Frequently asked questions

Civil law

Do I have the right to claim compensation for my husband's death in the US, if I live in Mexico?

The simple answer is, yes. As the widow, you can receive compensation if your husband has suffered wrongful death due to a car accident, a work accident or medical malpractice. Please contact us as soon as possible in such a case, as there is a time limit on lodging this type of claim, and the insurance companies are usually not very cooperative.

I had an accident more than a year ago, and I want to be reimbursed for the medical expenses that were generated later on. Can I still obtain reimbursement?

Unfortunately, you have let a lot of time go by. If you are in an accident, time is of the essence, and you must notify the insurance company as soon as possible of the damages that you intend to claim. It is true that, in some cases, a claim for damages can be made after some time, but this has to be justified.

So, if you are in an accident, contact a lawyer as soon as possible, so that you can be advised properly. Your lawyer may recommend that you see a specialized doctor who can anticipate future damages that may arise because of the accident.

Criminal law

How do I know that I am under arrest?

You are under arrest if a police officer takes you into custody. This means that you reasonably believe that you are not free to walk away from the scene of the contact with the officer. Not every contact with a police officer means you are under arrest, but if you are handcuffed by a police officer, you are definitely under arrest.

I did not show up for my court appearance. What do I do?

First, contact an attorney who can help you deal with the warrant that was issued when you missed your scheduled court appearance. You also have the option of turning yourself in to the police or posting the bail or bond.

I don't have a record. Does this help my case?

Having a clean criminal record can help in negotiating your case. However, your criminal history, or lack of criminal history, would generally not be relevant if your case goes to trial.

I lost my license due to drunk driving. What can happen if I continue driving without a license?

If a person whose license has been revoked or suspended due to drunk driving continues to drive without a valid license, and is pulled over, he or she is likely to suffer more serious consequences, including a fines and/ or imprisonment. The more prudent course of action is to rely on friends and family for rides or to use public transport.

I refused to answer the police officer's questions. Will this hurt my case?

No. You have the absolute right to refuse to incriminate yourself by making statements. If your case goes trial, the prosecutor and officer would not be allowed to even mention that you were asked questions, but did not answer.

I was never read my rights. Would this help my case?

Possibly. It may lead to the suppression of any statements you may have made to the officer after your arrest.

If I am caught driving while drunk, can I refuse a breath analyzer test?

Although the answer can vary by state, in many cases, a refusal is itself a criminal violation that is subject to stiff penalties. In addition, if the case against you is proven, there may be additional penalties for the refusal, above and beyond the penalties for the drunk driving offense.

What are the consequences of drunk driving?

Drunk driving carries serious penalties. Although the court may go easier on first-time offenders, even in first-offense cases the possible sentences include stiff fines and jail time. If the circumstances warrant it, however, the court may choose less restrictive options, including probation, community service, or alcohol awareness or abuse counseling.. For subsequent offenses, the likelihood of imprisonment increases, and in all cases, the loss of driving privileges-at least temporarily-is almost guaranteed.

What is going to happen at my arraignment?

First, you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. We recommend that you enter a plea of not guilty, so that you have adequate time to hire a lawyer and evaluate all the options in terms of your case. The court will also deal with the conditions of your release that will be imposed while your case is pending. These conditions could include: posting bail or bond; entering a drug or alcohol treatment program or attending self-help meetings like AA; a no contact order; or even electronic home monitoring.

Why do I need a lawyer if I intend to plea guilty to a charge of drunk driving?

Even if you are guilty of drunk driving, it is imperative that you seek the advice of experienced counsel, so that you can minimize your sentence and maximize your opportunities to ensure fewer problems in the future. A criminal defense attorney is needed to equalize the balance of power between the defendant and the prosecution, and to ensure that the constitutional rights guaranteed to all criminal defendants are preserved.

Family law

How do I calculate child support?

The most important factors that are considered are: the number of children; each parent's income; the amount of time the children spend with each parent. A court has little authority to deviate from the formula used to calculate the figure, as the information is captured into a computer program and the calculation done automatically.

