of the most important undertakings an individual or business pursues. All aspects of the transaction must be thoroughly understood, researched, and studied. In short, the parties must be able to clearly articulate who the parties to the contract are, what the parties are required to do, when the parties must complete their respective requirements, where the requirements are to be completed, and possibly why the requirements must be completed. In addition, various other factors must be considered. Everything from mutual assent, consideration, and tax consequences must be carefully weighed and considered.

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Criminal Matters
The term criminal law generally refers to substantive criminal laws. Substantive criminal laws define crimes and may establish punishments. In contrast, criminal procedure describes the process through which the criminal laws are enforced. For example, the law prohibiting murder is a substantive criminal law. The manner in which government enforces this substantive law---through the gathering of evidence and prosecution---is generally considered a procedural matter.

Crimes are usually categorized as felonies or misdemeanors based on their nature and the maximum punishment that can be imposed. A felony involves serious misconduct that is punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one year. Tennessee law subdivides felonies into different classes with varying degrees of punishment. Crimes that do not amount to felonies are misdemeanors. A misdemeanor is misconduct for which the law prescribes punishment of no more than one year in prison. Lesser offenses, such as traffic and parking infractions, are often called violations or citations and are not considered a part of criminal law.

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Divorce and Domestic Issues
Tennessee has two types of divorce: irreconcilable differences, which requires no proof of fault, and fault-based divorce, which requires proof of grounds for divorce. A signed agreement is required for an irreconcilable differences divorce. Irreconcilable differences divorce takes a minimum of 60 days in cases where there are no children, and a minimum of 90 days in cases where there are children. Fault-based divorce requires proof of one of 15 grounds for divorce, or the parties may stipulate that either or both are at fault. Adultery and habitual abuse of alcohol are two examples of grounds for fault-based divorce. If there are no minor children, a two-year separation is also grounds for divorce. Until a divorce decree is signed by the judge, the parties are still married and should do nothing contrary to their marriage vows.

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Driving Under the Influence
Generally in Tennessee, it is unlawful for any person to drive or to be in physical control of any automobile or other motor driven vehicle on any of the public roads and highways of the state, or on any streets or alleys, or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park or any apartment house complex, or any other premises which is generally frequented by the public at large, while under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, narcotic drug, or drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system; or when the alcohol concentration in such person's blood or breath is eight-hundredths of one percent (.08%) or more.

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Family Law
See Divorce and Domestic Issues

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Insurance Disputes
The term insurance describes any measure taken for protection against risks. When insurance takes the form of a contract in an insurance policy, it is subject to requirements in statutes, administrative agency regulations, and court decisions. In an insurance contract, one party, the insured, pays a specified amount of money, called a premium, to another party, the insurer. The insurer in turn agrees to compensate the insured for specific future losses. The losses covered are listed in the contract, and the contract is called a policy.

When an insured suffers a loss or damage that is covered in the policy, the insured can collect on the proceeds of the policy by filing a claim, or request for coverage, with the insurance company. The company then decides whether to pay the claim. The recipient of any proceeds from the policy is called the beneficiary. The beneficiary can be the insured person, or other persons designated by the insured.

A contract is considered to be insurance if it distributes risk among a large number of persons through an enterprise engaged primarily in the business of insurance. Warranties or service contracts for merchandise, for example, do not constitute insurance.

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Juvenile Proceedings
A juvenile is defined as a person who is not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts. In Tennessee and on the federal level, this age threshold is set at eighteen years. The age definitions are significant because they determine whether a young person accused of criminal conduct will be charged with a crime in adult court or will be required to appear in juvenile court. A study of juvenile law is not limited to juvenile crime. Juvenile courts generally have authority over three categories of children: juveniles accused of criminal conduct; juveniles neglected or abused by their parents or in need of assistance from the state; and juveniles accused of a status offense. This last category refers to conduct that is prohibited only to children, such as absence from school (truancy), flight from home, disobedience of reasonable parental controls, and purchase of alcohol, tobacco, or pornography.

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Landlord and Tenant Disputes
See Consumer Disputes, Consumer Law, and Consumer Protection

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Personal Injury
The person who sustains injury or suffers pecuniary damage as the result of tortious conduct is known as the plaintiff, and the person who is responsible for inflicting the injury and incurs liability for the damage is known as the defendant or tortfeasor. Three elements must be established in every tort action. First, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant was under a legal duty to act in a particular fashion. Second, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant breached this duty by failing to conform his or her behavior accordingly. Third, the plaintiff must prove that he or she suffered injury or loss as a direct result of the defendant's breach.

