November 30, 2012

Texas Consumers Harmed By Phony Debt Collectors


Unfortunately, Texas consumers pay these kinds of phony debt collectors every day. Their collection tactics are meant to induce fear and panic.

There is very little risk of going to jail for failure to pay a debt. Civil matters like this are dealt with in civil arenas, where punishment is usually monetary damages rather than imprisonment. Moreover, in Texas, you must be notified, usually in writing, of any lawsuit filed against you. Oral notification is not sufficient notice under Texas law. Once served, you have a at least 10 (small claims court) or 20 days (county or district court) to respond to any lawsuit. Houston consumers should be weary of any company that fails to identify its location, contact information or company personnel.

These companies are able to get just enough of your personal information to be dangerous; often times, tricking consumers into paying them. The best and more effective means of dealing with these companies is to ask for all contact to be made in writing. If you really owe a debt, then they should be able to provide verification of the debt to your address. However, there is no need for you to give personal information over the phone. The debt collector should have enough relevant information to identify you and the alleged debt. If you are someone you know has been harmed by these tactics, then please contact Radack & Borunda, P.C. today.

September 21, 2012

Cost of Divorce Decree Mistakes

Lack of specificity in your divorce decree may cost you significantly more than the cost of your actual divorce.

Some Texans fail to understand that the friendliness that currently exists in divorce proceedings doesn't always extend into the future, making for serious problems when one party fails to abide by the terms of the property division. Many parties who are divorcing amicably don't feel the need to argue every detail of their divorce decree, and assume that both parties will act fairly later when the property division actually takes place. However, failure to include details on something like the sale of the marital home or vacation homes can later cause a disastrous outcome.

What happens when one party refuses to list the house with a real estate agent? What happens when one party receives proceeds from the sale of a property but refuses to turn over their former spouse's share? After divorce, parties lose an incentive to be amicable. Or even more simply, sometimes life changes. Your former spouse feels it's suddenly fair that they keep some of your property because they "need it more than you." If you weren't specific in the decree, then you could face an uphill battle in pushing the other side to comply with the decree. In some cases, you would need to go back to court in order to settle a disagreement and enforce your decree. However, in the worst scenarios, lack of specificity in your divorce decree could leave you with no remedy at all. Thus, it is very important for you and your attorney to be as specific as possible, including deadlines, penalties and other repercussions for noncompliance.

September 13, 2012

Your Day In Court That Might Never Come: Being Aware of Arbitration Clauses

It's a regrettable fact of life that people encounter legal problems all too frequently and in many different situations such as: buying a car; or a house; or booking a vacation on a cruise line; or even handing their car over to a valet at a restaurant. And when people encounter problems in such situations, they often end up seeking the assistance of a lawyer.

Texans from all walks of life believe they can pursue remedies for their claims through our court system by filing lawsuits for fraud, breach of contract, negligence or some other similar cause of action. They envision having their day in court and a jury deciding who is right and what the remedy should be. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.

Arbitration clauses are becoming common, if not standard, in an ever-increasing variety of transactions involving written contracts or documents. Under arbitration agreements, legal disputes must be resolved, not through our judicial system, but through private organizations that establish their own rules and appoint private individuals to resolve the disputes.

To be clear, arbitration can be a viable, and even desirable, means to resolve a dispute. It offers some advantages. It is a more streamlined, speedy process. And arbitrators are often well versed in the subject matter of the dispute. However, as great as arbitration can be, it is a dispute resolution system that a majority of the public is largely unfamiliar with. The most significant problem with arbitration and arbitration clauses is that many people are unaware that they often become contractually obligated to arbitrate their disputes.

You see, more and more transactions involving written documents contain arbitration clauses. And unfortunately, people often don't read or understand these clauses and, more often, are unaware that these clauses even exist. So, without knowing it, people frequently give up their right to have their day in court.

Our advice to you, look over the documents you sign or receive and look for provisions concerning arbitration or dispute resolution. Plainly, know what you are agreeing to. And if you find you need a lawyer to help you understand those documents, to help you have your day in court or even guide you through arbitration, call Radack & Borunda, P.C.

