Modern cars come equipped with the latest safety features, yet the number of people hurt in car accidents continues to rise, with more than 2.3 million crash injuries reported annually throughout the U.S.¹
Traffic headaches aren’t limited to big cities. Even rural counties have more cars on the road than ever before, so it’s no surprise the average American can expect to be in three or four accidents during their lifetime.²
Oklahoma hasn’t escaped the growing trend, with over 72,000 vehicle crashes causing more than 34,000 injuries and fatalities in one year.³
Car accidents happen out of the blue. One minute you’re headed to work, and the next minute you’re on the side of the road, reeling from the impact. You may be facing a long and difficult recovery from your injuries, with lost wages and unexpected expenses. Your financial recovery may hinge upon making a strong auto insurance claim.
What You Need to Know if You’ve Been in an Oklahoma Car Accident
You can’t avoid every car accident, but you can be prepared to build a strong insurance claim by knowing what to do and say, and just as importantly, what not to do or say after a collision.
Here are 11 steps to help you build a strong, successful insurance claim. We’ve also provided answers to the most frequently asked questions following an Oklahoma car accident.
Oklahoma law requires all drivers to stop at the scene of a vehicle accident that resulted in injury or property damage, regardless of fault.
Check for injuries, then call 911. Help any injured persons as best you can until emergency responders arrive.
Oklahoma law requires drivers to immediately notify police of accidents involving injuries.
The 911 dispatcher will need to know your location, if anyone is injured, and if there are any specific dangers at the accident scene.
Location: Emergency services will arrive sooner if they know exactly where to find you. Tell the dispatcher the street you are on, the direction you were headed, and the nearest intersections or mile markers. Describe any landmarks near your location.
Injuries: Tell the dispatcher if you or anyone else is injured or feeling sick. Advise the dispatcher if anyone is trapped or may have been thrown from their vehicle.
Hazards: The dispatcher needs to know of any dangers around the scene like overturned vehicles, heavy traffic, smoking or burning cars, leaking fuel or downed power lines.
At the accident scene, drivers are required to render assistance and arrange for the injured to be transported as needed for medical treatment, usually accomplished by calling 911.
Drivers are obligated to assist the injured and cannot be held liable for volunteering first-aid in an emergency.
Oklahoma law also requires drivers to provide their name, address, and registration number to the driver and occupants of the other vehicle. If requested, drivers must show their security verification form (proof of insurance) and driver’s license.
When a crash results in death or injuries, drivers are obligated to submit to drug or alcohol testing as soon as possible after the accident.
Your injuries may be obvious, like bleeding wounds or broken bones. But not all serious injuries are easy to see. Some severe, potentially life-threatening, injuries like internal bleeding or brain trauma may not show clear symptoms until hours or even days after the car accident.
Never refuse medical attention at the accident scene. This is not the time to tough it out. Shock can easily mask worsening injuries. Tell the emergency responders about every symptom you’re experiencing, no matter how mild. If paramedics want to transport you to the hospital, let them take you.
If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital from the accident scene, have a medical evaluation as soon as possible. If your personal medical provider isn’t available, go to the nearest urgent care center or hospital emergency department.
Refusing or delaying medical treatment after a car accident can significantly undermine your insurance claim. The insurance company won’t hesitate to use the delay to contend your injuries aren’t related to the crash.
You’re required to stop if you’ve hit a parked and unattended car. Try to locate the driver or owner of the car and give them your name, address, insurance and registration information.
If you can’t find the owner, leave a note on the damaged car with your contact and insurance information, and an explanation of what happened.
When you’ve hit property other than a car, like a fence or a utility pole, you’re required to make a reasonable effort to locate the property owner and give them your name, address, and insurance information.
Police are usually dispatched to accidents with reported injuries or hazards, blocked traffic, or extensive property damage.
In busy jurisdictions, police may not be available to respond to minor non-injury accidents.
Police officers are professionally trained in accident investigation. The responding officer will secure the scene, coordinate care and transportation of the injured, manage traffic, gather evidence, issue traffic citations, conduct sobriety tests, and more.
While you have the right to speak with the police, the investigating officer is not required to hear you out. If the officer asks you to wait or gives you any other instructions, you should cooperate.
