Oklahoma City Car Accident Lawyer
Fact checked by Clayton Hasbrook J.D. | Updated on April 15, 2020
Looking for a proven Oklahoma City car accident lawyer to help you get the settlement you deserve? Keep reading because we’re going to give you all the information you need to make an educated decision.
How to Hire an Oklahoma City Car Accident Lawyer
- Legal proceedings after a car crash
- 4 critical questions to ask before hiring a car accident lawyer
- What will it cost?
- The one thing that causes most car accidents
- What about drunk driving accidents?
- Grounds for appealing a car accident case
- 14 frequently asked questions
Legal Proceedings After a Car Accident
After a car crash, the injured party will typically have to testify. A prosecutor will call on the plaintiff to testify about the crash. The plaintiff’s testimony can be used in a civil case where they demand that they receive damages from the drunk driver.
Damage claims take place in civil courts. The injured party would need to have an attorney file a lawsuit and pursue any damages against the drunk driver. The state does have a victim compensation system that compensates injured drivers. If a plaintiff in a drunk driving car accident is seeking compensation, they must either receive it from the drunk driver, or from another fund.
What Kind of Compensation Can a Plaintiff Receive?
In Oklahoma City, individuals involved in car accidents have two years to file a civil lawsuit.
Potential plaintiffs may be able to receive compensation in the form of monetary damages for the following:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost earnings or wages
- Pain and suffering
- Other non-economic damages
Oklahoma places a general cap on non-economic damages of $350,000. As a result, anyone involved in a car accident should consult with us to determine the exact types of damages they may be eligible to claim, as well as the monetary values of those damages.
What to Look for in Hiring an Oklahoma City Car Accident Lawyer?
The decision to hire an attorney is an important one. Here are some factors to look for:
1) Does that attorney actually try cases? A lot of firms don’t like to try cases. It’s hard work, and with a contingency fee the attorney doesn’t always get paid. I think it’s a disservice to clients not to be willing to “go the distance.”
2) Who at the law firm will be handling your case? A lot of large firms have paralegals handling the bulk of a claim. I personally would find it frustrating if I could never talk with my attorney
3) Do you get along with that attorney? Lawsuits are especially stressful for clients. If you don’t like or don’t feel comfortable with the attorney, that just adds to the stress. You don’t need to hire the first attorney that you see. Feel free to talk with several attorneys before you hire one. Just because you meet with them, doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to hire them.
4) What kind of cases, besides car accidents, does the attorney handle? There are good attorneys that handle a wide variety of cases, but it’s generally a good idea to have someone that concentrates their practice on personal injury law. Likewise, if you need a bankruptcy attorney, or an estate planning attorney, it would be a better idea to go to someone that focuses their practice on that field.
How Much Will It Cost?
The good news is that if you have a claim against another party as a result of a personal injury or car accident, your consultation with us will not cost you a penny.
If we agree to take your case, we will enter a “contingency agreement” with you. “Contingency” means “conditional.” You will only pay us if we win a judgment or award or settlement on your behalf. In that case, our fee is a pre-agreed percentage of the award or settlement.
The Advantages of Contingency Arrangement:
1. Many people simply could not afford to hire an attorney in any other way. A contingency agreement makes it possible for an individual, even someone with limited financial means, to obtain the legal representation they need and are entitled to. It allows individuals to stand up to multimillion (and sometimes) billion-dollar companies.
2. When attorneys operate on contingency, it results in frivolous and weak claims being weeded out. Since we only earn our fee when you have a positive outcome, we examine the details of your situation carefully and give you an honest appraisal of your chances of success. If we do not believe your claim will stand up, we will refer you to another attorney so you can get a second opinion. It would be foolhardy, at best, for personal injury attorneys to pursue frivolous lawsuits. The time and money to bring a lawsuit adds up quickly.
3. Another advantage of contingency arrangements is that it makes you and your attorney partners, giving your attorney a strong financial incentive to work diligently to obtain the best possible outcome.
