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Should a Car Accident Victim File an Insurance Claim, or a Lawsuit?

Should a Car Accident Victim File an Insurance Claim, or a Lawsuit?

Between medical bills, vehicle repairs, property damage, and taking time off of work due to injuries, the cost of a car accident in Oklahoma can be truly enormous.  According to an AAA report citing data from 2009, the average cost of an injury crash was around $125,000, while fatal crashes cost a staggering $6 million on average.  These averages represented sharp increases from 2005, when both figures were about 50% lower.  Since most people are financially overwhelmed by costs of this magnitude, it’s not uncommon for injury victims to seek compensation after an accident occurs.  However, the path to compensation isn’t the same for everyone.  Some people choose to file insurance claims, while others file lawsuits instead.  But what’s the difference?  And what does the injury victim need to prove in order to get compensated?   Claim or Lawsuit? What’s the Difference? There is no law to stop you from filing a lawsuit immediately after being injured in a car accident.  However, most people regard litigation as a last resort, and will typically attempt to file an insurance claim first. Most car accident claims are third-party claims, or claims made by a person other than the policyholder – in this scenario, you.  (By comparison, a first-party claim is a claim you file with your own insurance company.)  Speaking generally, here is how the process will unfold: You’ll file your claim. The insurance company will begin an investigation. You will write a demand letter, which includes contact information, a description of the accident, and the compensation you are seeking. Settlement negotiations begin. If you intend to file a claim, be prepared... read more
Should You Report a Car Accident to the Oklahoma City Police?

Should You Report a Car Accident to the Oklahoma City Police?

In this article, our Oklahoma car accident lawyers will explain when drivers are required to report accidents to law enforcement, and discuss how police reports are used in personal injury claims after a crash or collision occurs. When Are You Required to Report a Car Crash in OK? As we touched on in our earlier article about what to do after a car accident, there are certain situations where it is not only common sense, but actually mandatory to report accidents to law enforcement. One of Oklahoma’s motor vehicle laws, codified at O.S. § 47-10-107, requires drivers to “immediately” notify either their local police department, the county sheriff’s office, or the nearest State Highway Patrol office if an accident results in any deaths or injuries. (In this situation, the driver would also be responsible for calling 9-1-1 or otherwise getting medical aid for the victim, and would also be required to share their name, address, license and registration with parties from the other vehicle.) Different rules apply to non-fatal, non-injury accidents resulting only in property damage, which are governed by O.S. § 47-10-103. Under this statute, drivers in property damage only (PDO) accidents are required to remain at the scene, disclose their information, and provide reasonable aid, but are not required to notify the police. You also don’t need to inform the police if you hit an unattended vehicle, such as a parked car (though you are required to leave your contact information “in a conspicuous place,” like stuck to the windshield, under O.S. § 47-10-105). While Oklahoma’s laws don’t compel drivers to report accidents where no one gets... read more
Driver High on Keyboard Cleaner Causes Deadly Wrong-Way Crash in OKC

Driver High on Keyboard Cleaner Causes Deadly Wrong-Way Crash in OKC

I don’t like doing the “accident reporter” type blogs some injury attorneys do, but huffing on keyboard cleaner is just bizarre! According to a report filed by the Oklahoma City Police Department last weekend, a driver under the influence of computer keyboard cleaner caused a fatal collision after driving the wrong way down I-44 during the early hours of December 13. The driver, a year 25-year-old male identified as Drea Boardingham, survived the crash and will be criminally charged in upcoming days. The driver of the other vehicle, who was not publicly identified, was discovered dead at the scene by responding officers. Our Oklahoma City car accident lawyers cover the story, and explain some of the vital differences between victim compensation in criminal trials and civil trials. Man Under the Influence of Keyboard Cleaner Causes Fatal Collision on I-44 in OKC Shortly before 2:20 A.M. on Sunday, December 13, the OKCPD received a call from one of Boardingham’s relatives. The caller cautioned officers that Boardingham might have been driving around in a red Mustang while “huffing keyboard cleaner.” Minutes later, officers were dispatched after a red Mustang was spotted heading southbound in the northbound lanes of Interstate 44, near its intersection with Southwest 89th Street.   Sadly, despite their rapid response time, responding officers were informed while en route that the Mustang had already collided into a northbound vehicle. Upon arriving at the scene of the accident, officers noted that Boardingham, who was taken to a nearby hospital, appeared “out of it but said he had not been drinking.” The officer who transported him to medical care stated that... read more
Oklahoma Memory Care Facilities Required by Law to Deliver What They Promise

