Rules of Debt Collection – Don’t Let ‘Em Walk All Over You!

Fdcpa cover page In this tough economy, more and more people are finding themselves with debt problems. And things gets worse when debt collectors get aggressive. Everyone should know their rights – what is considered “fair debt collection” as defined by the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA.

FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from being abusive. Note that FDCPA regulates debt collectors who work for collection agencies and does not cover debt collectors who work for the original creditor (the company that originally lent you the money).

We’d like to think that most bill collectors act professionally and follow the law when contacting you. However there are some overeager ones who go too far.

Here’s What Debt Collectors CANNOT DO

 Nasty debt collector Misinformation Debtor's prison

1.    CAN’T call you repeatedly or at an unreasonable time (before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.)

2.    CAN’T use obscenity, profanity or threaten violence.

3.    CAN’T call you without identifying themselves as bill collectors.

4.    CAN’T call you at work if your employer doesn’t allow it.

5.    CAN’T claim to be an attorney if they are not!

6.    CAN’T claim you owe more money than you actually do.

7.    CAN’T tell you that you’ll go to jail or that your property will be seized.  Remember, there is no such thing as Debtor's Prison.

8.    CAN’T add unauthorized interest, fees or charges.

9.    CAN’T call third parties EXCEPT your attorney, a credit bureau or the original creditor to find your whereabouts. And unless you have asked the debt collector in writing to stop contacting you (more on this below), they can also contact your spouse, your parents (if you are a minor) and co-debtors.

If a Debt Collector Violates the FDCPA Rules, Here’s What YOU CAN DO

1.    Demand they Stop: under FDCPA rules, you can write to the collection agency to tell them to stop all Say no to debt collection calls communications with you. After that, they cannot contact you for any reasons except to tell you that collection efforts have ended or that they intend to sue you.

2.    Document their Violations: start a log; write down what happened, when and who witnessed it. It’s not a bad idea to have another person present or on the phone during future communications with the collector. Thinking about recording the phone conversations? – be careful as it is illegal in some states, such as California, to record phone conversations without the knowledge of the other person.

3.    File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission: the FTC oversees collections agencies. https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/. Include the collection agency’s name, address, name of the collector, dates and times of conversations, names of any witnesses, include copies of all offending letters you receive, and a copy of any offending voicemails or messages.

Ftc-complaint-logo

Send the complaint to state agencies. Send a copy of your complaint to the state agency that regulates collection agencies for the state where the agency is located. To find the agency, call information in that state's capital city or check the state's website.

Send the complaint to the creditor and collection agency. Finally, send a copy of the FTC complaint to the original creditor and the collection agency. The original creditor may be concerned about its own liability and offer to cancel the debt.

Judge's gavel4.    SUE THE DEBT COLLECTOR: If there are repeated violations and you can document them, then suing may be a good idea. But if the violations were merely annoying, don’t waste your time. For example, if the collector called you three times in one day, but never again, you don’t have a case.

You can sue in Small Claims Court or hire a lawyer. If you win, the other side may be required to pay your attorney’s fees and/or court costs.

Questions? Concerns?

For a Free Consultation please contact Attorney Lowell Steiger immediately at

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*Since
my law practice is based in California, I'm addressing California law.
 Your state's laws may vary so please consult an attorney for
clarification of your state's law as it applies to you!

What To Do If You’re In A Car Accident

What To Do If You're In A Car Accident

Things to Do If You're Involved in an Auto Accident

Auto-accident 

CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY TO SUMMON POLICE and/or PARAMEDICS

Then get the following information:

  1. Name, address and phone number of other driver(s) involved in the accident

  2. Driver's license number of other driver(s) involved in the accident

  3. Insurance information of other driver(s) involved in the accident, name of insurance company, policy number

  4. Registered owner information of other vehicles involved in the accident

  5. If any of the other drivers appears to be on the job for a company, get the name of that company

  6. Passengers in other vehicles? Get their names, addresses, phone numbers

  7. Actual location of accident (street, intersection, exact address, if possible)

  8. Witness information: Names, addresses, phone numbers

  9. Jot down basic information such as weather conditions, street condition, traffic (light, medium, heavy), time of day that accident happened

  10. Very Important: Do not speak to anyone other than your doctor(s) without the advice of an attorney.  In particular, DO NOT give a statement to any insurance company, recorded or not, without the advice of an attorney.

