When Used Car Lots Give You Lemons

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The time has finally come to retire your current set of wheels and find another trusted four-wheeled vehicle to get you from point A to point B. You’re a frugal shopper who realizes how much the value of a new car plummets once you drive it off the lot; being the bargain hunter you are, you venture over to the used car lot. After looking and kicking a few tires, you find a 3-year-old luxury car that has a price that is too good to pass up. You haggle with the salesperson over price and finally come to terms on a deal that allows you to drive your bargain treasure home. Unfortunately, just as you drive off the lot, thick white smoke bellows from underneath the hood and the wheels come clean off your discount luxury treasure. While this story is a bit of an exaggeration, it is sadly not too far from other horror stories involving used cars that have been bought by other people. While it is true that purchasing a used car is a risk-reward proposition, by taking a few simple steps, you can help make that proposition more reward and less risk.

Every vehicle in a used car lot has a story to tell and knowing that history can help you determine if there is actual value in that supposed bargain. The first step towards getting that vehicle’s story is getting its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). A VIN is a 17 digit number that can be found in one of three typical places:

-The top of the instrument panel of the vehicle;

-The base of the windshield; or

-On a sticker placed on the driver’s side pillar of the vehicle.

As a precaution, check the VIN number in all three of these locations; if any of the numbers are different, then that vehicle very likely isn’t what the dealership says it is. Having the valid VIN number allows you to obtain information on any accidents it may have been involved in, any problems the vehicle has had, and possible odometer discrepancies. For added research, see if the vehicle model’s history speaks to any recalls that took place.

While you’re on the lot, don’t be afraid to see if the vehicle passes a visual inspection test, regardless of any flack you get from a car dealer. One of the first things on the vehicle to inspect can be the tires. When taking a closer look at the tires you should be on the lookout for uneven wear, even signs of balding on the sides or the middle of the tires. A trick you can do to determine if the vehicle has been involved in any collisions, involves the use of a small magnet on your refrigerator. If you place the magnet on any of the body panels and it does not stay, chances are there is plastic body filler behind the panel, indicating that the vehicle has been involved in a collision. Used vehicles have also been known to have suffered water damage. One way to determine if the vehicle was involved in a flood is to feel around the top of the gas tank underneath the vehicle to see if there is any mud or leaves. When conducting the test drive of the vehicle, it’s advisable to have a checklist of things to be watching for. Is the engine making noises that do not seem normal to you? Do the usual lights illuminate the dashboard that are supposed to when you start up the vehicle (i.e. “check engine”, “ABS”, etc.)? Does the car pull to the left or right when applying the brakes? These are a few things to be mindful of throughout your test drive.

As you wrap up your used car shopping experience, there are a few more steps to take after you bring it home. If after the visual inspection of the vehicle and the test drive you still feel uneasy about your prospective purchase, have your mechanic give the vehicle a closer look. Verify that the title for the vehicle exists; contact the department of motor vehicles in your area to determine what is needed to get the vehicle titled to you. Finally, have the terms of the vehicle purchase presented for you to review; have a clear understanding of the stated condition of the vehicle and how it is to be delivered to you.

While purchasing a vehicle can be a bit of a hassle, following these tips should hopefully make the fruits of your next excursion to the used car lot a productive one. If you suspect that you were sold a vehicle with major defects that have caused some kind of damage to you or your loved ones, please reach out to the Law Offices of Michael Cordova to determine if anything can be done for you.

How to Avoid Toy Mishaps

So it’s another weekday afternoon and your child is watching her favorite cartoon. During a commercial break, they show an advertisement for a zip line, just in time for Christmas. Your child proclaims, “I want it!” Christmas Day comes and one of the presents she unwraps is that very zip line toy-storeshe saw on TV. Once it’s set up, she takes her maiden voyage on the zip line from the roof to the fence of her yard. Before you know it, the line collapses a third of the way into her journey, causing her to fall to the ground and break her arm. Unfortunately, this scenario is not too far from reality; something similar happened to a zip line purchaser in Louisiana. There are steps that can be taken to prevent new toy mishaps from ruining Christmas.

