Tax Implications Important to Consider in a West Virginia Divorce

Jun 2014

When dividing marital property in a divorce, many couples tend to consider the value of the property without thinking about the tax implications. This can be a big mistake, as some assets have tax advantages that others do not enjoy. When considering what assets need to be liquidated as part of the divorce, couples should consider the tax consequences of their decision.

Tax bills can take a big bite out of a divorce settlement, and you need to have a careful plan for minimizing adverse tax consequences and protecting your assets. Divorce lawyers in West Virginia at the Recht Law Offices can help you throughout the process of your divorce.

Tax Implications to Consider in Your Divorce

A recent article on CNBC touched upon some of the tax issues that couples need to think about when they end their marriage.

One of the mistakes that CNBC indicated some divorcing couples make is liquidating a 401(K). Not only will you lose a big portion of the value of the retirement account when you liquidate a 401(K) but you may also end up with a huge surprise tax bill that you did not count on at the end of the year. If you don’t have the cash to cover it, your financial problems could quickly snowball.

Rather than liquidating a 401(K), it is best to keep the money in the retirement account, even if a share of the proceeds is divided among the spouses. With this and other retirement accounts, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QRDO) could be issued so the money can be divided at the time the couple is able to access the retirement account in their later years without being hit with huge tax penalties.

Asset liquidation is one of the biggest areas where tax issues are raised, and couples should avoid not just liquidating retirement accounts but also selling assets that will result in huge capital gains if they don’t have the cash to pay those taxes. Before any asset is sold, you need to determine the value and the tax consequences associated with the transaction.

Another area where it is important to consider tax implications is when dividing up property. For example, there are capital gains exclusions that can allow an individual to shield up to $250,000 in gains from the sale of a home and that can allow a married couple to shield up to $500,000 in capital gains. If the profits on the sale of the home would exceed $500,000, it may be advisable for the home to be sold as a part of the divorce before the exclusion is cut in half by the end of the marriage.

Further, if one spouse keeps the home and the other spouse receives stock that is equal to the value of the house, the spouse that got the home may get the better end of the deal because he or she could sell and exclude the gains while the spouse who got the stock won’t get the same tax benefit.

These are just some of the complicated issues that can be raised by divorce. An experienced attorney should always be consulted for help.

Contact a West Virginia divorce attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation or visit

Is it Legal to Tape Your Spouse During a West Virginia Divorce?

May 2014

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald  Sterling is defending racist comments that he made on tape, claiming that he acted out of jealousy and was baited into making the comments. His girlfriend secretly recorded him making the offensive statements, which have gotten him into a significant amount of trouble with the press as well as with the NBA and other team owners. According to CNN, it is not clear exactly how the tapes ended up being released to the public and Sterling does not believe that his girlfriend was trying to blackmail him through the release of the tapes. Sterling’s girlfriend is also being sued by the man’s estranged wife to try to recover $2 million in gifts that Sterling gave to her.

The Sterling situation illustrates the risks of private conversations becoming public. These are risks that you can face whenever you are in the process of divorce or when you are not getting along with your spouse. Things that you say could potentially be taped and could be used against you in a variety of different ways during the process of your divorce.  Divorce lawyers in West Virginia should be consulted as soon as you determine that you will be separating from your spouse so you can get advice on what to do, and not to do, in order to protect your rights.

Taping Your Spouse During a West Virginia Divorce

In the state of California where the controversial Sterling tapes were made, his girlfriend likely acted illegally when she recorded their conversation. This is because California is one of 12 states  where both parties must consent if a conversation is to be recorded. The act of secretly recording phone calls or other conversations without the consent of both parties can result in felony wiretapping charges.

West Virginia, on the other hand, is one of 38 states where only one party must consent to being recorded. This means that if one of the two estranged spouses agrees to have the conversation recorded either in person or via phone, you are likely not violating the law.

Statements made on a tape could then be used against you to harm your interests. Anything that sounds threatening or that suggests verbal or physical abuse, for example, could be used to secure a restraining order and could potentially impact who gets custody of the children.

