What to look for in a Bankruptcy Lawyer?

No one opens a credit card, starts a business or goes to the hospital with the intent of getting into debt. We spend or invest money with the expectation of attainment not to be harassed by creditors or eventually trapped by our own bad decisions. However, we are all human and we all make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes have an impact on the quality of our life.

As the saying goes, trouble is so easy to get in to and so difficult to get out of. If you find yourself in debt, it’s very easy to feel like there’s no way to avoid a life of endless collection calls and a limited ability to make important purchases. There is a way out. Bankruptcy, while seemingly drastic, can hold creditors at bay and allow you the time and space necessary to regain solid financial footing. However, finding the right bankruptcy lawyer will require more than a simple Google search.

Bankruptcy law is complex. Finding a lawyer with experience, and an understanding of new developments in the field and a true interest in the welfare of their clients is critical to rising above your circumstances. Below are a few tips to help you find the right bankruptcy lawyer.

1. Find someone who is experienced in bankruptcy law: Asking questions like “how many bankruptcy cases have you handled” and “what types of cases” should be among the first you ask when meeting an attorney. As previously mentioned, bankruptcy law is complicated. An attorney who is not familiar with the laws can be detrimental in this setting. It’s important to work with a lawyer who has handled a large number of cases. While your situation may not be complicated, you’ll have a great confidence knowing that an experienced bankruptcy attorney will understand how to handle it.

2. Find out what their fees include: First and foremost, most reputable bankruptcy lawyers will not advertise their fees or quote their fee over the phone. It’s impossible for them to know your personal situation or develop the best course of action without speaking with you first. According to AllLaw.com, the average bankruptcy attorney charges “$500 to $3,500, depending on the complexity of the case”. The law firm’s size and where in the country your bankruptcy takes place are factors as well. Most people seeking a bankruptcy attorney may use price as a deciding factor but be careful. Drastically lower prices may be an indicator that the attorney may not handle your case with the attention and care needed or that they don’t handle very many bankruptcy cases at all. A bankruptcy attorney’s fees are likely to include an initial consultation, the preparation of the bankruptcy petition; a review of the petition with the client; attendance at the 341 meeting (creditor meeting) and following up as necessary. Litigation is typically not included.

3. Watch out for the bankruptcy mill: Like so many things, bankruptcy law is a growing business. Since there is a tremendous need for these services, a growing number of “bankruptcy mills” have developed. These companies take in a great deal of cases and, quickly, move through their cases to achieve a fast resolution with little regard for individual client needs. These bankruptcy mills aren’t typically respected by the courts and could jeopardize your chances to receive a positive resolution. One indicator that you may be dealing with a bankruptcy mill is if your meet a paralegal instead of an actual lawyer in your initial consultation. With bankruptcy mills, you typically don’t encounter an actual lawyer until your meeting with your creditors.

4. Do your homework: When looking for a bankruptcy lawyer, the best place to start is the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. Members of this organization are dedicated to the practice of bankruptcy and will likely represent you in the best possible fashion. To check if a lawyer is certified, visit your state’s bar association website to determine if a lawyer is certified to practice bankruptcy law, not applicable in every state. As always, recommendations from friends, family members and other lawyers are to be considered.

5. Will the lawyer give you a number of options: A good bankruptcy lawyer will always examine your situation intently and present you with options. Bankruptcy is not the answer in every situation. Sometimes a chapter 13 is not the answer either (lawyers typically profit more from chapter 13 cases).

6. Choose a lawyer who you feel good about: It sounds simple, but nothing is more important than finding a lawyer who you are comfortable with. Bankruptcy is an emotional, personal and individualized process. It’s critical that the bankruptcy lawyer that you choose shows a willingness to assess your situation properly and guide you to the best solution. Nothing else will do.

If you are experiencing a difficult financial dilemma and need a bankruptcy lawyer in the Tampa Bay area, contact the law offices of McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. We provide the counsel and care necessary to help in this challenging time. Visit us our contact us page or call us at 844-511-4800 to discuss your case.

How does bankruptcy work?

Issues with money are some of the most devastating ones we can face in a lifetime. No one purposely incurs debt, but when we do, it can have an impact on our relationships, our career, and prevent us from building the life that we’d hoped to achieve.

