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Uninsured/Underinsured (UM) Motorist Coverage Update: Validity of Declining UM Coverage by Electronic Signature Remains in Question

Car crashUnder Alabama law, all car insurance policies must provide uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM coverage). Ala. Code § 32-7-23. Nevertheless, in spite of this mandate, 22% of drivers do not have liability insurance. UM coverage is vitally important in that it protects drivers and passengers who have an accident caused by someone else who lacks car insurance altogether, or who has insufficient liability insurance. In the event you have an accident with an uninsured/underinsured motorist, you may file a claim with your own insurance company under your UM policy. Each insurance policy sold in Alabama is required to have at least $25,000 per person in coverage for personal injuries. Even if you do not see an uninsured/underinsured motorist provision in your car insurance policy, you still have the minimum coverage, unless you sign a written waiver declining the coverage.

In Johnson v. First Acceptance Insurance Company, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals recently considered the case of Mr. Johnson, whose underinsured motorist claim was originally denied by his own insurance provider, First Acceptance. The parties agree that Mr. Johnson was assisted in submitting an electronic application for insurance with the help of a First Acceptance agent. However, the parties dispute whether Mr. Johnson actually electronically signed his name in a waiver of UM coverage. First Acceptance Insurance argued that Mr. Johnson declined uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage through an electronic signature; Mr. Johnson denies he ever declined UM coverage. The Court ultimately decided not to rule on the validity of an electronic signature in declining UM coverage, but did allow Mr. Johnson’s case to continue, based on the parties’ factual dispute of the facts. We look forward to the outcome of the case.

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Announcing Our New Partner: Andrew M. Sieja

Andrew M. SiejaMartinson & Beason is pleased to announce our new partner, Andrew M. Sieja. Andy began working with the firm in 2009 when he returned to the Huntsville area after practicing in Dallas, Texas. Andy is a graduate of Texas Wesleyan School of Law in Fort Worth, Texas after having attained his bachelor’s degree at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.

Andy regularly represents and advises his clients in several areas from probate, probate litigation, and estate planning to business formation, transactions, and litigation. Andy enjoys being able to represent his clients on a wide array of areas and is integral in making Martinson & Beason a full-service law firm.

Andy is an active member of the Rotary Club of Greater Huntsville, has served on its Board of Directors, and is on the Board of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. He believes strongly in giving back to his community and regularly provides pro bono legal services to clients through the Madison County Volunteer Lawyer Program.

Martinson & Beason is proud to add Andy as a partner and looks forward to his continued contribution to the firm’s long history and storied reputation.

Diversity Leadership Colloquium

caleb-ballew-attorneyCongratulations to Caleb W. Ballew, associate attorney at Martinson & Beason, on accepting his nomination to the executive committee of the Diversity Leadership Colloquium in Madison County, Alabama.

Caleb will serve as the Parliamentarian for DLC, where he will provide advice to the executive committee on the group’s governing by-laws and constitution, as well as help DLC meet its goal of providing community service and leadership to North Alabama.

DLC’s participants and alumni are a diverse group of community members and professionals who seek to improve the Huntsville-Madison County area by actively serving the community. Members and alumni include business owners, city and county government officials, education personnel, attorneys, non-profit and community organizers, and many other individuals.

Caleb graduated from the leadership colloquium in April 2016 and looks forward to helping the Huntsville community through his new position with DLC.

Are you Carrying a “Flaming Rocket” in Your Pocket?

e-cigarette injuriesOn Wednesday, a California man’s electronic cigarette (also known as an e-cig or vape) exploded inside the pocket of his pants causing severe injury. The blast caused third degree burns, and the man who was rushed to the hospital. Shortly before the explosion, the man reported the device became very hot. Video of the incident is available here. While e-cigarettes may seem like a harmless alternative to smoking, they pose significant hidden risks.

If you’re carrying an e-cig in your pocket, you may be carrying a ticking time bomb and not even know it. FEMA has referred to the devices as “flaming rockets” for the explosions caused by component failure. This is because when the battery seal erupts, pressure builds very quickly within the device and “can be propelled across the room like a bullet or small rocket.” Some members of Congress have even called for the devices to be recalled in response to their dangerous history.

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The Grounds (and Hurdles) for Challenging a Will

In a will contest, a contestant challenges a will as invalid, usually for mental incapacity, undue influence, fraud, or a technical failure. Although somewhat of a rare occurrence and a tedious process, a will contest may be the only recourse for a client who has been disinherited or disenfranchised. First, only an interested party who has a potential interest to gain can challenge a will. A will can be invalidated in part or in whole. If a will contest is successful, the probate or circuit judge has options such as invalidating the challenged will, reinstating a previous version, or distributing property under the laws of intestacy. Beyond the hurdles of a will contest, the testator (the person who signed the will) sometimes inserts a “no-contest” provision into their will or trust. Under such a provision, the testator instructs that anyone who contests the validity of their will is disinherited. While these clauses create additional difficulties for one contesting a will, it is not always an absolute bar to the challenge. It would be a good idea for the client to consult an attorney to weigh their options and get a better assessment of their rights before challenging or contesting a will.

