Oklahoma City Car Accident Lawyer
Need an Oklahoma City car accident lawyer? We’re here to help.
Every day millions of Americans exercise their privilege of driving a car. Unfortunately, though, car wrecks are far too common. According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, over 72,000 vehicle crashes occurred in the state in 2016. Of these, 23,000 crashes produced injuries for almost 34,000 people.
If you or a loved one recently suffered injuries in a car accident in Oklahoma City, a qualified attorney may be able to provide the legal resources to help. An Oklahoma City car accident lawyer could answer questions you have and may know how to best determine whether you may be able to collect compensation.
Car Accident Lawsuits
In Oklahoma City, individuals involved in car accidents have two years to file a civil lawsuit, according to Oklahoma Statutes §12-95. 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 a car accident lawyer in Oklahoma City to determine the exact types of damages they may be eligible to claim, as well as the monetary values of those damages.
Understanding Negligence Laws in Oklahoma City
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—or, in certain cases, failure to act. In other words, the defendant’s behavior must have resulted in harm to the plaintiff.
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 a lawyer is their ability to prove negligence on the defendant’s behalf. An Oklahoma City car accident lawyer can provide in-depth consultations to those who may wish to file claims in connection with a car accident.
Call an Oklahoma City Car Accident Attorney 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.
An Oklahoma City car accident lawyer could 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.
Car Accident Lawsuits and Common Misconceptions
There are a TON of misconceptions when it comes to lawsuits. Car accident lawsuits are no exception. Here’s a few I’ve gotten lately:
“The at fault driver’s insurance company paid for my car. That means that they’ve accepted liability.”
It’s seems counterintuitive, but the insurance company may decide to fight your case on liability – even if they’ve already repaired your car (or paid for it if it was totaled).
Why would they do this?
- If your car is totaled, you will likely be racking up rental car expenses. If the other driver is held liable, and the expenses were reasonable, the insurance company would be on the hook for these.
- You can get attorney’s fees awarded in property damage cases.
- It’s a business decision for the insurance company.
“Well, the jury will be able to easily decide liability once they find out how much the insurance company paid for my car.”
That would be true if the jury is allowed to know if there is insurance in the case. In most cases under Oklahoma law, juries are not allowed to know if a defendant has insurance.
This can obviously make things frustrating for jurors. There are car accident cases tried before a jury that are limited to damages only (basically the insurance company values the claim lower than what the plaintiff does). In this case, liability is not an issue. In cases like this it’s common for the property damage to have already been settled.
If you like to read our state statutes, take a look at 36 O.S. §6091 and 12 O.S. §2411:
36 O.S. §6091:
No settlement made under a motor vehicle liability insurance policy of a claim against any insured thereunder arising from any accident or other event insured against shall be construed as an admission of liability by the insured, or the insurer’s recognition of such liability, with respect to any other claim arising from the same accident or event and no testimony with respect to such settlement shall be admissible in evidence with respect to any other such claim.
36 O.S. §6091:
Evidence of the existence of liability insurance is not admissible upon the issue of negligence or wrongful action. This section does not require the exclusion of evidence of liability insurance where the question of possession of liability insurance is itself an element of the action, or when offered for another purpose, including proof of agency, ownership, control, bias or prejudice of a witness.
Guess what happens if the jury asks if the car has been repaired or if the driver has car insurance?
They aren’t allowed to know. They are instructed to look at the issue (damages). In reality, nearly all car accident cases involve car insurance. The defense lawyers (and their medical experts) are all paid by the insurance company on the case.
What happens if the jury asks if the plaintiff has health insurance?
They still won’t get to know. A lot of people don’t want to give a plaintiff “double the amount.” BUT, if a personal injury plaintiff’s medical bills have been paid by their health insurance company, and he/she gets a settlement or verdict, those payments will generally need to be repaid to the health insurance company.
Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accidents in OKC
- Do Car Accident Claims Ever Expire?
- What Are the Legal Rights of a Passenger Who is Injured in a Car Accident?
- What Are the Different Types of Damages Awarded in a Civil Case?
- How Much Will an Attorney Cost in Your Car Accident Lawsuit?
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 our Oklahoma City car accident lawyers to review your case in a free consultation.