If we agree to take your case, in addition to our contingency agreement, we will have to agree how to cover the expenses of your case. Expenses include such mundane items as filing fees, copy costs and travel to more potentially expensive items, such as taking depositions and hiring investigators and expert witnesses. We generally advance the litigation costs. So, if a case goes to trial, we’re risking the time and out of pocket case expenses (often in excess of $10,000).
What Percentage Does an Attorney Receive in a Successful Contingency case?
Contingency fees usually range from 25% to 45%. Contingency percentages are often set up on a sliding scale, for example:
- A lower percentage if a lawsuit is not necessary — in other words, if a settlement is negotiated with the responsible party or the party’s insurance company before it becomes necessary to file a legal claim.
- A higher percentage if it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit.
- A higher percentage still if it becomes necessary to try your lawsuit in a courtroom, which significantly increases the time and expenses.
Isn’t 25% to 45% of your judgment or settlement a lot? Yes, it is. However, in a contingency agreement, the attorney absorbs significant risk. Even if your attorney believes you have a good claim, he or she must convince a judge and/or jury of the same. A lawsuit can take months, sometimes even years to pursue, and if the lawsuit ultimately fails, the law office has not earned a penny for all of the labor incurred by the attorneys and paralegals. If the law office has agreed to advance case expenses, those expenditures further increase the law office’s risk.
Despite a client’s best intentions, an attorney rarely has all the facts when he or she agrees to take a case on contingency. It may not be until after investigation and discovery that an attorney learns that your claim is not as strong as it appeared at first.
When you have an illness, the fees charged by doctors and hospitals and other medical providers can be quite high. Imagine if your doctor and other providers agreed to only receive payment if you are completely healed. Those are the conditions under which a contingency attorney operates.
The One Thing That Causes MOST Car Accident
The likely cause for legal action that often arises in lawsuits based on car accidents is negligence. Negligence generally requires the injured party to prove that they suffered an injury as a direct result of the defendant’s negligent act.
In Oklahoma City, an individual’s own potential negligence or carelessness does not automatically prevent them from collecting damages. However, Oklahoma does bar a person from recovering damages if the degree of fault they bear for an accident that caused damage to them is greater than 50 percent. Any of the plaintiff’s negligent acts that amount to less than 50 percent of the total fault for the accident could result in their damage award is reduced proportionally.
Given the potential complexities of any negligence claim, including factors regarding the plaintiff’s own negligence, individuals considering filing a civil suit for injuries from a car accident should obtain legal help. One of the benefits of hiring an Oklahoma City car accident lawyer is their ability to prove negligence on the defendant’s behalf. We can provide in-depth consultations to those who may wish to file claims in connection with a car accident.
What About Drunk Driving Accidents?
Drunk driving car accident injuries differ from other car accident injuries in that, they can be more severe. Where sober drivers typically slow down when they see a car in front of them, drunk drivers tend not to slow down. A drunk driver might not even notice a vehicle in front of them. The result is that the impact of the crash is much worse.
As an Oklahoma City car accident lawyer, I generally witness plaintiffs seeking damages for the following:
- Personal injury
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Property damage
If the injured person is also the drunk driver, it may be difficult for them to receive any compensation for the crash. We have witnessed several cases where insurance companies claim that the driver could have avoided the accident had they not been under the influence.
There are cases where an individual who is drunk while driving is not at fault for an accident. An example would be if the drunk driver is sitting at a red light when they are rear-ended.
Being involved in a car crash can be a frightening experience. However, you should not have to experience it alone. We can support you during this difficult time.
When You Can Appeal a Car Accident Case
Individuals may be unsuccessful on appeal if they do not have adequate grounds for challenging the judgment of the trial court. Disliking or disagreeing with the outcome of a case is not a sufficient ground for an appeal in a civil case.
An appeal may be successful if individuals believe that the judges who decided the original case at trial abused their discretion. However, trial judges have broad discretion in civil cases, and individuals may find it challenging to reverse trial court decisions on appeal. Errors of law also are a frequent basis for appeals of car accident cases. If a judge accepted evidence into court that had no legal basis for inclusion, that might be grounds for an appeal.