Because a taped conversation could be used against you, it is essential that you always act as if anything you say will be shared with the judge. Never be baited into saying something that you would not want to have taped and be sure that you understand the types of statements that could get you into trouble and have an adverse impact on the outcome of your divorce.

It is important also to remember that the consent of at least one party is always required before a conversation is recorded, so you should not tape your spouse’s conversation with other people. This includes conversation that your spouse may have with your children.

Contact a West Virginia divorce attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a consultation if you are separated or ending your marriage.

West Virginia Trucking Accident Risks Little Impacted by Federal Efforts

Apr 2014

A lawsuit has been filed against a trucking company after a family was involved in a collision with an employee driving a logging truck. The West Virginia Record indicates that the lawsuit was filed in February and arose from an accident on Route 193 in which the driver of the logging truck reportedly failed to stop his vehicle.

This case is one of many filed each year by victims of truck accidents who take legal action against trucking companies. When drivers are negligent, companies are often to blame because a company fails to enforce safety rules or because it is liable for careless acts of employees. A West Virginia truck accident lawyer can represent victims and help them to pursue claims against the appropriate defendants for losses.

Since trucking companies can have so much control over whether their employees behave safely, it is important to identify companies that violate safety rules or fail to comply with regulations in ways that could lead to collisions. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) aims to identify high-risk trucking carriers in order to better enforce the standards it sets for long-haul and interstate trucking companies. Unfortunately, FMCSA efforts are not always successful.

FMCSA Faces Intense Criticism of Truck Safety Review Methods

The FMCSA adopted a new method of trying to identify high-risk trucking companies whose past violations meant the carrier was more likely to have trucks involved in accidents. The new method, Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA), was intended to replace the old system that had not worked very well.

Under the old system, an onsite compliance review could take between three and four days to determine if carriers were living up to safety responsibilities. Just a small percentage of active carriers were ever investigated by the FMCSA and the FMCSA’s SafeStat system for measuring safety performance wasn’t very accurate at focusing on behaviors that were likely to increase the risk of collisions.

Unfortunately, CSA may not do a whole lot better. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has raised some harsh criticisms of the FMCSA’s efforts and the Department of Transportation (DOT) has echoed many of these concerns and raised additional issues.

The biggest problems the GAO identified were a lack of data and a lack of proof that the safety violations that CSA focuses on were actually linked to an added collision risk. CSA aims to use a scoring system to identify trucking companies that have violated regulations and thus are at increased risk of a collision. Unfortunately, FMCSA only really has safety records for 200,000 active carriers out of more than 525,000.  Further, regulations FMCSA looked at weren’t violated often enough to make a reliable assessment of whether the carrier was high risk.

The DOT added to these concerns the fact that 40 states are still awaiting the technology from the FMCSA that would allow participation in CSA enforcement efforts.  This obviously makes the system even less effective than it could otherwise be, despite FMCSA’s many other shortcomings.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation.

West Virginia Collisions Claims – Insurance Companies v. Consumers

No matter what clever jingle your auto insurance firm’s advertising department has dreamed up, you must remember: They are not your friends. They are not “like a good neighbor” or “on your side” by any means.

This does not mean that you can’t get your car insurance company to work for you in the event of an accident with someone who is uninsured or underinsured. But if you were to go it alone, you would soon find out the hard truths. Vehicle insurance companies very rarely will grant you the maximum to which you are entitled without a fight, and usually only after you’ve involved the services of an experienced West Virginia accident attorney.

No matter what is alluded in the commercial, keep in mind that the bottom line of these firms is their bottom line. They want to minimize their own liability and pay you as little as possible.

Study reveals controversial insurance company tricks and tactics

Common insurance company tactics were outlined not long ago in a research article called, “Tricks of the Trade: How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse and Refuse,” published by the American Association for Justice.

The authors focus on all different kinds of insurance, from housing insurance to health insurance. The article notes insurance companies systematically work to deny claims through a series of tried-and-true tactics that cross ethical lines and skate just this side of legal.

