Expert Witness - Olmstead & Olmstead

The Role of an Expert Witness in an Injury Case

When someone is pursing a personal injury case, there are a lot of factors that play into the success of the case and the ability to obtain full and fair compensation. The facts and evidence of the case should be well-documented. There should be a detailed report of what happened, photographs, video footage (if available), and any other available evidence that will help establish your claim. If there are any individuals who witnessed the event that led to your injury, their testimony can be very helpful in substantiating the case. Another key factor in the success of many cases is the role expert witnesses play.

What is an Expert Witness?

An expert witness is not to be confused with an eyewitness. Expert witnesses almost never witnessed the actual event. Rather, they are professionals in various fields who are brought in to assist the plaintiff’s legal team and/or to take the witness stand and provide expert testimony to the jury. There are two general types of expert witnesses that are used in personal injury cases:

  • Consulting Experts: These are professionals who work behind the scenes providing guidance and support to the legal team. They may assist in various tasks such as reviewing documents, advising the attorney and staff, and helping with the plaintiff’s legal strategy. If the consulting expert does not testify, the other side may never know that they were used in the case. If, on the other hand, it is decided later on that they should testify, they can be converted to a testifying expert, which would require compliance with disclosure rules.
  • Testifying Experts: A testifying expert is one who is listed as a witness who intends to testify in court. They do not always end up taking the stand, depending on how the case goes, but they must be ready to do so. In addition to being a highly reputable specialist in their chosen field of study, a testifying expert must also have strong communication skills and extensive experience testifying in similar cases.

Types of Expert Witnesses

There are several types of expert witnesses that can play a major role in a personal injury case, these include:

  • Physicians
  • Surgeons
  • Rehabilitation Specialists
  • Pain Management Specialists
  • Medical Examiners
  • Dentists
  • Mental Health Professionals
  • Accident Reconstruction Specialists
  • Forensic Evidence Specialists
  • Phone Records Specialists
  • Manufacturing Experts
  • Life Care Planners
  • Financial Professionals

How an Expert Witness can Play a Key Role in the Success of your Case

There are several ways in which an expert witness can give a plaintiff a higher chance of winning the case. Here are some key areas in which the role of an expert witness can be pivotal:

  1. They can provide credible, unbiased testimony

An expert witness is someone who is highly respected in their industry/field of specialty. Their opinion is backed by years (or in most cases decades) of professional experience and an impeccable reputation for adhering to high ethical standards. Though testifying experts are paid for their time to appear in court, they are there to provide an objective opinion based solely on the facts and evidence of the case.

  1. They can provide proper perspective and make complex subjects understandable

One of the most important roles a testifying expert has is to clearly communicate to the jury on subjects that are highly complicated and difficult to understand. An expert witness can break down the facts and evidence of the case, explain why certain items (which relate to their area of expertise) are important, and help give the jury the right perspective as they evaluate these factors.

  1. They can help show the extent of your injuries

Individuals who have been injured due to the negligence or reckless actions of another party typically experience far more than just the financial loss from incurring high medical bills and missing work. There are physical, mental, and psychological costs as well; such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life, just to name a few. Expert witnesses can clearly explain to the jury not only the economic costs of your injury, but the non-economic costs as well.

  1. They can provide leverage that could lead to an earlier settlement

Having reputable experts on your team not only give you a far better chance to prevail at trial, they also make it more likely that the other side will try to settle. When the defense sees that you have various expert witnesses that are ready to testify, they may decide that it is far less costly to forego litigation and enter into settlement negotiations.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of another person’s negligence, contact the experienced Virginia personal injury attorneys at Olmstead & Olmstead. Our attorneys have established relationships with experienced and skilled Expert Witnesses, that will provide the support needed for your damages claim. Contact our office at (703) 361-1555 or our online contact form.

Spinal Cord Injury Law Firm

Spinal Cord Injuries: What you Need to Know

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) can be very frightening for victims and their families. When you lose the ability to control a certain area of your body, you suddenly find yourself dependent on others for various functions you once took for granted. Symptoms that often accompany this condition include numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation in the affected areas.

What Causes Spinal Cord Injuries?

