Roger R. Harada
Attorney at Law

 

475 S. Arlington Ave.
Suite 1A
Reno, Nevada 89501
(775) 787-7200

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Client Information - Frequently Asked Questions

My law practice is primarily devoted to two areas: personal injury/accident law, and domestic relations/family law. I rarely take cases outside of these areas, however, I do make limited exceptions for cases where I feel I can be of a unique and excellent service to a client in select matters of criminal defense, civil rights, and real estate/construction litigation. Here below, you will find my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I get for the areas of law that I practice in. I hope you find this information helpful and informative.

Family Law - Personal Injury - Criminal Law - Civil Rights
(click on above to jump to that section)


 Domestic Relations & Family Law

 QUESTION:  What do I need to get divorced in Nevada?  

In order for a Nevada state court to assert jurisdiction over the marriage to render a divorce, either the husband or wife must be a current Nevada resident (with the intent to continue to have Nevada as his or her domicile for the indefinite future) and have lived in Nevada continuously for the six weeks prior to the filing of the divorce.  Exceptions include active military service members and annulments if you were married in Nevada.
 

QUESTION:  How much does a typical divorce cost and how long will it take? 

Unfortunately, there is no clear way to answer this question other than by saying, it depends.  As I always tell my prospective clients at the start of representation, the expense and length of the divorce process is a function of two factors: complexity and acrimony.  In other words, the gamut of cases can run from highly complex divorce involving a variety of complicated issues (such as: combined separate and community division claims on personal and real property assets and/or business valuations; alimony claims; retirement work-outs; and contentious disputes over child custody, visitation schedules and support) to relatively simple divorces (wherein the parties do not have property or debts to divide, or have already decided and agreed how to do so, and have no children or support issues or claims).  Additionally, if one or both of the parties are harboring unresolved and heavily negative emotional issues toward each other, especially anger, then the existence of such acrimony inevitably results in the divorce process taking longer and being more expensive.  
  

QUESTION:  Do I need to hire a lawyer for my divorce? 

No one has to absolutely hire an attorney to handle their divorce, however, like any other situation involving professional assistance not having an attorney on your side in a divorce entails certain risks.  Just as you might not visit your physician to treat a minor cut, you would certainly want to if facing a serious illness or injury.  If you consider that a divorce is typically the most serious encounter an average person has with the legal system, then it certainly makes sense to at least consult with an attorney to discuss what is at stake and find out if you really need one.  In using another medical analogy, you might not think a small infection is worthy of a visit to a doctor, however, there is a possibility that the infection is symptomatic of something far more serious that you don=t have the experience or training to identify.  From a legal standpoint, a divorce in no different, and you should at least pay for an initial consultation to find out if there is anything you might be overlooking. 

Frankly, I have made a lot of money fixing problems created by parties attempting to “do it themselves” and/or by using an unlicensed paralegal who cannot nor has the training to give legal advice.  I would strongly encourage hiring an attorney to represent your interests in a divorce under the following circumstances: if the other party has retained an attorney; if the marriage was for a long term and/or there are significant assets in the marital estate, especially real property or retirement accounts/pensions; if you are completely at odds with the other party regarding custody, visitation or support issues associated with the children of the marriage; if there was or is any form of abuse present in the relationship; if you are unable to deal with or communicate with a dishonest, hostile or vindictive spouse; or, if you suspect that your marital estate is being undervalued, debts are overstated, or assets are being hidden.
 

QUESTION:  What is Divorce Mediation?

          Mediation is an attempt to resolve your divorce issues with dignity, compassion and understanding.  The parties with or without their attorneys meet with the mediator for the purpose of engaging in discussions and exchanging evidence in order to resolve their marital property, custody and support differences.  All efforts are explored to settle all matters without going through the court process.  Once a settlement is reached there is no need for the parties to appear in court and be subject to the stress and related costs.  The goal is for the parties to reach and enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement.

 
QUESTION:  How is the amount of child support determined in Nevada?  

