Each year, thousands of people across Oklahoma are involved in car accidents. While some crashes result in minor to moderate injuries, others are catastrophic, leaving victims with physical pain, emotional trauma, and exorbitant medical bills. To make matters worse, insurance providers are rarely eager to offer a fair settlement, making litigation sometimes necessary.
If you’ve never filed a car accident lawsuit before, you probably have questions. What does the process involve? How do you get started? And how do you find an experienced attorney who will fight for the maximum compensation you need and deserve?
At the law firm of Carr & Carr, we have over 50 years of experience advocating for car accident victims in Oklahoma. If you or your loved one has been injured in a preventable crash, our skilled lawyers will aggressively pursue the financial recovery you are entitled to, even if that means going to court. At Carr & Carr, your needs always come first, and you won’t pay us a dime until we win your case. To learn more, contact us today for a free consultation.
Why Hire Carr & Carr for Your Oklahoma Car Accident Lawsuit?
- Extensive Experience: With over four decades of serving Oklahomans, we have established an extensive track record of success in auto accident lawsuits.
- Personalized Service: We take the time to get to know you and understand your situation, which allows us to tailor our legal strategies to your specific needs and objectives.
- No Upfront Attorney Fees: We operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t owe us anything unless we win your case. This ensures that everyone, regardless of their financial situation, has access to quality legal representation.
- Aggressive Representation: We are not intimidated by large insurance companies. We tirelessly advocate for your rights, relentlessly pursuing the maximum compensation you deserve.
- Comprehensive Case Management: From gathering evidence and negotiating with insurance companies to presenting your case in court, we handle every aspect of your accident claim, giving you peace of mind and the freedom to focus on recovery.
- Proven Results: Our firm has helped recover millions of dollars for our clients. While we cannot guarantee a specific outcome, our proven track record of success demonstrates our dedication and proficiency.
The Car Accident Lawsuit Process- What to Expect
If you’ve been involved in a car accident in Oklahoma and want to take legal action, the lawsuit process generally includes the steps outlined below. It’s important to initiate your lawsuit before the two-year statute of limitations expires or you may lose your right to seek damages:
Step #1: File a Personal Injury Claim
The first step typically involves notifying the relevant insurance company about the accident and requesting fair compensation for damages. To initiate this legal process, you need to create a demand packet. This should provide a concise overview of your case, backed by pertinent documents such as photos from the accident scene, the official accident report, medical treatment bills and records, and evidence of lost income due to the accident.
Step #2: Initiate the Lawsuit
If the insurance company doesn’t offer a satisfactory settlement, you can proceed to file a personal injury lawsuit. This step involves submitting a notice outlining the specifics of your case – the parties involved, the circumstances of the accident, and the reasons you believe the other party was negligent and therefore responsible for your losses.
Step #3: Discovery Phase
This stage requires a reciprocal exchange of evidence between you (the plaintiff) and the defendant (the at-fault driver or their employer, if applicable). Gathering all relevant evidence before filing the lawsuit is crucial, as it will be requested by the defendant’s insurance company and can help your personal injury attorney negotiate a fair settlement.
Step #4: Serve the Lawsuit
After the lawsuit is filed, you must serve it on the defendant. While the insurance company covers the legal defense and any settlement or judgment, the lawsuit is essentially filed against the at-fault driver, not the insurer.
Step #5: Defense’s Response
The defendant, represented by their insurance company, has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit in state court. When it files a response, the defense will typically issue Discovery documents like Interrogatories (questions under oath), Requests for Production (requests for specific documents), and Requests for Admissions (statements to admit or deny).
Step #6: Plaintiff’s Response
As the plaintiff, you are required to respond to these requests within 30 days. Your accident attorney will also issue Discovery requests to the defendant to procure additional information that couldn’t have been obtained before filing the lawsuit.
Step #7: Deposition
Once the insurance company has reviewed the Discovery responses, the defense attorney typically conducts a deposition. Here, they will question you under oath about the accident, any damages, and any pre-existing conditions that might impact the case.