There are a lot of reasons spinal cord injuries occur, and oftentimes, these injuries are preventable. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Auto Accidents
  • Slip and Fall Accidents
  • Gunshot Wounds
  • Diving Injuries
  • Motorcycle Accidents
  • Being Struck by Falling Objects
  • Medical and Surgical Errors
  • Bicycle Accidents
  • Pedestrian Accidents
  • Sports Injuries

What you Need to Know About Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can be life-altering in many ways. If you or someone close to you has suffered an SCI, there are some things you should know that will help you adjust to the condition:

  1. Spinal Cord Injuries Have Varying Degrees of Severity

SCIs range widely in severity, and the good news is that many victims are able to make a full recovery over time. The severity of a spinal cord injury is commonly referred to as its “completeness.” Complete SCI indicates a total loss of feeling and motor function in the affected area(s). Incomplete SCI means there is partial feeling and motor function, and individuals can have varying degrees of incompleteness depending on the specific injury.

  1. A Range of Treatments May be Necessary

Treatment for spinal cord injuries are determined on a case-by-case basis. Medication may be prescribed for the most minor cases. More severe cases may require traction to stabilize the spine, bring it into proper alignment, or both. For the most severe cases, surgery may be required to remove bone fragments, foreign objects, herniated discs, and fractured vertebrae that may be compressing against the spine. After the initial treatments, rehabilitation and/or ongoing care may be required.

  1. Recovery Takes Time

Moderate to severe SCI sufferers typically face a long road to recovery. During the recovery process, the body needs time to rest and repair the damaged tissue. Follow your doctor’s orders, and do not expect to do too much too soon. In addition, if physical therapy is prescribed, be sure to follow through on all the exercises you are given. This will keep your muscles stronger, making the later phases of your recovery go much more smoothly.

  1. Your Home May Require Modifications

If you suffered a moderate to severe spinal cord injury, it is possible that you will be going home in a wheelchair. This might require modifications to your home to make it easier to get around inside. For example, you may need to rearrange the furniture to allow for wider openings for your wheelchair to get through. You might also need to have a stairlift installed. If it looks like your injuries are long-term and you are going to be in a wheelchair for the foreseeable future, you might need to consider permanent home modifications, such as widening doorways and hallways. If this is not possible, you might need to look for a more suitable place to live.

  1. You May Need Special Equipment for your Vehicle

Just like with your home, you might need to make some modifications to your vehicle if you are in a wheelchair. Some vehicles can have specialized equipment installed to make it more accessible for disabled individuals. If this is not possible, you might need to look at purchasing a new vehicle.

  1. You May Become More Dependent Upon Loved Ones

This is a change that is almost as much psychological as physical. Those who suffer spinal cord injuries often have to depend on others in the household to function day-to-day. This can change the family dynamic in many ways. For example, children who were used to depending on you for various things may have a hard time adjusting to the fact that you are now dependent on them. It is a good idea to prepare for these types of changes by taking some time to discuss them with everyone who will be affected by them.

  1. If the Injury Was Caused by Another Party, You May be Entitled to Compensation

While no amount of money can restore you to your previous condition after a serious injury, compensation may be available to help you and your family adjust more smoothly. Compensatory damages available for spinal cord injuries may include compensation for hospital bills, medical treatment, rehabilitations costs, ongoing medical care, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, diminished quality of life, and loss of consortium. In extreme cases in which the actions of the responsible party were especially egregious, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish their wrongdoing and deter them and others from engaging in similarly egregious behavior in the future.

If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury, it is important to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney, so you fully understand your legal rights and options. At Olmstead & Olmstead, we understand that SCIs can be life-changing, and we fight hard to ensure that those who suffer these types of injuries receive the full and fair compensation they need and deserve.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled and compassionate attorneys, call our office today at 703-361-1555 or send us a message through our online contact form.

visitation during the holidays

Visitation and the Holidays

The holidays are coming up, and this is the time when families want to spend as much time as they can with each other. This can create tension among divorced couples or couples living separately who have children together. Naturally, both parents want to have the child(ren) for the holidays, and the kids usually want to spend time with each parent.

When one parent has custody of the children, the other parent almost always receives visitation rights. There are rare cases involving issues such as abuse where a court may deny visitation or order limited/supervised visitation. Assuming this is a typical child custody/visitation arrangement in which the non-custodial parent is entitled to liberal visitation, a holiday visitation schedule should be put in place as part of this arrangement.

Holiday visitation is not a “one size fits all” arrangement. Each family has its own traditions, and the visitation schedule should be one that takes these and other specific circumstances into account. The arrangement should be fair to both parents, and hopefully one that everybody can agree on.