The common perception is that bankruptcy is a negative thing. The perception is that only irresponsible people file for bankruptcy. Both perceptions are simply not true.

While people may find themselves in negative financial situations, for many, bankruptcy is the answer. It’s an opportunity to reset your circumstances, re-assess your financial practices, and, ideally, come out stronger than you were previously.

If you have to consider bankruptcy, it’s important to know how the process works. Below, we describe the steps you must take in order to order to successfully file for bankruptcy. Having a good bankruptcy attorney is critical to your success. Contact our Tampa bankruptcy attorneys at 844-511-4800 if you need the trusted legal expertise of our team.

Step 1- Consult a Bankruptcy Attorney

The first and best action to take is to find and consult a qualified bankruptcy attorney. While it is possible to file for bankruptcy on your own or with a regular lawyer, a bankruptcy attorney has the experience and knowledge to ensure that your case is handled in a proper way. Bankruptcy cases are vitally important matters, as a bankruptcy attorney will assuredly have an acute understanding of the details of your case and will have dealt with creditors before.

Step 2- Take a Means Test

Initially, you will take an assessment known as a “means test” to determine if your income is low enough to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The means test compares your income to unsecured debts. If a significant portion of your income is going towards your debt, you will qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and can go forward with the proceedings.

Step 3- Attend the 341 Meeting

Once it is determined that you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will be ordered to attend a 341 meeting. In this meeting you will meet with your creditors and the trustee that is presiding over your case. The trustee will inquire about your income, property and debt. The meeting gives you the opportunity to give specific details about your financial situation and if you have any nonexempt property that can be sold. Your creditors will also have an opportunity to ask questions about your debt.

Step 4- Reaffirmation

If you have property that is classified as a secured debt that you would like to keep, reaffirmation is an option to consider. In reaffirmation, you agree to continue to maintain the debt on a property that you’d like to continue to own. For example, if you would like to maintain ownership of your car, in reaffirmation, you’d agree to continue maintain and pay the debt on it. You also assume all the risks of that debt. So if you were to default on your car loan, you would not be able to utilize bankruptcy to discharge the debt.

Step 5 Discharge

After 341 meeting, the trustee and your creditors have 60 days to dispute your right to discharge your debts. If no objection is made on a particular debt (contested debts don’t delay the process of discharging other debts), a court order will be filed to discharge your debt.

Step 6- Financial Education

To complete your discharge, you will be ordered to take a financial education class. It is important to note, you must take the class no later than 45 days after your 341 meeting is scheduled. If you miss your deadline, you may have to refile for bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy is not the end. It’s an adjustment that some people need to make in order to create a healthier financial life for themselves and their loved ones. If you are considering foreclosure, talk to the Tampa bankruptcy lawyers at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. We can provide the guidance you need during this challenging time. Contact us today at 844-511-4800.

Why Motorcycle Safety Classes are Important

motorcycle_safetyRiding a motorcycle provides a feeling unlike any other. Your initial launch provides a sensation of pure force and feathery flight. There’s something so freeing about the feeling of fresh air pressing against your body. There are few modes of transportation that offer the same experience. The journey is a part of every ride.

Many think that the most important part of having a tremendous biking experience is purchasing the motorcycle itself. Obviously, the bike is essential, but a motorcycle class that can provide you with the skills, knowledge and confidence to ride safely is the real key to a great experience.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) offers a variety of motorcycle classes for riders of various skill levels. New motorcycle riders in Florida must take the class in order to have the motorcycle endorsement added to their driver’s license. Motorcycle safety classes typically cover a variety of skills and procedures that are critical to confident and safe riding. The classes also teach you how to handle a variety of traffic situations.