Oklahoma Memory Care Facilities Required by Law to Deliver What They Promise

The idea of a “memory care center” is great in theory. A facility designed, equipped and staffed to meet the special needs of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia might be a true blessing to an Alzheimer’s patient and loved ones. However, unfortunately, the title “memory care” or “special care” is more hype than substance at some facilities. According to the Alzheimer’s Association: “Often, the term ‘special care unit’ was used as a marketing scheme where the only distinguishing factor was that the unit was locked.” In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health recently determined that 50 facilities in that state that advertised dementia care did not offer any meaningful services for dementia patients. That state’s Alzheimer’s Association claimed that at least 60% of dementia care facilities do not meet state regulations. Oklahoma’s Alzheimer’s Law Oklahoma law does not use the term “memory care.” However, the law does set boundaries for facilities that advertise themselves as providing special care to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Oklahoma’s “Alzheimer’s Disease Special Care Disclosure Act” (Title 63, Section 1-879.2) governs “any facility … that advertises, markets, or otherwise promotes itself as providing care or treatment to persons with Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders in a special unit or under a special program.” It is important to know that in Oklahoma, a special care Alzheimer’s facility does not have to be a nursing home with 24-hour nursing care. The above law permits residential care facilities, assisted living centers, adult day care centers as well as nursing homes to advertise themselves as providing special care for Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients. What... read more
Assisted Living Centers Must Meet Residents’ Changing Needs

Assisted Living Centers Must Meet Residents’ Changing Needs

Most residents of assisted living centers experience a gradual decline in their physical and cognitive health. When an assisted living facility allows a resident to stay even when the facility is unable to provide the services that resident requires, the facility endangers the senior it is being paid to serve and opens itself up to a lawsuit. The line that distinguishes nursing homes from assisted living centers and other kinds of long-term care facilities is blurring. Assisted living facilities increase their profits by keeping residents who need more intensive services. At the same time, residents want to “age in place” and maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible. Nursing Home Resident Abuse It nevertheless remains the responsibility of the facility to know the physical and cognitive condition of its residents and to make sure each resident is receiving the level of care needed, even when it means advising residents and their families that the facility can no longer meet their needs. That’s not just my observation. That’s the warning presented earlier this year to members of the American Health Lawyers Association, which includes many defense attorneys and in-house counsel for the long-term care industry. I’m a plaintiff’s lawyer. Our attorneys represents residents and their loved ones who have been abused or neglected in nursing homes, assisted living centers and memory care facilities. On the other side of the aisle are the defense attorneys who represent those facilities. The 13,000 members of the American Health Lawyers Association’s include many defense lawyers, compliance officers, consultants and regulators who counsel or lead long-term care facilities. At an AHLA conference... read more
Can I Get Compensated for a Car Accident That Was Partly My Fault?

Can I Get Compensated for a Car Accident That Was Partly My Fault?

In order to recover compensation for severe injuries suffered in a car crash, the plaintiff must be able to prove the defendant was at fault. But what happens if both parties shared responsibility for the accident? In this article, our Oklahoma City car accident lawyers will explain how partial or shared fault affects compensation in Oklahoma. Pure Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Fault There are two systems for allocating fault: contributory negligence, and comparative fault. Contributory negligence means that the plaintiff contributed to his or her own injury through his or her own negligence – for instance, a pedestrian who gets hit by a car while attempting to run across a busy road without using the crosswalk. If the pedestrian files a claim against the driver, the driver may raise contributory negligence as a defense. In the small number of states which follow the doctrine of pure contributory negligence, a plaintiff can be barred from recovering any compensation if they were even 1% at fault. As you might imagine, pure contributory negligence can pose a major obstacle to personal injury victims. Fortunately, Oklahoma follows a less stringent doctrine, which is known as comparative fault. Comparative fault is divided into two sub-doctrines: pure comparative fault, and modified comparative fault. In pure comparative fault, an injury victim may recover damages even if he or she was 99% at fault for the accident. However, the compensation will be reduced to reflect his or her degree of fault. For instance, if the defendant was 75% at fault and the plaintiff was 25% at fault, the plaintiff’s compensation would be reduced from $1 million to... read more
Assisted Living, Nursing Home, Memory Care: What is the Difference?

Assisted Living, Nursing Home, Memory Care: What is the Difference?