As a general rule, the amount of child support that a non-custodial parent will be ordered to pay to the custodial parent is governed by a statutorily defined percentage table of gross monthly income (Nevada Revised Statute 125B.070).  However, the law imposes statutory caps on these percentages but also allows deviation from the percentages and/or caps upon showing of special circumstances.  Additionally, the custodial status also can have an influence on the amount of support, especially if the court enters into what is called an “off-setting analysis.”
 

QUESTION:  Can alimony (spousal support) be awarded to a party in a Nevada divorce? 

Yes.  For a variety of historical reasons, Nevada courts have consistently, and sometimes generously, awarded alimony as part of the financial workout of the parties in divorce.  In general, if the parties have been married for a significant period of time (over five years), and/or there is a fairly disparate difference in the amount of income between the parties, you should expect alimony to be a major issue in the divorce.  Additionally, the law in Nevada is fairly non-specific as to whether alimony should be awarded, and if so, how much alimony is to be paid.  This means that the trial (District) court has a wide latitude of discretion on the issue of alimony, and the court will take into consideration many different factors in making those determinations.  
 

QUESTION:  I understand that Nevada is a “community property” state.  What does this mean? 

Nevada is one of only nine states in the United States to be a community property state; all the other states are considered equitable distribution jurisdictions for purposes of dividing up the marital estate at divorce.  The difference is quite important.  In non-community property states, the relative financial merits of the parties at the time of the divorce define the parameters by which a court looks to in dividing the marital estate.  But in Nevada, all the income earned and property acquired during the time of the marriage (from date of solemnization to date of divorce [not separation]) is presumed to belong to both spouses “equally” (hence the term community).  Therefore in a Nevada divorce, the starting point is that any community property will be divided equally as much as possible, unless the Court finds compelling reasons the property should be divided otherwise.

Additionally, property owned by a spouse before marriage, or acquired during the marriage by gift, inheritance or personal injury recovery for damages is considered “separate property,” and therefore under normal circumstances would return to that spouse upon divorce.  However, like most things in the law nothing is normal or simple about dividing property in a community property state such as Nevada, and in almost all instances, a variety of different factual circumstances often arise during a marriage that has the effect of changing the character and/or valuations of property making it hard to define what is separate and what is community. 
 

QUESTION:  Does Nevada recognize and enforce pre‑nuptial agreements made before the marriage? 

Yes.  Nevada has adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act which codifies the requirements and formalities for a valid “pre-nup.”  A pre-nuptial agreement is essentially a contract, and therefore, many of the issues regarding formation or enforcement flow from contract law.  As such, a pre-nuptial agreement (or some of its terms) may or may not be upheld as valid depending on a variety of legal considerations which are often very complex.  Because of the varying complexities of premarital agreements, the creation of a pre-nuptial agreement without the advice and assistance of knowledgeable legal counsel is risky business. 
 
  

QUESTION:  How is child custody determined by the Court? 

The threshold standard the Court must take into account is: what is in the best interests of the child or children?  A variety of different factors are taken into account in making this determination, some of which include but are not limited to: the stability and environment of the respective households and/or parents; issues of past parenting conduct; whether there was domestic violence in the household; the respective financial means of the parties; the desires of the child(ren), if of sufficient age; and possible relocation issues.  Additionally, in some cases the Court may order the parents to undergo independent evaluations in order to assist the Court to make the custody determination, and the Court frequently orders parties who cannot initially agree as to custody to participate in mediation.
 

QUESTION:  Can I just use a divorce kits or preprinted forms that are available?  

Family law is a complex area of the law which is not well served by simplistic forms that attempt to address all of the issues and areas concerned.  Additionally, courts typically do not inquire into the fairness of the terms of any agreement presented to it by non-represented parties.  Choosing not to retain counsel in a divorce can and does often result in one of the parties losing important custodial and/or property interests because most lay persons are not well versed in the nuances of both the substantive and procedural law. 
 

QUESTION:  What is an annulment?