Never argue with police. Refusing to cooperate or making confrontational remarks will not only hinder the accident investigation but in extreme circumstance, may also lead to your arrest.
If the officer asks you to identify yourself or to show your registration and proof of insurance, you should comply. If you’ve been in an accident that involved injuries or a fatality, you are also legally required to submit to alcohol or drug testing. However, if you are being asked to answer questions that may be incriminating, you have the right to remain silent.
If the investigating officer determines you violated Oklahoma traffic laws, you may be issued one or more traffic citations. While you can attempt to talk the officer out of giving you a ticket, once the citation is issued, you should accept it.
Accepting and signing a traffic citation is not an admission of guilt. Argue about the ticket in traffic court, not at the accident scene.
The minutes following a car accident can be crucial. Cars are towed. Drivers, passengers, and witnesses go their separate ways. Important evidence may leave with them. If you’re the victim of an accident caused by someone else, you’ll need proof the other driver did something wrong or failed to act responsibly.
Use the short window of time after an accident to gather the evidence you’ll need to support your insurance claim.
Property damages can include the cost of your car repairs, a rental while your car is being fixed, personal items damaged in the crash, and the value of your vehicle if it’s a total loss.
Injury damages can include the costs of your medical, dental, chiropractic, or mental health treatment; medications; therapy; medical supplies; and pain and suffering.
Oklahoma law requires drivers to exchange their name, address, and registration number after an accident. Each driver may also be asked to show their security verification form (proof of insurance) and driver’s license.
Take as many photographs and videos as you can using your phone, camera, tablet or whatever device you’ve got. Walk around the scene taking pictures from different angles.
Photos and videos can reveal important details about the vehicles and the accident scene. Your photographs or audible video might even capture the behavior of drivers and passengers, possible intoxication, admissions of fault, or other contributing factors in the crash.
Pictures and videos can be compelling evidence that makes it harder for others to change their story after the accident.
Witnesses aren’t obligated to talk to you. It’s worth trying to speak with a potential witness to determine if they saw anything that might help your claim. If you have a cooperative witness, ask for their name, contact information, and if they’ll write down a statement of what they saw. Have the witness sign and date their written statement.
Here’s some additional evidence which will help support your claim:
Vehicle: The make, model, year, license plate number, expiration date, and vehicle identification number (VIN) of each car. The VIN can ordinarily be found on the dashboard in the left corner near the windshield, on the driver’s insurance card, or inside the door jamb of the driver’s side door. Don’t go into other vehicles without permission.
Passengers: Ask for all passengers’ names, birth dates, and contact information. Passengers don’t have to cooperate with you, but they can’t stop you from making detailed notes for yourself about the number of passengers, their ages, what they looked like, how they acted and anything you heard them say.
Diagrams: Draw a diagram of the accident scene showing the vehicle locations, and the direction each car was heading. Include information on road conditions, the date, time, traffic conditions, weather, and anything else that may have contributed to the collision.
Be prepared with a free Car Accident Information Form. Keep copies with a pen in your car, in the same place you keep your proof of insurance and registration. You’ll always be ready to collect the evidence you’ll need for a successful insurance claim.
Most auto insurance policies have a Notice of Occurrence and Cooperation clause. The clause means you agree to tell your insurance company when you’re in an accident, and you also agree to cooperate with your insurance company’s accident investigation.
The clause in your policy will read something like this:
“Insured (you) agrees to notify the insurer (your insurance company) of any accidents and thereafter comply with all information, assistance, and cooperation which the insurer reasonably requests, and agrees that in the event of a claim the insurer and the insured will do nothing that shall prejudice the insurer’s position…”
No matter who was at fault, don’t be tempted to settle directly with the other driver, even if they insist you don’t need to get the police or insurance companies involved.
You’re obligated to notify your insurance company of every accident, even if it’s a fender-bender, or everyone says they’re fine. By promptly reporting the accident, you give your insurance company the best chance to protect your interests.
If someone from the other car decides to hire a lawyer or starts complaining of injuries hours or days after the collision, it won’t be long before they contact your insurance company to ask for money. Your insurance company would be at a tremendous disadvantage if you hadn’t already notified them of the accident.
