Fighting For Justice and Equal Opportunity

Practice Areas

Select a topic below or scroll down to view answers to frequently asked questions.

Employment Law

Can my employer terminate me without a good reason?

Yes. Most employees in this country are employees at-will, which means an employer may terminate you for any reason (good or bad), as long as it is not an illegal one. On the other hand, as an at-will employee, you can quit your job for any reason at any time.

What should I do if I have been terminated?

Three things. Request in writing, within 10 days of your termination, the "true" reasons for your termination, and request a complete copy of your personnel file. You are entitled to both under Minnesota law. Also, contact an employment attorney.

When is an employer's action illegal?

Adverse employment decisions are illegal when they violate one or more civil rights laws or other laws designed to protect employee rights. The Minnesota Human Rights Act, for example, prohibits discrimination because of an employee's race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, age, or sexual orientation. The Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits retaliation against employees who report violations of laws, rules, or regulations, or who refuse to participate in illegal conduct on the employer's behalf. There are numerous federal laws that protect employees, as well. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for enforcing some of the key laws in this area. These laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act, and Title VII, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, or age.

Car Accidents

I was in a car accident. What should I do?

Inform your insurance company. As soon as possible, tell your insurance company that you have been involved in an accident. Cooperate with your insurance company and tell them the truth about what happened and the extent of your injuries. If the insurance company finds out that you have lied to them about anything, you can get into serious trouble, not the least of which may be the denial of any coverage for the accident. Build support for your case when discussing the matter with your insurance company. Be able to explain to them the facts of the case in a clear manner. Obtain and review a copy of any police report, so that you can point out to the insurance company who broke what traffic laws or who was at fault for the accident. Such information will often be provided in the report. Although the insurance company may already know the facts of your case, taking an active interest in making sure your rights are protected will force the insurance company to take you seriously.

If I don't feel injured after an automobile accident, do I have to see a doctor?

Both you and your passengers should consider seeing a doctor after an accident. The doctor may recognize injuries, sometimes serious, that are not apparent to you. The charges for a doctor visit and medical treatment may be covered by your insurance. It is not recommended that you settle claims from an accident until a doctor has seen you and advised you about the extent of your injuries.

Do I need to keep track of my medical treatment?

Yes. Note any doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, or other medical professionals that you receive treatment from, and each medical provider that referred you to other caregivers. Having a written diary of this information will help you itemize your medical expenses and treatment for your insurer, your attorney, and the court.

What should I do if I think the insurance company has undervalued my vehicle?

If you are not satisfied with the manner in which your insurance company has valued your vehicle, do not give up. Get two estimates for the repair of your car on your own, or have two dealers provide a quote for the cost of replacing your vehicle if there was a total loss. Communicate to the adjuster your concerns and position, and be assertive. If you cannot agree on the value of your car, consider alternative dispute resolution, or consult an attorney.

What should I do if the insurance company for the other driver contacts me?

Do not talk to anyone about the accident other than your attorney, your insurance company, and the police. Do not talk to a representative of another insurance company under any circumstances, without the knowledge of your attorney or your insurance company. If representatives from other insurance companies should call you, be polite, but ask them to call your attorney or insurance company to arrange for an interview. Also, get the representative's name and number, and tell your insurance company or attorney that someone seeking information about your accident contacted you.

Should I release my medical records to another driver's insurance adjuster?

Definitely not. Medical record releases should only be signed under limited circumstances and after consulting with a qualified personal injury trial lawyer. If your medical information gets into the insurance adjuster's hands, it could hurt your case.

Criminal Law

What Is An Arrest?

When you are arrested, you are taken into custody. This means that you are not free to leave the scene. Without being arrested, however, you still could be detained or held for questioning for a short time if a police officer or other person believes you may be involved in a crime. For example, an officer may detain you if you are carrying a large box near a recent burglary site. Storekeepers also can detain you if they reasonably suspect you have stolen something. Whether you are arrested or detained, you do not have to answer any questions except to give your name and address and show some identification if requested.

Someone I know has been arrested, what should we do?

There are two things to consider in the crucial moments which follow an arrest. The first is securing the person's release from jail as soon as possible. There are a number of ways this can be done. The second concern is to preserve the arrested person's ability to defend against the accusations. It is best for the accused NOT to make statements to anyone concerning the case until he or she is able to consult with an attorney.

What Rights Do I Have?

You have certain rights if you are arrested. Before the law enforcement officer questions you, he or she should tell you that:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say may (and probably will) be used against you.
  • You have a right to have a lawyer present while you are questioned.
  • If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you.

