5 Insurance Tips For Fire Evacuees

From KTVZ – for those affected by Oregon wildfires:

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation has five tips for homeowners and renters who have evacuated or been affected by fire, smoke and ash damage.

  • Call your insurance company. Let your company know if you have evacuated. Coverage is typically available for fire, smoke, and ash damage to your home and personal property.
  • Ask about your auto coverage, too. You need comprehensive coverage on your auto policy to cover fire, smoke, and ash damage, no matter where your vehicle is located at time of the loss.
  • If you had to evacuate, save your receipts and, when it is safe, let your insurance company know you evacuated. Your homeowners policy may pay for expenses such as lodging, food, and even pet boarding due to a mandatory evacuation. Be sure to check with your insurance company to confirm your specific coverage.
  • If you have not evacuated and it is safe to do so, make a quick home inventory by taking photos or video of each room in your home. Pay close attention to what is on the walls and in drawers and closets. Don’t forget storage areas such as the attic and garage. Check your insurance company’s website for an app or checklist that will help. Or use the Insure U Home Inventory Checklist.
  • If your personal belongings are damaged, the insurance company will request a list of items that are damaged or destroyed. Take some time to work on your home inventory list now. Look through your photos and videos to help recall personal items. Be sure to look for smaller items, such as jewelry. To the best of your ability, write down the age, original cost, and replacement cost of each item.

Following these tips will help save you money, time, and stress during a wildfire. For more information on preparing for a wildfire, visit the division’s wildfire page.

Oregonians that have been forced to evacuate their homes because of area wildfires should contact their insurance companies as soon as possible to let them know they have evacuated and discuss next steps. If you still have questions or concerns, the division’s Advocacy Team is here to help. Call the team at 888-877-4894 (toll-free) or visit dfr.oregon.gov.

If your law practice has been affected

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Professional Liability Fund Extends April Payment Deadline

The Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund is allowing lawyers up to 60 days beyond the April 10, 2020 quarterly installment deadline to make the April payment without license suspension.

During the Extension Period, lawyers deferring payment will continue to be covered under the 2020 PLF Primary Coverage Plan.  If the PLF receives payment on or before June 10, 2020, we will also waive all late fees incurred during the Extension Period and allow the lawyer to continue participation in the installment plan under PLF Policy 3.300. This policy change does not impact the next installment payment, which is due on July 10, 2020.

As a reminder, because the OSB Bar Center has moved its operations offsite, we cannot accept payment in person.  Click here to pay your assessment online, or send your check to PO Box 231600, Tigard, OR 97281-1600 Attn: Accounting Department.

We hope this 60 day extension and waiver of late fees assist our lawyers to navigate the financial challenges presented by this COVID-19 pandemic.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  Please stay safe and healthy.

Read more here.

Idaho Allows Fee Disgorgement for Breach of Fiduciary Duty

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In a case of first impression, the Idaho Supreme Court recently held that fee disgorgement is available as a remedy against a lawyer for breach of fiduciary duty even if there are no resulting damages.

Parkinson v. Bevis, 448 P.3d 1027 (Idaho 2019), involved comparatively simple facts: A lawyer representing plaintiff Rebecca Parkinson in her divorce proceedings shared a confidential attorney-client communication with opposing counsel. In a subsequent lawsuit against the lawyer, Parkinson conceded that she was not damaged by the unauthorized disclosure—instead framing her claim as one for breach of fiduciary duty seeking fee disgorgement as a remedy. The trial court dismissed the claim, but the Idaho Supreme Court reversed.

The Idaho Supreme Court first distinguished breach of fiduciary duty from legal malpractice: “A breach of fiduciary duty claim is an equitable claim for which a defendant may have to disgorge compensation received during the time the breach occurred, even if the plaintiff cannot show actual damages.” 448 P.3d at 1033.

via Idaho Supreme Court Allows Fee Disgorgement for Breach of Fiduciary Duty — NWSidebar

A result of interest to Oregon lawyers, since a fee disgorgement claim not involving negligence is unlikely to be covered by the Professional Liability Fund.

 

Should You Barter Your Legal Services?

Bartering is “… A method of exchange by which goods or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money.” [Wikipedia].

For a lawyer, bartering might consist of swapping services with someone like a Web designer. In exchange for setting up a business entity, you receive a new Website.

What are the Ethical Implications of Bartering?

When a lawyer accepts in-kind payment for legal services, whether the payment consists of the client providing services to the lawyer or an ownership interest in the client’s business, the lawyer is going beyond simply establishing a contract for legal services, and instead is doing business with a client. When entering into a business transaction with a client, lawyers must follow the requirements of RPC 1.8(a).  [Excerpted from Alternative Pricing Models: What’s in a Fee?]

This means:

  • The terms of the agreement must be reasonable and fair.
  • Your fee agreement must be in writing.
  • You must obtain the informed consent of your client to proceed (usually contained within the fee agreement).
  • You must recommend that the client consult with another attorney in deciding whether consent should be given.
  • You must fully disclose the details of the business transaction and each party’s role (part of informed consent).

Bartering and Professional Liability Exposure

Prior to 2016, Oregon lawyers were required to provide the Professional Liability Fund [PLF] with copies of business transaction disclosure letters or risk exclusion of coverage. The reporting requirement to the PLF has been removed for plan year 2016. Lawyers are no longer required to provide the PLF with copies of disclosure and consent letters when engaging in business transactions with clients.  As a courtesy, the PLF continues to offer a sample disclosure letter on its Website.

Beyond the Obvious Ethical Traps and Liability Exposure

Barter exchanges have practical implications.  Ask yourself:

  • If you do not complete the work for the client, how will you “refund” a portion of your “fee?”
  • Are you prepared to keep the proper records?
  • Do you understand the tax requirements for barter exchanges and the penalties for failure to report?

If you plan to barter with a client in exchange for legal services, be prepared:

  1. Read Alternative Pricing Models: What’s in a Fee? by Helen Hierschbiel.
  2. Obtain a copy of the sample disclosure letter on the PLF Website.
  3. Understand how your professional liability coverage works.  The PLF Primary and Excess Plans are available on the PLF Website.  Call the PLF with coverage questions: 530-639-6911 or 800-452-1639 (Toll-Free in Oregon.)
  4. If you’re still foggy on the ethics, contact Oregon State Bar General Counsel.
  5. If you need help with tax-related recordkeeping and reporting, speak with your accountant or a tax lawyer.
  6. Learn the ins and outs of bartering – if you are trading legal services for a new Website, verify that your potential client can do the job.  Check out these informative sites and posts: BarterQuest – when, where, and how to barter; How to Barter AnythingHow to Barter for Goods & Services – Tips and Methods to Trade; and Barter 101: Trading For Services.

Nothing prohibits bartering with a client for legal services, but like so many alternative fee approaches, be sure you know what you are doing before you enter into an agreement you might regret.

[All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis]

Postscript

For more on the topic of engaging in business with clients, see Too Good to Be True: The Ethics of Business Transactions With Clients.