About Michael Gaier

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New Foreclosure Firms Getting a Foothold

Foreclosure Home

The worst of the financial crisis is over and the number of foreclosures is down sharply from only a few years ago, yet many of the mortgage firms, however, remain the same — Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase & Fannie Mae. The latest rankings, however, now include several smaller firms including Lone Star Funds, Penny Mac, Carrington (some of these firms were not even in existence when the crisis started in 2007).

Many of these newer firms bought soured mortgages at steep discounts and are now looking to profit by restructuring the loan terms and trying to get the borrowers to repay. And generally, the smaller firms have a better ability to modify loans because they are more flexible with less investor requirements. The new smaller firms are taking some risks that bigger banks are no longer interested in taking, but when the homeowner can’t repay the loan or qualify for a modification, the new firms and/or their loan servicers foreclose in more aggressive ways than the older, larger foreclosure firms. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are looking to sell thousands of distressed mortgages within the next year or two, and while the large banks still own the majority of these mortgages, count on the smaller firms to continue to catch up to them.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit—Actual Losses

Personal InjuryYou’ve been hurt in an accident and you’ve filed a lawsuit. You’ve succeeded in showing that the defendant’s conduct fell below the expected standard of care, and you’ve also met the dual requirements of actual cause and proximate cause. But you’re still not home. To recover monetary compensation, you still need to show that you sustained actual losses because of the wrongful acts of the defendant.

What is Actual Injury?

You may be saying, “hey, wait a minute, I showed that the defendant engaged in wrongful conduct and I showed that it caused damage to something I own or caused me injury. What more do I need to show?” In determining whether you have a right to damages, the court will want to ask a few questions:

  • Did you actually incur any out-of-pocket expenses, or was everything paid for by insurance companies?—You can’t file a claim for lost wages if you received full reimbursement or payment of wages. You can’t seek damages for medical expenses that were either paid by the insurance company or reimbursed to you. If your insurance company covers all your out-of-pocket expenses, they may have a claim against the defendant for those costs, but you don’t—you can’t recover twice for the same loss.
  • Did you suffer pain or physical discomfort?—These types of injuries are not normally covered by insurance, so here’s a place where you may actually be entitled to damages.
  • Did you have to stop doing things you love?—Did you play tennis or golf before the accident, but can’t now because of the pain? Was there any other activity you had to give up because of the accident?
  • Have you lost the ability to be intimate with a spouse or partner, or to enjoy the companionship of family members?

Contact Us

To schedule a private meeting with an experienced personal injury attorney, call our foreclosure hotline at 855-289-1660 or e-mail us. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit–Causation

car hits manIn an earlier blog, we discussed the initial requirement of a personal injury lawsuit, that the injured party demonstrate that the defendant breached the duty to act as a reasonable person would. Once you’ve successfully shown that the defendant’s level of care was below that expected by a reasonable person, you must next show that the failure caused  an injury.

Causation Defined

Under the common law, there are two types of causation, both of which must be shown for a personal injury claim to succeed: actual cause and proximate cause.

Actual, or “but for” cause, is the simplest to show. To meet this burden, you need only show that, in the absence of the defendant’s breach of the duty of care, the accident would not have happened and the injury would not have been suffered. Actual cause can apply to direct losses—a person runs a red light and hits your car—the property damage to your car is a direct result of the breach. It can also, however, apply to indirect, or consequential, injuries. Suppose, in the accident above, the collision causes you to lose control of your car and careen into an ice cream store, causing loss of power and the ultimate loss of $10,000 worth of ice cream—running the red light was the actual cause.

But there’s another causal requirement before you can recover compensation—you must show proximate cause. Essentially, this requires that you show that the damages or losses suffered were reasonably foreseeable based on your negligence. That question is a question for the jury, so ultimately jurors will have to determine if there was proximate cause.

Even though you’ve established a breach of the standard of care, and met the causation requirements, you must still show that you suffered actual injury.

