Back to School Safety for Our Kids – No Matter How They Get to School

A Perspective From a Parent and a Lawyer For Child Injury

Lawyer for Child Injury

It is back to school time and, at our house, this is a crazy time—getting supplies, meeting new teachers and figuring out a new schedule and how we will make it all work. Parents all across Iowa are dealing with the same stress, including trying to figure out how they are going to get their kids to and from school. Parents have a hard enough time worrying about just getting kids to and from school and they shouldn’t have to worry about their safety on the way. This article is intended to provide some tips for helping your kids get to and from school safely and some information that may be helpful if your child gets hurt while travelling to and from school. Here are a few things to consider to keep kids safe:

Riding a bike to school

Most kids love riding their bikes and for some families this can be a great way for a kid to get to and from school, at least before the first snow fall. Pediatricians agree that it is critical for children to wear a helmet while riding their bikes. Our office donates to a number of events where free bicycle helmets are provided for children who need them. Safe Kids Linn County often gives out free bicycle helmets. On With Life and the Brain Injury Alliance are giving out free helmets at the Iowa State Fair. If you cannot afford a bike helmet for your child and are unable to find a free giveaway, email me at ann@annbrownlegal.com and I will do my best to help. Another precaution parents can take is to make sure your child knows their route to school, including where they should cross each road and has practiced riding that route.

Walking to school

Lots of kids walk to school. It is a good idea to practice your child’s route with them and to remind them to walk on the sidewalk and of safe crossing practices. A number of Cedar Rapids Schools offer Walking School Bus, which is a group of students walking to and from school with one or more adults.

Driving to school

Having teenagers is incredibly stressful and when they start driving parents are constantly worried. One thing to remember is that in Iowa, persons under the age of 18 must have a graduated driver’s license (GDL). These are the levels for licenses in Iowa:

  • Age 14 - Learner’s Permit (only drive with adult)
  • Age 14½ - School Permit (can only drive alone to and from school activities)
  • Age 16 - Provisional License (completed driver’s education and had learner’s permit for one year)
  • Age 17 - Unrestricted License (had intermediate driver’s license and been accident free for 12 months).

See the Iowa DMV website for more information. https://www.dmv.org/ia-iowa/teen-drivers.php

Taking the bus to school

Many children take the bus to school. Make sure your child knows the name/number of their bus, the name of their bus driver and where they should catch the bus. If possible, children should wait with an adult or in a group for the bus to arrive. If you have specific concerns about your child on the bus, you should express those to the driver.

Unfortunately, despite all of the precautions that we take as parents, sometimes our children will get hurt on their way to or from school. If your child’s injury was caused by another person, such as a negligent motorist, or a homeowner who did not keep their sidewalk safe, you may want to speak with a lawyer for child injury about claims that your child may have.  A lawyer for child injury can help you understand what potential claims are available and how to bring those claims, given that a child cannot pursue those claims themselves. A child injury attorney will also be able to provide guidance about medical bills, dealing with the insurance company and obtaining court approval for any settlement.

If your child has been injured and you have questions, please contact us at (319) 826-2250 or fill out our contact form.

How Does The Family Medical Leave Act Protect Me?

Iowa Employment Law

The Family and Medical Leave Act was enacted in 1993 to give eligible employees unpaid, but protected, time off in the event of certain emergencies or other family related matters. The FMLA guarantees that in these circumstances an employee can not be laid off or fired if he or she needs to take this time off.

What Does the Law Provide?

The law provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off in a 12-month period, but with all eligible benefits, such as health insurance, in place. It also protects an employee from being fired if he or she needs to make use of this time off.

If the family member, or employee, is a member of the U.S. armed services, the protected time off extends to 26 weeks in a 12-month period.

When Can This Leave Be Taken?

In general, FMLA can be taken when you or an immediate family member is facing a serious illness and need care. Immediate family members are defined as parents, children, or spouse. In 2005, the law was extended to include same-sex unions as part of the definition of spouse.

This leave can also be taken at the birth or adoption of a child or the placement of a child into foster care into one’s home.

