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April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month: How Can You Help?

The Problem and Statistics to Prove It

I just wanted to take this time to make you aware of a problem that we need to confront. Sex assault is a harm that not only impacts the victims, but society as a whole.

Consider these sobering statistics for the United States:

  • One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives
  • In the U.S., one in three women and one in six men experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime
  • The lifetime cost of rape per victim is $122,461
  • Annually, rape costs the U.S. more than any other crime ($127 billion), followed by assault ($93 billion), murder ($71 billion), and drunk driving, including fatalities ($61 billion)
  • One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old
  • 30% of women were between the ages of 11 and 17 at the time of their first completed rape
  • Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police

These statistics and their references can be found here with other heart-wrenching data: https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Help us help others through supporting the SATC.

So What Can You Do About this Crisis?

First, did you know that every April, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center puts together the National Sexual Assault Awareness campaign, in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)? SAAM started in 2001 and as an annual campaign its goal is to increase public awareness and educate individuals and communities on how to prevent sexual assault.

Second, for us here in Hawaii, our firm supports the Sex Abuse Treatment Center (SATC). The SATC’s mission is to support the healing process of those assault in Hawaii AND most importantly here increase awareness. Education helps combat and reduce these terrible incidences. However, the SATC just like any organization needs help, and yes, that includes monetary donations. Every bit counts to address this issue.

So here is the thing. Even a small firm like ours can help.  We’ve decided to pledge matching donations (up to $500.00) for SATC in the hopes that people join us in giving money to SATC. We hope this shows you can do your part by joining us and organizations like SATC fight against sexual assault.

Mahalo for your consideration and please find the donation link down below.

Trejur P. Bordenave

To help this cause, please visit: https://giving.hawaiipacifichealth.org/make-a-gift/honor-memorial-giving/hew-bordenave-llp/

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Bikes, Sidewalks, and Tourists

Riding a bike on a sidewalk can negatively impact a person’s personal injury claim and could your chances of recovery.

I enjoy walking around our office neighborhood a lot, and watching the protected bike lane on King Street & Punahou brings a couple thoughts to mind. Personally, I am glad to see the number of bike share users increasing. I also wish the City and County of Honolulu would add more bike lanes. I’ve also hear  from many friends, clients, and neighbors about bike users on the sidewalks.  On the flip side, traffic congestion  explains the desire to ride on the sidewalk. The streets in Honolulu (and in Hawaii) are scary for bike riders!

However, as a personal injury attorney, I am concerned for the general public, and particularly motor vehicle accident (MVA) clients. Why? Because where you ride your bike matters. If you ride your bike on the sidewalk, and are hit by a car, that may impact your ability to seek recovery. Compensation from insurance is often determined by variables.  One important variable is what you chose to do to contribute to the accident. Like the choice of where to ride your bike.

Why Does It Matter Where A Bike Is Ridden?

The State of Hawaii and the City and County of Honolulu put a lot of energy into encouraging alternative transportation. More bikes, buses, and walking are all goals for a livable community.  The City and County even has a dedicated page to a Bicycle program here.

These efforts are made with safety in mind.  Protected bike lanes, enlarged sidewalks, and clear street signs makes streets and sidewalks safer. If you follow the traffic laws, then getting around is predictable for all.  However, when a person walks down the middle of the street, or a rides their bike on the sidewalk, it creates an unsafe situation.  Why?  It makes traversing the area unpredictable. Additionally, it can create animosity between the various roadway users.

Most drivers, or pedestrians, do not expect to see bikes on the sidewalks.  If a bike user rides on the sidewalk and is involved in an accident, they could be deemed more at fault than the other person involved. This could mean a bar to recovery for the bike rider.  Putting it another way – it may be found that it was the bike rider’s choice to ride on the sidewalk, and getting hurt was their fault, and thus, no recovery.

What Does Honolulu Law Say About the Situation?

Following the law and knowing where you can ride your bike is critical to everyone’s safety.

Specifically, City and County provides the following on their FAQ page:

Q: Are bicyclists allowed to ride on the sidewalk?

A: The City and County of Honolulu prohibits bicyclists from riding on sidewalks within business districts or where prohibited. In all other areas, bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks provided the speed is 10 mph or less. The bicyclist must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, giving an audible signal before overtaking them. ROH 15-18.7 

The State of Hawaii defines business districts as “the territory contiguous to and including a highway when within any six hundred feet along such highway there are buildings in use for business or industrial purposes, including but not limited to hotels, banks, or office buildings, and public buildings which occupy at least three hundred feet of frontage on one side or three hundred feet collectively on both sides of the highway.” HRS 291C-1

The Government Should Continue Their Effort To Better Educate Tourists

You can park your bike on sidewalks, but you cannot ride it in certain areas.