An annulment is a method of voiding the contract of marriage.  If an annulment is granted, the result is that the parties are treated as if the marriage never occurred.  An annulment can only be granted if the initial marriage contract suffers from a specific defect in the formation as established by law.  Such defects include an underage party without parental consent, a party lacking the mental capacity to understand the marriage contract, or fraud in the inducement of the marriage contract.


Personal Injury & Accident Law

 

QUESTION:     I was hurt in an auto accident, what should I do?

 

First, ensure that you and others are safe.  Accident scenes can be very dangerous, and you should make sure you are protected from any further injury.  Call 911 and describe your location and the extent of your injuries.  When medical personal arrive, be very specific in describing your pain and its severity and location, and provide as much detail about the accident to the police as you can.  Don’t make any statements to anyone else at the accident scene except to the police and medical personnel for them to do their job. 

 

QUESTION:    After the accident, I was contacted by the insurance company, should I talk to them? 

 

If you feel you have been injured significantly, you should contact an personal injury attorney before talking to an insurance company.  There is usually no charge for an initial consultation with an accident attorney, and our office is no exception to that, so there is really no downside to talking to an attorney first.  Frequently in personal injury matters, an insurance company representative will attempt to contact you early on in order to get you to sign something that could very well prevent you from getting fair compensation for your case later on.  Don’t sign anything until you have a chance to talk to us.

 

QUESTION:    How do I know if I have a case such that I should contact an attorney?

 

Generally speaking, if you have been injured (either physically or emotionally) due to negligent or intentional acts of another, you may have a personal injury case.  If you have any question as to whether or not you have a case, by all means call my office and discuss the matter with me.  If I think you might have a case, then you can take full advantage of a free consultation where I can more closely examine your situation and advise you if you have a case and what you can do going forward.  The laws associated with personal injuries are complex, so it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney rather than trying to figure it out on your own. 

 

QUESTION:     How soon should I contact you for an appointment?

 

First and foremost, you should always follow the advice of your medical care provider.  Take care of your medical needs first as your health is the most important thing and legal concerns can wait.  That said, it is probably never too soon to contact an injury attorney where the liability of others to you for the harm done may exist.  The main reason I practice in this area of law is to help people, plain and simple.  Therefore, I have no hesitation in meeting with you at a hospital or your home, if need be, in order to help you assess if you have some legal rights and remedies to pursue, and if I am the right person to help you with that.  Additionally, personal injury cases have statute of limitations attached to them, meaning that you only have a certain amount of time in which to file your case, so you should never wait too long to contact an attorney.

 

QUESTION:    What does negligence mean?

 

Negligence is a legal term art associated with the failure to use such care that a reasonably prudent and careful person would use under the circumstances.  This reasonable person standard is a long-standing concept in Nevada tort (private or civil wrong or injury) law.  Generally speaking, if a person acted (or failed to act) in a negligent manner, and that negligence caused you harm (damages), the law provides for you remedies for that negligent person to be held responsible for making you whole again.

 

QUESTION:    What kinds of damages are obtainable in personal injury cases?

 

There are generally two types of damages, compensatory damages and punitive damages. 

Compensatory damages are the standard damages assigned to make‑up for injuries to the plaintiff in a tort case.  This amount can include compensation for your physical and/or emotional pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, future medical expenses, and legal fees.  Punitive damages are exemplary damages awarded over and above compensatory damages as a way to punish a defendant in aggravated circumstances such as intentional acts of harm or for gross negligence on the part of the defendant in an injury case.  These damages are also made available “to set the example” so as to deter others from committing such wrongful acts in the future. 

 

QUESTION:    Is it absolutely necessary for me to hire an attorney for my injury case?

 

It is never absolutely necessary for you to hire an attorney, however, if your case is either complex or your injuries significant, you are much better served by having an attorney so as to ensure you are fully and adequately compensated for your damages.  Accident and injury law in Nevada is highly complex, and any injury case will typically have some difficult issue(s) in any one of the following areas: state and/or federal rules of procedure, statute of limitations,  the law of negligence and causation, contributory and/or comparative fault, damages, insurance law, and subrogation rights and/or medical liens.  Furthermore, civil litigation requires a high degree of knowledge, skill and experience to obtain the maximum recovery your case deserves.