What if you don't have auto insurance?  Click here to read Uh Oh, Car Accident With No Liability Insurance: "But I'm Not At Fault" 

Keep a camera in your car at all times (disposable, camera phone, digital camera, etc.) and take pictures of the cars (including damage, license plates), people, scene.Camera_phone

Kodakmaxoutdoorcamerapromotional

Some excellent links What To Do If You're In An Accident

MSN Money: Insure Your Car.  Important tips on basic auto insurance

State Bar of California. Links to 14 important questions such as "What Information Should I Get at the Scene" and "Do I Need Auto Insurance?" as well as a link to download an entire pamphlet on the subject.

Roadragers.com. Practical tips and advice from the site whose tagline is "when you just can't take it anymore."

Important Link: Auto Insurance Coverage From A Personal Injury Lawyer's Perspective


If you, or someone you know, has been injured in an accident, please contact me immediately at

(323) 852-1100

lowell@steigerlaw.com

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"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

Testerone Gels: FDA Orders Label Warnings (Harmful to Children)

Testim gel The Food and Drug Administration is requiring box warnings on two topical testosterone gels.  Click here for basic information on the male hormone, testosterone.  Here's the FDA report:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced that it is
requiring manufacturers of two prescription topical testosterone gel
products, AndroGel 1% and Testim 1%, to include a boxed warning on the
products’ labels. The agency is requiring this action after receiving
reports of adverse effects in children who were inadvertently exposed
to testosterone through contact with another person being treated with
these products (secondary exposure).

The gels are approved for use in men who either no longer produce
testosterone or produce it in very low amounts. Both products are
applied once daily, to the shoulders or upper arms. Only AndroGel 1% is
approved for application to the abdomen. Precautions in the current
labels instruct users to wash their hands after using the product and
to cover the treated skin with clothing.

“These drugs are approved for an important medical need, but can
have serious, unintended side effects if not used properly,” said Janet
Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and
Research. “We must ensure that the adults using them are well-informed
about the precautions needed to protect children from secondary
exposure.”

In 2007, 1.4 million prescriptions for AndroGel—the most commonly
dispensed gel form of testosterone—were dispensed by U.S. retail
pharmacies. Approximately 25,000 of those were dispensed for off-label
use in women. During the same period, some 370,000 prescriptions were
dispensed for Testim, according to data from SDI: Vector One National. 

Despite the currently labeled precautions, as of Dec. 1, 2008, the
FDA has received reports of eight cases of secondary exposure to
testosterone in children ranging in age from nine months to five years.
Since that time, additional reports of secondary exposure have been
received by the agency and are presently under review.

Of the fully reviewed cases, adverse events reported in these
children included inappropriate enlargement of the genitalia (penis or
clitoris), premature development of pubic hair, advanced bone age,
increased libido, and aggressive behavior. 

In most cases, the signs and symptoms regressed when the child no
longer was exposed to the product. However, in a few cases, enlarged
genitalia did not fully return to age-appropriate size and bone age
remained modestly greater than the child’s chronological age.

In some cases, children had to undergo invasive diagnostic
procedures and, in at least one case, a child was hospitalized and
underwent surgery due to a delay in recognizing the underlying cause of
the signs and symptoms.

Signs of inappropriate virilization (development of male secondary
sexual characteristics) in children and the possibility of secondary
testosterone exposure should be brought to a health care provider’s
attention.

In most of the cases, users of these products failed to follow
appropriate use instructions, resulting in direct contact between
treated skin and the child.
     
The required label
changes will provide additional information about the risk of secondary
exposure and the steps that should be taken to reduce this risk. The
FDA also is requiring that the manufacturers of these products develop
a Medication Guide as part of a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy
to ensure that the benefits of these products continue to outweigh
their potential risks.