If the child you are buying for doesn’t have a wish list and you are trying to figure out what to get him or her, there are some simple guidelines to adhere to in your gift shopping. One thing to keep in mind is the age of the child you are buying a toy or gift for. See if there are instructions on the packaging that speak to proper use of the item; based on the age of the child, the instructions should tell you if the item is age appropriate for them or not. While on the topic of age appropriateness, if the child you are buying for is under 8 years of age, try to stay away from toys or items that have parts that could break off or have points and edges that are sharp. It is also best to steer clear of any toys or items that have small parts that could become lodged inside a child’s throat; these are items that typically have warning labels or suggested age listings on the packaging.

When you’re at the store attempting to fulfill some of the items on your children’s wish list, there are some basics to follow to make sure that dream item doesn’t turn into a nightmare. If anything with wheels is on your child’s wish list, like bicycles, hoverboards, skateboards or scooters and they don’t already have a helmet, make sure you get one to go along with their wheeled gift. If a toy is an electronic gadget, something to be wary of are the batteries that power the device; the batteries tend to be small in size. If you can find a suitable alternative that doesn’t require “button” batteries, all the better. If you can’t, try to take some steps to ensure that the batteries are not easily accessible or draw their attention away from the area where the batteries are placed. Based on the age of your child, there are some toys that you should refuse to buy for them. Such toys would be a projectile, like a rocket or fires off a projectile, and a BB gun; these should only be purchased if you feel they will handle the item appropriately.

It turns out there are counterfeit toys that appear to be legit when you initially see them. The hot toys are typically the ones that get counterfeited the most. Two of the reasons counterfeit toys give rise for concern are the lack of quality in the product and the safety dangers they pose. Customs officers spotted a mini-ATV vehicle that did not have a required emissions system, and they also found a mini-car where the hubcaps came off the wheels rather easily. To help gift buyers from sinking money into these phony products, customs officers urge shoppers to only buy from reputable merchants and to pay attention to the price that is given versus the going retail price for that toy.

By adhering to some of these guidelines, you will go a long ways towards keeping those holiday smiles from sinking into frowns grimaces because of your gift. If you feel that you or a loved one was seriously hurt from a toy or other item that was given to you as a gift, feel free to reach out the Law Offices of Michael Cordova to see if there is anything that can be done to help.

Computer Safety & Precautions

Computer Safety

So you are sitting in front of your computer to start another day and you start sifting through the heap of emails that await you. In the process of parsing through the seemingly endless stream of messages, you come across an email with a link to a website attached to it. The message on the email states, “Get more done with less time.” The message prompts you to click on the link below to discover these useful tips. Just after clicking the link, you try to move the mouse on your computer and you notice that the cursor does not move. Then you try keyboard commands to close down the
program to no avail. All of a sudden, you see the cursor start moving, without you having to move the mouse. The cursor is heading towards the folder on your computer desktop where you keep vital files about your company’s clients. This is, without a doubt, a scenario that gives many executives and information technology professionals many sleepless nights. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to minimize the chances of having a nightmare scenario like this playing out, and keeping your computer safe.

One of the first and most obvious steps to take is to ensure that your computers have anti-virus and anti-spyware software installed on them. There are some fundamentals to be mindful of regarding this basic step in protecting your computer environment. Anti-virus and anti-spyware programs are designed to keep an eye out for malware that has found its way on to your computers and eliminate them. Some anti-virus and anti-malware software is savvy enough to detect programs that have aspects of malware and prevent them from running on your computers. When finding the right protection for your environment, you want to be cautious that you do not get an anti-virus or anti-spyware system that takes up resources on your computers, causing sluggish performance. The other thing to be mindful about regarding these software programs is that they only protect against “known” threats; if a malware program is not on the definitions list of the anti-virus or anti-spyware software you have, it will not detect that malicious program. The lesson: Don’t put all of your cyber-security eggs in one cyber-security basket.