Procedures for Initiating an Appeal
Individuals who wish to appeal a verdict in a car accident case or any case must follow specific procedural rules to be eligible to do so. However, filing an appeal in a car accident case in Oklahoma City is typically not possible unless people file their appeal within 30 days of the final judgment of the court. Missing this deadline may bar individuals from pursuing an appeal, no matter how incorrect the court decision may have been.
A first step toward appealing a verdict is to file a petition in error with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. A petition in error states the type of case, the names of parties, and a brief overview of the facts and the issues on appeal. Again, this petition must be filed within 30 days of the final judgment, or individuals may waive their rights to appeal.
The next steps of an appeal involve directing the clerk of the court to compile the record, which usually contains a transcript of the trial, exhibits admitted into evidence, and other court documents. The clerk has six months in which to complete the record.
Arguing a Case on Appeal
Following the compilation of the record, the appealing party, or the appellant, must file a brief that outlines the errors made at the trial that requires the appellate court to reverse the case. The appellant has 60 days to file the brief, and the other party has 40 days following the filing of that brief in which to file its answer brief. Within 20 days of filing the answer brief, the appellant can submit a reply brief.
Eventually, either the Oklahoma Supreme Court or a three-panel judge of a division of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals will decide cases on appeal. The court will either affirm the trial court decision or reverse it. There is no timeframe in which the court must issue its decision on an appeal.
The rules that govern the appeal of a car accident case can be confusing and overwhelming for individuals who are disappointed by the outcome of their cases. Appealing a car accident case in Oklahoma City is not a simple task, but legal counsel may be able to assist you throughout this lengthy process. Contact an experienced attorney today to learn about your options following a disappointing verdict.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What Should You Do After a Car Accident?
Obviously, safety is always the top priority after an accident occurs, and anyone’s first thought would be to call 9-1-1. However, this isn’t merely common sense – it’s actually mandated by law.
Oklahoma’s statute. § 10-102 and § 10-102.1, which respectively deal with injury accidents and fatal accidents, both require drivers to immediately stop their vehicles at the scene of the accident (or as close as possible for safety). If you have to move your car, try to get as many photos as possible first, ideally from different angles. Having a visual record of scratches, dents, and other damage to the vehicle can be vital to obtaining compensation if the other driver caused the accident. Police reports are not infallible and may contain errors or omit information about the extent and nature of the damage to your vehicle.
Both statutes also require the driver to:
- Give “reasonable assistance” to anyone who was injured – in other words, calling an ambulance or bringing the person to the hospital.
- Be aware that a person who is in shock won’t realize how severely they are injured. Even if an injured person says they are okay, it’s probably safest to call an ambulance and let trained EMTs handle the medical decisions.
- Give his or her name, address, and vehicle registration number to the other driver, or the other vehicle occupants, or the person attending the other car.
- If the other party asks, the driver must also show his or her driver’s license and security verification form.
Additionally, O.S. § 10-107 requires the driver to immediately notify the police, the county sheriff, or the nearest State Highway Patrol. If the accident resulted in death or “great bodily injury,” O.S. § 10-104(B) requires the driver to submit to drug and/or alcohol testing “as soon as practicable after such an accident occurs.” That might involve a breathalyzer, blood testing, or urine testing.
If you leave the scene of an injury accident or fatal accident without exchanging your information and calling for medical help, you are committing a crime. The formal term is “leaving the scene of an accident,” but this offense is more commonly known by its nickname: hit and run.
For obvious reasons, the penalties for leaving the scene of a fatal accident are more severe than those for leaving an injury accident. However, both offenses will result in serious long-term consequences.
2. Should You Report a Car Accident to the Police?
While Oklahoma’s laws don’t compel drivers to report accidents where no one gets hurt or killed, there are still some good reasons to consider Oklahoma state accident report:
- Even if it’s not required by law, it may still be required by your insurance policy.
- The other driver might misremember details and give the police inaccurate information, which could lead to your claim being denied.
- The police report may include witness statements, photos of vehicle damage, and other vital information.
3. How is the Oklahoma State Accident Report Used in an Automotive Injury Claim?
Many people are surprised to learn that police reports are generally not admissible evidence in court. This is because police reports are regarded as “hearsay” evidence, a term used to describe unsworn statements which are made out of court by people who did not actually see the alleged action or event take place.