Contact the Lawyers at Shaffer & Gaier, L.L.C.

For a free initial consultation, send us an e-mail or call us in Philadelphia at 215-751-0100, or in New Jersey at 856-429-0970. You can also reach our foreclosure hotline at 855-289-1660. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

Expiration of Popular Mortgage Modification Program, HAMP

Application for Mortgage Loan Modification

The Federal Government allowed the nation’s primary mortgage modification program, HAMP, to expire on December 31, 2016. The Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, was introduced in 2009 to respond to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and it provided targeted aid to homeowners who met certain criteria. The primary eligibility requirements were that the loan needed to be originated before January 1, 2009, borrowers needed to document their income, suffer a financial hardship and the debt-to-income ratio needed to fall in the 30-35% range.

HAMP was uniformly used by most of the big banks and servicers and my office worked with more than a dozen of these banks and servicers to secure modifications for hundreds of our clients. While frustrating at times because of institutional bureaucracy, modifications were accomplished in a variety of ways, including through interest rate reduction, fixing the interest rate, reducing mortgage principal and/or forebearance and/or extending the term of the loan. HAMP was beneficial in that it provided clear and concise guidelines and included incentives for both the banks and the homeowners.

Neither Congress or Regulators have yet to put forth a replacement for HAMP. This is worrisome because it means that each bank or servicer is free to use and set their own guidelines. While there will be some period of uncertainty during this transition, our office will be working with homeowners and dealing with each bank or servicer’s specific and particular requirements.

Leading Reverse Mortgage Lenders Fined for Deceptive Practices

Mortgage

The Consumer Protection Financial Bureau fined the 3 leading reverse mortgage lenders in January, 2017 for using deceptive advertising to sell reverse mortgages. The fines totaled $800k and the bureau ordered the company to stop using misleading ads, some of which dated back to early 2012.

A reverse mortgage is a type pf loan that is usually targeted towards older Americans. A reverse mortgage can be a good tool for a homeowner who expects to remain in the home for many years and continue to pay the taxes and insurance but as borrowers age, these payments can become surprisingly unaffordable. These television and print ads, however, are often marketed featuring reassuring celebrity spokesmen (Fred Thompson/ Tom Selleck). Revere mortgages ae loans that carry interest and fees and can look deceptively alluring but they usually are fraught with dangerous details. Reverse mortgages let borrowers, 62 or older, draw on the equity in their homes, and they can be useful for home owners who have little in retirement savings but have substantial equity. Borrowers can receive the funds in lump-sums, monthly payments or lines of credit and repayment is deferred until the borrower dies, moves out or sells the home.

In the advertisements, the companies promoted the loans as risk free, but the homeowners can easily default on these loans and lose the homes in foreclosure if they fail to make certain payments like property taxes, insurance or maintenance. That is what the CPFB was targeting when it levied these fines. The CFPB said that the companies were tricking consumers into thinking that they could never lose their homes through a reverse mortgage, a claim that the CFPB asserts is patently untrue. The companies did not admit or deny the allegations but they paid the fines.

Since its peak in 2009 the use of reverse mortgages has fallen dramatically. Only about 49,000 reverse mortgages were made between September 2015 and September 2016.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit—The Standard of Care

slip and fallIf you’ve been hurt because of the actions of another person—in a motor vehicle accident, because of a dangerous or defective product, or in a slip and fall—you have a right to pursue compensation for your losses by filing a civil suit for damages. In most instances, the legal theory you’ll use to pursue monetary compensation will be based on allegations of negligence. The necessary elements of negligence are:

  • Breach of a duty to use reasonable care
  • Causation
  • Actual injury

This blog looks at the duty to reasonable care. To learn about causation or what constitutes actual injury, see those blogs.

