Accident and Disability Lawyers of OKC

Personal Injury - Social Security Disability - Workers' Compensation - Employment Law

Accident and Disability Lawyers of OKC works hard to help qualified people in Oklahoma obtain Social Security Disability benefits and injured people obtain compensation. When you need help, call us for sound legal advice, dedicated service and zealous advocacy on your behalf.

Social Security Disability

Fighting for your Social Security Disability benefits can be a complex and intimidating process for most people. Let Jason M. Hicks lead you down the long and twisted path to getting the benefits you deserve. Whether you have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income benefits

Car, Truck and Motorcycle Accidents

Have you been injured in an accident? Don't take on the insurance companies alone. Call a lawyer you can trust. We offer the resources and experience of a large firm with individualized and personal attention you can count on.

Workers' Compensation

If you have been injured on the job, call us today. We have experienced and dedicated attorneys who can help you obtain the for your Workers' Compensation benefits you deserve.

Employment Law

Oklahoma and Federal law protects the rights of employees from unlawful discrimination and treatment in the workplace. If you have experienced discrimination call the employment lawyers at Accident and Disability Lawyers of OKC.

Pain and Suffering under Oklahoma law

What damages can you recover?

Under Oklahoma law, if you have been injured as a result of the negligence of another you may be entitled to damages for your harms and losses. Generally speaking, the damages come in two forms: economic damages and non-economic damages. But what do those terms mean?

Economic Damages

Economic damages include medical bills, lost wages, and other past and future expenses which were the foreseeable result of your injuries. These are the easiest damages to calculate and understand. For example, you are driving down an Oklahoma road, you stop at a red light. As you sit waiting for the light to turn green, you are rear-ended by a driver who is not paying attention. You feel pain and go to the emergency room to be checked out. Soon after, you get a bill from the hospital for $1,500.00. Because you went to the emergency room as a result of the other driver's negligence, just about everyone would agree that the other driver should pay your ER bill.

Once the bill is paid, your wallet is back to even, but what about you? What about the pain you felt? What if that pain continues? What if it affects your ability to function, to do the things in your life that you enjoy?

Non-Economic Damages: Pain and Suffering

Fortunately, Oklahoma law allows its citizens to recover non-economic damages. While the term "non-economic" damages includes more than just pain and suffering, we will focus on pain and suffering today. Pain and suffering is a legal term is a legal term, which encompasses not only physical pain, but also the emotional trauma of going through a car wreck and dealing with the changes in your life which follow. Pain and suffering can include your worry, your grief, your fears, and your stress - especially when those things affect your quality of life.

In Oklahoma, you are allowed compensation. But pain and suffering can be far more difficult to calculate. There is no bill, like from the emergency room, which details the costs of your pain and suffering. And in many ways, there is no specific way to calculate the value of the changes in a human being's life caused by the negligence of another human being.

But pain and suffering does have value. At Accident and Disability Lawyers of OKC, we believe the changes to your life are often the most devastating result of a personal injury case. To put it simply, they are what makes a personal injury case, personal.

If you suffer mental anguish, fear, or loss as a result of a car accident or personal injury case, call Accident and Disability Lawyers of OKC. We can help you obtain the compensation you deserve, including compensation for your pain and suffering.

 

Employment Law - What Sex-Based Discrimination

Sex-Based Discrimination - Generally

Sex discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of that person's sex. The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, as well as any other term or condition of employment.

What laws protect workers from sex-based discrimination?

Numerous state and federal laws are designed to protect workers from sex-based discrimination. For example, the Equal Pay Act prohibits employers and unions from paying different wages based on sex. It requires employers to pay workers who perform equal work in jobs requiring "equal skill, effort, and responsibility, performed under similar working conditions" the same pay as other workers in the same position.

While the Equal Pay Act primarily addresses wage discrimination, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in many more aspects of the employment relationship. It makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Title VII applies to numerous aspects of the terms, conditions and privileges of employment. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, amended or expanded the Civil Rights act to preclude discrimination based on pregnancy, child birth and related medical conditions.