July 20, 2012

Friday Legal Q & A

Warning For Informational Purposes: The answers herein are not intended to serve as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Radack & Borunda, P.C. provides this blog for informational purposes. Each legal issue is unique; seek an attorney for specific answers to your specific legal questions. Nothing in this or any other section shall create an attorney-client relationship.

Child Custody/ Family Law

What does paternity mean in Texas?

Paternity is the legal means of a father establishing his parental rights to a child.

How do I establish paternity in Texas?

In Texas, a child born outside of wedlock is not automatically deemed to have a legal father. The biological father must sign and file an Acknowledgement of Paternity to establish his rights. This acknowledgment must be signed by the mother and filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics. If the mother is unwilling to sign an acknowledgement, then the court may order a paternity test to establish parental rights. In these situations, you should consult an attorney for more information and guidance.

July 13, 2012

Friday Legal Q & A

Warning For Informational Purposes: The answers herein are not intended to serve as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Radack & Borunda, P.C. provides this blog for informational purposes. Each legal issue is unique; seek an attorney for specific answers to your specific legal questions. Nothing in this or any other section shall create an attorney-client relationship.

Wills/Estates/Probate

What is a holographic will?

A holographic will is a will written entirely in the testator's handwriting.

Are handwritten wills valid in Texas?

Yes, holographic wills are legally valid in Texas if the will is drafted entirely in the testator's handwriting. However, there are many pitfalls in relying on a holographic will. In addition, holographic wills my leave many unanswered questions if not drafted accurately, completely and thoughtfully. An attorney should be consulted in order prevent issues in the future.

July 6, 2012

Friday Legal Q & A

Warning For Informational Purposes: The answers herein are not intended to serve as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Radack & Borunda, P.C. provides this blog for informational purposes. Each legal issue is unique; seek an attorney for specific answers to your specific legal questions. Nothing in this or any other section shall create an attorney-client relationship.

Child Support/Custody

Can I make separate agreements with my former spouse pertaining to child support?

While you can make separate agreements regarding child support, it is important to note that, more often than not, they are unenforceable without court approval. The safest way to handle child support is to pay directly into the state. The records are kept accurately and your former spouse is assured to receive the funds. More importantly, as a payor of child support you will be protected as the state records are much more important that the records of your former spouse or significant other. A a general rule, if the state of Texas doesn't know about it, then it doesn't exist.

How do I modify child support?

You may file suit to modify child support. In most cases you will need to prove material and substantial change in the circumstances surrounding the child's needs or a conservator's needs. As with any suit affecting a child, the modification must be in the best interest of the child. See Chapter 156 of the Texas Family Code for more details.

July 5, 2012

Laws Governing Political Signs in Houston and Texas

Political campaign season is in full swing in Houston and that means the proliferation of campaign signs along the roadways will be a fixture for the next several months and long after the election is over. What is the law that governs where those signs may be placed ?
While those signs may be placed freely on private property, they are banned from state highways. The Texas Department of Transportation is in charge of the placement and maintenance of all traffic control devices and signs on state highways. Even local authorities are required to obtain permission from the Department of Transportation before placing any traffic control devices, such as a stop sign, upon a state roadway. The Department of Transportation has the authority to not only remove any sign that "hinders the effectiveness" of any traffic control device but charge a fee to cover the cost of removal. This would allow for the removal of any campaign sign placed on or near any TxDOT sign. Further, each sign placement can also result in criminal penalties with a maximum fine of $500 per sign. While the law has some teeth, it's not widely enforced in Harris County even after campaign season has ended.

July 3, 2012

Texas Statute of Limitations

People who suffer some kind or injury or damage as a result of another's breach of contract, fraud, negligence or other violation of a legal duty need to be aware that there is a time limit within which they must resolve their claims or file a lawsuit. In Texas, that time limit is called the "Statute of Limitations", and it can be found at Chapter 16 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

The Statute of Limitations sets forth different periods within which different claims must be filed in court. Failure to file a claim within its respective limitations period will result in it being barred. For example, a lawsuit for breach of contract or fraud generally must be filed within four years after the day the claim accrues, while a lawsuit for negligence generally must be filed within two years after the day the claim accrues. A claim generally can be said to accrue when a claimant knew or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the wrongful act and resulting injury, though the analysis of when that was can be somewhat complex and fact-specific.