I had a child, but I wasn't married to the father. He refuses to help me financially, because he wanted me to have an abortion and I refused. What can I do?

First, you have to file a paternity case to legally establish that the man is the father of your child. You can then obtain a child support order in the same way as if you had been married. You will also have to deal with the issues of custody and visitation rights. But don't delay, as an order cannot be made retroactive beyond the date that papers are filed in court.

I have custody of my daughter. She graduates from high school this year. Can I make her father continue to pay child support, so she can afford to go to college?

No. A child support order terminates if the child is 18 and out of high school, or at 19 if the child is still attending high school full time. Hopefully, the father will want the child to go to college and will be willing to pay part of the cost.

My ex and I have different religions. Can I force my ex to raise the child in my religion?

No. The court will allow both of you to expose the child to both religions and then the child is older, he/ she can choose which religion, if any, they want to continue with.

My ex has moved his girlfriend into his house. I don't want our kids anywhere near her, as she is the reason we broke up. Can I stop him from having the kids there if she is there?

No, not unless you can show that potential harm will be caused to the children by her. The fact that she broke up your marriage is not sufficient cause.

My ex is always late with my support payments. I have to call him and remind him to send me a check. What can I do about it?

An order for a wage assignment is easy to get nowadays. This is an order from the court for your ex partner's employer to deduct the money from his pay-check and pay it to you directly. The money will be sent to you according to the company's payroll schedule, and not necessarily as per the schedule ordered by the court. But at least you won't have to go through the demeaning process of calling and asking for the money every month. If your ex is self-employed or working without being registered as a company employee, a wage assignment order will not do any good. However, if his payment history is very bad, you may be able to obtain an order for him to deposit the money in advance.

My ex is behind on paying me child support. Can I prevent him from seeing the kids until he pays me?

No. Visitation rights are also for the benefit of the children. They have a right to see their father and have a relationship with him, even if he isn't paying child support. Preventing visitation hurts the children.

My ex-wife is living with another man. Can I stop paying her spousal support?

Maybe. Cohabitation is different to having a roommate, as it creates a presumption of reduced need for support. The court could lower the amount of support or even stop all support completely.

My spouse and I are getting a divorce, but we are in agreement on this. Do we still have to hire two different lawyers?

Technically, you and your spouse are opposing parties in a divorce lawsuit. This remains true, regardless of whether you have accepted the terms of your divorce amicably. Representing both parties at the same time would be considered a conflict of interest for a lawyer.

However, a specialist at the Law Offices of Manuel Solis can serve as a Mediator and help you finalise your divorce. In this case, a lawyer who is an expert in family law will help you understand the current law, prepare the documentation, identify possible conflicts, mediate to reach a financial agreement, maintain communication with the parties involved, and carry out your divorce proceedings.

Our son's marriage failed and our ex-daughter-in-law has custody of our grandchildren. We were very close to our grandchildren, but now we seldom see them. Can we get a court order to provide for visits??

Probably not. You have to fit into a very narrow category in order to even ask for this. But even if you do, the court will have to make a finding that it is in the best interests of the children to have visits with you. So, unfortunately, your heartache is not a factor in this siutation.

Immigration law

I am being abused at home but I am in the United States illegally. Can I still report this?

Yes, you can. In such a case you could also qualify for protection provided by a VAWA. A VAWA could provide protection from the aggressor and help you obtain permanent residence in the United States, if the aggressor is your spouse, child or parent and is a permanent resident or citizen of the United States. The team at the Offices of Manuel Solis have a great deal of experience with these type of cases, and we can help you understand whether or not you qualify for this type of protection.

I am in the country illegally and I have been detained. What do I do?

The first thing to do is to stay calm and obtain legal help. Do not sign any documents or answer any questions: remember, you are entitled to remain silent. If you are offered voluntary departure, do not accept it. The team at the Law Offices of Manuel Solis has a lot of experience with deportation cases, and we can fight your case to prevent deportation, and then petition for permanent residence if you qualify for it.