These federal statutes and regulations, and many others not discussed here, generally apply to employers engaged in interstate commerce with more than 15 employees. However, Oklahoma state laws may protect employees who would not otherwise be protected by federal laws, and in some instances may provide better protection for Oklahoma employees than the federal laws. The Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act prevent unlawful discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, creed, age, disability or genetic information. Oklahoma discrimination law may apply to any Oklahoma employer with at least 1 employee.

If you believe you are or have been the victim of unlawful discrimination, we may be able to help. Call us at 405-759-0515.

 

Social Security Disability - A Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process - PART 2

I always intend on keeping a regular blog about legal issues affecting Oklahomans. But like so many, the toils and turmoils of everyday life seem to get in the way of even the truest of resolutions. With the approaching new year comes new resolve. In June, I wrote about the five-step process for evaluating a social security disability claim, highlight steps 1 and 2. I promised to come back and discuss the remaining steps soon after....well better late than never.

Step 3: You can be found disabled if you meet or equal a listing.

The third step to a social security determination asks the judge to determine whether your medical records show signs, findings and symptoms meet or are medically equal  to the social security's Listing of Impairments. The Listing of Impairments is a set of medical criteria for the determination of disability. The listing includes more than 100 impairments. You can find the listings at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Essentially, the SSA is assessing the severity of your impairments to determine whether they are so bad that SS would not be able to work, without regard to your residual function capacity (RFC), although the listings do incorporate some aspects of an RFC determination.

According to the Social Security Administration, 

Applicants with impairments that “meet” the Listings are allowed with no further evaluation, based solely on medical criteria. Moreover, if an applicant has an impairment not included in the Listings, but considered medically equivalent to a listed impairment, the impairment is said to “equal the Listings” and the applicant is allowed. Applicants who are not allowed at step 3 have impairments that, although severe, are not severe enough to consider the applicants disabled purely on medical grounds. Such applicants are evaluated further at step 4 and, possibly, step 5.

https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/rsnotes/rsn2013-01.html

If you are found disabled at step 3, the Social Security Administration has no need to determine whether you can do your past work or any other work. Notably, even if you don't strictly meet specific listing, you can still be found disabled if you can show that your impairments are medically equal to a listing. To equal a listing, you must show that your impairments are the medical equivalent of a listed impairment. In other words, you must show that your medical findings are comparable to the essential findings in a listing. However, before you can  be found disabled at this step, the Social Security decision-maker must consider the opinion of a medical expert hired by SSA. 

Even if you don't meet or equal a listing, you may still qualify for benefits. However, you must show that you cannot do your past relevant work or other work considering your age, education, employment history and residual functional capacity. SSA evaluates these considerations at step 4 and 5. 

We will discuss them next time. In the meantime, if you have any questions, call me at 405.759.0515

 

Social Security Disability - A Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process

Social Security regulations require decision-makers to use a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether you or your loved one is "disabled." To be found "disabled" and qualify for benefits, you must be able to get past each of the five steps. If the proof fails at any of the five steps (except step 3), the process is terminated and you will be denied.

Step 1: You cannot be engaged in a "substantial gainful activity" (SGA).

To qualify for Social Security benefits, you must be able to show that you are not engaged in a substantial gainful activity. In other words, you must be able to show that you are not working. If you are working, that is, performing a substantial gainful activity, you will be denied for benefits no matter how impaired you are.

Under the social security regulations, “substantial work activity . . . involves doing significant physical or mental activities.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(a). Work may not be substantial when you are unable “to do ordinary or simple tasks satisfactorily without more supervision or assistance than is usually given other people doing similar work” or when you are doing work “that involves minimal duties that make little or no demands” on you and that are of “little or no use” to the employer or to the operation of a self-employed business. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1573(b). But even sheltered work may be substantial. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1573(c). SSA defines gainful activity broadly: “Work activity is gainful if it is the kind of work usually done for pay or profit, whether or not a profit is realized.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(b).

In 2016, a person earning more than $1,130.00 per month will ordinarily be considered to be engaging in a substantial gainful activity.

Step 2: You must have a severe impairment which is expected to last 12 months or longer, or result in death.

At step two of the sequential evaluation process, it becomes necessary to determine if your impairments are "severe." To be successful at this step, it must be determined only that you have a medically determinable impairment which results in virtually any reduction in your residual functional capacity. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c), § 404.1521, SSR 85-28 and SSR 96-3p.

