Who Is Liable for a Multi-Vehicle Accident in Oklahoma?
After an automotive accident, there are a lot of questions that need answers. Drivers may find themselves asking, how expensive will it be to repair or replace my damaged vehicle? How much will I have to pay, or will I have to pay? However, the biggest question is often: who pays? Determining liability after a multi-vehicle accident is a complex process. In this article, the Oklahoma car accident lawyers of Hasbrook & Hasbrook will explain fault versus no-fault states, how fault is determined, and how the percentage of liability is determined in a multi-vehicle accident in Oklahoma.
How is Liability Determined in an OK Truck or Car Accident?
After any car accident in Oklahoma, a driver must prove that the other driver was at fault if they want to recover compensation. Determining who was at fault requires insurance investigators to carefully comb through the accident, and typically includes a detailed review process. This might include the investigator:
- Taking photographs and examining the scene.
- Determining if the drivers carried auto insurance.
- Interviewing drivers, passengers, and bystanders.
- Reviewing police reports and speaking with investigating police officers, which may include determining if any of the drivers:
- Were intoxicated.
- Were unlicensed, or driving with a suspended license.
- Were speeding.
- Were following too closely.
- Were driving recklessly.
In a multi-vehicle accident, it is also common for investigators to assign each driver involved in the accident a percentage of fault. For example, in a three-car accident between cars A, B, and C, an investigation may reveal that Car A was 60% at fault, Car B was 30% at fault, and Car C was only 10% at fault.
But what does being at fault mean for an Oklahoma driver?
Contributory Negligence, Pure Comparative Fault, and Modified Comparative Fault
States employ various systems to compare fault, which fall into one of three basic types: pure contributory negligence, pure comparative fault, and modified comparative fault. Because percentages of fault are important, you must understand how the rules of contributory and comparative negligence can affect your claim. Oklahoma follows the modified comparative fault system and will allow a driver to recover compensation if they are 50% or less at fault.
Contributory negligence is used in a minority of states. The rule states that in an accident, if you are at fault to any degree you cannot receive compensation from the other drivers.
Pure comparative fault is followed in 13 states, and allows a driver in a multi-vehicle accident to recover the amount of compensation directly proportionate to the driver’s percentage of fault. This rule makes determining fault much more complicated than determining fault under the contributory negligence rule.
Thirty-three states, including Oklahoma, rely on the modified comparative fault rule for multi-vehicle accidents. If you are 50% or less at fault for an accident, you may be able to recover monetary losses from the other drivers. However, if you were more than 50% at fault, then you may lose your right to recover any compensation from any other driver.
How is the Amount of Recovery Determined When Multiple Drivers Share Fault?
States employ either a fault-based system or no-fault system to determine who pays for damages stemming from a multi-vehicle accident. A total of 38 states, including Oklahoma, are designated fault states, while the remaining 12 states are designated no-fault states.
In a fault state, the other driver’s insurance company will pay for your bills if the other driver was responsible for causing the accident. Under the no-fault system, it doesn’t matter who is at fault: the injured person’s insurance pays for medical bills and related expenses.
As noted in the example above, multiple people can be at fault in a single accident, and each person’s settlement may be reduced based on their share of the blame. For instance, if Car A was 60% at fault, Car B was 30% at fault, and Car C was 10% at fault, the driver of Car A would not be able to recover from the other drivers because they were over 50% at fault. The driver of Car B would be able to recover 70% of his or her damages. Finally, the driver of Car C would be able to recover 90% of their damages.
Are Drivers in OK Required to Have Liability Insurance?
Oklahoma law requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance on their car insurance policies. The amount of insurance another driver carries can be very important in a multi-vehicle accident. In Oklahoma, the minimum amount of liability coverage is 25/50/25, which means a driver must carry at least:
- $25,000 for the injury or death of one person.
- $50,000 for the injury or death of more than one person in a single accident.
- $25,000 for property damage.
A driver may carry more liability coverage than the minimums, but this is not a requirement. However, since coverage limits can be quickly exhausted in multi-vehicle crashes, it is advisable to carry additional coverage. If you get into a car accident without insurance, there can be serious financial repercussions.
If you have been injured in a multi-vehicle crash in Oklahoma, it is important to act promptly, because each state has a statute of limitations that imposes strict deadlines for how long a plaintiff has to initiate legal actions following an injury. Don’t wait until it’s too late to take action: call an Oklahoma car accident attorney of Hasbrook & Hasbrook right away at (405) 698-3040 to set up a free legal consultation. Our attorneys have over 75 years of combined experience handling a wide variety of collision and accident claims in the Oklahoma City area, including truck accidents and motorcycle accidents.