Failing to notify your insurance company of an accident can lead the company to raise your premiums, decline to renew your policy, or even cancel your insurance policy.
There are plenty of apps available for Apple and Android devices, making it easy to start your car accident claim.
Depending on the app, you’ll be able to:
- Identify your location
- Gather information from drivers, passengers, and witnesses
- Take photos and videos
- Draw diagrams of the scene
- Notify your insurance company
Here are some free car accident reporting applications. Your insurance company may offer a similar app:
Drivers involved in a car accident on public roads resulting in death, injuries or vehicle damage to the apparent extent of $300 or more must complete a written accident report.
However, the written accident report must only be filed if the personal injury or property damage claim filed by either driver or any other person involved in the accident isn’t settled within six months of the accident date.
The accident reporting form can be picked up from your local police department or court offices.
To get the form and instructions for requesting a driver’s accident report, download the Dept of Public Safety Records Request form.
When police respond to an accident involving injuries or damage that adds up to $500 or more for all the cars, the officer will file a Collision Report with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety within 30 days after the accident.
Collision reports on accidents involving fatalities are filed by the police within 20 days of the crash.
To request a collision report, visit the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety website.
Oklahoma is not a no-fault insurance state, where drivers have to turn to their own insurance to pay for their injuries. When you’re hurt in an Oklahoma car accident, you can pursue the at-fault driver or the driver’s insurance company for to pay for your injuries.
A third-party liability claim is your claim for personal injuries or property damages against the other driver’s insurance because the other driver is to blame, or “liable” for the accident.
You have three options when you’ve suffered damages in an Oklahoma car accident caused by a negligent driver:
- File a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company
- File a claim with your own insurance company (if the negligent driver is uninsured or underinsured)
- File a lawsuit against the negligent driver
Oklahoma follows the Modified Comparative Negligence rule, meaning that you can seek compensation from the other driver even if you’re partially to blame for the accident, so long as you are not more to blame than the other driver for causing the collision.
How much settlement money you’ll be eligible for after an Oklahoma car accident not only depends on the value of your claim but how much fault you share with the other driver. If you are partially to blame for the accident, your settlement will be reduced in an amount commensurate with your percentage of liability.
The insurance company will decide how much you’re to blame for the accident and make their settlement decision accordingly. If you disagree with the insurance company’s determination, you may need an attorney to get the compensation you deserve.
Example of comparative negligence rules affecting a claim settlement:
Eddie was driving west on Adobe Drive to pick up his girlfriend for dinner. He was texting to let her know he was on the way.
Arlene was late to work, heading northbound on Park Lane. As she approached the intersection of Park and Adobe, Arlene hit the gas, trying to make it through a yellow traffic light. Unfortunately, the light turned red as she entered the intersection. Arlene T-boned Eddie’s car, seriously injuring Eddie.
Eddie filed a claim with Arlene’s insurance company, demanding $100,000 for his medical costs and pain and suffering. The insurance company refused to pay, claiming that Eddie’s negligence caused the crash since he was using his cell phone while driving.
Through his attorney, Eddie filed a lawsuit against Arlene for his injury damages. During trial, the jury saw evidence that Arlene caused the accident because she didn’t stop at the red light. However, the jury also saw evidence that Eddie was texting at the time of the crash. Both Eddie and Arlene were negligent. They both caused the accident.
The jury found Arlene to be 60% liable for the accident because she ran the red light and found Eddie to be 40% liable for texting while driving.
While the jury agreed that Eddie’s injury claim was worth $100,000, under Oklahoma’s Modified Comparative Negligence rule, his compensation was reduced by 40%, corresponding to his portion of negligence, so Eddie was awarded $60,000 for his damages.
If the jury had found Eddie’s share of liability for the accident to be 51% or more, he would not be eligible for any compensation from Arlene or her insurance company.
Drivers in Oklahoma are required to carry liability insurance with coverage limits of no less than $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $25,000 per accident for property damage.
Liability coverage helps pay for injuries and property damage to others when an accident was caused by the insured driver.
Drivers must be able to show an Oklahoma Security Verification Form as proof of insurance if requested by police, or if requested by the other driver or vehicle occupants involved in an accident.
