Frequently Asked Questions

PERSONAL INJURY

Q. If I slip and fall on someone’s property, do they have to pay me for my injuries?
A. It depends on why you fell. Slip-and-fall cases are classified as a “tort” (a civil wrong), and based on a claim that the property owner was negligent by allowing a dangerous condition to exist that caused the slip or fall. You will have to prove that the property owner was negligent, so whenever possible, try to take photographs and get witnesses to testify on your behalf. Common slip-and-fall accidents occur when retailers allow spills to remain on the floor after they are aware of the spill. Other falls happen when there are uneven sidewalks, when rails are missing or detached, or sports stadiums are in disrepair. Every case must be evaluated for its unique set of circumstances to determine whether the property owner was negligent or the person who was injured was responsible for his injury because he/she did not exercise due diligence for his own safety.

Q. What is the statue of limitation (deadline) for filing a personal injury lawsuit?
A. Two years from the injury. If the injury was not discovered right away, then it is 1 year from the date the injury was discovered. You have to either settle the case or file a lawsuit to protect the statute of limitations. If the defendant in your case is a California governmental entity, you must file a claim for damages with that specific governmental entity within 6 months of the accident date.

EMPLOYMENT LAW

Q. The person I work for tells me that I am an independent contractor and not an employee. He does not make any payroll deductions or withholdings for taxes, social security, etc., when he pays me, and at the end of the year he provides me with an IRS form 1099 rather than a W-2. By paying me in this manner does it mean I am automatically an independent contractor?
A. No. The fact that a person who provides services is paid as an independent contractor, that is, without payroll deductions and with income reported by an IRS form 1099 rather than a W-2, is of no significance whatsoever in determining employment status. Your employer cannot change your status from that of an employee to one of an independent contractor by illegally requiring you to assume a burden that the law imposes directly on the employer, that being, withholding payroll taxes and reporting such withholdings to the taxing authorities.

Q. Does it make any difference if I am an employee rather than an independent contractor?
A. Yes, it does make a difference if you are an employee rather than an independent contractor. California’s wage and hour laws (e.g., minimum wage, overtime, meal periods and rest breaks, etc.), and anti-discrimination and retaliation laws protect employees, but not independent contractors. Additionally, employees can go to state agencies such as DLSE to seek enforcement of the law, whereas independent contractors must go to court to settle their disputes or enforce other rights under their contracts. Source: California Department of Industrial Relations)

FAMILY LAW

Q. How is the amount of child support determined?
A. Child support is determined using guidelines established by California law. Child support amounts are based on each parent’s monthly income and the amount of time the child is cared for by each parent.The Court Commissioner or Family Law Judge will set the amount of a child support order. The court will consider income from all sources. The income can be in the form of money, property, or services and can include wages from a job, tips, commissions, bonuses, self-employment earnings, unemployment benefits, disability and workers’ compensation, interest, rental income, dividends, Social Security or pensions, or any payments or credits due, including lottery and prize winnings. For more information, see the California Guideline Child Support Calculator User Guide. Or PUB 249: Establishing a Child Support Order.

Q. If either parent loses a job, or is earning more money, will child support automatically be changed?
A. No. A child support order can only be changed by a new order or a stipulation approved by the court. Either parent may request a review of the child support case if there is a change in circumstances. Support orders may be changed if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as, an increase or decrease in either parent’s earnings, a change in custody, or a change in the amount of time the child spends with each parent. For more information read: PUB 252: Changing Your Child Support Amount

TENANT-LANDLORD

Q. Under what circumstances can a landlord withhold my deposit?
A. California law specifically allows the landlord to use a tenant’s security deposit for four purposes:
For unpaid rent;
For cleaning the rental unit when the tenant moves out, but only to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in;
For repair of damages, other than normal wear and tear, caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guests; and
If the lease or rental agreement allows it, for the cost of restoring or replacing furniture, furnishings, or other items of personal property (including keys), other than because of normal wear and tear.
A landlord can withhold from the security deposit only those amounts that are reasonably necessary for these purposes. The security deposit cannot be used for repairing defects that existed in the unit before you moved in, for conditions caused by normal wear and tear during your tenancy or previous tenancies, or for cleaning a rental unit that is as clean as it was when you moved in. A rental agreement or lease can never state that a security deposit is “nonrefundable.”

Q. When is the landlord legally required to return my deposit?
A. Under California law, 21 calendar days or less after you move, your landlord must either:
Send you a full refund of your security deposit, or
Mail or personally deliver to you an itemized statement that lists the amounts of any deductions from your security deposit and the reasons for the deductions, together with a refund of any amounts not deducted.
(Source: California Department of Consumer Affairs)