In your efforts to reduce your exposure to unwanted visitors in your computer environment, make a concerted effort to people proof your computer environment. One of the first things to stress to computer users in your office is to not click on links in emails from unknown parties. The enticement to click on a link on an email is an example of a “Trojan horse” attack; these types of attack require that the user take the steps to place the malware on the computer. Many of those links contain a malicious software program to run that allows an unwanted visitor to have access to your computer and everything in it. Allowing unknown and unscreened devices to interact with the computer can have the same effect as clicking on those email links; some thumb drives and smartphones can have malicious software on them that become active the moment that you plug them into a computer. Instituting a device control policy where your employees or colleagues have to get authorization before plugging a gadget or drive into the computer can eliminate one avenue available to hackers and their attempts to access your computers.

If hackers cannot trick your employees or colleagues into opening a door for them to get into your computer environment, they will see if you have left them an opening to hop on as a member of your wi-fi network. Many computers have the ability to detect nearby wi-fi routers in your area so that you can get connected to the internet; unfortunately, it is also a way to gain access to a network of computers. That also means gaining visibility to any financial transactions that may have been processed through the router. To ensure that your interactions on the internet and on your network are not available to unwanted visitors, installing a router with encryption protocols should be highly preferred. Encryption protocols for a router are those that require a user name and password to be entered in order to gain access to the network. If you find yourself in a situation where you have a wireless router that is not encrypted, there are few steps in this link from ZDNet that can make it harder for unwanted visitors to gain access to your network.

While it is an exciting time for the internet and the plethora of devices connected to it, the right amount of vigilance and carefulness can make the journey through the internet a little less scary. If you feel that you or people you know have been harmed by another party that has gained unwanted access to your computer, feel free to reach out the Law Offices of Michael Cordova so we can determine if there is anything that can be done.

Black Friday Is Coming

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It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and a shopper is in position for the time honored tradition in our country…standing in an optimal spot outside of a neighborhood store to be first through the door to commence Black Friday shopping. When the doors finally open, the person races through the door like they are storming a castle. Unfortunately, in the rush to get into the store, they accidentally get tripped up by another eager shopper and fall to the ground. While on the ground, other shoppers stomp over the person in a mad dash to get to the bargains. The stampede leaves them hospitalized for weeks due to massive internal injuries. What I have just described is one of the worst nightmares of a business owner on Black Friday, someone getting hurt on their premises.

In many states, business property owners have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure their premises are safe for customers. The law typically defines “reasonable” as what a person of ordinary intelligence and judgment would do under similar scenarios. There are simple steps to take in order to minimize your business’ liability in the event an injury happens; properly inspecting the premises for hazards, correcting or cleaning the hazard, or posting a warning so customers can be aware.

No one should expect a business or property owner to know of a potential hazard every second of operating hours; that’s an unrealistic expectation. Having some best practices established for an inspection of your premises falls under the category of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Create a regular checklist of the things and areas of your premises that are under your business’ control. As your business changes, the checklist might have to be amended as well to ensure you are covering all of your bases. Once you create that checklist, it’s vital to figure out how often throughout the day to inspect the premises in order to catch those potential hazards that need to be addressed.

While it is easier said than done sometimes, the next step should be figuring out how to fix or clean up the potential hazard. Keeping a good stock of household cleaning supplies is always a good idea for those messes that can cause slip-and-fall accidents. If you are in a business where stocked merchandise can cause serious harm to a customer, it may be time to rethink how and where your business stocks its merchandise. Unfortunately, there are some hazards that simple household supplies or restocking cannot remedy. Structural hazards and health problems like mold require time and financial resources to address. While you are working to address those problems, all you can do is give your customers a heads up as to what’s going on.

