Avoiding Ten Common Legal Pitfalls


  1. CAN I RETURN MY PURCHASE?
  2. Pitfall: If I get buyer's remorse after making a purchase, I can return the purchased item within the three day cooling-off period.

    False: Generally the federal and state consumer sales three-day cooling off period only applies to uninvited home solicitations. When in doubt consult an attorney.

  3. BUT THE SALES PERSON PROMISED!!!
  4. Pitfall: If a sales person writes down any promises made during purchase negotiations regarding repairs or other features on a product, these promises become a part of the final contract.

    False: A common car sales tactic during negotiations is to write down promises of repair or other promises but then leave such promises off of the final contract. Sometimes this is accompanied by another oral promise that the previously made promise will in fact be honored. However, often such promises are not kept and if promises are not kept and if promises are not contained in the final contract, the dealer, (unless fraud was committed), is not legally bound by such promises. Make sure all promises are in the final contract.

  5. LEGAL ADVICE IS TOO EXPENSIVE!
  6. Pitfall: Unless the problems that need to be resolved are too difficult to handle alone or are extremely complex, a legal consultation with an attorney is so expensive that it's better not to seek legal advice.

    False: Many people do not consult with an attorney on legally related problems or unwisely rely upon insurance agents or others to protect their interests until the problem becomes so serious that it becomes substantially expensive to resolve or, in some cases, unresolvable. Through the Utah Bar you can arrange to see an attorney for a half hour for $15.00 and many attorneys, depending on the particular legal problem, may offer a free consultation. Most large corporations, governments and other businesses frequently refer to their retained attorneys when any legal question or problem presents itself and thereby take pro-active action and actually save money. You should follow this corporate practice and realize that consulting sooner rather than later can mean great savings in the long run. Consult early to save money and protect your interests.

  7. SORRY, GET IT IN WRITING NEXT TIME BUSTER!
  8. Pitfall: Oral contracts are not enforceable.

    False: Sometimes oral contracts are not enforceable, such as those involving the purchase of real estate or when assuming the debts of another individual. However, many oral contracts are enforceable. The real problem is proof that a contract actually been made and proving what the contract terms were. The prudent course is to put it in writing.

  9. RECORDED CONVERSATIONS?
  10. Pitfall: It is illegal to secretly tape a conversation.

    False: While there may be some moral, ethical and other reasons that would make it inappropriate to record a conversation, it is not illegal and such recordings can and have been used in some cases to demonstrate what was said on a particular occasion. In Utah, as long as you are a party to conversation you can record it with or without giving notice to the individuals that are speaking with you.

  11. PROPERTY DAMAGE WHILE PROPERTY IS BEING SHIPPED.
  12. Pitfall: If a moving company or a shipping company damages or loses my property, I'll be paid in full for my losses.

    False: With limited exceptions, there are many Federal and State laws that limit such businesses' liability. To avoid such problems, you need to ensure that all property that is moved is sufficiently described as far as its condition and if you want to be fully reimbursed for any losses that occur, you need to make sure that you purchase the additional insurance that is offered to provide this type of coverage.

  13. TAKING LEGAL ACTION ONLY BENEFITS ATTORNEYS
  14. Pitfall: If I take legal action to request compensation from an insured person for harm I suffered because of the person, this will have the affect of: (1) clogging up the courts, (2) increasing everyone's insurance premiums, and (3) causing individuals that I seek compensation from to lose his or her insurance.

    False: While it is true that insurance premiums are based upon the risk that the particular insurance covers and that some attorneys have high incomes, indications are that litigation among private citizens has decreased while litigation among business entities has increased. Moreover, contrary to insurance industry propaganda, there is no insurance crisis and in fact indications are that the salaries of insurance company CEO's have been increasing at a higher rate than has the payments for liabilities covered by insurance. A little appreciated fact is that because of our legal tradition, we have the safest surroundings in the world to live in, work in, and raise our families in at a savings of billions of dollars in human misery.

  15. TRUSTS ARE THE GREATEST THINGS SINCE TAX REFORM.
  16. Pitfall: If I put all of my personal and real property in a trust that is effective both during my life time and at my death, I can avoid any litigation or court involvement with my estate over the distribution of my assets.

    False: The document or strategy has yet to be invented that will unfailingly prevent relatives, creditors or other persons from taking court action to contest the distribution of your estate upon your death. Nevertheless, with good estate planning and preparation such problems can be minimized. Also, even though a person has a trust, one should also have a Will. The Will provides an important safety net in the event that the trust fails or may be necessary to appoint a guardian for minor children.

  17. TO VOLUNTARILY QUIT OR BE TERMINATED, THAT IS THE QUESTION.
  18. Pitfall: Faced with the possibility of being terminated from employment, it is better that I resign first rather than be fired.

    False: Although it depends on the circumstances of each individual case, most often, because of the legal rights that are lost in doing so, it is not prudent to resign when you may imminently be terminated. Moreover, the reference that your employer gives to potential future employers is often more important in securing future employment than the characterization of the reason for your departure.

  19. CAN I FIRE MY ATTORNEY?
  20. Pitfall: Once I have retained an attorney to help me on a particular matter, it is not possible to terminate my attorney and hire another one.

    False: My experience has been that most attorneys are conscientious and do a competent job. Nevertheless, in no other endeavor is it more important that you and your attorney are very comfortable with each other and work together as a team to achieve your legal goals. It is therefore indispensable that whatever attorney you hire, that you are completely satisfied and comfortable with that representation. If not, (if on speaking terms) discuss your concerns with your attorney, and if your concerns are not addressed and you can do so with no adverse consequence to your case or your finances, it is perfectly acceptably to seek other representation.