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In a year of chaos, the Covid-19 pandemic, struggles for equality, and a deafening onslaught of political noise, there is another silent yet significant threat to our local communities and families.  Unreported and underreported cases of domestic abuse have risen sharply locally and worldwide.  Some public safety measures, specifically stay-at-home orders, which are designed to protect us from the external threat of Covid-19, are potentially causing an increase of domestic violence at home.  In these instances, both the victim and their abuser are living in the same location, yet with the added obstacle of sheltering-in-place for days or weeks at a time.  As a result, the victims are afforded little opportunity to leave, and it compounds an existing heath crisis even further.

Here in Hawai‘i, the Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) is reporting an increase of cases of potential domestic abuse.  Therefore, DVAC has implemented a text and chat feature on their website for discrete and effective accessibility for potential victims. DVAC is committed to stemming domestic violence and abuse through leadership, publicly available services, legal representation, survivor and system advocacy, community education and social change work.

Are you interested in assisting someone who may be in need? Please reach out to anyone you have concerns about to offer your support, make yourself a safe resource, and if at all possible, please consider donating to DVAC.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact:

  • The Hawaii department of Health Hotline:
    • Call: (808) 531-3371
    • Text: (605) 956-5680
  • DVAC O‘ahu Helpline: (808) 531-3771, or use their website’s chat feature.
  • For emergencies: 911

Please also join DVAC in lighting a candle every Wednesday, from 8:30 – 9:30 p.m., during the month of September to raise awareness for those suffering in silence. Together, we can be a torch for change, and let survivors know we are here and committed to their safety.

Once again, we have a stay-at-home order for O‘ahu, from now through September 23, 2020. There are some new exceptions carved out in this order, which should involve a personal risk/reward analysis.  For example, you are now allowed to go hiking, but only “solo.” This means you may not hike in any size group, even if you practice physical distancing and wear PPE. Certainly, we all want to get out of the house, however, common sense should compel you to think hard about going on an intermediate or advanced hike, with no partner, even if it is technically permitted under the new rules. Bringing your phone may not be enough either, because not all carriers have service in every valley or corner of the island.  As such, if you want to go for a hike, perhaps tone it down and play it safe for the time being.

Check out these five safety tips from Oahu Search & Research (OSAR):

  1. Do Your Research
    • Review this website for trails
    • Note, that in Hawai‘i only marked State trails are considered legal for hiking
  2. Check the Weather
    • Check the forecast in advance and day of
  3. Pack Your Bag
    • Map & Compass
    • Sun Protection – sunscreen, hats, long sleeved shirts, and pants
    • Extra Layers
    • Flashlight
    • First Aid Kit
    • Fire Starter
    • Repair Kit
    • Extra Food & Water
    • Emergency Shelter
    • Signaling Device – whistle, mirror
  4. Share Your Plan
    • Be sure a friend always knows where you are going, and when you will be back, especially if you are hiking alone (which is something OSAR strongly discourages)
  5. If Lost: S.T.O.P
    • S: Stop/Sit – take a break
    • T: Think – analyze the situation
    • O: Observe – note surroundings and resources
    • P: Plan – create a plan based on your observations

Be smart, be prepared, and stay safe!

As more residents are moving to urban areas such as Honolulu to reduce their commute time to and from work, alternative modes of transportation including walking and bicycling have increased in popularity, especially with the introduction of biki – a bikeshare service. The City and County of Honolulu is implementing the Complete Streets program to improve the safety, accessibility, and comfort of transportation alternatives for all users, while encouraging physical activity.

According to the Hawaii Department of Transportation there were two bicycle fatalities in Honolulu in 2019. Did you know that using a bike helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent? Wearing a helmet is just one of the ways you can protect yourself while riding a bike.