How Long Do I Have to Make an Insurance Claim After a Car Accident in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma is a fault state with regard to auto insurance. Unlike drivers in no-fault states, who generally turn to their own insurers with a first-party claim, drivers in fault states like Oklahoma typically make a third-party insurance claim with the other driver’s insurance company. The driver who is found to be primarily at fault for causing the accident can be held liable for compensating the injury victim, depending on the circumstances of the crash, the severity of the victim’s injuries, and other factors. Even if you were partially responsible for the crash, you can still potentially be compensated as long as you were less than 51% at fault. (For more information about this topic, see our article on partial fault for a car accident.
After being involved in a multi-vehicle car accident, the first step is to make sure that everyone is safe and that you have called an ambulance for anyone who was injured. You should also 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. (Specifically, 47 O.S. § 10-104, requires drivers involved in injury or fatal crashes to “submit to drug and alcohol testing as soon as practicable after such accident occurs,” which means involving the police.)
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. There will likely be a dispute, which can lead to some heated settlement negotiations. But don’t worry: our attorneys will be there to protect your rights and speak on your behalf. We have decades of experience and know exactly what sorts of tactics claims adjusters use to try and deny fair coverage.
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 an Oklahoma personal injury lawyer.
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 still be able to recover compensation through other means. For instance, 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 – depending on two factors:
- Which state the accident occurred within.
- The nature of the cause of action (i.e. the grounds for bringing the lawsuit).
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 statue 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 in Oklahoma City, we would encourage you to start assessing your situation with an attorney as soon as possible. Even if you aren’t completely sure whether you want to take legal action at this stage, it’s still a good idea to review your options early in the process.
What Are the Legal Rights of a Passenger Who is Injured in a Car Accident?
Regardless of whether they are drivers or passengers, vehicle occupants may pursue compensation for crash injuries caused by reckless, negligent, or illegal actions, such as driving through a red light. If you sustained a passenger injury in a side-impact collision, a single-vehicle accident, or any other type of crash, you should speak to the Oklahoma automotive accident attorneys of Hasbrook & Hasbrook about your legal options for getting compensated.
Motorists have a legal duty to follow traffic laws and exercise common sense while driving. When a driver decides that he or she is exempt from the rules of the road – or, simply makes a careless mistake – that driver may be liable for personal injury or wrongful death caused by the resulting accident. This basic premise holds true regardless of whether the injury victim is a driver or a passenger.
Some common ways drivers can be reckless or negligent when operating a motor vehicle include:
- Driving the wrong way down a one-way street
- Driving while intoxicated
- Following too closely
- Ignoring right-of-way
- Making illegal U-turns and other prohibited driving maneuvers
- Making improper turns
- Texting while driving
When a passenger gets injured in an Oklahoma 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. Since Oklahoma has the highest number of uninsured drivers in the nation, it’s advisable to at least consider purchasing UM or UIM insurance coverage.
Alternately, 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 to an experienced car accident lawyer. You may also be interested in reading our article on insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits.
Common Injuries in Side-Impact Collisions
Common sense dictates that the risk of passenger injury increases when the passenger side, or either side in the rear, is directly impacted by another vehicle. Researchers have found that, among car accidents documented from 1975 to 1998, approximately one third were side-impact crashes. Among 920,000 vehicle occupants in side-impact collisions during the period from 1988 to 1997, approximately 11,300 people were killed. Medical research has shown that, in multi-vehicle accidents, the two and ten o’clock positions are generally most harmful, followed by three and nine o’clock.
Unless the passenger is seated in the rear middle position, he or she has little protection against physical trauma. This is particularly true of older vehicles, which may not be outfitted with side-impact airbags (SABs). Despite estimating that SABs could potentially save up to 1,000 lives each year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not presently require or regulate SABs – only frontal air bags.
In the absence of 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. Even when that criteria is broadened to include all types of car accidents, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still estimates that approximately 14.3% of traumatic brain injuries are caused by motor vehicle traffic. Sadly, TBI causes approximately 50,000 deaths each year, leaving millions of others non-fatally injured.
Other common injuries resulting from side-impact crashes include:
- Thoracic/Pelvic Injuries – According to NHTSA data, the chest (thorax) and hips (pelvis) are more likely to be injured than any other area of the body in a side-impact accident. Some examples include broken ribs, pelvic fractures, and pulmonary contusions (bruising of the lung).
- Leg and Foot Injuries/Arm and Shoulder Injuries – The leg, foot, arm, and shoulder against the inside of the passenger door can be crushed, dislocated, or fractured as the door is driven inward (“door intrusion”) by the force of the striking vehicle.
- Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) – The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that allows the brain and body to communicate, relaying messages between them. When the spinal cord is damaged by physical trauma, the victim can become paralyzed, have partial loss of motion/flexibility in a limb, and lose physical sensation.
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.
Let’s quickly go over the differences between the types of damages that can be awarded in a civil case, such as a case arising from a preventable truck accident in Oklahoma. The victim may be awarded:
- Compensatory Damages – Compensatory damages compensate the victim. This might sound like a redundant explanation at first, but it’s important to distinguish compensatory damages from punitive damages, described below. Compensatory damages can include:
- 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. Some states call economic damages “special damages.”
- 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. Oklahoma courts consider, among other variables, the following factors when determining whether punitive damages are appropriate:
- The severity of the hazard created by the at-fault driver.
- The extent to which the at-fault driver was aware of danger he or she caused.
- How the at-fault driver behaved once he or she became aware of the hazard.
- How long the hazard lasted for.
- Whether the at-fault driver made any attempt to hide their actions.
How Much Will an Attorney Cost in Your Car Accident Lawsuit?
I recently talked with an accountant who works for a large hair products company. He said they recently were victims of counterfeit manufacturers making shampoo and conditioner that looked just like their company’s products. They hired a big law firm to pursue getting it stopped and recovering their lost profits from the counterfeit sales. He said it cost them millions of dollars in attorney fees.
The kicker? They were never able to collect anything from the counterfeiters or the retailers that were selling the merchandise. Obviously, it would have been better for his company if they had hired the law firm on a contingency fee basis.
After hearing his story, I told him a story I heard about a defense attorney who was more concerned with running up his billing that getting the case resolved. Here’s the story I told him:
A defense attorney, who bills hourly, loses a big jury trial. He woefully tells his law partner about all the hundreds and hundreds of hours he spent on the case. All the depositions, motions, brief writing, court hearings, not to mention the sleepless and stressful nights, and the long working weekends away from his family.
His partner replies, “Did we get paid every month on the case for our hourly billing?” “Of course,” the attorney answers. “Well,” the partner smiles, “that’s still a win in my book.”
Back to the initial question: “How much will an Oklahoma City car accident lawyer cost me to pursue my case?”
When you have experienced a personal injury or have been in a car accident that has resulted in loss and/or suffering, you will often need the assistance of an attorney. An attorney can help in filing a claim against the responsible party or in defending you if someone is claiming you are responsible. You may also need legal representation in your dealings with police, the courts and insurance companies.
If you need an attorney, the first thing you probably want to know is how much it is going to 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.
A contingency arrangement has several advantages. For one thing, many people simply could not afford to hire an attorney any other way. Large corporations and insurance companies usually have “in-house” attorneys (employees of the company) on salary, and they may also hire outside attorneys, who are usually paid on an hourly basis. Big companies can afford to pay attorney fees that way. They can also afford to pay a law firm even if they end up losing.
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.
Also, 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.
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.
Oklahoma 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.” Under 23 O.S. § 61.2, the state of Oklahoma imposes the following damages caps:
- Economic Damages – No caps are imposed. As provided by 23 O.S. § 61.2(a), “In any civil action arising from a claimed bodily injury, the amount of compensation which the trier of fact may award a plaintiff for economic loss shall not be subject to any limitation.” 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 under 23 O.S. § 61.2(b), 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
- How much a facial injury is worth
When Can You Appeal a Car Accident Case in Oklahoma City?
After your car accident case is over, you may wish to move on as quickly as possible. In some cases, unfortunately, an adverse verdict in court requires you to appeal the decision before a higher court to recover the compensation that you deserve.
Reaching a positive outcome on appeal requires the assistance of an experienced, capable personal injury lawyer. The appeals process can be complicated, and you need someone on your side who could adequately represent your interests. Contact an attorney today for help appealing an Oklahoma City car accident case.
Grounds for Appealing an Oklahoma City 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 persons 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 an Oklahoma City Car Accident 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 require 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.
Work Toward Appealing a Car Accident Case in Oklahoma City
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.
Contact an Oklahoma Car Accident Lawyer for Help With Your Legal Matter Today
To learn more in a free, completely confidential consultation, call the law offices of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040. You won’t be charged a single fee unless we obtain compensation for you. Our attorneys serve the Oklahoma City area, including Norman, Shawnee, McLoud, Tuttle, Edmond, and other local communities.