These tactics include denying virtually all claims outright, without any real consideration as to the veracity of that decision. Employers are given rewards when they deny a certain percentage of claims – and punished when they fail to meet that quota. Then there are efforts to thoroughly confuse consumers with contracts that contain extensive fine print, and which are written in such a way as to intentionally keeps consumers from understanding the type of coverage they have – or don’t have. These firms have also been caught dragging out cases as long as possible. Using tactics such as “lost” paperwork, countless customer service personnel who can’t keep the facts of your case straight, long telephone hold times and seemingly endless motion-filing in court, these firms are hoping that the claimants will either give up or die.

Knowing your rights after a West Virginia car accident

You are required by law to keep a minimum amount of auto liability coverage if you wish to drive a car legally in the state of West Virginia. Those amounts are $10,000 for property damage, $20,000 for one accident and one injury or death and $40,000 for one accident involving two injuries or death.

These amounts are very quickly exceeded when a serious accident occurs.

Drivers here are also required to maintain uninsured motorist coverage, which means if you hit someone who isn’t insured or whose coverage doesn’t fully compensate you for all damages, you can seek recompense from your own insurer.

But again, just because you have the coverage doesn’t mean your insurer will pay up without a fight. In addition to the aforementioned tactics, companies will also attempt to downplay the extent of injuries or damages. They might even try to say that under the circumstances, you weren’t covered at all.

Our attorneys successfully fought car insurance companies for years. Let us help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation.

Marijuana-Related Car Accidents in WV Triple

West Virginia was among six of the states studied recently by the Center for Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University, which determined marijuana-related car accidents have tripled in the last 10 years.

Clearly, drugged driving is rapidly becoming a serious problem, and the West Virginia car accident lawyers of The Recht Law Offices believe it’s time to fully address it.

Just recently in Keyser, WV, authorities reportedly happened upon an allegedly drugged driver when on officer spotted him using his cell phone while driving – an illegal act in this state. Not only was he operating the vehicle without a license, he was in possession of drugs and appeared to be impaired.

That no one was hurt before officers remove him from the road was pure chance.

According to the Columbia study, published recently in the American Journal of Epidemiology, one out of every nine drivers involved in deadly crashes during the study period tested positive for marijuana.

The researchers say if the trend continues, bolstered by the numerous states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, within five to six years, drugs could overtake alcohol in becoming the most common substance involved in impaired driving deaths.

Of course, this research defies what pro-marijuana advocates have been spouting for years, which is to say that marijuana is a “safe” drug, or at least safer than alcohol when used by those behind the wheel.

Driving and Marijuana Use Is a Dangerous Combination

The reality is, marijuana affects a driver’s ability in much the same way alcohol does. It affects a person’s vision, impairs judgment and can make a person more prone to distraction and risk-taking.

Researchers in this study looked at crash data from six states, including West Virginia. Not all have approved medical marijuana, but each regularly initiate toxicology tests on drivers in deadly wrecks.

In all, the study authors looked at information culled from some 23,500 drivers who died shortly after crashes that happened between 1999 and 2010.

Consistently throughout those 10 years, alcohol consumption appears to have played a substantial role in these cases, as it was involved in about 4 out of 10  incidents.

However, drugs are undoubtedly beginning to become more prevalent. While impairment due to drugs contributed to roughly 16 percent of traffic deaths in 1999, that figure shot up to nearly 30 percent by 2010.

While prescription drug abuse was certainly on the rise during that time, it was marijuana that was the most significant catalyst behind the increase. In 1999, marijuana was the main drug involved in less than 5 percent of fatal crashes. By 2010, that figure tripled to 12 percent.

In cases where a driver was found to have used both marijuana and alcohol, the chances of driver death increased dramatically. Someone driving under the influence of alcohol is 13 times more likely to die in a crash than a driver who is sober, researchers said. But a motorist who is impaired by both alcohol and marijuana is 24 times more likely to be killed in a crash than a person who hasn’t imbibed.

If you have been involved in a West Virginia car accident, contact The Recht Law Offices at (304) 748-5850 or by visiting for a free consultation.

