Where There’s a Will, There’s Not Always a Way

Wills may seem straightforward to produce, but they’re much more complex than one may think. Here are some common mistakes found in DIY wills:

  1. Critical information may be omitted.You may think that you’ve included all the necessary bits, but many things can easily slip by.
  2. No contingencies.Things can change, and your will needs to account for those possibilities. For example, a car that is supposed to go to your son is totaled in a car wreck.
  3. Lack of notarizationA notary public’s stamp and signature help protect against a will contest.
  4. It’s handwritten.This is known as a “holographic will” and is generally not allowed in New Mexico.
  5. It’s not witnessed. New Mexico law requires two individuals witness the signing of the will, and then sign it themselves.
  6. An internet template has been used but it is specific to another state.
  7. Ambiguous language.Ambiguity leads to dispute amongst those who are included in the will. Just as doctors use a specific vocabulary to speak to each other, attorneys use a precise, impossible-to-misconstrue legal language. You won’t be around to clarify once your will in enacted, so it is imperative that such language is used to ensure your will is carried out in accordance with your wishes.

Hiring a professional to write your will is essential in ensuring that it is used as intended. When you enlist our help to create your will, you’re not paying for pieces of paper; you’re paying for knowledge, advice, and peace of mind.

Demystifying Depositions

Maybe you’ve heard the term being used in a courtroom drama, or maybe you’re anticipating one. Here’s what you need to know about depositions and how to be a star deponent.

What they are:

A pre-trial interview of witnesses.

What they do:

Provide everyone involved with consistent, relevant information; prevent any courtroom surprises.

Where they happen:

Not in court; they usually occur in an attorney’s office.

How long they take:

Anywhere from less than an hour to several days.

I’m about to be deposed—help!

Don’t freak out. The prospect of a deposition may seem intimidating, but the following tips will help the process go smoothly.

  1. This is not a test. There are no wrong answers so long as you are honest.
  2. Tell the truth. Even if you haven’t put your hand on a Bible, you are answering under oath; remember that there are serious consequences for lying.
  3. Keep it simple. Answer the questions as asked. There’s no need to volunteer more information than is being requested, but…
  4. Don’t be difficult. Be courteous and, more importantly, don’t argue with the attorney taking the deposition.
  5. Don’t speculate. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer if you, indeed, do not know the answer.
  6. Let the attorney taking the deposition finish her question before you start answering and think before you speak.
  7. Provide clear, verbal answers. Depositions are typed up by a court reporter in real time. Not only do verbal answers create a clearer record, but they make the court reporter’s job much easier.

Tell the truth (seriously).

Liebeck v. McDonald’s: Far from Frivolous

Liebeck v. McDonald’s may be one of the most well-known but least understood cases in American history. You’ve probably heard of it: a woman spilled hot coffee from McDonald’s on herself, sued McDonald’s, and got a significant amount in damages. The specifics of the case, however, are frequently overlooked. Let’s set the record straight.

The 2011 documentary Hot Coffee explores the truth behind the infamous lawsuit. 

The Facts

In 1992 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck was sitting in the passenger’s seat of her nephew’s parked car. The two had just purchased breakfast from a McDonald’s drive-thru and had pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot to enjoy their meal. Stella placed her Styrofoam cup of coffee between her legs and attempted to remove the lid. In the process of removing the lid, Stella spilled the scalding coffee on her lap. Within seconds, Stella received third-degree burns that landed her in the hospital for eight days, required skin grafting, and led to two years of recovery.

The “Facts”

Not surprisingly, the media sensationalized the case for all it was worth, and it quickly became a prime example of the “frivolous” lawsuits America is notorious for. What was actually a straightforward products liability case became a tale of one woman’s attempt to use the judicial system as a get-rich-quick scheme against a corporate giant. Even now, you may be wondering how McDonald’s could be liable for Stella’s injuries if she spilled coffee on herself. In fact, McDonald’s knew their coffee was a liability.

The Coffee

At the time of the incident, McDonald’s intentionally served their coffee hot—like, really hot. The chain was preparing and serving their coffee at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit; that’s just 22 degrees shy of boiling. For comparison, the average coffeemaker produces coffee around a much more tolerable 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The company admitted that its dangerously hot coffee had caused 700 people to experience severe burns within a decade prior to Stella’s case, but claimed that the number of incidents was insignificant compared to their total coffee sales.

The Money

One of the many misunderstood parts of this case is the money. Contrary to popular belief, Stella didn’t ask for much in damages. Her initial request was a modest $20,000 to cover medical expenses and lost income. McDonald’s countered with a measly $800 offer. Stella and her attorneys tried to resolve the matter for a reasonable sum before the case made its way to trial. It was a jury that valued Stella’s compensatory damages at $200,000 (though they were reduced to $160,000 to account for Stella’s comparative fault) and punitive damages at $2.7 million. The presiding judge reduced the award of punitive damages to $480,000, and the parties later settled for an undisclosed amount (though it’s rumored to be less than $500,000).

The Bottom Line

Stella didn’t work the system. Rather, she was severely injured and sought recovery from the entity that injured her. There is nothing frivolous about seeking justice where justice so requires.

Have you been burned? Give us a call to schedule a free consultation.

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