Church Law is Changing

Church Law Changing Today

The laws governing churches is, like every other body of law, changing over time. Different situations and different venues, different judges, and changing values do affect the law. For example, churches are seeing more scrutiny from the courts than they ever had in the past. Church law is evolving, like it or not.

One area in which church law is changing rapidly has to do with tort liability. It used to be that a church was seldom in the cross hairs of a Plaintiff’s attorney because of a tort, that is, a civil wrong done by an official of the church. Today, these suits have become commonplace, and range from individuals who sue their church because of injuries received on the property, to wrongful death cases because of fatal injuries received while performing church work.

Biggest Change in Church Law has to do with Children

The biggest change in church law though, has to do with liability by the churches for harm that comes to children, especially if the harm is from a sexual assault by a church leader, or even a church member. It is a sad reality, but predators who seek child victims sometimes go to church. In a society as huge as ours, it is inevitable that a sexual predator will visit your church some day. While a church is not necessarily liable because a child is harmed, it is going to depend upon what kind of safeguards the church had in place to protect that child. A church policy will embody the safety measures the church has in place.

Church Law: What Kinds of Protection was Afforded the Child?

The first question an attorney is going to want to know is: “What kinds of safeguards, if any, were in place? And, “What kind of church policy, if any, was in place?” A church that does not have a policy in place, or if they do, if it wasn’t a good one, or if it was not followed, may get hit with a jury verdict that is devastating, perhaps even ruinous.

Jury verdicts are up. In Texas, not too many years ago, a church was hit with a verdict of over $30 million dollars. Juries will punish churches that a negligent in the protection of the children in their care. The Catholic Church has learned that lesson, and it is still paying the price for its handling of sexual abuse cases that happened many years ago. If they’d taken steps to protect the children with safeguards, they’d have protected the church from the financial ruin that has plagued them for many long years. Think of the hundreds of millions of dollars donated by faithful church members that have been wasted, all because someone refused to take the necessary steps to protect the children in their care.

Church Law: Statute of Limitations Extended to Majority of Child Plus 2 Years

One thing that a church in the State of Indiana needs to understand is that where a child is molested, while the usual Statute of Limitations begins to run at the moment of injury/harm and ends at the 2 year mark, when the victim is a child, the Statute of Limitations only begins to run from the time the child reaches his or her 18th birthday, and runs for 2 years from that date. Victims have come back to haunt churches and church lawyers have had to wrestle with this problem more and more as the victims emerge.

Church Law: Protect the Children and You will Protect the Church

If your church does not have a serious stance (and a church policy in place, and enforced) about protecting the children in the church, then it is playing a dangerous game. It is one that could destroy the church. Protecting the church is important. A church that protects the child in the church, will protect the church. A church policy is an absolute must. Every plaintiff’s lawyer is going to pursue that issue with a church on behalf of his victim/client. Every lawyer who practices in the area of church law will be very aware of this. Your church had better be prepared to demonstrate that it had a policy in place, that it followed that policy, and that the measures that it took to protect the children in its care was reasonable. If a church cannot show that, then the jury will punish that church. That’s an almost guarantee, today. There’s simply too much of it and the public is fed up with children who are victims in their own churches.

Church law is not a static thing. It is changing with the times. One of those changes is in this area. One can only wonder whether the churches will get the message before it is too late.

Don’t wait until a lawyer one day gives your church a demonstration of church law in this area.



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A Car Accident and Alcohol: A Deadly Mix

A Car Accident – Product of Alcohol

Choices are made every single day by individuals to drink alcohol and drive. Drunk drivers cause pain, suffering and grief that lasts for a lifetime. A drunk driver behind the wheel of an automobile will, more likely than not, have a car accident, and the odds are pretty high that the automobile accident that happens will cause serious bodily injury.

YouTube Testimonial by Car Accident Survivor

The following is a YouTube testimonial from a young driver who drove while intoxicated and had a a car accident in which two passengers died. It is compelling video (in two parts). The driver of the vehicle is obviously remorseful. Unfortunately, one cannot take back some choices. His testimony demonstrates, in a powerful way, that the choice to drink and drive can have tragic consequences. A car, when aimed, is akin to a weapon. Here, the automobile is a mass of steel propelled in a manner that can, as surely as a bullet, cause deadly consequences. We see car accidents every day in our county, and multiplied thousands of times in our nation.

This is the story of one such car accident. An event that cannot be undone.