Who Is Eligible?

The law protects those who work for a private employer with 50 or more employees, within 75 miles of where you work, or those who work for a government employer. The employee also needs to meet certain criteria. For instance, he or she needs to have been employed for the last 12 months (or 12 months in less than 7 years, if seasonal). He or she needs to have worked 1250 hours in 12 months or about 24 hours a week.

What If I’m Not Eligible?

If the specific criteria listed by the Family and Medical Leave Act does not apply to you, you may still be protected by state or local laws, or your employment contract. You can check with your Human Resources department or state labor laws for specific information.

When you need to take leave protected under the FMLA, you should give your employer as much notice and information as you can, to ensure that your rights are protected. However, if you have made your employer aware of your situation and your rights are being compromised, we may be able to help.

 If you need a lawyer to represent you, please call us for a free consultation at (319) 826-2250 or fill out our contact form.

Iowa's Gender Pay Gap: Why And What To Do About It

Workplace Discrimination Lawyers

Iowa’s gender pay gap is one of the widest in the nation. According to the AAUW, on average, women in Iowa make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. That number is well below the national average and places Iowa at number 41 in a ranking of the 50 states and Washington D.C.

Factors At Work

Employers give a lot of reasons for the gender pay gap, but really the gender pay gap is a result of gender discrimination – pure and simple – both historical and current discrimination. Because women have historically been paid less than men they are often willing to accept lower pay than a man would, however courts have made it clear that woman’s willingness to accept a lower pay rate does not make it legal to pay her less for the same work.

This factor is compounded by the fact that many women don’t know they are being paid less than the men they work with. Many employers prohibit employees from sharing their salaries allowing them to keep unequal pay a secret. Although Iowa passed its Equal Pay Act in 2009, and it is one of the strongest Equal Pay Acts in the nation, it requires that employees file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission or file a lawsuit in order to remedy unfair pay. As it stands today, there are no specific laws in Iowa that prevent an employer from requiring his employees to keep their wages a secret from their fellow employees. Workplace discrimination lawyers see firsthand that this lack of transparency may cause female employees to be unaware of discriminatory pay practices happening in their workplace.

What You Can Do

Whether you are a woman in Iowa feeling that pay gap, or anyone anywhere who feels the weight of this discrimination, there are steps you can take to make change.

1)    Advocate for Yourself

Speak with your employer or your fellow employees to find out if your salary or wages is commensurate with your male colleagues. Negotiate your salary, raises, and bonuses with confidence, knowing that the U.S. Equal Pay Act, Title VIII and Iowa’s Equal Pay Act protect women from being paid unfairly. Iowa and federal law also protect you from retaliation from your employer for bringing this up. If you suspect unfair pay practices, here are a few things you should know

2)    Advocate for All

Starting with your own negotiations, continue having this conversation. Speak with other women in your industry or community and encourage them to speak up for themselves. Unequal pay practices occur in every field and women in leadership positions may be at a higher risk of being paid unfairly. If you are in a position to set salaries in your organization, review women’s pay and advocate for equal pay among men and women.

3)    Legislative Change

Educate yourself about local or state laws on the ballot that further protect employees from wage discrimination. Speak with your legislators, state and federal, about laws that encourage transparency and honesty in wage practices. At the federal level, every year, a bill is introduced that would require employer transparency so that people know when they are being paid unfairly, but every year corporate employers oppose the bill and it has never passed.  Contact your representatives and encourage them to support this bill. Iowa could enact a similar law and so you should also contact your state representatives and encourage them to put forth this type of legislation.

4)    Seek Legal Assistance

If you discover that you have been paid less than your male colleagues, we can help. We have experience as workplace discrimination lawyers and have successfully represented women in court who were being paid unfairly.

If you need a lawyer to represent you, please call us for a free consultation at (319) 826-2250 or fill out our contact form.

3 Ways a Motorcycle Injury Attorney Can Help if You Have Been Injured Riding Your Motorcycle

Motorcycle Injury Attorney

It is summertime in Iowa and that means a lot more motorcyclists on the rode enjoying one of America’s growing past times – motorcycle riding. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the number of households owning a motorcycle has been steadily increasing over the last 10 years. 