Many people ride bikes on the sidewalks.  My understanding, from transportation specialists, is that in many other countries riding on the sidewalk is the norm.  My business partner, Ryan, recently attended the Honolulu Society of Business Professionals (HSBP) Multimodal Transportation Luncheon.  The attendees and presenters echoed the same in their experiences. Todd Boulanger, the Executive Director of Biki (Honolulu’s bike share service) understands this issue as well. Biki  is working on ways to educate their customers, so they do not hurt themselves by riding on sidewalks when they should not. Perusing Biki’s website, I see they provide information in other Japanese about Biki services.

However, the government can and should continue to better educate the public about where to legally ride their bike. Ideally, this will help prevent accidents, whether riding on sidewalks is due to this cultural difference or not. Further, for educated bike riders that do get into accidents, at least they were following the law, and the path to recovery is more predictable.

Honolulu’s roads will likely become more busy and crowded as additional alternate means of transportation become available. There will be cars, bikers, rider sharers, bus riders, rail users, and pedestrians.

What Else Do You Think Can Be Done: Improving Cyclists’ Safety And Transportation Means

What can Honolulu do to alleviate these problems?  Please email me your thoughts. I am happy to discuss this issue with you. Or if you have ideas, maybe we can approach a legislator to introduce a bill for the legislative process. I think there are opportunities to make Honolulu a safe bike riding city for all.

DISCLAIMER: This post provides general information, but does not constitute legal advice in any respect.  No reader should act or refrain from acting based on information contained in the post without seeking the advice of  an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction.  Hew & Bordenave, LLLP expressly disclaims all liability in respect to any actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this post.

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Celebrating Our 2nd Anniversary

2nd Anniversary

What’s Going On with Our 2nd Anniversary

It is our 2nd Anniversary and we are celebrating by inviting you to our Open House! If you are in the Honolulu area on Thursday, November 1st then stop by our offices to meet with us, our staff, and learn something. We will be conducting five (5) free seminars throughout the day. I, Ryan K. Hew, will be doing various business law topics meant for small business owners. My partner, Trejur P. Bordenave, will be going over the basics of personal injury and making a claim.

2nd Anniversary

Join us on November 1st for our free seminars!

Sign Up at EventBrite

So if you are interested in:

  • Internet and Social Media Law for Small Business Owners
  • Contracts for Small Business Owners
  • Forming a Business Entity
  • Plaintiff’s Injury Claims: What to do if you get hurt

Then please find the details and sign-up at Eventbrite. Also throughout the day, if you want to swing by and say hi or sign up for an initial consult for another date and time that would be great too.

Thanks and see you around!

-RKH

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Oahu Pedestrian Fatalities in 2018 Increases: What is Going On?

2018 Oahu pedestrian deaths on the rise

The Rise In Pedestrian Fatalities Is Shocking.

As a father with a young daughter, and someone who enjoys walking around our office and neighborhood, it is shocking to read about the rise of pedestrian accidents leading to fatalities here on Oahu. The Department of Transportation reports that Oahu has gone from 3 recorded deaths from January to September 2017, to 19 pedestrian-related fatalities for the same period in 2018. This 525% increase is disheartening to say the least. There are some reports, primarily in the news, that fault lies in part to people crossing the street where there is no crosswalk. However, make no mistake, drivers should always be vigilant even where no crosswalks are present.  Also, but for the two that occurred this past Tuesday, they all happened at night.

S. Beretania crosswalk

I walk around the office on S. Beretania to grab a bite and sometimes even I can’t help but feel anxious about crossing the street.

Is Enforcement The Answer?

Is there something that we can do to address this problem on the systemic level? The Honolulu Police Department recently issued a mandate to increase enforcement for both pedestrians and drivers.  However, the question remains, is it really an enforcement issue? As highlighted above, sometimes it is not solely the driver’s fault, but what about other facts? Does the government need to rethink the  streetlights and road markings?

