Public debate has raged for years about when lawsuits go too far, and the terms “frivolous lawsuit” and “tort reform” come up nearly every legislative session in Oklahoma.
But what are frivolous lawsuits?
A frivolous lawsuit is a term used to describe extravagant personal injury claims. Legally, the term frivolous litigation means attorneys file cases or motions they know they will lose. It can also mean attorneys are filing motion after motion just to annoy the other side.
That’s not the kind of law practiced at Laird Hammons Laird. Frivolous lawsuits aren’t even as big of a problem as politicians and insurance companies claim. In reality, ridiculous personal injury cases never make it to a jury.
“Frivolous lawsuits do not make it to trial,” said Jeff Laird, a personal injury attorney and LHL founding partner. “I don’t make my living on frivolous lawsuits.”
The Myth of Frivolous Lawsuits
When people talk about frivolous lawsuits, the case of Liebeck v. McDonald’s is usually the first thing to come to mind. In 1992, a 79-year-old woman from New Mexico spilled McDonald’s coffee on her lap, resulting in scalds that left her in the hospital for eight days. Stella Liebeck suffered third-degree burns and needed skin grafts to repair her legs. She also needed two years of medical care afterward. She asked McDonald’s to pay her $10,000 in medical bills. McDonald’s offered her only $800.
For the first time in her life, Liebeck filed a lawsuit. A jury awarded her nearly $3 million. A judge later reduced the award, and Leibeck and McDonald’s settled out of court, reportedly for less than $500,000. And McDonald’s eventually reduced the temperature of its coffee by 10 degrees.
Her case sparked a national debate, and politicians used it as an example of “frivolous” lawsuits. But Stella Liebeck was badly hurt. When she simply asked for her bills to be paid, the international corporation said $10,000 was too much. After she received compensation, her story was twisted into a talking point.
“We’re fighting a public perception that’s actually completely inaccurate,” said Chris Hammons, a personal injury attorney and LHL founding partner.
Laird said the term “frivolous lawsuit” is used by politicians and insurance companies to convince the general public that any type of compensation is frivolous.
“They’ve convinced the voting public that everybody who is injured and tries to get money is a frivolous case,” Laird said. “If a lawyer files a frivolous lawsuit, that judge is going to kick that case out and dismiss it before it even gets going.”
Jurors sometimes dismiss pain and suffering claims as frivolous, too, even though pain and suffering are very real results of injury. In Oklahoma, the limit for pain and suffering claims is $350,000. That may sound like a lot, but when you consider a person left paralyzed, burned or horribly disfigured that number is simply not enough.
Why Lawsuits Exist
The public debate about lawsuits has caused confusion about what lawsuits are for, Hammons said. Personal injury cases are unique in that there’s no way to make amends when it comes to death or injury. Stolen money can be repaid. A smashed window can be replaced. But a leg lost in a truck accident cannot be replaced. A loved one killed in a work accident can’t be replaced.
“The only compensation we have is money,” Hammons said. “Right or wrong, like it or not, it’s a civil matter. Our system was built to compensate people who are injured by someone else’s negligence. The only justice available to us it money, so they shouldn’t feel guilty about it.”
Cases at Laird Hammons Laird
Even with the threat of judges kicking out ridiculous cases, bad lawyers sometimes still bring bad cases to court. Those same attorneys look to make a quick buck by settling out of court.
“You’re not going to get that at Laird Hammons Laird,” Hammons said. “You’re going to get a well-prepared lawyer that is going to fight hard in trial for a good case. And that’s why we’re going to get good results. We’re not taking frivolous cases. That doesn’t exist at Laird Hammons Laird.”
Also, Laird Hammons Laird attorneys often don’t get paid unless our clients win. We’re honest with our clients about their cases, and we fight in court for what they deserve.
“It could be years of work down the tubes if we’re not successful, and our clients could get nothing,” Hammons said. “… I wouldn’t risk (everything) on a case I didn’t believe in.”
What to Do If You’re Injured
If you’ve been hurt at work or in a car or truck accident, seek medical and legal advice right away.
Hammons said sometimes people won’t reach out to an attorney because they don’t believe in lawsuits. He understands where they’re coming from, but they have to protect themselves and their families.
“Seek advice quickly from an attorney,” Hammons said. “You cannot put your trust into an insurance company or a business to do the right thing. You have to protect your own rights.”
If you’ve been hurt, contact the experienced attorneys at Laird Hammons Laird.
Any worker can experience an injury while on the job, but there are some industries that are especially dangerous.
The most dangerous job in Oklahoma is the nursing home worker. About 1 in 7 employees in this job sector are hurt each year — about 2,200 injuries every year.
Firefighters come in second place. About 1 in 8 firefighters is hurt each year, which adds up to about 500 injuries every year. Police officers are third on the list with about 1 in 9 officers injured each year for a total of 1,100 injuries annually.
Workplace injuries in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, more than 48,900 work-related injuries were reported, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data comes from 2012, the most recent year available for Oklahoma.
The industry that has the most injuries each year is hospital sector. About 4,200 hospital workers report on-the-job injuries annually, which makes up about 8½ percent of all work-related injuries. In all, about 1 in 12 hospital employees will suffer an injury at work in any given year.
The safest industry in Oklahoma: finance. Only about 1 in every 200 finance workers is injured on the job each year.