Step #8: Settlement Evaluation
After the deposition, if the defense finds that you present well as a witness and they fully understand the accident’s impact on your life, the case may settle. If not, the case will proceed to trial, where a judge or jury will decide the outcome.
Mediating Car Accident Lawsuits
In Oklahoma, if a car accident lawsuit has not been settled within a certain period, it may enter a phase known as mediation.
Mediation is a negotiation process guided by a neutral third party—the mediator. The aim is to help the plaintiff and the defendant reach a mutual agreement, bypassing the need for a trial. The length of the process can vary widely—it could last just an hour or extend to a full day. It’s worth noting that the cost of the mediator, who is usually paid by the hour, is commonly shared between both parties.
During mediation, each side presents their case. Then negotiations are held to attempt to reach a settlement. The mediator assists by clarifying issues, providing perspective, and suggesting potential solutions, but they do not make any binding decisions.
By promoting open communication and facilitating negotiation, mediation can often lead to a resolution that satisfies both parties, thereby avoiding the uncertainty, stress, and expense of a trial. However, if it doesn’t work and the insurer refuses to offer a fair settlement, a personal injury trial is usually the next step.
What Happens During a Car Accident Trial?
A trial can take one of two forms. It can be a jury trial, where a group of jurors determines the outcome, or a bench trial, where a judge makes the decision alone. Bench trials tend to be shorter, often wrapping up in less than a day because there is no need for jury selection. However, with appropriate scheduling that accommodates all parties and witnesses, even a jury trial might conclude within a day.
Below is a generalized overview of what typically happens during each type of trial.
- Jury Selection (Voir Dire): The trial begins with jury selection, where the attorneys for both sides question a pool of potential jurors about their backgrounds and biases. The objective is to ensure an impartial jury.
- Opening Statements: Once the jury has been selected, both attorneys make their opening statements, which provide an overview of what each side believes the evidence will demonstrate.
- Presentation of Evidence: Next, the plaintiff presents their case, introducing evidence and calling witnesses. The defendant’s attorney has the right to cross-examine these witnesses. Once the plaintiff rests their case, the defendant presents their evidence and witnesses, who can also be cross-examined by the plaintiff’s attorney.
- Closing Arguments: After all the evidence has been presented, both sides give their closing arguments. This is an opportunity to summarize the evidence and argue how it supports their case.
- Jury Instructions and Deliberation: The judge then provides instructions to the jury on how to apply the law to the case. The jury retires to deliberate and reach a verdict based on the evidence presented during the trial.
- Verdict and Judgment: The jury then announces their verdict. The judge issues a final judgment based on the jury’s decision, which may include monetary damages.
- Opening Statements: Similar to a jury trial, both sides provide an opening statement outlining their case.
- Presentation of Evidence: The plaintiff presents their evidence and witnesses first, followed by the defendant. Unlike a jury trial, it’s the judge who will question and cross-examine witnesses.
- Closing Arguments: Both sides have the opportunity to summarize their case and the evidence presented.
- Judge’s Decision: The judge considers the evidence and legal arguments, applies the relevant law, and makes a decision. In a bench trial, the judge assumes the role of both judge and jury.
- Judgment: The judge issues a final judgment based on their decision. In a successful claim, this includes monetary damages awarded to the plaintiff.
Whether your case ends in a jury trial or a bench trial, an experienced attorney can guide you through all the stages involved and help you strive for the most favorable outcome.
Where Will My Car Accident Lawsuit Be Heard?
Most car accident lawsuits are heard in state court. For example, if the collision occurred in Oklahoma City, your case will be filed at the Oklahoma County District Court. However, certain cases may be filed in the federal court system.
The shift from state to federal court typically occurs under two primary conditions:
- Diversity of Citizenship: This condition may be satisfied if the liable party is based out of state or has a principal place of business outside of Oklahoma.
- Amount in Controversy: The claim for compensation, or the amount in controversy, exceeds $75,000.
