Get Your Forbearance Agreement in Writing

BUYER BEWARE: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS get written confirmation from any bank, mortgage company or lender if it is granting you a forbearance or payment deferment arrangement.

In my credit damage/Fair Credit Reporting Act practice, we are often approached by people who have had their credit ruined by late-pay derogatory marks after they have had a forbearance agreement or loan deferment agreement with their lender.

There are people I can help in these cases, and there are people that I cannot help.  The single difference is whether the consumer gets some written confirmation of the forbearance/deferment agreement.  When the consumer gets that, and the lender or bank then violates the agreement with bad credit reporting, the case has a high value and the consumer will get both credit correction as well as money damages.  When the consumer does not have written confirmation, I cannot help them.

Most consumers call their lenders on the phone when asking for loan forbearance.  This is normal, but please understand that the person you reach on the phone, regardless of title, is an underling and lacks independent authority.  However, if you are asking for a forbearance, the person on the other end of the line will usually have authority to give you a forbearance, usually for a specified time, such as 90 days.  If you get a forbearance verbally, you then need to do the following:

  1. Request written confirmation from the person who gives you the forbearance.  It can be a letter or an email.  But you need written confirmation.
  2. If the person will not give you an email confirmation, send this person an email confirming the forbearance.  They will usually give you their email address, or a general email address for the lender.  State the following: “Today (date), your representative Sam Smith (if they give you their name), granted me a forbearance wherein I will not have to make payments for the next 90 days/ will only have to make one-half payments for the next 90 days (specify the terms you were given).  I am writing to confirm this.  PLEASE IMMEDIATELY email me back at the following email address ****.com, if this is not correct.  Further, please be on notice that if you submit any derogatory marks to the credit bureaus during the period of the forbearance, I will exercise all available rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and any associated laws.”

This will put you in a better position to protect your credit if you do need a forbearance.  I hope this short blog post is helpful.

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Bicycle Safety Tips From a Personal Injury Lawyer

I have seen—we all have seen—a lot more bikes on the roads since the outbreak of the virus crisis.  I culled a few safety tips in some internet research which hopefully will make our community safer for the bicyclists, and yes, I am one of them.  These tips are helpful both for the bike riders and the car drivers.

  • • Wear your helmet. Follow this simple rule and you reduce your risk of serious injury by as much as 85 percent.
  • • Keep your head up and look ahead, not at the ground. You need to see what is coming up so you have time  to react and maneuver.
  • • One person per bike. Riding with unsecured passengers puts you at risk for injury to yourself and others.
  • • Ride in single file with space between bikes.
  • • Ride on the right side of the road, never against traffic. Otherwise, you are at risk for an accident – or a ticket.
  • • Plan ahead if you will ride in a group. Agree on the route ahead of time. Have a plan on what you will do if separated by traffic.
  • • If you will be riding in an unfamiliar area, check out local laws and rules first.
  • • Avoid busy roads and peak traffic times on your route.
  • • Before riding at night, ask someone to help you check your visibility to motorists.
  • • Maintain the bikes in your household. Keep chains clean and lubricated and periodically inspect brake pads.
  • • Do not wear headphones while riding.
  • • Keep both hands on the handlebars, except when signaling.
  • • Keep both feet on pedals.
  • • In a group, ride single-file, with the flow of traffic.
  • • Wear a brightly colored helmet and retro-reflective material on your clothing.
  • • Use the correct hand signals.
  • • Before entering a roadway: Stop. Look left. Look right. Look left.

Avoid riding at twilight or in the dark, especially on narrow roads and roads with speed limits that exceed 35 mph.

Hazards on the road

  • • Uneven, rough surfaces can cause falls.
  • • An object in the road can cause a flat tire, loss of balance or unsafe maneuver. Avoid riding across unknown objects.
  • • Slippery surfaces create a loss of traction which may cause you to lose control of your bike. Slow down or walk your bike across slippery surfaces.
  • • Wear your helmet. Follow this simple rule and you reduce your risk of serious injury by as much as 85 percent.
  • • Keep your head up and look ahead, not at the ground. You need to see what is coming up so you have time  to react and maneuver.
  • • One person per bike. Riding with unsecured passengers puts you at risk for injury to yourself and others.
  • • Ride in single file with space between bikes.
  • • Ride on the right side of the road, never against traffic. Otherwise, you are at risk for an accident – or a ticket.
  • • Plan ahead if you will ride in a group. Agree on the route ahead of time. Have a plan on what you will do if separated by traffic.
  • • If you will be riding in an unfamiliar area, check out local laws and rules first.
  • • Avoid busy roads and peak traffic times on your route.
  • • Before riding at night, ask someone to help you check your visibility to motorists.
  • • Maintain the bikes in your household. Keep chains clean and lubricated and periodically inspect brake pads.

