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Using Ride Services to Your Holiday Party Can Save You Thousands

With the widespread availability of ride services, such as Lyft and Uber, there is no reason to drive to your holiday party, especially if you drink. Nowadays, with lower limits on blood alcohol levels than in the past, driving while being above the threshold doesn't take much. The cost of driving under the influence can be well over $10,000, and it can also cost you your career. Worse yet, if you seriously injure or kill someone, you can spend time in jail. It's just not worth it-the cost of a ride or taxi service is a drop in the bucket compared to what an alcohol-related conviction can cost you.

Ride sharing services are easy to use if you have a smartphone. All you need to do is download the apps for Lyft or Uber or an app that dispatches to taxi companies. You need to program your credit card information, which makes the system efficient, as no money changes hands and your credit card is billed. You then program in your home or location address and your destination address, and with a push of a button, the first nearby driver to respond will pick you up. The apps typically will tell you about how many minutes it will take for the driver to arrive, and you should get a text message when your driver is approaching. Most systems are transparent; they provide you with your route map and total cost. It also will be difficult for a driver to manipulate the system to charge more. You are also prompted to rate your driver; drivers with low ratings will, in most cases, lose their contract.

There are additional benefits: there is no need to park your car, pay for parking, or park at a distance; these services take you to the front door. In some cases, you can choose to upgrade to a black car or an SUV, such as with Uber; these services typically cost more, but if you want to go in style or have a number of people in your party and need a bigger vehicle, this may be an option. In some locations, these apps offer a car pool system where you share the ride with another party. These are typically limited to two people per party and two parties per car; they use the service to match parties who are picked up nearby and are going to nearby destinations. Those who choose this car pool option pay a fraction of what the actual ride cost due to sharing the vehicle.

With the availability of these services, it is unwise to even think of drinking and driving. At some point, drinking and driving will catch up with you. You already purchased your smartphone; you can now use it to your advantage to safely enjoy yourself, stay out of serious trouble, and easily get around. 


When you are Responsible for a Tree Falling into Neighbor's Yard
Trees beautify a property's landscape, provide shade, and they are good for the environment. However, they also present risks to the property owner and the neighbors. They can deteriorate or even die, and that can lead to problems. Dead trees burn more easily than do live ones. They can also fall over, especially during severe weather. This is enough of a problem when the tree lands on the owner's property. When it lands on a neighbor's property, things get complicated. Worse, it can land on the neighbor's property and damage something. Then relations between the neighbors can get very tense.

The neighbor whose upstairs is now wearing a tree may demand that the tree owner pay for removing it and repairing the damage. However, the owner may not necessarily have legal responsibility for these costs. A person has legal responsibility for another person's damage under two conditions. The first person must:

- Owe the second one a duty to use reasonable care to avoid the damage

- Breach or violate that duty.

If there is no breach of duty, then there is no legal liability.

The tree owner has a duty to his neighbor to take reasonable steps to make sure that the tree is healthy and not inclined to fall over. Most property owners are not experts in the care of plants and trees. However, it would be reasonable to expect a property owner to notice multiple dead branches or limbs starting to crack and fall off. These would be signs of trouble with the tree. If these signs have been apparent for some time, and the owner does not do anything about it, then he is breaching his duty to use care. He would have legal liability if the tree subsequently falls over.
However, suppose the tree shows no outward signs of disease or decay. A violent windstorm uproots it, sending it crashing onto the neighbor's gazebo. Not being an arborist, the owner could not reasonably have been expected to foresee this. Therefore, the owner is not legally liable for the damage. 

Fortunately, insurance may help solve either situation. The neighbor who now has the unwelcome tree may have insurance coverage for removing it. For example, a commonly sold Homeowners policy provides a few hundred dollars to remove a tree that has damaged the house or other structure (such as a fence) or that is blocking a driveway or handicapped-accessible ramp. Coverage applies only if a cause from a specific list caused the tree to collapse. Many business property insurance policies provide similar coverage.

Also, if the tree owner is legally liable for the cost of tree removal and property repair, the liability coverage in the Homeowners policy will pick up the costs. This would also be true for a business's liability insurance, if the fallen tree was on a commercial property.
To prevent incidents like these, property owners should keep an eye on their trees. If there are warning signs, experts should be consulted. In extreme cases, it may be best to cut down the trees. Better to do that than to have damaged property and angry neighbors.

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