An important part of my job is to ask questions. I spend a lot of time reviewing the facts of our personal injury  cases. I often focus on how my client came to their injures.  If there is a trend in similar cases, I begin to wonder what environmental commonalities are present, and if there is something that can be done. When this logic is applied to societal problems, such as a dramatic rise in pedestrian accidents, there may be outlier problems, but there are always underlying root causes. in the end, enforcement is part of the resolution, but this prompts the question of why is it happening, and at such an increase year-to-year?

Send Me Your Thoughts And Stories.

What do you think is going on? Let me know your thoughts and stories. I bet some of you have had some close calls, and I would like hear from you. Soon, I plan to compile the information and send a letter to the City and County of Oahu and the State Legislature to consider commissioning a study to take a look at this issue, particularly if the trend continues. You can email me at trejur@hewbordenave.com.

Stay safe!

UPDATES TO THIS POST

Update to this post, KHON2 reports (10/5/2018): HPD cracks down on violators to prevent more deaths on the roads

Update to this post, in the Star Advertiser (10/10/2018): Pedestrian Hit By Truck On Pali Highway Dies From Injuries, which is just one day after a similar report of 2 different pedestrian hit-and-run accidents, resulting in the tragic death of one.

Update to this post, KHON 2 reports (2/23/2019): Mayor unveils pedestrian safety measures.

The 7 measures are specifically as follows:

  1. “Look All Ways” Stencils – This effort will begin with stencil installations at 20 locations where pedestrian traffic incidents have occurred (see attached picture). For future installations, locations will be determined by incident occurrence and community need. The initial installation of stenciling will be performed by the Department of Facility Maintenance (DFM). The city will also work with community service organizations (i.e. Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts; Lions Clubs; Hawai‘i Bicycling League; etc.) to assist in stenciling community crossing areas. These group stenciling efforts will be supervised by workers with the Department of Facility Maintenance.

  2. In-Road Pedestrian Safety Delineators – The Department of Facility Maintenance will install 100 in-road pedestrian safety delineators at locations where pedestrian traffic incidents have occurred, and where in-crosswalk installation makes sense. These locations will be determined in conjunction with the city’s Department of Transportation Services (DTS).

  3. Pedestrian Safety Flags – Two hundred high visibility pedestrian safety flags printed with a “Look All Ways” logo will be distributed across urban Honolulu. The priority will be at high traffic intersections, or intersections with recent incidents. Community input will also be taken into account. More pedestrian safety flags will be ordered as the need arises.

  4. O‘ahu Pedestrian Plan – The City and County is currently developing an O‘ahu Pedestrian Plan, which is scheduled to be completed in the spring. The plan will define the steps needed to make Honolulu a more walkable, livable, and healthy city. Walking is the oldest and most efficient, affordable, and environmentally-friendly form of transportation; it’s how transit riders reach their destinations, how drivers get from the parking lot to the front door, and how cyclists get from the bike rack to a place of business. The O‘ahu Pedestrian Plan will evaluate existing conditions and propose/prioritize pedestrian improvement projects and programs facilitating multimodal travel consistent with the city’s Complete Streets Ordinance. The plan will complement the Statewide Pedestrian Master Plan that the State of Hawai‘i Department of Transportation (HDOT) prepared for the state’s highway system in 2013.

  5. Proposed State Legislation – Two proposed bills have been submitted to the state Legislature as part of Mayor Caldwell’s legislative package. One bill focuses on not allowing right turns on red. The second bill discusses red light photo enforcement. While the city hopes both pieces of legislation are passed, the introduction of these measures also help raise awareness about pedestrian and cycling safety. Meanwhile, City Council Chair Emeritus Menor has introduced a bill at the city level that would allow drivers to use their hazard lights when stopped at a mid-block crosswalk.  “Government needs to implement a multifaceted approach that involves a range of solutions,” said City Council Chair Emeritus Ron Menor. “State and City government need to be proactive in exhaustively exploring any and all strategies and measures to reduce or eliminate pedestrian fatalities in the City and County of Honolulu.” Menor has also secured Mayor Caldwell’s agreement to support Resolution 19-32, which asks the administration to work jointly with the City Council to organize a conference, open to the public, focusing on pedestrian safety. 

  6. HPD DUI Enforcement – The Honolulu Police Department is continuing to perform DUI roadblocks, but is also committing to more roving DUI patrols, where officers use patrol cars to pull over suspected drunken or drugged drivers.

  7. New “Look All Ways” PSA Campaign – As part of this larger pedestrian safety initiative, the City and County of Honolulu will be creating a “Look All Ways” PSA that will air on local television and radio.