Additionally, more older Iowans are riding motorcycles and, as a result, there has been an increased focus on safety among motorcycle riders. This has included motorcycle training courses and the Share the Road movement, which is “intended to reduce accidents between drivers and motorcyclist by seeing, respecting and understanding a motorcyclist’s needs and rights on the highway.”

Despite the increased focus on safety, unfortunately, motorcyclists are still at a higher risk for injuries and fatalities from an accident than other drivers. If you have been injured in a motorcycle crash or have lost a loved one in a motorcycle crash, there can be a lot of complicated legal issues and a motorcycle injury attorney may be able to help you so that you can focus only on healing and recovering from a crash. Here are three things that a motorcycle injury attorney may be able to help you with:

  1. Determining the Insurance Available to Compensate You: When you have been injured because of the negligence of another it can be overwhelming to determine which insurance company should be paying your medical bills and should compensate you for your injuries. This can be complicated in motorcycle injury cases because many motorcycle insurance policies do not include uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or medical payments coverage; however, Iowa has specific laws about this type of coverage. This can mean that it is important to determine the type of insurance that the negligent driver has and also to review your own insurance policy to determine what kind of coverage you have and if you may have additional coverage available because of Iowa’s insurance laws. In addition to these considerations, you also need to determine if your health insurance carrier should be paying your medical bills for treatment as you receive it and if they will be entitled to be paid back if you recover from the other driver. These issues are complicated but are very important to make sure that you recover as much as possible to help you with everything that you have to deal with when you have been unexpectedly injured. A motorcycle injury attorney can help you sort through these issues.

  2. Proving Who Caused the Crash: Motorcycle crashes can raise additional issues about who is at fault for a crash. Oftentimes the other driver will claim that they didn’t see the motorcycle and may assume that the motorcyclist did something wrong to cause the crash. It is important to get copies of the police investigative file and talk with all witnesses in order to prove who was at fault for the crash. It may also be necessary to hire an accident reconstructionist if it is not clear how the crash occurred. If the other driver caused the crash, a motorcycle injury attorney can help prove that and therefore help protect your rights.

  3. Overcoming Jury Biases: People can feel very strongly about motorcycles and motorcyclists. Some people feel motorcycles are inherently dangerous. Other people believe motorcyclists are dangerous drivers. But motorcyclists have the same rights as all drivers on the road and when they are injured, they have the same right to recover. If it becomes necessary to try your case in front of a jury (meaning it does not settle) a motorcycle injury attorney can try to help the jury understand motorcyclists’ rights.

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident or if you have lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident, please call us at (319) 826-2250, or fill out our contact form,  to discuss what you are going through and determine if we can help.

How Do I Know If My Employer Is Treating Me Fairly?

Workplace Discrimination Lawyers

Workplace discrimination lawyers represent employees who have been mistreated, paid unequally or discriminated against because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, age or religion. Fair treatment in the workplace is not a perk or benefit. In a lot of cases, it’s the law. There are legal ramifications to an employer treating his or her employees unfairly because they have differences. If you are feeling mistreated or wondering if your employer is legally acting fairly, here are a few areas you should consider.

Fair Payment For Work

A lot of workplace issues involve employee wages and benefits. Laws regarding minimum wage, equal pay, overtime payment and more regulate how an employer can pay their employees. Employers who do not comply with these laws may be held liable for wage theft. The Department of Labor outlines many of the federal laws governing fair pay concerns. Iowa also has a specific law addressing wages known as the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Act.

Gender Gap

While being treated equally does not always mean being treated the same, it does mean being given the same opportunities with the same intentions. This may look different in specific situations or for specific individuals. However, the general law remains the same: equal pay for equal work. Time and again we see women, doing the same job with the same responsibilities and qualifications as their male counterparts but being paid less. This is illegal and, as workplace discrimination lawyers, we have brought these cases to court and won.