That being said, police reports can still hold tremendous value for an accident victim who wishes to file an injury claim, which is different from a lawsuit.
If the police report points to the other driver being at fault for the accident, you can use the report as a negotiating tool to get a better settlement offer. The report will also contain important details about the circumstances under which the accident occurred, such as the weather, road conditions, visibility, and names of any eyewitnesses who may have seen the crash take place. Without a police report, you might not be able to get in touch with valuable witnesses (or even know of their existence), which will undermine the strength of your claim.
4. Should a Car Accident Victim File an Insurance Claim, or a Lawsuit?
There is no law to stop you from filing a lawsuit immediately after being injured in a car accident. However, most people regard litigation as a last resort, and will typically attempt to file an insurance claim first.
If you intend to file a claim, be prepared for the possibility of going through some tough negotiations. Remember, insurance companies are ultimately profit-oriented, and will use just about any tactics available to them in order to minimize their costs. The adjuster might counter with an offer which is much lower than the amount you are seeking, and furthermore, might flip the argument around to say that you were actually the party primarily at fault for the crash.
Sometimes, situations arise in which the parties to the accident simply cannot come to an agreement. If this sort of stalemate occurs, the injury victim can file a lawsuit, provided he or she meets a legal deadline called the statute of limitations. While an insurance claim involves negotiations between both parties, in a lawsuit, a neutral jury imposes an outside decision after examining the evidence which has been presented.
Before you attempt to negotiate with a claims adjuster or accept a settlement, you should consult with us.
5. What Happens if You Don’t Report a Car Accident to Your Insurance Company?
If an accident does not result in any injuries, state laws do not require you to report the accident to law enforcement. It is wise to obtain a police report regardless, as they often prove highly useful during settlement negotiations.
In order to determine whether you are obligated to disclose an accident to your insurance company, you should look to the terms of your policy. However, we can save you the effort by stating upfront that all insurance policies contain clauses requiring drivers to promptly disclose accidents, including minor, non-injury accidents. If you think you can get around this requirement by making an arrangement with the other driver on an “under the table” basis, think again. When you fail to report a crash to your insurer, there’s always a risk it will come back to haunt you sooner or later – with costly consequences when it does.
Because you failed to report the accident, your insurance company may decide to deny the claim. This could potentially lead to your being sued – and getting stuck paying out-of-pocket. Thus, your attempt to save money has actually resulted in far greater costs than you would have faced had you simply reported the accident when it occurred.
If you’re nervous about your premium rising, there may be good news written into your policy. Many contain “accident forgiveness” clauses which will prevent your premium from being raised after a first accident.
Just remember that it’s called “forgiveness” for a reason: if you get into another accident, your insurer won’t continue to be so lenient. The extent to which your premium may (or may not) increase following an accident depends upon a few different factors, including the severity of the crash, whether you are a high-risk driver, and, of course, the provisions that are specified by your policy.
6. How Long Do I Have to Make an Insurance Claim After a Car Accident?
Oklahoma is a fault state with regard to auto insurance. Drivers in fault states typically make a third-party insurance claim with the other driver’s insurance company.
You should report the crash to the nearest law enforcement agency, not only because the police accident report can provide helpful information during settlement negotiations, but even more importantly, because it is required by state law.
After taking care of the safety considerations, you should notify your insurance company immediately. The precise time limits should be clearly explained in the insurance policy; but if not, you can count on our car accident attorneys to help you clear up ambiguities and interpret every detail.
Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to sweep the accident under the rug. Far from saving yourself money, you will simply invite hassles and financial losses if you fail to report an accident to your insurance company.
Once the accident has been reported, both insurance companies will assign claims adjusters to investigate the crash and make a determination of fault.
If an insurance company is pressuring you to accept a settlement, you should contact our attorneys right away. Resist the pressure to accept the initial settlement offer – which is likely to be sorely inadequate – until you have reviewed your options with a qualified Oklahoma City car accident lawyer.