Posted by: Bob Brennan, Southern California Super Lawyer

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WHAT YOU NEED TO DO IF YOU GET INTO A CAR ACCIDENT

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO IF YOU GET INTO A CAR ACCIDENT: I am on both Sunland-Tujunga Community pages as well as the La Crescenta Community pages. As an attorney, I have recently received a handful of messages from members of both communities, asking what to do if you get into a car accident. These inquiries have undoubtedly been prompted by the several car accidents on Foothill over the last several weeks. I don’t know whether it’s more now than before, but it does seem like there are more accidents recently.

First of all, to all of us, Foothill Blvd. is NOT the Bonneville Salt Flats. Let’s decrease the number of accidents by each of us (not just the teenagers) slowing down just 5 mph when we’re on Foothill. If we all were to do this, I would bet accidents would decrease.

Now, if you (or a friend or family member) get into an accident, here are the important key points:

1. For any serious injury, DON’T MOVE! The main exceptions would be to stop severe bleeding, or if you are inside your car and it is smoking or on fire. Otherwise, let the police or paramedics take care of moving you. You’ve probably seen football games where trained paramedics and EMT’s very carefully position an injured player’s neck, because a serious injury can get worse in an instant if the neck or spine is moved the wrong way. This is particularly true for neck and spine injuries, but it can apply to other parts of the body as well. If at all possible, stay in your car, or stay where you are, and let the paramedics and EMT’s take care of securing your body and getting you onto a gurney.

2. Turn off the car’s ignition.

3. For anything more serious than a minor bumper-tap, call the police and request a police report. The police take extensive training in field accident reconstruction and are usually very good at determining the cause, or causes, of any accident. Later on, if you do file a claim or lawsuit for injuries, a police report in your favor can help your cause tremendously. (Depending on the severity of the accident, the police may or may not take a report, but I always advise my clients to error on the side of calling them to the scene.)

4. If you are capable of calling a friend or family member, do so.

5. If you are able to do so, and you have your smartphone, take pictures of the other driver’s license, insurance card and license plate. Otherwise, write the information down or record it any way you can. Also take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and the other driver’s vehicle. Take pictures of the accident scene, and include in the pictures any stop signs or traffic signals. If you are not able to do so, ask your friend or family member to take these pictures for you

6. I have also been advising my clients to take pictures of any immediately surrounding homes or businesses. A lot of homes or businesses have “Ring” doorbells or security cameras, which sometimes capture all or parts of the accident. Again, particularly if there’s a serious injury and the other driver has a lot of insurance, you run the risk that his/her insurance company will lie about how the accident happened, and getting footage from nearby homes or businesses can often win your case.

7. If anyone witnessed the accident and you can get their names and contact information, again this can be very helpful if you do pursue an injury claim.

8. For medical treatment (unless you are transported to a hospital), I advise my clients to first go to a nearby urgent care. Report ALL symptoms to the urgent care doctor; this is not a time to be “John Wayne” about your symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, the urgent care doctor may hospitalize you or may prescribe a series of treatments or medications. Follow these prescriptions.

9. After urgent care, I advise my clients to seek treatment first with their primary care physician, and to do this as soon as possible. If you go first to a doctor recommended by your attorney, without at least trying to see your primary care doctor, insurance companies will suspect a fake injury or unnecessary over-treatment, even if it’s not true.

10. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, if your insurance is limited or if getting an appointment is taking too long, then there is nothing wrong with asking your attorney for a referral to a doctor, for treatment on a lien basis (doctor gets paid when the case settles). Also, if your primary care doctor is not helping you (this happens), then there is nothing wrong with asking your attorney for a referral.

