January 2011 Archives

January 31, 2011

Prescribed Medications Can Result in DUI

Many people are unaware that in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, properly prescribed medications can result in an arrest for DUI if the side effects of the drug render you unable to safely drive a motor vehicle. Obviously, there is no breathalyzer test for prescription medications, but Rhode Island General Law 31-27-2 holds that:

Proof of guilt under this section may also be based on evidence that the person charged was under the influence of intoxicating liquor, drugs, toluene, or any controlled substance defined in chapter 28 of title 21, or any combination of these, to a degree which rendered the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle. The fact that any person charged with violating this section is or has been legally entitled to use alcohol or a drug shall not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this section.

The last line above is clearly key - Legal use is not a defense! When prescribed medication, be sure to discuss the side effects with your doctor. Try not to drive your vehicle until you are sure how the drugs effect you. If you feel drowsy or dizzy while on the medication, it is best to avoid driving because it can result in an auto accident or arrest for DUI.

It is in your best interest to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney early to begin attacking the State's case. With an aggressive attorney representing you we may be able to show that the drug did not effect you as severely as reported by the police. With the proper representation, a DUI case with no breathalyzer or other evidence of intoxication, may be thrown out.

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January 26, 2011

Understanding Food Poisoning and Food Allergy Cases

Two things that happened this week give rise to this post about food poisoning and food allergy cases.

  1. The class action lawsuit filed against Taco Bell alleging that their "ground beef" is actually only 35% beef and 65% filler (there is no allegation that they have recently poisoned anyone, I just find the headline revolting!);
  2. I had an inquiry this week from a person who was injured after eating a food they were allergic to in a buffet.

Food safety is a major issue these days. Pressure to reduce prices has resulted in increased cases of food recalls, foodborne illnesses, and an overall reduction in quality. The Center for Disease Control estimates as many as 76 Million cases of foodborne illness occur in the US each year!!! Many of these cases are mild, but 300,000 or more are hospitalized and 5,000 people die each year as a result of food poisoning.

Food poisoning occurs when food contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella, E. Coli, or Listeria, among others, is ingested. Symptoms can include nausea, abdominal pain, headache, vomiting, dehydration, fever, etc. As previously indicated, the most serious cases can result in prolonged hospital stays or even death.

What is the difference with food allergy claims?

Food allergy lawsuits do occur, but it is not as simple as being sickened by a food product. Even a harmless, bacteria-free, peanut can be deadly to someone with a nut allergy. Planters would not be liable for the damages caused to a person with a nut allergy unless the peanuts contained some form of bacteria.

However, if you are dining in a restaurant and inform your waiter or cook of a food allergy, and they serve you that item without your knowledge causing sickness, then you have grounds for a claim.

As with any personal injury claim, if you are injured due to food poisoning you are entitled to have your medical bills and lost wages paid as well as pain and suffering. Contact my office for a free consultation.

January 24, 2011

BMI Launches "BMI Live" to Help Collect Performance Royalties

Broadcast Music, Inc, better known as "BMI" and one of the two major music royalty collection agencies, has launched a new program, simply titled "BMI Live" to help collect performance royalties for performers at any stage in their career.

Artists who have an account with BMI and register their music with them will now be able to input their live performances online. Once logged in to your online account, performers will have to input the day, time, and location of the venue for the concert along with the setlist performed. BMI will collect royalties for the live performance and issue quarterly payments to the songwriters, performers, and publishers.

Since this is a new program, the obvious question is: How will performance royalty rates be calculated. Here is the answer from their website:

Rates per performance each quarter are determined by a combination of the number of performances reported during the payment period and the general licensing fees available for distribution for BMI Live performances. Since the number of BMI-licensed works, as well as the amount of the license fees collected by BMI, changes from quarter to quarter, the royalty rate for BMI Live works likewise will vary from quarter to quarter.

Additional answers to frequently asked questions can be found here. This is an exciting new program (even though I personally prefer ASCAP) and a program that is long overdue. I am intrigued to see how it works out, but I encourage all of my clients, especially those already registered with BMI, to take advantage of this new program.

If you are a band, solo musician, or songwriter seeking a music attorney to assist your career, please contact my office for a free consultation.

