Car Accident Liability in Oklahoma: What to Do If You’re Not At Fault
Have you ever been in a car accident? It’s safe to say most of us have. After falling sharply in 2020, vehicle accidents are back on the rise, with 5.8 million accidents nationwide in 2021. In Oklahoma alone, there were 66,074 traffic accidents in 2021, with 30,195 injuries and 762 deaths.
The vast majority of car accidents are caused by human error: distracted driving, speeding, failure to yield, and more. That means that someone is always at fault – but who? If you’re not at fault in an accident, you may be able to recover your money and receive damages, especially if you were injured. Here’s what you need to know about car accident liability in Oklahoma and what to do if you’re not at fault.
Car accident laws in Oklahoma
Oklahoma has several laws that could apply to your situation, whether or not you’re at fault in an accident.
Drivers in Oklahoma must carry a minimum amount of liability insurance, following the 25/50/25 system. This means your policy must cover:
- $25,000 for bodily injury for one person
- $50,000 for bodily injury to all persons
- $25,000 for property damage per accident
Keep in mind these are just minimums. If damages add up to more than this, the person at fault in the accident may have to pay from their own pocket.
The modified comparative fault rule
Under Title 23, Section 13, Oklahoma follows a “modified comparative fault” rule for both insurance claims and lawsuits. If you’re at fault in a car accident (more than 50% responsible), you won’t be able to recover any damages. If you’re less than 50% responsible, the amount you receive will depend on how much responsibility you share.
For example, let’s say a claims adjuster determines you are 30% responsible for an accident, while the other party is 70% responsible. That means you’ll have to pay for 30% of their damages, and they will pay for 70% of yours. In a personal injury lawsuit, a jury may determine that you deserve $200,000 for your pain and suffering, but that you were also 15% responsible for the accident. That means your total reward will be reduced by 15%, and you’ll receive $170,000.
Car insurance companies want you to report accidents as soon as possible. Their deadlines can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Check your policy to be sure, but it’s always good to make a report immediately.
There are also legal time limits. Oklahoma Statutes Title 12, Section 95 sets a limit of two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury or property damage lawsuit. For wrongful death resulting from a car accident, the limit is two years from the date of the death, not the date of the accident. If you miss these deadlines, you cannot file a suit regardless of who’s at fault, unless you meet certain narrow exceptions.
Determining car accident liability
So who determines fault? It often comes down to the car insurance claims adjusters for each side, or a judge or jury in a lawsuit: The most persuasive argument wins, along with physical evidence. Who is at fault in an accident often hinges on:
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Examination of injuries and vehicle damage
- Photos or surveillance video
- Evidence of distracted driving or driving under the influence
What to do if you’re not at fault in an accident
After the accident, first check on yourself and others involved if you can and it’s safe. Call 911 if there are any emergencies. If there are no injuries or they are minor, follow these steps:
Call the police
Calling the police may seem like overkill, but it’s important to help you avoid legal and insurance complications down the road. Even if the damage or injuries seem minor, they might turn out to be more serious than you first thought. The police are an unbiased third party that can take statements, collect information, determine if anyone is under the influence, and ultimately write a report that helps prove car accident liability.
If it’s safe, take as many pictures as you can. It’s better to feel a little awkward whipping out your phone like the paparazzi, than it is to be stuck without the evidence you need to win your case. Take photos of the other party’s license and insurance card, and write down information for eyewitnesses. Take photos of both cars, including front, back and sides, even if they don’t have visible damage. Also get some shots of any traffic lights, street signs, tire marks or debris in the road.
Record audio and video
Pictures tell a thousand words, but audio and video can really make or break your case. Video provides a different perspective of the scene than photos. Record slowly so that you can see the details later. You can also record your conversation with the other party, which is especially important if you’re not at fault in the accident. You’d be surprised how many times the driver will admit to being at fault at the scene and completely change their story later on.
Report it to your insurance
Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as you’re able so they can begin to piece together what happened. The other driver’s insurance company will be doing the same thing, and they may come to a different determination about who is at fault. Even if you believe you’re not at fault, they can still refuse to pay, and you’ll need your insurer to contest their claim. Plus, with Oklahoma’s modified comparative fault rule, your insurer may need to pay partial damages if you’re found even partially responsible.
See a doctor
Even If you don’t think you’re injured, you should still see a doctor the same or next day. Get checked out by a medical professional at the emergency room, urgent care, your primary doctor, or even a chiropractor. People get injured all the time in accidents and think they’re fine, only to have nagging problems down the road. If you’re injured or feel off, get follow-up treatment through physical therapy, massage, or a chiropractor.
Keep all records
In order to recover payment for medical bills or pain and suffering, it’s important to keep all of your receipts and records. Get printed reports from your doctors and physical therapists about your condition and save your medical bills and receipts for out-of-pocket expenses. You can also save any correspondence from the insurance companies and create handwritten records of conversations you have.
The bottom line
A non-fault car accident can cause plenty of disruption in your life, especially if you or a loved one has been injured or worse. Contact us so we can get started working for you, and you can focus on the road to recovery and getting back to doing the things you love. At Oklahoma Injury Guy, what we love is fighting for you and getting you the resolution you deserve.