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John Scura Live on RVN TV's "Justice For All"

February 5, 2021 Scura Law Firm

 

Firm Partner John J. Scura III. appeared on RVN TV's weekly show "Justice For All"- which covers a wide range of legal issues. Answering questions regarding bankruptcies, student loan debt, and more problems experienced by communities around the nation in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, John Scura and the show's host Rebecca Berger explored topics revolving around Personal Injury, and discussed what it means to be a certified civil trial attorney.

We would like to extend our appreciation to RVN TV for inviting John Scura to be a guest on their show. 

 

Rebecca Berger:

Welcome. Thank you for joining us. I'm Rebecca Berger, and this is Justice For All, where you get to hear from legal professionals in the surrounding area. We have a really amazing guest tonight, John Scura from Scura Wigfield. John, welcome.

John Scura:

Thank you for having me, Rebecca. It's great to be here. Thank you.

Rebecca Berger:

Thank you for joining me. You know what, you made it here despite the weather.

John Scura:

Yes, yes, I did. Yes, thank you again.

Rebecca Berger:

Oh, it's so nice to have you. So you do a wide variety of law. So you work in bankruptcy.

John Scura:

That's correct. Yes.

Rebecca Berger:

And also in personal injury.

John Scura:

I do and also handle a wide variety of litigation cases and started early in my career with a very eclectic mix of cases, but wound up really focusing in those areas and also ultimately achieved, became a certified civil trial attorney because of experience and the number of cases I handled and really enjoy it and love fighting for the underdog, so to speak.

Rebecca Berger:

That's really interesting. Did you always want to be an attorney?

John Scura:

So my background is I love helping people and that's really a prime motivator, but truth be told, my father when I was in grade school, went to law school, had four kids and I watched him go through the process and how hard he worked. My father was just such a powerful influence on me. Great man, quiet, strong, just lived for his kids and his wife and just such a fantastic role model. So it was hard to not see him as a hero and then follow in his footsteps. So that obviously was a prime motivator, but I really enjoy helping people. And as lawyers, as you know, we do get to help people and sometimes that's very hard, but it's very satisfying in the end, when you do get a good result for someone or help solve their problems.

Rebecca Berger:

Sometimes it's hard when you can't always do that too. For example, in terms of the bankruptcy field, I can't imagine right now in particular, it isn't something that you're seeing maybe a huge rush in people filing for bankruptcies. Has that been an issue?

John Scura:

So right now, bankruptcies, believe it or not, you would think they are up because of our economy and the pandemic. But what has happened is that people have not been filing because they've been getting breaks, there's no foreclosures going on. A lot of lenders are trying to work with them. There's also no evictions in the state, as of yet, under Governor Murphy's emergency orders, which is a good thing. The bankruptcies are starting to increase. We're seeing a much higher influx into my office. We are meeting with a lot of people. A lot of small businesses, we're working out a lot of deals with landlords. Some landlords are reasonable and understanding, they're not going to collect all their rent and everybody's trying to work together. Some landlords are not so reasonable and it's hard and it's stressful for everybody. I tell all of my associates that work for me and everybody in my office, when people come in the office, a lot of them are coming in, in a stressful situation. Bankruptcy or anybody going to see a lawyer, there's usually a problem.

Rebecca Berger:

It's funny because I do say that when I speak to a client for the first time, I'm like, "Look, if you're speaking to me, whatever you're going through must not be good because if you have to speak to me, there's got to be something going on."

John Scura:

Yeah. So we're similar to dentists, I guess, having your teeth pulled, you don't want to go in, but we-

Rebecca Berger:

You have to sometimes.

John Scura:

And so everybody coming in has a problem. And whether that's bankruptcy, whether divorce, what you do, it's a problem they're coming in with. And what's our job is to, as best we can, solve the problem. And it's not always a perfect solution. It may not be the solution the client wants. Sometimes it is, and that's great, but it is difficult because we can't always solve it in the perfect way. And again, what I do tell my associates and attorneys I work with, we're trying to make the person in better shape when they walked in the door, then when they're leaving. So put them in a better position, in other words.

Rebecca Berger:

Which makes sense, because you really want to give them a better start to wherever they were when they first came to you. What do you see as being some of the biggest problems in the bankruptcy field as of now?

