WASHINGTON, June 14, 2015 − It seems that “the law” is constantly in the news these days. From constitutional law to criminal law to civil law and everything else in between, federal, state and local laws are very much an integral part of modern life to the U.S.
Would you like to know more about the law? This column is here to help. The following is a list of informational resources on the law, alphabetized by general topic heading. Under each topic head is a more specific list of good resources and links along with a short description of each.
Be forewarned: Much like trying to attempt your own heart surgery or build your own house, self-help resources and advice relating to many legal matters can be dangerous if you try to take certain things into your own hands.
Nonetheless, having legal information or on hand makes sense at the most basic level. Having at least a passing knowledge of certain areas of subject matter and terminology can actually improve your experience with an attorney, should you need to engage a professional. And, by helping you and your attorney cut to the chase, a grasp of such knowledge and terminology can also save you money.
Let’s get started:
Basic Law Resources: What is the law?
Cornell University Law School has an excellent site where you can research federal and state laws, regulations and U.S. Supreme Court cases.
Nolo Law’s site provides extensive and useful information about just about everything in the law, and it includes a do-it-yourself section that helps you find an attorney for anything, including some computerized forms.
The Findlaw site is equally resourceful, having information and videos on finding attorneys and current legal issues in the news and links to legal blogs on various topics. It is easy to understand and navigate.
LawInfo has over 100,000 free documents and forms, a frequently asked question (FAQ) section where you can find answers to over 24,000 legal questions, a research library and a section for getting the latest information on class action lawsuits, recalls, harmful drugs and defective products (www.lawinfo.com).
FreeAdvice is not entirely free, but it does have a huge collection of information and allows you to ask questions of attorneys. The interactive forum on the site has thousands of posts and threads and allows you to post questions (www.freeadvice.com).
Lawguru has a free and a paid format, giving you the choice for questions to attorneys. The paid option allows you to select the attorney and it is confidential, meaning your question and the answer will not be posted on the site’s extensive Q&A section.
Since the advent of the Great Recession, tough times still persist for many. Do you need to consider bankruptcy as a possible solution? The American Bankruptcy Institute’s Consumer Bankruptcy Center site provides a national directory of attorneys and centers offering free or low-cost services for eligible debtors and extensive basic information.
Justia hosts over 2,000 legal blogs and allows consumers to ask questions online and get answers from attorneys.
HG Legal Resources offers an extensive amount of information about what is involved in criminal law, including key entries on DUI and DWI, expunging a criminal record, juvenile laws, legal defenses, plea bargains, rights issues and what to say to police. Also included: links to the laws in every state on every crime and a linked listing of offenses explaining them.
Debt, Debt Collection, Credit Cards, Medical Bills
CreditCardDebt.org has useful information about shopping for credit cards, understanding credit terms and terminology. It also includes guides to individual state credit card laws.
Medical billing advocates are for-profit companies that work with medical providers on the consumer’s behalf to get bills corrected or reduced. Highlighted on network news programs and even favorably mentioned in Consumer Reports, Medical Billing Advocates can link you to qualified medical billing advocates state-by-state and across the country.
ElderLawAnswers provides you immediately with ads from attorneys specializing in elder law in your area. (Amazing how they do that, isn’t it?). The site includes an expansive Q&A section and links to free guides and articles on key topics including estate planning (wills, trusts and estates), grandchildren, long-term care insurance, Medicare and Medicaid planning, retirement, senior living and even veterans’ benefits.
The National Elder Law Foundation is the only national organization that certifies elder law attorneys. Be aware that many states also have certification procedures that may be just as impressive. Nonetheless, this site is a good place to start if seeking an elder law attorney.
Do you have issues with your boss? The Employment Law Information Network provides articles on employment law issues and samples of policies and contracts.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse site provides information on just about everything related to privacy, including workplace privacy and background checks.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provides links to all state government labor offices (wage and hour division).
Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody & Support, Alimony, Parental Rights
The most comprehensive single source for this information, including more topics than than those just listed here, is at FindLaw’s site.
Forget the complicated Medicare and Medicaid Services and Healthcare.gov sites. Go to the Health Insurance Resource Center site, where you can find consumer information on medical coverage, definitions on health insurance industry terms, insurance risk pools, quotes on health insurance and state guides on coverage.
Also accessed via the Insurance Information Institute site is a section that provides good information on what health insurance does and how it works, along with guidance on buying coverage. The site also has an excellent array of definitions for health insurance terminology.
ImmigrationLawHelp provides a map, literally, where you can click on your state and be taken to all your state’s resources in this area of law, including low-cost services.
Lawyers.com is a very good information site that covers a range of topics, including this specific link to Landlord-Tenant law which, along with other information, allows you to find a local attorney who specializes in this area.
Legal Aid Programs
Down on your luck financially and need a legal aid program? The Legal Services Corporation site provides links to these programs in every state and also has a great deal of helpful information.
Resources and help abound for military, but interestingly, many military personnel do not know of these resources. MilitaryOneSource provides an easy-to-understand and navigate format that addresses virtually every question someone in or involved with the military could have, including the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program, child custody considerations, documents requiring update before deploying, individual and family issues, power-of-attorney basics, rights of spouses and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Also included: employment and unemployment rights, housing rights, privacy rights and more.
Personal Injury Law
Okay, author’s prerogative. I’m biased. My book on this topic is the only national resource currently available and is more comprehensive than anything ever written on this subject area. It includes discussions, strategy and explanations for virtually everything involved in an auto accident:
Have you been scammed? Thousands and perhaps millions have, and the next victim might be you. The National Association of Consumer Advocates is an attorney member organization whose members represent consumers who have been taken by fraudulent, abusive and predatory business practices. You can find an attorney at this site, and you will also find tips on the latest consumer scams and advice on how to protect your rights.
Social Security and Disability
NOLO Law’s www.disabilitysecrets.com provides excellent information about social security law encompassing eligibility and programs, including those available if disability occurs before you reach retirement age.
Last but not least, this one is my favorite legal site:
Do you have children and do you want them to learn about the law and government? Ben Franklin himself (actually, his contemporary federal representative) has a great site: http://bensguide.gpo.gov
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia and has practiced since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website http://www.textarudo.com and “like” the concept on the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/textarudo.