You can also find a copy of Mayor Caldwell’s announcement of the 7-point package “Look All Ways” on the City and County’s website here.  I want to hear your thoughts and comments, so please feel free to email me at Trejur@hewbordenave.com!

STAY SAFE EVERYONE AND LOOK ALL WAYS!

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High Profile Sexual Abuse Allegations Tied to a Longstanding Reality

Opening door.

Opening door.

Sexual Abuse Suits: A Change in Society or Exposing Institutional Problems?

Recently, there have been high profile sexual abuse lawsuits making headlines across the nation. In light of this, people often ask, “Is something happening to our society causing this increase in harm to children?” Based on statistical analysis it would seem it is more of an unmasking of longstanding problems.

For instance, in 2016, lawsuits were brought against MJJ Productions, a multimedia creation and distribution company founded by the late singer Michael Jackson. One lawsuit accuses MJJ Productions of negligence in the handling of sexual abuse allegations. While it is impossible to predict the outcome of pending litigation, the available evidence and allegations of “businesses [designed] to operate as a child sexual abuse operation, specifically designed to locate, attract, lure and seduce child sexual abuse victims” are disturbing at the very least.

More recently, lawsuits were filed against several prominent members of United States Gymnastics, as well as the governing body itself. The lawsuits allege negligence on the part of the USA Gymnastics. Specifically, it had a pattern of harboring, concealing, and promoting abusive behavior; this is in addition to other claims of action against the athletic organization. The civil action centers around the criminal prosecution of USA Gymnastics’ former team doctor, Dr. Lawrence Nassar.  He faces over 100 complaints of sexual abuse and sexual assault from the athletes that were under his care. According to one complaint, the USA Gymnastics failed to take measures to adequately protect its young athletes from him. The reason: they chose to handle the sexual abuse allegations against the doctor internally, rather than reporting these potential crimes to the appropriate authorities.

The Statistics Show that this is Not a New Problem

These headline cases should motivate people to be more sensitive and handle situations properly. Those in authority sometimes fail to properly react. They can often mismanage or mishandle reported abuse. All jurisdictions mandate reporting of potential sexual abuse of a minor to the proper authorities. The goal being to prevent persons and organizations from covering up the problem.

No one should sweep abusive conduct out of the public eye. Criminal prosecutions might initially stop a perpetrator, and civil cases might deter organizations, but public admonitions, settlements, and convictions make communities safer. This is unlike what happens when childhood sexual abuse remains hidden behind a veil of shame and secrecy.

While, headline cases might shake our belief in the people and organizations we trust, the unfortunate reality is this behavior has persisted. It lurks beneath the surface and research confirms as much. According to the National Center For Victims of Crime, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys will be a victim of child sexual abuse. If that is not sobering, consider the further following statistics:

Reporting Sometimes Not Enough

Further sobering statistics highlight the realities of this problem. First, reporting the suspected abuse may not be enough. Even if holding perpetrators responsible, but not the those responsible for victims’ safety, may ultimately hide the problem. Those in power may know about patterns of abuse, but do nothing about it, or worst, turn a blind eye. News stories, reports, and studies bring light to an ongoing situation. However, the unfortunate reality is that the news does not cover less sensational stories, even while these victims’ pain is just as real.

Further Information

For more information on the cases discussed in this post you can visit:

  1. the Hollywood Reporter for updates on the MJJ Productions case; and
  2. the L.A. Times for the USA Gymnastics case.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual abuse, please seek help. You are not alone in this situation; there are people and organizations that can help. In Hawaii, there is the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center. For California, there are variety of resources, not only for sexual abuse victims, but many other kinds of problems, consider the California Victim Compensation Board’s Victim Resources page.

Lastly, if you are seeking legal representation to handle your matter, or a loved one’s matter, with diligence and compassion, please consider contacting Hew and Bordenave.  We assist clients both in Hawaii and California and diligently protect the identities of our clients.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains comments and opinions of cases in the news as well as factual data.  It does not constitute as legal advice to any particular person in any respect.  If the reader feels they have an injury or need specific advice based on the information contained in this post, then they should seek the advice of  an attorney in their relevant jurisdiction.  Hew & Bordenave, LLLP expressly disclaims all liability in respect to any actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this post.

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Part II, Communicating with Unpleasantness: Demand Letters

Demand letter.
Demand letter.

Demand letters are usually the start of unpleasant communications. Not the end.

What are Demand Letters for?

