Understanding Fault in Oklahoma Car Accidents
Not all personal injury or insurance claims hinge on the principle of “fault,” but in a car accident, it’s imperative to determine who caused the crash. After all, this is what determines the validity of an insurance claim and allows you to seek compensation for your injuries.
Of course, each state has different rules on car accident fault, which can make it difficult to proceed after a crash. The state of Oklahoma uses a “modified comparative fault” standard, meaning that you will still be able to recover compensation from a negligent party even if you were partially responsible for the accident. However, there are a few other things you should know about determining liability in this kind of system.
What Is Modified Comparative Fault?
Under the comparative fault doctrine, the injury victim (also known as the plaintiff) can recover financial damages from the primary at-fault party (the defendant) if the accident meets certain conditions. These damages will be proportionate to the plaintiff’s level of fault in the accident. So if you are ruled to be 30% responsible for your crash – for instance, because you didn’t use your turn signal for long enough during a freeway merge – then your potential compensation from the defendant will be lowered by 30%.
Oklahoma also has a special 50% rule regarding comparative negligence, which is why this system is considered to be “modified.” If your share of the fault is determined to be over 50%, then you will be unable to collect any recovery at all, whether from an insurer or in a personal injury claim. This is why it’s important to review your case with an experienced car accident attorney – and ensure that you are pursuing the best possible legal strategy for covering your injuries.
How Do I Prove Car Accident Fault?
Whether you’re presenting your claim to an insurer or in the courtroom, the modified comparative fault rule means that you will need to prove exactly how fault operated in your car accident. This is one area where a lawyer can help your case. While you’re focusing on recovering from your injuries, your attorney can step in to perform a comprehensive accident investigation, from talking with witnesses to reviewing your medical records to sourcing expert testimony.
Here are some of the most important pieces of evidence you might need to demonstrate fault:
- Eyewitnesses. Without a verified eyewitness to back up your story, the court or insurer may decide to side with the other driver instead. For example, imagine that you were hit by a driver who ran through a red light on a small rural road. While this would be a violation of the “duty of care,” it might be harder to convince a jury if there are no eyewitnesses or traffic recordings to back up your story.
- Expert testimony. When there aren’t any available witnesses, medical and automobile experts can give your claim the authority it needs. Drawing on their knowledge of the human body, a doctor can testify that your injuries are consistent with your story. In the same vein, an automobile or crash expert could show the adjuster or the jury that your story is the only one that fits the available evidence. These are just a few of the reasons it’s a good idea to
- Photographic evidence. Taking pictures at the scene of an accident is one of the best ways to prove your case. Why? Because this allows the judge or the insurance claims adjuster to see exactly where your cars landed after the accident, bolstering any conclusions that they draw about the other driver’s behavior.
- Accident reconstructions. While not necessary in every injury case, a visual reconstruction of your accident can be a huge help in establishing fault – and it can increase your chances of reaching a positive outcome. By creating an accurate portrayal of the time before the crash, the jury will be able to experience your accident first-hand and see how your claim matches up.
- Police report. Accident victims often deal with significant emotional, mental, and physical trauma after a crash. That’s why you should always call the police, regardless of how small the crash may seem to you. This ensures that your initial words and reactions will be included on the public record, which will make it harder for the other driver to lie about the accident later on.
The Role of a Personal Injury Attorney
It can be daunting to investigate a car accident on your own, or to secure the kind of testimony and reconstructive evidence that you need for a successful claim. By reviewing the details of your case with a trained eye, interviewing witnesses, and taking depositions, your personal injury attorney will be able to assemble a more compelling case for your injuries, whether you’re working with an insurance claims adjuster or a jury.
At Martin Jean & Jackson, we have over 100 years of experience assisting our clients with proving fault. Our experienced team members have won many awards for our skill in the courtroom, and we’ve managed to secure million-dollar results for countless clients. That’s because we never back down from a challenge and strive to provide the highest level of legal representation. If you’ve been injured in an Oklahoma car crash, we can help you navigate the process.
Call (580) 290-1006 for more details about our legal services.