7. Will Insurance Pay for a Rental Car After an Accident?
Oklahoma law requires all motorists to carry minimum insurance coverage for bodily injury and property damage to others. You may also have collision coverage to pay for any physical damage to your vehicle. But this does not help you when you need a rental car immediately after an accident.
Most auto insurers offer rental reimbursement coverage an option to their policies. Often, it costs as little as $1 per month. It is important to check with your insurance company to see if you have this coverage. Rental reimbursement coverage generally continues only until either your car is repaired or it is declared a total loss. In the latter case, your insurer is only obligated to pay for your rental car up until the day the decision was made to declare it a loss. Otherwise, benefits continue until the repairs are complete, subject to any maximum limits on your rental coverage.
8. Do Car Accident Claims Ever Expire?
The sooner you begin the process of making an insurance claim after a car accident, the sooner you will have the opportunity to recover the compensation you deserve. But acting quickly is more than just a good idea – it’s essential to maximizing your odds of success. If you wait for too long, you could lose your chance at getting compensated forever. If you or one of your family members was recently injured in a car collision, you should contact Hasbrook & Hasbrook to review your case in a free consultation.
9. What If Another Driver Is at Fault?
Even if you do not have rental reimbursement coverage on your own policy, if your accident was caused by another driver’s negligence, then their insurer may have to pay for your rental car expenses. Keep in mind, it may take several days and even a couple of weeks to receive approval for a rental car depending on the circumstances of the accident. The other driver’s insurance company will likely want to investigate the accident to confirm their policyholder was at fault. Note that the at-fault driver’s insurance company does not have to provide you a rental car, but most usually do. The law requires actual damages, such as rental expenses, for the loss of use of your vehicle.
10. What Are the Legal Rights of a Passenger Who is Injured in a Car Accident?
When a passenger gets injured in a car crash, there are a few ways he or she can go about getting compensated. In most cases, the first step is to make an insurance claim. This may involve:
- Filing a third-party claim against the driver at fault for the accident. The at-fault driver could be the driver of the other vehicle, or the driver of the vehicle the passenger was riding in. All drivers must have certain levels of coverage under the minimum auto insurance requirements in Oklahoma.
- Filing a first-party insurance claim with his or her own insurer. If the at-fault driver was not insured, or if the costs of the passenger’s injuries exceed the at-fault driver’s coverage limits, the passenger can turn to their own UM (Uninsured Motorist) or UIM (Underinsured Motorist) insurance.
Alternatively, the injured passenger could file a lawsuit against the person who caused the accident. However, most people prefer to seek a settlement before initiating litigation. Before you make a decision, you should speak with us today. You may also be interested in reading our article on insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits.
Common Injuries in Side-Impact Collisions
In the absence of side-impact airbags (SABs) – and sometimes, even with SAB protection – side-impact collisions can inflict devastating injuries upon passengers. A common example is traumatic brain injury (TBI), which NHTSA researchers estimate affects up to 60% of all passengers killed in fatal side-impact accidents.
Other common injuries resulting from side-impact crashes include:
- Thoracic/Pelvic Injuries
- Leg and Foot Injuries/Arm and Shoulder Injuries
- Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)
11. What is the Statute of Limitations, and How Does it Affect Injury Compensation?
If negotiating out of court does not resolve the matter, try not to get too discouraged. As an accident victim, you may decide that you wish to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. In this scenario, a legal deadline called the statute of limitations becomes a vital consideration.
Put simply, the statute of limitations is how long you have to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations can vary widely – typically within a range of one to six years.
The Oklahoma statute of limitations on personal injury is two years. The clock starts counting down on the date the injury occurs, which means time is ticking while you go through the out-of-court negotiations process. The earlier you make your insurance claim, the more time will remain to prepare a lawsuit in the event that negotiations are unsuccessful.
Yet there’s an even more critical reason to get started early: if the statute of limitations elapses, or “expires,” your case will not be able to move through Oklahoma’s court system. It will simply be discarded for going over the deadline, which means you will permanently lose your chance to get compensated.
For all of these reasons, if you or one of your loved ones was hurt in a car crash, we would encourage you to start assessing your situation with an attorney as soon as possible.