There are many terms to describe the various kinds of long-term care available in Oklahoma for senior adults, Alzheimer’s patients and patients with other types of dementia. What is the difference between “independent living” and “residential care” and “assisted living” and a “nursing home” and a “memory care” facility? Oklahoma laws and regulations govern long-term care facilities for senior adults and for people of any age who have physical or mental conditions that require nursing care and/or other forms of assistance. Residents and their families should understand the legal differences that distinguish the various kinds of long-term care permitted under the law. If a resident is admitted to or continues to stay in a facility that is not designed, staffed and equipped to provide the kind and degree of care a resident needs, the result could be tragic. Nursing Home and Assisted Living Differences Here is a brief explanation of seven kinds of long-term care facilities in Oklahoma, as defined by state laws and regulations. 1. Independent living: “Independent living” is not a term that is used in Oklahoma’s “Nursing Home Care Act and Long-Term Care Security Act.” As the term is commonly used, the meaning is a bit ambiguous. In its purest sense, “independent living” may refer to senior adults who are living in their own homes or apartments or are residents of apartment complexes, retirement homes or other residential facilities that cater exclusively to senior adults who want to live with other seniors and are able to take care of themselves. However, the term “independent living” is also often used as a synonym for a “residential care... read more
Can I Sue My Doctor for Missing My Cancer Diagnosis?

Can I Sue My Doctor for Missing My Cancer Diagnosis?

Being told you have cancer is some of the worst news any patient can ever have to hear from their doctor. However, the earlier a patient learns about their cancer, the better chance they have of beating it. When a doctor fails to make a timely diagnosis, or tells a patient that a malignant tumor is benign, the result is that the undetected cancer continues to grow and spread, diminishing the patient’s chance of survival. Even if the patient is able to beat the cancer after receiving a delayed diagnosis, they will likely have to spend considerably more money on aggressive medical treatment, placing a heavy financial burden on themselves and their loved ones. If your doctor failed to diagnose cancer, you may be able to get compensated for your pain, suffering, and medical expenses. National and Oklahoma Cancer Statistics Cancer is one of the most widely diagnosed medical conditions in the United States, and around the world. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), estimates that about 1,658,370 new cases will be diagnosed in 2015. This number represents a decrease of about 7,170 cases from the 1,665,540 diagnoses which were estimated in 2014. The NCI estimates that among new cases projected for 2015, some of the most common diagnoses will be breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, leukemia, melanoma, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. African-American men have the highest statistical risk of dying from cancer, while Asian/Pacific Islander women are in the lowest risk category. The CDC and NCI have teamed up to create... read more
Will OKC’s New Law on Signaling Lane Changes Reduce Car Crashes, Injuries?

Will OKC’s New Law on Signaling Lane Changes Reduce Car Crashes, Injuries?

Every Oklahoma driver knows you are supposed to signal when changing lanes. But have you ever heard of anybody actually getting a ticket for failing to do so, or even causing a car accident? New OKC Ordinance Took Effect Earlier This Month You may start hearing about Oklahoma City police writing tickets for failure to signal a lane change, as a result of a new ordinance adopted earlier this month. The new city law requires OKC drivers to signal for at last 100 feet before changing lanes. Penalty for violation is $172. How far is 100 feet? A few feet more than the length of the Thunder’s basketball court (94 feet). A few feet more than 30 yards on a football field (90 feet). A little more than the distance between the bases on just about any baseball diamond (90 feet). Applying some basic math, if you’re traveling 40 mph, it takes 1.7 seconds to travel 100 feet. That’s “One-Mississippi, Two-Mississipp.” It was already an OKC requirement to signal for 100 feet before turning at an intersection (OKC Municipal Code § 32-240). OKC drivers were also required to signal before changing lanes, but no required distance was specified for lane changes. Here’s the new law: §32-191 Changing Lanes (click on the “amended” version). Would enforcing the new law reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries on OKC roads and highways? It sure might. What about those drivers who weave in and out of traffic, switching lanes two or three times between one stoplight and the next? Obviously, those reckless drivers don’t have much regard for the law or public safety, but maybe... read more
What Is, Isn’t Allowed Under Oklahoma’s New Texting While Driving Law?

What Is, Isn’t Allowed Under Oklahoma’s New Texting While Driving Law?