Some accident claims can be settled for an appropriate amount of money without legal help. Other injury claims require an experienced personal injury attorney to get anywhere near the amount of compensation you’ll need to cover your losses.
Before you decide to take on the insurance company by yourself, consider the kind of injuries you’ve suffered and what it will take to get the insurance company to pay adequate compensation.
“Soft tissue” injuries can be scratches and bruises, sprains, whiplash, and similarly minor injuries. Soft tissue claims are fairly simple, comprised of the cost of your treatment and therapy bills, some lost wages, and a limited amount for pain and suffering. Soft tissue claims can often be successfully resolved without an attorney.
“Hard” injuries are severe and include potentially life-threatening or catastrophic injuries like severed limbs, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, multiple broken bones, and trauma to internal organs. These cases are complicated and expensive with large bills that can include the cost of life flights, lengthy hospitalizations, surgeries, rehab, supportive devices like wheelchairs and crutches, mental health services, and a significant amount of pain and suffering.
Getting an appropriate settlement for hard injury claims often takes the skillful use of legal tactics like medical expert testimony; subpoenas for medical, financial and cell phone records; depositions of hostile witnesses; and more.
Hard injuries are complex, high-dollar claims. Insurance companies aren’t going to part with that kind of money if they can avoid taking the hit. Don’t believe for a minute that the adjuster is on your side. The insurance adjuster is trained to protect the company’s bottom line. When the adjuster makes the company’s “final” offer, you probably won’t have the energy or skills to fight them. They’re banking on that. Insurance companies routinely offer lower settlements to claimants who aren’t represented by an attorney.
There’s just too much at stake to risk representing yourself in a hard injury claim.
An experienced personal injury attorney has the tools, knowledge, and tactics to make the insurance company pay the full amount of compensation you deserve for your injuries and suffering.
Most personal injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation to accident victims. You can meet with more than one attorney before choosing the attorney you’d like to fight for you.
If you’ve been seriously injured, gather all your documents related to the accident. Include medical bills and records, the collision report, photographs and videos, letters from the insurance company, and your notes. Bring your accident file to the first consultation with each attorney you meet.
After talking with you and reviewing your file, the attorney will discuss your claim’s value, how long it may take to settle, and if you’ll need to file a lawsuit.
Personal injury attorneys typically are paid by charging a contingency fee, meaning that your attorney’s fees will be paid out of your insurance settlement or court award. Contingency fees can range from 25% up to 40% of the gross compensation you receive for your claim.
If your attorney can’t settle your claim or loses your case in court, you won’t pay any fees.
A small claims lawsuit may be your best option to seek compensation after an Oklahoma car accident when:
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company denies your claim
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company offers a settlement below what is fair
- The at-fault driver was uninsured or underinsured
- An attorney will not accept your case on a contingency basis
Oklahoma small claims courts have jurisdiction to hear cases seeking up to $10,000.
If you decide to file a lawsuit in small claims court, you must sue the driver who caused the accident, not the driver’s insurance company.
The Oklahoma statute of limitations for car accident claims is two (2) years. The statute begins to run on the date of the accident.
The two-year statute of limitations means that you must either settle your damage claim or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver within two years of the accident date, or your claims will be extinguished.
The insurance company is under no obligation to help you settle your injury claim before the two-year statute of limitations expires. You simply can’t trust the insurance adjuster to remind you when the deadline is approaching, and they have no legal authority to grant you an extension of time.
On the contrary. The insurance company is well aware that if you haven’t settled your insurance claim or filed a lawsuit against their insured before the deadline, they’ve won. You’ll never be able to recover your losses from the insurance company or the at-fault driver, no matter how severely you were injured.
Don’t wait until the deadline is imminent before acting to protect your claim. Filing a lawsuit against the negligent driver will not only stop the statutory clock from running, but it will also put the insurance company on notice that they’ll need to bring significant money to the bargaining table.
Your attorney will continue negotiations with the insurance company after the lawsuit is filed. In many cases, personal injury attorneys can negotiate excellent settlements before the matter ever gets in front of a judge.
Act now to get the compensation you deserve for your personal injuries, pain, and suffering.
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