Motorcycle safety classes are important for a variety of reasons, including:

  1. Overall Improvement of skills and judgement: Television and the people you see on the highway each day make riding a motorcycle look easy. However, there are a number of skills that must be learned in order to keep you and those around you safe. These skills include starting and stopping, maneuvering through various traffic obstacles, turning corners and crash avoidance.
  2. Lower Insurance Rates: Taking a motorcycle safety class can represent a cost savings for many riders. A number of insurance companies offer discounts to riders once they’ve completed the course. Check with your insurance provider to see if they offer discounts to riders who’ve taken the safety course.
  3. Discounts from Motorcycle Manufacturers: Cost savings may also come from motorcycle manufacturers. Motorcycle makers Honda, Kawasaki, Harley Davidson, and Yamaha reimburse riders for taking the class. When purchasing a motorcycle, ask the dealership if they offer motorcycle safety class.
  4. Motorcycle safety classes make you a safer rider: This goes without saying but statistics support this as well. According to the Texas chapter of MSF, 90 percent of riders involved in motorcycle accidents have had no formal training.
  5. Helps you decide if you want to own a motorcycle in the first place: Like all vehicles, buying a motorcycle is an investment and one that depreciates at a rapid rate. It’s also an acquired taste. If you are injured, your family grows or you become disinterested, riding a motorcycle may become less appealing to you. However, you may still be paying for a motorcycle. Taking a motorcycle safety class gives you the opportunity to try a number of bikes, differentiate different styles and determine if a motorcycle is for you.

Motorcycle safety classes are an important part of staying safe on the road. However, accidents still happen. When they do, they are often life-changing. Contact the attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. We can assess the facts of your case quickly and help you get the compensation you need. Contact us today at 844-511-4800.

How does CFPB Help Consumers?

cfpbThe financial industry is daunting for many people. While we understand the importance of investing, saving for retirement, or having an IRA or 401K, we often lack the knowledge needed to make proper decisions. While this may pre
vent us from making the best investments, it really harms us when we incur debt. As a matter of fact, we often incur debt because of a lack of understanding about how to deal with money and credit. This lack understanding is often taken advantage of by greedy financial services companies.

To educate consumers and to clean up the financial services industry, the federal government created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as a part of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. The CFPB is an independent government agency that creates and enforces policies that protect consumers of the financial services industry. They have regulatory power over a variety of financial services industry organization types, including banks, credit unions, debt collections, payday lenders and mortgage servicing companies, among others.

Since it began in 2011, the CFPB has conducted a number of initiatives to fulfill its mission of helping consumers make the best decisions in regards to the financial services industry. This includes:

  • Creating a system for consumer complaints: If you are having an issue with a credit card company, a mortgage servicer or even a debt collector, you can log a complaint via CFPB’s system, both online and via phone.
  • Research financial services providers: CFPB works similarly to the Better Business Bureau in that if you want to see if complaints have been logged against a financial services company, you can.
  • Educating consumers on a variety of financial matters: The CFPB website has tools to help you determine the type of mortgage you should pursue, plan for retirement, assess risk in investments and navigate pension plans, to name a few. They have grown into an all-encompassing resource for questions about consumer finance.
  • Enforce federal consumer financial law: CFPB is part personal finance educator, part finance industry police officer. Through their complaint database, they determine if monitoring, investigating, and if violations are found, the punishing of financial services entities should take place.

While CFPB serves a number of purposes that aim to help consumers, recent criticism has surface about CFPB’s seemingly limitless power and their inability to understand the long-term, potentially negative impact that their policies may have on the consumers that they are trying to protect. It has been said that their policies and rulings have led to higher checking and ATM fees and the reduced prevalence of prepaid credit cards and overseas money transmitters. These actions may be harmful to consumers who lack financial resources and rely on these services to be moderately affordable. Much has also been made of the lack of a true, independent appeal system. If you are found to be in violation of a CFPB policy, you can appeal to a judge that is selected by the CFPB director Richard Cordray. A lost appeal goes back to the CFPB director before going to federal court.

When you’re facing a financially difficult time, the natural response may be to pretend the problem doesn’t exist. That will only make matter worse. You owe it to yourself to talk to the bankruptcy attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. We will provide the thoughtful counsel necessary to help you get on track. Contact us today at 844-511-4800.

Tips for Staying Safe During the 4th of July Holiday

The 4th of July holiday is one the most anticipated of the year. This hallmark of summer is often celebrated with fireworks, fun days by the pool and beverage-filled parties. While the 4th harkens some of our most treasured memories, it unfortunately presents the potential for a great deal of danger. From a driving standpoint alone, it’s one of America’s deadliest holidays, claiming 161 deaths per day during the weekend, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Many of these deaths are alcohol-related.

