Legal Blog


Melany O’Brien Named to Women’s Center for Advancement Board

August 12th, 2014

melany-obrienOmaha, Neb. – Melany O’Brien, J.D., a respected partner at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf, & Lathrop, P.C., has been named to the distinguished Board of Directors for the Women’s Center for Advancement (WCA). While the firm has partnered with the WCA for many years to provide “rides to safety” for clients needing transportation to WCA offices and to shelters and other safer places, Ms. O’Brien’s new appointment to the board offers a unique opportunity to focus her expertise on the mission of the organization. She is a strong advocate for women and is passionate about assisting them and their families on a path towards strength, growth, and self-sufficiency. Ms. O’Brien has experience aggressively fighting for justice for her clients and the firm is excited knowing she will do the same for the Women’s Center for Advancement. Her tenacious work with the board will help women build strong and safe families through education, support and council. Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf, and Lathrop, P.C. applauds Melany O’Brien on her appointment as she continues to build a safer tomorrow for the families of Omaha.

Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, a law practice headquartered in Omaha, Neb., founded the Hauptman, O’Brien Community Foundation. Its practice areas focus on personal injury claims. The foundation’s mission is to raise awareness of and improve community safety through programs like Safe Ride Home and Safe Ride for domestic violence victims.

Women’s Center for Advancement offers a wide array of services to women and families, including career services and domestic violence and sexual assault counseling and education. Its domestic violence and sexual assault programs provide direct service to more than 16,000 people in the Omaha metropolitan area each year.

Fireworks Safety

July 2nd, 2014


Fireworks can be fun for celebrating. They are colorful, loud, and darn festive! But they can be dangerous as well if you don’t follow some simple rules:

  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area and only use approved types.
  • Never allow young children to ignite or play with fireworks INCLUDING sparklers. They can burn at temperatures of 2,000 degrees – similar to a blow torch – and handing a blow torch to a child is never a good idea. So, keep the pyrotechnics to the adults.
  • Avoid fireworks wrapped in brown paper as they may be intended only for professional displays and operated only by trained professionals.
  • Keep a garden hose or bucket of water close by in case of accidents.
  • Never drink and ignite. Keep a designated firecracker operator.
  • Only light fireworks one at a time.
  • Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting the device.
  • Never re-light or pick up fireworks that did not ignite fully.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Douse the used fireworks before discarding to insure you do not cause a secondary fire in your garbage can.

Thousands of people are injured by fireworks every year. By following these rules and using common sense, you can have a great time and keep everyone safe!

Heat Safety

June 15th, 2014


With Summer starting with a roar, it’s important to review safety tips regarding heat. It’s easy to be distracted by your growing garden, enjoying the great outdoors, or catching up on home maintenance but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Drink plenty of water. If you get thirsty, you are already getting dehydrated. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can dehydrate you as well.
  • Wear a hat or stay in the shade where possible.
  • Apply and reapply sunscreen frequently.
  • Wear lightweight, light colored clothing.
  • Ensure your pet’s needs are met as well. They should have access to clean water and shade.
  • If you have elderly or disabled neighbors, check on them periodically to be sure they are not overheated.
  • If you do not have access to air conditioning, there are local cooling centers you may visit as well as the local libraries, mall, and other public areas.

Be safe and have fun!

Pothole Safety

May 24th, 2014


Driving carefully is always a good idea. When you have a road riddled with potholes, it is especially important to be aware of the road. After getting plowed frequently and doused in salt, the roads are a mess. Here are few helpful tips:

  • Don’t tailgate. If the driver in front of you suddenly dodges a pothole or slams on their brakes, leaving a good following distance will give you more time to react.
  • Mind the speed limits. You will not “fly” over a pothole by driving fast. In fact, driving faster only means greater damage is possible.
  • Do not brake into a pothole. If you are about to unavoidably hit one, and sometimes this can be the case, do not brake just as you are hitting it. Braking will cause the front of the car to nosedive. It is better to release the brakes just before impact so the whole of the car will absorb the energy.
  • Pay Attention: You are more likely to be able to avoid potholes completely if you can see them coming so pay attention.
  • Beware of puddles as they may conceal the size of the hole.
  • Frequently inspect your rims and tires for damage. Do not assume you are in the clear if your tire didn’t immediately pop. You may have rim damage.
  • Have your vehicle inspected and check often for proper alignment. Steering and suspension can be damaged if you do not keep up maintenance in these areas.

Damages: What are you entitled to?

March 28th, 2014

If you are injured due to someone’s negligence – What damages are you entitled to?

According to the Nebraska Jury Instructions, the purpose of damages is to put the injured party in the same position, so far as money can do it, as he or she would have been had there been no injury or breach of duty, that is, to compensate for the injury actually sustained. The amount of damages is solely up to the fact finder (Jury or Judge).

In Nebraska there are two types of damages: Economic (Special damages) and Non-Economic (General damages).