Policies and Outcomes

From hiring to departure, and all the days in between, employers cannot have different rules for different employees based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age or religion. Employers do not have to treat every employee the same and always act fairly towards every employee, but an employer cannot treat an employee different because they are in a “protected class” meaning because of their race, their gender, their age, the sexual orientation or their religion.

Channels to Be Heard

Part of being treated fairly is the opportunity and freedom to speak up when an employee feels uncomfortable, harassed or treated unfairly. Laws that prohibit discrimination also prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee because they make a complaint about discrimination. This includes making a complaint to the employer, making a complaint to the EEOC or the Iowa Civil Rights Commission or filing a lawsuit.

Harassment

The stories of sexual harassment in the news are shocking for some but for many women across many industries these stories are not news. They are all too aware of the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace. While sexual harassment is far too common, it is ILLEGAL.

Every employee deserves to be treated fairly by his or her employer. A workplace should be a place of growth and equality. If you have questions or feel that you are being treated unfairly in your workplace, contact a workplace discrimination lawyer today.  You can call us at (319) 826-2250 or fill out our contact form.

What To Do If Your Child Is Injured In A Car Accident

Child Injury Claims

Car accidents are among some of the most common child injury cases we see in our office – especially with older or teenage children. If your child has been injured in a car accident, you are likely juggling a lot and may require the assistance of a lawyer. Here are a few steps to keep in mind to arrive at the best outcome after a traumatic car accident.

1)   Actively Pursue Medical Treatment

First and foremost, take your child for whatever medical treatment is recommended, as soon as possible, including emergency room visits, follow-up appointments, therapies and rehabilitations, and more. The first priority must always be your child’s well-being and as a parent you know when your child is not back to normal and needs to continue with medical treatment.  It can be confusing trying to figure out which insurance should be paying your child’s medical bills, but a personal injury lawyer can discuss this with you and sort through how to submit the medical bills for payment.

2)   Decide Whether You Need a Lawyer

Acting on behalf of children can be more complicated than when only adults are involved. A court has to approve any settlement of a child’s claim that is more than $25,000. If your child’s car accident injury is significant, rather than a minor mishap, it may be best to hire a lawyer who can help with the issues that arise in pursuing and settling a child’s personal injury case.  It can be overwhelming caring for an injured child and making sure that the child receives the full value of their claim and a personal injury attorney can help.

3)   Keep Track of Damages

If you find that you need to work with a lawyer, you can rest assured that most of the necessary documentation can be taken care of by the legal team. However, you may want to make the process easier by keeping track of any losses or damages your child experiences. For children, these may include days absent from school, as well as medical bills. Keep a folder of bills, receipts, letters, and other documents you receive to share with the lawyer if you choose to hire one.

4)   Let the Lawyer Do the Talking

In speaking with an insurance adjuster, they may ask you or your child to make a statement to settle the claim. Rarely should you let your child give a statement to the insurance company, and if at all possible, avoid giving one yourself. In many cases involving significant injury with large claim settlements, it’s best if your lawyer speaks with the insurance company.

If you find that you need a lawyer after your child is injured in a car accident, we are here to help. We can walk you through the process and be your advocate with the insurance company and in court. For a free consultation, fill out our contact form or give us a call at (319) 826-2250.

We Stand With The Children Separated From Their Parents and Here is How You Can Too!

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I have been watching the news, horrified with the rest of the country, watching as immigrant children are taken from their parents at the US Border. Regardless of your feelings about immigration laws and immigration reform, I think we can all agree this practice has to stop and these babies need to be reunited with their families. 

I practice in personal injury and employment law, but watching this crisis unfold I have wished that I was an immigration lawyer so that I could advocate for these children in court. But these children need experienced immigration attorneys fighting for them and getting them back into the arms of their parents. If these children cannot obtain counsel they could stand in front of judges and represent themselves! There are a number of organizations providing legal advocacy that you can support financially. Our office is supporting RAICES, (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense). Below are links to a number of organizations providing legal assistance to immigrant children:

  1.  RAICES Family Reunification and Bond Fund;
  2. Kids in Need of Defense; 
  3. The Florence Project; 
  4. The ACLU; 
  5. The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights; and 
  6. Together Rising Love Flash Mob for the Children

Even small donations help. In addition to financial support, these children need you to let your voices be heard. Contact your representatives to let them know that you oppose the policy of separating children from their parents at the border. If you want to learn more about what you can do in the face of this crisis, please read this article from the New York Times. 