The FDA recommends the following precautions be taken to minimize the potential for secondary exposure:

  • Adults who use testosterone gels should wash their hands with soap and warm water after every application;
  • Adults should cover the application site with clothing once the gel has dried;
  • Adults
    should wash the application site thoroughly with soap and warm water
    prior to any situation where skin-to-skin contact with another person
    is anticipated;
  • Children and women should avoid contact with testosterone application sites on the skin of men who use these products; and
  • Adults
    should note that use of any similar, but unapproved, products from the
    marketplace –including the Internet– that can result in the same
    serious adverse effects should be avoided.

Health care professionals and consumers may report serious adverse
events (side effects) or product quality problems with the use of these
gels to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program either
online, by regular mail, fax or phone.

Relevant Websites/Information

Androgel Androgel 002 Testim gel 002 Testosterone in a tube

Testim Video: How to apply Testim

What is Testim?

Testim Side Effects: MedicineNet.com

Androgel Side Effects: eMed TV

Testosterone Gels Risky to Children: Web MD

FDA Orders Label Warnings for Testosterone Gels: ABC News

Testosterone Deficiency: The Urology Channel

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If
you, or someone you know, has been injured in a motorcycle or
automobile (or similar) accident, please call me, Lowell Steiger,
immediately at

(323) 852-1100 or send an e-mail to me at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

Fritzl Chooses Luxury Prison – Where’s the Outrage?

Timesonline reports that per Austrian law Josef Fritzl, who was convicted of rape, murder, false imprisonment and other atrocities which he committed during the 24 years that he kept his daughter Elisabeth and the 6 surviving children that he forced her to bear in while confined in a windowless dungeon, will get to pick his poison … I mean prison. (I apologize for the long sentence but, after all, I am a lawyer and we tend to be verbose). 

Associated Press Video

Can this horrific story get any more bizarre?  73 year old Fritzl, a creature who has no right to call himself a human being, was sentenced to life in prison but will be eligible for parole in 15 years.  I am disgusted by the fact that he was allowed to choose to spend his incarceration at Garsten,  prison for the "psychologically abnormal" where, according to Timesonline, "he will be able to improve his English or study other foreign
languages, as well as singing in the choir or training in a gym that is
better-equipped than those of many hotels. As an inmate, he will be offered
a wide variety of hobbies and entertainment, including tennis, darts and art
classes."

Where is the outrage?  This treatment calls for reform.  Garsten is set in the foothills of the Alps and boasts of one of the largest prison libraries in Austria so that Fritzl won't be deprived of the ability to indulge in his passion for reading.  What about Elisabeth's passion for, well, anything?  Even though she's been freed from her prison, common sense dictates that she will never be freed from the memory of the horror that was her life.

Details of Elisabeth Fritzl's Abuse at the Hands of Her Father, Josef Fritzl

Fritzl's fellow inmates include such dignitaries as a former TV presenter, Helmut Frodl, serving
life for murdering a rival and dismembering his body with a chainsaw. Frodl
is working on a PhD and is allowed out twice a month with an escort to
discuss his thesis with a professor.

Although in theory it's commendable that, per a spokesman for the Austrian prisons, “The Austrian penal system aims not only at enforcing punishment, but also
attempts to bring the inmate back within the norms of society,” the inhuman wrongs that this man committed against his daughter and the children that he begat with her, can never be made right.  Every day of the rest of his life should be filled with the same fear, terror, frustration and horror that he bestowed upon his family.

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Josef Fritzl Sentenced To Life in Mental Hospital

Fritzl Croaking Voice
Joseph Fritzl, the monster who imprisoned, raped and tortured his own daughter, Elisabeth, for 24 years while forcing her to bear 7 of his children, has been sentenced to life in a mental hospital — a mental hospital of HIS own choosing. 

In general, I'm not a punitive person.  However, in these circumstances, this man should be afforded absolutely no choice as to any aspect of his life, not the least of which is where he will spend the rest of his days.  He should be afforded the same choice he gave to his daughter – none.

According to Timesonline:

Josef Fritzl barely quivered when he was sentenced yesterday to life in a
prison for psychologically disturbed criminals. He was found guilty of
murdering a boy, one of seven children fathered with his daughter, of
enslaving her, incarcerating her, beating her and raping her 3,000 times in
the cellar of the family home.