West Virginia Water Contamination Prompts Lawsuits

Jan 2014

In early January, a 40,000-gallon tank at a Freedom Industries facility in West Virginia began to leak out 4-methylcyclohexane methanol. The tank was located along the Elk River and as many as 7,500 gallons of the chemical flowed out, with experts unsure of how much actually got into the river and how much was contained before entering the water supply.  

Soon after the leak began, the Department of Environmental Protection started receiving complaints. Beginning at around 8:15 a.m., local residents called the DEP and said that the tap water they were drinking had a licorice-type odor coming from it. It took hours to find the source of the water contamination, and it was not until 12:05 p.m. that Freedom Industries called the spill hotline to report the leak.

An experienced toxic exposure attorney in West Virginia knows that contamination of a water supply is one of the absolute worst types of toxic exposure incidents that can occur because people depend upon water to drink, to cook and to bathe. It is not surprising, therefore, that the contamination of the water in West Virginia resulted in almost 200 people going to the hospital shortly after the leak was discovered.

According to NBC News, those who sought treatment complained of symptoms including nausea and most were not admitted to the hospital. However, exposure to chemicals can often cause ongoing and serious health problems down the line, above and beyond the immediate symptoms that occur.

Water Contamination Prompts Lawsuits

CNN indicates that the spill resulted in as many as 300,000 people in nine counties throughout the state being prevented from using tap water for days after the contamination. Residents were told that they should use bottled water only, even for hand washing, showers and brushing teeth. Bottled water was brought in by the tractor-trailer load provided by the Department of Homeland Security and a local water company also contributed truck loads of water for residents.

Before the water ban went into effect, however, more than 1,000 people called the West Virginia Poison Center because of concerns about the water they had consumed. More than 60 animal exposures to the contaminated water have also been reported.

Officials will not begin allowing the use of water again until it is certain that the water is safe, and they expect to permit residents to begin using the taps again by going zone-by-zone and opening up priority areas first. The goal now is to make sure that the water has less than 1 part per million of 4-methyclycyclohexane methanol, and the water is being treated and flushed in order to achieve this goal. Four laboratories have also been set up in order to test levels in a uniform manner to ensure that residents are not cleared to drink until after it is clearly safe to do so.

The whole incident is causing tremendous inconvenience and uncertainty for residents, not to mention fear of serious health issues. WHSV reports that at least six lawsuits have been filed against Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water as defendants already, and more claims are likely to follow so those who are harmed by the exposure to the toxins can get compensated for losses.

Call Recht Law Office in West Virginia today at 1-800-HURTLINE for a  free case consultation.

West Virginia Traffic Accidents: Who’s Texting Who?

Dec 2013

Distracted driving has become a major concern, and many of the educational efforts aimed at reducing the thousands of annual distracted-driving deaths focus on teaching teens not to engage in this high risk behavior. The reality, however, is that anti-distracted driving programs may be better aimed at young adults, since a new study shows that teens are actually not the age group most likely to text as they drive.

An experienced texting and driving accident lawyer in West Virginia knows that texting and driving is dangerous no matter who is doing it. Whatever your age or your driving experience, it is important to put the phone down while you are in the car and not to send or read texts while you should be focusing on the road.

Adults Text And Drive More than Teens

The new data suggesting that young adults are worse than teens when it comes to texting laws was collected by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and has been published in a new study. According to the AAA data:

  • A total of 58 percent of drivers aged 16-18 reported using the phone while driving. Twenty-percent of teens in this age group said they use the phone fairly often. Thirty-one percent have sent a text or email while driving, and seven percent regularly send texts or emails as they drive.
  • Among drivers 19-24, 72 percent used the phone while driving and 27 percent did so fairly often. When it comes to texting, 42 percent said they’ve done it, and 11 percent said they do it often.
  • A total of 82 percent of drivers aged 25-39 used the phone while driving, with 42 percent saying they did so fairly often. Almost half – 45 percent – of drivers in this demographic said that they have texted while 10 percent report texting often.
  • Seventy-two percent of drivers aged 40-59 use the phone as they drive, but just 30 percent do so fairly often. Just 24 percent of drivers in this age group said they text and drive, and only two percent do so regularly.
  • Among drivers aged 60-74, 51 percent said they use the phone while driving and 15 percent said they do so regularly. In this age group, seven percent had sent a text behind the wheel and one percent did so routinely.
  • A total of 31 percent of drivers aged 75 and older use the phone while driving, but only seven percent do so regularly. Among people in this age range, only one percent report either sending a text ever or sending a text regularly.