Here is an example of what a winter holiday visitation schedule might look like:

  • Thanksgiving Week (defined as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through the Sunday after): The child(ren) spend this week with their mother in even-numbered years, and their father in odd-numbered years.
  • Christmas Eve through Christmas Morning: This period is spent with the mother in odd-numbered years, and the father in even-numbered years.
  • Christmas Morning through the Day After (12/26): This period is spent with the mother in even-numbered years, and the father in odd-numbered years.
  • New Year’s Eve through New Year’s Day Morning: This period is spent with the mother in odd-numbered years, and the father in even-numbered years.
  • New Year’s Day Morning through the Day After (1/2): This period is spent with the mother in even-numbered years, and the father in odd-numbered years.

This schedule would be similar for the other holidays during the year, such as Easter and the Fourth of July, with the mother and father having the kids during alternating years. A schedule would also be worked out for spring break, summer break, and the parents’ and children’s birthdays. Of course, the visitation schedule during holidays, school breaks, birthdays, and other special occasions must take into consideration various factors; such as the work schedules of each parent, the location of the two parents, how far away they live from each other, and many others.

When Holiday Visitation Conflicts with Regular Visitation Schedules

One common question that often comes up with visitation and the holidays is what happens when the holiday visitation conflicts with the regular visitation schedule? For example, a typical visitation schedule might have the kids spending every other weekend with each parent; e.g., Weekend A is spent with Mom, Weekend B with Dad, Weekend C with Mom, Weekend D with Dad, and so on. Referring back to the winter holiday visitation schedule example, what if this is an odd-numbered year and the father has the kids over Thanksgiving weekend, but Thanksgiving weekend falls on Weekend A, which belongs to the mother?

In this scenario, the holiday visitation schedule takes priority over the existing schedule. This means that the father would have the kids over Weekend A, because this is his year to have the kids over Thanksgiving. The next question is what happens the following weekend? Does the father get the kids again because Weekend B is his regular weekend? With most visitation arrangements, the answer would be “yes”.

This may seem unfair, but if you take away the father’s regular weekend for visitation, he would not be receiving any extra holiday time like he should. Also, this is likely to even out in future years. In other words, there will probably be a weekend in the future that is one of the father’s regular weekends, but according to the holiday visitation schedule, the mother gets the kids that weekend.

Visitation and the holidays can often raise questions and cause disputes, especially if the holiday schedule and the regular visitation schedule have conflicts. When these issues come up, it is important to take a step back and try to work out a reasonable solution with your ex. Remember, the holidays are a time when families are supposed to come together, so try to do what’s best for your kids, even if you have to make some small compromises along the way.

slip and fall

Slip & Fall accidents – What is the Liability of a Retail Store?

Each year, thousands of individuals are injured in slip and fall accidents. These accidents can occur almost anywhere, and many of them are minor. Some slips, trips, and falls can result in serious and catastrophic injuries, however. These include:

  • Head Injuries
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Fractures/Broken Bones
  • Soft Tissue Injuries

Slip and Fall Accidents in Retail Stores

Slip and fall accidents are especially common in retail stores, where dangerous conditions can result in a customer falling and getting injured. When this occurs, there is a possibility that the store may be held liable for the injury.

Slip and fall injuries can happen in retail stores for a number of reasons, some of the most common include:

  • Wet and Slippery Floors: This is one of the leading causes of slips, trips and falls in retail stores. Floors can become wet and slippery because of a substance that spills, a floor that was recently mopped, or other reasons. When a wet or slippery floor is not clearly marked, it can present a hazard for customers.
  • Uneven Surfaces/Torn Carpeting: Some stores have uneven surfaces (either inside or outside) that can become a tripping hazard. Torn carpeting is another common flooring issue that can lead to customers tripping and falling.
  • Poor Lighting: Some areas of the store may be poorly lit because a light is out or broken. This makes it difficult for patrons to see various slipping and tripping hazards, such as merchandize or debris that is on the floor.

The Store’s Duty to Keep the Premises Safe

A customer who enters a retail store is considered an “invitee”. As such, the store has a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep the customer safe. When a slip and fall accident happens at a retail store, the store could be held liable if you can show that they created an unsafe condition, such as a slippery floor. The store may also be responsible for conditions they did not create if they were aware of the condition (or should have been aware of it) and did not take reasonable steps to address it. For example, if one of their lighting fixtures was broken two weeks prior and they did not take steps to fix it and/or warn customers of the problem, they might be liable for a slip and fall injury that occurs because of it.

There is one major hurdle a customer needs to overcome in proving that the store was at fault for a slip and fall accident. You need to show that the hazard that caused the accident was not “open and obvious” to a reasonable person. For example, if you were walking down an aisle that was well-lit and noticed a slippery substance that had spilled from the shelf and walked right through it, the store may argue that you should have seen the spill and walked around it.