 

QUESTION:    I have not seen any television ads by your firm, you must not be a very good personal injury attorney if you can’t afford all that advertising, right?

 

Not really.  Many personal injury firms often operate on the margins of being in the “business of law” as opposed to the “practice of law.”  Such businesses rely on maintaining a large volume of injury cases generated by their mass advertising and handled by lower paid and unlicensed staff.  They then attempt to settle their cases as quickly as possible so as to not incur the heavy costs fighting with insurance companies or actually doing substantive legal work.  Such case management practices are typically to the detriment of their injury clients as their cases often settle for much less than the full value for what a case might really be worth.  I personally handle every case I take, and every case I accept is undertaken with the understanding that my client has entrusted in me to be the caretaker for getting a recovery that is both fair and complete.

 

QUESTION:    How much do you charge; what are your fees?

 

At the Law Office of Roger R. Harada we offer free initial consultations to discuss your injury case.  During that consultation, I will explain the details of how attorney’s fees and costs apply to your case, however, generally all our personal injury and tort cases are handled on a contingency fee basis.  A contingency fee is a percentage of the amount recovered on your behalf. Most often our fee is one third of the amount we collect for you, however, this may vary depending on the complexity of your case, the time involved, or the likelihood of settlement or successful resolution short of trial.  The advantages to a contingency fee arrangement is that you will not be required to pay any fees or costs up front or as the case progresses, and I only get paid when and if you get paid.  In the unlikely event your case is unsuccessful, you will owe nothing for your case to have been litigated.

 

Criminal Law

QUESTION:    I’ve been arrested, what should I do?

     First and foremost..., don’t say a word! Law enforcement officers are trained at eliciting incriminating statements from people both before and after arrest. The best thing you can do is say “I do not wish to say anything until I speak with an attorney” and say it as often as you need to. If you have been arrested, the arresting officer has already made a judgment call that enough evidence exists (probable cause) such that he/she can legally take you into custody. If you are arrested on a warrant, a judge has already made a similar such determination based upon an application by law enforcement. Either way, anything you say can and will be used against you, so you are best served by turning into a very quiet person if you are arrested. Don’t even say anything to other inmates if you can’t get out of jail quickly. You can give your identifying information at booking, but that is it. Until you have a chance to speak to your attorney, don’t say a word!

QUESTION:    What if I cannot afford an attorney, what are my options?

     Anyone accused of committing a crime is entitled to legal representation - even those who can’t afford it. This right is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and legal cases interpreting the same. If it is established that you qualify for appointed counsel, a private attorney or the Public Defenders Office will be appointed to represent you.

QUESTION:    What is bail?

     If you have been arrested, unless the crime is very extreme you will be afforded the opportunity to “post bail.” What this means is that you put up either cash or a bond as part of your promise to show up for court at a later date in order to be released from jail until then. If you don’t show up for court at your next appearance date, that money or bond will be forfeited and a warrant will be issued for your immediate arrest. If you cannot afford to post bail, and you are not otherwise released on your own recognizance (O/R), then you will have to remain in jail until such time you can post bail, are released on O/R, or your case finalizes.

QUESTION:    What is plea bargaining?

     A plea bargain is an offer from the prosecution to a person accused of a crime (also known as a “defendant”) to accept a deal that typically would be better for the defendant than if convicted straight up for the crime they are accused of committing. In this type of deal, the defendant usually pleads guilty (or no contest) in exchange for something such as a reduced charge, consideration for lighter sentencing or probation, or even an outright dismissal of the charge. The reason why the prosecution may do this is usually to avoid expending taxpayer money taking your case to trial while still getting a conviction. Whether you should accept a plea bargain should usually only be decided with the advice and counsel from your attorney.

QUESTION:    I have been accused of committing a crime, can I defend myself in court?

