Wrongful Discharge From Employment in Montana

Montana employment law is unique in that our state is one of the few that includes statutory protection to workers for wrongful termination from employment.  The “Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act,” which is codified at MCA 39-2-901 through -915, was passed in 1987.

Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act

The WDEA states that a discharge from employment is wrongful, and thus actionable under the law, if (1) it was in retaliation for the employee’s refusal to violate public policy or for reporting a public policy violation; (2) it was not for good cause and the employee had completed the probationary period (typically 6 months); or (3) the employer violated the terms of its written personnel policy.

If a termination was wrongful, the employer may be liable for an award of wages and benefits that the employee lost because of the wrongful firing.

Limitations To Actions

Of course, there are also limitations to an employee’s claim.  The employee cannot sue for emotional distress, pain and suffering, punitive damages (in most cases), or other compensatory damages beyond wages and benefits.  Interim earnings are subtracted from any award.  An award of damages is limited to only four years after the date of the discharge.  The employee typically must have completed the probationary period before the WDEA applies.  And any internal grievance procedure must be completed before a WDEA claim is available for a fired employee.

Take Action

This is a small example of some of the legal issues that may arise in a wrongful discharge situation.  If you have been fired from a job in Montana, or your business has been sued for wrongful discharge, you may need to consult a Montana employment or labor law attorney to discuss the specifics of your case.  Call Sather & Holm law firm today at (406) 534-4387 for a free consultation.

Winter Weather Brings Increased Risk of Motor Vehicle Accidents

As we all know, winter weather can be severe in Montana and often creates dangerous driving conditions.  Snowy and icy conditions and blowing snow across roadways dramatically increase the risk of car accidents.  However, a study by the University of California – Berkley states that most car accidents occurring in inclement weather take place because one or more drivers are simply traveling too fast for weather conditions or traffic.  As you embark through the snow and ice in Billings or other parts of Montana, keep in mind these tips for staying safe and avoiding a car wreck this winter:

  • Decrease your speed.  One way to decrease the likelihood of a motor vehicle accident is to travel at a speed that is reasonable for the winter driving conditions.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly.  Avoid slipping and sliding by easing into your starts and stops.
  • Install snow tires.  Have your local tire shop install studded snow tires, which typically provide better grip on icy and snowy roads.
  • Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you.  Depending on your speed, this could extend the time between cars from a typical 3-4 second span to 8-10 seconds, allowing greater stopping time.

If you do get involved in a car accident this winter, you may wish to engage legal representation to pursue your rights against the insurance company or at-fault driver.  Contact an experienced car accident lawyer in Billings today at Sather & Holm Law Firm.  Give us a call at (406) 534-4387 to set up a free consultation to determine your legal rights.

Car Accidents are Frequently Caused by Careless Cellphone Use

More than two years ago, Billings enacted city ordinance Section 24-360, which outlaws the use of cellphones while driving a motor vehicle within the city limits.  The law, however, is much broader than just outlawing talking on one’s cellphone.  The law applies to all handheld electronic devices and prohibits the driver from in any way using the device or even having the device within his or her immediate physical possession.

By now, all Montana drivers should have an understanding as to the risks and dangers of using a cellphone while driving, whether it be talking, texting, or checking emails.  Studies suggest drivers using a cellphone can be even more distracted than a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Think about it…a texting driver takes his or her eyes completely off the road, reducing his or her ability to observe and react to stimuli on the roadway, and greatly increasing the likelihood of a car accident.  This dangerous reality is making its way into the courtroom, as well.  Distracted-driver claims appear to be on the rise, and cellphone records are frequently the subject of discovery during the litigation process.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a careless driver using a cellphone while driving in Billings or other city in Montana, please contact our law office for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights with an experienced Montana personal injury lawyer.  You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (406) 534-4387.

I’ve Been in a Car Accident. Do I Need a Lawyer?

While some people will tell you it is not essential to hire legal representation to represent you after a car accident, many will highly advise it.  A variety of complications can arise even in the most basic car accident claim.  If you are involved in a car wreck that is someone else’s fault, the first thing you will likely do is open an insurance claim.  Keep in mind there are different types of insurance coverages, including liability, underinsured, uninsured, medical payments, and others.  Montana law may also apply to “stack” one or more of these coverages.  Correctly identifying the applicable policies and available limits is a crucial step in maximizing your potential recovery, and the insurance company is not always helpful in performing this task.

The insurance companies will investigate the claim and consider who they believe was at fault and what medical bills and other expenses of yours they will pay.  This determination is not always to your benefit.  The insurance company may have wrongfully shifted liability onto you, or they may refuse to pay causally related medical expenses in violation of Montana law.  They may also attempt to convince you to quickly settle your claim for less than what it is worth.  When an insurance claim comes back with an unfavorable result, a car accident lawyer can be extremely helpful in this situation. Contact a Montana attorney at Sather & Holm, PLLC, if you are looking for quality representation in pursuing your auto accident claim.