January 20, 2011

Rhode Island Lawmaker Moves To Decriminalize Marijuana

Rhode Island Representative John Edwards of Tiverton has introduced a bill, similar to the law of Massachusetts, to decriminalize minor marijuana possession. If the new law were to pass, possession of marijuana under one ounce would result in a $150 fine. Currently marijuana possession in Rhode Island is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

Currently, 13 States, including Massachusetts, have decriminalized marijuana. This means that there is no criminal record (at least for first time offenders) and a possession charge is treated as a violation, similar to a speeding ticket. Criminal offenses still remain in effect for possession of large amounts of marijuana, intent to distribute, etc.

It seems that the Country is moving towards decriminalization of marijuana and it is about time for Rhode Island to join the ranks. Rhode Island spends millions of dollars prosecuting marijuana possession charges that ultimately result only in dismissal or probation. The laws create a permanent criminal record for young people that made a mistake by using weed unlawfully.

Until such day as Rhode Island decriminalizes minor pot possession, it is a misdemeanor and a charge to be taken seriously. If you have been arrested for marijuana possession, contact my office right away for a free consultation.

January 14, 2011

Attorney Joseph Lamy is the Only Choice If You Were in a Car Accident

This post will forego legal analysis or current news in favor of telling you a bit about my practice and how I handle auto accident cases. The Rhode Island Supreme Court does not certify any attorney in a particular practice area of law, but if you compare my office versus many other auto accident law firms, I think you will see that my office is the best choice to aggressively represent your case.

Is your attorney personally handling your case? Was your first interview conducted by a secretary or paralegal, or by the attorney whose name is on the door? When you call in to the office with questions, do you speak to your attorney or his secretary? Is it possible that you are being represented by someone you have not even met? I personally handle all of my cases from beginning to end. I will be the person conducting the interview at the beginning of the case, helping you throughout the process and negotiating an excellent settlement on your behalf.

Have you worked with an attorney before and found it impossible to get your attorney on the phone? One of the most common complaints I hear from clients of mine who worked with other attorneys in the past, is that they could never get their attorney on the phone. When you are hurt and out of work you need answers right away and you want to know that the person representing you actually cares that you are having difficulty. Things are done much differently at my office! My clients have my personal cell phone number and I ALWAYS return missed calls within 24 hours!

Have you met with an attorney and been told that they do not handle the property damage to your vehicle? Many personal injury attorneys refuse to handle the property damage portion of a claim because it is a significant amount of work, and lawyers do not take a percentage of the property damage settlement. Therefore, if an attorney can not profit from your property damage, they want nothing to do with it. I think this is ridiculous. You were in ONE accident and have an injury claim AND a property damage claim. Either your attorney represents you or they do not. My office will help you through the property damage portion of your claim, including rentals, total losses, and more.

Are other attorneys willing to fight for your case? Some auto accident law firms have so many clients that their profit comes from settling hundreds of cases, and not necessarily from obtaining the best results. Make sure that your attorney is giving sufficient attention to your individual case and is willing to file a lawsuit, if necessary, to obtain the money that you deserve.

Why else should you hire the law office of Joseph Lamy? I have worked for insurance companies and insurance defense law firms, and I have also worked for one of the most successful personal injury firms in New England. I have experience on both sides of a personal injury case and this allows me to really see the strengths and weaknesses of your claim. With that knowledge comes better preparation and with better preparation comes better results!

My clients often refer family and friends to my office because they have obtained great results and have the upmost confidence in my firm. I invite you to learn more about me and my law practice at my website. If you have been injured in any kind of accident, contact our office for a free consultation and find out why my practice is growing at an incredible pace!

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January 10, 2011

Music Producer Agreements - Before You Sign the Contract

Music producers are the unsung heroes of the music industry... the creative and talented force that transforms a group of musicians in studio into a platinum album. If you are a music producer, or an artist preparing to work with a music producer, here are a number of things that you need to know before entering into a recording or production contract.

At the most basic level, a music producer is paid per hour or a flat fee for studio time in which he or she records a bands music. At the highest level, a superstar producer writes beats, harmonies, contributes lyrics and is as well known as the artist singing. If you are paying a fee to a producer who contributes nothing to the music and is not looking for any payment more than his per hour, then this article is irrelevant. If you are that type of producer, or are working with that type of producer, enjoy your time together because the relationship ends when the recording is done.

But what about the well established producers who contribute to a song? Are they entitled to royalties? If so, how much? After all, more and more record labels are allowing producers to find and cultivate talent and then buying out the contracts or purchasing songs for publishing. This has allowed talented producers a great opportunity to hit it big. Do it right and protect yourself by having an experienced music lawyer draft and review your contracts.