Texting while driving is against the law throughout the state of Oklahoma, effective Nov. 1, 2015. The law prohibits drivers on any Oklahoma street or highway from typing a text, email or “electronic message.” The law makes texting while driving a “primary offense.” That empowers officers to pull over drivers whom they suspect are texting. If it were merely a secondary offense, the officer would have to have another reason, such as speeding or reckless driving, to make the stop. Violation is punishable by a $100 fine. Here is the first paragraph of Oklahoma’s texting while driving law: “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle on any street or highway within this state while using a hand-held electronic communication device to manually compose, send or read an electronic text message while the motor vehicle is in motion.” Many questions will emerge as Oklahoma drivers become aware of (and receive citations under) the new law, as officers begin to enforce it, and as state and municipal judges are called upon to interpret it. Here are some answers. Just text messages? What about an email? What about a Facebook post? The law prohibits “text messages,” which the law defines as “a text-based message, instant message, electronic message, photo, video or electronic mail.” Email (electronic mail) is clearly prohibited. The other language seems to prohibit posting to social networks or doing any other manual electronic communication. The tragic fatality (see below) that led to adoption of the law occurred when a driver was posting to his Facebook page. What about receiving a text, email or post? It... read more
What Should You Do After a Car Accident?

What Should You Do After a Car Accident?

Hopefully, you will never be involved in a car crash. Unfortunately, the statistics don’t paint an optimistic picture. According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO), there were an astonishing 68,327 crashes in 2014 alone. That’s roughly 187 accidents every day, or about eight accidents per hour. If the worst does happen, you should know about your responsibilities are as a driver – because if you fail to take certain steps, you could find yourself at the center of a criminal investigation. In this article, our car accident lawyers will explain some of the state laws Oklahoma injury victims and drivers should be aware of. What Are the Driver’s Responsibilities After Someone is Injured or Killed? Oklahoma’s motor vehicle laws are consolidated under Title 47. Chapter 10 is devoted to accidents and reports relating to accidents, and contains about 20 different statutes addressing what drivers are supposed to do after a crash or collision occurs. These statutes include: O.S. § 10-102 (Accidents Resulting in Nonfatal Injury - Failure to Stop) O.S. § 10-102.1 (Accidents Resulting in Death - Failure to Stop) O.S. § 10-104 (Duty to Give Information and Render Aid - Drug and Alcohol Testing) O.S. § 10-107 (Immediate Notice of Accident) Obviously, safety is always the top priority after any accident occurs, and anyone’s first thought would be to call 9-1-1. However, this isn’t merely common sense – it’s actually mandated by law. O.S. § 10-102 and O.S. § 10-102.1, which respectively deal with injury accidents and fatal accidents, both require drivers to immediately stop their vehicles at the scene of the accident (or as close as... read more
Organization Calls for More Staff, More Inspections  of Oklahoma Nursing Homes during Off Hours

Organization Calls for More Staff, More Inspections of Oklahoma Nursing Homes during Off Hours

The Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature is calling upon state lawmakers to require more staff on duty during evening and night shifts at Oklahoma nursing homes. The senior advocacy group is also asking the 2016 state Legislature to order the state Health Department to conduct more of its unannounced nursing home inspections during “off hours” — evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. The Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature (OSHL) is an advocacy organization for our state’s senior adults. OSHL senators and representatives are elected by our state’s seniors to represent each of the 11 districts of the Oklahoma Area Agencies on Aging. More than 500,000 Oklahomans are 65 years old or older, constituting 13% of the state’s population. Oklahoma City Nursing Homes and Checks for Abuse The OHSL met in Oklahoma City last Tuesday and Wednesday. It meets in September of odd-numbered years to develop proposed bills for the next session of the Oklahoma Legislature. Last week’s OHSL voted to send a proposed bill to the Oklahoma Legislature which would require more staff on duty during evening and night shifts. That’s a reasonable proposal. Nursing home residents live in their facilities 24/7, which means evenings and night times make up two-thirds of their lives. Many senior adults have difficulty sleeping or have health problems that require around-the-clock attention. Another OSHL proposed bill would require the state Health Department to conduct at least 25% of its nursing home inspections in the evenings, night time, weekends and holidays. That’s a sensible proposal which the state Legislature should adopt. An inspection conducted during normal business hours is likely to find a nursing home at its... read more
Three MORE Ways Some Employers Rip Off Their Tipped Employees