Economic Damages

  • The reasonable value of medical care and supplies reasonably needed by and actually provided to the plaintiff (and reasonably certain to be needed and provided in the future);
  • The (wages, salary, profits, reasonable value of the working time, business) the plaintiff has lost because of (his, her) (inability, diminished ability) to work;
  • The reasonable value of the (earning capacity, business or employment opportunities) the plaintiff is reasonably certain to lose in the future;
  • Reasonable Funeral costs;
  • The reasonable value of the plaintiff’s loss of the use of (his, her) property;
  • The reasonable value of the cost of repair or replacement of personal property.
  • The reasonable cost of obtaining substitute domestic services.

Non-Economic Damages

  • The reasonable monetary value of the physical pain and mental suffering (and emotional distress) the plaintiff has experienced (and is reasonably certain to experience in the future);
  • The reasonable monetary value of the inconvenience the plaintiff has experienced (and is reasonably certain to experience in the future);
  • The reasonable monetary value of loss of society and companionship suffered by the plaintiff and reasonably certain to be suffered in the future;
  • The reasonable monetary value of any injury to plaintiff’s reputation;
  • The reasonable monetary value of any humiliation the plaintiff has experienced (and is reasonably certain to experience in the future);
  • The plaintiff’s (husband’s, wife’s) loss of consortium. Consortium means those things to which a person is entitled by reason of the marriage relationship. Includes affection, love, companionship, comfort, assistance, moral support, and the enjoyment of (sexual, conjugal) relations.


In the determination of economic and non-economic damages, the jury or judge must consider the nature and extent of the injury, including whether the injury is temporary or permanent, and whether any resulting disability is partial or total.

Material taken from “NJI2d Civ. 4.00; “General instruction on Damages in a Tort Action – Economic and Noneconomic Damages”.

Safety Tips for Driving in Snowy Conditions

February 18th, 2014

Snow DrivingDriving in snowy conditions can be extremely dangerous and drivers should always pay extra attention when faced with such road conditions. Sometimes it makes more sense to stay put during a snowstorm and wait until the snowplows have cleared the road; however, if it’s absolutely necessary to drive, here are some helpful tips that can help prevent an automobile accident.


To achieve proper traction in the snow, it’s important that you get snow tires mounted onto your vehicle. High-performance summer-tires offer little traction in the snow, making an accident much more likely. Even some all-season tires offer little grip in the snow. The proper tires will have a ‘snowflake on the mountain’ symbol on the tire’s sidewall, ensuring that they meet the industry standard for snow traction.


Make sure that your wiper blades are in good condition and wash your vehicle’s windows and mirrors thoroughly, inside and out. Fill the windshield washer system with a high quality anti-icing fluid, and apply Rain-X or other water-shedding product to the windshield.


Make sure that your headlights, blinkers, and brake lights are free and clear of any snow before driving. This will help other drivers to see you coming and improve your visibility.

Black Ice:

Always watch carefully for black ice, if the road appears slick, then it probably is. Remember areas where icy conditions are frequent such as bridges and overpasses.

Be Prepared:

A shortlist of items that you should keep in your vehicle during the winter months includes:

  • a small toolkit
  • first aid kit
  • jumper cables
  • flares
  • a charged cell phone with extra charger
  • shovel
  • winter clothing
  • blanket
  • plastic grocery bags
  • flashlight
  • extra batteries
  • candles and matches
  • emergency tire sealant
  • ice scraper
  • kitty litter or sand
  • wind up radio
  • drinking water
  • and dried food such as beef jerky and granola bars.

Regardless of your skill as a driver, some accidents can’t be avoided. It’s always best to be prepared for such emergencies.

Winter Home Maintenance and Safety Tips

January 30th, 2014

nM2x1sgIn order to protect the investment that you have in your home, it’s necessary to perform some annual and routine checkups before the winter months come into full swing. The following list will help keep your utility bills to a minimum and protect your investment. Cold-weather home safety and maintenance is important to keep up with.

Furnaces and Heating Systems:

Have a heating and air conditioning technician perform an inspection on your furnace. This inspection involves ensuring that the system is in good repair, is clean, contains new filters, doesn’t leak carbon monoxide, and is reaching its best manufacturer rated efficiency. Chimneys should also be cleaned.

Windows and Entrances:

Be sure to check the caulking and weather stripping around windows and doorframes. If the existing caulk is cracking or in poor condition, it will be necessary to reapply the caulking or weather stripping.


Near the end of fall, make sure to clean all of the debris from your gutters. Downspouts should deposit water runoff at a minimum of three to four feet from the home.

Exterior Faucets:

Disconnect garden hoses, drain your lawn sprinklers, and drain outdoor faucets. If your home isn’t equipped with frost proof faucets, then turn off the shutoff valve from inside your home. Water in pipes can freeze and burst from the expanding ice.