There`s no better feeling than just going in and just working with someone and what comes out is something that the world knows about.

- Pharrell Williams

There are two ways for a high profile producer to be paid. A beat can be purchased for a flat fee, or a contract can be signed assigning producer points. Producer points generally range from 1 to 6 points. 1 point for generally unknown producers and 6 for superstar producers. The points are taken from the musicians royalty rate. For instance, if a musician has a recording contract with 15% royalties and signs a production agreement with 2 points, then the musician will get 13% royalties and the producer will receive 2% royalties. Producers are generally paid "record one" royalties, meaning that they are paid from the first sale and do not have to wait for the record label to recoup their investment before receiving royalties.

I get a half a mil' from my beats,
you get a couple gra-an-and
I'm a real producer and you just the piano man

- Timbaland

In many cases, the producer also collaborates on the composition. In these cases, the producer is entitled to more than the producer royalty. He or she is entitled to a percentage of the copyright and publishing royalties. If the producer is going to contribute music and/or lyrics to a project, his or her percentage is best agreed upon ahead of time, else it can become contentious once the song is completed.

As with anything in the music industry, contracts can get increasingly complicated. It is absolutely best to work with an experienced entertainment lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected.

January 6, 2011

Expunge Your Criminal Record and Help with Your Job Search

The employment picture in Rhode Island is still among the worst in the Country and for every available job there are several qualified candidates. I have spoken with a lot of people lately who have inquired about expunging their criminal record to help them in their job search. Most employers today conduct a background check which includes obtaining your criminal record from the Attorney General's office. Even if you are very qualified for a job, an employer is unlikely to hire you if your background shows a criminal record.

Fortunately, if you were arrested and/or convicted only once in your life, Rhode Island allows you the chance to expunge your record. All evidence of your arrest will be removed and you can agree to a background check with confidence that it will not hurt your job prospects.

In order to qualify for an expungement in Rhode Island:

  • The crime must not have been an act of violence
  • 5 years must pass after the disposition of a misdemeanor
  • 10 years must pass after the disposition of a felony
  • You must not have any other arrests on your record

If you meet these qualifications, there is a very good chance that your record can be expunged and permanently removed. It is a very quick and affordable process. Often a Motion to Expunge will only cost a few hundred dollars in legal fees and court costs. The benefit gained far outweighs the costs.

If you made a mistake in your youth, would like to have your arrest permanently removed from your record, and meet the qualifications listed above, contact my office right away for a free consultation.

January 4, 2011

Personal Injury Claims and Mental or Emotional Pain and Suffering

One of the most common questions that I am asked during a personal injury claim, whether stemming from a dog bite, medical malpractice, auto accident, slip and fall, or other type of accident, is "what about my mental and emotional suffering?" If you have been hurt through the negligence of another person, you understand that in addition to the physical pain, you may also suffer emotional distress.

Common symptoms of emotional distress are:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Fear of driving, or riding in cars following an accident
  • Nightmares
  • Stress headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Loss of appetite or joy in life
  • and many others...

Clients suffering from one or more of these symptoms often ask if they will be compensated for their emotional pain and suffering.

Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer. For the most part, the Court is definitely behind the times when it comes to properly compensating people for emotional distress. Insurance companies and juries are capable of placing a dollar value on a broken arm, but find it difficult to value nightmares, lost sleep, anxiety, etc.

If you have any chance of collecting for emotional distress, you will have to prove the injury. It is not enough to merely say that you are feeling anxious. To be fairly compensated, you would need to seek treatment for the anxiety and have medical documentation of this emotional injury. Insurance companies look at X-rays to verify broken arms, and they will do the same when it comes to a claim of emotional distress.

In addition, the Courts will also consider the circumstances of the accident to determine the validity of an emotional distress claim. If you are involved in an auto accident, it is much more reasonable to believe that you suffered a mental breakdown if a passenger died in the accident, than if you were involved in a car crash with $500 property damage. Similarly, if you are bit by a pit bull, it is much more traumatic than being bit by a chihuahua.

This does not mean that you have to see a therapist every time you are in an accident. As part of your compensation for pain and suffering, a jury (and even an insurance company) will consider the overall negative impact on your life. Part of your pain and suffering is surely emotional distress.

If you do not have a history of mental illness but feel symptoms of mental distress or injury following an injury, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.

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