Hands-Free Really Means Just That: Oregon Stiffens Ban on Distracted Driving

October 1, 2017, marks the start of stiffer fines and tougher penalties for distracted driving with cell phones.

Oregon had allowed limited use of smart phones while driving, but beginning October 1, it is now illegal for drivers to use or hold an electronic mobile device. You are allowed a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate a device or function, but do not talk on speaker mode while holding your phone, or you could be looking at a fine of $130 to $1,000 for your first offense, $220 to $2,500 for your second offense and a minimum of $2,000 and up to 6 months in jail for a third offense.

This revision to Oregon law expands the distracted driving law from the existing ban on cellphones in the driver’s seat to include all electronic mobile devices. Phone calls are still allowed if the driver uses a hands-free device, such as a Bluetooth headset, or routing calls to the vehicles stereo system — but only if the phone is not in the driver’s hand. The law uses the phrase “mobile electronic device” rather than “communication device” to account for the array of modern devices and their uses, and specifies that “driving” includes idling in a traffic jam or at a light. A driver can only start using the device if the vehicles has “stopped in a location where it can safely remain stationary,” such as a parking space or pulled off to the side of the road.

There are some exceptions for things like medical emergencies and truck and bus drivers, but Oregon has made it clear that hands-free really does mean what it says.

New Handheld Device Law: What Washington Drivers Need to Know

A new law in Washington makes use of handheld electronic devices illegal – in any capacity – even at the red light.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee recently accelerated the enforcement of the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (DUIE) Act. The Act now forbids virtually all use of handheld gadgets such as phones, tablets, laptop computers and gaming devices while driving.

In its statewide observational survey of distracted drivers, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission found cell phone use is the most common type of distraction, with 71% of distracted drivers engaged with their phones while operating their vehicles. The survey also found 1 out of 10 drivers in Washington State are distracted while driving, and fatalities from distracted driving increased 32% from 2014 to 2015.

Although texting or holding a cellphone to your ear while driving was already illegal in the state of Washington, motorists often skirted the rules by holding their phones between their legs or below their necks. The new law now makes handheld use in any capacity illegal – and drivers cannot use handheld devices while at stop signs or red-light signals. Drivers are still allowed to use a mounted hands-free phone, and may also use minimal touch features in order to operate apps such as a smartphone’s navigation app. Handheld devices may also be used if the driver has pulled off the roadway or traffic lanes, where the vehicle “can safely remain stationary.”

A DUIE is a primary offense, and a ticket for distracted-driving might raise one’s insurance rates, as it will be reported on a motorist’s record. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, a standard fine of $126 will apply for first time offenders, and rise to $235 for a second offense. Miscellaneous distractions will be a secondary offense, with the penalty being an extra $30.

Bottom line: Keep your eyes on the road and your electronic devices safely tucked away.

June 15 – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

One in ten Americans aged 60 or above have experienced some form of elder abuse.

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a day designated to bring visibility to the prevalence of global elder abuse. According to the National Council on Aging, one in ten Americans aged 60 or above have experienced some form of elder abuse. It is expected that with the number of older persons growing, abuse of the elderly will also grow. Though elder abuse is a serious and common problem that could lead to poverty, hunger, homelessness, compromised health and well-being, and even premature mortality, it often is one of the least investigated or reported types of abuse.

Recent research findings have highlighted financial exploitation as a frequent form of elder abuse. It has been estimated on a global scale that 5 to 10 per cent of older people may experience some kind of financial exploitation. Financial exploitation often goes unreported either due to the victim’s embarrassment or because of an impairment resulting in an inability to report the abuse.

An older person may be vulnerable to financial exploitation due to social isolation and cognitive impairments. Other factors that place the elderly at risk include: emotional or physical dependence on the perpetrator, financial dependence of the abuser on the older person, certain living arrangements, poverty, widowhood and lack of support networks. Societal prejudices such as ageism and discriminatory systems may also contribute toward the elderly being at risk of financial exploitation.

