After an Oklahoma traffic accident, if you've been injured or had your vehicle damaged, you may want to consider your options for getting compensation. In this article, we'll discuss a few Oklahoma laws that could have a big impact on any car accident claim you decide to make, and we'll look at the legal obligations of drivers when it comes to reporting an accident to law enforcement in Oklahoma.
A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit to court.
(Note: The statute of limitations does not apply to a car insurance claim. Any insurance company, whether your own or the other driver's, is going to require you to make a claim -- or at least give the insurer notice of an incident that could trigger a claim -- "promptly" or "within a reasonable time" after the accident. That usually means a matter of days, or a few weeks at most.)
Oklahoma Statutes section 12-95 sets the statute of limitations for almost all lawsuits stemming from a car accident (except those for wrongful death; more on this later). Section 12-95 gives you two years to ask the state courts for a civil remedy for any personal injury or damage to personal property.
So, in the context of a vehicle accident case, that means if anyone was hurt in the crash -- whether a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- or had their vehicle or other personal property damaged, they must get their lawsuit filed against any potential defendant within two years. For these injury and property damage cases, the two-year “clock” starts running on the date of the accident.
But if someone died as a result of the car accident, under Oklahoma Statutes section 12-1053 their family member or a representative of the estate also must file any wrongful death lawsuit within two years, but the "clock" starts running on the day of the accident victim’s death, which could be later than the date of the accident itself.
Whichever deadline applies, if you try to file your lawsuit after the applicable time limit has passed, you can count on the defendant (the person you’re trying to sue) pointing out that discrepancy to the court as part of a motion to dismiss. The court will almost certainly grant the motion (unless some rare exception applies to extend the filing deadline), and that will be the end of your case. That's why it’s crucial to understand how the statute of applies to your situation.
Even if you’re confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, you'll want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to -- if for no other reason than that you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks. If you think you might be running up against the filing deadline, you may want to contact an experienced Oklahoma car accident attorney.
Suppose you're seriously injured in an Oklahoma car accident, and you take your case to court. The jury, after hearing all the evidence, decides that the other driver was responsible for the accident -- but that you too bear part of the blame. What happens next? How does this verdict affect your right to compensation?
Oklahoma is a "modified comparative negligence" state. Under Oklahoma Statutes section 23-13, this means that you can still recover damages in a car-accident-related lawsuit, but your award will be reduced according to your share of negligence, as long as that share was not greater than that of other parties.
For instance, suppose that the jury determines that your injuries, pain and suffering, and other losses total $100,000. However, the jury also thinks that you were 10 percent responsible for the crash. In that situation, the total amount of your damages, $100,000, is reduced by 10 percent, or $10,000, leaving you with a total award of $90,000.
Keep in mind that if your level of fault exceeds that of the other party (or parties), you'll be barred from recovering anything at all under Oklahoma law.
The comparative negligence rule binds Oklahoma judges and juries (if your car accident case makes it to court), and it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster when he or she is evaluating your case. Also keep in mind that since there is no empirical means of allocating fault, any assignment of liability will ultimately come down to your ability to negotiate with a claims adjuster or to persuade a judge or jury.
Under Oklahoma Statutes section 10-107, when a car accident results in injury or death, the driver(s) involved must "immediately, by the quickest means of communication," give notice of the crash to the local police department (in a municipality) or to the office of the county sheriff or State Highway Patrol.
The drivers involved in the accident may also be required to submit a written report of the incident to the Department of Public Safety. See Oklahoma Statutes section 10-108 for details.
In almost every Oklahoma car accident scenario, insurance coverage is sure to play a key role, so it's important to understand the state's liability auto insurance requirements and other coverage rules that could affect your car accident claim. Get the details on Oklahoma's car insurance rules.