Three MORE Ways Some Employers Rip Off Their Tipped Employees

This is the final installment of a four-part blog series on tipped employees, the minimum wage, and how some tipped employees are being ripped off by their employers. Blog Series on Tipped Employees: Part 4 In Part 1 and Part 2, I explained how the minimum wage law applies to tipped employees. I also explained what a tip credit is and what the laws say about how an employer can properly take the credit. • In Part 3, I explained four ways that some employers rip off their tipped employees: by failing to pay minimum wage, taking the tip credit without proper records, taking the tip credit without notifying employees, and failing to pay overtime. Here are three more ways some employees illegally rip off their tipped employees. 1. Treating a non-tipped employee as a tipped employee A tipped employee is anyone who regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips. An employer who is skirting the law might try to treat non-tipped employees as tipped employees. After all, an Oklahoma employer must pay a tipped employee a base pay of $3.625/hour, which is just half the minimum wage. Of course, that employer is also required to make sure the employee ends up receiving the full minimum wage, but we are talking here about employers who are dodging the law. A devious employer could treat a non-tipped employee as a tipped employee and then fraudulently take the tip credit on the other half of that employee’s wages, even if the employee didn’t earn any tips at all. If the employer operates a tip pool, he might try to... read more
How Often Are Car Accidents Caused by Drunk Driving?

How Often Are Car Accidents Caused by Drunk Driving?

About one year ago, in October 2014, we published an article about the frequency of drunk driving accidents in Oklahoma. At that point in time, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO) reported that traffic fatalities involving intoxicated driving were down by 28% in 2013 from 2012. Has the trend continued, or is drunk driving on the rise again? OHSO Reports on 2014 Car Accident Statistics Every year, OHSO publishes a detailed series on statewide and city-specific crash data and statistics. This series is broken down by type of vehicle involved, type of human error involved, time of year, and other variables. In 2013, 189 people lost their lives in fatal Oklahoma accidents attributed to drunk driving. While that’s 189 people too many, it still represents a dramatic reduction from the 261 alcohol-related deaths reported by OHSO in 2012. Though work remains to be done, this reduction indicates that Oklahoma was on the right path. But has the trend continued? In 2014, OHSO documented a total of 68,327 automotive accidents statewide – about 187 accidents every day, or close to eight every hour. Among these accidents: 589 were fatal (resulting in 669 total fatalities). 2,431 were classified as “incapacitating,” or resulting in serious injury. 8,404 were classified as “non-incapacitating,” or resulting in mild to moderate injury. Oklahoma County had the highest number of accidents (18,868), followed by Tulsa County with 12,733 accidents. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Harmon County reported the lowest number of accidents, with just 13 total. (Of course, this disparity is probably attributable to the vast difference in county populations: 755,245 in Oklahoma County, as... read more
Four Ways Some Employers Rip Off Their Tipped Employees

Four Ways Some Employers Rip Off Their Tipped Employees

There are many ways an employer can take unfair advantage of a tipped employee. These practices are against the law. Workers who earn some of their regular income in tips should know their legal rights and protection, so they can make sure that they are not being ripped off. Blog Series on Tipped Employees: Part 3 In two previous posts, I explained the state and federal laws that govern how restaurant waiters and waitresses and other tipped employees are supposed to be compensated. Now I’m going to shine the light on some ways that some employers are ripping off their tipped employees. During 2010 to 2012, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division conducted almost 9,000 investigations in the restaurant industry. More than 8 out of 10 of those investigations (84%) turned up wage and hour violations. That’s indicative of industry-wide abuse.   Before you continue reading, if you haven’t already, you may want to go back and get familiar with the law and terminology I explained in those earlier posts: “FAQs About Tipped Employees and the Minimum Wage” (Who is considered a tipped employee? What is the minimum wage for a tipped employee? Are any employers/employees exempt?) “FAQs About Tipped Employees and the Tip Credit” (How is the tip credit calculated? How does the employer know how much in tips you earned? Are there limits on how an employer applies the tip credit? Is the employer required to explain the tip credit to employees?) Here are some ways some employers are ripping off their tipped workers. Scam No. 1. Failure to pay the minimum wage. The bottom... read more
New Oklahoma Car Seat Law Seeks to Reduce Child Deaths, Injuries in Car Crashes

