It's August in OKC and that means Thoroughbred Season at Remington Park. For the past month you've been dreaming of nothing but pizza, beer, and betting on the ponies. As you are driving up North Eastern Avenue on your way to the track, moments away from losing all your money on a bad bet, something even worse happens -- the guy next to you veers into your lane without looking. This is trouble.
What's next? Do you have to stop? Should someone call the Oklahoma City police? Here's some information to help guide you through an Oklahoma City car accident.
Don't Leave the Scene
Halt. Don't move. Stop. It's the law. If you leave the scene of an accident you could be charged with hit-and-run and face severe penalties. In the state of Oklahoma, hit and run offenses can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Alright, so what's next? Seek immediate medical attention for yourself and any passengers, drivers or pedestrians who may be injured. Even if you do not feel your injuries at first, contact a doctor after the accident to make sure everything is okay.
Call 911. The police and/or an ambulance will arrive. The police will take everyone's statements and write a report. The paramedics will tend to any medical issues.
Be prepared to exchange information with the other driver -- your name and driver's license number, the vehicle identification number of the car you are driving, the name and address of the car's owner, the name and address of your insurance company, and your insurance policy number.
Collect Evidence at the Scene
You may have seen cutting-edge, unrealistic forensic crash investigations on CSI or some other Hollywood show, but that's not what we mean.
Simply put, take photos. If you have a phone with a camera or video recorder, take photos or video of the aftermath of the accident, including injuries, damages to your vehicle and other evidence such as road conditions, signs or signals or skid marks. Photos, video, and even diagrams are valuable evidence when dealing with insurance companies and at trial to recover compensation for your injuries.
It's important not to volunteer any information about who you think was to blame for the accident. Generally, you should not agree to pay for damages or sign any documents except a traffic ticket. However, do cooperate with the police officer investigating the case.
Car crashes can be caused by a variety of factors, including driver negligence, defective vehicle components, poorly maintained roads, or badly installed parts.
To win your car accident case in court, you will need to prove the other driver was negligent. Oklahoma uses a 50 percent modified comparative negligence standard. Basically the amount of money you can recover from an at-fault driver is affected by whether or not you were also partially at fault for the accident.
However, if the judge or jury determines you were more than 50 percent at fault, you will not be able to recover anything.
Imagine you were driving in the snow at sundown going 10 miles above the speed limit. Now, let's say the other driver was driving without his headlights. Technically, you both can be considered "at fault" for the accident. However, if a jury decides the you were 60 percent negligent and the no-headlights guy was only 40 percent, guess what? You can't recover anything. Why? Because you were more than 50 percent at fault.
Oklahoma Car Insurance Minimums
As an Oklahoma City driver, you have to carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage. This is called "liability coverage."
Here's the breakdown:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury;
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury;
- $25,000 per accident for property damage.
Reporting the Accident to DPS
Oklahoma requires you to file a collision report with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) in the following scenarios -- even if law enforcement was at the scene:
- Death; or
- $300 or more in of damages.
Report the Crash to Your Insurance Provider
As soon as you can, report the crash to your insurance company. Your carrier should open an investigation and a claims adjuster may contact you and do any or all of the following:
- Request a copy of the police report;
- Take photographs of your car;
- Contact the other driver(s);
- Talk to any witnesses;
- Ask you to sign a medical release form to review your records;
- Contact your medical provider;
- Request for you to get estimates on vehicle damage.
What If the Other Driver Doesn't Have Car Insurance?
Unfortunately, many people don't follow the law and drive without insurance. If your car insurance policy provides for "uninsured motorist" coverage, even if the party at fault has no insurance on his vehicle, or does not have enough insurance to pay your damages, your insurance company may provide compensation.
If you aren't sure what to do, an Oklahoma City car accident lawyer may be able to help. Many attorneys take auto accident cases on a contingency fee basis. Basically, you do not pay the lawyer his or her attorney fees if you lose the case. If you win, you pay the lawyer a percentage of the money you get. A settlement is considered a "win" and plaintiffs will have to pay attorney's fees out of that amount.