The Moak Law Firm September 2019

Concrete Over Convenience The Power of the Written Word

A Bankruptcy and Personal Injury Attorney You Can Trust


E ven for those of us who don’t for back-to-school sales aren’t going to let us forget it! As the new school year starts, I’ve been thinking about the things we learn in life that they don’t teach you in school. Math, history, and English courses turn us into well- rounded people, but no classroom syllabus includes how to recover from a bad break up or how credit really works. These are lessons that come with life experience. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is to write more letters and not rely on my phone so much. In today’s work, it has become awfully convenient for people to make a phone call instead of sitting down to write a letter. I’m not talking about writing thank-you notes or sending letters to loved ones, though we should do these things, too. When I say we should write letters more often, I have a more practical motivation: I use letters to document events. This is something I talk about a lot with my clients, especially my bankruptcy clients. If they’re having a problem and I ask, “Did you notify the creditor that this was happening,” the response I often get is, “Yeah, I called them!” Calling a creditor about your situation may seem like the fastest way to fix the problem, but there are actually a lot of drawbacks. have kids at home, fall is back-to- school season. All the ads on TV First, how can you prove you called? Today, you can pull up your phone records with relative ease, but that brings us to the second problem: How do you prove what was said during that conversation? This is where taking the time to write a letter trumps the convenience of a phone call. This holds true for any situation. From the standpoint of trying to document what actually happened, it’s so important for a person to write a letter because then you

“One of the most

important lessons I’ve learned in life is to write more letters and not rely on my phone so much.”

have a clear record of events. There’s no back and forth between you and the caller, claiming they said one thing while you said another. Everyone has different versions of the same event, but a letter can help get your facts straight. It also helps to prove that, yes, you did share this information when you said you did. Not to say that letters are gospel truth. Anyone can tweak the facts to suit their narrative, but if you want to keep the facts straight for yourself, writing a letter can really help. There’s an old saying: “One dull pencil is worth two sharp minds.” Basically, don’t trust your memory. The human mind forgets details so quickly, no matter how smart you are, so taking the time to record things ensures you remember them in the long run. I’ve been using examples of business and bankruptcy, but the written word is becoming a lost art. Kids use social media instead of journals, and few couples still write love letters. Without the written word, cherished moments easily become lost to time. As convenient as a phone might be, taking the time to write something down tends to pay off more in the long run.

–Walter E. “Pete” Moak


September 2019

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Happy Birthday to Who? The Strange History of ‘Happy Birthday’

Is your calendar full of birthday parties this month? You’re not alone. In the United States, more people are born in September than in any other month, meaning Americans will sing many choruses of “Happy Birthday” this month. This popular tune has a surprisingly controversial history. First composed by sisters Mildred and Patty Hill in 1893, the

By the 1930s, “Happy Birthday” appeared all over in films and on the radio, prompting Mildred and Patty’s sister, Jessica, to secure the copyright to “Happy Birthday” due to its similarity to “Good Morning to All.” In 1988, Warner Music acquired the copyright, and the song’s ingrained popularity ensured a profit. They reportedly made $2 million a year on royalty charges. The

Due to its age and popularity, many people have insisted “Happy Birthday” is, or at least should be, in the public domain. When Warner Music tried to charge filmmaker Jennifer Nelson royalties to make a film about the song, she filed a lawsuit. Her attorneys uncovered a 1922 songbook featuring “Happy Birthday” without any copyright notice. They even suggested Warner Music knowingly hid the songbook because it proved “Happy Birthday” had been in the public domain for decades. In 2015, a U.S. judge ruled that “Happy Birthday” is not under copyright. So, the next time you record guests singing “Happy Birthday” at a birthday party, you don’t have to worry about paying royalties if you upload it online. the other is a Honda worth $8,000. Only the pickup falls under the motor vehicle exemption. If a judgment is passed against you, your creditors could make you sell the Honda. An experienced bankruptcy attorney might suggest their client find a friend or family member who would be able to give them a $2,000 loan in exchange for a lien on the Honda. The family member would then record the lien with the Department of Motor Vehicles, signaling another party has a security investment in the car. Next, the client would have to spend all of the $2,000. Now both the Honda and the pickup truck fall under the motor vehicle exemption and can’t be taken away by creditors when the client files for bankruptcy. Need to file for bankruptcy but worried about losing your property? Call 480-755-8000 to learn how you can protect your assets and get out of debt.

Walt Disney Company paid $5,000 to use the song in a parade, and many documentaries were also impacted by the copyright. The civil rights documentary “Eyes on the Prize” never made it to DVD

familiar melody originally belonged to a song called “Good Morning to All,” a song the sisters sang to their students every morning. Over time, the word “birthday” entered variations of the song and became a popular party tune.

because the royalties charge on a scene of Martin Luther King celebrating his birthday was so high.