Usually, it is a demand on the other party take some corrective action or to stop doing something. It could be demanding payment because it is late. It could be demanding interest on top of the principal due to the lateness of the payment. Other times, if you are the customer and the service provider’s job remains undone, then you want specific performance. You are asking them to finish the job.

What about Cease and Desist Letters?

These letters are demanding that the other party stop doing something, such as Intellectual Property matters. Specifically, there is an infringing action that going on or about to happen and the owner of the IP wants the infringer informed of their rights. It could be an infringer’s use of an unauthorized copy of an image on their website and social media.

Sometimes the government uses cease and desist letters as a part of their enforcement powers. Agencies will indicate to the person that they are doing some type of illegal activity that should stop immediately. If not, and they ignore the notice of the letter, then they could face penalties, fines, or being charged with a crime.

Does it Need to be Drafted by an Attorney?

No. Attorneys don’t always draft them, but having them may help. You should consider the nature and context of the dispute. For instance, demanding a customer pay you $200.00 for kitchen supplies because the are past the due date might not be a good use of an attorney. However, if your client is not paying you $200,000.00 in consulting and construction fees and you have an obligation to continue working on the project, then are a lot of factors to take into consideration when making the demand.

Insurance Claims

Trejur will likely provide posts in the future that are more in-depth on this topic. However, for the discussion purposes of this post just know that for personal injury claims, the injured person usually starts the process by submitting a demand letter to the insurance companies. Further consider that negotiating and settling insurance claims may be aided by a lawyer’s counsel. The reason is there are certain structures and contents that go with the initial demand letter.

Examples include: describing the accident, medical treatments to treat the injured, and accompanying evidence and supplemental documents, such as police reports and medical bills. The initial demand letter is probably just the start; insurance companies tend to lowball their initial offer. A personal injury attorney’s knowledge and experience may assist in getting a higher settlement when communicating to the insurance companies.

What Goes into Demand Letters?

It depends. Every situation is unique. This includes drafting a demand letter for clients. Sometimes, short and sweet is perfect because the facts are simple, and the law is easy to understand. Other times, lengthy explanations are necessary. Such as when the legal rights and concepts are abstract. These include citing to the actual law, explaining case law, and providing some evidence to show the other side there is a provable case. At a minimum, a demand letter usually explains the situation, a view of the law that is favorable to the demanding party, and the demands. Money and/or taking an action (or stopping one) and deadlines to respond or comply.  Finally, consider lawyers communicate to other attorneys via these demand letters as well as laypeople, so they legal ethics applies.

I will say from an attorney’s perspective we, just as much as laypeople, enjoy creative demand letters. Demand letters don’t always have to be mean in tone. “Nastygrams” are not always effective. Consider many content providers realize that fans who are business owners flatter them through creative endeavors, but these actions may infringe on their copyright, trademark, and trade dress rights.

However, sometimes you do get a mean and unreasonable demand letter. The question then becomes how do you respond? Ridiculous cease and desist letters sometimes also open themselves to cheeky responses like this one.

Other than the Creative Way, How Should I Respond to One?

The opportunity to dare the writer of the demand letter to start a lawsuit by offering lollipops to the process server is not a frequent one. However, a lot of people feel that ignoring a demand letter is a reasonable response. It might not be, as sometimes silence may be viewed as an admission. The demanding party may just send another letter.

A strongly worded response letter may be able to dissuade the other side. Attorneys frequently engage in letter writing contests back-and-forth without even filing a claim because litigation can increase the costs dramatically. The hope is there is a resolution at some point, but a demand letter is not usually the end of the legal process. It starts a communication process.  So how you choose to respond sometimes requires a careful analysis of all factors:

  • What are the demands? What does it cost to comply with the demands?
  • Do you have any rights or claims?
  • What are the facts?  Are they verifiable?
  • How much would it cost to litigate? Take it through trial?
  • What are you willing to settle for?

Analyzing these factors sometimes helps clients make valuation decisions, especially for business owners. Sometimes it might be worth it to settle, other times not. The key is to understand the contents of the demand letter, and then the circumstances that surround it. It is the start of a communication process, not the end.

DISCLAIMER: This post discusses general legal issues, but does not constitute legal advice in any respect.  No reader should act or refrain from acting based on information contained in this post without seeking the advice of  an attorney in their relevant jurisdiction.  Hew & Bordenave, LLLP expressly disclaims all liability in respect to any actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this post.