12. What Are the Different Types of Damages Awarded in a Civil Case?
In the context of personal injury law, the term “damages” describes a monetary award for a loss or harm (“tort”) suffered by the injury victim. However, damages are divided into several categories, each of which serves its own distinct purpose:
– Economic Damages. Economic damages compensate quantifiable expenses and losses, such as the car accident victim’s medical bills or projected income losses while he or she recovers.
– Non-Economic Damages. Non-economic damages compensate subjective hardships, such as the pain and suffering caused by a whiplash neck injury. Some states call non-economic damages “general damages.”
Punitive Damages – Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where evidence shows that the defendant engaged in “gross” (extreme) negligence. As the word “punitive” implies, punitive damages are more than just a means of compensating the victim: they are intended to punish the defendant.
Damages Caps in Personal Injury Cases
The reason these distinctions are important for car crash victims is that different types of damages are subject to different limits, which are known as “damages caps.” The state of Oklahoma imposes the following damages caps:
Economic Damages – No caps are imposed. This means there is no limit on the damages recoverable for financial losses, including hospital bills, lost wages, and other reasonable expenses associated with the injury – for example, lowering a home’s countertops because the victim was paralyzed by a spinal cord injury and now requires a wheelchair.
Non-Economic Damages – Non-economic damages are capped at $350,000, regardless of how many drivers or other parties the plaintiff is suing. However, the statute also provides a few exceptions to this rule. There is no limit on non-economic damages in cases where the court finds the at-fault driver:
Acted with “reckless disregard for the rights of others.”
Acted with deliberate intent to inflict harm (“with malice”)
Committed gross negligence.
Committed an act of fraud
Punitive Damages – When awarded, punitive damages are subject to one of several caps depending on the circumstances of the underlying accident. Punitive damages may be capped at:
$100,000 or the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater, in cases where the at-fault driver was reckless.
$500,000 or twice the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater, in cases where the at-fault driver acted with malice, or the insurer deliberately acted in bad faith.
No cap is also a possibility under similar circumstances.
If you’d like to see some actual, real-world examples of awards and settlements resulting from car accident injuries in Oklahoma, you may be interested in reading our articles on:
- How much a traumatic brain injury is worth
- How much a hand injury is worth
- How much a neck injury is worth
13. What Happens if a Car Accident Aggravates an Existing Injury or Medical Condition?
The negligent driver’s insurance company will probably fight tooth and nail to show that the accident had nothing to do with the pain and limitations you are now suffering from. They will call for an “Independent” Medical Exam (IME), which is in fact conducted by doctors working for the insurance company.
Fortunately, it is possible to recover compensation for the aggravation of pre-existing injuries, depending on the injury victim’s ability to establish a before-and-after deterioration in function and health, generally through MRI scans or other forms of medical evidence.
If your back, shoulder, or neck injury was aggravated by an accident for which you were not at fault, you could have a right to compensation for your care costs, losses of income, pain and suffering, and other hardships you’ve experienced as a result of the crash. However, it’s important to act quickly, before you miss critical deadlines.
14. What Are the Effects of a Car Accident During Pregnancy?
The study found that after just one car accident, pregnant drivers had “slightly elevated rates of” three serious pregnancy complications:
Placental Abruption – It occurs when the placenta completely detaches from the uterus. As a result, the fetus does not receive sufficient nutrition or oxygen.
Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM) – PROM is the leading cause of preterm delivery, and also increases the risk of fetal death.
Preterm Birth – A preterm birth is any birth before the 37th week of pregnancy.
Call an Oklahoma City Car Accident Lawyer Today
Being in a car accident can lead to many questions about what our options are and what you should do next. Your first priority should always be to visit a doctor to address any injuries you may have sustained in the crash, but if you are wondering whether you may be able to collect damages as a result of your accident, a lawyer’s office should be the next stop you make.
We can review your case and give you any advice and assistance you require. An experienced attorney has generally seen various types of car accidents before and could use that knowledge to help you. If you have been injured in a car wreck, call today to ensure you do not lose out on any reimbursement you are entitled to.