I crossed into the US illegally, but I have a family member who can petition for me. Can I be arrested?

Yes. If you don't have immigration status, you can be arrested and deportation proceedings can be started. However, depending on who your family member is, you may not have to leave the country to obtain permanent resident status. But this is only applicable to citizens and their immediate family members. It is more likely that you will have to leave the country and, in addition, be punished for entering the US and remaining in the country illegally, with a time bar on applying for permanent residence status being imposed. This could anything from three to ten years; but, sometimes, a permanent bar is imposed.

The specialist attorneys at the Law Offices of Manuel Solis can help you obtain a waiver if a time bar is imposed, if you qualify. We can also help you take all the necessary steps to avoid being arrested before you legitimise your immigration status. In many cases, and if everything goes well, you may only be out of the country for a few weeks to attend a consular interview, and you can then enter the United States as a permanent resident.

I have a brother who is a citizen in the USA. Can he petition for permanent residence for me and my family?

Yes. If your brother is an American citizen, he can apply for permanent residence for you, your wife and your minor unmarried children.

I was charged with domestic violence and I am a permanent resident. Will this affect my immigration status?

Domestic violence allegations have very serious consequences for an immigration application. It is crucial that your attorney knows that you are not a citizen and that the attorney either understands the potential immigration consequences or consults with an immigration attorney on your case.

What do I have to do to seek asylum in the United States?

The most important requirement to obtain asylum in the United States is to show fear of persecution in your country or fear for your life. This cannot be done inexactly or lightly, and the fear must be well established. Supporting documents help a lot, but it is true that you can win an asylum case based only on your testimony and witnesses to the persecution in your home country, in order to establish that you have suffered persecution in the past.

However, even if you have not suffered persecution, but you are able to demonstrate well-founded fear that you will be persecuted or that you fear for your life, you could be awarded an asylum visa. The great advantage of demonstrating past persecution is that it then becomes the responsibility of the United States Government to demonstrate that the circumstances in your home country have changed, if it wants to deny the case. If a past persecution cannot be demonstrated, the burden of proof lies with the beneficiary to properly document the reasons why he thinks that he/ she will suffer persecution in his/ her home country.

If you are in the United States legally, you can submit an asylum petition and remain in the legal situation, even if you are denied the case, until the legal situation you are in is over. But if you entered the country illegally or are in the country illegally when you submit the petition, you will be subjected to deportation proceedings if the application is denied. The point is that once you are subjected to deportation proceedings and go in front of a judge, you reapply for asylum, but also request cancellation of deportation and relief under the Convention Against Torture (Convention Against Torture) mechanism, so that you still have a chance to fight your assylum case.

What is a Green Card?

A Green Card is issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It provides proof of lawful permanent resident status, with authorization to live and work anywhere in the United States. Most Green Cards must be renewed every 10 years, but conditional Green Cards that are based on marriage or investment must be replaced after the first 2 years.

What is a marriage Green Card?

The law entitles most U.S. citizens and U.S. Green Card holders to sponsor their spouses to obtain a Green Card - also known as Permanent Residence Status. The total cost, waiting time, and other details of the marriage Green Card process vary, based on several factors.

What is bail?

Bail is an amount of money posted with the court as a sort of insurance that you will appear at all your court appearances and that you will follow all the orders of the court. You may also post 10% of the bail amount with a bail bond company (together with collateral). If you post cash bail with the court, you will receive all this money back at the end of your case. If you use a bail bond company, the 10% fee will not be paid back to you.

What is the Visa Bulletin?

The Visa Bulletin is a publication that is issued every month by the U.S. Department of State. It shows which Green Card applications can move forward, based on when the I-130 petition (that starts the Green Card process) was originally filed. The Visa Bulletin exists because Congress caps the number of Green Cards that can be issued each year in certain categories. The caps have created backlogs in some categories.

Insurance law

Do I have the right to temporary housing after a disaster has damaged my home severely, if it was insured?