Car Accident Testimonial: Dean Tillema – Part 1

Car Accident Testimonial: Dean Tillema – Part 2



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Indiana Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death in Indiana

Wrongful death cases in the state of Indiana are governed by statute. At common law, there had been absolutely no tort liability for killing another person, because personal injury claims did not survive the injured party’s death. Ed Wiersma Trucking Co. v. Pfaff, 643 N.E.2d 909, 911 (Ind.Ct.App.1994), adopted by 678 N.E.2d 110 (Ind.1997). Today, wrongful death cases have grown in number, and have developed a body of case law. It is an area of the law that is strictly governed by Indiana statute (code).

Read More…



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Auto Accident Lake County Indiana

Auto Accident Rate in Lake County Indiana

Every single day, there is an auto accident in  Lake County Indiana. A car accident takes place with regularity in Lake County, and in surrounding counties here in Indiana. We are a major corridor for Chicago, and thousands of cars and trucks whiz through the county. Car accidents are inevitable. And, with those auto accidents come injuries. You’d think that if you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, the insurance company would just pay you for the harm their insured did to you and you could be on your way. Unfortunately, the system does not work that way.

You end up having to hire an attorney. The lawyer then must put together an array of documents (medical records, driving records, accident report, witness statements, expert testimony) proving that you have viable injuries from your car  accident, that it was not your fault, and convince the insurance company that they ought to settle the case. If they refuse to pay a sum that is adequate, then you have to file a lawsuit and prepare to go to trial. It’s a daunting process, one many auto accident victims choose not to engage in.

An Auto Accident Can Cause Death

Several years ago, I represented a man in a wrongful death case, whose wife was killed in an auto accident in Lake County, Indiana. She’d been a passenger in a car that was turning on a green light from Rt 30 in Schererville, Indiana.  Another vehicle, driven by a sales representative for a large pharmaceutical company, slammed into the vehicle, T-boning it, and killing her.

I found a witness who’d not only seen the accident, but was able to testify that the man had not even put on his brakes for the red light that she’d clearly seen. She had been parallel to his vehicle, traveling in the same direction, and she had slowed for the red light. He never slowed, and he did not see the vehicle turning in front of him. He never saw the light nor the vehicle. His car slammed into the other auto at around fifty miles per hour. While I was able to settle the case for a very large sum of money, my client would  have given back every dime and even paid more, to have his wife back. Money is no real substitute for life, though it is the thing the legal system has decided to use as compensation for a life. The fact is,  money is a poor substitute.

An Auto Accident in Lake County Indiana is not a rarity

You’d think such car accidents would be rare. After all, we have laws against speeding. And common sense tells us we can’t read while we drive  (something this man had been doing). Today, with the advent of “texting,” we now have thousands of  drivers who are operating vehicles while distracted with reading or texting. So much for common sense. We have laws against drunk driving. But, in spite of all our laws and what common sense tells us, we still continue to have an auto accident caused by a drunk driver, with amazing regularity. Most car accidents are minor and the injuries are minor. And, many  of the car accidents happen because the driver was speeding. But, far too many auto accidents occur because the driver is intoxicated. When you have a car accident and you’re intoxicated, life will change forever, especially if a life is lost.

An Auto Accident in Lake County Indiana is likely to involve alcohol

Some years ago, when I was a Deputy Prosecutor for the State of Indiana, sitting in Crown Point City Court, I saw hundreds of drunk drivers come through the Court after being arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVWI). I remember one in particular. He was a young man just out of high school, a star athlete, bright, a good student, and an all-around good kid. But, he’d been out one night with his friends and had been arrested for Minor Consuming, a Misdemeanor crime. As I recall, he’d paid a $50.00 fine and left the Court after being admonished by the judge.  Just a few weeks later, he was dead, killed in an auto accident. He’d been drinking.

I once had a long time client die from an auto accident and the intoxicated driver who hit him, went to jail for five years. My client had attended a function. He had his 2 small children with him. He’d accidently backed his car into a ditch. While standing beside his car, another vehicle came down the road and struck him and his car. He was killed instantly. I filed a Wrongful Death action and during that case, learned about the history of the intoxicated driver. He had multiple DUI’s (Driving Under the Influence) and had his license suspended several times. His alcohol problem was a serious one. He was a relatively young man, in his late 20’s. He lost five years of his life. My client lost all of his life. My client’s children lost their father.

With the arrival of texting while driving, there will be some horrific accidents, especially when an intoxicated driver is texting. Lives will be lost. Lawyers will file wrongful death lawsuits. Parents will weep and mourn. But, drivers will still drink and drive, and some will drink, drive, and text. And, they will kill some of us, and perhaps themselves, too.