The practice of shooting fireworks presents its own set of dangers as well. In 2013, more than 11,000 fireworks-related injuries were reported, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Hanging around the pool or taking a boat to the water are also great Independence Day activities, but unfortunately, can be dangerous as well.

Make the Fourth of July memorable for all the right reasons. These tips will keep you and your loved ones safe, regardless of what you do during the holiday weekend.

Fireworks and Grill Safety

  • Keep fireworks away from children: Fireworks should only be handled by adults or trained professionals. They should be handled by individuals who are mature enough to understand the potential danger that fireworks can cause.
  • Always light fireworks in an open area: Fireworks can be unpredictable and possess intense heat. Shooting fireworks in an open area reduces the risk of making contact with individuals or structures.
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby: This is a part of being prepared in the event of an emergency.
  • Never shoot fireworks in the direction of another person: This irresponsible act often leads to serious injury. It’s important to remember that fireworks are meant for display, not for pranks.
  • Never shoot fireworks from a glass container: The heat and power generated from a bottle rocket, for example, can shatter glass.
  • Never leave a grill unattended: It’s an open flame. It’s wise to watch over it and make sure it doesn’t get out of control.

On the Road

  • If you are going to drink, get a designated driver, an Uber, a Lyft or a cab: In the moment, all these actions may seem like a pain, especially if you live a long way from the bars and restaurants. However, common sense and a solid hold on reality must be exhibited. At most, a cab may cost you $50-100. A DUI can cost you thousands of dollars and lead to the suspension of your license. An alcohol-related car accident can cost you your life and the lives of others.
  • Avoid late night driving: Most accidents take place between 6 pm and 6 am. The later you stay out on the 4th of July, the potential for encountering drunk drivers climbs. That’s why it is best to make sure that you’ve reached your final destination before it gets late.
  • Keep calm and expect lots of traffic: People love to travel during the Fourth, which means traffic will be heavy in most places, especially if you are heading to the beach. Nerves will be frayed. It’s best to keep traveling and put the petty squabbles of the road in perspective and don’t take anything personally. Enjoy your family. Know that you will get to your destination, eventually.

On the Water

  • Never leave children unattended when around the pool
  • Always keep a first aid kit nearby
  • Drinking and driving applies to boats as well.

Despite these tips, accidents happen every day. If you are injured due to the negligence of others talk to the personal injury attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. They will work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact them today at 844-511-4800.


Tampa Bankruptcy Attorneys Rich McIntyre and Jeff Hakanson Weigh in on Real Estate

Types of ForeclosureTampa bankruptcy attorneys Richard McIntyre and Jeff Hakanson recently worked on a real estate case involving a Tampa company called RE-170, who had declared bankruptcy to halt the foreclosure of almost 50 homes that it was renting out for thousands of dollars each.

While the company was once called “dishonest and incompetent,” the outcome could now be a new model for real estate investors.

Read the full story in the Tampa Bay Times to learn how all parties came to a resolution based on a legal theory that had never been attempted in the country before.


Supreme Court ruling on attorney’s fees in worker’s compensation cases

worker's_compensation_lawLast Thursday the Florida Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Castellanos v Next Door Company, ruling that the attorney fee provision in the workers compensation statute limiting fees to a percentage of the amount of the benefits an attorney obtains for the client is unconstitutional. For more than a decade, plaintiff’s attorneys have been reluctant to represent injured workers because of these caps on fees. The Court ruled fees must be reasonable, and opened the door once more for plaintiff’s attorneys to be paid hourly fees when obtaining a small amount of benefits for the injured worker.

The impact of the court’s ruling is that it is now economically feasible again for attorneys, who often expend considerable time and money pursuing relatively small amounts of benefits, to represent injured workers. This firm will therefore be launching an aggressive campaign to develop a worker’s compensation practice.

Please share the news that injured workers can now obtain a lawyer at no cost to them to fight insurance companies who deny them their rightful benefits after being injured on the job. I have represented literally thousands of injured workers in the past, and look forward to building this practice and advocating for work comp clients again. If you have questions about workers comp, please feel free to ask me.

Thanks for helping to spread the word about this important change in the law.