John Scura:

So one of the biggest, we do a lot of representing consumers, small businesses. So a big problem now is the student loan debt crisis, it's huge and something has to happen. Right now, student loans are completely non-dischargeable. I don't know what your political view is, but I'm happy that President Biden got in, and there's a good chance they may do something with student loans and doing something to make them dischargeable or something that people can-

Rebecca Berger:

Because that's actually something in bankruptcy that's not dischargeable at this point.

John Scura:

Not dischargeable. You cannot wipe out a student loan. So a lot of these younger people have come out of school, whether it's college, law school, medical school with huge amounts of debt, and they'll never be able to get on top of it or at least a large part of the population will never be able to get on top of it. And there has to be some solution to that because we have a lot of clients, there's nothing we can do for them in that situation as to the student loan debt. We may be able to wipe out other debt, so that's really a huge issue now.

Rebecca Berger:

Because sometimes that can be as much as a mortgage payment. So they can come to you with all of this credit card debt, which maybe, you can find a way to work that out. But the student loan itself, I mean, I know that's a crisis in America just generally due to the high cost of higher education. And it seemed like most people need that higher education, a lot of times for different jobs. And yet, these young people and sometimes older people, are burdened with these debts. So do you think that there will be some movement in that?

John Scura:

Yeah. There's talks. I don't know what the ultimate solution or... But there's a lot of talk and that was a big platform on which President Biden ran. And I think something will be accomplished. Something really has to be done because it is a crisis and debt, dealing with enough people that are going through, debt really leads where people are overburdened with debt, leads to a lot of problems personally, psychologically our society. So it's important that people be able to get relief where they deserve it. And 95% of the people walking in my office really have a dire problem that needs to be solved. They're not people abusing the system more or anything. So it's really-

Rebecca Berger:

I think that, that may be the perception. I was going to ask you, what were some of the most common misconceptions when it comes to bankruptcy?

John Scura:

One of the biggest misperceptions or misconceptions is that they'll lose their house or they'll lose assets. And most of the people coming into our office, we can file a bankruptcy, wipe out what's called the unsecured debt or credit cards, medical bills, and they still keep their house. There's exemptions you're allowed. So they may probably keep their house or car, different things, depending on the value and what the mortgage is against the house. But for the most part, most people walk into the office, we can save all that and wipe out the unsecured debt. So that's one of the biggest misunderstandings of the law that they're going to lose everything, that most people do not, I'd say 85% of consumers who come in the office are.

John Scura:

And if it is a situation where they may be in a position to lose something, because a house has what's called too much equity, its value is too high, you can file chapter 13 and propose a repayment plan to creditors that's figured out or based upon the equity in that house or how much money they're making. There's different variables that get plugged in, but we can evaluate a case pretty quickly on the phone or in person and really tell them what they can accomplish through either chapter 7 or chapter 13.

Rebecca Berger:

Well, for example, what happens if you have a house where there is too much equity and you want to be able to save that house? What if you're in a divorce situation, what happens?

John Scura:

Great question. So if there is too much equity, let's say non-exempt equity in the house, for example. There's 50,000, that spouse who's in the midst of the divorce. Each spouse has 50,000 in non-exempt equity and they owe 150,000 in credit cards, that one spouse could propose, I'm giving you rough numbers, but based on that $50,000 in equity, they could propose a 33% plan the creditors over time, which in a chapter 13 plan, has to be paid over 60 months, so that would be a little under around a thousand dollars a month, a little under it, to satisfy that debt.

John Scura:

So they'll wipe out 100,000 and they'll be paying back 50. And that's only if they have that much non-exempt equity in the house. And in a divorce situation, remember each spouse has their own half interest. So if there's a hundred and equity would cut in half, they each have 50,000 and they also get real estate exemptions under the bankruptcy code. So it may cut it down. Its not that complicated an equation, but you just, you go through, you work through the numbers and you figure it out.

Rebecca Berger:

So what happens if one party wants to keep the house and buy the other party out? Is that possible in bankruptcy?