While getting past this step is generally easier than getting past steps 3, 4 and 5, this step highlights the importance of using a skilled attorney to help you obtain and submit comprehensive medical records which demonstrate your conditions and impairments.  According to the SSA policies, “[n]o symptom or combination of symptoms can be the basis for a finding of disability, no matter how genuine the individual’s complaints may appear to be, unless there are medical signs and laboratory findings demonstrating the existence of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment.” SSR 96-4p. In other words, no matter how much the SSA decision-maker might believe you are disabled, he or she cannot award you benefits unless your complaints are supported by your medical records.

Not only must your conditions and impairments be severe and medically supported, they must also meet the duration requirement. In other words, your condition must be continuously "severe." Specifically, unless an impairment is expected to result in death, it must have lasted or be expected to last for a continuous period of 12 months. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a).

Denials based on the duration requirement usually occur in those cases where, at the time of the decision, the duration requirement is not met and the impairment is the sort that is likely to improve within 12 months. However, even if your condition improves, you may still qualify for closed-ended benefits if your condition lasted long enough to meet the 12-month duration requirement.

Steps 3-5: Coming Soon!!!

In our next blog, we will discuss steps 3-5. These steps generally require a finding that you meet or equal a medical listing, or that your residual functional capacity is limited enough to prevent you from doing your past work and certain other work available in the national and regional economy.  Generally speaking, getting past steps 1 and 2 is easier than getting past steps 3-5. To get benefits, you must be able to satisfy each of the necessary steps. While we will discuss steps 3-5 next time, a qualified attorney is your best bet at getting the benefits you deserve!

CALL US AT 405-759-0515 TO DISCUSS YOUR CASE! FREE CONSULTATION!

 

Insurance companies are not your friend

Everybody says they are your friend. The "high-powered" attorneys that these multi-billion dollar insurance companies hire are no different. "Get in a wreck"...they say... "no problem. Tell us everything and we promise we will take care of you." What they really mean is "Get in a wreck...that's your problem. Tell us everything and we will use it against you later to keep insurance money in the pockets of the insurance company." Just because they say it with a smile, does not make them any less of a snake.

Let me give you a real-life example: Typically, when you go the doctor your communications with the doctor and your medical records are private. When you make a claim against for your injuries caused by another person's negligence, the Oklahoma Discovery Code and Oklahoma case law state that you waive the physician-patient privilege for medical treatment related to the injuries you are claiming, and you must share those records and communications with the defendant. This means you have to tell the person who caused your injury all about your medical treatment. They get to read your records page by page.

Not only does the defendant get to see the records for treatment you had as direct result of the wreck defendant cause, he also gets to see records for any treatment you've ever had which may be relevant to the injuries you sustained because of this defendant or even which may lead to admissible evidence about the injuries you sustained.

But what does relevant mean? How far back can defendant look? Who can defendant talk to? Which doctors can they get records from? I can tell you this much....the insurance company will try to look at everything. They will engage in a fishing expedition to see every little bump, bruise or sickness you have ever had....ever! They do this in hopes to find something to use against you. And what's worse, if they can get away with it, they won't even tell you what records they've seen until the last minute, when they will surprise you with it, hoping you will panic and settle cheap.

Many plaintiff's attorneys don't properly protect their clients' information. They give the insurance company a blank form which allows defendant free reign to get whatever the insurance company wants to see about you. I will admit it. I used to be one of them.

But through experience, we at ADLOKC have learned the importance of protecting your privacy from the prying eyes of the insurance companies. At ADLOKC we will fight to keep your private life - private - so that the insurance company can't use it against you to stronghold you into settling for less than you deserve.

Hello

Welcome to ADLOKC! Each week we will post a blog about topics which we believe matter to you. Hopefully, we can provide you with some information about the law in Oklahoma, and what you can do to protect yourself.

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Based in Oklahoma City, Accident and Disability Lawyers of OKC serves the legal needs of individuals in the Metro area and Oklahoma communities such as Tulsa, El Reno, Norman, Ardmore, Lawton, Enid, Shawnee, Owasso, Moore, Edmond, Midwest City and Del City.

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© 2014 by Jason M. Hicks, P.C. All rights reserved.