If you were injured in an Oklahoma traffic crash in which multiple drivers share fault, you may encounter the phrase “comparative negligence” (also known as “comparative fault”).
In this post, the Oklahoma personal injury lawyers at Carr & Carr Attorneys at Law discuss comparative fault and how it impacts injury victims’ ability to recover compensation for medical expenses and other damages after a wreck.
What is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence is a legal principle that many states—including Oklahoma and Arkansas—apply when more than one driver is responsible for a motor vehicle accident.
Under comparative negligence laws, a percentage of liability is assigned to each driver deemed at fault for a crash. Each individual involved could be awarded damages based on the other drivers’ levels of liability.
For example, consider a collision at an intersection between two cars. Driver A runs a stop sign and T-bones a car operated by Driver B, who had the legal right-of-way but was speeding. In this case, Driver A may be found 80 percent at fault and Driver B assigned 20 percent fault. If Driver B was injured and suffered $100,000 in damages, Driver B could collect $80,000 from Driver A’s insurance provider with the remaining $20,000 covered by his or her own insurance company.
Oklahoma’s 50-Percent Rule
Oklahoma’s comparative negligence statute includes a so-called “50-percent rule.”
In Oklahoma, the ability to pursue damages under comparative negligence applies when a crash victim is 49 percent or less liable for the accident. If a crash victim is at least 50 percent liable for the wreck, he or she can’t seek compensation from other at-fault parties.
If Driver A in the example above had also suffered injuries in the crash, he or she would not have been eligible to recover damages from Driver B under Oklahoma’s 50-percent rule. It’s important to note that not all states with comparative negligence laws also adhere to the 50-percent rule.
Establishing Negligence in a Car Crash
Negligence is the failure to act with reasonable care. When assessing negligence, law enforcement and the courts consider whether an individual’s actions created an unreasonable risk of harm to others, and whether the individual attempted to eliminate or reduce that risk.
A driver can be deemed negligent for something he or she should not have done, such as running a red light or speeding. A driver may also be negligent for failing to do something he or she should have done, such as stopping for a pedestrian at a crosswalk or using headlights while driving at night.
When it comes to injury-related legal claims, there are four key factors that must generally be proven to establish negligence:
- The defendant had a legal obligation to the plaintiff
- The defendant breached that obligation
- The plaintiff suffered an injury and/or other damages
- The defendant’s breach of legal obligation caused the injury and/or other damages
Consider the above example again. Driver A had a legal obligation to Driver B to stop and yield the right-of-way. Driver A breached that duty by proceeding into the intersection without stopping. Driver B was injured, and those injuries were the result of Driver A’s negligence.
Establishing negligence after a car crash is important in determining the amount of damages you receive. However, there are many factors that can ultimately affect your share of liability. These factors can include police reports from the scene of the accident, witness accounts from others who saw the accident take place, and input from insurance adjusters.
How an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
When multiple parties are responsible for a crash, insurance providers often attempt to shift the levels of responsibility in an effort to reduce the amount of money they pay out. This can prevent injury victims from getting the compensation they truly need to recover.
If you were hurt in an accident that was caused at least in part by another driver’s negligence, it’s a good idea to discuss your case with an experienced attorney. The Oklahoma personal injury lawyers at Carr & Carr understand that initial insurance company settlement offers are rarely enough to cover injury victims’ long-term needs.
Our attorneys can investigate your case and gather evidence to fairly assess negligence, guide you through the claims process, and negotiate with the insurance companies or their legal counsel to achieve a just settlement. We offer free consultations to help you understand your options, and we don’t charge for our services unless we collect compensation on your behalf.
If you were hurt in an accident that was caused by a negligent driver, please call us today at 888-823-8631 or contact us online. Carr & Carr has offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, but we’re proud to represent injury victims statewide.