Pursuing a Premises Liability Case against a Retail Store in Virginia

When someone is seriously injured in a slip and fall accident, the issue of who is at-fault is central in determining whether or not the injured party is entitled to damages. Virginia applies the legal standard known as “contributory negligence”, meaning that if an injury victim is found to have “contributed” at all to the accident, they can be barred from recovering compensation. This is a very difficult standard to overcome for plaintiffs in a personal injury case, and you can be almost certain that the store’s central defense will be to try to pin at least part of the blame on you.

With that in mind, the keys to winning a premises liability case in Virginia are evidence, preparation, and presentation. You need to have as much evidence as possible to prove your claim; such as detailed notes about the incident, photos of the hazardous condition that led to the accident, testimony of witnesses who saw what happened, medical documentation of your injuries, and anything else that would help your case.

You will also need to be able to prepare your case and present it in a way that will show that the store is fully responsible for damages. These types of cases can be complex and difficult to pursue on your own. If you believe you may have a premises liability claim against a store in Virginia, one of the first steps you should take is to get in touch with a seasoned premises liability lawyer.

Speak with the Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Attorneys at Olmstead & Olmstead

At Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., we have extensive experience representing clients injured in slip and fall accidents in Virginia. We have in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we have a successful track record recovering compensation for clients in even the most complex cases. If you or someone close to you was injured in a slip and fall accident, call our office today at 703-361-1555 to schedule your initial consultation. You may also send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.

automobile accident

5 Things You Should Do Immediately After a Car Accident

Being involved in a car accident can be a traumatic experience, especially if you are seriously injured. A collision with another vehicle or object puts you in a startled state, with countless thoughts simultaneously running through your head. When this occurs, it is important to remain as calm as possible and take some immediate steps to ensure the safety of everyone at the scene, and to ensure that your legal rights are protected.

Here are five things you should do right after being involved in a car accident:

  1. Do NOT Leave the Scene

Never leave the scene of an accident, even if it is just a fender-bender. In Virginia, fleeing the scene of an accident can result in fines, jail time, and loss of driving privileges. If there is an injury or fatality and/or if damage from the accident exceeds $1,000, you could be charged with a felony. Remain at the scene and put your hazard lights on. If your car can be driven, move it off to the side or shoulder and out of oncoming traffic.

  1. Call for Medical Help

The first priority after a car accident is to make sure that anyone who may have been hurt (including yourself) receives prompt medical attention. It is important to note that not all injuries are noticeable right away. You may feel okay right after the collision, but the impact of being jolted abruptly can cause injuries to the head, neck, spine, and other parts of the body. There is also the possibility of internal injuries, which can be life-threatening if they are not treated quickly. As soon as you can after the crash, call 911 and ask for medical help. The 911 operator can also send the police to the scene.

  1. Document the Incident

When the police arrive, tell them what you know about the incident. Do not speculate, guess, or assume anything, just stick to the facts. If they ask if you are hurt and you are not entirely certain, tell them you are “not sure”. Most importantly, do NOT admit any fault for the accident. Plan to follow up as soon as convenient to review the police report and ensure that it is accurate.

In addition to speaking with the police, retain your own personal records of the auto accident. Write down what happened in as much detail as possible while it is fresh in your mind. Also, take several photos of the accident scene (from as many angles as possible) to provide visual documentation. And if you have a dashboard video camera, be sure to capture footage of the event going back to several minutes before the collision.

  1. Exchange Information

Do your best to stay calm and courteous when dealing with the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Exchange all the necessary information, such as their name, address, phone number, the name of their insurance company, and their policy number. Also take note of the make and model of the vehicle and the vehicle license plate number. As mentioned in the previous point, do NOT admit fault to the other party and do not apologize for anything. Just obtain the required information and move on.

  1. Obtain Contact Information from Witnesses

While you are still at the scene of the accident, speak to any witnesses that may have seen what happened. Ask them what they saw and note their responses in detail. Memories fade over time, so it is important to document what these witnesses say while everyone is still at the scene if possible. Also, don’t forget to obtain the contact information from witnesses that will help corroborate the facts of the case.

Speak with an Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

If you are seriously injured in an auto accident and it is the fault of another party, you may be entitled to compensation. When this is the case, you might be contacted by the insurer for the at-fault party within a few days after the accident. The insurance adjuster may also ask to record your conversation and/or ask for a recorded statement. They may even imply that this is necessary to move the process forward.