Giving your customers sufficient warning of a hazard on your premises can minimize liability to your business. When you think of a sufficient warning, the best practice would be to figure out what will grab a customer’s attention. If you are addressing a hazard on your premises that requires significant labor, putting a sign up stating “open during construction” and partitioning off the area of the store that needs work should be effective ways of getting your point across. If it’s a simple mess that could cause a slip and fall accident that can’t get cleaned up right way, a warning that stands out will be needed. Putting brightly colored hazard markers, like cones or a yellow “wet floor” sign, should get the message across that there is something on the floor to steer clear of or to be careful of as they navigate through your facility.

Running a business has enough hazards to be mindful, let alone the ones that can actually hurt people. While it’s impossible to eliminate all risks of physical harm from occurring on your business premises, these steps should send a clear message that you are doing what any reasonable business owner is expected to do.

However, if you have been hurt at on a business property and you suspect that the property owners may have been negligent in their duties, please contact The Law Offices of Michael Cordova to see if there is anything that can be done for you.

Making Halloween Less Scary

halloween-safetySo it’s that time of year again when youngsters of the neighborhood embark on a one night vigil, presenting themselves from house to house, in search of sweet treats. In the midst of greeting the costumed crusaders of Halloween at your house, you discover that you are quickly running short of candy. So in a rush to get ready for the next wave of trick-or-treaters, you hop into your car to quickly get to the closest supermarket. In your rush to back out of your driveway, you almost miss some small object that darts across the driveway, causing you to slam on your brakes. That small object you almost did not see was a little kid dressed up like Darth Vader. While this hypothetical situation had a happy ending, there are many times when it does not end so happy. The National Safety Council has found that the month of October ranks second to August when it comes to deaths caused by motor vehicles. This is just one of the horrors that goes through a parent’s mind as their children eagerly await the nocturnal trek around the neighborhood on Halloween. Fear not, there are some simple things that can be done to help take the fright out of trick-or-treating for parents on Halloween.

To minimize the chances of a driver and your little trick-or-treater having a frightful encounter, there are some simple, yet helpful measures you can implement. Reinforce tried and true safety tips with your kids before they go out and about on the street for Halloween night. Reminding your kids to look in both directions before crossing the street and to do so at a traffic signal or crosswalk will help to make the trick-or-treating venture less scary for all parties involved. Telling your kids to maintain eye contact with drivers on the road can be an effective way to tell them whether or not you intend to cross the street. Unfortunately, if your child has a penchant for using gadgets while walking around, making that eye contact could be a problem. You might make it a requirement that they leave the gadgets at home before embarking on their neighborhood journey for candy. When thinking of costumes, try to steer them away from costumes that might make your child obscured from the view of another vehicle or obstruct how easily your child can see things around them. It goes without saying that adult supervision is highly encouraged during your child’s annual candy vigil around the neighborhood.

The other frightening aspect of trick-or-treating for many parents are the treats themselves.  With some precautions, treats can be safe and not scary. If you want to make sure that that your kids don’t try to eat the contents of their trick-or-treat bags before they get home, give them something to snackscreen-shot-2016-10-26-at-12-03-06-pm on or whip up a quick meal for them, before they embark on their Halloween journey. Some treats can have unpleasant surprises you cannot see. Stress to your kids to only take treats that have been commercially wrapped (i.e. Milky Way, Reese’s, etc.); it decreases the likelihood that the treat has been tampered with. If you have kids that are pre-school age that are going on their first trick-or-treating venture, accompany them to make sure they don’t end up with choking hazards as treats (i.e. gum, hard candies, etc.).

Hopefully these safety tips make Halloween more fun and less frightening for everyone in the family. Should you feel that your child has been harmed in some way by negligence this Halloween, feel free to reach out to the Law Offices of Michael Cordova to see what we can do to be of help.

On behalf of everyone at the Law Offices of Michael Cordova, have a safe and happy Halloween!