Do I Have to Sell My Car? Exemption Laws Protect Your Assets During Bankruptcy

In Arizona, there are exemption laws that protect pension and retirement accounts, wages to a certain amount, homesteads up to $150,000, and personal property up to $6,000. Exemption laws can even protect your car. Arizona has a $6,000 motor vehicle exemption. This means if your car has less than $6,000 in equity, you will not be required to sell your car to pay back your debts. However, if your car is valued at $7,500, a creditor could require you to sell your car. It should be noted that if a debtor has some sort of physical disability, their motor vehicle exemption is increased to $12,000. Understanding exemption laws and knowing how to make them work in your favor is a valuable skill. Fear of losing assets is why most people put off filing for bankruptcy, but this is where bankruptcy attorneys are the most valuable. Let’s say you and your spouse have two cars. One is a pickup truck worth $4,000 and

Being in debt is troubling enough, but aggressive creditors often make the situation worse with scare tactics to make debtors pay money they don’t have. Some creditors have threatened to make debtors sell their clothes or even their hair in order to help pay back their debts. As scary as these threats sound, rest assured that creditors are not allowed to force you to do this. There are laws in every state, called “exemption laws,” that protect people from losing certain property to a creditor.

Do you know anyone overwhelmed with debt o

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Comparative Fault in Personal Injury Cases

We were recently involved in a case representing a woman who had been hit in a car accident. The other driver told their insurance company that our client had been speeding, which would have made her partially responsible for the accident. As a result, the insurance company decided that they were only going to pay a percentage of what they were legally obligated to cover. When multiple parties involved in an accident share responsibility for the accident, it’s called comparative fault. The law takes into account scenarios when one person might not be entirely to blame for the circumstances of an accident. When this happens, the defendant only has to pay a percentage of the damages owed, usually the percentage of their fault. Comparative fault doesn’t mean that you cannot collect damages if you were partially responsible for an accident that left you injured. If you are found partially at fault, you may be entitled to less damages, but you can still be compensated for your injuries. While comparative fault can help properly assign responsibility for an accident, insurance companies love to use comparative fault to get

out of their legal responsibilities and pay less money. This is what we saw in our recent car accident case. Fortunately, we had evidence that showed the other driver’s story was inaccurate. After the car accident, our client had the presence of mind to take photos, recording the damage done to the vehicles and the debris left on the road. She also talked to the other driver, who claimed they hadn’t seen her car at all. Most importantly, our client made the other driver stay at the scene and called the police. The police were able to get an official record of the accident, which was used as evidence in our case. With this evidence, we were able to prove that the other driver was lying about seeing our client speeding, making the insurance company pay the full amount our client was entitled to. This is why is it so important to collect evidence after a car accident, if you are able to, and to always get a police report. This evidence can paint a clear picture of the accident and keep claims of comparative fault from preventing you from getting the full damages you are owed.

Who’s to Blame?

Classic Apple Crisp

Word Search

What do you do when apples are in season but you don’t have time to make a pie? You opt for a crisp, of course.



1. Heat oven to 350 F.

Filling •

5 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped 1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

2. In a mixing bowl, mix all filling ingredients together. Transfer to individual serving ramekins. 3. In a different mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt for the topping. Mix in butter until it forms lumps roughly the size of a pea, then stir in pecans. Sprinkle topping over filling.

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3 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 tbsp maple syrup 1 tbsp lemon juice

Topping: •

3/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/3 cup brown sugar 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

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4. Bake for 35–40 minutes, let stand for 10 minutes, and serve.

1/4 tsp salt

6 tbsp chilled butter, cut into pieces 1/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped


Inspired by Food Network

who was injured in an accident? We can help!

480-755-8000 • 3

480-755-8000 1820 E. Ray Road Chandler, AZ 85225


We are ranked by Ranking Arizona as the #2 Law Firm that deals with Creditor’s rights and Bankruptcy.

INSIDE This Issue


The Best Piece of Advice


Who Can Sing ‘Happy Birthday’? Filing for Bankruptcy? Exemption Laws Protect Your Assets! What If I Was Partially Responsible for My Accident? Classic Apple Crisp



Honoring the Canines of 9/11

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, thousands of New Yorkers took to the streets to clear rubble, offer supplies, and search for survivors. It was a powerful act of resilience in a deeply trying time, and while most of the individuals helping with the disaster stood on two feet, more than 300 canines also answered the call to service. Dogs of all breeds and backgrounds, including search and rescue dogs, police dogs, service dogs, and therapy dogs, were brought in to help find and care for survivors in the wake of the destruction. They worked tirelessly alongside rescue crews as they searched through the debris. Search and rescue dogs and their handlers worked 12–16-hour days, searching for survivors and victims. They worked through dangerous conditions: Many dogs burned their paws as they dug through

hot rubble, and both handlers and canines inhaled toxic dust. The task was both physically and mentally exhausting for the dogs during their shifts. Some dogs that found deceased victims refused to eat or interact with other animals. Search and rescue dogs became increasingly stressed and depressed

the longer they searched without any results, mirroring their handlers. It wasn’t uncommon for handlers to stage mock “findings” of survivors to keep the dogs’ spirits up. Fortunately, the sacrifices these dogs and their handlers made did not go unnoticed. Many dog owners were inspired to earn their search and rescue certifications after the events of 9/11, promising to aid in future disasters and hopefully lessen the impact of such catastrophes. the effect this kind of work has on animals, both physically and mentally. Many of these studies wouldn’t be possible without the AKC Canine Health Foundation, so if you’re looking to give back this September, visit them at their website to see how you can help: After 9/11, various researchers conducted many studies examining

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