This data suggests that people may start to text more as they get a little experience behind the wheel but before they are old enough to fully understand the consequences of this serious high-risk driving behavior.

Car accident lawyers in West Virginia can help if you were hurt in a crash. Call Recht Law Office today at 1-800-HURTLINE for a  free case consultation.

Black Ice Accident is Important Reminder to be Careful With Winter Driving

Nov 2013

Winter weather has arrived and at least one traffic collision has already occurred this year because of dangerous black ice on the roads. According to WVVA, hazardous travel warnings were in effect on the day the accident occurred and motorists were alerted to falling temperatures, snow and freezing roads.  One driver traveling on the westbound lane of I-64 was involved in a crash because of the snow and ice on the roads, but reportedly did not sustain serious crash injuries.

Any car accident lawyer in West Virginia knows that winter is a dangerous time for drivers because conditions on the road can significantly increase the chances of serious or even fatal accidents.  Drivers need to remember the best practices for winter driving safety to avoid getting hurt as the weather turns worse.

Winter Driving Safety Tips

Drivers who want to reduce their risk of winter accidents should follow these key tips:

  • Always check weather and traffic advisory warnings before leaving home. You will be alerted to coming storms, icy conditions or areas where accidents have happened. When you hear a bad weather warning, you can make the choice to put off non-essential trips, or you can be alerted to the fact that you need to be extra careful behind the wheel.
  • Never pass snow plow trucks or trucks that are sanding or salting the roads. Not only could you get into a serious accident if the driver of the truck doesn’t see you, but you will also end up on unpaved roads that are less safe to travel on.
  • Slow down to account for slippery conditions. You should leave extra space between you and the vehicle that is in front of your car during the winter months to ensure that you don’t become involved in a crash if the car in front of you spins out or if your brakes take longer to stop your vehicle as you skid on ice. Remember, you can be ticketed for speeding even if you are going the limit if you are traveling too fast to be safe under the current weather and road conditions.
  • Use your brakes gently, as slamming on the brakes increases the chance of a skid. If you find yourself skidding, ease up on the brakes.
  • Lower your gear in situations where you are going down a hill or where there is a risk of losing traction.
  • Know where black ice is most likely to form. Bridges and overpasses tend to be icier than other areas on the roads.
  • Teach your kids about safe winter driving. If this winter is the first time your child will be driving, be sure to do plenty of practice in snow or icy conditions before sending your child off to drive on his own.

Drivers who follow these tips and who are cautious during the winter driving season will have a better chance of being able to make it through to spring without becoming involved in a serious or even deadly traffic accident.

Car accident lawyers in West Virginia can help if you were hurt in a crash. Call Recht Law Office today at 1-800-HURTLINE for a  free case consultation.

Debt Harassment Becomes Big Concern As More Americans Are in Default

Oct 2013

Despite a so-called economic recovery in the United States since the Great Recession, many people continue to face serious financial struggles. The poverty rates stayed stagnant in 2012 for the second year in a row, with 15 percent of Americans – or 24.6 million people – continuing to live below the poverty line. This is 2.5 percentage points higher than 2007 and a full nine percent more families are living in poverty than when income peaked in 1999. For minorities, the economic situation is even worse, with NBC News reporting that 27.2 percent of blacks and 25.6 percent of Hispanics were living in poverty. For almost everyone, though, income is either falling or staying the same, with full-time working women earning a median income of $37,791 and full-time working men earning a median income of $49,398 as of 2012.