The Standard of Care for Negligence

The principles of law governing negligence are generally not found in statutes, but in what is known as the “common law,” based on written opinions handed down by judges over the past few centuries. One of the fundamental concepts related to negligence is the assumption that all people have a duty, in everything they do, to exercise a certain level of care, so as not to put others at risk of injury or harm. Accordingly, whether you’re driving a car, erecting a building or set of stairs, manufacturing or marketing a product, or operating a power tool, it’s expected that you will act as a reasonable person would. If you don’t, you will be considered to have “breached” the duty of care.

That begs the question—how does the law define “reasonable care”? For the most part, it actually doesn’t. Both what constitutes reasonable care and whether the defendant exercised or breached the duty to exercise reasonable care are considered issues of fact, to be determined by the jury (or the judge, if there is no jury). Accordingly, what constitutes reasonable care may vary from case to case, based in the fact situation. Prior cases addressing similar fact situations typically act as precedent…a court can conclude that because a prior jury found certain behavior unreasonable, it does as well. But ultimately, it’s an issue of fact that is not subject to appeal.

Once you’ve established the breach, you must then show that the wrongful act caused injury.

Contact the Law Office of Shaffer & Gaier, L.L.C.

At Shaffer & Gaier, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment, contact us online or call our office in Philadelphia at 215-751-0100, or in New Jersey at 856-429-0970. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

How Long Do You Have to Sue?

personal_injury

The Statute of Limitations | Personal Injury Lawsuits

Under the laws of Pennsylvania, when you have been hurt because of the carelessness of negligence of another person, there’s a limited amount of in which you can file a lawsuit to recover for personal injury and/or property losses. The statute that sets forth this time limit is known as the statute of limitations. The statute can be extended, but only in extremely limited situations, so it’s important that you take swift action to retain legal counsel, so that your attorney can gather, assess and preserve evidence, and can file your claim before the expiration of the statute.

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury action is two years. As a general rule, the statute begins to run on the date of your injury. However, if you were involved in an accident, but did not know at the time that you had suffered any injury, or did not know that a specific defendant’s actions caused an injury, the running of the statute will be “tolled,” or suspended until your discovery of the injury and/or the fact that a certain defendant caused the injury. It’s not uncommon, in cases involving toxic torts or other unseen dangers, that injury or illness not manifest until years or decades after exposure. In those types of situations, a court may be inclined to toll the statute until the discovery of either the injury or its cause.

There are other instances where the statute of limitations may be tolled:

  • If the injured party lacks legal capacity—is a minor, mentally ill or insane—the statute may be tolled until the party has capacity, although it’s not required
  • If a defendant has left the jurisdiction, you may be able to suspend the statute of limitations until his or her return

Contact Us

To schedule a private meeting with an experienced personal injury attorney, call our foreclosure hotline at 855-289-1660 or e-mail us . Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

Sushi Chef Sues SEPTA for Setback

Train leaving station

A 55-year-old sushi chef from Queens, Hing Piu Wong, has filed suit against the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), alleging that the mass transit authority was negligent and caused him injury.

According to documents filed by Wong in his hometown of Queens, Wong was traveling on a SEPTA train from Philadelphia to Claymont, Delaware on October 20, 2015. Wong alleges that, when he arrived in Claymont and tried to disembark, he discovered that the train was leaning away from the platform, causing a significant gap. Nonetheless, he tried to span the gap and leave the train, but fell on the platform, dislocating his right wrist. Wong further alleges that, at the time of the injury, he was working as a sushi chef. Because of the pain associated with the injury, and because he required two surgeries to repair the damage, he was forced to give up his job.

For the time being, it appears that the lawsuit will remain in the Queens court. Under New York law, a New York court has appropriate jurisdiction over a defendant if the defendant is an out-of-state entity conducting business in the state. SEPTA attorneys had asked the Queens court to dismiss the complaint, arguing that SEPTA did not serve New York. The court, however, denied the motion to dismiss, citing the fact that SEPTA sells tickets from a window at New York’s Penn Station.