Check out Bike O‘ahu’s Top Ten Bicycle Safety Tips

  1. Wear a helmet every time you ride. The State of Hawaii requires all bicyclists under 16 years if age to wear a helmet.
  2. Obey traffic laws. Your bike is a vehicle, and just like a car, you must stop at stop signs and red traffic lights.
  3. Always ride with the flow of traffic. It is unlawful to ride facing traffic in Hawai‘i, as it is in all 50 states.
  4. Stop at the end of the driveway. Many crashes between a car and bike happen when riders don’t stop at the end of their driveway to look for cars. Always look left-right-left before entering or crossing a road.
  5. Be predictable. Don’t do anything that would surprise drivers, such as swerving in and out of parked cars or traffic.
  6. Look behind you, and make sure it is clear, before making a left turn or moving into the roadway. You should be able to glance over your shoulder without swerving. Also, let motorists know what you’re doing by using proper hand signals for turning and stopping.
  7. Be visible. Wear light-colored clothes when you ride. If you ride at night, you must have a white front light and a red rear reflector.
  8. Don’t use headphones when riding. You need to be able to hear the traffic around you.
  9. Don’t ride too close to parked cars. A driver may suddenly open the door in your path. Leave at least 3 feet of distance when passing parked cars, and be alert for cars that may be pulling out into the road.
  10. Make sure your bike is safe. Before you leave home, check to make sure that the brakes work, the seat and handlebars are tight, and the tires are properly inflated and in good shape. Also, make sure your bike is the right size. A bike that is too big is more dangerous than one that is too small.

For more information about bicycle safety connect with the Hawai‘i Bicycling League at 735-5756 (www.hbl.org.) You can also find bike laws on their website.

The Complete Streets program will identify and design solutions that balance the needs of all users and modes in the urban core, including pedestrians, vehicles, bicyclists, and transit patrons. Bikeway improvements will be made in Downtown, Chinatown, and Ala Moana-Kakaako areas. A recent project on Pensacola Street has implemented a Two-way protected bike lane from Wilder Street to Kapiolani Boulevard on the Diamond Head side of the street. These bikeway improvements will make our streets safer for both bicyclists and motorists.

Every year, dozens of pedestrians are killed in Hawaii while crossing the street, walking along roadways, or traversing our sidewalks. According to the State of Hawaii Preliminary Traffic Fatalities Report, from January 1 through July 30, 2020 there were eight pedestrian fatalities.  This number is considered lower than some years, but is likely impacted by the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. To address this growing epidemic of pedestrian accidents and fatalities, Hawaii designated August as Pedestrian Safety Month.

The Walk Wise Hawaii pedestrian committee works alongside the Department of Transportation Services (DTS) to educate the public on good pedestrian practices and driver awareness of pedestrian movement. Here are the Walk Wise Hawaii pedestrian safety tips:

Pedestrian Safety Tips

  1. Always cross the street at a crosswalk. When no crosswalk is available, please cross at a corner.
  2. Be vigilant. Always look left-right-left and continue to look while crossing the street.
  3. Do not enter the crosswalk if the light indicator is counting down. The countdown is for pedestrians already in the crosswalk.
  4. Always walk when crossing the street. Never run.
  5. Always wear bright or refl­ective clothing when walking between dusk and dawn.
  6. Always watch for vehicles backing out of driveways or parking stalls. Drivers do not always see you.
  7. If there is no sidewalk, always walk on the side of the roadway facing on-coming traffic.

Also, be mindful of sidewalk/crosswalk rules and regulations, such as:

Sidewalk/Crosswalk Rules & Regulations

  • The fine for pedestrians who jaywalk is $130.
  • The fine for pedestrians who begin crossing when the countdown signal begins to flash is $130. However, if you are already in the crosswalk when the countdown signal begins to flash, you are not violating the law and should finish crossing the street.

Whether you’re a pedestrian or a driver, please be safe, be aware, and let’s work together to make our streets, crosswalks, and sidewalks safer for our communities.

For more information about pedestrian safety, please visit this website.

DISCLAIMERThis 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.

 

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.