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Green Home Can Keep Your Finances in the Black

Employing green practices around the house is more than just a trend these days. While going green benefits the environment, it can also benefit your family’s finances. At the heart of the household green movement is the requirement to be energy efficient and to make choices that are ultimately healthier for your household as well as for the planet. The following text offers a myriad of cost-saving ways to transform your home into a green space.

Tackling the home’s energy efficiency is the first step in its green transformation. Checking the house’s insulation is the first measure to safeguard its energy efficiency. Buying new insulation isn’t a glamorous purchase, but it will be a cost-saving measure for the future. Good insulation means that the home stays well-heated and well-cooled so that you are not over-taxing your heating and cooling systems and paying for them to heat and cool the great outdoors surrounding your home. Old windows are, of course, a major culprit in the energy efficiency game. New windows are a big expense, but one that will also save money in the long run. Covering drafty windows using special window insulation kits can help cut down on energy costs too if installing new windows is not an option right away. These kits are available at most home improvement centers.

Installing awnings or other types of sun-blocking overhangs is another option to keep the air conditioner from running more than necessary. Blocking out the sun from windows is helpful to keep the home several degrees cooler. Vine-covered pergolas and trees make excellent sun blocks as well. There are many ways to consider when it comes to keeping the home cooler without running the air conditioning system which should be explored in order to cut down on energy costs for your particular dwelling.

Of course, sunlight can also work for the home’s overall efficiency. Placing desks and reading chairs near windows can help keep electric costs lower if you use natural lighting before flicking on a light switch. Installing solar panels might be a good option to harness the sun’s power to work for your home. While the initial monetary output can be costly, these costs can be made up over time with the money saved in electricity usage. Keeping lights switched off when not needed is also an important green practice to employ around the house. Similarly, do not heat and cool rooms that are not regularly used in order to keep energy costs low.

During the energy assessment process, be sure to safeguard water efficiency. Leaky faucets should be fixed. When purchasing new appliances like dishwashers and washing machines, be sure to opt for energy efficient models. Replace old shower heads with new efficient models. Water is likely to become more expensive in the future so employing strategies to conserve water now is going to be beneficial to your finances as well as to the planet. Water is important to the garden too and going green definitely means assessing the water needs of your landscape. Consider drought-resistant plantings as well as native plants so you can keep water use down around the outside of the home.

A green home also means choosing green products to bring into it. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if a product is truly green; some research is necessary to determine the exact nature of a product’s efficiency or if that product is as truly easy for the environment to renew as the salesperson informs you. Try to choose products with an established green reputation. For example, bamboo is a great renewable resource that is making its way into western markets; consider it for flooring, cabinetry, and even furniture. Renewable resources must also be biodegradable. Look for materials made from agricultural crops when making a new purchase.

Also, it makes perfect green sense to install used items around the home. Salvage shops, flea markets, and thrift stores are treasure troves of perfectly functional items that can be purchased for a song. Items like old doors, garden gates, lighting fixtures can be saved from landfills and usefully employed in homes. Reusing items is a green practice that saves money for the homeowner and benefits the environment at the same time. Estate sales and yard sales are also great venues to find perfectly salvageable items.

When it is necessary to purchase new items, consider asking some important questions about the nature of the product and its green identity. Consider the energy required to make the item as well as the energy it will require from you when in use. Try to opt for items made locally because that means it took less energy in the form of fuel to get it to you. Ask if the product is toxic in anyway and if it is biodegradable. Read consumer reviews—many of which now take green considerations into account.

Going green and staying green around the home takes commitment and careful planning as well as continued assessment. Assessing energy use around the house and choosing green purchases will benefit both your pocketbook and the environment in the long run. Being green is a healthy lifestyle that is more than a trend; it’s a new way of life.