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN. 

Most Common Child Injury Cases

Child Injury Attorney

We believe children deserve to grow up in a safe environment, which gives them the freedom to grow and develop to their fullest potential. But sometimes accidents happen. Child injury claims exist to seek justice and to provide for a safer world for all of our children. Here are three of the most common types of injury cases we see in our office.

School Injuries

One category of child injury claims we have brought on behalf of children and their parents are claims against a school for injuries by the child. According to the Iowa Supreme Court, a school acts in the role of a parent while children are present in school. Stepping into the shoes of a parent, the school is then legally responsible for the care and well-being of the children during that time. While a school is not required to prevent every child injury, the school must take the same action that a reasonably prudent parent would. As a child injury attorney, I represent families whose children have been significantly injured because of school negligence.

Lead Poisoning

Unfortunately, another common child injury claim is for environmental exposure to a dangerous chemical such as lead. Lead poisoning is a very common child injury claim – and Ann Brown has represented multiple children who have suffered permanent injuries as a result of lead poisoning.

Iowa has a higher prevalence of lead poisoning than the national average, according to a CDC report, due in large part to a greater number of homes built in the mid 1900’s, when lead was used in paint. Children of families who buy or rent these homes may be exposed to lead through breathing or ingesting particles of that paint. Parents who rent such a home and whose children become lead poisoned may not realize they have a case, but we are here to help them navigate that process and recover damages that can help their child throughout their life.

Car Accidents

Car accidents are a common type of case we see, especially among teenagers. Insurance companies will often try to take a statement from an injured child or their parent, before they have had a chance to speak with a child injury attorney. We can help you deal with insurance companies, file a lawsuit and navigate the additional court process that is required in order to settle a child’s claim for any settlements over $25,000.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has identified the following as the most common types of child injuries: suffocation, drowning, poisoning, burns and falls. If a child suffered one of these injuries because of the fault of another person or because someone failed to adequately supervise the child, a parent should consider speaking with a child injury attorney to discuss compensation for their child and holding responsible parties accountable to prevent future harm to other children.

Child injury claims can be factually, legally and emotionally complicated. We stand with our clients and help them through this incredibly difficult time because we believe all children deserve justice and a bright tomorrow.

If you need a lawyer to represent your child after an injury, please call us for a free consultation at (319) 826-2250 or fill out our contact form.

Trucking Accidents: 5 Things You Should Know if You Have Been Injured in a Car Accident with Semi-Tractor Trailer

Truck Injury Attorney

The number of semi trucks on the road has been steadily increasing and along with it, an increase in the number of fatal crashes and crashes causing injuries involving semi trucks. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2016, 4,213 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes and 55,633 large trucks were involved in crashes causing personal injury.

This problem is exacerbated because truck drivers are encouraged to drive more and sleep less and truck owners often do not keep trucks in safe, working order. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident caused by the driver of a semi truck, there are some things that you should know:

  1. There may be multiple people or companies responsible: Semi truck accidents are often complicated because there may be multiple insurance companies and corporations that could be responsible for compensating you for your injuries. Determining who is responsible requires looking at who was driving the truck, who owned the truck and who the truck driver was hauling for. Most of these companies have insurance. There are complicated rules regarding how damages should be assessed against multiple responsible parties and their insurance companies. Before signing a release with any party, it is a good idea to speak with a lawyer so that you know the effect of releasing that party and whether you may also be releasing other responsible parties.

  2. There is usually more evidence available in a case involving a semi, but you need to get it early: Most semi truck drivers have to maintain log books that could contain crucial information to your case. Oftentimes there is crucial information found in the employment files of the truck driver or the maintenance records for the truck involved. Additionally, trucking companies often conduct their own accident investigation immediately after a crash and may have gathered important data. All of this evidence can help prove your case, but you need to obtain it as soon as possible and before it is destroyed. It can be difficult to obtain the evidence without representation, but a car accident injury attorney should be able to help you get the evidence you need.

