Swift Justice: Attorney malpractice, property lines and cruise ship health care

Dear Jackie,

I applied for disability benefits due to fibromyalgia, depression, panic disorder and chronic fatigue. These illnesses prevent me from doing any kind of work. I hired a lawyer from an ad on TV to act on my behalf, but he worked against me. He never included the disability form from my primary doctor, who wrote that I am unable to work. He also left out other necessary information and submitted inaccurate reports. He listed a doctor I saw once as my primary. At my court hearing, the state doctor found me to be totally disabled; however, the judge ruled against me, stating that she would side with the "primary" and deny my claim. My real primary doctor has been treating me for many years, and there is a long paper trail attesting to my condition. I have no source of income and do not know how I can rectify this. I am a single mother. Please help. -- Shari from Souderton, Pa.

Hi, Shari,

I am sorry to hear this happened to you. It is unfortunate that the attorney didn't do a good job. I suggest you contact your local legal aid office (http://lasp.org) and ask if they can assist you. From what you described, you would qualify for their help. If they cannot help you, ask for a referral for someone who can. Do not delay; you may have a right to challenge the decision, but there are deadlines that have to be met. If you believe that the lawyer committed malpractice, you can file a claim with the State Bar of Pennsylvania. If you are able to get a second opinion that supports the first attorney made mistakes, you may be able to file a claim against him. Good luck and contact legal aid as soon as possible.

Dear Jackie,

Upon inspection of a rental property of mine, I found that the people living next door had recently constructed a fence that is clearly on my property by at least two feet. The owner of the property accepts the fact that the fence is on my property, but he is still unwilling to move it. I called the city code compliance people, and they said that the offending neighbor was not required to get a construction permit to build the fence and that my only recourse is to pay for a survey and hire an attorney to represent me in civil court. This all sounds very expensive. Since the fence is on my property, and I've tried unsuccessfully to work with my neighbor to move it, can I just cut it down with my chain saw? What can I do that would allow me to reclaim my property without costing a small fortune. -- Rick from Williamsburg, Va.

Hi, Rick,

I don't advise you to cut it down. I agree with the information that you received from the city. I would make an appointment with an experienced property lawyer and have a consultation. You would then find out just how expensive a process it would be to have the land surveyed and potentially take the neighbor to court. You might get the neighbor to do something if he got a strongly worded letter from an attorney that described what the consequences of a lawsuit would be. If you take this one step at a time, it may not be as expensive as you believe, and you might get the result you want.

Dear Jackie,

My beloved wife and I were on a 7-day cruise when she had a major stroke on board the ship. The doctors on board could not treat her because they didn't have a CT scan unit to determine what type of stroke she suffered. The U.S. Coast Guard airlifted off 7 hours later. My question is: do we have any legal grounds to file a lawsuit for medical neglect when we were on the ship? -- Larry from Orlando, Fla.

Hi, Larry,

I am so sorry to hear about what happened to your wife. The major cruise lines belong to an organization called the Cruise Line International Association. They agree to follow health care guidelines set out by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). Here is a link to those guidelines: http://bit.ly/ZoYEkI. There is no requirement for a CT scan unit. So the answer is, no, you do not have any legal grounds to file a lawsuit for medical neglect. I hope your wife's condition has improved.

(Jackie Glass is a lawyer and former district court judge from Las Vegas, Nev. Submit your legal questions to Jackie by emailing askjudgejackie@gmail.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @theJudgeGlass. This column is being provided for informational purposes only. It may not be relied upon by you as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.)

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