New Oklahoma Car Seat Law Seeks to Reduce Child Deaths, Injuries in Car Crashes

In less than seven weeks, a new child car seat law goes into effect in Oklahoma. I encourage parents and other drivers to begin following the new requirements now, which were adopted to save the lives of infants and children who are involved in a car crash on Oklahoma roads. Car Accidents and the Law One of the big differences in the new law, which goes into effect Nov. 1, is that babies under age 2 will be required to be in a rear-facing car seat. There was no requirement for rear-facing car seats in the previous law. Another big difference is that under the old law, children 6 and above were allowed to use seat belts. Under the new law, the age for seat belt use is increased to 8 and above, except for 6- and 7-year-olds who are 4-foot 9-inches or taller. You can read the law for yourself here: Title 47: Motor Vehicles, Section 11-1112. The law requires that children: under 2 years old must be in a rear-facing car seat, 2-3 years old must be in a car seat, but it does not have to be rear-facing, 4-7 years old and less than 4’9” must be in a car seat or booster seat, 8 years old and older or taller than 4’9” must use a seat belt. The driver is responsible to make sure child passengers are safely secured. Violation can result in a fine of $50 plus court costs, and the violation also can be admitted as evidence in a civil lawsuit. The new law was authored by state Rep. Scott Inman, Del City,... read more
What Actions Are Considered Reckless Driving?

What Actions Are Considered Reckless Driving?

The CDC reports that reckless driving is one of the top 10 causes of car accidents among teenagers.  However, it isn’t only teenaged drivers who have to be concerned.  Reckless driving accounts for roughly one third of all automotive accident fatalities in the United States, and unfortunately, Oklahoma is no exception. Breaking the Speed Limit in Oklahoma 47 O.S. § 11-901 provides two definitions of reckless driving: Operating a motor vehicle “in a careless or wanton manner without regard for the safety of persons or property.” Violating the provisions of 47 O.S. § 11-801. We’ll discuss the first definition in the next section of this article; but for now, let’s take a closer look at the regulations set forth by 47 O.S. § 11-801.  (After all, you can’t know whether its provisions were violated until you know what those provisions are.) 47 O.S. § 11-801(A) states that “Any person driving a vehicle on a highway shall drive… at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface and width of the highway and any other conditions then existing.”  Stated more simply, speeding is not allowed, and drivers should take road, weather, and traffic conditions into account. As provided by Section B of the statute, Oklahoma speed limits are: 75 MPH on turnpikes and rural stretches of interstate highways, such as I-35, I-40, and I-44. 70 MPH on four-lane divided highways (including interstates), and “super two-lane highways” (i.e. highways with passing lanes and paved shoulders). School buses are restricted to speeds of 55 MPH on two-lane highways,... read more
When Are Truck Drivers Required to Take Breaks?

When Are Truck Drivers Required to Take Breaks?

Coffee is America’s favorite breakfast beverage for a reason: you can’t function properly when you’re tired.  You start to forget important information.  Your physical reaction time is slowed down dramatically.  You become indecisive, and struggle to make even the simplest of choices.  Put simply, fatigue is a recipe for disaster – particularly when the fatigued person is controlling a powerful machine like a speeding semi-trailer truck.  Unfortunately, even though truckers are supposed to comply with federal shift limits called the hours of service regulations, exhausted drivers cause deadly truck accidents every day. How Often Does Driver Fatigue Cause Truck Crashes? The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, is the branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) responsible for monitoring and improving road safety among bus and truck companies.  Together with another branch of the DOT, called the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the FMCSA conducted a large truck crash causation study series sampling 120,000 accidents which occurred from April 2001 to December 2003.  According to a July 2007 brief on the study, all crashes included in the sample “involved at least one large truck and resulted in a fatality or injury.” The study ranked the leading factors in large truck crashes throughout the United States, as described below: Defective brake systems – 41,000 trucks (29%) Speeding for road/weather conditions – 32,000 trucks (23%) Lack of familiarity with the road – 31,000 trucks (22%) Defective or poorly maintained roads – 29,000 trucks (20%) Over-the-counter drug use – 25,000 trucks (17%) Insufficient surveillance – 20,000 trucks (14%) Driver fatigue – 18,000 trucks (13%) Pressure from carrier – 16,000... read more
FAQs About Tipped Employees and the (Vexingly Complicated) Tip Credit