  3. Semi trucks and their drivers have more rules to follow than other drivers: The federal government regulates the trucking industry. This includes regulations about the weight and mechanical condition of the truck, the training required to operate a truck and the number of hours a truck driver can operate a truck without taking a break. While most truck drivers abide by these rules and are cautious, some truck drivers and trucking companies do not follow the rules and their breaking of the rules may be very important to your case.

  4. Semi trucks are more dangerous than other vehicles:  Semi trucks are more dangerous than other vehicles because of their size and the difficulty operating the truck. These trucks have large blind spots due to their size and shape. The trucks also take longer to stop than a regular vehicle and can be difficult to maneuver around sharp turns.

  5. Multiple investigators will likely contact you: If you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident or you lost a loved one in a truck accident, you should expect that multiple people will contact you about the accident. This includes the officers investigating the crash as well as investigators hired by the trucking company or an insurance company. You should be very cautious about providing information to an investigator hired by a trucking company or even hired by your own automobile insurance company. It is very likely that the investigator is focused on obtaining evidence that will help the trucking company prove that they were not at fault for the crash or information that they believe will help them to show you were not seriously injured.

If you or a loved one were injured in a trucking accident, it would be helpful to speak with an attorney about your options. Trucking cases are complicated and raise a number of factual and legal issues that should be dealt with by an experienced car accident injury attorney. If you would like to speak with someone at Ann Brown Legal about a trucking accident, please call (319) 826-2250.  

Working Hard for Their Money: How Iowa Employment Law Protects Employees from Wage Theft

Iowa Employment Law

Iowans are known for their work ethic and so it’s particularly disturbing when an employer doesn’t pay an employee the wages they’ve earned. This is known as wage theft. Iowa employees are protected against wage theft both through a federal law known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) but also through an Iowa law known as the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Act, Iowa Code Chapter 91.A. Unfortunately, a lot of employees don’t know their rights under these employment laws.

The FLSA requires that most employers pay employees minimum wage for hours worked and also requires that employers pay employees one and a half times their regular hourly rate for hours worked over 40. The FLSA also requires that employers count time spent performing certain work as hours worked and prohibits agreements between an employer and an employee to pay the employee less than minimum wage or not to pay the employee overtime owed.

The FLSA requires that employers pay employees for time spent doing things that are “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ work activity. This can include time spent putting on specialized protective equipment and then walking to the employee work station and time spent traveling between worksites. One of the most famous FLSA cases about these issues came out of Iowa—Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo was an Iowa case that went all the way to the US Supreme Court. That case was a class action where employees of the Tyson Meat Packing Plant were awarded back pay, including overtime owed, for time they spent “donning and doffing” protective equipment.

In addition to the FLSA, Iowa employees’ right to wages is protected by the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Act. The Iowa Wage Payment Collection Act requires that an employer pay wages due on regular pay days and that an employer pay the employee all wages on the first regular pay day after the employee’s termination of employment. Many employers violate this law by withholding an employee’s last paycheck or by deducting expenses from a paycheck that are not permissible. Iowa law prohibits an employer from withholding wages for the following:

  1. A cash shortage unless there is a written agreement;

  2. Losses of the employer due to customer non-payment, breakage or bad checks;

  3. Lost or stolen property;

  4. Tips/gratuities received by the employee;

  5. Protective equipment; and

  6. Costs of more than $20 for employee relocation expenses.

The Iowa Wage Payment Collection Act also prohibits an employer from withholding employee wages because they believe they have a claim against that employee.

Both the FLSA and the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Act allow an employee to recover back wages along with liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees and expenses—meaning that if an employer violates one of these laws they wind up paying more than they would if they had simply paid the employee what was owed.

If you have questions about whether your current or former employer has violated employment laws, you should speak with an Iowa employment lawyer to determine if you have a case. Please call us at (319) 826-2250.