It is important to note that even if a lawsuit begins in the Oklahoma County District Court, the defendant has the right to remove the case to federal court if these conditions are met. Your Oklahoma car accident lawyer will let you know what to expect in whatever court system handles your lawsuit.
What Compensation Can I Claim?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Oklahoma, there are various types of damages you can claim. They can be broadly divided into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
These damages are intended to compensate you for the financial losses you’ve incurred due to the accident. They can be calculated relatively precisely, as they have an exact dollar value attached to them. They include but may not be limited to:
- Medical Care Expenses: This includes all costs related to the medical treatment for physical injuries sustained in the accident. This can include ambulance costs, hospital bills, surgery costs, medication, rehabilitation therapy, and any other related healthcare expenses.
- Lost Wages: If you’re unable to work due to severe injuries, you may be entitled to compensation for the income you’ve lost. This also includes future lost earnings if you can’t return to work or can only take a lower-paying job due to your injuries.
- Property Damage: This compensation covers the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle and any other property damaged in the accident.
These damages are more subjective and harder to quantify as they relate to the emotional and psychological impact of the accident. They include:
- Pain and Suffering: This refers to the physical pain and discomfort that an accident victim has experienced and could reasonably be expected to experience in the future.
- Emotional Distress: This covers the emotional trauma related to the accident, such as anxiety, depression, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.
- Loss of Consortium: If the accident injuries severely impact the relationship with your spouse, you might be eligible to recover these damages.
Punitive damages are awarded in certain cases as a form of punishment for extremely negligent or intentional behavior. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages are not directly tied to the losses suffered by the victim.
In the context of a car accident in Oklahoma, punitive damages might be awarded if the defendant’s behavior was particularly reckless or egregious. For example, if a driver was intoxicated, racing, or deliberately trying to harm someone, and that behavior resulted in an accident, the court might award punitive damages.
In Oklahoma, the legal concept of comparative negligence applies, which means that if you are found to be partially at fault for the accident, your damage award can be reduced by your percentage of fault. Your attorney will explain how the comparative negligence law may apply in your case.
Why Hire an Attorney For Your Oklahoma Car Accident Lawsuit?
Hiring an attorney for your car accident lawsuit can increase your chances of a successful resolution. Here are several reasons why you should consider having a personal injury lawyer handle your claim.
- Correct Interpretation of the Law: The laws governing motor vehicle accidents can be complicated, requiring an in-depth understanding of state statutes, traffic codes, and insurance regulations. An experienced attorney can ensure that your case is handled properly and your rights are protected.
- Communication with Insurance Companies: Insurers are often focused on minimizing payouts. An attorney can communicate with insurance adjusters, negotiating a fair settlement and pushing back against any attempts to undervalue your claim.
- Gathering and Analyzing Evidence: An attorney can help gather and analyze necessary evidence, including police reports, medical records, witness statements, and accident scene reconstructions, thereby strengthening your case.
- Expertise in Damage Evaluation: An experienced car accident attorney can accurately evaluate the total impact of the accident, including medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and even emotional distress to ensure that you’re fully compensated.
- Trial Experience: If your case goes to trial, a seasoned attorney will have the trial experience needed to present your case before a judge or jury and argue for maximum financial compensation.
With their vast experience and commitment to their clients, the attorneys at Carr & Carr can provide the guidance and representation you need during this challenging time.
Questions? Speak to an Oklahoma Car Accident Lawyer Today!
When you’ve been seriously injured in an Oklahoma car accident, filing a lawsuit can seem like one more burden you have to deal with. That’s where Carr & Carr can step in to handle the legal aspects of your claim.
With decades of experience in personal injury law, our car accident lawyers are prepared to shoulder the burden of collecting evidence, filing a claim, engaging in negotiations, and going to trial if necessary. We will protect your interests and work towards the financial compensation you rightfully deserve, allowing you to focus on rebuilding your life. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, contact our law firm today.