It is important to know that you are NOT under any obligation to provide statements to the other party’s insurer, and it is not in your best interests to do so. This is especially true in Virginia because of their “contributory” negligence standard. Under contributory negligence, if an accident victim is found to be even 1% at-fault, they may be barred from recovering compensation. Before you speak to any insurance adjuster, contact a seasoned car accident lawyer, so you fully understand your rights and options.

At Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., we have several years of experience representing clients who have been seriously injured in an auto accident. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with clients to provide the skilled and personalized representation they need and deserve.

Call our office today at 703-361-1555 to schedule your initial consultation. You may also send us a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.

What is the Best Way to Remain Informed when Working with an Attorney?

When you retain an attorney for a personal injury, family law, or other type of legal matter, you have the right to expect that your lawyer will keep you informed of what is going on with your case. Attorneys have an ethical obligation to keep their clients informed, and you should insist on communication and responsiveness when you first hire them.

This does not necessarily mean your attorney needs to contact you every single day or return every phone call or email within an hour. Attorneys are very busy with many clients to assist, hearings to attend, etc. That said, you should expect that they will answer your calls or emails within a reasonable period of time, and that they will provide frequent updates on the progress of your case.

What You Should Expect from your Attorney

Communication, responsiveness, ethics, and competency are all important elements of an attorney-client relationship. Here are some other things you should expect from your lawyer:

  • Knowledge of their Area(s) of Focus: Every lawyer has certain areas of practice that they specialize in. Skills in these areas are acquired by going to law school, passing the Bar Exam, and practicing law for a number of years. Your attorney should have the type of in-depth knowledge that comes from not only studying law but also knowing how the law is applied within their locality.
  • Empathy and a Willingness to Listen: Your lawyer should be someone that you like and trust to skillfully advocate on your behalf. This starts by thoroughly understanding your unique needs and goals, so they can develop the right legal strategy to accomplish your objective. Your attorney can only know and understand your needs if they take the time to listen to you.
  • Clarity in Communication: As a client, you may have some knowledge of the legal matter you are dealing with, but it is usually minimal. Your lawyer needs to be able to clearly explain how the law applies to your issue and your rights and options in light of what the law says. The better your understanding, the better you are able to make informed decisions on which legal path you wish to pursue.
  • Prepare your Case for a Successful Result: Your lawyer should be able to give you competent advice that comes from their wisdom and knowledge of the law, while allowing you to make the ultimate decision on how you want to proceed. They should also be able to prepare your case according to your wishes in a way that puts you in the best possible position to obtain a favorable outcome. Your lawyer should negotiate strongly on your behalf, and if there is a trial involved, they should be well-prepared to successfully present and argue your case.

What Your Attorney Should Expect from You

To increase your chances of a successful outcome with your legal matter, there are some ways you can help your attorney:

  • Tell your lawyer everything you know about the case;
  • Do not give them any false or misleading information;
  • Abide by all agreements and follow through on everything you commit to do;
  • Let your attorney know as soon as possible about any new information or developments in your case;
  • Provide any information they request from you promptly.

How to Remain Informed when Working with an Attorney

Most individuals that are involved in a legal matter want to stay as informed as possible on the progress of their case. If you do not believe that you are getting the answers you need from your attorney, there are a couple ways you can approach this situation:

  1. Ask your attorney to be more responsive

Most attorneys are very busy, and sometimes, their lack of responsiveness may just be the result of a lot of demands on their time. In fact, they may not even be aware that you are frustrated by their lack of communication. Many times, this can be rectified with a simple conversation. Contact your attorney and let them know you would like more frequent updates on what is happening with your case. And if you don’t believe they are responding quickly enough when you call or email them, let them know that too. Do not be angry or blame them, just make the conversation businesslike, stating these things as a matter of fact. More often than not, you can come to a reasonable understanding with your attorney on how often they will stay in communication with you.

  1. Consider changing attorneys

If you have tried talking to your lawyer and their responsiveness does not improve, you may have the option to switch to a new lawyer. However, this option is not without consequences. First of all, your current lawyer may be entitled to payment for work already completed. If the case is on a percentage or contingency fee basis, you may owe them for hours already worked and/or expenses incurred. There are also times when the case is too far along to change lawyers. This is why your first recourse should be to attempt to resolve any issues you may have with your present attorney, and you should only consider changing attorneys as a last resort.

keeping kids safe at school

Tips for Keeping School Kids Safe at the Bus Stop

Fall has arrived, and millions of children throughout Virginia are back in school. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely riding a school bus than riding in a passenger vehicle. Two of the main reasons are that buses are larger vehicles and provide more protection for passengers inside, and that buses are among the most regulated vehicles on the road.

