Cover Image for Essential Law: Understanding Negligence in Oklahoma

Essential Law: Understanding Negligence in Oklahoma

Sabah Khalaf
6 minute read

Have you ever done something careless? Maybe you didn’t come to a full stop at a stop sign, or stepped on a wobbly step ladder and fell. No one is perfect, but if your action resulted in harm to someone else, you might have been negligent under Oklahoma law. At the same time, if that wobbly step ladder had a product defect, it could be the manufacturer who was negligent. Learn more about Oklahoma’s negligence laws and what you should do if you’ve been injured.

What Is Negligence Under Oklahoma Law?

According to Oklahoma Title 12, “The terms ‘negligence’ and ‘negligent’ … import a want of such attention to the nature or probable consequences of the act or omission as a prudent man ordinarily bestows in acting in his own concerns.”

Put another way, negligence is a legal principle that means you violated a responsibility you had toward someone else. You acted in a way that a reasonable person would not have, and it resulted in an injury. In a lawsuit, the court establishes that a negligence tort has been committed when:

  • The defendant a legal duty of care, or obligation, toward the plaintiff
  • The defendant violated that obligation
  • The plaintiff suffered an injury
  • The defendant’s actions caused that injury

To determine what a “reasonable person” would have done, the court considers the defendant’s actual knowledge, that is, what they know about a situation, as well as what they should have reasonably known. If the defendant knew or should have known their actions would cause harm, they can be found negligent.

Comparative vs. Contributory Negligence

Oklahoma negligence law follows a modified comparative negligence rule, but there are three different ways states determine who can collect damages in a negligence case:

  • Contributory negligence means that if the injured party is at all responsible for their own injury, they can’t collect damages.
  • Comparative negligence assigns a percentage of liability to each party, and damages are awarded based on these percentages.
  • Modified comparative negligence is similar, but the injured party must be less than 50 percent liable in order to collect damages.

Common Examples of Negligence

To better understand Oklahoma’s negligence laws, let’s look at a few examples personal injury lawyers often see.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip-and-fall accidents are an incredibly common personal injury claim. They usually fall under premises liability law, which states that property owners are responsible for finding and fixing hazards on their property. In Oklahoma, property owners must also fence off “attractive nuisances” like pools and playgrounds. Other common hazards include wet floors, ice and snow, and damaged stairs and sidewalks.

Vehicle Accidents

Car accidents, as well as truck and motorcycle accidents, are another common negligence tort. Everyone driving a motor vehicle has a duty of care to others on the road to follow traffic laws and stay alert. If they fail to do so, for example by texting while driving or running a stop sign, and it causes injury to someone else, they’re liable for that injury.

Pedestrian Accidents

Pedestrian accidents are similar to vehicle accidents: If one person failed to take reasonable care, they could be liable for the other person’s injuries. Keep in mind the driver isn’t always at fault here. If the pedestrian was walking at night in dark clothing, jaywalking, or crossing against a signal, they could be at least partly at fault.

Workplace Injuries

Workplace injuries are covered by workers compensation regardless of fault. But if your employer was negligent and it resulted in your injury, you might also have a personal injury claim. Common injuries in the workplace include cuts, crushing injuries, chemical and electrical burns, and repetitive strain injuries, from tasks like typing or assembly line work.

Medical Malpractice

Healthcare providers have a duty of care to their patients to provide proper care. Medical malpractice happens when they violate that duty of care and it causes injury to the patient. If a doctor provides an incorrect diagnosis or treatment, they could be guilty of medical negligence in Oklahoma.

Product Liability

Product liability claims happen when a defect in a product results in an injury. The manufacturer and distributor of the product are always liable when this happens. These claims typically result from a design defect, manufacturing defect, or marketing defect, which means the company failed to give proper instructions or warnings.

Wrongful Death

Oklahoma’s negligence laws for wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury. The only difference is that the injured party was killed as a result. The surviving family members can still sue the negligent party and recover financial compensation for things like funeral expenses, lost wages, and lost companionship.

The Bottom Line

Oklahoma’s negligence laws can be difficult to interpret without a lawyer. How do you know if someone is more than 50% liable for an injury? What specific laws apply to your case? If you’ve been injured and you think someone else is to blame, it’s worth it to speak with an experienced lawyer like the Oklahoma Injury Guy. Contact us for a free case evaluation today. We can help you determine if you have a claim and how to move forward.