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News And Thoughts On The Law In Berkeley And Beyond

Pedestrian deaths in 2018 close to all-time high

Californians may be interested in a new Governors Highway Safety Association report that reveals that 6,227 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. last year. That makes 2018 the deadliest year for pedestrians since 6,482 died in 1990. Pedestrian deaths were at an all-time low just a decade ago, but they have risen by a worrying 51.5 percent since 1990 and now account for 16 percent of all road fatalities. Groups like the GHSA have raised concerns about rising rates of driver impairment and the dangers of smartphone use behind the wheel. The association's report suggests that distraction and intoxication are a factor in many pedestrian accidents.

The GHSA study reveals that more than 90 percent of the pedestrians killed in 2018 died in accidents that took place after dark. Driver distraction is even more dangerous at night when peripheral vision is compromised. Drunk drivers are also a bigger threat to pedestrians at night. According to the report, alcohol was found in the blood of about half of the drivers involved fatal pedestrian accidents in 2018.

Steps for divorce preparation

Preparing for divorce in advance can make what is a difficult process move more smoothly. Thinking long and hard about the ramifications of divorce and whether it is the right decision as well as researching California state laws about divorce are both steps that a person should take before proceeding.

Getting organized is also important. This includes collecting bank statements, tax returns, mortgage documents and information on retirement accounts and any investments. Part of getting organized is also thinking about the post-divorce budget. This will help a person decide what to ask for in the divorce. For example, looking at the budget, the person might realize that keeping the family home on one salary is not sustainable. People should also get copies of their credit reports and close any joint accounts.

Job loss common result of breastfeeding discrimination

Many women in California face significant barriers at work when they choose to breastfeed their babies. Too often, employers respond with hostility to requests for temporary reassignments or daily breaks to pump breast milk. University researchers who studied data collected across a decade found that two-thirds of workplace discrimination cases involving breastfeeding mothers resulted in job loss.

The report published by the Nursing Mothers Law Project detailed how breastfeeding employees frequently endured denial of breaks, refusal to provide a private and clean area to pump milk and sexual harassment. Employers in many cases gave no consideration to the painful infections women might develop if they did not pump milk regularly. Workplaces hostile to nursing mothers also caused some women to wean their children from breast milk earlier than health guidelines recommend.

Handling sexual harassment in the workplace

The #MeToo movement struck a cord for many Californians and caused them to think about their own actions and behaviors. As more women have begun speaking out about workplace harassment, employers and fellow employees are wondering how they should act and what they can do to handle certain situations.

Sexual harassment occurs when one or more people in the workplace act in a way that makes a single individual or group feel uncomfortable. It must also include some element of sexual comment or action. Examples include commenting on the way a woman looks or a man's sexual orientation.

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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