The NHTSA goes on to say that the biggest risk for school kids is not when they are riding the bus, but when they are approaching the bus and exiting from it. Children who are walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, and getting on and off the bus are at risk of various types of hazards, such as vehicles driving nearby, slip and fall accidents, and many others. We all must do our part to ensure that they are able to get to and from school safely.

Here are some tips for parents and drivers to keep school children safe around bus stops:

For Parents

  • Have your Child(ren) Arrive Early: Safety starts with making sure your kids arrive at the bus stop before the bus’s scheduled arrival. Whether you are walking them to the stop or they are going on their own, be sure they get there about five minutes or so ahead of time. Rushing to catch the bus at the last minute can pose all sorts of hazards, so make it a habit for your child to get to the stop ahead of time.
  • Exercise Caution around Buses: Teach your kids to be careful when they are waiting for the bus. Have them stay at least six large steps away from the curb and let them know that the bus stop is not a place to play and run around. Children should never walk behind a school bus, and if your child must cross the street at a crosswalk opposite a school bus, instruct them to always make eye contact with the bus driver so they know the driver can see them.
  • Make Sure your Kids Onboard and Exit the Bus Safely: Have your child avoid rushing onto or off of the bus. They should wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and for the driver to open that door and say it is okay to onboard or exit. Instruct them to use the handrails while getting on the bus to avoid slipping and falling.

For Drivers

  • Drive Slowly: When driving in school zones or behind buses, be sure to slow down and allow yourself plenty of time to react to pedestrian and bicycle traffic and sudden school bus stops. Buses frequently need to slow down to pick up and drop off kids. They are also required to come to a complete stop at all railroad crossings. Always drive at a safe speed when you are behind a bus and while kids are around the bus stop.
  • Watch for Kids Approaching or Leaving: Children are unpredictable, and they often dart out into traffic when they are in a rush to catch the bus. Horseplay at the bus stop can also be a hazard as kids can sometimes end up in the street. Be mindful of kids walking on sidewalks and crossing the street near bus stops and be extra cautious when they are nearby.
  • Avoid Distractions: When kids are at or near a bus stop, drivers need use their full peripheral vision to stay focused on what is happening around them. Be alert and avoid distractions such as responding to a text or email. It is not worth risking a life to return a text. If a situation requires an urgent response, pull your vehicle over and put it in park, so you can handle the situation safely.
  • Obey Virginia School Bus Stopping Laws: There are stiff penalties in Virginia for failing to stop when a school bus is loading or unloading passengers. In fact, a violation can result in a reckless driving charge, with the possibility of having your driver’s license suspended for six months, fines of up to $2,500 and the possibility of jail time. If you are driving behind a school bus, you are required to stop when the signal arm is raised and remain stopped until it is lowered. Vehicles approaching the bus from the other direction must also stop if they are on a two-lane road or multi-lane paved road. If you are on a multi-lane road with an unpaved space or barrier in-between and you are coming from the other direction, you are not required to stop, but proceed with caution.

What to Do if You or Your Child is Injured Near a Bus Stop

By following safety rules, we do our best to prevent bus stop accidents and injuries. But sometimes, we follow all the rules and an accident still occurs. This is often due to negligence or reckless behavior by one or more individuals. If you or your child was seriously injured around a bus stop, you may be entitled to compensation.

At the Law Offices of Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., we have in-depth experience representing individuals who have suffered severe injuries and fatalities due to another party’s negligence. Our lawyers have extensive knowledge of personal injury law, and what it takes to ensure that parties responsible for these types of injuries are held fully accountable.

For a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, contact our office today at (703) 361-1555 or send us a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.

child support attorney

Can I Modify my Child Support in Virginia?

During a Virginia divorce involving children, child support is usually spelled out in the property settlement agreement. In paternity cases in which the parents were never married, the courts may order the non-custodial parent to pay support. The amount of support paid is calculated based on several factors; such as the monthly gross income of each parent, number of children, spousal support paid by the non-custodial parent, and other factors.

After a divorce is finalized, circumstances often change substantially. Ex-spouses get remarried, move to different parts of the state or country, or go back to school to further their career. Children grow up into teenagers and later become adults.

Some changes may cause the non-custodial parent to struggle with their child support payment or provide the means to pay a higher amount. Examples include:

  • A job loss, promotion, or new job;
  • A significant increase in health insurance costs;
  • A significant increase in child care expenses;
  • A disability or severe health condition.