With these economic indicators, it should come as no surprise that recent data shows more Americans are defaulting on their debt. For anyone who has ever been in debt, it also comes as no surprise that the number of debt collectors and the aggressiveness of the debt collector’s efforts is also increasing as more Americans struggle to pay bills. The law, however, protects those in debt from certain actions on the part of debt collectors. Debt harassment lawyers in West Virginia can help those who are being treated unfairly by collectors.

Debt Collectors May Engage in Illegal or Dishonest Tactics

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides many protections to debtors including limiting when debt collectors can call; giving debtors the right to demand proof of the debt; and prohibiting debt collectors from using aggressive scare tactics like threatening a lawsuit that would never be filed. Yet, despite these protections, MSN reports that 164,361 complaints of debt collector abuse were made to the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 alone, many reporting abusive and harassing phone calls.

Unfortunately, many more families are likely now experiencing these abusive practices due to higher default rates. Yahoo indicates that the overall default rate for all types of credit reached 1.35 percent in July 2013, increasing .01 percent from a 1.34 percent June default rate. Default rates for all different types of debt were increased, with 1.03 percent of auto loans in default in July as compared to just one percent in June. For first mortgages, the default rate increased from 1.23 percent to 1.25 percent during the same time period. Bank cards were the debt with the biggest increase in defaults, however, as 3.22 percent of debtors were in default in bank cards in July.

When a debtor defaults, the creditor will typically try to collect payments with its in-house collection practices first. If the creditor is not able to get money and if the debt isn’t secured, then the credit company may sell the debt for pennies-on-the-dollar to any collection agency that can buy it. The collection agency may fail to live up to consumer protections, leaving debtors who are being harassed with little recourse but to consult an attorney to stop the abusive behavior.

A debt harassment lawyer in West Virginia can help if you are being harassed. Call Recht Law Office today at 1-800-HURTLINE for a free case consultation.

West Virginia Traffic Accidents and the Move Over Law

Sep 2013

Charges are pending against a 26-year-old driver who is blamed for a mid-September accident on I-64, where his SUV reportedly struck several police cruisers, according to WOWK TV.

Our car accident lawyers in West Virginia note the situation could have been much worse. The two police cruisers belonging to Charleston, WV police officers, were stopped at the side of the road responding to another accident. The police were fortunately not in the vehicles at the time, or they might have been injured.

Move Over Laws Aim to Protect First-Responders

The driver of the SUV who hit the police cars was reportedly intoxicated at the time of the accident. The toxicology reports have not yet revealed the motorist’s BAC, but it is expected that he will be charged with drunk driving.

The police vehicles were both pulled off to the side of the road and had their lights flashing when the SUV hit the vehicles. The flashing lights should have been an indicator to the SUV’s driver that there were first responders on the scene and that he thus had an obligation to pass in a safe manner.

Part of driving in a safe way when there are police cars on the road is moving over into a different lane under West Virginia’s “Move Over” law. The Move Over law was originally implemented in 2003 and is codified in section 17c-14-9a. According to this law: “the driver of any vehicle approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, when the authorized emergency vehicle is giving a signal by displaying alternately flashing red, red and white, blue, or red and blue lights or amber or yellow warning light” has the obligation to proceed with due caution.

Proceed with due caution is defined as making a lane change whenever possible under current traffic conditions, yielding the right of way and moving to a lane that is not adjacent to the emergency vehicle. When it is not possible to make a lane change and move over, then proceeding with due caution is defined as reducing the speed of the car to 15-miles-hour or below on non-divided highways/streets and to 25-miles per hour or below on divided highways.

A violation of the move-over law in West Virginia is a misdemeanor that carries with it a fine of up to $500 as well as the potential for as long as sixty days of jail time. If a violation of the move-over laws results in property damage, the driver can have his license suspended for as long as 90 days. If the violation results in injury, penalties can include a one-year license suspension and there is a two-year license suspension if the failure to move over results in death.

The driver in this accident was drunk and thus likely not thinking clearly about his legal obligation to move over. This is yet another reason why drunk driving is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Car accident lawyers in West Virginia can help if you were hurt in a crash. Call Recht Law Office today at 1-800-HURTLINE for a  free case consultation.