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News And Thoughts On The Law In Berkeley And Beyond

Large trucks cause more severe accidents

Many California drivers feel anxious when sharing the road with large trucks. As it turns out, that wariness is justified. When a large truck collides with a passenger vehicle, bad things tend to happen to the car's occupants. As a result, tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks are treated differently by both the government and insurance companies.

For example, insurance companies typically require 18-wheelers to carry well over $1 million in vehicle insurance. This is done because trucks often do much more property damage and are more likely to cause severe injuries during collisions, leaving insurance companies on the hook for expensive settlements. In addition, unlike passenger vehicles, large trucks are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation. These agencies make sure that truck drivers and trucking companies follow certain safety regulations, including rules on vehicle inspections and driver performance.

Dealing with the new alimony tax rules

Many divorcing couples in California and around the country are eschewing family gatherings and other social engagements this holiday season in order to reach amicable settlements before the end of the year. They are foregoing traditional festive season celebrations because the tax rules relating to spousal support will change on January 1, and divorcing spouses must have a final alimony agreement or court order in place by December 31 if they want the current deductions to apply.

Under the current rules, which have been in place for longer than 70 years, alimony is a deductible expense for those who pay it, and for those who receive it, it's taxable income. This situation comes to an end in 2019, when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act's provisions take effect. This will likely make negotiating alimony more difficult as the spouses who pay it generally pay higher rates of income tax than the ones who receive it. However, other aspects of the landmark 2017 tax reform law could offset the changes in the way spousal support is treated.

How age and gender influence views on sexual harassment

According to data from American Family Survey, women are generally more likely to consider certain acts to be sexual harassment. These acts include asking someone to go to lunch, making sexual jokes or asking for sexual favors. California residents may also have a different point of view about sexual harassment depending on their age and level of education. The survey itself consisted of 3,000 adults that roughly emulated the makeup of the country as a whole.

As a general rule, those who were older were more likely to view an action as sexual harassment than younger Americans. For instance, roughly 66 percent of respondents who were 65 and older said a request for a sexual favor is always harassment. However, only about half of those between 18 and 29 felt the same way.

Splitting 401(k) assets in a divorce may be complex

It's widely believed that divorcing couples will each receive half of the family assets although, in most cases, they do not get identical assets but equivalent ones. In California, there must be a distinction made between community and separate property with only community property being subject to division. Additionally, 401(k) plans have different rules as to how the assets are treated in a divorce. Family law judges have wide discretion in establishing final property division orders.

The best way to divide marital assets is for the couple to reach a marital settlement agreement. Family law experts explain that if the agreement is fairly arrived at with each spouse advised by counsel, the judge will likely approve the terms without the court's involvement. The judge will, however, need to sign a Qualified Domestic Relationship Order to direct the 401(k) plan administrator on how to release the funds.

Motorcycle crash victim awarded $46 million settlement

Motor vehicle accidents are an unfortunate part of life for people who travel California’s streets and highways. Most everyone is in a collision at some point in their life, and that does not stop people from driving. It should not, because state laws intend to minimize the risk on the road and to keep unsafe drivers from endangering those who follow the rules.

Drunk driving is one high profile example where the law serves to ban dangerous drivers from the road. A less publicized topic concerns drivers with medical concerns. Issues like epilepsy and narcolepsy can lead to unconsciousness, endangering other travelers.

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