Drivers in Lake County Indiana can avoid a car accident by adhering to certain rules

There are three rules that, if a driver in Lake County Indiana follows, he or she will probably never have an auto accident:

  • 1. Never drive after you’ve been drinking and never read text messages or try to text someone while you drive. It’s bad enough that most Americans use a cell phone while driving. Your rule should be: No drinking. No texting.  It does not matter whether you are intoxicated. It does not matter how important the message you need to send is, or how important the message might be that just twittered its way into your phone. Just don’t do it. It is not a cliche that the life you save may be your own. Make it a rule you live by, and when you’ve been drinking, absolutely stay out from behind the driver’s side of a car. Don’t you decide whether you’re intoxicated. Assume you are impaired, because if you’ve been drinking, you are impaired and the odds of having an auto accident are very high.
  • 2. Pay close attention to all vehicles when you drive. You really have to practice defensive driving these days.  You cannot assume the other driver is going to operate his car the way he should. You can’t assume that she’s going to obey the laws. You can’t assume she is sober. You can’t afford to assume that he will not drift into your lane.  If you want to avoid having an auto accident, be wary of every vehicle on the road. There’s no need to be paranoid, but you’d better be alert, and you’d better not assume everyone else is going to be as safe a driver as you are.
  • 3. Obey the laws. It sounds simple, and it is. Develop the habit of obeying the speed limit laws. Drive your vehicle in a safe, prudent and cautious manner. Resist the urge to take short cuts in your driving. Weaving in and out of traffic is a sure what to have an auto accident. And, trying to get to your destination a few minutes earlier may earn you a traffic ticket, which I’m sure the insurance company will appreciate as you donate to their coffers, or worse, it could earn you the status of being someone in an automobile accident.  But, worse than being in car accident, it could earn you the status of being a fatality in an auto accident.

The fact that your family might collect tens of thousands of dollars in a wrongful death case does nothing to diminish the fact that you’re dead. They will not be comforted by having lots of money. They’d trade it in for your life in a heartbeat.

So, the bottom line is: If you live in Lake County Indiana, the stats suggest that you have a good chance of being involved in a car accident. Whether that auto accident is serious or even fatal, may well depend on how faithful you are to follow those three rules.


Here is a sober reminder from a drunk driver

PART II



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Opening an Estate in Lake County, Indiana

Opening An Estate in Lake County

Opening an estate in Indiana simply means that the Last Will and Testament of the deceased is filed with the Court, together with a Petition asking the Court to probate the estate of the decedent, as testate; or if there is no Will, then there is still the filing of a Petition asking the Court to probate, as intestate, the estate of the decedent. The heirs are listed in the Petition and a notice is sent by the Court to each heir, notifying them of the opening of the estate.

Process of Opening an Estate Differs in States

The process of opening an estate is very similar to most states, though they are different, and can be quite complex. Knowing when to open an estate is a function of the lawyer.  The lawyer for the Indiana estate will work closely with the Personal Representative, sometimes called the Executor or Executrix. Together, they will gather all the financial information about the deceased and present an accurate picture to the Court as to the value of the estate, as well as any bills and creditors of the estate. Each known creditor will be notified of the opening of the estate and they have a limited amount of time in which to file their claim against the estate. The values listed in the Petition will not include any assets that were held in a Living Trust of the decedent.

Inventory taken after opening an Estate

An inventory is sometimes filed, depending on whether the estate if supervised or not supervised. This is a listing of all of the assets of the estate. Eventually, once the assets are assembled, there may come a time when many, or all of the assets are liquidated. In other words, the assets are sold, or otherwise converted into cash and deposited into the estate account that was established. For example, there may be stocks that were owned by the decedent, as well as a home and furnishings. These will be sold and the cash received from the sale will be deposited into the estate account.

Distribution after opening an Estate

Eventually, the Court is petitioned to allow distribution of the assets of the estate to the heirs. Each heir is typically responsible for payment of any taxes that might be owed to the state by virtue of the inheritance taxes imposed upon the transfer of the gift to the heir. It may be that there is no tax owed, if the heir is a son or daughter, for example, and the gift is less than $100,000.00. If the Will indicates that those taxes are to be paid from the estate, then the heir will not be responsible for the payment, but instead, the estate will pay the tax. These tax payments are almost always done prior to any distribution of the inheritance gift to the heir.

From opening an estate to closing takes time

The amount of time it takes to probate an estate will vary on the complexity of the estate. It can sometimes take years, but an average time is around one year from the date of death, but it is not unusual for the process to take two or more years.

At the end, a final accounting is given to the Court and the estate is closed.

Opening an Estate in the state of Indiana can be a complex matter and almost always requires the services of an attorney.

Wikipedia: E is a vowel and the fifth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.



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