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Probate of Estates
When a person dies, his or her estate must go through probate, which is a process overseen by a probate court. If the decedent leaves a will directing how his or her property should be distributed after death, the probate court must determine if it should be admitted to probate and given legal effect. If the decedent dies intestate---without leaving a will---the court appoints a personal representative to distribute the decedent's property according to the laws of descent and distribution. These laws direct the distribution of assets based on hereditary succession.

In general, the probate process involves collecting the decedent's assets, liquidating liabilities, paying necessary taxes, and distributing property to heirs.

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Product Liability
When a person is harmed by an unsafe product, he or she may have a cause of action against the persons who designed, manufactured, sold, or furnished that product. In Tennessee, a plaintiff's cause of action may be based on one of four different theories: negligence, breach of warranty, misrepresentation, and strict tort liability. Negligence refers to the absence of, or failure to exercise, proper or ordinary care. It means that an individual who had a legal obligation either omitted to do what should have been done or did something that should not have been done. A manufacturer can be held liable for negligence if lack of reasonable care in the production, design, or assembly of the manufacturer's product caused harm. Breach of warranty refers to the failure of a seller to fulfill the terms of a promise, claim, or representation made concerning the quality or type of the product. The law assumes that a seller gives certain warranties concerning goods that are sold and that he or she must stand behind such direct assertions. Misrepresentation in the advertising and sales promotion of a product refers to the process of giving consumers false security about the safety of a particular product, ordinarily by drawing attention away from the hazards of its use. An action lies in the intentional concealment of potential hazards or in negligent misrepresentation.

Strict liability involves extending the responsibility of the vendor or manufacturer to all individuals who might be injured by the product, even in the absence of fault. Injured guests, bystanders, or others with no direct relationship to the product may sue for damages caused by the product.

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Property Damage
The person who sustains property damage as the result of tortious conduct is known as the plaintiff, and the person who is responsible for inflicting the property damage and incurs liability for the damage is known as the defendant or tortfeasor. Three elements must be established in every tort action. First, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant was under a legal duty to act in a particular fashion. Second, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant breached this duty by failing to conform his or her behavior accordingly. Third, the plaintiff must prove that he or she suffered a loss as a direct result of the defendant's breach.

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Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that occurs in the workplace. Persons who are the victims of sexual harassment may sue under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e et seq.), which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace.

Courts and employers generally use the definition of sexual harassment contained in the guidelines of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The guidelines say: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment. (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individuals, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. (29 C.F.R. § 1604.11 [1980]).

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Traffic Tickets
Whenever you are pulled over by the police for any traffic violation you need to begin making preparations for a possible court appearance. Take note of how fast you were going, where did the officer come from, what other traffic was close to you, what is your exact location, and what were the weather conditions. Remain calm, open your window and cooperate with the officer fully. Do not say anything that can be taken as an admission of guilt. Remember, the officer may write down anything you say on the back of your citation and use it against you in court.

Normally, when radar is used the officer will mention the fact, and may even invite you back to the patrol car to verify his or her reading. Don't refuse this opportunity. In fact, if the officer doesn't offer to show you the radar, you should ask to look at it yourself. What you're seeking is the make and model of the radar unit, and if the officer is cooperative, how he or she used it to obtain a speed reading. In particular, you want to know whether it was used in the stationary or the moving mode, and if moving, from what direction.

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Unemployment Benefit Hearings
Any individual who qualifies under the terms of the Tennessee unemployment compensation law is entitled to collect benefits. To be eligible, an individual must have worked for a certain minimum number of weeks and earned wages in at least the amount set by law.

Generally, Tennessee law provides benefits for those who are unemployed because of their employer's inability to provide work for them. An employee who is discharged may receive benefits unless he or she was discharged for good cause. Good cause for discharge usually is related to recent misconduct on the job. Misconduct in private life or during off-duty hours may constitute good cause for firing an employee if it affects the person's work. Carelessness, disregard for the employer's interest, intoxication, the use of illegal drugs, illegal work slowdowns, use of abusive language, absenteeism, and habitual lateness can be reasons for a discharge and denial of unemployment benefits. A person denied benefits may appeal this determination first to the state administrative office and then to a court of law.

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Wills and Trusts
People with minor children or who own property have the greatest need, however, everyone should have a will. If you do not have a will, the state of Tennessee decides who gets your property when you die, regardless of your wishes. Anyone of sound mind and who is 18 years of age or older can make a will.

There are essentially 5 main steps when making a will. First, list in reasonable detail, all of your real and personal property. Second, list all of your debts and other financial obligations. Third, list all people who may be appropriate personal representatives, guardians, or trustees, and any others you want notified of your death. Fourth, decide who you want to receive your property and when. Fifth, contact an attorney to work out the details (i.e. what type of will, what should be included, etc.) and prepare the necessary documents for execution.

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