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Lawyers The Collateral Source Rule

Imagine that you are in a car accident and sustain $100,000 in medical bills. You sue the person who caused the accident and you go to trial. At the trial the defendant wants to introduce evidence that, of the $100,000 in medical bills that you claim, $80,000 of that amount has actually been paid by your health insurance. The defendant asks the judge to give him credit for the bills your health insurance paid so he would end up only owing you $20,000 on your medical bills. The arguments before the judge are pretty straight forward. You argue that you paid the premiums on that health insurance policy and the defendant should not be allowed to take advantage of your foresight (and your premium payments) to shield himself from his legal liability.

The defendant acknowledges that you paid the premium, but argues that the point of the lawsuit is to compensate you for your actual loss. If you get to present those $80,000 in medical bills to the jury as if they are "unpaid" that would simply be a lie. If the jury awarded you the additional $80,000, you would be receiving money to compensate you for dollars you never spent. You would, the defendant argues, be getting a “windfall.” What does the judge do?

The "collateral source rule" has traditionally required that American judges rule in your favor on this question. The courts decided many years ago that the defendant, who caused your injuries, should not be rewarded because of your foresight in purchasing health insurance. Under this rule, the jury will never even hear that $80,000 of your medical bills have already been paid. Presuming the jury gives you any award at all, they will do so believing that you stand before them still owing $100,000 in medical bills.

Another wrinkle in the argument is the fact that most health insurers have "subrogation rights." Subrogation rights are the insurer's contract or statutory right to force you, their policy holder, to repay them if you recover money from the person who caused your injuries. If a jury hears you have been paid $80,000 by your health insurer, they then might only award you $20,000 because they believe the rest of your medical bills have been paid. Unfortunately, your insurance company would still take the $20,000 from you as "subrogation" to help pay them back for the $80,000 in medical bills that they paid for.

This leaves you with nothing, other than an attorney to pay and the frustrations of having gone through a lawsuit. You paid $20,000 of your medical bills yourself, but your insurance company grabs it all using their subrogation rights. The collateral source rule is supposed to keep this from happening. Under the collateral source rule, the jury makes its damage calculation without knowing of the insurance payment, or any health insurer's subrogation rights.

You, theoretically, get compensated for all of your medical bills and you are left to work out any subrogation repayment with your insurance company.
The example is about an auto accident. However, the collateral source rule applies in many other personal injury cases such as medical malpractice, products liability and injuries from assaults. It can also apply in cases that do not involve personal injury. For example, if someone’s negligence causes your house to burn down, the collateral source rule says that you can sue the negligent party for the full amount of damages, despite the fact that some of those damages may have been paid for by your fire insurance company.

The traditional collateral source rule was originally developed when the only monetary protection that injured parties had, if any, was health or accident insurance.
However, the law has had to adjust to many new "collateral sources" over the years. Injured parties may now be compensated by workers’ compensation, various government benefits (Medicare, Medicaid), disability insurance, life insurance, uninsured motorist insurance and auto medical payments (or “PIP”) insurance. Rulings have varied on whether these new sources are covered by the rule and in some cases legislation has determined the result. For example, what if you were in the same wreck, but you were on the job at the time and your bills were paid by your employer's workers' compensation coverage?

Defendants point out that you are not paying your employer's workers' compensation insurance premiums, so the collateral source rule should not apply. However, in most states workers' compensation recovery is still considered a collateral source. Courts and legislatures, both state and federal, have had to wrestle with when the rule applies and when it does not, depending on the type of case and from what "source" the plaintiff's damages were paid.

Courts in different jurisdictions have disagreed as to whether a plaintiff is entitled to the protection of the collateral source rule if the plaintiff has received payment from one of these new "sources." As explained above, the plaintiff’s right to claim the protection of the collateral source rule is often tied to the fact that the plaintiff must honor an insurer’s subrogation rights and return at least a portion of his recovery to the insurer. Legislation or regulation has also strengthened the subrogation rights of many of these sources, or has granted the government or the insurer a lien on the plaintiff's right of recovery. This helps force the plaintiff to repay the insurer, or government, after a settlement or jury verdict.