Fritzl, 73, said in a croaking voice that he accepted the verdict — there will
be no appeal — and he was marched off by a phalanx of policemen to a cell
that lets in more sunlight than his daughter Elisabeth saw in almost a
quarter of a century.

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Joseph Fritzl Pleads Guilty to All Charges – He’s Still a Monster

In spite of the fact that Josef Fritzl pled guilty to ALL charges today, he remains one of the great monsters of all time.  Click here, here, here, here and here to read previous, detailed postings of his horrific crimes.

Please watch the CNN Video News Report below for greater details of today’s guilty plea.

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Details of Elisabeth Fritzl’s Abuse at the Hands of Her Father, Josef

Josef-Fritzl-arrives-for--001
I am sickened by the account of Josef Fritzl’s treatment of his daughter, Elisabeth Fritzl, during the 24 years that he imprisoned her in a purposefully built cellar. 

This Josef Fritzl calls himself a man, a human being.  I don't perceive him as human.  The horrors that he bestowed upon his daughter beginning with drugging her at age 18 in order to imprison her in the dungeon that became her 24 year torture chamber and the deceit that he so brazenly perpetrated to friends and family during that time boggle the mind and shock the conscience. 

Here is, in part, what the indictment states:

  • He chained his daughter up, strapping up her arms and tying her hands behind her back with an iron chain, which he then secured to metal posts behind her bed. She could only move approximately half a metre either side of the bed.
  • After two days he gave her more freedom of movement by attaching the chain around her waist. Then around six to nine months into her imprisonment, he "removed the metal chain", because "it was hindering his sexual activity with his daughter".
  • He forced her to endure sexual abuse and rape at his hands sometimes several times a day, from the second day of her incarceration right up until her release last April. During the first nine months he kept her on a lead and "constantly covered her mouth and prevented her from breathing".
  • He repeatedly threatened her with the statement: "If you do not do as I say, your treatment will get worse and you will not escape from the cellar anyway."
  • He repeatedly beat and kicked her.
  • Subjected her to humiliating sexual abuse, including forcing her to reenact scenes in pornographic films with him as well as inserting objects into her in a violent manner.
  • Fritzl threatened Elisabeth and her children, warning them that if they tried to escape they would be killed. "He told them he had installed a system so that the doors would give them electric shocks if they tried to open them and that poison would be released into the cellar if they tried to escape, killing them all instantly."
  • He would punish her by switching off all the power to the cellar for days at a time "so she was left alone in total darkness".
  • The jury will hear three expert testimonies including the psychiatric assessment of Fritzl, and evidence from a technical expert and an electrical engineer who have inspected the dungeon prison, including its complex locking system and the eight doors which separated Elisabeth and her family from the outside world.

The poison that ran through this man's veins is incomprehensible.  I'm speechless.

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Fritzl Trial Media Frenzy

The trial begins.  From CNN:

One of Elisabeth Fritzl’s brothers, Harald, also testified by
video, a court spokesman said. The media and public have been barred
from the courtroom for sensitive parts of the trial.

Fritzl has pleaded guilty to incest and other charges, but denied murder and enslavement.

He pleaded “partly guilty” — an option in Austrian court — to
multiple charges of raping his daughter, Franz Cutka, a spokesman for
the court in Landesgericht St. Poelten, said. A verdict is expected on
Thursday, Cutka said.

Elisabeth testified on an 11-hour
videotape. Portions of the tape were played Monday, and Fritzl was
asked about it. The remainder of the tape was played Tuesday, officials
said.

Authorities have said Elisabeth and her children were given new identities and are in a secret location.

Will there ever be justice for this family?  It doesn’t seem possibleto me that Elisabeth Fritzl and her six surviving children can ever lead normal lives.  However, their new found freedom may send them on their way to integration and reintegration into society especially with the assumption that Josef Fritzl will be locked away for many years to come.  It’s daunting, though, to know that his plea deal may include incarceration in a resort-like prison where the inmates are given the luxury of daily activities such as classes, tennis and other recreational sports.

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Toxic Mold Symptoms Affecting Your Family and You

Toxicblackmold
Do You or Your Family Have Symptoms of Toxic Mold?