SEPTA had also argued that litigating the action would be more convenient for all parties in Pennsylvania, but the Queens court disagreed, finding that Wong’s inability to speak English would make it a greater hardship for him to have to pursue legal action elsewhere.

Contact the Lawyers at Shaffer & Gaier, L.L.C.

For a free initial consultation, send us an e-mail or call us in Philadelphia at 215-751-0100, or in New Jersey at 856-429-0970. You can also reach our foreclosure hotline at 855-289-1660. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

Snow Blowers Still Causing Injury Despite Recall

Foot soft splint for treatment of injuries from tendon inflammat

It’s January in Pennsylvania—it would be pretty unusual not to have snow on the ground. Shoveling’s pretty hard work, so why not fire up the snow blower? Before you do, though, take a good look at the brand. If it’s an MTD Snow Thrower and you’ve had it for a while, there’s a good chance that it could be extremely dangerous to operate. The MTD Snow Thrower was subject to voluntary recall some 10 years ago, but company officials acknowledge that a significant number of the machines have not been returned and still pose a serious risk of injury.

According to court documents filed against MTD, the manufacturer, more than 130,000 snow blowers manufactured by the company had tire rims that were extremely dangerous. The rims were made of a plastic material, and when users overinflated the tires on the snow blower, the air pressure had a tendency to cause the rims to explode, sending plastic shrapnel flying through the air. Sources say that hundreds of owners have reported a wide range of injuries, from cuts and bruises to broken bones, including fingers and toes. Company officials say the snow blowers were sold through Sears, Home Depot and other hardware outlets. The Sears product carried the Craftsman logo.

Contact the Law Office of Shaffer & Gaier, L.L.C.

If you or someone you love has been hurt because a consumer product was negligently designed or poorly manufactured, you have a right to pursue compensation from anyone in the chain of distribution. Let us help.

At Shaffer & Gaier, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment, contact us online or call our office in Philadelphia at 215-751-0100, or in New Jersey at 856-429-0970. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

Medical Malpractice Suits Involving Cauda Equina

Medical Malpractice Suits Involving Cauda Equina

malpractice-s

Have you been experiencing lower back pain or sciatica? Have you had numbness or weakness in one or both legs that has made it difficult for you to get up from a chair, or caused you to stumble? Have you lost sensation around your genitals or buttocks? Have you had bladder, bowel or sexual dysfunction? You may have cauda equine syndrome, a neurological disorder caused by an injury to the nerve roots that exit the spinal cord.

The symptoms of cauda equine can generally be reversed, if treated before they become too pronounced. Unfortunately, even though testing is pretty simple, the signs are often missed by doctors until it’s too late. In some instances, a doctor may be able to diagnose cauda equine through a physical exam, but an MRI, a myelogram or CT scan will all help with the diagnosis.

According to experts, there’s about a 48 hour window during which the effects of cauda equine can be reversed. The typical treatment calls for immediate surgical decompression, where doctors operate to alleviate pressure. In some instances, where there’s swelling around the base of the spine, you may need corticosteroids or antibiotics as well.

The types of injuries tied to cauda equine (Latin for "horse’s tail") are often very serious, including paralysis, drop feet, incontinence and considerable neurological pain. Cauda equine can be caused by any number of factors, including:

  • Blunt trauma to the lower back, or lumbar spine injury in a car accident
  • A ruptured disck
  • Spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal)
  • A tumor or lesion on the spine
  • An infection or inflammation in the lower spine

Contact Us

To schedule a private meeting with an experienced personal injury attorney, call our foreclosure hotline at 855-289-1660 or e-mail us. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

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Firm Newsletter: June, 2017

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New Foreclosure Firms Getting a Foothold

The worst of the financial crisis is over and the number of foreclosures is down sharply from only a few years ago, yet many of the mortgage firms, however, remain the same --- Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase & Fannie Mae. The latest … [Read More...]