John Scura:

That is absolutely possible. So either the person could be filing and do it that way, or the spouse who wants to buy out, if they're not filing, they could buy out the other spouse who has filed. And we have been involved where it works both ways. We've also have where one spouse doesn't want to sell and the other does, but they have to sell because it's in foreclosure or there's something going on. So the court can order a sale over the non-consenting spouses. And a lot of times that's in their best interest because they're going to lose the house, if they don't sell, and they want to recoup whatever money they can, they don't want it to go. In New Jersey, we have sheriff sales. You don't want it to go to a sheriff's sale because everybody's going to lose out and you want to pull or get that money out of the house that you can get. And that's one of the main reasons for a bankruptcy, with a house where there's foreclosures to save in some way.

Rebecca Berger:

Have you seen that foreclosure has been a big issue in bankruptcy right now, given the fact that there have been a stay for example, on different things in terms of you're not allowed to go after people for evictions or anything. Are they having the same issue in terms of foreclosures with mortgage companies?

John Scura:

Yeah. So, in New Jersey, particularly there's been no sheriff sales, it's going to be a year now, which is one of the reasons why bankruptcies are down because people they're not about to lose their house, so they don't have to file, which is a good thing. But once they lift that stay, there is going to be a flood of foreclosures, like we've never seen, because sheriff sales occur every week, in every county, in the state of New Jersey, we have 21 counties. So in a normal situation, you'd have say, 50 or 100 sheriff sales going on a week, in a normal world. Now nothing's gone on this whole pandemic. So when they let the flood gates open, we've never seen anything like it. So I don't know what's going to happen in terms of the sheriffs even being able to conduct that many sales.

John Scura:

There's also going to be a lot of bankruptcy cases, obviously, to try to see those houses. And I think there's going to have to be, we're doing it now, a lot of workouts with lenders, let's work things out. Let's do this, let's put it up for sale together. That's a lot we're doing. We're trying to work things out, and I'd say more in the last six to eight months, we've been trying to work things out with landlords, lenders, in different situations. So we've probably been spending more of our time doing that versus bankruptcy.

Rebecca Berger:

So have you seen that the mortgage companies are actually giving people a break under the CARES Act in terms of holding off for those foreclosures?

John Scura:

I think a forced break. I don't think they have a choice.

Rebecca Berger:

You don't think they have a choice.

John Scura:

I don't think they want to give a break, but that's yeah, their hands are tied. There's nothing they can do, which is the right thing right now in light of everything. We see clients that, I represent a lot of small businesses, bar owners, restaurants, it's tragic. They thrive in great businesses. They can't have anybody inside and it's 25%, then it's now [crosstalk 00:13:55].

Rebecca Berger:

And then they go down to nothing.

John Scura:

Now they went to 35% today, but 35%...

Rebecca Berger:

But then it goes all of a sudden, it will be nobody.

John Scura:

It's very difficult.

Rebecca Berger:

And I want to talk to you a little bit more about your personal injury practice after we come back from commercial break.

John Scura:

Oh, that's great.

Rebecca Berger:

This is Justice For All. I'm Rebecca Berger. And we'll be right back after this commercial break.

~Commercial Break~

Rebecca Berger:

Welcome back. This is Justice For All, where you get to hear from legal professionals in the surrounding area. I'm Rebecca Berger. We're talking to John Scura tonight. John, so before we went to commercial break, I told you, I want to talk a little bit more about your personal injury practice. Because again, you have this bankruptcy piece, which isn't really a lot of litigation, so to speak, for trial work. But you have this whole nother piece of you where you do this personal injury work and other types of litigation, that you've become a certified trial attorney. And that requires a lot of work to be able to be certified as a trial attorney. What are some of the cases that you handle with the personal injury?

John Scura:

So, I handle your car accidents, slip and falls, and also some more complicated, I have tried medical malpractice cases and various cases in the personal injury field where people are hurt and seeking recovery for those injuries through the fault of another. So, early in my career, I worked for an insurance defense firm. And I also worked in a defense firm in a product liability department for a big law firm during law school and before. So I learned a lot from the other side of what went on and it interests me a lot. And so I also wound up doing a lot of personal injury work and early on in my career, especially, a lot of trial work on some tough cases where some attorneys didn't want to handle the cases and passed them off to me, and I had a network attorneys who were referring me their tougher cases to try.