Virginia law recognizes that significant changes often occur after a divorce, and the law allows either parent to petition the court to modify child support payments if circumstances warrant it. In general, you must wait at least three years from the time of the original child support order before you can request a modification.

If the petitioner can cite a special circumstance, it may be possible to request a modification before the three-year period has elapsed. Examples of special circumstances may include:

  • An increase or decrease of one of the parents’ incomes of at least 25%;
  • The need to add a child to the support order due to birth or a custody change;
  • A child is no longer eligible to receive child support, or to receive the same amount of support;
  • One parent is a member of the National Guard or military reserve and is called to active duty, causing a significant change in income.

Failure to Pay Existing Child Support before the Order is Modified

If you are looking to modify your child support because you are not able to make the current payments, it is important to remember that you cannot just stop paying and expect the issue to go away. It may not seem fair, but whether you can afford to or not, you are required to pay the amount stated in the current child support order until it is modified by a court.

If you fail to pay child support during the interim, you could face severe consequences; such as wage garnishments, liens on real estate or personal property, legal fees, and even criminal charges. Child support is also one of the few types of unsecured debts that cannot be discharged through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you cannot pay all of your support right now, pay what you can afford and speak with an experienced lawyer ASAP about getting your child support modified.

Is an Oral Modification Agreement Good Enough?

One common mistake made by some parents is to try to modify the child support payment on their own. This happens frequently in cases when the non-custodial parent cannot afford to pay. For example, the father is laid off from his job and tells his ex he can no longer afford $1,000 a month in child support. His ex agrees to let him pay $500 for now. 10 months later, the father gets a new job and resumes paying $1,000 a month, and his ex tells him that he also owes $5,000 for the 10 months he did not pay the full amount of support.

In this scenario, the father never put anything in writing and never went to the court for approval of the child support modification. Because of this, there is very little he can do if his ex decides to force him to pay back child support. While it is okay for parents to agree between each other to modify support payments, be sure to protect yourself and have the agreement approved by the court.

Speak with a Seasoned Virginia Family Law Attorney Today

Child support is a complicated issue that can be difficult to understand. When circumstances change, and you believe it is necessary to modify the level of support you are paying or receiving, you need skilled legal counsel in your corner strongly advocating for your rights and interests. At the Law Offices of Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., we have helped many clients in Virginia who have needed a child support modification. We can evaluate your situation and develop the most practical and effective strategy toward obtaining a favorable result.

For a personalized consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact our office today at (703) 361-1555.

 

alimony attorney

Can I Modify my Alimony in Virginia?

When a marriage is dissolved in Virginia, spousal support is often awarded by court decree or negotiated into the settlement. Also referred to as alimony or spousal maintenance, spousal support is especially common in cases in which one spouse earns all (or the majority of) the income and the other does not have the skills or education to support themselves. Alimony may be temporary (for a specified length of time) or permanent, depending on the circumstances of the case.

As time goes by, circumstances often change, and one party (typically the payor spouse) wants to go back and modify the amount of spousal support they are required to pay. Examples may include a job loss, disability, illness, or another type of financial hardship. This is referred to as a “material change in circumstance.”

A new Virginia law that took effect July 1, 2018 made it easier to modify alimony when the circumstances warrant it. Under the new law, there are two major changes to the spousal support modification guidelines:

When the Settlement Agreement is Silent about Modification

Prior to July 1, if a divorce decree or marital settlement agreement was silent about whether or not spousal support could be modified, the presumption of the court was that an alimony award was fixed and not modifiable. Under the old law, many divorcing couples signed spousal support agreements with the assumption that they could be revisited later on if needed, only to find out that because the agreement did not address the issue, they were unable to modify the amount of alimony they were paying.

Virginia Senate Bill 614 amended the law to require explicit language in a separation agreement for spousal support to be non-modifiable. In other words, unless the agreement explicitly states that the alimony award is non-modifiable, the presumption will be that alimony can be modified based on a material change in circumstances. All agreements executed after July 1, 2018 are subject to these new guidelines.

Modification of Spousal Support in Retirement

In addition to clarifying the issue of modifiability, the new law allows retirement to be considered a material change in circumstance for the purposes of modifying an alimony award. The court is now required to consider six new factors with regards to modification of spousal support and retirement:

  • Whether or not retirement was anticipated and specifically considered at the time the alimony was awarded;
  • The terms and conditions of the retirement (e.g., voluntary or mandatory);
  • How retirement affects the incomes of both parties;
  • The duration and amount of alimony that has already been paid;
  • The age and health of both parties;
  • The property and assets of both parties.