Workplace deaths in Oklahoma
Unfortunately, some workplace injuries result in death. In Oklahoma, 98 people died at work in 2014, the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Men are far more likely to die from work injuries in Oklahoma, according to the bureau. Of the 98 deaths, 92 were men and six were women.
Workplace deaths can happen at any age, but in Oklahoma, the largest number of deaths happened to 45- to 54-year-olds. This age group accounted for nearly 1 in 4 fatalities.
Fatalities can happen for a variety of causes. In Oklahoma, the most common cause was transportation incidents. While deaths happen in many sectors, the transportation industry was the most dangerous, with about 1 in 4 deaths coming from that sector. Construction was the second most dangerous, accounting for about 1 in 5 workplace deaths in Oklahoma. Other dangerous sectors include government jobs, trade, and mining and energy.
If you or a loved one has been hurt at work, navigating the workers’ compensation process in Oklahoma can be challenging. The skilled, knowledgeable attorneys at Laird Hammons Laird are here to help. Contact us if you need workers’ comp advice.
The University of Oklahoma is a special place to the attorneys at Laird Hammons Laird, and that’s why we’re proud to sponsor OU Homecoming 2016.
If you walk through the Laird Hammons Laird offices, you’ll notice plenty of OU diplomas on the walls — 14 altogether.
Founding partner Jeff Laird has had season tickets since 1973 and has attended 43 OU/Texas games. “I love to be a part of the crowd,” he said. “The atmosphere when the team makes a big play and the enthusiasm is something to experience.”
The firm’s newest attorney, Amanda Everett, comes from a long line of Sooner fanatics, and she loves attending football games. “There are so many things I love about being a Sooner,” she said. “One of my favorite parts of attending the home games is when the whole crowd holds up one finger and we do the OU chant. It is a great part of being an OU alum, and it is always a special moment for Sooner grads.”
Employment attorney Colby Addison said his favorite OU tradition is simple: winning. He also likes to point out his favorite stats: Seven national championships, forty-four conference championships, eight Big 12 titles, and five Heisman Trophy winners.
But for Colby, OU means more than a winning tradition. His education there helped shape him into the attorney he is today.
“The University of Oklahoma laid the foundation for me to pursue my dream: helping those who have fallen victim to injustice in the workplace,” he said. “From the leadership of the university down to the students and organizations, OU seeks to personify the good in the world by teaching the values of tolerance and acceptance. These values have driven me into this profession and fundamentally shaped my personal and professional endeavors.”
The Sooners take on the Kansas Jayhawks at 6 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Norman. We’ll be there, rooting for the Crimson and Cream.
Whether you’re involved in a civil trial or criminal proceedings, court cases evoke strong emotions, such as anxiety, fear, excitement, and impatience.
Once the battle begins, the range of emotions can swing from anger and depression to victory and hope, but one thing is for certain: Nothing moves fast in the court system.
Even if you’ve won your court case and a judge or jury rules in your favor, the appeals process can sometimes drag on and on. How can plaintiffs and defendants stay sane waiting for the outcomes of their cases? What can you do to alleviate the mental challenges of waiting for a decision?
Patience, of course, is required. However, the longer you have to wait, the more stress you may feel, and burnout can quickly set in. Here are a few tips to help you avoid losing your peace of mind when waiting for a court decision.
Unfortunately injuries at day care centers are common. Though you most likely did extensive research on the facility you chose, negligence and improper training are things you can’t control.
Day Care Release Forms Don’t Prevent You from SuingOne common misunderstanding is that parents believe by signing a release form with an indemnification clause, they cannot legally sue a day care center for their child’s injuries. Though most day care forms include an injury clause stating they are released from all liability, this doesn’t stand in a court of law. Many day cares add this to their forms as a way to dissuade parents from hiring an attorney.
Traditionally, courts also don’t recognize indemnification clauses because it isn’t fair for parent’s to sign the compensation rights of their child away. Because parents aren’t being injured directly, the court will stand on the side of the child.
Unfortunately when a young child gets injured, they may not have the ability to speak for themselves. In some cases, day care providers have lied about the source of injury, placing the blame on the child or other children. No matter the circumstance, there may be a way to prove negligence against the day care workers or owner.
It is the responsibility of the day care worker to owe a “reasonable duty of care” to your child while he or she is in custody. What this means is the cay care workers should supervise children properly, provide a safe environment and avoid intentional injury. Day care centers should take every precaution to prevent injury, such as keeping the facility properly sanitized and locking up harmful cleaners. There should also be sufficient supervision during playtime on playgrounds where children may fall off equipment.
There is also a factor of proving causation, which requires the court to evaluate the factors of the circumstance. For example, if your child became violently ill due to a lack of proper sanitization or food handling, your child wouldn’t have been injured if the daycare took the proper precautions, which proves negligence.
While most day care injuries are a result of an accident due to negligence, some injuries are intentional. If a day care worker intentionally injures your child, you should absolutely call a personal injury lawyer.
If your child is injured to the point where they need medical attention, this is enough reason to consult an attorney. If you end up seeking medical attention, keep all records of the treatment and injury diagnoses. Take photos if you are able.
However, some injuries still call for an attorney, even if no medical visit is needed. Emotional trauma can justify an attorney as well; don’t be afraid to call. An experienced personal injury attorney can determine if your case is worth taking further.
Even if you don’t feel you have proof, it is your attorney’s job to help your child receive the compensation they deserve, whether it’s through your insurance company or if the case goes to trial. Call the experienced lawyers at Laird Hammons Laird today for a free consultation: 405-703-4567.