Lawn Equipment and Winter Essentials:

Be sure to drain the gas from your lawn mower and other gasoline powered machinery used in the summer months. Allow the equipment to run until all the gas is used and the carburetor is empty. Gasoline can decompose during winter months and cause difficulty when starting the equipment at the beginning of summer. Stock up on ice-melting products as well.


Be sure that you have enough insulation in the attic and duct work coming from the furnace. If ductwork is not properly insulated or well-connected, a heating unit can lose as much as 60 percent of heated air before it reaches the vents.


Be sure to check the vent behind your dryer. It should be clear of any lint or objects, reducing the event of a fire.

Fire Alarms:

Check the batteries in your smoke alarms and be sure that they are in proper working condition.


2013 Safe Ride Home Program Starts Today!

December 11th, 2013

Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop is very proud to have sponsored the Holiday Safe Ride Home program since its inception in December 1990. The premise is simple: Persons who attend a holiday party and find themselves too intoxicated to drive safely can call Happy Cab for a ride home. The tab will be picked up by Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop.

This past holiday season, Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop provided cab rides home for roughly 3,200 community members, helping to ensure that our neighbors had a safe and happy holiday. Check out this article from the Omaha World Herald, which talks about this year’s program.

If you find yourself needing a safe ride this holiday season, call Happy Cab at 402-292-2222, between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m., December 11th through New Year’s Eve. And have a safe and happy holiday on Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop.

Just as a reminder–cab rides can only originate and end within Douglas and Sarpy Counties (not Pottawattamie County/Council Bluffs, Iowa) and passengers will only be taken home, not another event location, after being picked up by Happy Cab from their holiday event.   Also, the caller must advise the call center at the time they request cab service that they would like the Hauptman, O’Brien Safe Ride Home in order for Happy Cab to bill the charge properly. 

Protecting Your Kids From Bullying

November 27th, 2013

protect your kids from bullying Bullying has become a serious and pervasive problem. Years ago, bullying was something that took place mainly on school grounds and generally only lasted throughout the school day; however, with the arrival of the Internet, many kids are being bullied online as well. This means that the bullying continues 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and seems to never go away. It can happen at any time of the day or night, even when the child is alone. Currently, bullies can follow kids to their homes through the Internet using social networking sites, email, cell phones, and more.

Now that children are heading back to school, it may be helpful to learn some important tips to protect your kids from the harmful effects of bullying. Understanding some of the warning signs that your child is being bullied can be extremely important, these include:

  • Decreased self esteem
  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or damaged electronics, books, or clothing
  • Change in eating patterns
  • Feeling sick or faking illness
  • Declining grades
  • Not wanting to attend school
  • Nightmares
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Self destructive behavior
  • Use of alcohol or drugs

Addressing Bullying:

One of the most important things that a parent can do is keep the lines of communication open with their kids and speak to them about bullying. Kids need to be encouraged to speak to a trustworthy adult if they witness bullying or are being bullied themselves. Talking with your kids on a daily basis about their everyday lives can help them feel confident about coming to you with their problems. Following are a few additional tips regarding bullying.

  • Encourage kids to participate in the things they enjoy doing. Hobbies, sports, interests, and special activities can help kids form new friendships, boost their confidence, and help protect them from bullies.
  • Give your kids tips on how to respond to bullying such as saying stop with confidence, using humor, or walking away.
  • Become more involved with your kids school by reading newsletters, checking the school’s Internet site, attending school events, meeting teachers on parent night, and sharing phone numbers with other parents.
  • Talk about strategies to avoid bullying such as sticking with other groups of kids or adults.
  • Encourage your kids to help others being who are being bullied by showing kindness, helping them get away from the situation, and seeking help.
  • Set a good example of how to treat others.



Property Damage – What am I Owed?

November 7th, 2013

If you are in an accident and the at fault driver causes damage to your vehicle you are entitled to the


1. If your vehicle can be repaired

a. The reasonable cost of repairing your vehicle to substantially the same condition it was in before it was damaged.

b. You are also entitled to recover the value of the loss of use of your vehicle, that is, either the reasonable cost of a rental car for amount of time reasonably required to complete the repair, or the amount actually paid for such a rental, whichever is less, but not including any normal cost of operation.

2. If your vehicle cannot be repaired or can be repaired but at a cost in excess of the vehicle’s market value immediately before it was damaged and considered a total loss.

a. The fair market value of the vehicle before it was damaged.

b. The fair market value of the vehicle before it was damaged; minus its fair market value after it was damaged (salvage). (If you decide to keep your car.)

c. You are also entitled to recover the value of the loss of use of your vehicle, that is, either the reasonable cost of a rental car for amount of time reasonably required to complete the repair, or the amount actually paid for such a rental, whichever is less, but not including any normal cost of operation.

If you are faced with a property damage question please contact our firm at (402) 390-9000.