Our homes are our sanctuaries, our safe place in this hectic world.  What if your home is sick with toxic mold?  Do you suspect that your house or apartment is sick with mold?  If you, your children, spouse or housemates experiencing unexplained symptoms such as

  • Memory Loss, Anxiety, Personality Disorders, Mood Swings
  • Sore Throat, Shortness of Breath, Nosebleeds, Cough
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Hair Loss,Skin Rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness or Pain in Extremities (arms, legs)
  • Headaches
  • Rectal Bleeding
  • Tremors
  • Fibromyalgia

your living space may be infected with toxic mold.

View Graphic Photos of Toxic Mold, Victims and Repair


Who is Responsible For Toxic Mold in Your Home?

Judges-gavel

Who may be responsible for toxic mold in your home?  Is there someone whose action, or lack of action, is the legal cause of your current mold-related health problems?  They may have insurance that will compensate you and your family, housemates, etc. for the potentially life-altering and lifelong injuries that you have sustained.  Here is a short list of possible parties who may be responsible for either the mold in your home OR for not discovering and/or disclosing the fact that there is mold in your home:

  • Builder
  • Developer
  • Architect
  • Subcontractors
  • Remediation Consultants
  • Homeowners Association
  • Landlord
  • Property Managers
  • Real Estate Agent or Broker
  • Inspectors
  • Former Owner
  • Sewer Repair

Our experienced litigation attorneys will analyze your situation from a legal perspective and advise you as to whether or not you have a toxic mold case and are entitled to compensation.

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Josef Fritzl: Evil Father Goes on Trial for Crimes Against Daughter, Elisabeth

Fritzl 2009-03-10 005
You may recall the horrific story of Elisabeth Fritzl, the Austrian woman who was held captive, raped and tortured by her father for 24 years.  So many of you were incredulous at the horrific story that captured the world's attention and sympathy.  I blogged on it here, here, here and here.  Many of my blog postings include videos and photos of the crime (thus far) of the century.  There was also a link to a photo album containing nine photos of, among other things, the victim and her father.

Well, the outrage continues.  Josef Fritzl has admitted to his acts.  He is going on trial next week for murder, incest, unlawful imprisonment and enslavement.  His attorney, Rudolf Mayer, says "He is not a monster.  He loved his daughter in his own way."  This is love?  I don't know about you but I'm deeply offended by the callous disregard for the lives of his daughter and the 7 children (the product of repeated rapes by her father) that she bore from the depravity that defined her existence.  One of the children died in infancy, in the dungeon that was their home, while turning blue in her arms.   Josef Fritzl incinerated the body and, although it is believed that he won't be so convicted, this death is the subject of the murder charge against him.

It is quite possible that, under the current Austrian laws, Fritzl could get out of prison in less than 10 years (rape has a maximum sentence of 15 years and, with good behavior…).  To add insult to injury, it is rumored that his attorney has made a deal where Fritzl gets to choose the prison in which he will be held to pay for his crimes and that the chosen location will provide mediation, tennis, football and darts as well as cooking lessons. 

Elisabeth Fritzl has filmed 11 hours of testimony wherein she describes being assaulted by her father for the first time at age 11.  She tried to defend herself against his rape by kicking and screaming.  She became his captive at the age of 18 when he locked her in the dungeon that he purposefully built beneath their house (I'm loathe to call it a home) and, in an effort to cover up his perverted acts, forced her to write a letter saying that she had run away to join a cult.

The father's defense: He was protecting her from smoking, drugs, sex and drinking.  Oh, did I mention that he gave his captives a bird?  Oh, yes, the bird was able to live down there so it proves that he provided them with good air quality.  In addition to the bird, the police found whips and handcuffs.

The details of the upcoming trial and Elisabeth Fritzl's diary of her 8400+ days of captivity are plentiful on the Internet.  In particular, I found the following three articles which lay it all out:

Fritzl Daughter Tells of Fight to Save Children: Timesonline

Evil Father Goes on Trial: Babble.com

Fritzl Girl's Dunegon Diary Leaked: Ninemsn.com

And, of course, a Google Search on Elisabeth Fritzl or Josef Fritzl will yield a plethora of information.

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