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How Car Accident Claims Work in Oklahoma

Offered by Lawter & Associates, PLLC

Make sure you protect your rights after a wreck

When you’re hurt in a car accident in Oklahoma, the physical pain of your injuries is just the beginning. How will you pay for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs resulting from the accident? How can you be made financially whole again?

You have recourse under Oklahoma law, but the process to get compensation for your car accident can be confusing to someone who hasn’t been through it before. Needless to say, this puts the injured person at a disadvantage, because the insurance companies know the system inside and out – and they use it to protect their bottom line.

To level the playing field, you need to understand what you’re up against. Here’s what you need to know about car accident claims in Oklahoma.

Like most states, Oklahoma is a “fault” state for car accidents

The “fault” system means that the person who caused the accident (the at-fault driver) is responsible for the financial losses resulting from the accident. In other words, that means the at-fault driver needs to pay for medical expenses, lost income, vehicle damage, and other damages. Those losses will be covered by the driver’s liability insurance, up to the applicable policy limit.

As such, if you’re injured in a car accident in Oklahoma, you generally have three options:

  • File a claim with your own insurance company (a first-party claim) for losses covered by your own policy, if you have first-party benefits such as uninsured motorist protection or medical payments coverage. If possible, your insurance company will then pursue a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance (this is called subrogation).
  • File a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company (a third-party claim) to get their liability insurance to pay for your losses up to the policy limit.
  • File a lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver. While you’re technically suing the driver, not the insurance company, their interests will be defended by the insurance company’s lawyers, and if you win, the insurance company will pay.

Note that if you’re injured out of state in a “no-fault” state (such as Kansas or Arkansas), the process works differently.

Oklahoma only requires drivers to carry liability insurance

To legally drive a car in Oklahoma, you must carry at least 25/50/25 coverage. That means $25,000 for injury or death to a single person, $50,000 totally for injuries or deaths if multiple people are hurt in the same accident, and $25,000 for property damage. However, this amount of coverage may not be enough to pay for an accident that causes serious or permanent injuries.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist protection (UM) pays for your damages up to the policy limit if you are hit by a driver who does not have insurance, or doesn’t have enough to pay for all your losses. You aren’t required to carry this insurance in Oklahoma, but the insurance company is required to offer it to you. We strongly recommend carrying uninsured motorist protection – Oklahoma unfortunately has a high rate of uninsured drivers, and you don’t want your ability to recover in an accident to depend on someone else’s decision to be responsible.

Other optional types of insurance include medical payments coverage (MedPay), which covers your medical expenses arising from an accident up to the policy limit, and collision and comprehensive insurance, which pay for damage to your vehicle. Note that while collision and comprehensive are optional as far as state law is concerned, they will likely be required by the lienholder if your vehicle is financed.

The “modified comparative fault rule” is in effect in Oklahoma

Sometimes, multiple parties are responsible for a car accident, whether that’s two drivers or a driver and another party such as a vehicle manufacturer. When this happens, each party is responsible for damages in proportion to their percentage of fault for the accident. For instance, if one driver is found 60 percent responsible and another driver is found 40 percent responsible, they will pay 60 percent and 40 percent of the damages respectively.

If you, as the injured person, are found partially at fault for the accident, then you can still recover as long as you are under 50 percent at fault. Your recovery will simply be reduced by your percentage of fault. For instance, if your total damages are $100,000 but you are also found 25 percent at fault, your award would be reduced by 25 percent, so you would get $75,000. If you are 50 percent at fault or more, you generally cannot recover at all.

Strict time limits apply to car accident claims

A legal deadline, called the statute of limitations, restricts your ability to file a claim for damages. In Oklahoma, the statute of limitations is generally two years from the date of the accident. An important exception applies if your accident was caused by a government employee or government-owned vehicle (whether state, county, or municipal). You generally have just one year to file a written claim if your case involves potential government liability.

There is also a more practical time limit that applies to car accident claims. To win your case, you need evidence, and relevant evidence in a car accident case can disappear quickly. Witnesses forget what they saw, camera footage is erased or overwritten, and physical evidence is washed away by weather. Moreover, the longer you wait to take legal action, the easier it is for the insurance company to argue that you could be faking your injuries or something happened in the intervening time to cause an injury.

That’s why it’s critical that you speak with a car accident attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can investigate to secure evidence before it disappears and represent your interests in dealings with the insurance company while you focus on healing. If you’ve been hurt in a car crash in Oklahoma, talk to an experienced attorney in your area as soon as possible.

Lawter & Associates, Attorneys at Law PLLC is a personal injury law firm based in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, OK.

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