FAQs About Tipped Employees and the (Vexingly Complicated) Tip Credit

One of the most complicated aspects of federal and state minimum wage laws for tipped employees in Oklahoma is the “tip credit.” A “tipped employee” under the wage and hour laws is any worker who receives tips as part of one’s regular income — restaurant waiters and waitresses, bartenders and bar servers, etc. Many tipped employees do not understand the laws, which are designed to make sure they receive the federally mandated minimum wage and that they are allowed to keep the tips they earn. Blog Series on Tipped Employees: Part 2 One big factor that makes the rules hard to understand is the tip credit, which employers can use to reduce the amount of wages they would otherwise have to pay. The tip credit is allowed under the law, but some unscrupulous employers use the tip credit to take advantage of uninformed workers. In my previous blog post, I answered “Some FAQs About Tipped Employees and the Minimum Wage,” including: Who is considered a tipped employee under the law? What is the minimum wage for a tipped employee? Are any employers/employees exempt from the minimum wage law? Now let’s zoom in on the tip credit. After I have explained the basics, in my next post I will discuss: “Ways Some Employers Are Ripping Off Their Tipped Employees.” How the Tip Credit Works The tip credit is based on the idea that tips are a big part of a tipped employee’s wages, but that the employer is still obligated to make sure employees earn the minimum wage, which is $7.25/hour under federal and state law. To make that happen,... read more
Some FAQs About Tipped Employees and the Minimum Wage

Some FAQs About Tipped Employees and the Minimum Wage

If you are a “tipped employee” in Oklahoma, is your employer treating you fairly under federal and state minimum wage laws, or are you being ripped off? If you earn some of your wages in the form of tips as a restaurant waiter or waitress, bartender, bar server, bellhop, nail salon technician, etc., laws at the federal and state level protect your right to receive a minimum wage and to keep the tips you earn. Blog Series on Tipped Employees: Part 1 Many tipped employees don’t know their rights and protections. Some employers don’t seem to know the laws, either — or they just choose to ignore them. Many tipped employees are people whom unethical employers might attempt to take advantage of, including teenagers, young adults, women and minorities. The law’s the law. People who work hard to serve the public deserve to be paid their fair wage. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 2.4 million restaurant waiters and waitresses in the nation. Their average wage is $10.40/hour, which is $21,640/year for a 40-hour work week. However, that average is skewed slightly by the wages of waiters and waitresses who work at expensive restaurants, where generous tips are the norm. The median wage — the exact middle value of the range — is $9.01/hour ($18,730 annually), which means half of the nation’s waiters and waitresses earn less than that. Here are some answers to a few Frequently Asked Questions about tipped employees. In my next blog post, I will discuss some Frequently Asked Questions about Tip Credits. In the blog post after that,... read more
What is the Leading Cause of Motorcycle Accidents in Oklahoma?

What is the Leading Cause of Motorcycle Accidents in Oklahoma?

Motorcycles are a beloved American icon, representing the rebellious spirit of the open road. Unfortunately, the same qualities which motorcycles are prized for – the speed and freedom they offer riders – also contribute to serious injuries and wrongful deaths when bikers get into accidents with other vehicles. In this article, our motorcycle accident lawyers will go over some Oklahoma crash statistics, common biker injuries, and the leading causes of accidents statewide. Common Motorcylist Injuries: Feet, Legs, and Hips The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO) prepares annual reports detailing statewide crash and accident facts. These reports are broken down into various categories, including one devoted specifically to motorcyclists. According to OHSO’s 2014 data, there were 1,465 total motorcycle accidents in Oklahoma during that year: a daily average of roughly four accidents, or about one accident every six hours. Collectively, these 1,465 crashes resulted in 1,184 injuries and 55 deaths. Since a total of 129,404 motorcycles were registered in Oklahoma as of 2014, these numbers mean only about 1% of the state’s motorcycles were involved in accidents. While motorcycle accidents may be less common than car accidents in Oklahoma, they frequently result in death or serious injury – as the numbers cited above make all too plain. Because motorcycles lack key protective features like air bags and seat belts, riders and passengers are frequently ejected, often skidding for dozens of feet before finally coming to a stop. While certainly not useless, leather gear isn’t always sufficient to protect riders from sustaining severe “road rash” (skin abrasion). Scrubbing and disinfecting road rash wounds is an extremely painful process for the victim,... read more
Is it Legal to Text and Drive in Oklahoma?

Is it Legal to Text and Drive in Oklahoma?

Cell phones and smartphones have opened up worlds of information. However, they’ve also had a negative effect: an increased number of automotive accidents caused by distracted driving. In an effort to combat the problem, most states have enacted legislation banning texting while driving. Is Oklahoma among them? And just how big of a problem is distracted driving, anyway? Our car accident lawyers have the answers. OK Gov. Mary Fallin Signs Law Banning Texting While Driving Cell phone use in the United States has been on a steady rise for years. According to Pew Research Center data, 90% of U.S. adults reported having a cell phone as of January 2014, compared to just 53% in May 2000. If the numbers continue to follow this course, it will only be a matter of years before every adult in the United States owns a cell phone or smartphone. If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you may remember our February article about a proposed ban on texting and driving in Oklahoma. The proposal, known as House Bill 1965, was authored by Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R- Catoosa) in response to the tragic death of Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Nicholas Dees, who was killed after being struck by a distracted driver. The driver, who was using his smartphone to update a social media profile at the time of the accident, also seriously injured Dees’ partner, Trooper Keith Burch. At the time our previous article was published, HB 1965 had just been passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives, but was still making its way through the Senate. We’re pleased to report that HB... read more
Crashes Involving Semi-Trucks Rising in Oklahoma