Additionally, people who have suffered some sort of injury or damage should also be aware that there may be a relevant "statute of repose." A statute of repose acts as an absolute bar against a claim once a certain amount of time has elapsed from a certain date or event, regardless of when the cause of action accrues. For example, under Texas Business and Commerce Code § 4.406(f), a person must report unauthorized transactions to a bank within one year of accounting statements being made available or be barred from asserting a claim against the bank for unauthorized payment.

The take-away message is that, if you have sustained some sort of damage or injury and are considering your legal options, you should consult with an attorney at your earliest opportunity in order to avoid having your claims barred by the statute of limitations or a statute of repose. At Radack & Borunda, P.C., we offer a free consultation for new clients and we'll be happy to assist you with a wide variety of legal matters. Call us today!

June 29, 2012

Friday Legal Q & A

Warning For Informational Purposes: The answers herein are not intended to serve as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Radack & Borunda, P.C. provides this blog for informational purposes. Each legal issue is unique; seek an attorney for specific answers to your specific legal questions. Nothing in this or any other section shall create an attorney-client relationship.

Credit Reporting

What is a "trimerge" credit report?

A trimerge credit report is a synopsis of a person's three major credit scores and reports all in the same document. It is commonly used by lenders as the basis for establishing a consumer's "creditworthiness." The three major credit reporting bureaus are Transunion, Equifax and Experian.

What does the "DLA" or "DOLA" on my credit report mean?

DOLA stands for date of last activity for a particular account. The date of last activity is used to determine when the last payment was made by a consumer on a particular account. The credit bureaus and creditors use this date to determine the date of default on an account. Usually, an account will be reported for the following seven years from the date of last activity, unless altered, deleted or supplemented by the furnishers of such information to the bureaus.

June 28, 2012

Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act: Hope for Texans Against Deceptive Conduct

It is a regrettable fact of life that disagreements often arise between sellers of goods or providers of services and the consumers of those goods or services. And when those disagreements arise, consumers can sometimes feel that, because the amount of money involved is relatively small, they won't be able to obtain a fair resolution to their problem. That's the reason why the state of Texas enacted the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, or DTPA for short.

The DTPA is meant to protect Texas consumers from the use of false, misleading or deceptive practices or unconscionable actions by sellers of goods or providers of services. And to ensure that aggrieved consumers can obtain fair resolution of their complaints and find the necessary legal assistance to obtain that resolution, the DTPA gives consumers several powerful rights and remedies.

For example, the DTPA imposes enhanced penalties for knowing or intentional DTPA violations. Also, consumers who prevail under a DTPA claim are entitled to recover their reasonable and necessary attorney's fees.

Importantly, many attorney's will take DTPA cases on what's called a "contingency fee" basis. This means that the attorney will advance the costs of investigating, filing and developing a lawsuit and will not charge the client anything unless (s)he wins the case. In exchange, the attorney will get a percentage (typically 30-45%) of the total recovery.

Also important is that the DTPA requires an aggrieved consumer to provide the seller of goods or provider of services with 60 day's notice of the complaint prior to filing a lawsuit in order to allow the seller or provider to address the consumer's complaint. Because this notice is the first step in developing a DTPA claim, our advice is that you let an attorney provide the notice for you.

If you feel that you've been treated unfairly when buying a good or service, and you've been damaged economically, we're here to help.

June 25, 2012

Contract Conundrums in Texas

People from all walks of life enter into business transactions all time time, oftentimes with the use of a written contract. And, out of the desire to avoid paying attorney's fees or because of time pressures, many people often elect to write their own contracts, thinking a particular business transaction simple and the contract they write clear.

While understandable, this can often be a huge mistake. It may seem like a simple thing to write a contract that addresses the terms of a business transaction, but people without much experience in writing contracts can sometimes overlook potential pitfalls or leave important terms unclear. Unfortunately, those mistakes may not become apparent until a disagreement about the transaction arises.

And once a lawsuit about a business deal or a claim for breach of contract arises, the attorney's fees the parties to the contract sought to save will pale in comparison to the attorney's fees they will spend to litigate the disagreement.