An interested party cannot challenge a will simply for being unfair. Instead, they must prove one of the following conditions or other good cause: [Read more…]

Martinson & Beason Blast from the Past: “Courthouse Commentary” from The Huntsville Times, 1965

Martinson & Beason, P.C. attorneys recently uncovered an old Huntsville Times “Courthouse Commentary” feature from August 1, 1965, remarking on the slight confusion surrounding names at Martinson & Beason.

Douglas Carroll Martinson, who founded the firm in 1937 out of the back of his grandfather’s store, named his son Douglas Claude Martinson (the father of current partner Doug Martinson). When the younger Martinson joined his father’s law practice in 1964 after graduating from the University of Alabama School of Law, minor chaos ensued.

The Huntsville Times article, written by Jerry Hornsby, shrewdly points out: “Douglas Carroll Martinson and his son, Douglas Claude Martinson, practice law in the same offices in the Uptown Building. There is hardly a correct way for the telephone caller to ask for the proper Martinson, since they are not, as many people believe, “junior” and “senior.” The article suggests the caller say something like, “Mr. Martinson, please—you know, the older one.” Eventually, secretaries steered clients into using “junior” or “senior.”

The name game took on a new dimension when Douglas Claude Martinson, II, began practicing with the firm in 1990. To avoid confusion, Doug is commonly referred to as simply “D” or “DII” around the office. Name mix-ups may end with D, however, whose eldest son is named Clay and currently attends the University of Alabama.

Last Chance to Reject Uber’s Revised Mandatory Binding Arbitration

iphoneUber users opt out of the latest changes to the ride-sharing company’s terms of service, which includes a revised mandatory binding arbitration agreement, but they must do so by December 21st, 2016. Uber sent an email to users on November 15th notifying them of the updated terms of use. The email states that the new terms take effect November 21st, 2016. Users have one month from that date to reject the new terms. If a user rejects the latest terms of service, their contractual relationship with Uber will be governed by the last terms of service agreed to.

Although Uber’s prior terms of service also had a binding arbitration agreement, a judge from New York’s Southern District recently found the arbitration agreement to be invalid. Uber revised its terms of service to make the binding arbitration agreement more likely to be enforceable. However, it must give users a period of time to reject these new terms of service. The decision, Meyer v. Kalanick, is only binding in the Southern District of New York. However, the court’s opinion and rationale may be persuasive in other courts, and all users still get a chance to reject the revised terms of service.

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Revisiting Trust Basics & President-Elect Trump’s ‘Blind’ Trust

President-elect Donald Trump has recently announced that his business holdings will be placed in a blind trust in the care of his three oldest children. Trump’s holdings include real estate, hotels, golf courses, and numerous other investments in the United States and abroad. While Trump, through his attorneys, refers to the arrangement as a blind trust, scholars are quick to point out that the trust will not be managed be an independent party, a requirement for blind trusts. As the Trump trust issue unfolds, we wanted to revisit trust basics and the interests they serve.

A trust can be created during the life of the maker of the trust (the settlor) or upon his or her death through a will. A trust created through a will is known as a testamentary trust. There are many types of trusts and they serve a multitude of purposes.

Trusts can be either revocable or irrevocable. In a revocable trust, the settlor can modify or take back their assets without penalty. In contrast, an irrevocable trust cannot be modified and assets cannot be taken back by the settlor. Revocable and irrevocable trusts have important legal and tax ramifications. [Read more…]

Alabama’s Top Intersections for Traffic Crashes

Car accidents happen every day. In Alabama, a traffic crash is reported every 4 minutes. We’ve explored the top intersections for traffic crashes in our state, click on the graphic below to view all of the information on:

  • The most dangerous intersections in Alabama
  • The most dangerous highway in Alabama
  • Intersections by county in Alabama
  • Tips on how to avoid an accident at intersection

CLICK TO VIEW THE FULL INFOGRAPHIC

Most Dangerous Intersections in Alabama

 

Injured in an accident?

Read our full Car Accident Guide.

Drug Possession & License Suspension Update

As of January 30, 2016 of this year, if you are charged with an offense of possession of controlled substance, possession of marijuana 1st degree, or possession of marijuana 2nd degree, you will no longer face a mandatory 6-month suspension of your driver’s license. However, a judge may still suspend your license if he or she feels that it is necessary.

Prior to the change in the law, neither a judge nor a prosecutor had the authority to waive the mandatory suspension of a driver’s license for simple drug or marijuana possession. Without a required suspension period, the judge may still suspend your license but is not forced to do so. If you were arrested prior to January 30, 2016, but were not sentenced until after that date, you may still be subject to a license suspension. However, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency must notify you of their intent to suspend your license; otherwise your driving privileges should remain active.

Additionally, certain drug offenses, such as simple possession of controlled substances, i.e. cocaine, and felony marijuana possession with a prior misdemeanor are now reclassified as Class D felonies. Class D felonies have lower minimum sentences than Class C felonies, and more commonly include sentences of probation or community corrections instead of jail, though incarceration is still possible.

If you have been charged with a simple drug offense, or if you are facing a suspension of your driver’s license, do not hesitate to contact the experienced Huntsville criminal defense attorneys at Martinson & Beason, P.C. to go over your legal options.

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