Crashes Involving Semi-Trucks Rising in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says accidents and fatalities involving semi-trucks are increasing in Oklahoma at an alarming rate. OHP has reported 574 accidents in Oklahoma involving semi-trucks in June, July and the first half of August. Lt. Preston Lay, a supervisor of the OHP’s Troop S, said distracted driving is one reason for the increase. Troop S is the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit of the OHP. “Distracted driving” primarily refers to drivers who are talking or texting on their mobile phones. When a truck driver is preoccupied with his or her mobile device, or when a driver sharing the road with a semi-truck is distracted, disaster can result. Although it is not illegal for a standard driver to talk on the phone while driving, it is illegal for the driver of a semi-truck to use any hand-held device while driving. Other Factors that Cause Truck Accidents • Fatigue: We all know how dangerous it is to drive when you are sleepy. The danger increases exponentially when you are behind the wheel of a truck carrying 5 tons or more of cargo. The laws governing truck driver “hours of service” are complicated. In a nutshell, a driver is limited to 14 hours of consecutive driving a day, and those 14 hours must include at least 3 hours of breaks. • Unsafe operation: Truck drivers facing deadlines or drivers running out of hours of service are tempted to speed, change lanes, tailgate, etc., to achieve their goals. Operating a semi-truck in an unsafe way endangers the lives of every other driver on the road. • Impaired driving: Of course, it is illegal... read more

Oklahoma Wrongful Death Lawsuit Brings National Scrutiny to Stand Your Ground Law

Parents of Monroe Bird III, the Tulsa man who in February was shot in the neck by a security guard in the parking lot of the apartment complex where he lived, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The death of Bird, 21 when he was shot, has gained national attention during a time when shootings of African American men by law enforcement officers — in this case, a security guard — have repeatedly made the news. The lawsuit will also draw national attention for its implications regarding the Stand Your Ground law, as well as bad faith insurance. I will enter the fray with a few opinions: 1. Oklahoma’s Stand Your Ground law, adopted in 2006, and similar laws in 44 other states, were designed to empower citizens to protect themselves against intruders in their homes and businesses. Such laws were never intended to make it easier for a private security guard to shoot an unarmed man in a residential parking lot. 2. Any time a uniformed officer shoots an unarmed person, there better be an extremely good explanation. Law enforcement officers and security guards are employed to protect the public, not endanger them. 3. It is shameful when insurance companies handle a claim the way Monroe Bird’s insurer handled his. The company used the confrontation between Stone and Bird to renege on Bird’s medical coverage. It appears that that decision played a big role in Bird’s death. 4. This is another incident in which citizens must turn to civil litigation to find justice. Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler never brought charges against Stone for shooting and ultimately... read more

How Much Can a Jury Award in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Oklahoma?

Is there a cap on how much can be awarded? I did a brief survey recently of what some other law firm websites in Oklahoma say about caps on medical malpractice awards. What a hodge-podge of information! For example, some of our colleagues say that the cap on noneconomic damages is $300,000, some say $350,000, and some say $400,000. There are two reasons for the confusion. One is that some websites are out-of-date. Our website, OklahomaLawyer.com, has more than one thousand pages of legal information. Believe me, it takes a lot of hard work to maintain up-to-date information on our webpages and blog. Another reason for the conflicting information is that Oklahoma laws on medical malpractice have changed frequently during the last 12 years. Let’s get right to the most up-to-date information available. Four Kinds of Damages In a civil suit in Oklahoma for damages resulting from malpractice by a doctor, hospital or other health provider, there are four kinds of claims for damages that a plaintiff can make. * Economic damages. Economic damages include medical bills (past and future), lost income (past and future), and any other financial losses that have resulted from the malpractice. There is no limit or cap on the amount of economic damages a plaintiff can be awarded. * Noneconomic damages. In addition, a plaintiff may seek non-economic damages for such harms and losses as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium (loss of the benefits of having a spouse). Oklahoma’s current cap on noneconomic damages is $350,000.  However, there are exceptions to that rule which allow... read more
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