     You have a constitutional right to represent yourself in a court of law (unless you are deemed to have diminished mental capacity). This is something that is unique about our legal system due to notions of access to justice. Of course, there is a very common saying associated with this practice and it is: “A person who represents himself in a court of law has a fool for a client.” I always like to analogize the practice of law to the practice of medicine, where in both arenas there are varying degree of seriousness depending upon the situation. A traffic ticket is much like a sliver or minor cut, and you can easily take care of this yourself. A misdemeanor crime is like a medical condition where you might at least consult a professional to make sure it isn’t something more serious. Lastly, a felony crime is like major surgery, and in both of those situations too much is at stake to not have a professional helping you. Hospitals do not let you operate on yourself, but courts of law do, however, you can expect similar results.

 


Civil Rights

QUESTION: What are civil rights?

     In American law, civil rights are enumerated personal rights as guaranteed and protected by the U.S. Constitution (including the Bill of Rights and other amendments) and other specific federal or state laws. Generally speaking, civil rights include, but are certainly not limited to: freedom of speech and religion, the right to bear arms, the right to vote, due process of law, equal protection of the laws, freedom from unreasonable arrests or search and seizures, and protection from unlawful discrimination.

QUESTION: How are my civil rights defined?

     Civil rights are typically defined in two ways, by statutory provisions passed by Congress and state legislatures (statutory law), and through the rulings of courts, most notably the U.S. Supreme Court (common law).

QUESTION: What are the most important federal statutory laws regarding civil rights?

     The most notable federal civil rights laws are: the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (employment discrimination); Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (housing discrimination); Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

QUESTION: What are the main issues which come up in civil rights cases?

     Just like normal civil torts litigation, there are two main issues to a civil rights action: liability and damages. Liability is the determination that someone committed a wrongful act or omission upon another, and damages is how much should be assessed to make the victim whole for the harm done. However, other issues arise in civil rights cases that you don’t often see in other normal civil actions. One is that civil rights cases are also concerned with curbing future behavior, thus, if an entity is sued other objectives could include obtaining consent decrees or injunctions. Additionally, immunity issues often arise in cases where the government or government employees are being sued in the context of a claim of a civil rights case.

QUESTION: What kinds of acts or conduct give rise to civil rights cases?

     The most common civil rights cases usually arise out of illegal discriminatory conduct or overreaching by a governmental actor(s) such that civil rights are violated.

QUESTION: What is illegal discrimination?

     Discrimination per se is not illegal. One can discriminate, however, it is illegal to discriminate for a bad reason. If the basis of discrimination is one based on race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex (gender), or disability (or perceived disability) in the areas of public accommodations, employment, education, housing, or voting, it may be illegal. Additionally, if the basis of discrimination is one based on familial status it may be illegal in the context of housing, or if the basis of discrimination is one based on age it may be illegal in the context of employment.

QUESTION: What is overreaching by a governmental actor mean?

    The U.S. Constitution was crafted by our founding fathers to be a document of two main purposes: one, to define the structure and enumerated powers of our federal system of government, and two, to define the limits of that government in its relationship to its citizenry. As such, when a “state actor” does something that adversely affects a citizen, and that adverse action is proscribed by law (statutory or common), then the citizen may have a cause of action in the nature of a civil rights action. The most frequently litigated types of civil rights actions against government actors are police misconduct cases (ie: illegal arrests, excessive use of force, false evidence, etc.).

QUESTION: How do summary judgment issues affect civil rights cases?

     Due to how civil rights cases are litigated, particularly in federal court, it is very common that no settlement can be had in the case until the judge has had an opportunity to rule on a motion for summary judgment. This motion cannot be filed by the defense until after completion of the discovery process, which takes at a minimum several months and can sometimes take a year or more. Furthermore, the law generally is not as plaintiff oriented as people might be led to think from watching TV, so it is not unusual that more summary judgment motions are granted for the defendants than not. The combination of these things make civil rights cases very difficult to prosecute, and any good civil rights lawyer tends to be very selective about what cases they choose to take on. Since not very many attorneys practice in the area of civil rights, finding an attorney to take a civil rights case can often be challenging.

 


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