11. It’s common to feel disoriented in the moments immediately following an accident. However, if dizziness or a feeling of disorientation persists after a few days, you may have a concussion-type injury and need to report this to your doctor or to an urgent care doctor.

12. There is no reason not to seek alternative treatments, e.g. chiropractic care or acupuncture, particularly if you have a history of alternative treatments.

I hope this article is useful…and I hope people do slow down a bit on Foothill. Thanks for reading.

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15th Straight Year as Southern California Super Lawyer

I’m honored to have been selected as a Southern California for the 15th straight year.  The selection criteria is rigorous and, by vote of colleagues and judges, you have to be considered to be among the top 5% of practicing attorneys in your geographic area.  I am honored to be considered as your attorney for serious personal injury, lemon law and wrongful credit reporting/identity theft cases in the greater Los Angeles area.  Here’s to another 15 years of providing you with quality legal services!

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Message to all Uber and Lyft drivers:

Uber and Lyft use Checkr to do their background checks.  Checkr has a lengthy history of putting false criminal information on applicant’s background checks, i.e. records of arrests or convictions that do not belong to you.

Checkr is not the only violator: First Advantage and Hireright are two other background check companies that seriously mix up criminal record information and often put it onto the wrong person’s background check report.

If you have lost a job opportunity because of false criminal information on a background check, please contact us.  We have been taking on these cases and doing well ($$$) with them.  Please note: we will need a copy of the background check report before we can proceed with any case on your behalf, so please contact the employer to get a copy or request a copy in writing directly from Checkr, First Advantage, Hireright or any background check company that violates your rights.  You can find out the addresses to send requests for your reports by googling the name of the background check company, and you can find out the name of the background check company from the company that rejected you by sending it a certified letter requesting this information.

Thank you for reading and I hope this helps.

Copyright © 2019 by Robert F. Brennan, Esq.  All rights reserved.

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Hyundai Tucson Consumer Alert

CONSUMER ALERT re 2017 HYUNDAI TUCSON: this year/make/model of vehicle has serious transmission problems.  There is a class action where several unscrupulous class action attorneys settled out claims for the defective transmission for something like $50 or less per vehicle owner.  This is a bad class action settlement.  If you own one of these cars and you are suffering from a defective transmission, you have rights under the California lemon law which may include a complete vehicle repurchase or monetary compensation far exceeding what you will get in the class action.  If you have a 2017 Hyundai Tucson and you are having transmission problems for which you have had to get warranty repairs, and if your vehicle has not been fixed, I strongly recommend you opt out of the class action settlement and consult with a competent lemon law attorney about your rights.  You will receive, or you already have received, mailed notice of the class settlement; in that notice, there will be instructions on how to opt out of the class settlement.  You must opt out of the class settlement if you want to preserve your rights to bring a lemon law lawsuit as an individual and not as a member of the class.

The link to the website about the class action case is as follows: DCTSettlement.HyundaiUSA.com.  The deadline for opting out of the class action is December 26, 2019.  The website has a link for opting out.

I hope this helps.

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Advice To Unlucky Lemon Owners

If you have a lemon vehicle, there are both bad and good ways to go about
cultivating your case. The following tips are made with that in mind:
• Don’t threaten to torch your car or drive it off a cliff.
Store the vehicle somewhere safe as it becomes an asset in a Lemon Law
case.
• Owing a lemon can be an upsetting, humiliating and even frightening ordeal.
But don’t take it out on a spouse or friend who helped you buy it. After all,
they didn’t know if was going to be a lemon any more than you did.
• Do write a strong letter to the manufacturer detailing precisely what
problems you have been experiencing and demand a refund or replacement;
and send it certified mail.
• Don’t stop making your car payments or registration fees. That can get you
into a lot of trouble.
• Do keep an itemized list of all your expenses such as car payments,
registration fees, towing charges, rental car costs and payments on
unreimbursed repairs.
• Don’t get discouraged if the service writer or technician states the problem
could not be duplicated. This doesn’t mean you are crazy. It only means they
couldn’t or wouldn’t find the problem.
• Do take the car back to an authorized dealership and get a repair order as
soon as it acts up again. The more repair orders the better. If you have taken
it back numerous times and it’s still not fixed, consider getting an inspection
from an independent auto expert.
• Don’t try to repair the vehicle yourself or have a cheap repair shop do it for
you. Those non-warranty covered repairs can hurt your case.
• Always take it back to an authorized repair facility and have them perform
all manufacturer-recommended maintenance.
• Don’t succumb to rude and insulting “customer service.”
• Keep fighting for your rights and CALL US! We have been helping
consumers with lemon vehicles for the past 30 years and have had excellent
results.