To complicate matters further, many states have adopted "tort reform" legislation severely limiting the plaintiff's right to use the collateral source rule under certain circumstances. Reformers argue that insurance and business costs are driven up because the collateral source rule allows plaintiffs to collect the full amount of their medical bills even though those bills have already been paid. This legislation often does away with or modifies the collateral source rule.

If you have been involved in an accident, or been injured by someone else's negligence, and have received payments from what you suspect might be a "collateral source," it is advisable to contact an attorney knowledgeable about the most recent legislation and court decisions on the subject. The rules now vary from state to state, and often from federal court to federal court, and will depend on the type of  "collateral source" payment you have received. Many years ago, the collateral source rule was fairly simple and easily applied. Now it often takes a specialist to understand. This is why lawyers like to say, “Govern yourself accordingly.”

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How to finish a basement - contractor questions

A basement can be transformed from a dark storage area to a comfortable den, playroom or functional addition to the living area of the house. Properly and efficiently finishing a basement requires careful planning, budget evaluation and awareness of local regulations. Electric and plumbing requires professional contractors, and most municipalities require inspections throughout the building process, as well as a final inspection.
Work on a finished basement can be accomplished largely through the homeowner, by a builder, by subcontracting various stages of the building process, or a combination of these strategies. Please keep that in mind when planning your basement and using the steps outlined below.
Planning and Waterproofing
Step 1
Design the basement. Planning is the most important first step for any project. Time can be cut down significantly with good planning. Make up plans for your basement. Determine how it will be laid out and how you will design it. The homeowner, if he or she has a knowledge of construction, can make the plans, or work with a contractor in designing plans for the project. An architect can also be utilized in the planning stage. In the long-run, this can sometimes cut costs.
Step 2
Make up a materials list for the contractor estimate the cost of the basement. Cost for a contractor to complete the entire project with labor and materials are about $40 to $60 per square foot, but can be as high as $100 per square foot, depending on options and what is needed. Homeowners who do much of the work themselves, can expect costs of as little as $27 per square foot.
Framing materials usually are of metal, rather than wood, for basement walls. Metal screws will be needed. Sheetrock, tape and joint compound, primer and paint will be needed. Plumbing supplies, if needed should also be considered and should be subcontracted for code, as should the electric.
Step 3
Apply for necessary permits, along with your plans, and make sure that it will be approved as designed by licensed contractors. Apply for plumbing and electrical permits as well if necessary. Get estimates from contractors or subcontractors for the project. Don't assume that the cheapest estimate is the best. Sometimes the cheapest estimate can turn out to be the most expensive. Use good judgment in hiring reputable contractors.
Step 4
Install sump pump. Determine if the basement will need a new sump pump, and install it.
Step 5
Apply waterproof coating to the interior of the basement, and exterior if necessary. Install French-drains, if necessary. Install sump pump which will capture and pump out water buildup.
Step 1
Frame out the interior of the basement. Walls can be framed with metal studs, ceilings with wood. Metal columns can be framed out and sheetrocked, or simply painted, which also looks attractive. Call for a framing inspection if required.
Step 2
Install electric and plumbing. Hired contractors can begin work on roofing electric and plumbing. Call for specific inspections when complete.
Step 3
Install insulation between studs in all exterior walls. Call for insulation inspection if necessary.
Step 4
Install sheetrock. Sheetrock screws are more secure than nails.
Step 5
Tape joints with three coats of joint compound, heavy compound at first, then lightweight for the final coat. Sand joint compound smooth with fine sand paper on a pole sander. Be careful not to sand it too low, as it can damage the tape underneath. Paint the sheetrock with a latex primer.
Step 6
Install the suspended ceiling. In most cases a suspended ceiling is preferred for a basement because of irregularities or plumbing in the basement ceiling.
Step 7
Install doors.
Step 8
Install finish trim and caulk all joints.
Step 1
Apply finish coat of paint. Make sure that there are no irregularities in the surface or your

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