After a catastrophic loss that impacts multiple stakeholders, your insurance company may arrange for temporary housing for you for a week or so. But it is your responsibility to arrange longer-term temporary housing, until your claim is resolved and you can then arrange permanent housing.

Do I have to do something before I clear the debris from my property after it is destroyed in a disaster?

Yes. Please photograph all recognizable items in the debris before it is taken away, and particularly any items that your insurer may want to remove for cleaning/ salvage. The insurer may arrange for a company to clean and store these items and the fee is usually deducted from the insurance payout due on household contents.

Disagreements often arise about whether damaged items are salvageable and can be cleaned, or whether it makes more sense to replace them. So, examine the items your insurer or cleaning company deems salvageable. If you feel they really can’t be cleaned, or that cleaning and storage costs will exceed the cost to replace them, talk to the adjuster about this, otherwise you'll be left with less money to replace destroyed items after the cleaning and storage costs are deducted from your contents insurance payout figure. It’s a good idea to ask the insurance company for written confirmation that they have inspected the loss location to their satisfaction and they agree that you can proceed with debris removal and clearing of the site.

How long does it take to process an insurance claim?

This could be anything from a few months to a few years. The amount of time it takes to settle a claim varies with each claim. The variables that determine the time period include: the coverage provided and the limitations indicated in your policy; the insurance company's procedures; the type and amount of damage; the personality of the adjuster assigned to your claim; the amount of time it takes to prepare and submit your claim, including all the supporting documents and information. Your policy will indicate the deadline for submitting proof of losses and repairing/ replacing or collecting full value.

My home was flooded, but the insurance company says it is not going to cover the damages. What should I do?

You should consult with a lawyer to determine whether or not you are entitled to compensation for damages. Sometimes, an insurance company will try to pay out as little as possible after such an incident, so it is a good idea to obtain professional advice. A specialist at the Law Offices of Manuel Solis can provide a FREE valuation of the damages you have suffered. We only charge for the representation service if you obtain compensation, and this is a percentage of what you receive, with the percentage depending on whether or not the case goes before a court.

The company’s adjuster says my possessions can be cleaned and don't need to be replaced. How do I know if that’s true?

It may or may not be true. Obtain advice from a reputable restoration company or a qualified professional, such as a specialist lawyer. If the loss is related to a fire, the heat, smoke and water damage can be significant, even if the items were not totally consumed by the fire. Smoke odor is difficult to remove and a convenient over-simplification is for an adjuster to assert or expect damaged items to be cleaned. Experts at the Law Offices of Manuel Solis can offer you a FREE inspection of the damage you have suffered and negotiate with the insurance adjuster to make sure that you are not taken advantage of.

What are the important deadlines to remember when filing an insurance claim?

Policies vary – some require an executed Proof of Loss to be submitted within 60 days of the loss occurring, while others require an executed Proof of Loss to be submitted within 60 days of the carrier’s request.

Another important deadline to be aware of is the date by which a suit must be brought if you and the carrier are unable to agree on the claim. Some policies require that the action be brought within a year of the date of the loss, others stipulate two years. If you have not complied with the conditions provided in the policy, before you sue, your lawsuit may be dismissed.

In addition, some policies indicate that replacement cost payments will be made, if the required rebuilding or repairs are completed within 180 days of an Actual Cash Value (ACV) payment being issued. However, it may not be feasible to complete the construction work within 180 days of receiving an ACV payment, and a written request for a waiver or an extension of the provision should be submitted to the insurer as soon as possible.

Who has to clean the debris on my lot if my property is severely damaged, for example, by a storm and if I have insurance cover?

You, as the policyholder, are responsible for clearing the debris from your lot. However, policies vary, so if you have specific cover for this, the cost of this work is covered. If your property was damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster, check with your local government officials to see if they’re coordinating a debris removal program. Also note that one of the more common additional cover items in a policy is an extra amount to be paid for debris removal. But you have to read the policy carefully, as the cover provided could be an amount that is payable above the limit that applies to your basic dwelling cover.

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