Copyright © 2019 by Robert F. Brennan, Esq. All rights reserved.

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WHEN TRYING TO CORRECT YOUR CREDIT REPORT BECOMES “ALICE IN WONDERLAND”…

Our client Eric immigrated to the United States from China in 2001 with high hopes of furthering his business education in this country. Eric’s resume reads like a classic success story. He got his MBA from Cal State on scholarship, then obtained his Master’s degree in Accounting from USC, following which he worked for the prestigious firm of Ernst & Young for seven years. At that point, Eric began working very hard in starting his own small business.  It was then that he realized the crucial role credit plays in a person’s life, affecting everything you do from your job, house, cars, etc. Keeping this in mind, Eric scrupulously paid all his bills on time and avoided any financial obligations he could not afford.

Plaintiff and his wife planned on refinancing their home before an upward interest rate from the bank took effect. With strong confidence in his perfect credit history and healthy credit scores, Eric foresaw no problems in refinancing in late 2016. He submitted the necessary paperwork to his mortgage broker to get the process going, but then was shocked to learn in late December that two of his credit scores had plummeted by a hundred points and there was a charge-off showing on his credit report. This, by itself, caused Eric to be denied the home refinancing.  The mortgage broker sent him documentation confirming the awful news.

His first thought was that it had to be a mistake such as a typo. But in further digging he learned the true source of his decimated credit: the erroneous reporting by a major U.S. telecommunications company to two of the Big Three credit bureaus.

At this point Eric began his very strange journey, descending like Alice down a very long tunnel that started out as a rabbit hole. But unlike Alice, a bored young girl hoping for adventure, Eric was a logical, highly trained businessman focused on attaining the American Dream.  Eric was not at all prepared for what he encountered: a host of company representatives speaking nonsense and contradicting one another at every turn, with some instructing him to simply disregard what the bills stated because his account was in the process of being “readjusted.” The readjustments were slow in coming and meanwhile each month the company continued reporting him as delinquent on his credit reports.

With the company’s okay, he began recording the conferences he was having with the reps while being bounced around from one to another like a human ping-pong ball, each time having to start over with why he was calling, the myriad problems with the billings, the false promises and instructions he had received to date. This vexatious treadmill went nowhere. It felt like a nightmare of contradictions and illogicality instead of cold reality staring him in the face. He could not be sure if the next person he was transferred to would be the March Hare or the Mad Hatter.  As Eric’s nerves frayed, his patience became shorter and shorter. It negatively affected his home life. In the end, it came down to the company’s billing department pronouncing that our client owed the debt despite what anyone else said. Business departments were, after all, in the business of billing.

At last Eric signed up for our legal services and my firm filed a lawsuit for him, against the telecom company and the credit bureaus. We had heard similar versions of this sad story before, of consumers having to endure the agony and humiliation of contacting scores of customer representatives and  being put on hold for what seemed forever,  in a vain quest to get someone to actually listen to them and help in correcting the erroneous information on their billing statements.  We had one case where our client somehow persisted in talking to 80 different customer reps, all giving her a different version of reality. The record so far is 97! In that case our client said she would sometimes simply break down and weep while her children whispered, “Why is mommy crying?”   

Our own detailed analysis of Eric’s billing statements spotted the numerous errors and calculated that he had been overbilled by almost 350%, that he was due a sizeable refund, not a charge-off reporting on his credit reports. In the end, Eric’s case settled very beneficially (six figures), as did the others. Oftentimes it requires, most of all, persistence in staring the crazies down and boldly speaking truth to madness.

Copyright © 2019 by Robert F. Brennan.  All rights reserved.

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BINDING ARBITRATION: DO YOU REALLY WANT TO GIVE AWAY YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL?