A wiser choice, then, is to seek the advice and assistance of a qualified and conscientious attorney to help you draft your contract. A good attorney can write a clear contract and oftentimes will be able to help the parties to that contract anticipate and address potential issues and disagreements before they arise, thus avoiding conflicts entirely.

If you need help with writing a contract or reviewing one you've written or are thinking of signing, give us a call! We'll be glad to help.

June 22, 2012

Friday Legal Q & A

Warning For Informational Purposes: The answers herein are not intended to serve as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Radack & Borunda, P.C. provides this blog for informational purposes. Each legal issue is unique; seek an attorney for specific answers to your specific legal questions. Nothing in this or any other section shall create an attorney-client relationship.

Immigration/Naturalization

What is the USCIS?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, is the governmental body that oversees legal immigration to the United States. They USCIS helps foreign citizens become naturalized United States citizens, obtain work or tourist visas or even assist with genealogy.

You may visit uscis.gov for more information.

June 15, 2012

Friday Legal Q & A

Warning For Informational Purposes: The answers herein are not intended to serve as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Radack & Borunda, P.C. provides this blog for informational purposes. Each legal issue is unique; seek an attorney for specific answers to your specific legal questions. Nothing in this or any other section shall create an attorney-client relationship.

Consumer Law

Can I go to jail for not paying a debt?

The probable answer is no. While debt collectors like to call and threaten criminal charges or jail time, they have absolutely no authority to send you to jail. Only the police and criminal prosecutors dictate when and who is charged with a crime. In almost all cases, you will not be going to jail for failure to pay a consumer debt. Having said that, it does not mean you can't be sued in a civilly in court.

What is the statute of limitations on a consumer debt?

There is a four-year statute of limitations on consumer debts. This simply means that a creditor must file suit within four years from the date of last payment or date of last activity. If a creditor fails bring suit within this time frame, then any suit brought thereafter will be barred by the statute of limitations. However, a creditor may still attempt to collect on this debt, using legal means of course.

June 8, 2012

Friday Legal Q & A

Warning For Informational Purposes: The answers herein are not intended to serve as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Radack & Borunda, P.C. provides this blog for informational purposes. Each legal issue is unique; seek an attorney for specific answers to your specific legal questions. Nothing in this or any other section shall create an attorney-client relationship.

General Litigation Questions


How long do I have to answer a lawsuit in Texas?

if you have been sued in Texas, you must file an answer by the first Monday after the expiration of 20 days of being served.

What does it mean to be "served" with a lawsuit?

"Served" is the act of being formally given notice of a lawsuit against you. The date of service starts important legal deadlines for responses and answers. Consult an attorney if you have been sued or you could face a possible default judgment rendered against you.

June 1, 2012

Friday Legal Q & A

Warning For Informational Purposes: The answers herein are not intended to serve as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Radack & Borunda, P.C. provides this blog for informational purposes. Each legal issue is unique; seek an attorney for specific answers to your specific legal questions. Nothing in this or any other section shall create an attorney-client relationship.

Credit/Consumer Law

How long will a collection stay on my credit?

Like most items on your credit report, it will remain on your credit report for seven years.

How long will a judgment remain on my credit report?

Like collections and other items, a judgment will remain on your credit report about seven years. However, judgments in Texas are valid for 10 years. In addition, judgments may be renewed by filing a form with the court. This renewal may result in the judgment reappearing on your credit report if it had dropped off previously. The main thing to remember is that judgments will still be legally owed even if they are not reporting on your credit report. For this reason, it is very important to consult an attorney in the event you are ever sued.

How long will a bankruptcy remain on my credit report?

Chapter 7 bankruptcies will usually remain on your credit report for 10 years from the date of filing (if you received a discharge of your debts). Chapter 13 bankruptcies will usually remain on your credit report for 7-10 years from the date of filing (if you received a discharge of your debts). Also, it is important to remember that bankruptcy dismissals will remain on your credit report for 7-10 years. A bankruptcy dismissal is where a consumer files for bankruptcy but his or her filing does not result in a discharge for some reason. Usually, Chapter 13 bankruptcies will be removed from your credit report sooner because creditors and credit bureaus view them more favorably than Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This is because in Chapter 13 bankruptcy you pay your creditors back in a 3-5 year payment plan as opposed to liquidation in Chapter 7.