Posts

What is a “Plaintiff?”

In today’s post, we continue our series on litigation terminology, helping you to understand the various terms used when you’re involved in a lawsuit. Today’s question is, “What is a plaintiff?”

The word “plaintiff” is the title of the individual who initiates a lawsuit—someone who seeks to compel something from a Defendant via a court proceeding. They may be seeking money or “equitable” remedies, such as an injunction.

An over-simplified way of thinking about it is that he is opposite the defendant. Everyone knows what a defendant is—the one being sued. The plaintiff is the person bringing that lawsuit.

Another helpful way to understand this term is this: the existence of a “plaintiff” in a lawsuit is a tip that the matter is a Civil Suit rather than a Criminal one. In other words, no one is going to jail at the end of this trial. Rather, the litigation seeks a civil remedy of money or a court order determining a dispute between private parties. One final way of thinking about a plaintiff is that he is on the front side of the “v” in a lawsuit (Plaintiff v. Defendant).

We hope this explanation of the term plaintiff is helpful. If you have other questions related to your litigation, feel free to set up an appointment with the attorneys at the Cornerstone Law Firm for a free consultation about your case. Our litigation attorneys can explain the terminology, and more importantly, the strategy and rights you have in bringing or defending your case.

Injured on 222? We Can Help.

Pennsylvania Route 222, which runs through the heart of Berks County, is becoming not only the busiest but also the most dangerous road in the area. 222 has long been a source of economic growth to Berks County and to Reading, but in recent years, it has become more and more dangerous and has resulted in more and more accidents. If you’ve been injured on 222 in a car accident, the personal injury attorneys at the Cornerstone Law Firm can help you.

Pursuing Settlement

Car accidents can be a life-changing experience. Between the surgeries and rehabilitation required, these injuries demand an enormous amount of time and attention from the injured party. Other results of an accident, such as loss of earnings and chronic pain can create significant stress for the injured victim.

Having a personal injury attorney here in Berks County who understands your situation is important in dealing with the insurance company and any responsible party after the accident. The party responsible for your accident and the insurance companies involved—including your own insurance company in many cases—bear responsibility to ensure that you are made whole after the accident. This includes not only covering your medical bills and settling medical liens, but also putting together an appropriate settlement given the pain involved in your accident and the time you’ve lost at work and from the activities you love.

The process of pursuing settlement for your injuries doesn’t have to be as painful as a car accident. Frequently, cases can be resolved without the need of filing suit or going to trial. All the same, it’s important to have a lawyer who is able and willing to take your lawsuit to trial if necessary.

We can help.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident on 222 or elsewhere in Berks County, Pennsylvania, call the personal injury lawyers at Cornerstone Law Firm for a free consultation. We don’t get paid until you get paid. Call us for a risk-free, no-obligation consultation about your case.

What is Probate?

When a loved one passes away, the details can be overwhelming. Those left behind are suddenly confronted with a myriad of strange vocabulary to learn and figure out what to do with. One common word that you’ll begin hearing is “Probate.” So, what is probate, and do you need an attorney to help you with it?

Probate is the process of filing the will of a deceased loved one with the court, gathering their assets, paying off their liabilities, filing taxes, and closing out their estate. Simply put, probate is the court process that oversees the administration of an estate.

probate

The Purpose of Probate

The purpose of probate is to ensure that all of a deceased loved one’s debts are paid, and to make sure that their assets can be passed to their loved ones (“beneficiaries”) without any legal liability passing to their beneficiaries.

The Requirements of Probate

Probate requires that debts are paid in a certain order pursuant to a Pennsylvania statute, and limits the types of claims that can be brought against the person who has passed away. Probate also requires filing of tax returns to pay the Inheritance Tax for those who receive an inheritance from the person who passed. Usually, the estate pays this tax to avoid beneficiaries being saddled with the bill, although this depends on the Will.

Navigating the Probate Process

The Probate process can be confusing and, because it can be expensive, it is not always necessary to go through. A good Estate Administration Attorney will help you to see if there is any way to avoid the probate process altogether, as well as the fees and costs associated with it. However, in many cases, probate is required and is unavoidable.

If you know someone who has recently passed and you are trying to figure out how to administer their estate, call the Cornerstone Law Firm for a free consultation. We’ll be happy to sit down with you and discuss your options and to figure out the best way to administer your estate.

Construction Litigation

One of the most commonly litigated issues in America is construction. Whether it’s because a construction company failed to do the work that was promised, did the work inadequately, or because of buyer’s remorse that causes a customer to be unhappy with a perfectly good job, construction disputes end up in court about as often as anything else in American law. Experienced construction lawyers will tell you that there are several issues to consider when trying to predict the outcome of a construction case.

Workman-Like Qualityconstruction lawyers

Implied in nearly every construction contract in law, is a requirement that construction be done in a “workman-like manner.” If a contractor or subcontractor shows up to do their job and installs paper mâché plumbing, obviously this would not satisfy the requirements of a contract even if the contract didn’t explicitly say what the plumbing had to be made with. The standard quality requirements of the industry will prevail.