John Scura:

And it was really very, very interesting and rewarding and taught me a lot. I got some bumps and bruises, but it really gave me a lot of experience and enabled me to, I really enjoy it, the strategy, helping people. I really enjoy helping the underdog and the small person. And when you're representing somebody in a personal injury case, typically you're going up against insurance companies, people that don't want to pay the people that are hurt, fair and reasonable compensation. And when they do, if the case settles, when they won't and you have to fight to the bitter end, it goes to trial, and ultimately a jury is going to tell you, what that number is if they're not paying. So it's important that people have someone that's ready to fight and go to trial, if it has to. You can't try every case or you'd be working 24/7, but if they're not being fair, you got to go the full nine yards and take it to jury.

Rebecca Berger:

And I think that people don't understand, not every case is going to trial. And there's only a small percentage of cases that actually go to trial, but you have to have an attorney who's willing to say, "Hey, okay, then if you don't want to settle this, I'll see you in court." I mean, that's just where it's going to have to be handled.

John Scura:

Absolutely. And that's, I enjoy it. Again, I got four kids, a busy practice and do handle some of these areas we've talked about. And it's hard to go to trial for two weeks, three weeks, a week, and just you're really shutting down and that's all you're doing. So it's very difficult, but I enjoy it, when you're in the moment, I really do, and it's very fulfilling. And the insurance companies start to get to know you too, meaning that he's going to try the case. He's going, we better-

Rebecca Berger:

And I think it's important. I think [crosstalk 00:19:45] you get a reputation-

John Scura:

And they are more willing to offer settlement because he's crazy, and he'll go to the jury. They'll take that risk.

Rebecca Berger:

And if you go in front of a jury, you never know what's going to happen. When you put it in the hands of a jury, you never know what kind of outcome you're going to get. And I think that you do personal injury attorneys, medical malpractice attorneys, you gain a reputation over time of... You get to know different adjusters and then you gain a reputation with these adjusters, knowing that you guys can kind of fairly say, "Where do you think this injury..." Because there's no diagram or chart that says, "Okay, this injury is worth X amount of money." You're always feeling out what makes sense in every case.

John Scura:

Every case is different. You're absolutely right.

Rebecca Berger:

What would you say is maybe one of the most difficult cases you've ever handled?

John Scura:

So the ones I lost are very difficult.

Rebecca Berger:

But are they not the ones that you learn the most about?

John Scura:

You learn the most, 100%. So you learn more and this happened, I'm not going to sit here and say, "I've won every case that I'm undefeated," because that's certainly not the case. And I tell the insurance adjusters, "Look, I've lost some, I've won some, but you want to roll the dice? Let's go. I don't..."

Rebecca Berger:

That's always the risk. Again, there's always the risk and there's risk in your part and there's risk on their part.

John Scura:

Yeah. I did a lot of pro bono domestic, representing victims of domestic violence, trying to get you to understand that is difficult... So I had a lot of trials trying to get final restraining orders. And that was probably some of the most... Because when I knew something was wrong and if we didn't get that final restraining order, that was scary for me not being able to protect the person. And we were successful in a lot of cases. And I have some of those clients that are still friends today, that I still communicate with. And one young woman, she was 16 and had two kids already, and the husband was 24, so do the math. There was something it's called something... But I'm sorry, she was 18 at the time. But she had a child when she was 16.

John Scura:

And that was 25 years ago. She's still a friend. And we got the restraining order in that case, thank God. But those cases where they stick in my mind and I can remember them, and really these people are still my friends. And where you do make a really powerful difference in somebody's life is the most fulfilling to me, because unfortunately, we're all going to be gone in a hundred years. And if you did made this place a little better for someone as part of your service, that's the most important thing, it really is.

Rebecca Berger:

Well, and I can tell, just in terms of what you do, one of your things that you care about... I mean, the fact that you have time to do pro bono work is amazing because you seem to have a very busy practice. And in terms of personal injury cases and medical malpractice cases, you have to have that element of being able to relate to people and care about their story, because I do think a common misconception is that people are just suing everyone. And so what do you say when someone says that to you?

John Scura:

Yeah, that's silly. It's just-

Rebecca Berger:

Everyone's getting a million dollars.