A Word about Alimony and Taxes

At the end of 2017, Congress passed sweeping tax reform legislation. While most of the headlines focused on the changes to the corporate tax rate, hidden in this legislation was a major change to how alimony is treated for tax purposes. Previously, payor spouses were allowed to deduct their support payments on their federal income taxes, and payee spouses were required to claim it as income. The new law does away with the deduction for payor spouses and the requirement for receiving spouses to claim the income.

The changes in tax law at the federal level have the potential to harm both the payor and the payee spouse, depending on the specific financial circumstances of each party. The one piece of good news is that this provision of the tax code does not take effect until December 31, 2018. Any divorces finalized up until that date are subject to the previous alimony and tax laws, and divorces finalized on January 1, 2019 and thereafter are under the new laws. If you are considering divorce or have already begun the process, insist that your spousal support agreement be completed before the December 31 deadline.

Speak with an Experienced Virginia Divorce Attorney Today

If you are currently considering a divorce or you want to modify the alimony you are paying from a previous settlement, it is important to speak to an attorney with in-depth knowledge of these issues. At the Law Offices of Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., we have extensive experience representing clients in divorce cases involving even the most complex financial issues. We have helped numerous clients negotiate favorable spousal support agreements and when necessary, petition the court for post-decree alimony modifications. We can thoroughly assess your circumstances to determine your best legal options, so you can make an informed decision.

For a personalized consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, contact our office today at (703) 361-1555.

 

child custody

Are Courts More Likely to Grant Child Custody to Mothers Than to Fathers?

It hasn’t been that long since the prevailing attitude among family law judges was that children of divorcing parents should always remain with their mothers. The bias assumed that mothers were more nurturing, the primary caretaker, and that children had a deeper bond with them as opposed to their fathers. Although this has changed over the years to where judges now consider the best interests of the child, mothers still win custody more often than fathers do.

It’s true that gender roles and the responsibilities of each parent has changed significantly over the last few decades, but mothers still complete the bulk of childcare tasks. This is one reason why primary custody still goes to mothers the most often. However, it doesn’t mean that a dad who desires full or shared custody should give up that goal if he feels it’s in the best interests of his children. He should also understand the factors that family law judges consider when deciding on custody matters.

Which Parent Acts as the Primary Caregiver?

Judges in custody cases carefully review whether the mother or father has been each child’s primary caretaker until this point. Does he or she tend to go to one parent more than the other for comfort? Does one parent complete most of the tasks associated with raising a child, such as dressing, bathing, preparing meals, getting him or her ready for childcare or school, checking homework, and other similar duties? While some parents split these responsibilities equally, it’s more likely that women take on more of them. This is true even of mothers who work full-time outside of the home.

Fathers who have traditionally completed few childcare tasks should start taking on as much as possible before the divorce case reaches family court. Whether the children lives with the father full-time or only see him a few days a month, he will need to demonstrate that he can care for them on his own. Showing a willingness to take on more childcare responsibilities also casts a favorable light on dads who wish to have as much time as possible with their kids.

How Strong of a Bond Does the Child Have with Each Parent?

The younger the child, the more likely it is that he or she has a stronger bond with the mother. This is no fault of the father since mothers can breastfeed and often take more time off work or leave their jobs entirely to care for their infants. It’s good for fathers to take on as many of the traditionally nurturing roles as possible, such as feeding and bathing their children. They should also be able to prove to a family law judge that their children feel just as comfortable coming to them for help as their mother, if not more so.

Are Both Parents Willing to Help Foster a Relationship with the Other Parent?

Family courts like to see children have a meaningful relationship with both parents when possible. Therefore, the judge will seriously consider the willingness of each parent to set aside their own differences and encourage the children to spend time with and form a deep bond with the other parent.

A mother or father who continually speaks badly of the other parent or doesn’t allow the children to see their mom or dad will have a lot of explaining to do in family court and may just lose custody for this reason. Of course, the judge will also consider whether one parent is trying to protect the children from the violent temper, drug abuse, or other serious problem of the other parent. Parents in a custody battle should always remain respectful towards the other parent regardless of circumstances, especially in front of the children.

Get Help with Your Custody Case Today

No matter what your unique custody situation, it’s crucial to obtain experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., a law firm serving Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudon, Prince William, and Stafford, Virginia, invite you to contact us at 703-361-1555 to request a consultation. We will assess your custody case and discuss the best actions to take for a favorable outcome.