Quite often our clients learn the hard way that they “agreed” to give away some of their basic legal rights, including a trial by jury, when they purchased a new vehicle or telecommunications service, or other products and services. The sales contract or “agreement” had buried within it – most often on a subsequent page in fine print – legal language to the effect that the consumer agrees to “arbitration” in place of having their case heard in a court of law should their new car prove defective or their internet service doesn’t work or they are being ripped off on the billing, etc.

Usually, when we ask clients if they agreed to arbitration they respond with, “What’s that?” or words to that effect. Arbitration is defined by the American Bar Association as “a private process where disputing parties agree that one or several individuals can make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments.” (https://www.americanbar.org/groups /dispute_resolution/resources/DisputeResolutionProcesses/arbitration/) When an arbitration is binding the arbitrator’s decision is final, so the arbitrator in effect is given the right to play judge and jury in determining the merits of your case and rendering a verdict.

Is it the client’s fault that he agreed to binding arbitration? No, for numerous reasons. First, the individual was not a lawyer and had no idea what arbitration was. Second, our client didn’t bring a magnifying glass so he/she could read the fine print on the third or eighth or thirteenth page of the legal-length contract replete with legal terminology.  Third, the consumer also forgot to bring a big legal dictionary along so all those loaded words and phrases could be looked up. Fourth, he/she didn’t have an attorney specializing in contracts present to advise them against agreeing to the arbitration clause. Fifth, the salesperson did not bother to explain to the consumer the arbitration part and see if they had any questions, even though that same salesperson will later testify under oath that they did explain everything. Sixth, if the consumer understood and refused to agree with the arbitration clause, in some cases the seller would simply refuse to sell the consumer the product or service. We could keep going but you get the idea.

But not all is lost if you get tricked into arbitration. Despite its many pitfalls and basic unfairness, we still fight hard and manage in many cases to get a good result for our clients.

Arbitration is a political issue as well.  When voting in any election, look into whether the candidate supports or opposes binding arbitration agreements.

To be clear, if one of my clients wants to have arbitration, I’m fine with it, and some clients do.  But some clients want their cases decided by a jury, and the threat of a jury trial often persuades big corporations to settle disputes rather than fight them to the bitter end.  There are advantages to having access to a jury trial, and consumers-citizens-voters must never lose sight of this.

I hope this short article has been helpful to you.  Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2019 by Robert F. Brennan, Esq.  All rights reserved.

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CALIFORNIA LEMON LAW COVERS RV’S, FIFTH WHEELS, BOATS AND MOTORCYCLES

Our firm has been specializing in the handling of lemon law cases for over 25 years.  For most people, the term “lemon law” probably connotes a defective car, but over the years we have seen a lot more lemons than that: there are also lemon boats, Recreational Vehicles (RVs), fifth wheels and motorcycles, to name a few. Unlike cars, generally when RVs go bad they manifest a long “hit list” of defects that the owner notes down on paper and gives to the RV dealership to fix. And unlike cars, RVs can often take months to repair. On occasion the hit list may be so long that the dealership will try to make some of the repairs, then ask the owner to pick up their unit and bring it back sometime later so they can continue working on it.  

Very recently we settled an RV case involving a “Fifth Wheel” to a very good result.  (A Fifth Wheel is a towable RV that needs to be coupled to a second vehicle, such as a powerful pickup truck, to pull it.)  Our client and his family loved the great outdoors and were eager to see the country in their brand-new new trailer. They traveled from California to the Michigan to purchase the Fifth Wheel only to find that it was not ready for pick up due to uncorrected manufacturing defects. So began their ill-starred odyssey. Suffice it to say that one disaster led to another because of their first-class lemon. Our client’s dreams were dashed and, in the end, they were rarely able to use the Fifth Wheel, in spite of and even because of the extensive repairs.  

In this case, the defective coupling was the most serious problem. We hired an expert who detected several major issues.  The king pin kept bending. The welding of the hitch to the frame was poorly done and was broken. Bolts became loose when the Fifth Wheel moved at an angle. Part of the unit’s front fiberglass panel was cracked. In short, the problems were so serious that a local RV dealership had already refused to touch the unit and informed our client that it was far too unsafe to put on the road.

Fortunately, after a hard-fought battle the defendants were forced to confront the facts and the case settled in mediation.  As John Adams noted long ago, facts are stubborn things. 

Copyright © 2019 by Robert F. Brennan.  All rights reserved.

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