John Scura:

We don't take every case. And I tell people like it is, if I don't think that the claim has any merit, that they're going to be successful. And there's just a lot of misperceptions and not everybody's getting a million dollars. There's a lot of cases that aren't. Most cases as you know, aren't a million dollars and they're 50,000 or 100,000 or 20,000 or 75,000, and the large majority are under a million, but somebody's hurt. They have a serious injury, but if they're not crippled, but it's an injury that they're going to probably live with, whether it's a back injury or something wrong with their shoulder and their... A lot of those cases where I have a worker, he had shoulder surgery and he's going to work for the next 30 years as a mechanic with a shoulder injury day in, day out, waking up every day with pain in his shoulder and having to deal with that.

John Scura:

Is he crippled? No, but he's fighting through and suffering through pain. So that's, worth a lot. And it's important. It might not be a million, but he should be getting compensated for that serious injury, pain, limitation that he's going to experience for the rest of his life or her life. And then all the cases are important. All the cases are different. You do have to analyze each case. I tell clients, it's part art, part science, and you're trying to figure out what that number is, that's reasonable. The reasonable realm of valuation, there's a low end, a high end. Are we to that reasonable area or not? If we're not yet, maybe we have to go to trial. If we are, where you can get more than the reasonable range, then you should be settling. That's the basic, my approach to it.

Rebecca Berger:

Because I mean, who wants to put somebody through that? But at the end of the day, again, sometimes you're pushed to that point where you have to say, "Hey, this is what we're going to have to do." And I think that requires you to do an analysis, not only of your client, but also sometimes the medicals to determine, where are you at in this process?

John Scura:

Absolutely, absolutely. Very, very important. And it's very critical to evaluate that and try to give the person the best advice as to whether to settle, whether to go forward. Sometimes they have prior injuries or similar to this injury that makes it more difficult. There's all kinds of variables that we could go on for hours about the different problems or pluses or minuses of cases.

Rebecca Berger:

Well, in terms of motor vehicle accidents, for example, what if they have the threshold where they're not able to get past the, on their insurance company. So then they may not be able to sue for that injury. Do you run into that situation?

John Scura:

All the time. That's a great question. And with auto insurance in New Jersey, you either have the verbal or lawsuit threshold, or you have the zero tort or no threshold? And people don't understand, they pick that option when they buy insurance. It's not explained to them, I'd say more often than not, my clients don't even understand what I'm talking about. It was never explained to them by the insurance agent, which is a problem in our state, in my opinion. But where they have the verbal threshold, they have to show a permanent injury sign up. They have to show a permanent injury that won't heal to normal function. Now it could be a back injury that's not healing. It could be something else. There's also other categories like the loss of a limb or a displaced fracture, meaning a fracture that's really snapped, not just a hairline fracture.

John Scura:

And there's six categories that you're entitled to compensation under that verbal threshold. If you can't overcome that threshold of that level of proof, you get zero. So, people have to be careful when they're sitting down with their insurance agent, picking that option under their auto policy, because that's going to control their right to sue another person who hits them with the car. Or if they're walking as a pedestrian and hit with a car, that's going to, whether they can sue or not sue, may be determined by that choice. There are certain exceptions, for instance, you're hit by a commercial vehicle. The verbal threshold doesn't apply at all. Even if you have it under your policy, there's all kinds of rules and exceptions, but it's a big issue. I'd say 90% of the people that come to my office have the verbal or lawsuit threshold. And we really have to have an injury that will get us over that threshold in order to succeed.

Rebecca Berger:

And it's a good tip for people to say, "Hey, make sure you sit down with your agent and understand the difference." John, if someone wanted to get a hold of you to retain your services and speak to you, how would they get a hold of you?

John Scura:

So our website is scura.com. My email is jscura@scura.com and our phone number is 973-696-8391.

Rebecca Berger:

John, thank you so much.

John Scura:

Thank you for having me. It was such a great time and thank you for your great questions. And I really appreciate it.

Rebecca Berger:

Thank you for coming. This is Justice For All. I'm Rebecca Berger, and we'll see you back next week.

john-scura-live-on-rvn-tv-legal-show

 

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