These are your "Miranda" rights, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. If you are not given these warnings, your statement may be inadmissible. However, this does not apply if you volunteer information without being questioned by the police.

Once I'm Told My Rights, Can I Be Questioned?

You can be questioned, without a lawyer present, only if you voluntarily give up your rights and if you understand what you are giving up. If you agree to the questioning, then change your mind, the questioning must stop as soon as you say so or as soon as you say that you want a lawyer.

You may be required to give certain physical evidence. For example, If you are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, you may be requested to take a test to measure the amount of alcohol in your system. If you refuse to take the test, your driver's license may be suspended and the refusal may be used against you in court, or if you take the test and it shows an alcohol concentration of a level specified by law, your driver's license may be suspended and the results of the test may be used against you in court.

Who Maintains Arrest Records And What Do They Include?

Local police and/or sheriff departments and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The arrest record explains when and why you were arrested, whether you were charged with a crime, and the disposition of the charge. That is, was the charge dropped, did you plead guilty to the charge, or were found guilty after a trial?

What happens to the accused?

The person accused of the crime is now called the defendant. Soon after arrest by a peace officer, the defendant is taken before a judge who informs the defendant of the reason he/she has been arrested, and of the facts contained in the complaint. The judge is required to set an amount of bail and to advise the defendant of his rights. Unless the defendant can post bail in the amount set by the judge, he/she remains in custody and is normally transferred to the county jail to await further action in the case.

I have not been arrested, but I have been accused of a crime. What should I do?

Use caution. Unless you are certain that the accusation is only a minor one and will not result in criminal charges, it is best to consult with an attorney. This is especially true if a law enforcement official is asking you to give a statement or cooperate in an investigation. You should consult with an attorney before making any statements. What you say, no matter how well-intentioned, can be misinterpreted and may be used as evidence against you later. Even if you are promised leniency in exchange for your cooperation, you can never retract what you have already said. Therefore, it is best to consult with an attorney before to making ANY statements in order to make sure that your rights are protected.

What Happens At An Arraignment?

You have a right to be arraigned without unnecessary delay. At the arraignment, you will appear before a judge who will tell you officially of the charges against you. An attorney may be appointed for you if you can't afford one, and the bail can be raised or lowered depending on the circumstances of the case. You also can ask to be released on a Personal Recognizance bond (P.R. bond), even if bail was previously set.

What Is Bail And How Is It Set?

Bail is allowed in virtually all cases, including felonies. The amount of bail is set by the judge. Its sole legal purpose is to guarantee the defendant's appearance in court for later proceedings. Appear at all hearings. If you have any doubt, go to Court so a new warrant is not issued for your arrest for failing to appear.

If you fail to appear, your bail will be forfeited and a new warrant will be issued for your arrest. If you cannot post or put up the bail, you will be kept in custody.

The judge is required to consider not only the seriousness of the offense charged against the defendant, but also the defendant's ability to raise money to make bail, in setting the amount. Bail may not be set so high as to punish a defendant by keeping him in jail pending his trial.

What is a grand jury?

A grand jury is a body of sixteen citizens who consider whether indictments should be returned in felony in some cases. Grand jurors are selected by the Jury Commissioner. The pool of grand juries is selected randomly from the voter registration rolls of the county in the same manner that trial juries are selected. Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public, and witnesses take an oath of secrecy before testifying.

What does a grand jury do?

If the grand jury believes that there is sufficient evidence to prove that a person has committed a felony, it votes to issue an indictment. At least nine grand jurors must vote in favor of an indictment, or the case is "no-billed," which ends the case. The district attorney assists the grand jury in hearing evidence and preparing indictments, but the actual deliberations on cases are secret and only the grand jurors are present when voting is in progress.

What happens at trial?

In a trial, the Deputy District Attorney presents the case for the State, attempting to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime as charged. The defendant may present his or her side of the case, or may present no case at all. The jury (if one has been impaneled) or the judge must decide whether the State's case has been proved by legally-sufficient evidence. If the defendant is found guilty, the defendant's punishment is fixed by the judge except in cases of 1st degree murder.

Can a defendant appeal his conviction to a higher court?

A defendant can appeal his conviction to an appellate court in hopes of having his conviction reversed. An appellate court reviews only the typed record of what happened in the trial court. Witnesses do not appear and testify at the appellate level. In many instances a defendant may remain free on bond while the appeal is pending.