While this may be easy to determine when it comes to paper mâché, it is much harder to determine in instances where a contractor or subcontractor simply isn’t very good at their job. Perhaps they put in cheap materials instead of those ordered, or perhaps they took shortcuts and didn’t get the work done to the standards of the general contractor.

The question that the court will ask is, “What meets the minimum standards of competency in the profession? Did the contractor’s work rise to that level?”

Contract Provisions

In most instances, a dispute with a contractor will be over fulfillment of the terms of a contract. It makes sense, then, to carefully check the contract at the beginning of a job, routinely throughout the job, and of course before the filing of suit. The contract’s provisions will largely set down the rights and obligations of each party. But anyone who’s ever done a construction job knows that things can change quickly.

A homeowner decides they want a different type of flooring throughout the house. A municipal body changes the layout of a building completely. A contractor can’t get the subcontractors originally bargained for. All too often, these become oral conversations. The parties agree that they will do something differently than laid out in the contract, but they don’t memorialize it in writing. Preferably, the parties should execute a Change Order at each stage in the process when things change.

Even without change orders in place, written documents can make it much easier to track the changes that have been made and whether all parties agreed to the changes that were made. A great deal of litigation can be traced back to change orders that weren’t properly executed.

Damages

Finally, even after you’ve worked out all of the other questions in a case, the most important thing that parties heading into construction litigation have to consider are the damages at issue. If a subcontractor didn’t hold up their end of the work, and it caused delays, is the sub on the hook for the cost of the project’s delay? Can that subcontractor be held liable for the expense and costs that a general contractor incurred waiting for that job to be completed by someone else?

We’ve covered damages in other articles on this site from time to time, but it’s sufficient to say that every case is different and that determining the proper measure of damages at the outset of a suit will help you determine whether it’s beneficial to bring a suit at all, and if it is, when it’s appropriate to settle.

Conclusion: You need an experienced construction attorney

The attorneys at the Cornerstone Law Firm have experience in all sorts of litigation. We’ve handled messy cases, simple cases, and everything in between! Call the attorneys at the Cornerstone Law Firm today to discuss your construction litigation case and let us help you figure out how to proceed.

Public Drunkenness and Kutztown University Students

At Cornerstone Law Firm, we’ve helped many Kutztown University students who are accused of crimes. When a college student is charged with public drunkenness or another crime involving alcohol or drugs, the impact on the student’s academic and professional future can be profound. Here are several things that a student at Kutztown University or any other college should consider when deciding what to do about criminal charges.

  1. Your charges can impact professional licensure

Sometimes, college students are quick to plead guilty or accept the initial charges filed without thinking about how such a charge will impact their professional future. If a student wants to be a teacher, a counselor, a police officer or even go into the military, a conviction can end up derailing the student’s plans. An expensive education can be wasted by accepting a plea agreement without considering these aspects.

The reality is, a college student who is 18 or older is an adult, and your charges will remain on your record for the rest of your life if they are not properly disposed of. Contrary to popular belief, expungement is not easy to obtain, and in many situations, it will not be available at all unless it is part of the plea agreement or diversionary program accepted. Don’t just plead guilty! You need to discuss the potential consequences of your plea with an experienced attorney.

  1. You are innocent until proven guilty

In the midst of all of this discussion of plea agreements and reduced charges, let’s not forget the most important fact: you are innocent until proven guilty. Just because a police officer has charged you with a crime doesn’t mean you have to plead guilty to it. Indeed, proving that someone has committed a crime in a court of law is the highest bar in the law. It requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of your peers in an environment where the state cannot require you to testify against yourself. This is not an easy task. Not infrequently, police officers and investigators make mistakes in the course of their investigation, misunderstand the significance of evidence, or rely on false characterizations in their charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you to spot these mistakes and challenge them. Sometimes this reduces criminal charges, and sometimes it eliminates them altogether.

  1. Kutztown University might implement their own academic discipline.

College students are often surprised when they find out that their legal problems create academic problems, as well. Charges filed against an individual will trigger an academic investigation by the university, and a dean of student conduct or other campus official might demand an explanation, even before the charges have been resolved.

However, Kutztown University, like any public university in Pennsylvania, is subject to the constitution and its provisions about due process, the right to an attorney, and the right to notice and a hearing. Occasionally, students are told that they do not have a right to be represented by an attorney in a disciplinary hearing. This is not true. As a student a public university, you have your full constitutional rights in disciplinary hearings, including the right to remain silent without adverse action being taken against you. You should not attempt to handle these hearings alone. In most cases, you can insist that the hearings not go forward until the charges are resolved.

  1. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you is a must.

There are plenty of things in life that you can save money on by doing it yourself. Dealing with your potentially life-altering criminal charges is not one of them. An experienced attorney who understands the potential impact of a conviction on your professional future is vital. An experienced attorney can help you to decide whether to fight charges or to seek a favorable plea, and how to eliminate or minimize potential negative consequences for your future.

At Cornerstone Law Firm, we have helped many Kutztown University students to deal with charges ranging from disorderly conduct to drug possession and more. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.