One way to prevent elder abuse is to plan for the future. A power of attorney or a living will can address health care and financial decisions and better avoid confusion and problems later on. Having a will and reviewing the will periodically may also help prevent abuse. An estate planning attorney can provide assistance in planning for the future.

Family members and others concerned about preventing or stopping ongoing elder abuse also have options. Education on abuse and being able to identify the common forms it takes can be critical to prevention. For education resources go to https://ncea.acl.gov/

Reporting abuse or suspected abuse is also vital. For immediate, life-threatening danger, the police should be contacted. If an older person is being mistreated the local Adult Protective Services office should be contacted. If the older person is in a facility, such as a nursing home, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman should be contacted. In Oregon the Elder Abuse Hotline number is 1-855-503-7233.

While physical abuse and some financial abuse issues can be appropriately responded to by the police, other financial abuse issues may require an experienced elder abuse attorney.

An experienced elder abuse attorney may be able to determine whether financial elder abuse has occurred through undue influence, lack of capacity, or a breach of fiduciary duty. If financial abuse has occurred an experienced elder abuse attorney may be able to litigate abuse claims on behalf of the victim or the victim’s family.

Special thanks to Daniela Holgate for her work on this article. Daniela is a law clerk at SYK, and a J.D. candidate at Lewis & Clark School of law.

Victoria Blachly - Parter

Not only is Victoria Blachly a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases or causes, she is also a proud Board Member for the Oregon Alzheimer’s Association Chapter.

The Longest Day

The Longest Day: A Global Movement to Help End Alzheimer’s Disease

The Longest Day is June 21, 2017.

“The Longest Day is all about love. Love for all those affected by Alzheimer’s disease. On the summer solstice, team up with the Alzheimer’s Association and select any activity you love — or an activity loved by those affected — to help end Alzheimer’s. Together, we will raise funds and awareness for care and support while advancing research toward the first survivor of Alzheimer’s.”

The first survivor of Alzheimer’s…can you imagine? That will be a truly great day, and maybe your help will be just what is needed for that day to arrive.

This 1-minute video explains how you can get involved.

Not only is Victoria Blachly a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases or causes, she is also a proud Board Member for the Oregon Alzheimer’s Association Chapter.

Check out this Video: New Multnomah County Courthouse

Construction is booming in downtown Portland, and the judiciary is no exception.

Work has begun on the new 17 story, 44 courtroom Multnomah County Courthouse. The current 100+ year-old courthouse is unsafe, and fails to meet the functional needs of a growing county. The new building will not only meet the needs of its citizens, but will also be powered by solar panels and radiant heat that is so efficient, it will generate surplus power to raise and lower the Hawthorne Bridge. This video gives you a tour of the greatly anticipated four year project in just over one minute.

New Homecare Choice Program: Service for Private Pay In-Home Help

Homecare Choice Program is a new alternative option for care at home, and the consumer is in control.

The Oregon Home Care Commission recently launched its innovative Homecare Choice Program. The service is another option for home health care, providing connections for personal care, household tasks, companionship, pet care, transportation and medication assistance. At the time of this posting, over 400 statewide service providers are registered.

The consumer (the client, family member, POA, or conservator) goes through a list of online prompts to identify what services are needed and when, and are connected with prescreened  and qualified caregivers from the Commission’s Registry Services, who have access to over 25 free trainings through the Commission and have passed a background check. Furthermore, the Commission helps participants with the paperwork necessary to meet the legal responsibilities of being household employers, while the state pays for the workers’ compensation coverage. The Commission provides a fiscal intermediary to help the consumer learn how to complete employer tax forms, pay the caregiver, withhold and report payroll taxes, and issue W-2 statements. This is a private pay service for about $22.00 an hour for people at home who do not qualify for Medicaid.

Access www.HomecareChoiceOregon.com, call 1.844.494.4227 or email homecare.choice@state.or.us.

Be Alert: Join the Oregon Scam Alert Network

The Oregon Department of Justice wants to help you stay alert for consumer issues.

How many emails do you get every day? Here’s an opportunity to sign up for email alerts that will provide value – and protection – for you and your clients. The Oregon Department of Justice has a free email alert, to notify us of emerging scams, fraud and other consumer problems. As they explain, “We will keep you updated about important consumer information to educate and protect your friends, family, coworkers and anyone else before they fall victim to scams and fraud.”

Past alerts have included phone tax collectors, ransomware and counterfeit tickets.

Now… stay safe out there.

Eldercare 101 – A New Book from a Local Author

Local Author With New Eldercare Book – Eldercare 101: A Practical Guide to Later Life Planning, Care, and Wellbeing

Eldercare 101: A Practical Guide to Later Life Planning, Care, and Wellbeing is a new book to help elders and their families, as prepared by a practicing gerontologist and aging life care manager who collaborated with an experienced team of experts to write about “6 Pillars of Aging Wellbeing:” legal, financial, living environment, social, medical, and spiritual.

The book will be available in mid-August, but you can pre-order a copy now.

Eldercare 101 will help elders or their adult children choose how they will live with the challenges of aging, with proactive planning and answers for urgent situations. Portland’s own Theresa Giddings from Soft Landings, Solutions for Seniors wrote the Financial Pillar. She is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Financial Planner, by training and practice for over 25 years. Her current company, Soft Landings, offers specialized move services for seniors and their families.

I have pre-ordered my book.  No doubt Theresa Gidding’s compassion and care will shine through, as she shares her wisdom and experience in helpful ways.

Competency Can be Tricky: Don’t Rule Out the Nonagenarian

The brain is a challenging maze and competency blends medicine and law in a complicated fashion.

Sumner Redstone, at 92 years-old and the controlling shareholder of his $40 billion media empire, Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. has accomplished a lot. And a court recently ruled he can continue to make his own decisions, including deciding who should be his health-care agent.

This ruling disappointed (to say the least) his former girlfriend and longtime companion, whom he had evicted last fall and removed as his health-care agent, before also removing her from his Will, in which she was to inherit $70 million in cash and real estate.

Although a speech therapist had to interpret Mr. Redstone’s impaired speech, the judge was swayed by the video deposition in which Mr. Redstone made it clear that he wanted his ex-girlfriend out of his life and preferred his daughter to be his health-care agent. The judge remained unconvinced by an expert witness who failed to overcome the presumption of capacity.

The brain is a challenging maze and competency blends medicine and law in a complicated fashion. Our country’s ageism tends to count out anyone over 65, but the judge in this hearing found otherwise.

Oregon First to Pass RUFADAA – Allowing Legal Access to Your Digital Assets

Oregon becomes the first state to pass RUFADAA: The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Accounts Act.

SYK has been advising our clients, friends and colleagues about managing Digital Assets (your online accounts) for many years, lamenting the fact that the Internet was outrunning the law. We’ve been writing about it, testifying before legislators, speaking at seminars and encouraging everyone to prepare a VAIL – or Virtual Asset Instruction Letter. 

We are happy to report that there is new light on the issue. Oregon has just become the first state in the nation to pass RUFADAA: The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Accounts Act. Oregon Senate Bill 1554 was signed by the Governor yesterday and will become effective January 1, 2017.

This law is important in that while it allows for personal representatives, powers of attorney and trustees to have access to online accounts to perform their fiduciary duties, it also requires everyone to be proactive in affirmatively stating in your trust or estate plan that you grant such authority; otherwise, the online providers’ terms of service agreements will control. And those agreements often give the online provider all of the power, including the power to hit “delete” when they know someone has passed, which could destroy vital financial information or precious memories you had intended to share with those you leave behind.

So dust off that will or trust you prepared so long ago and call your estate planner; it’s time that your estate plan caught up with the Internet.

Attorney Victoria Blachly is a fiduciary litigator who has been working on digital asset legislation for six years, testifying before legislators and presenting at seminars throughout the U.S. The issue became very personal to her when she lost a young niece and saw how invaluable her social media was to the grieving family and friends she left behind. Victoria worked closely with one of SYK’s estate planners, Jeff Cheyne, and one of SYK’s business attorneys, Michael Walker, to pursue legislation that was initially hard fought by very large and well-funded online providers.